Tag Archives: Gay Issues

STOP MAKING BEING GAY ONLY ABOUT SEX

It has taken me a long time to reconcile my feelings towards sex within a culture that overemphasises its importance. Let me preface this article by saying that I love sex and I encourage everyone to have a healthy and enjoyable sex life; my argument is that we need to redefine the importance of sex in modern gay culture. On one hand, I’ve learnt from my environment that being a gay man allows you the freedom to have as much sex as you want but on the other hand, I’ve experienced first-hand how over-sexualisation within gay culture creates anxiety, self-esteem issues and complications with holding down a steady relationship.

Our gay culture is a result of our tumultuous past, a past in which gay sex was overwhelmingly associated with shame, hate and fear. Being gay was seen as a sexual perversion, not as a personal identity. The majority of closeted men had no means by which to express their identity other than through seeking sexual relations with other closeted men. As such the act of sex become intrinsically linked to one’s sexual identity. Until recent history it was unacceptable and more often, illegal, to have a relationship with someone of the same sex so the only outlet for gay men to express themselves was in the bedroom (or any other discrete place). Sex was the means by which one could act on their sexual identity and hence it became one and the same.

As laws changed and society’s acceptance of homosexuality spread, sex was brought outside of the bedroom and into the mainstream. It was used as a rebellious articulation of gay life, a big F U to all those who were already disgusted with the gay ‘lifestyle’. Gay sex even became political. The issue that we now face is that the importance of sex hasn’t evolved. Our modern gay society is at a crossroads, a tension point where we need to take a look at how sex plays into our identities and the importance we place on it within our gay culture. This is so timely as at this very moment people are waking up to the fact that the gender of the person you sleep with need not define your identity. Why then is sex still such a focal point of gay culture?

We’re fed messages of sex through gay media, social media, on posters for parties, in nightclubs and on television. We feel pressured to be having regular, hot sex with many men because as a gay man it’s apparently our privilege. Yet so many of us still feel lonely, disconnected and unable to maintain relationships. I believe that this Grindr culture, built on sexual ‘freedom’ is nothing but an outdated expression of our identity.

The purest form of our confusion around sex can be seen on social media. The most popular InstaGays are the ones who show the most skin or post pictures of themselves with their legs open, asses out, in provocative positions. We support this behaviour by showering them with likes and follows and mimic what they do in the hope that it will be reciprocated. Sex sells, and my God us gays are buying it! It becomes an endless cycle which we cannot escape and social media is making it worse. It upsets me when gay guys on Instagram who I admire for using their social influence for good post shirtless pictures with the hashtag ‘thirstythursdays’. Why does everything have to be reduced to sex? Then again, I’m a hypocrite because I do the exact same thing. The most liked picture that I’ve ever posted on Instagram is one of me shirtless in skimpy shorts. I know that these pictures are going to provoke a response and when I’m feeling in need of attention, I post them. My desire to be wanted sexually, mixed with my need for validation contributes to the cycle.

My personal behaviour and our culture’s obsession with sex has a ripple effect that runs deep – it impacts our self-esteem. In order to be having all the sex we should be having we need to look like people who other people want to have sex with. We strive to look like porn stars, muscled, young and hot and if we don’t, we feel unworthy. Personally, this is something that I’ve struggled with since my teenage years. I’ve spent years trying to unpick the stories I used to tell myself that linked my self-worth to my outward appearance and my attractiveness to other gay men. When I was younger I’d put off dating guys until I felt that my body was ‘good enough’ or I’d get drunk before having sex to mask my insecurities around being naked. I would go to big gay parties and nightclubs and feel anxious because I knew everyone there would be shirtless and that I wouldn’t feel confident enough to take my shirt off. Everywhere I looked, all I saw was sex.

I want to reiterate the point that I do love sex and one of the most fun things about being a gay man is being able to sleep with other men (you should try it…). What I do worry about though is that our approach to sex needs redefining because its importance in our culture is causing loneliness, anxiety and inner personal struggle. I for one have experienced all of these things. Emotionally, I feel that I want to settle down and be happily married yet I find myself behaving in quite the opposite way. I say that I want a boyfriend but I’ll just as readily have casual sex. I see this tension on Grindr when a young gay guy writes in his profile that he’s looking for something serious yet three minutes into the conversation he’s already sent or requested dick pics.

While I’m not advocating that we all stop having sex, I question whether or not we’ve unconsciously inherited a culture that places too much emphasis on the act of sex itself. I’m also concerned that earlier definitions of homosexuality as a mental illness and our own personal shame have caused an unnecessary and unhealthy emphasis to be placed on sex.

It’s not just the way we show ourselves that continues over-sexualisation of everything in gay culture; the way we profile gay celebrities and the way that straight people show their support for equality is rooted in sex. They’ll be topless on the cover of a gay magazine or raising money to fight homophobia in a naked calendar or dancing semi-nude with their sports team in the name of pride. We take someone who is a positive role model, strip them down and sexualise them, which only demeans their message and perpetuates the notion that in the end, it’s only about sex.

Gay Pride Parades are another example of how we overplay sex as a core tenant of our identities. Pride is no longer about protesting for equal rights with banners and chants but rather it’s about working out in the gym for 3-months prior to parade day to look sexy wearing nothing but a g-string. I’m all for homovisibility but when it comes to Pride Parades or Mardi Gras, I find it hard to identity with the majority of people who participate; my expression of my homosexuality isn’t linked to my body or to sex alone yet this is the overwhelming image portrayed during these festivities.

Ultimately the outdated belief that to be gay is just to have sex with men is the unsteady platform on which many opponents of marriage equality stand. They use the argument that gay marriage will lead to the legalisation of incest or bestiality. What they’ve not recognised is that both those things are only related to the act of sex and not to personal identity. A man who has sex with a dog is still likely to be a straight man. His sexual perversion is not a reflection of his personal identify, unless of course he identifies as a dog.

So what is the solution? I propose that we stop making being gay about sex alone and try to skew our focus towards other parts of our identities. Most of us reading this post are lucky enough to live in countries where we can express our personal identity in ways beyond sex. We must continue to celebrate our diversity, our richness of character and our multi-layered identities without reducing everything to sex.

Image by Erick Monterrosa for Homotography

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RULE 25: OBSESSING OVER YOUR BODY WONT MAKE YOU HAPPY

Gay Gym Vintage Workout

I am so tired of worrying about my body. I am tired of thinking how it looks to others, whether it’s toned enough, big enough, smooth enough. Whether my pecs are even, whether my ass is perky or whether or not you can see my six-pack. Come to think of it, I’m also tired of hearing about your body. I’m tired of seeing pictures of your meal preparation, updates about your weight gain or your weight loss, reflections of your rippling back in gym mirrors. I’m tired of your mini-essays about “achieving your goals” and “how far you’ve come in the last five years”. I’m tired of the gay obsession with body image.

This homo-focus on body image is not for me. While others are happy to count their calories and pre-cook their meals a week in advance, I would rather eat out at a nice restaurant, do Pilates, spend time with my mates at the pub or learn a new skill, like French or First Aid.

I’m not sure what it’s like within your gay community but where I live this body obsession seems to have reached a new level of absurdity. This is particularly evident in the lead up to events like Mardi Gras where guys will devote all their spare time and mental energy to a strict health regime in order to look good for one weekend three months in the future.  And for what? To get laid? So that they can be ogled at by other men while they dance shirtless? I wonder what happens after Mardi Gras when they’ve had plenty of sex but they’re still alone.

The pursuit of body perfection is a symptom of the gay sickness that is instant gratification. Sex is so readily available to gay men that they obsess over ways to look more attractive than their competition all in a bid to get laid. They go to extremes such as injecting illegal and harmful substances into their bodies in order to look bigger, hoping that when their body is perfect then they’ll finally be seen as attractive in the eyes of others. But working on your outer appearance will not lead to happiness. After all the sex, gay men, just like the rest of humanity want to be loved. The problem though is that you cannot create meaningful relationships while you’re only focused on the superficial.

Sustainable relationships are not built on sexual attraction only. There are much more important things that create longevity in a relationship. What happens if your partner becomes ill? What happens if they get cancer and their body withers away? What happens when you’re older and your body isn’t as toned as it once was? What happens to your relationship then? What happens when you stop taking steroids and you become fat? How long will your partner stick around then? When I’m 85 and I’m old and grey, sitting in a nursing home in adult diapers, I want to be next to my partner and I want to be able to laugh at the situation with him. Humor, love, respect, friendship – these are the things that last when the rest of you fades away. I want a man who is more than his body.

Recently I was at a gay venue with friends and as I looked around I noticed that everyone was starting to look the same. There were hundreds of men but they all looked like carbon cutouts of each other, albeit of varying heights. They were all similarly dressed and had obviously spent a substantial amount of time in the gym. Seeing these men made me realize how unfortunate it is that gay culture holds up one body type as the ideal and as a result everyone else feels obliged to meet that standard. Sure women have been suffering the same fate for centuries but at least there have been vocal opponents to the generalization of the female body image. Where are the vocal opponents to the gay male image? Young gay men trawl the Instagram profiles and Facebook pages of older gay men (many of whom are using steroids) and feel that this is what it means to be gay. When they can’t meet these unrealistic and unhealthy expectations they feel unattractive and isolated within their own community.

I don’t want to be part of a club that places body perfection above all else and nor would I want my future partner to be either. I value personality over biceps, witty banter over bulging quads, education over time spent in the gym and I hope to find someone who values similar things. Until then I’ll be eating carbohydrates, doing Pilates and drinking beers at the pub.

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RULE NO.24: FAKE SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES WILL HAVE YOU FOOLED

Modern Gay Facebook Profile Marcello Alvarez

If you’ve befriended someone on social media who you think is too perfect to be real, you’re probably right. 

It was five hours before my 3,000 word university essay was due and with 2,500 words left to write, I did what any good student would do, I procrastinated. Somehow I had moved from ‘evaluating qualitative methods for marketing research’ to prowling Facebook. While jumping from profile to profile, I stumbled upon the page of a remarkably good looking Australian boy. His profile picture was typical of those used by many gay men –  he was in his speedos, showing off his perfect, tanned body, somewhere close to the beach. Right away I was enamoured by this beautiful specimen of a man whose sexy dark features were more South American than Australian.  The further I clicked through his pictures, the deeper I fell. With thousands of followers, hundreds of picture “likes” and countless complimentary status comments , it was clear that I was not the only one who had been fascinated by this stranger.

Although on face(book) value, his profile seemed legitimate, my intuition told me that something wasn’t right. There were two observations that made me feel uneasy.  Firstly, the friends featured in his pictures all seemed to be of South American appearance which was strange considering that his current location was set to the Gold Coast, an area of Australia known for its blonde haired and blue eyed residents. Secondly, in the background of one of his pictures I noticed a beach which looked very much like Copacabana in Rio.

Having been inspired by the MTV series Catfish, a show which exposes the real people behind fake online profiles, I decided to do my own investigating. I downloaded one of his profile pictures and just like in Catfish, I plugged the picture into a Google Image Search and waited. Immediately hundreds of results appeared. As you can imagine, the images I saw before me did not belong to the so-called Australian but to straight Brazilian model Marcello Alvarez. It was clear that the Facebook profile, with all of its status updates,  pictures and personal details was indeed fake.

Although the individual behind the fake profile may see his actions as harmless entertainment, I feel that this type of deceit is dangerous. Not only is it dangerous for the audience who becomes fascinated by the show of someone else’s life but it’s dangerous for the real person behind the fake profile. Living vicariously through an invented persona achieves nothing in the long run. All those “likes” do not belong to you. All that attention is not directed at you. Where do you hope this will take you? How will it all end now that you’re in so deep?

If Catfish is any indication of the type of people that create these profiles, then typically they all fit a similar mould. They are social recluses from lower socio-economic backgrounds who suffer from self-esteem issues and look nothing like their imagined online personas. Add the pressures faced by young gay men and you can understand why the internet is such an appealing place. The online world gives these types of people the opportunity to live out their fantasies and escape from their real lives.

I always preach the benefits of being true to yourself, so this type of betrayal worries me greatly. However, instead of being enraged by those who abuse Facebook and other social media platforms, we should empathise with them and try understand the reasons behind their actions. Such extreme behaviour and ongoing trickery is a sign of something much deeper than the need for attention.  While I do not condone lying, playing with people’s emotions or eliciting attention through false means, I understand that sometimes the world can be a harsh place from where we need to escape.

Image Credit: Model Florian Van Bael photographed by Philippe Vogelenzang

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