Saturday, June 20, 2009


Even though he links to Andrew Sullivan way too much, I like Homo Superior Curates the Web. He puts together a nice mix of images and links, useful and entertaining. Among the images and links are sexy pictures of nekkid men, which are pleasant, but are generally -- all right, nearly always -- typical of what I see on gay male sites: twentyish youths, lean and lightly muscled, pretty, all within a very narrow range of variation; usually white, but even the non-white ones are products of the same mould. I enjoy looking at them, but pretty soon I start wondering why they all look so much alike.

It reminds me of a passage in Marge Piercy's novel Small Changes (Doubleday, 1973), where the character Beth, hiding out in a friend's apartment from her estranged husband until she can divorce him, picks up
some magazines from the coffee table and began leafing through.

They were not exactly like the magazines she'd read in high school. There was more about sex and more about food. The girls' magazines assumed you went to school with lots of boys you had to attract and know how to handle ("How to Say No without Losing Him"). These magazines assumed you had to go out and find men and spouted suggestions for joining activities where They would be sure to be found. They also seemed to assume that you went to bed. ...

There were articles about getting back in circulation after divorce, about making more glamorous dinners than you could afford, about sewing clothes that would look more expensive than you could afford, about buying lots and lots more clothes in new styles, about meeting men at the office, about how roommates could spend their entire joint salary for month giving a New Year's Eve party, and ten articles on beauty. If she followed the directions in even one or two of them, the upkeep on her body would consume her entire free existence.

There were many stories in which women got men in various ways or lost them. The stories were sexier than those she had used to read. The effect of reading them was to feel discontented and sad and vaguely stirred up, as if something were wrong with her.... [315-16]
This describes most gay male magazines nowadays, and the commercial gay websites, which is why they're of limited use to people like me. But it also describes what I feel looking at the photos featured on Homo Superior and the sites they come from: discontented and sad and vaguely stirred up. Which is why I don't look at them much.

So this entry, "The Need for Natural," at HomoSuperior took me by surprise:
The endless stream of zero-body fat model-boys on queer tumblr (At least most of them have retained their natural body-hair…) really numbs my mind after awhile.
Doesn’t anybody like boys/men with a little heft? And who don’t get paid for looking good?
You do realize that’s the reason they look good, right? Um, you do, don’t you?
Oh, I do realize it, I do. But if he feels that way, why do almost all the guys in the pictures on Homo Superior Curates the Web (including most of a page of images from fit exactly that description: zero body-fat model-boys? Even when he links to Real Men of New York, the photo he chooses to accompany the link is of a tattooed guy who doesn't have much more than zero body fat. Which might be a come-on to get his readers to click on the link and have their horizons widened, because most of the men pictured at Real Men of New York are not model-boys. Some are muscular, some are young, but some are older, even old, and some are not In Shape by any criterion, and they come in a variety of colors and types. They're real men, not in the sense of men who've passed the National Machismo Standards Test, but in the sense of actual men rather than fantasy men. "Natural" has nothing to do with it, of course; a lot of these bodies are the products of dedicated gym work, and the outfits are no more "natural" in their calculatedness than a body waxing.

I've written about this syndrome before, in one of the first posts on this blog.

Lamenting gay men's shallow obsession with looks is always good for livening up a slow session in a chat room or for taking a break while guy-watching at the bar. Of course, the complaint is almost always about other gay men's shallowness. I can't recall ever having heard someone moan, "I'm so shallow -- all I care about is looks. Personality doesn't matter to me at all." ...

Let me try to make this as clear as possible: I am not telling gay men (or anyone else) to have sex with people they're not attracted to. I am not arguing that gay men should change their sexual tastes, trying through sheer will-power to crave non-buff non-hunks; if anything, it's most critics of gay male looksism who talk as if they believed that. (Close your eyes, think of England and fuck his personality. It's an odd notion to encounter in individuals who believe that we are born with our sexual desires genetically programmed into us, and that they are absolutely impossible to change.) I'm not even saying that my taste in men is superior to that of most gay men. What I am saying is that our tastes are already broader than we admit.
So, if you like boys/men with a little heft, why not post more pictures of them to your blog, along with all the model-boys, if only for some variety? It isn't only men who are paid to look good who look good.

(Images from The Real Men of New York, via HomoSuperior.)