February 25, 2018 at 8:27 am EDT | by Michael Radkowsky
Rethinking gay marketability
body fascism, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Bigstock)

Michael:

 

A guy who thinks he’s not attractive enough to get dates wrote you last fall complaining that gay men are “all about looks.” You suggested that he consider volunteering, in order to meet guys less into looks and more into personality.  

 

I don’t think your advice is going to change this guy’s plight. He needs an attitude adjustment.  

 

True, some folks among us are genetically blessed with good genes, can eat whatever they want without gaining an ounce and look great without having to go to the gym. But most guys with great bodies, great jobs and hot boyfriends have had to work hard for them. 

 

You get the face God gave you but our bodies are ours to sculpt and it’s amazing what 15-20 pounds in either direction can do. When you look at hot porn actors or go-go dancers, those guys are not always super cute in the face; they’ve just whipped their bodies into optimum shape and are reaping the rewards. 

 

Or think about those makeovers you see in magazines. It’s amazing what the right skin regimen, great haircut, flattering glasses and a good wardrobe properly fitted can do for you. 

 

If you’re carrying around 25 extra pounds and wearing sweats all the time, you can be as kind and witty as can be —but you’re just not gonna get that far on the gay market. And let’s be real — many of us are trying to do the best we can to catch the fish. 

 

This is stuff nobody wants to acknowledge, but it’s reality. You have to get in the game and think competitively. Even the most gracious and erudite among us in Gayland still appreciate someone who’s fit and takes care of himself. It’s not a matter of personality being secondary; it’s just that you see the exterior before you seen the interior. 

 

So much of life is what you make of it. I’m not saying being a gym bunny is the answer to happiness in gay life, but being in shape, looking the best you can, eating right and all that pays off with huge psychological rewards. Just my two cents.

Michael replies:

In my office, many gay men complain about being rejected for not having the right sort of body, clothes, face and job.

I agree that we should do our best to look presentable (unless we want a partner seeking otherwise). But the guy who wrote me complaining that he can’t get a date may well be doing that. He reports that his non-stunning appearance isn’t attracting any takers, at least where he is hanging out and looking for a partner. If I suggested a makeover, I would be buying into the rigid definitions of attractiveness that enslave many gay men. 

Somehow this guy has wound up in a crowd whose standards of attractiveness rule him out as he is. So yes, I think it’s a good idea for him to broaden his search beyond the people he’s currently being rejected by. There are gay men out there with broader standards interested in a great interior that may be covered by a modest exterior.  

As you note, we have the faces we have. Even if we go to the gym and dress well, many of us may not be able to push our exterior beyond a certain level. Most people do, in fact, have average bodies. For what reason should we be striving for standards to which almost no one actually conforms? Why should a “gym body” be the definition of attractive? 

Making matters more complex: inevitably all of us will confront the ravages of time as we age. Many of us will suffer illness that will take its toll on our looks. So we’ve got to be able to consider more than outward appearance in our criteria for who we’ll date, have sex with or settle down with. And we have to derive our self-worth from inside. 

I think the dateless guy who wrote me makes a great point in challenging all of us to reconsider our stringent standards of attractiveness. The gay male world can be really harsh about this. Judgment about appearance can be a sort of tyranny. 

Sometimes I think that our common experience of having been outcasts when we were young can lead us to want to feel like we are now “better than” by finding others to reject and put down, just as we were once rejected and put down. One way to do this is by looking down on others’ appearances. 

It may be an impossible goal, but in this world that can be so harsh, why not consider reaching toward a more generous view of others?

 

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@michaelradkowsky.com.

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