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Body Image, Body Fascism and the General Role of Appearance in the Gay Community

In this salon, we would like to discuss and explore the effects of body image and body fascism and the general role appearance plays in the gay male community.  Some questions to consider:

What was your initial relation to body image when you first entered the gay scene?  How has your body image evolved as you've spent more time in the gay community? In the context of body image, did you actively choose a body type ideal (e.g. twink, athletic, bodybuilder, bear, DILF, etc.) to aspire to?  What influenced that choice?  How did the journey towards your aspirational body type affect your gay experience?

Are you typically attracted to men of your aspirational body type or of a different body type? Do certain body type preferences inherently embody racist and/or ageist exclusions based on the low distribution of those body types within certain demographics (e.g. 50 y/o Twinks, 18 y/o Muscle Bears, Asian Otters)? Is there an overarching gay community body fascism?  If so, what are the metrics of attractiveness?Does the Bear Community impose its own version of body fascism?

Does it feel like the percentage of shirtless men at gay bars and clubs is lower than in past eras?  If so, why might that be? Does body fascism feel stronger at in-person gay venues (e.g. bars, clubs, events) or at virtual gay meeting places (e.g. Grindr, Manhunt, Craigslist)?  Why is that? Do meticulously curated online personas generally represent real life?Is it deceptive to strategically crop selfies (e.g. show off big arms and pecs, but truncate the photo at the belly) or to enlist a professional photographer?

Is it a fair comparison to say gay men endure body image pressures similar to what straight women endure?  If not, who has it worse? Did you feel intense body image pressure before you realized you were gay (when you were navigating the world as a presumably straight male)?  If so, how did it manifest? Do you feel your straight male friends/colleagues/relatives feel similar body image pressures?  If so, are the factors behind their body image pressures different than those affecting gay men and straight women?What about lesbians?

How has aging influenced your own body image and reception by the gay community? Do older Hollywood hunks (e.g. Hugh Jackman @ 44, Christopher Meloni @ 52, Dennis Quaid @ 59) set unrealistic expectations for male body aging?  What should the 40s and 50s look like? Are those older hunk standards even more unrealistic than the Abercrombie models as the self-imposed benchmarks for gay teens to aspire to?

How does non-porn, mainstream media influence body fascism in the gay community? How does non-porn, gay media influence body fascism in the gay community? How does gay porn influence body fascism in the gay community?

How does the level of body image pressure change throughout the life cycle of a long term relationship?  Would it be different in a monogamous versus an open relationship? How strong of a factor do you feel your physical attractiveness was in landing your partner?  And in keeping your partner? Does the intensity of body image pressure your partner feels for himself affect your own self imposed pressure?

Are there body image pressures from the gay community to change aspects which can only be modified via medical assistance (e.g. hair loss treatment, blepharoplasty, rhinoplasty, botox)? What are your thoughts about medical procedures as shortcuts to body ideals which could possibly achieved without medical intervention?

If you've lived in another gay epicenter, how does body fascism there compare to San Francisco?

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  • Joel B.

    I am sorry to have missed last night's salon, especially after reading the terrific reviews of the session. My life has changed over the past many months and I cannot be in two places simultaneously. I'll try my best to attend more.

    October 3, 2013

  • David R.

    Definitely a forever current topic. Our group explored the subject from not just the lense we view others we meet but also how we view ourselves. Being at peace with your own body goes a long way towards personal happiness.

    1 · October 3, 2013

  • Patrick

    First, I want to thank everyone for the intelligent and thoughtful conversation that we had this evening -- I really enjoyed the points of view, insights and experiences that were shared.

    Second, a number of people in the small group mentioned that they meditated and I wanted to let you know about Queer Dharma which meets this Saturday at the San Francisco Zen Center at 1pm. Anyway, Queer Dharma meets once a month, we meditate for a half hour then discuss a topic. If you are not familiar with the Zen Center it is one of the oldest Zen Buddhist centers in the U.S., is at Page Street and Laguna. This month our discussion will be led by Tova Green -- an ordained Zen priest. I will be there on Saturday -- please feel free to join and I hope to see some of you there.

    1 · October 2, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Guys, I could not join you this time.

    I am sure that someone mentioned this documentary in the discussions today, The Adonis Factor:

    October 2, 2013

  • Rattan D.

    Great group

    1 · September 30, 2013

  • Rich G.

    Wish I could attend this one ...

    1 · September 27, 2013

  • Brian

    I been waiting for one like this. :)

    2 · September 16, 2013

  • Richard M.

    Thank you for this great topic. I especially appreciate the initial questions focussing on the personal. There has been a lot of discussion of the general already. The personal is appropriate for the nature of this group and will be interesting to hear.

    2 · September 16, 2013

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