I’m sorry for waiting so long to do another post (again). I was busy doing very important thinks. Like binge-watching Eastsiders, a webseries about sad gay alcoholics being sad and gay and alcoholic.
Oh, and hot.I have a crush on Kit Williamson, apparently, because every time he stared dolefully into the distance or slinked coyly around the room or rolled over in bed (shirtless!) I had to take some time to calm myself down. Seriously, I could spend all day looking at him. All. Day. I texted my partner about this–multiple times–because I could not keep it inside of me. I was transfixed.
And then a strange sensation settled in. I looked down at my own body, which has always satisfied me (and, I assume, the people I sleep with). I thought, “Huh, I should really go to the gym.” I considered buying a gym membership on the spot. I walked over to the mirror and pulled off my clothing and felt a distinct sense that I was letting something go to waste, that… what? That I would never be able to seduce Kit Williamson? That nobody would ever be as enchanted by my body as I am by his?
This happens every so often. Ever since I can remember, I’ve lamented the gay paradox: “Do I want to sleep with him, or do I want to be him?” A while back I realized that my answer would always be a combination of both. For me, attraction is intrinsically connected to respect, and when I respect somebody, I want to emulate the things about them that I respect. So when I see somebody who I find physically attractive, I also kind of want to look like them. And when I don’t feel like I can look like them, I feel sadness, or jealousy, or self-loathing.
The specter of of this self-loathing has followed me for my entire life. When I was a senior in college, I got fed up with being a 112-pound man and started going to the gym five or six days per week. I ate over 4,500 calories every single day, even if it made me want to vomit. I grew incredibly strong incredibly quickly. I started to fill out my shirts. I started to get compliments. People who I assumed had never given me a moment’s thought would stop me on the sidewalk to tell me how good I looked.
Eventually, my routine collapsed. I couldn’t keep up my weightlifting regiment, especially while I was writing my thesis. I got the stomach flu and couldn’t swallow my ginormous protein shakes every morning. I started to feel really, really guilty whenever there wasn’t food in my mouth. I watched in misery as my gains melted away and I was left feeling tiny again, and a little saggier from the rapid changes my body had gone through. The drive to get a “better body” had nearly given me an eating disorder.
I knew as soon as I started to feel guilty about food that something was wrong, and I easily let go of my unhealthy obsession with bulking up. It wasn’t until this past week, though, after watching Eastsiders, that I started to question my motivations for wanting a muscular body in the first place. Why exactly do I fantasize about being able to fill out a shirt with my muscular physique or being strong enough to lift a walrus? Why do I seem to care about these things on an instinctive, biological level?
I grew up hearing that these things were just “natural male instincts.” People told me that men were, evolutionarily, hunter-gatherers and needed muscles to be successful, that men needed to display their muscularity to impress mates and fend off competition, that testosterone was really the driving force behind my aspirations of muscularity.Ignoring the fact that those explanations are bullshit and pseudo-scientific at best, I think that the answer is a lot simpler: I like sex, and we’re told by everyone, everywhere in society that only hot people have good sex. What is society’s version of a “hot” guy? Lithe. Toned, if not muscular. White. Able-bodied. Well-kempt. Kind of like my crush, Kit Williamson.
The thing is, “hot” people don’t actually have hotter sex. They don’t even necessarily have more sex. Frankly, my fat friends get more action than my weight-lifting, marathon-running, protein-drinking friends. And, because they’re completely shunned by mainstream narratives about sexuality, they’ve had to develop their own, better ways of communicating with their partners about what they want and when/how they want it. In other words, “hot” people probably have, um, colder sex because they aren’t forced to challenge society’s super-messed-up sexual scripts just to get laid.
This is why representation matters in the media. If we think we have to act, look, or be different from who we actually are in order to do the things we want to do, we will wreck ourselves. And we’ll have bad sex in the process.
So here’s my advice: give up on hotness. Give up on finding the “hottest” partner, and start trying to find one who will have good sex with you. Give up on becoming “hot,” and start figuring out how to use your body in ways that are exciting to you and your partners.
Sure, keep going to the gym. Maybe even keep eating healthily, if that’s a thing you do. But let go of the notion that these things are going to improve your sex life or your love life, because they’re not. In fact, obsessing over hotness will just buy you a one-way ticket to Bad Sex Land, where everyone is so fixated on what their bodies look like that they forget to care about how their bodies feel.