|Male Nude Seen From Behind (ca. 1503-1507), red chalk drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.|
|Buffer than thou
Experts are only beginning to examine the effects of body image on gay men. But it is clear that it is a cause of anxiety for many: Studies show that homosexual men experience far greater body-dissatisfaction than heterosexual men, while homosexual women have a more positive body image than heterosexual women.
Experience seems to bear these findings out. Ask any random assortment of women and they'll probably tell you that men are "superficial scumbags"--a somewhat blunt way of saying that men care more than women do about the physical attractiveness of their partners. If the feminine consensus is true, it may explain why heterosexual women and homosexual men--both looking to attract men--are so concerned about keeping a fine figure.
Gym rats agree. Says Marcello (who prefers the term "healthy muscle boy"), "Straight men don't work out as much. There's pressure in gay society to work out. Gay men want to attract other gay men, so gay men have to work out."
Marcello goes to the gym every day after work and also on weekends. The twenty-six-year-old says it's for health reasons and to relieve stress. "I'm maintaining myself and staying healthy and toned. It's mainly for me--I'd say seventy percent. It's only thirty percent for others."
But that thirty percent is the ticket into an exclusive social scene. At Marcello's gym--the Gold's Gym in Hollywood, California--the city's hottest and buffest gay men congregate on a daily basis. On the weekends, these gym rats take their act on the road. They’re the ones on the club floors, strutting in tight clothing, showing off what they work on every day. Spandex and polyester t-shirts and shorts--and the tightest of pants--are standard attire. Once the men get in the club, the tank tops must come off within seconds.
Marcello says he feels comfortable in any gay circle or clique--the gym boys, the label queens, the bears, the geek chics. He has all types of friends, not just gym rats. Nevertheless, Marcello says he knows of other buff gay men who will only hang out with those like them. "It has to do with the benefits and exclusivity of being part of a group, any group--in this case the gym boys," he says.
For WeHo's untouchables, the buffer-than-thou culture amounts to a rather pernicious form of snobbery. It's not only superficial, but also hypocritical, they say. After all, if these stylish gay men are so concerned about their bodies, why do they treat them so badly? "I wouldn't mind having an Adonis body, but if it comes with abusing my body with chemicals, seeing the world in a narrow light, what's the point?" says Peter, who remembers watching WeHo's "healthy muscle boys" at the clubs as they got drunk, chain smoked, and went into the bathrooms to do a line or two.
Marcello, however, discounts the criticisms. Others may call gym rats shallow and stuck up, but he knows they'd say that about anyone with enough self-confidence. He's got the looks, the style, and most importantly, the body. He's desired by the throngs who crowd the nightclubs, by the people waving bills at his crotch. "They like my smile, my nice smooth chest, and, most of all, they like my ass," he beams proudly.
WeHo is Marcello's kind of town, so why not reap the benefits?
Buffer than thou