In Harris O'Malley's recent piece “The New (And Impossible) Standards of Male Beauty,” O'Malley explains what he believes to be the prevailing male beauty myth of our time. He writes:
Men need to be muscular but lean, able to party hard and guzzle booze and beer like their bros on The Jersey Shore or The Only Way Is Essex but still maintain those perfect abs. And of course, it’s supposed to be natural. Yeah, you can post your CrossFit workout to Instagram with inspiring-yet-still-aggressive hashtags like #doyouevenlift, #brosdon’tletbrosskiplegday and #noexcuses, but talking about your diet? Well you better not get too specific bro, because that gets too close to being a chick. Yeah, you can #eatclean and #gopaleo – manly ideals those – but too much talk about salad and you might as well be checking into a pilates class and handing your testicles to someone who can put them to better use.
But for gay/queer men, living under an oppressive regime of physical beauty is not new at all. O'Malley observes, “Zac Effron traded in an almost feminine beauty in his younger days to look like something that – quoting Seth Rogan’s character in Neighbors – a gay man designed in a laboratory.” I've asked several writers to talk about their feelings about the standards of male beauty that have literally shaped their lives. Some directly address O'Malley's piece while others used it as a springboard to launch into their own experiences and ideas as to how and why we pursue and/or resist standards of male beauty that we both desire and find contemptuous.
For the next several weeks, JAKE Voices will present to you their stories. Some of them might make you cringe, perhaps because you see yourself in their words. We invite you to share your testimony too by engaging through comments. As is the way with JAKE, let this be an opportunity to empower ourselves: to find (more) acceptance for our bodies and be more compassionate towards other people's bodies as well. This is a beginning to re-define male beauty, that is, if you want to...
Daniel W.K. Lee