slim down, buff up, bottom out

Bill Weintraub

Bill Weintraub

slim down, buff up, bottom out


from our friends at planetout:

Do gay men suffer more eating disorders? U.K.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Gay men appear to be at greater risk of developing eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, than heterosexual men, according to a recent study.

"Homosexuality is associated with increased body dissatisfaction, attempts to lose weight by restricting food intake, and disordered eating patterns such as binge eating and purging," study co-author Dr. Pamela K. Keel of Harvard University told Reuters Health.

In the current issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the researchers report that both body dissatisfaction and eating disorders were much more prevalent among the gay men than among the heterosexual men they interviewed.

Among gay men, nearly 14 percent appeared to suffer from bulimia and over 20 percent appeared to be anorexic. Among heterosexual men, however, researchers found that none were bulimic, and only one was anorexic.

The researchers also found that gay men reported higher levels of depression, lower self-esteem and greater discomfort with their sexual orientation than the heterosexual men.

Keel told Reuters Health that the association between eating disorders and gay men was surprising. She suggested that prevention and research efforts to help women combat a culture that promotes body dissatisfaction could be extended to help gay men.

"For example," she said, "in the television program 'Will & Grace,' the title character, Will, is regularly teased by his gay friend Jack about being overweight when the actor who portrays Will is clearly not overweight. Future research could examine the impact of these kinds of messages on the risk for disordered eating in gay men."

this is an interesting study for two reasons

the first is Dr. Keel's acknowledgment of the power of cultural messages in pop culture

she points specifically to Will and Grace, just as we've been pointing to Queer as Folk

the other is, in my view, a confirmation of what i've often said -- for example in Masculinity and Spirit, and in Phallic, Masculine, Heroic

and that is that a feminine identification isn't good for gay men

that's because gay men rarely identify with the two most beneficial aspects of the feminine -- nurturance and intution

rather, they identify with aspects of femininity that are stressed by pop culture and patriarchy but that are harmful to women themselves --

specifically, behaviors that reflect an extreme need for male approval

which include slimming down, buffing up, and bottoming out

if you're secure in your identification both as a man and as a man who likes to have sex with men, you don't need to do those things

of course it's sensible to watch your weight, and it feels great to work out

but for too many gay men, just as for too many women, the object becomes having a perfect body to attract and hold the perfect man

it's common, for example, in gay gyms, to hear men who are ripped lamenting that they have too much body fat

a few years ago that no-body-fat culture proved fatal to a gay San Franciscan who, despite having an already imposing physique, became convinced that he needed liposuction and died on the operating table

similarly, very few gay men actually put their bodies to athletic use, treating them instead like fragile objets d'art

for example, when i was doing self-defense work i often exhorted gay men to learn basic self-defense

most wouldn't do it, saying they couldn't spare the time they'd lose at the gym

guys, i'm not making this up

they actually believed it was more important to look good than to know how to defend themselves

now i'm not saying that guys into frot are immune to the emphasis on looks in gay male and/or consumerist culture

but compare a guy like Boxing Warrior Patrick with the average analist

cause clearly the hierarchies of anal culture, which mimic and distort straight perceptions of sexuality and sex roles, lend themselves in turn to the sorts of distortions of body image that are so common among gay men

tops and bottoms, studs and queens, butches and bitches

anal culture, with its White parties, drugs, and gyms, appears to have an astonishing staying power -- it's been around for a quarter century -- but like any tyranny, it's remained in power through exclusion and by making the lives of its most loyal subjects hell

like anal itself, the culture is diseased and demeaning

and it will not stand



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