We are thrilled to extend the conversation about the intersection of gender, sexuality and fashion by sharing our QueerCut space with guest bloggers. Their words and ideas provide the basis for engagement, reflection and action.
If you happen to be even a mild pseudo-observer of human culture, you know we have a long ass way to go along the body positivity road. We’re a strange bunch: it seems the ceaseless proliferation of sensationalized, sexualized, and pornographic content inundating us rather constantly has little if any positive effect on body positivity or sex positivity, and some might say it has the opposite effect. Regardless of the precise reasons so many people of all genders continue struggling not to hate on their bodies, it’s a reality, especially in this online era of hyper-representation.
While there has been a good deal of discussion over the years about the empowerment promoted by the body positivity movement, there have also been a number of critiques that bring about important yet subjective questions: How does health play into it all? Where do we draw the line? Does “the movement” direct judgement at those who choose to modify their bodies—for whatever reason? Where do men fit into these discussions, which have focused almost exclusively on women’s bodies? It's true that women's bodies have historically been scrutinized more than men's, which has led to long-term problems we're still coping with. But men too face pressures—to be stronger, taller, and more masculine—and they too need to be addressed. Remember: issues that affect men also affect everyone they come into contact with (same goes for women).
Here are a few ways body negativity manifests for men in case you just don’t know:
Apparently one third of guys have negative feelings about their bodies and perhaps surprisingly to some, are more often worried about physical appearance than financial well being or social life, according to HuffPost. One in three people struggling with an eating disorder also happen to be male. Yet men with eating disorders or body insecurity are less represented in the media, as well as less likely to seek out help.
Shortness of depth
I am just as guilty as the next woman of feeling like I have a hard time feeling attracted to a man that is shorter than I am. And yet, before online dating became all the rage, I was definitely attracted to men who happened to be shorter than me. Any issues I have with it now (working on it) have more to do with the idea of a shorter guy than…shorter guys. The fact is, toxic masculinity as we know it posits that men should take up more space and women less. And we all spend a hell of a lot of energy trying to satisfy that. Interesting fact: short men tend to get the short end of the stick professionally too.
Along the same lines as height is the almighty big dick. Penis shaming is just as misguided as porn’s obsession with “tight pussy.” It shouldn’t be surprising that men are insecure about their cock size. Terrorized even.Mainstream porn promotes the inaccurate notion that the average cock length is 6 inches minimum. According to one study, the average length of a flaccid penis is 3.61 inches, while an erect penis is 5.16 inches. Meanwhile, girth is 3.66 and 4.59 inches respectively. In spite of the fact that exercises, pills, or special equipment cannot alter dick size, the industry runs rampant. The least anyone can do is not use small dick size as an insult!
The fitness and beauty industries have aggressively targeted the male market in recent years, pushing a male beauty paradigm that is sculpted and muscular. Could this explain the seeming obsession of many men with going to the gym these days? Up to 45% of men suffer from muscle dysmorphia or bigorexia at some point in their lives. Bigorexia’s symptoms are the inverse of anorexia, with sufferers constantly striving to get bigger and more muscular, regardless of the health risks involved. The distorted self-image, need for control, obsessive behaviour, and lack of joy make the issue similar to an eating disorder.
Over 30% of men deal with enlarging breasts at some point in their lives. Man boobs, aka gynecomastia can take a real psychological toll. No guy with boobs wants to go topless, am I right? Don’t get me started on why women aren’t “allowed” to go topless as men are. A subject for another day. Man boobs are largely caused by hormones."It's an important issue that has typically had guys living in the shadows,"says Jay Pensler, M.D., "It plays a critical role in one's self-esteem.” Apparently men now account for 40% of breast reductions.
While many men shave their heads when (if) they start to lose too much hair, these days guys are spending the megabucks tending to their personal recessions. From hair transplants, to a wide host of over-the-counter products, to hair tattoos, the male hair loss industry is booming. A study in Psychology Today found 51% of men would rather lose their damn minds than their hair.
Three body positive men to watch
These dudes are inspiring men worldwide to make peace with their bodies, whatever that means to them:
Instagram celebrity impersonator Mina Gerges is known for his unique “diva images”of iconic stars, but last winter, he got more serious, opening up about his struggles with eating disorders and body image: “I’ve struggled with my weight and body image my whole life. I grew up surrounded by unrealistic pictures of men and women that convinced me that I have to look like that to be considered attractive and desirable. Especially as gay men, where unfortunately so many of us struggle with achieving that unrealistic standard to feel beautiful.”
Kelvin Davis is a body positive advocate and author who models, blogs, and dances. His book, “Notoriously Dapper” tries to make sizzling style accessible for men of any size. One of the minds behind the @EffYourBeautyStandards Instagram account, Davis gets a lot done. But he’s really motivated:one shitty shopping trip made him pledge to never again apologize for his body, and he's encouraging other men to follow suit.
Ryan Sallans is a transgender public speaker, diversity trainer, and author. A few months ago he posted about his journey with anorexia on Instagram: “20 years ago, at age 19, I nearly died in my dorm room due to anorexia. I was female-bodied at the time, scared and hopeless. Thankfully, my spirit told me it wasn’t my time to go, and I decided to dedicate myself to recovery…”
Here’s to body love and the body-lovin’ underwear that can help make it a reality. <3
"Men and the Body Positive Movement" was written for the WickedMmm blog by author Maya Khamala and originally posted on September 11, 2018.
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Maya Khamala, author
I’m a Montreal-based freelance writer: journalist, poet, storyteller, erotica-writer, blogger, copywriter, and lover of clear communication. Words are my favourite thing in the universe. Nothing gets me hotter than the right choice of words. Nothing. I did my BA and MA in Creative Writing and English Lit at Concordia University. I was a full-time community organizer at Montreal's Centre for Gender Advocacy for 6 years, and did a lot of popular education and solidarity work around violence against Native communities, reproductive and sexual health, sexual assault awareness, intersections of race and gender, and even co-founded a Men and Feminism collective while there. What else? I’m a lover of men and give a lot of thought to what makes one (a man). Need writing or editing services?