Thursday, March 16, 2006

Gym Bunnies and Body Nazis

As we continue our look at the different flavors of gay, we pause to look at a now-common sub-species: the gym bunny, also known as a body nazi. These curious creatures spend most of their time working out, sculpting abs, chiseling pecs, and obsessing over that last pesky 1% of body fat. They are often overly critical of their bodies, and are not content having an amazing body; it must be perfect, and beyond. They may eventually become so obsessed that they become an over-muscled, neckless neanderthal. They often travel in packs, as they must have spotters and work out buddies. Their vanity often projecting onto others, gym bunnies are known for superficiality. They are only seen with other very pretty, overly fit people and rarely couple for longer than a few sweaty dates. After all, a relationship would only detract from time spent in the gym or downing the latest wheat grass - creatine - protein shake and dietary supplements from GNC.

Nature-channel-esque humor aside, there are countless body nazis out there. There is a serious body image issue in the gay community, particularly among gay men. We're obsessed with having perfect bodies and looking young forever. Collagen and Botox are sweeping through the gay-borhood like a joint Cher and Madonna tour. Gay men are hiring age and beauty specialists, and personal trainers must make fortunes off of us. Anyone who doesn't look like they just stepped off the cover of Men's Fitness migh as well have a third arm if they step into a gay club. The rampant popularity of online dating sites like and Manhunt hasn't helped much either. Men cruise around the websites looking for other pretty people for hookups, one night stands, and friends with benefits. "No picture, no profile - no private" has become a nearly universal decree online, indicating that nobody is willing to talk to you without a full profile and picture. While this started because of security and privacy concerns, it's now about only talking to the pretty boys online.

Why is this? Why are so many gay men obsessed with being the perfect physical specimen? Have we learned nothing from the decades of discussion about body image for women, eating disorders, and magazines at the grocery store checkout aisle? I'm of the opinion that part of the gay male obsession with youth and beauty is because of the pressure we face because we buck the norms. Men aren't supposed to date other men, aren't supposed to cry, and certainly aren't supposed to be feminine in any way. Being a woman is a bad thing in our society, after all, though it is slowly becoming less so. So if we become the most macho, muscled, and masculine specimens of manliness possible, we're somewhat more acceptable to society...and to ourselves. If we can make our exteriors closer fit the ideals of Atlas or Adonis, maybe - just maybe - people will ignore the fact that we date other men and aren't Ward Cleaver. Society said gay is bad because this is what a gay person looks and acts like; gay men responded by becoming more outwardly perfect.

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