On One Hand

March 28, 2010

Out Front Colorado’s Stuff Gay People Like: Being Shirtless

Filed under: culture — ononehand @ 10:00 am

If a straight man suddenly strips off his shirt in public, it means he wants to fight somebody. Either that or he just found out there’s a bee in it. But the bottom line is that wearing shirts is considered the norm for most straight guys.

Not so for gay men, who take great pleasure in letting everyone know when they’ve been to the gym, and reminding them of it, again, and again, and again. A gay man requires little provocation to bare skin and any of the following factors suggest shirtlessness: It’s a nightclub. He’s jogging. It’s a sunny summer day. Somebody shouted “strip!” A webcam is on. He’s just been brutally defeated at beer pong. It’s his Connexion profile. He’s in California. He wants to get back at his boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend. He is in a gay-themed advertisement. His drunk friend made an unserious comment about him taking off clothes so now he has to make her regret it. He’s at Pride. Someone is taking a picture. He is dancing. It is part of his Halloween costume. He wants you to see his tattoo.

You get the idea.

And when it comes to willingness to take off pants in public, gay guys are light years ahead of straight guys.

Gay people love showing off their bodies in public. When their friends do it they attribute their willingness to take it off to the whole community being “too slutty,” even if they’re doing the same thing and even as they simultaneously argue that society is too conservative on sexual matters. Yeah, it’s complicated.

But if all the stodgy conservative people who would be troubled by sex in culture are already shunning you because you’re gay, you don’t have much reason to avoid what aggravates them, right? Why not just just do what you feel like doing?

The gay men who look average, who don’t work out and have comfortable bellies or twiggy arms, can tell you about all the pressure they’re under to look good. Gay articles, advertisements, and even profile sites are rampant at showing preference to images of waxed, chiseled, buff and idealized 20-something men, and concentrate 80 percent of the images on what 5 percent of people actually look like.

This topic is particularly relevant to the fact that a lot of gay people spend significant amounts of time working out (which will definitely have to be a future topic here), and people who work that hard at anything want some credit. But it’s a chicken-and-egg situation; do gay people take off their shirts so often because they’re proud that they went to the gym, or do they go to the gym just to keep up with their friends who are taking off their shirts all the time?

Those who feel left out will say the gay media promote a widespread body image crisis.

But the advertisers and the guys who do work out will get their way, and say it’s not as much about looks as promoting “good health.” Having a 6-pack and chugging twelve pounds of processed protein powder a week means you’re healthy, they’ll say, if you still drink and go tanning and smoke.

Yeah, it’s complicated.

Full List of Stuff Gay People Like

Getting Enough Protein

Being Shirtless

Lady GaGa


Living Downtown

Pretending Not to Be Poor


The Reverse Mullet

Hating the Gay Scene

Hillary Clinton

The Internet


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