I wonder how much the universality of unrealistically portrayed gay male bodies harms us gay men on a deeply personal level.
I never had a firmer handle on how bad the problem was until I started trying to illustrate fiction and nonfiction pieces with photographs of gay men.
I use stock images and I subscribe to a couple of pay services. The first problem I note is that finding images of queer people at all is very difficult, including pictures of gay men.
But when I can find images, they are often (or maybe even usually) portraying unrealistically thin and muscular men who don’t look much at all like people I actually know.
Just to illustrate, I was looking for a photograph last night for a novel chapter. I wanted an image of two young men kissing under a starry night sky.
Forget about it. I found thousands (literally) of photos of young men and women couples embracing under the stars, but almost none at all of same-sex male couples.
When I did find a couple photos, they were hyper-sexualized and featured young men with impossible, almost stylized gym bodies. I couldn’t use them because they have nothing to do with the story I’m writing.
I had to change course and go with a different theme for a photo. And I think this is the message that we’re all getting. That our bodies are either impossible in their perfection or that we don’t exist.