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This blog celebrates the beauty of Asian men by illustrating the depth and variety that is so often missed by those who make foolish statements like "All Asians look the same." It is primarily a photo blog, but I will also occasionally write comments related to Asian men and gay life as it relates to them.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Homo-Masculinity



For quite a while now, I have been a big fan of Tim at the blog Naked Came I. In addition to consistently posting plenty of hot pictures, he is an excellent writer who can identify and address problems concisely and compellingly. I thought his post yesterday to be particularly notable, so with his permission, I reproduce it here in its entirety (though I added the pictures myself as examples of beautiful guys who may not have the "perfect" muscular body. But their beauty should be obvious). You can see Tim's post in its original context here. Though it is somewhat lengthy, it is well worth your time to read.

What's the deal with requiring Asian men to be muscular?

I've been perusing some gay photo sites, nude sites, film sites, Usenet groups, etc. And everywhere I turn, Asian men are muscled out, butched up, steroided, pumped.

Now, there's nothing wrong with muscle. Muscle can be beautiful. Muscle can be aesthetically pleasing. Muscle is (sometimes) a sign of dedication and willpower, and that, too, can be attractive.

But invariably, sites which feature naked gay Asian men show muscle. Every single time (well, almost).

Why?

Is it that Asian men aren't considered masculine until they are so muscled up that they are uniform slabs of meat? Or is it that Asian men feel inferior due to height or racism, and so feel the need to "compensate" through adding muscle?



I know it's not a syndrome which affects just Asian men. The whole world seems consumed with muscle. You can't get away from it. Just 15 years ago, the term "bear" meant a man who was not only hairy, but a man who was heavy as well. But like some sort of cancer, "muscle" has invaded the domain of the bear...so that today, the term "bear" means anyone with a hairy body. Usually someone muscular and ripped and toned and gym-built. Just 15 years ago, "twink" meant someone without body hair, slender and unmuscled. But now, the cancer has invaded here as well. You can't open a magazine like "In Touch" or "Playguy" without every single model having toned pecs, six-pack abs and biceps.



The more people complain about it, the more the muscle-addicts whine that "you can't find any muscle" these days. Of course, you can find muscle. Plenty of it. But like a junkie, the muscle-addicts have lost perspective on what constitutes muscle. It's not enough to have pecs, abs and biceps. No, now a model has to be able to bench 250 lbs. and do 75 preacher-curls with 65lb weights in a row. It's not enough to have 24" biceps. Your biceps have to be 28", 32", 36". A man's cock size, his facial characteristics -- even whether he's gay or not -- are irrelevant. So long as he's got muscle on top of muscle, he's worth masturbating over.

It didn't used to be this way.

In the 1970s, gay porn stars came in all shapes and sizes. Tall, average, short height. Muscular, toned and twinky. Hairy and smooth. Clean-shaven, mustachioed, bearded. Long-haired, crew-cut, in-between. Cut and uncut. Tops, bottoms, versatile.



But then the gay community got psychological cancer. I have no idea what caused it. It seems to me to be a sort of self-loathing: It's not enough to be the best little boy in the world any more. Now you have to be the butchest as well. Hate-filled heterosexual society had saddled gays with a stereotype as a limp-wristed, lisping, mincing interior decorator. Gays in the early 1970s had rejected this stereotype; they sought their own path, with the infinite variety and variability that entailed. You couldn't say what "gay" was. It certainly wasn't the stereotype. Yet, "gay" wasn't something you could put your finger on.

Not any more.




It's almost as if certain gay men couldn't handle that variability. Self-loathing, nervous, worried, desperate for something solid -- a stereotype -- they could cling to, these men created the "homo-masculine" ideal. It was a form of false consciousness, unfortunately. These gay men bought unconditionally into straight society's preferred image of homosexuality (the lisping, mincing, artsy fag). Engaging in the worst form of reactionary thinking, they adopted straight society's concept of what it mean to be "a man." Hairiness, massive muscles, facial hair: These became not just an ideal masculinity. They became the only masculinity. Everything else was "faggy." Everything else was sneered at and looked down upon as "not manly." It was outright body fascism (another kind of reactionary thinking). These men ignored the fact that genetics simply don't permit a large number of men to meet this ideal. They cannot and never will be hairy, muscular, bearded. Instead of acknowledging this and working it into their concept of the "manly man," these gay men rejected their fellow travelers. They ostracized them. Such men were no longer worthy of having sex, being portrayed in adult film, being shown in magazines, being seen in advertisements.



Now, perhaps if things had stopped there, everything would have been somewhat okay. After all, this group was small. It had no power over others. Let them isolate themselves. Let them be exclusionist.

But it didn't stop there. The cancerous idea spread.

It spread because it touched a nerve in gay men. After all, when society is telling you a thousand times a day that you aren't acceptable, aren't moral, aren't "right", then it becomes hard to forge a unique, true, real identity. It's so much easier to just buy into society's hate, make it your own, and "beat them at their own game." It's so much easier to say, "Yes, gays are pansies. But look! I'm not a pansy! I'm not a fruit! I'm just like you -- only I sleep with men. Why, we are the same! We have the same values. We have the same hates, loves, morals. See, I reject faggots just like you!"




But gay men in America aren't just like everyone else. They stand outside the predominant Western Judeo-Christian tradition.

The philospher Plato used the story of the cave to illustrate the nature of truth, and the concept of false consciousness. He told the story of three men chained to the wall of a cave. The men could not see out of the cave, but they could see the back wall of the cave. Outside the cave, a fire was kept constantly lit. As people, animals, carts and other things passed in front of the fire, their shadows were projected onto the back wall. The men came to believe that these shadows were reality. One of the men eventually freed himself. He ran outside the cave, and saw the truth of reality. Yet, when he returned to the cave and told his compatriots, they refused to believe him.

Rejected by society -- ejected from Plato's cave -- gay men have the opportunity to explore the real world. To discover truth.



Gay men aren't nearly as socialized (some might use the word brainwashed) into the "traditional" values of Western culture. That's a culture which worships aggression and misogyny, a culture which represses minorities and hyper-values materialism. It's a culture which represses all value-systems other than its own, refusing pluralism.

So why do some gay men buy back into that very value system? It's rarely a conscious decision, well-thought-out and considered. Instead, it is almost always an unconscious decision. It is a decision often made out of fear ("I couldn't handle anyone else knowing!" "I couldn't handle being rejected by my friends and family!"), even terror. It is a decision often made as a safety-blanket; staying within one's homomasculine belief-system allows the individual to retain some "safe ground" on to which to retreat, while experimenting at the fringes with one's life.



No, not all men. Not all men who stay within that belief-system are doing so out of false consiousness or a fear of the unknown.

But my sense is that many do.

And notice that what goes around, comes around? The "homomasculine" belief-system is also one built on the same shifting sand of racism. It is a belief system that is exclusionary, hierarchical, condemnatory. Anyone "not like us" is ridiculed, attacked, demonized, spit upon....feminized.

See how that fits in with the racist attitudes toward Asian men? "Not like us." "The inscrutable Asian." "Too female-looking." "Like a little boy, not a man." "They all look alike."



The homomasculine belief-system has no way of acknowledging the masculinity, adulthood, strength, power, sexuality or sensuality of the adult Asian male. The genes and environment of the most adult Asian males favor less height, less body hair, and certain facial and physical features. Although clearly masculine to other Asian men and women, these same men are considered feminine, boyish, unmasculine and powerless to the homomasculine believer.

That's sick.

Sadly, it is a belief system too often adopted out of low self-esteem, self-loathing, fear and lack of education and awareness of its implications.




Sadly, too, it is a belief system often foisted on Asian men. "The only Asian man worth photographing is the ultra-muscular one." A concept of beauty or masculinity which could accept and appreciate the slender or "average" Asian man's body is never considered, never adopted.

There are men who have through through these issues, and still find only muscular Asian men appealing. That's terrific! That's wonderful! That's great! No one can deny that preference. IF it is thought through, well-considered, informed and weighed.



Too often, though, such an opinion is simply the opinion of a body-fascist and racist.

That does not reflect well on the gay community, nor on humanity as a whole.















8 comments:

bkkdreamer said...

Until you posted pics of those Malaysians the other day, Michael, you seemed pretty keen on the muscle-bound Asian stereotype yourself. Or am I being unfair?

Crash_Landon said...

Mr. Tim is welcome to his opinion, but it comes off to me as rather a speed-fueled rant. While I do agree with him (forcefully!) on the damage being done by the regrettable homogenization of homos everywhere, my experience -- and tens of thousands of pics and videos -- does not align with his contention that they're all muscle obsessed. And I've frankly found that DOUBLY-to TRIPLY true for the Asian men/bois I've known, seen, met, tasted and loved. And in some cases, lost.

Speaking of taste, Michael: Great pics as ALWAYS!

Michael said...

bkkdreamer....
It's certainly a fair question, but I think that if you were to look back over the photos I have posted, you will see there is a pretty good mix of muscular / average guys. I'm sure that my post on Jerome Ortiz ("The Most Beautiful Man Alive") contributed to your impression of that, but even with Jerome, the first picture I ever saw of him was a close-up of his face and that is what caught my attention. Now, I am certaily not anti-muscle, nor do I think that Tim who wrote the essay is, either. Just I think we both would challenge people not to limit themselves by making "muscle-bound" the only possible definition of attractiveness. Personally, of the 3 guys I have ever been in a serious relationship with, one was as skinny as a rail, one had a sculpted muscular body, and one had a little "pooch" in his belly on a very "average" body....all three were beautiful and sexy and wonderful guys!

Michael said...

Crash....
Do you think that, if you were to limit the evaluation (as i *think* Tim is doing) to American conceptions of masculinity, that perhaps there would be more accuracy to it? I don't think the problem may be as pronounced in other parts of the world (though Europe perhaps has been infiltrated somewhat by the mind set), but if you look at the most popular porn studios in America, there is undoubtedly a heavy (or sometimes even exclusive) emphasis on muscular guys. Not to swing to the other side of the pendulum and say we should avoid muscular guys or not find them attractive. I think, in any discussion like this, people tend to become polarized, when we should strive for the balance found in learning to recognize beauty in all shapes and sizes. I guess what I appreciated about Tim's essay was the call to think about these things rather than just accept what is thrown at us. Every time I try to open myself up to new experiences and new conceptions of the beautiful, I always find myself to be a more enriched person because of it. Anyway, just my random thoughts. Thanks for sharing....glad you are enjoying the site!

Michael said...

bkkdreamer....
Your question actually got me thinking a bit, so (as I allowed my obsessive-compulsive inner self out of the box for a moment) I decided to check out whether or not I am unrealizingly stuck in a stereotypical mind set. So I checked all the pictures I have posted on the site before the ones of the Malaysians that you mentioned. I excluded only 3 posts....the one of Jerome Ortiz (since obviously that would have skewed the results since it's lots of pictures of just one guy) and the two posts where I reviewed and took pictures from other blogs (Closet Conundrums and The House of Zen). So, of all the rest of the pictures, I have posted 195 since starting the blog. Of those, I was unable to tell the body structure of 85, either because they were close-ups of their faces or were fully dressed, etc. Of the remaining 110 pictures (and I tried to be generous in my counting in favor of the muscular for purposes of this discussion), 52 of them I would describe as "muscular" while 58 would be more skinny or average types. So, I think it's a pretty good balance overall. Still, I do appreciate your comment, and it's a good reminder to me that I never allow myself to slip into any sort of stereotypical thinking but rather to keep my mind open and find beauty wherever it lies! Cheers!

bkkdreamer said...

I accept the results of your poll. I was wrong after all, but thank you for taking the time to check.

I sometimes wonder if I am heading down the obsessive compulsive path myself...and I have another gay friend who is the same way.

Many of the young Thais in gay.com's Bangkok chat room seem to like pressing weights, judging by their profile pics. In some cases, their bodies look too small for all the muscle bulk they have put on. They just look odd.

In 'real life' (outside the chatroom), however, I have only ever known one young Thai who had any prominent chest muscles, and he seemed surprised when I asked about them, as if he didn't know they were there.

He did not frequent the gym, though as a child he used to lift a lot of heavy stuff around home (so he said). For most of the young ones I know, it is simply not important...though of course Thai gays do go to the gym.

One post left on a Thai webboard the other day asked how many gays would make up the clientele of the average Bangkok gym...some posters reckoned the figure was around 60 per cent, some gyms much more than others.

I wouldn't know: I don't go near the places either!

Michael said...

bkkdreamer....
I think that, as with most anything, it is easy for people to take physical fitness and get out of balance. Having struggled for years with my weight and only recently succeeding in making some good progress on that front, I can respect those who make visiting the gym a priority. However, it is also quite easy for that to get out of balance. There are some guys who, no matter when I go to the gym, it seems I see them there. I wonder if there is a hammock set up in the back somewhere that they sleep on!

As far as percentage of gay clientele, I live about a 5-minute walk from the gym that (so I have been told) was at one time reported to have the highest percentage of gay members of any gym in the USA, so I probably have a warped perspective on that! LOL.

Kevin said...

love, slim asian men, skinny if you will, the picture you have a beautiful, my lover is a skinny guy and I love it.