The topic of body image among MSMs can be intense and may involve issues of masculinity and internalized shame about being attracted to other men. Many MSMs experience pressure to conform to a certain body type in order to feel good about themselves. For some, this means longing for a tight muscular body with a “V” shaped back and small waist with no trace of fat. Striving for this ideal may result in lots of gym time, careful eating, and time spent in front of the mirror flexing or seeing how much junk is in the trunk. For some men, this pressure to fit in may also push them to an eating disorder which could include being obsessed with both diet and exercise.
The places MSMs generally socialize such as bars, sex clubs, and gyms are highly sexualized. As men cruise each other in these types of hot spots, they also judge and scrutinize each other’s bodies. Although there are only a small portion of men in the world who attain the ideals held by much of the gay community, many MSMs find themselves feeling too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, and simply not good enough. Even the guys who everyone else thinks is hot may look at himself naked in the mirror with judgment. Very young men, older men, and men with disabilities may feel inherently left out in this game of who has the tightest and hottest body.
There are some MSM communities such as the Radical Faeries and Bears that do not put as much emphasis on the same ideal body type. The men in these communities celebrate the male body in all its loveliness.
We encourage you to get to know and appreciate your body and connect to other men who can see you for all that you are. We discourage body shaming and instead encourage an understanding that we come in all shapes and sizes.
If you are feeling out of control with issues related to your body image, we encourage you to try to find a therapist who specializes in men's body issues.
To find a LGBTQ-friendly therapist:
If you have insurance, you can ask your insurance company to give you a listing of therapists with LGBTQ expertise.
If you do not have insurance, check local non-profits or county mental health services.
Below is a link to a database in which you can search for a LGBTQ-friendly therapist near you.