I’ve been afraid of writing this article for over twelve months – the dominating gay media could crush our brand with one stroke of a key. We are, after all, tiny.
But I cannot stand by and continue to watch as our gay media perpetuates the narrative that gay men care for nothing but sex.
It takes only a brief swipe of their homepage to see that 60% of their content is topless gay men.
And many of you reading this will roll your eyes at me and tell me to grow up –what’s wrong with topless gay men?
Because you see, we’re so blind to our own conditioning that we believe there is nothing wrong with it.
But the gay community has evolved; we’re no longer sneaking around backstreet clubs, living in the dark. We now want successful careers, marriage, children.
We seek healthy, stable relationships, and to build foundations around ourselves that create purpose and wellbeing.
Using this article I will call out the unhealthy narratives that our gay media perpetuate, and make a call out for them consider a new future for our gay media that isn’t driven primarily by sexualisation of the male body.
Earlier in the year I was conducting research for this article and was astounded to find a piece on the topless men of Ukraine.
The article read something like Our first Ukraine feature.
I made the mistake of not saving the article, and now it is nowhere to be found. I can only assume the Media giant received backlash and took it down.
And although some may think I’m referring to the publication by Elska, I am not. Although there’s is of very similar vain, theirs has a symbolic design in that their first issue was created in Ukraine, and they promote their buy in from the models for raising awareness of the war through a body.
The article I’m referring to didn’t have such depth.
And since I read it, I haven’t been able to let the issue go. I’ve found myself ruminating on my anger that we can show such disrespect to a country being destroyed by the war.
I feel ashamed that parents are losing their children on the frontline, and the best the gay community can do to honour them is salivate over those surviving.
I feel helpless to change the narrative yet enraged to do so.
Our gay media dominates content with topless gay men, and they have done so since their printed magazines were only available in gay sex shops across the country.
To the people of Ukraine, I am sorry.
I am sorry that we cannot offer you more than this shallow appreciation of the Ukrainian man, we must do better.
The narratives we have crystalised within our own community have formed the idea our community is sex mad.
Yes, much of our community is sex mad.
But is this really all we are?
You see the power of media is that is can influence minds, change narratives, establish ideas.
Media is one of the strongest forms of advertising, and the concept of advertising is to plant an idea of possibility in the human psyche.
When we plant lots of small ideas, we build and reinforce an idea with our messaging. Take for example slavery; we planted an idea that black people were of lesser value than white people. As a result, even after slavery was abolished in the colonies in 1838, the British Empire still considered apartheid an acceptable way to treat other human beings until we relinquished our responsibilities of the issue in 1961.
The idea amongst white people that black people are lesser has endured until modern day.
Ideas are powerful.
So why, in 2023, do our gay media organisations continue to plant the idea that gay people only want to consume content of naked gay people?
It’s a subtle yet consistent message that gay people ingest, day on day.
Our neural pathways are malleable, they form on the information our receptors receive on a regular basis. So why wouldn’t daily messaging affect the way our mind thinks? After all, we become products of our environment.
As LGBTQ+ people, one of the biggest shapers of our environment is our media. Their influence in highly underrated.
Approximately 60% of their homepage is topless gay men – I don’t need to say which company.
Another’s social media is two parts queer content, one part horny gay guy.
Yet there’s approximately 100,000 gay or bisexual men in the UK living with an eating disorder. As someone who has suffered with anorexia his entire adult life, I can see why.
We are consuming content that forces us to question our validity – are we cute enough? Are we sexy enough? Will he fancy me now that I have rolls?
It’s so damaging.
The proliferation of cute guy content isn’t good for us.
And with the rise of social media where content now dominates our waking lives, our media organisations are filling the feeds of young, impressionable gay guys that we have to look good naked.
Worse, the content leads us to believe we are only valuable when we look good naked.
And so we go to the gym. We train harder. We eat cleaner. We post content for clicks. We chase the likes.
Slowly gay men forget the true value of who they are and become consumed by their need to feel validated by their external appearance. And it is that drive for external validation that leads to the complex layer of damaging mental health conditions within our gay community.
It starts as a line of coke doesn’t, maybe a bump in the toilets.
And we stare at the other gay men looking shredded, eyeing up one another.
We want a piece of the pie, so we start training don’t we? We work out. We’re one of those now – one of those working out gays.
These things give you the ticks of approval in the gay community, so you go up a notch in the gay hierarchy. More gay men notice you, so you train harder. And you go up another notch.
We find ourselves climbing the gay hierarchy, and we’re suddenly chasing the unrelenting dopamine hits that come with it.
But as things become samey, we need more dopamine hits. So we take more drugs, we have more sex, we train harder.
We spice up the sex life. We try out chemsex. We join the sex party that happens every Sunday.
Then we try it on a Wednesday. Who doesn’t want a coke induced sex party on a Wednesday?
And slowly our gay men deteriorate in their later twenties, or early thirties.
Their careers start to unravel.
They find themselves irritable, often tired.
Training isn’t as easy as it used to be, the drugs have taken their toll on our athletic performance.
Our skin isn’t looking fresh like it used to.
Yet we keep shagging gay men in the hope it gives us another dopamine from the inevitable comedown.
The comedown from the reality that we’ve spent out entire gay life chasing The Gay Dream we were sold by our media companies, influencers, Fire Island producers.
The inevitable comedown from realising we haven’t actually fed parts of ourselves that were always crying out for our love.
The parts of ourselves we never tended to when we younger, in our desperation to hide who we were.
The parts of ourselves we’ve got used to not tending to.
So while gay men may question my article and are likely to remark I’ve forgotten how to have fun, I remain steadfast in my conclusion that gay media is having a very damaging effect on the mental health of gay men.
Content created by men locked in the very same cycle, they are unable to detach from it to see it as an observer. If they were just able to step outside of the cycle and look upon the situation independently, they may see the part they’re playing in the repeating cycles that have plagued our community for decades.
I am not angry at the writers or creators, I am not really angry at the media giants. I am angry at the situation; at the fact that suicide, depression, and anxiety continue to plague our community, yet our community seem astoundingly passive in addressing the issue.
My intention isn’t to badmouth gay media organisations, I just want a brighter future for our community.
I want our community to recognise we don’t always do ourselves favours and we perpetuate the narratives that sometimes harm us, even though we have the control to change it.
I just want so many of us to be happier in who are in, irrespective of how we look in our skin.
Dear gay media giants, please change.
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