UNIVARSITY.ORG | BEEFCAKE: gay men and the body beautiful (UCL)
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15 Sep BEEFCAKE: gay men and the body beautiful (UCL)

Panel discussion on the historic roots of gym and muscle culture and steroid use amongst gay men and how gym culture has appeared in cultural representations.
(1:38) Professor Michael King – Head of UCL Mental Health Sciences
(3:48) Duncan Stephenson – Central YMCA, Head of PR & Public Affairs
(16:12) Mark Simpson – author, journalist and columnist for The Guardian
(30:53) Johan Andersson – University of Leeds, Research Fellow in Geography; writer on the post-AIDS identity and the projection of ‘healthy’ bodies
(42:19) Jonathan Kemp – Lecturer in Queer Studies at Birkbeck and author of fictional works including The London Triptych and 26
(52:15) Matthew Todd – Editor of Attitude Magazine

6 February, 2012
Venue: UCL, Cruciform Building, Lecture Theatre 1
Organised by Max Hill, Sarah Guise and Ben Campkin, UCL LGBT Equality Group and Out@UCL


UCL is consistently ranked as one of the world’s very best universities. As a multi-faculty, research-intensive university in central London, our research helps tackle global challenges and feeds directly into outstanding degree programmes. Visit us at www.ucl.ac.uk

  • Tony Johnston
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    This is absolute insulting to single out gay men in a country of fat ugly people… Intellectual masturbation… Presumably some in this sexually repressed society are getting off on this….

  • Salvatore Escoti
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Well this is not new, the ancient greek people had a very rigid body image philosophy.

  • Scott T
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Thanks for the OutdoorLads recommendation! I completely agree, I never go on "the apps"! And living in South Devon its very hard to resist! hahaha

  • Kasnar Burns
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Perhaps the morale of this discussion is that gay men shouldn't ONLY look at each other pornographically.

  • soundseeker63
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Interesting talks. One point that could have been noted but wasn't is the fact that this craze for the highly muscular (straight) male has become popular in parallel with the success of feminism and the dismantling of traditional gender roles.
    Since there is now no life role a man can take that women can't also do, and being father/provider/defender etc, or any occupation for that matter doesn't carry any masculine kudos anymore, whats the inherent value of being male…..?
    All we have left is our physical brawn. Our traditional roles and position of importance in society are disappearing, the gender lines are blurring, so men are dealing with this crisis of confidence and diminishing male status the best way they know how….make themselves look more masculine!

  • brucerexralph
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    why is the panel all white men?

  • MrDarkhorse747
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Gay men especially are not taught to be confident with their sexuality. They are shamed and worst off, belittled so it's no surprise that guys will try to overcompensate something for it. Whether it's the Masc thing or even sleeping around.

  • MrDarkhorse747
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    To be honest. I think a lot of these issues are created from insecurities. Since when did the muscle or looking muscle become what men want. A lot of these things such as appearances are the product of social programming. The average male body type is not the roid body, over muscular body type that is constantly pushed in the media. Yet we are told that that's what a healthy male body looks like.

    I think the reason why men in general especially gay men are prone to fall into this trap is because men aren't told or taught how to be confident with themselves and what they have anymore. Like women, they are told that if they don't look a certain way or have a certain height and etc, that they aren't men. They're shown the images on the TV and media of the guy that has a certain type of look getting all the money, the women, the attention, and fame. So of course guys see that and they believe it.

  • Mac Brack
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Yawn feckin yawn…get a life and don't be so pedantic…….

  • Luís Correia
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    I've found this very interesting. I would like to suggest the viewing of "Il Corpo delle Donne – The Body of Women" (Zanardo, Lorena; 2009) and quote "(…) reduced and (self)reduced to be just a sexual object, fighting the passing of time undergoing all sorts of freak transformations, being forced to stay within a frame, to remain mute, or to put (themselves) in useless positions which require no competence whatsoever". 

  • Leftatalbuquerque
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Well, we come from a culture where gorgeous women line up for average, pot-bellied men in order to achieve some level of economic security. Most gays grow up being bullied, assaulted, battered. Muscle as defence… As well, changing your musculature is doable, whereas changing penis-size is not.

  • poodtang1
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    In many gay circles young butch jocks are almost worshiped like Gods.

  • Daniel Knoll
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    from the studies i've read, apparently gay men have the same rates of eating disorders as heterosexual women.

  • Jeckee Son
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    The whole condition of gay men and the body image issue is simple and does not warrant a symposium or discussion like this. The simple fact is that gay men have body image issues based on two things. one is that men are completely visual, and that is so because they are mortified that they cannot perform with their partner. All men want to be great in bed and one of the things that insures this to become achieved is having a partner that looks hot according to advertisements( be it for men or women) equate a great catch and good looks to muscles or a fit body because people are like cattle. Put something in front of them and tell them what to think and they will think it. According to most magazine publications the muscle guy is considered the hottest, so gay men wanna fuck that because it will keep their dicks hard and in turn they can concentrate on a magnificent  sexual experience for them and their partner.

  • priceandpride
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    really well done

  • Cringe AF
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    What's wrong with the Village people's song ?

  • seethevolcane
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Cannot hear the q&a,,,,

  • Mac Morris
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    We are also not addressing the fact that this conversation around the body and gay (sub)cultural norms is speaking largely to White Gay Men and their cis-gendered fascinations and concerns. By no way am I simply suggesting that these fascinations and concerns around performativity and the body do not affect Queer men of color; the body has long been a site of contestation and struggle for all of us, however there are incredible distinctions, especially along the lines of race. I'm thinking for example, that for darker men of color (black men) who frequent predominantly white gay spaces, while their bulking up certainly may be a preoccupation, I do know that the issue of one's color is just as stressful if not more so as a thing to constantly negotiate in those gay spaces where ideas and practices of beauty and attraction are deeply tied to a white aesthetic.  just sayin!

  • rockshot100
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    The fact is that this whole conversation is nothing new in mankind's history.  The ONLY new thing is that men have become fatter and lazier now, and yes it does look unhealthy because it is!  MOST men did HARD physical labor for dawn to dusk, usually with  very little food, …and that was during times of PEACE.  GMO, banned worldwide, (except in the U.S.) does have a feminizing effect on the body.  I don't that we now exercise one onehundreth on a daily basis as any other time in history.  If you don't walk or bike to work and then do a full day's hard labor, then walk home, only to do MORE.  You will not look like a man.  With this type of lifestyle, of course you are going to have time to ponder how out of shape you are!

  • Sean -DURHAM UK
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Just coz ya gay doesn't mean u have to be brainwashed by how u should look just need to be ya self

  • Yusiley Sierra
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Body image issues is a societal issue not a gay or straight, man or woman dilemma. Every culture has a different definition of what is masculine and feminine. Unfortunately only developed, technologically advanced societies seem to think they are the superior culture and force their ideals into the lives of everyone else in the world. I don't see the Masai enforcing their cultural beliefs of what is masculine into neighboring tribes… hell most of the time they keep to themselves and live their own terms. They'll occasionally interact with other tribes but most part they aren't going to force their way of life onto others… technologically advanced cultures and their ideals seem to want to bother and pick on neighbors in order to feel superior and in charge. 

    For those who think that the "western" society hasn't changed outside cultures of what is beautiful… you are an ignorant fuck who has overlooked at what happened to the people of Fiji. Before television and ads the girls in that island didn't vomit or had any eating disorders such as anorexia. Within Fiji tradition overweight bodies were consider beautiful… after "western" ideals of what is beautiful, such as tall, lean, thin bodies for women and tall, muscular, bodies for men… the whole culture changed. Thousands of years of tradition gone within a decade. Girls and women admitted to vomiting and not eating in order to meet the "western" ideals of femininity and men admitting to all sorts of  behavior to have the "western" mans' body. All this so that the people can feel they are part of an "advanced" culture and be seen as "civilized". Thinking there is no issue is such a typical conservative response… no wonder nothing changes and injustice continues. Media and societal upbringing does impact and has effect on peoples' thoughts about themselves and the type of person they grow up to be.

    To Jack Blair… Fuck liberalism and conservatism… both are guilty of constricting ideals down everyones throat and both can chock on my dogs' elephant pile of shit. Masculine ideals are differ from culture to culture. "Western" societies seem to only think that there is only ONE type of masculinity while in many other cultures they have various versions of what is to be masculine. Then you have cultures like the Zuni tribe from New Mexico who have a mixture of different definition of genders and sexes {We'wha being one of them} which would make any persons' head explode. The fact that societies such as the US and others like it want to compartmentalize everyone and everything into groups is quite alarming… and I think people are more judgmental today than ever before is something that needs to be discuss. However, we shouldn't talk about it in terms of this side vs that side. The best way is to view this issue as a scientist would on lab rats… very Objective and not in Subjective terms which is what your comment seem to reflect more on.

  • MasteMovido
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    damn this video made me feel bad i almost cried

  • JW P
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Agreed. White Liberals are adept at creating "crises" where none exist.

  • Dee Jay
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    we live in a society to screw each other over for the mighty Benjamin. It will never stop….sad but true.

  • David Singh
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    incorrect. example: average Japanese women are attracted to a more feminine look in younger men, as we westerners would call it. Also, cosmetics are more acceptable by men in non western cultures (especially in European culture) than other cultures. There has been a recent rise in Muscle building culture in India suddenly when introduction of western sports goods and media took a rise quite recently.

  • startlepoint
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    What a bunch of pseudo-academic sob sisters! Masculine ideals have been a part of most world cultures. They are not just a product of capitalism or the West. In fact, so-called "heteronormative" (what a ridiculous word) rules are much more oppressive in non-western cultures.

  • Chad P
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    Thank you for uploading this! I am a gay man in my late 20's who has struggled with this issue.

  • Rogue2808
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    What I loathe even more than the gay community's obsession with muscle is the treatment of those in the gay community who are known as "muscle marys". They are treated almost like demigods which only reaffirms the community's attitudes towards body image. The community's approach to body image drove me to an eating disorder. I find the whole "community" a negative, depressing arena – gays wanted some solidarity away from the "evil" straight world yet are more judgmental & fragmented than ever

  • andrjsh
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    This has been a very engaging presentation, but the core issue of the desire for the beautiful and the biologically immanence of the desire for the beautiful cannot be avoided. We cannot change what the deepest voices in our minds say. Also, gay men have few brakes, subculturally or practically, on their sexual practice. Additionally, gay culture (and modern secular culture) lacks any spirituality or transcendence, so that the culture is stuck in the body, sensation, the visual, etc.

  • Husnain Raza
    Posted at 13:40h, 15 September

    very good discussion