Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Why It's Important To Study How Body Issues, Porn and Race Impact All Gay Men

The Georgia Straight's Craig Takeuchi has a terrific new article called, More than physical: The impact of gay male body image on health, identity, and porn. Below is an excerpt:
[Vancouver, British Columbia]  Athletic, fit, young, white, with six- or eight-pack abs. Did that catch your attention? It should, apparently, if you're gay. It's the description of what the most common image is of in visual media that target gay men, according to University of Toronto social work assistant professor David Brennan. 
As the keynote speaker at the eight annual BC Gay Men's Health Summit at SFU Harbour Centre on November 1, Brennan questioned why these images are so consistently portrayed. Brennan's work focuses on health and wellbeing of marginalized queer men and men who have sex with men and he gave a comprehensive overview of research about gay and bisexual men and body image. He was particularly interested in looking at the connection between health and body image and if gay visual media portray images that exclude people. 
Racial Identity  
With the majority of North American media images being of Caucasian men, Brennan and his colleagues also took a look at the relationship between racial identity and body image. Brennan's research team conducted focus groups and an online survey with four communities: East/Southeast Asian, black/Caribbean/African, Hispanic/Latino/Brazilian, and South Asian. (He said these groups were chosen based on census numbers; aboriginal men were not included due to low population numbers and a lack of expertise on the research team for this group.) He cited several quotes from participants, including one that became a title in the report: "You never see yourself reflected anywhere". 
The Power of Porn  
Brennan cited a Canadian study, which looked at whether exposure to pornography impacted the body, sexual, and genital self-esteem of male college students. The study found that increased amounts of watching porn correlated with lowered self-esteem. "The more they watched porn, the more they felt less comfortable with their dick and less comfortable with the type of sex that they were having, and their capacity to have different types of sex." For many gay men, porn was also used as a source for sex education, such as learning sexual techniques. 
Overall, Brennan emphasized that the desire to see sexy images or a fitness-orientation is not the problem. "I do not want to pathologize that gay men go to the gym, or workout, or eat well, or take care of themselves, or exercise. That's not the point at all. The issue is when it becomes such pressure that it impacts our health and mental health. That's when I'm concerned." 
Read more at The Georgia Straight