Photo by Andrew Blight
There is, of course, always going to be a level of homoeroticism to bodybuilding. Judging by general gym culture, a massively homophobic form of homoeroticism – the kind where guys happily massage lotion into each other's groin muscles before calling someone a fag for wearing skinny jeans – but definitely one nonetheless. I mean, a bunch of buff, oiled-up guys admiring each other's contorted, veiny bodies is essentially a Tom of Finland artwork realised in flesh and tangible sexual tension.
However, nothing could have prepared me for the magnitude of sweaty homoeroticism I found on bodybuilding.com – the world's most popular bodybuilding forum and, apparently, the go-to place for guys who have no idea what being gay means to discuss being gay. It's a bit like stumbling in on a rudimentary social studies class, where – instead of children who understand the very basic facts of life – the only questions are from bros who can't grasp that the only thing that makes someone gay is their attraction to members of the same sex. For example, there are no less than 20 threads about whether or not wearing a scarf makes you gay.
The most important thing to take away from this question is whether scarves are "always" gay. Everyone knows they're gay most of the time, but thankfully JordanW has put the inquiry out into the public domain. Fernando Rollins (6’2”, 185 lbs) offers some clarity: “I think it becomes gay when it is worn only for fashion and not for function.”
Hoop_Dreams, on the other hand, has a strict no-scarf policy: “I'd rock that jacket... scarf is a lil over the top. I wore it once and this girl said ‘you're a pretty boy, huh?’ never again.” Jesus – imagine being so petrified of being perceived as anything other than heterosexual that you have to appropriate Jewish Defence League slogans about the holocaust to prove a point.
Here are a couple more. I was tempted to comment that the only way that wearing a scarf can make you gay is if you're wearing it round your dick and it's not a scarf, it's another man's anus and you put it there on purpose because you're attracted to men. But I didn't, because it's more fun watching people with names like "shreddomorph" and "workout4eva" feed each other's confusion in multiple threads about whether scarves make you gay. Because one thread definitely isn't enough to get the kind of answers you need.
And it's not just inanimate pieces of material that supposedly make you gay, either. The whole forum is filled with threads asking whether it's gay to buy gummy bears, wear flip-flops, have a friend take a picture of you posing, trim your leg-hair to see muscle progress more clearly, “be nicknamed ‘Cherry’ as a dude”, or even “fuck a dude in the ass to show your dominance”.
Okay, I obviously get why buying gummy bears is totally homo, but I'm not sure why that last question is even on there. If you spent even one day at school, you'll know that the justifications of it not being gay to "fuck a dude in the ass to show your dominance" are numerous. For instance, "the Greeks used to do it and they were alpha as fuck", "male dogs frequently hump each other to assert dominance, and dogs = alpha" and "the main thing that turns you on from fucking women is showing your dominance anyway.”
As insightful as those previous threads were, I think my all-time favourite has to be “Is It Gay to Carry a Mirror In My Purse?” Because, again, even though being gay has nothing to do with the items you wear, carry or eat, if you're worried about people thinking you're gay, it's beyond me how you can be so preoccupied with your reflection to not realise that people are probably going to base their gay assumptions more on your PURSE than what's inside it.
Even if you were carrying a commemorative Dolly Parton mirror, a tube of K-Y Jelly and anything else off the list of clichés the writers of Will and Grace based their show on, strangers are still going to think you're gay because of the purse. Thankfully "p4rad0x" stepped in with a solution: "phone with front-facing camera". Much agreement confirmed him as the subtle master of non-gay vanity.
Then come the "Am I gay?" and "Was this gay?" posts – a succession of confessions that start out funny then quickly become pretty depressing when you realise they're all guys asking for help in repressing their gay thoughts or trying to seek some kind of alternate explanation to enjoying receiving anal sex that doesn't make them gay.
This was my favourite. In fact, I really hope it wasn't someone trolling, because if they're wasting satire as good as this on forums rather than writing TV shows, that's a sad, sad day for television. The phrase, "it's not gay because we were just joking" is always about the best precursor to anything ever, but the fact that these people think there's some kind of cosmic deity "counting" their offences, before presumably flicking their gay wand and pitching up their voice a couple of octaves is amazing. Kind of sad, but also amazing.
As is to be expected with anywhere sporting a lot of repressed homoerotic tension, a strong anti-gay sentiment prevails throughout the forum. One bodybuilder tried to get posters to weigh in on that ever-crucial issue, “How would you react if you had a gay kid?” In the thread (one of many with a similar title), "alexandermossne" phrases the ethical dilemma in an imaginative new light. He asks “should straight people be allowed to have gay children?” We always hear the same tired arguments over whether gay couples should be allowed to spawn their satanic progeny onto God’s own soil, but what about all the straight couples bringing gay kids into this world? Who’s holding them accountable?
The debate in this thread oscillates between two viewpoints. The first is your classic homophobic splurge: “Best case scenario – disown him. Worst case scenario, if he really starts shitting on the family name, would kill him without thinking twice.” The second view takes the focus away from the child’s sexuality and places it on what’s really important: whether or not the child grows up “alpha”. As one poster deftly put it, he’d rather have an “alpha, $10k a day, ballin’ CEO who is homosexual” than a “phaggy-time straight male who is foreveralone”.
All of these points are rendered insignificant when "POOHBEARx3" steps onto the stage. In a stroke of wisdom only attainable if you spend more time focusing on your quads than figuring out anything about the world, he points out the elephant in the room: that having a gay son is “better than having a daughter”. It’s mind-boggling that no one had mentioned that up until this point, to be honest.
One poster protests that that your daughter won’t be killed, whereas “depending on where you live, your gay son WILL be killed”, but our man quickly ripostes with the #fact that a father would have a stronger bond with a gay son than he would with a daughter. Ah yes, a hash tag fact – the most worthy of all facts.
As I was about to leave the site, I came across a post – “Attention all members, specially all teens...Our pics are being used on a gay site!!!” – that confirmed how amazingly 100 percent oblivious they are to absolutely everything. When you're posting hundreds of photos of naked, hairless beefcakes on the internet and talking more about sexuality than Judith Butler at a cheerleading practice, someone's going to notice. And they're probably going to get a boner.
UPDATE: It's fair to say the community at Bodybuilding.com have not taken this well.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @Matt_A_Shea
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