by Sam Naylor

Disclaimer: mentions body dysmorphia, body shaming

Type into Google images “attractive men” or “attractive male body” and see what pops up. I’ll just give you a moment to scan over some of those photos. Done? Good. In both searches a grossly disproportionate number of these men are celebrities but more importantly they’re white. Switch tabs to “attractive male body” and you are met with a sea of torsos and chests sculpted by the media gods. Chiselled jaw lines, blue or green eyes and ‘designer’ stubble appear to be just three of the ingredients to get you on your way to being an attractive male.

At first glance (and second and third) you might wonder why this representation of the male form is a problem for anyone. I’ve spoken to male friends before that don’t see anything wrong with wanting to keep their bodies healthy and in shape. I agree, I’m not saying that exercise and a good diet are things to be raged against, quite the opposite. It is an issue though when this idealised version of a muscular physique, which is predominately portrayed as white, is paraded as our default-sexy setting.

Muscles are not synonymous with health. Reality TV shows like Geordie Shore are fuelling this image of hyper masculinity and overly muscular builds that I’m more used to seeing in Superhero comic books. It is a far cry from being health conscious if gym lads pump iron six days out of seven. Let us be honest about the culture we find ourselves swallowed up by —  health is not the main concern, it’s appearance.

(Working out, at home or at the gym ©

It is also worrying when I speak to people I know at University and they view gym obsession from the attitude of “well it could be worse, at least they’re not addicted to cigarettes.” This muscle worship culture is endemic here in the West and can be viewed on similar grounds as any form of body dysmorphia. Being addicted to anything is not a something to be encouraged. We also need to think about why young guys feel the need to work out so much; is it purely for themselves, to feel healthier and more confident in their body or is it melded to feelings and insecurities that muscle ‘gains’ attempt to plaster over the broader issues?

Being addicted to anything is not a something to be encouraged.

I know that my own self-image takes a hit whenever I look into my bedroom mirror and see a body that is not muscular and defined but is instead pretty average. But we are shown again and again in films, advertisements, and magazines that an average male body is not average at all but is seriously lacking. Lacking in sex appeal and masculinity. Now I know that I’m generalising here and I know there are plenty of men and women who do not conform or go for this idealised aesthetics but there are plenty more who do, just as for decades the idealised woman has been light skinned, with a slender body and blonde hair.

(Issue: Oct 2014; Men’s Health ©

It is not my intention to body shame anyone or detract from however you wish to love your body, but it is my intention to call out our warped view of male beauty that is inflamed by the men’s health industry, with their glossy fitness magazines and protein powder shakes. What is actually worrying is the fixed notion of beauty and the restrictive parameters of what is hot today. The continuing fallacy that the lighter your skin the more attractive you can be, is not being addressed at a speedy enough rate.

warped view of male beauty that is inflamed by the men’s health industry

As gender becomes a more fluid concept and moves ever further away from the binaries that we have been lumbered with for too long, it is difficult not to imagine a culture that will adapt with this though it can feel like a constant face-palm moment when change does not keep pace with our expectations. At risk of sounding like a broken record, we cannot stop pushing for a wider representation in our media and pop culture more generally. Muscles are fine but it is our societies unhealthy relationship and preference towards sculpted abs and bulging biceps that needs to shift.

Featured image: How To Be An Attractive Man – Revealing Highly Effective Core Values That Every Girl Loves youtube still © RSDMax 

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