After spending the last few months in a city without a gay bar and, hence, much more time online than ever before, I lament the fact that so many profile pics lack wit and originality. Perhaps the ever-expanding juggernaut of reality television and nonfiction has left us prone to the clinical. Perhaps we’re too disconnected from the visual arts to consider our bodies as artistic sites anymore. Whatever the reason, I’m really getting tired of personal profile photos that consist of nothing more than some guy’s asshole.
Apparently brown is the new black.
At first I considered whether my lack of asshole enthusiasm stemmed from some internalized homophobia or some remnant of a childhood growing up in the early years of AIDS. I admit my own asshole may not be as erogenous a zone for me as it is for some gay men — and by that I mean it’s one of the dishes I bring to my sexual potluck, just not necessarily the main course. Then I realized that extreme close-ups tend to alter my relationship with objects and re-contextualize them so that they no longer have the same impact.
This reminds me of the porno magazine debate in the early eighties when folks argued about the merits of something like Playboy which showed the goods and something like Hustler that, literally, spread the goods out in their full gynecological glory. I think both magazines had merit, but like all these asshole profile pics, I’m just not convinced I need a microscope to enjoy my porn. Sometimes the best seats aren’t necessarily the ones in the front row.
When I see an extreme close-up of an anus without all the other body parts, I’m often left confused to the point where I feel as if I’m trying to make sense of abstract sculptures in an art gallery. Maybe I was just hungry one night but, on first glance, I even mistook one particular asshole for a cupcake. Other misidentifications include my childhood neighbor’s sand box, an arm pit and one of the Pyramids of Giza.
I suppose there are English majors out there who will be quick to point out that asshole-only pictures are an extension of synecdoche — when a part of something represents its whole — or in this case, its hole — i.e. “all hands on deck.” The only problem here is how can I identify something from a part when I’ve never seen it whole? If guys choose to include a picture of their bodies and faces along with their puckers, it would move back into the realm of the erotic for me.
Part of this may stem from the difficultly in getting a picture of someone’s asshole without leaving out the rest of the body. For a forward view guys generally end up on their backs with their feet in the air. From the back their faces look contorted and the way they spread their ass cheeks always reminds me of someone playing the accordion. Assholes don’t stick out like elbows do. But imagine if they did.
If gay men dressed up their holes with the same degree of pride and creativity they use to spiffy up their living rooms, I would be more intrigued by their profiles. I’m not saying that guys should stick a Harry Potter action figure in there or a Canadian flag or a miniature Olympic torch. Actually, maybe I am.