It’s a surreal moment in heterosexual land.
Two guys in their 20s, both super-good-looking, muscular and masculine, are chatting in the locker room while putting themselves together after a workout.
One guy tells the other about the woman he picked up at the bar on the weekend. She was hotter than last week’s girl, but he was too drunk to do her right, he says, carefully applying anti-wrinkle and firming moisturizer with sunscreen to his face.
His friend stands naked nearby, still dripping from his shower. He shaved his chest completely smooth under the soothing hot water and now listens attentively while attacking the odd pubic hair that has strayed too far above his manscaped line.
“I could keep it hard,” the first guy says, “but I was too drunk to pump her. So she just rolled me over and sucked me off. I repaid her kindness by puking in her bed.”
His buddy looks sympathetic as he pulls on his Armani underwear and bathes himself in what I suspect is Versace Men cologne.
By the time they’re fully dressed, I can’t tell if they’re headed to class or to a photo shoot for GQ magazine. These guys are obviously straight and very much in love with pussy, but they are sooo fucking gay.
And it’s not just them.
Everywhere I turn, straight men are bending the rules of traditional masculinity and metrosexualizing themselves beyond recognition, while the last thing the modern gay man wants is for people to think he looks gay. What is going on here?
It happened again the other day. The 22-year-old straight guy I’m obsessed with at the gym caught me staring at his rock-solid six-pack and perfect pecs. He trims his body hair in all the right places and shaves the hair off his chest. After a workout he uses moisturizing body wash for men, one type of organic moisturizer for his body and another for his face. He uses all-natural deodorant and just the right amount of the latest cologne. His clothes are stylish, tailored and expensive.
A few days later, I spotted him at my local gay bar and in a moment of pure elation thought to myself, “Aha, I knew it.” Then I saw him necking with some chick on the dancefloor and was both devastated and confused.
I bought him and his date a drink, pulled them aside and demanded an explanation.
His name is Chris Pasternick and despite the fact that he presents himself as the embodiment of the anti-nerd, it turns out he is a student of theoretical physics at the local university.
If his perfection wasn’t already totally unbearable, it gets worse. He has an equally straight identical twin. So they are in the unique position of being able to reject me twice.
In retrospect it was rude of me, but I told him he had to be gay because he was simply too perfect to be straight. His response was equally rude, but perhaps deserved.
“I guess things were different for older men of your generation,” he said to me. I briefly considered bitch slapping him. After I regained my composure I asked him to explain.
“This is actually your fault,” he said. “Because for so long gay men went around looking so damn good, women realized it was possible for a man to actually take care of himself, and now they expect it from us.”
“In today’s world, a classy lady expects a classy man,” he continued. “And I’m here in a gay bar because every young gay man has a hot girl as his best friend.” He says he likes to hunt for women in gay bars because there is little competition from the other men and no violence. “In a straight bar, men are always getting into fights over women. That doesn’t happen in gay bars, and I never go home alone. Picking up women here is like shooting fish in a barrel.”
Pasternick is totally comfortable with his sexuality and doesn’t care if people think he is gay “because there is nothing wrong with being gay, so I don’t care if someone thinks that about me.”
Although he slept with one guy in high school once, he says he is sure he is not homosexual, except in theory. “I like everything about being gay but that part about sucking dick,” he says.
For Pasternick and many of his contemporary buddies, gay is the new straight.
Laurentian University sociology professor Gary Kinsman says Pasternick’s comments match his own observations.
“In this world of consumer capitalism, market forces have taken many elements of style and self-care from the queer community, de-gayed them and sold them back to heterosexual men as essential products,” Kinsman says.
If straight men want to compete for the best mates, they have to invest more in personal style, body maintenance and sexual techniques, he continues — “not unlike gay men of 20 or 30 years ago.”
Kinsman points to popular culture trends of the last few years, including TV’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where gay men used their advanced sensibilities to “spruce up the heterosexual male” that lacked sophistication.
At the same time, he says, many heterosexual men don’t even realize they are being sold gay practices, even though they are. They seem to think it is just part of a new reality imposed on them by demanding women.
Meanwhile, the more straight men spruce themselves up, the more gay men seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Many modern homosexuals will do anything and everything they can to look as (old-school) straight as possible.
More and more ads on gay cruising sites say something to the effect of “straight looking and straight acting” or “masculine guy for same.” Some of them get downright nasty about it. “I’m gay. That means I like men, not women,” one ad says.
Another warns, “I’m into men, so if you’re more feminine than my mother I’m not interested.”
My personal favourite says he hates “fems,” and if you have ever used the words “fierce” or “fabulous” in public, you can forget him.
There seems to be a real hate-on among gay men for guys who are even the tiniest bit effeminate.
University of Toronto psychology professor Nick Rule says studies of personal ads have shown that “gay men tend to highlight their masculinity, and heterosexual men now say they are sensitive, warm and understanding — anything to look non-stereotypical to women.”
He says this trend reflects a collective forgetting of our history as a gay movement that was founded by non-gender-conforming drag queens and effeminate men. “In many ways it represents a kind of betrayal of our founding principles,” Rule suggests.
Rule thinks many gay men feel peer pressure to conform and not stand out from the crowd. “There is that old saying: ‘I don’t mind gays as long as they act straight.’ That is something you hear much more coming from gays themselves these days than anyone else,” he says.
The gay aesthetic may be penetrating the straight world to lift the average straight man out of his slovenly state, but in our increasing rush to prove our own masculinity, gay men may be leaving themselves behind.