Toronto
3 min

Show me yours

There used to Be this guy — lived in Village Green, in one of the south-facing apartments — who’d put on sex scenes in his window. Fuck himself with a dildo, that kind of thing. And not accidentally either. He arranged his bed so that it faced the window and lit it with a series of spots. He even flashed his phone number on large teleprompter-style cards so that you could voice your appreciation.

The production values weren’t much but he attracted a large and loyal audience. A friend who lived in a building to the south used to phone him up and arrange a show when he was having a party.

I don’t know what happened to that guy (he did it for years; maybe somebody finally reported him) but I do know that I haven’t seen his like since.

When I moved into a downtown high-rise a couple of months ago I expected to be surrounded by nighttime visions of masculine glory — hunks parading past plate-glass windows, silhouetted against the stars. But that hasn’t proved to be the case.

The last time I pulled out the binoculars it was to check out some suspiciously funky décor. (It looked too fun to be gay.) When I shifted the lens a little further afield all I got was a high-end light fixture and a couple of people gardening.

Judging from the popularity of reality shows, social networking sites, tabloids and weep-and-tell talk shows, we live in one of the most exhibitionistic cultures ever. People everywhere, it seems, want to show off everything about themselves, most especially their awesome bodies. And gay men are supposed to be at the leading edge of the trend — flexing a pec, flashing a moon.

But in reality we’re pretty selective about where and when we show. We show off various body parts — shoulders, biceps — with garments that suggest a lot by showing a little. Sleeveless tanks and longish shorts are our version of the Victorian ankle-baring dress.

But we seldom show all and even the old shirt-doffing number is restricted to a few highly structured environments — Pride, some dance clubs and perhaps the occasional porn ad. Otherwise the trend has been to button up.

I realized this recently when I saw a guy with his shirt off on Yonge St and realized that he was the exception rather than the rule and the only reason he got away with it was because he was both straight and street. Nobody, other than the marginalized, does that these days. For anyone with middle-class aspirations showing too much skin is literally déclassé.

You can see the same trend at the gym, where an alarming number of cute gay guys refuse to take showers, coming and going without ever sharing their particulars with would-be friends.

Yet online, in the alterna world of internet dating, it’s the very opposite phenomenon. Our methods and mores are reversed. There the star-maker machinery is working overtime to turn thousands of normal dudes into would-be pornstars with a full check-list of cliché moves. Arm behind head, check; towel draped coyly over crotch, check.

It’s almost as if we’ve migrated all our most exhibitionistic fantasies to the web and then multiplied them by three in compensation for all the times in real life when we can’t even “flaunt” something as simple as a kiss.

Cruise through a site like DudesNude and you’ll see thousands of apparently sane guys, many of them locals, in all states of undress, arousal and proctological abandon. While some of the pictures are of the just plain “I’m-a-nice-guy” school, a surprising number move beyond simple exhibitionism into the realm of contortionism and choreography.

One young local was so busy stage-managing his fuck scene (apparently shot at a local bathhouse) that I’m sure he almost forgot to have sex. Another guy said he’d had 46,000 views in a week (and he had a great body so I can believe it).

This goes way beyond simple exhibitionism — more like building a new brand, actually. And yet I doubt even one in 10 guys on DudesNude thinks of himself as an exhibitionist, let alone, say, a stripper or a flasher.

Many of them are, in their own words, just checking things out, just chillin’, almost as though they’d found a new way to be shy — exposing the body, but reducing the contact.

A social site like DudesNude may be a million times more exposed than, say, a drapeless apartment but it’s so specialized, it feels like an enclosed community, maybe even a private hunting park, out of bounds to all but the cognoscenti. Whatever the reality, it feels safe, almost intimate, just you, your computer and a few close friends, which may be why it’s putting real-life exhibitionism out of business.