Saturday, March 20, 2021

37. There Is No Universal Consensus Of Sexy

Truth be told -- I typically like the "before" pictures better.  I have never been attracted to six-packs.  I
have never found anything titillating about hairless oily boys. I like full bodied men with curves and confidence who look like they know how to appreciate a pizza.  And thanks to platforms like Scruff,  I know at least 20 million other guys agree.

I spent most of my early twenties working at a popular Castro restaurant in San Francisco called, "The Patio Cafe." The owner had a propensity for hiring "twinks," ie, skinny younger men who personified a fantasy of eternal youth. On Sundays there would be about nine of us working together on the floor. One might think that nine gay men, who had relatively similar physical characteristics, around the same age, would be interested in the same kind of boys.

However, after working the same brunch on and off for seven years in the 1990s,  I found the opposite to be true.  Every male who walked in was the object of desire for at least one of us. It didn't matter how young, old, short, tall, dark, light, hairy, smooth, hefty, thin, clean, dirty, rich, poor, bald, long-haired, nice, mean, smart, drunk, sober, or dumb, he appeared. There was always at least one of us that said, "WOW that guy is hot," while another said, “Girl, you are crazy."

It was then I came to the understand that there is no universal consensus of what is considered "sexy." Different people eroticize different qualities in other people. Some people like their partners to be older, some younger, some hefty, some thin, some with more body hair, some with less. One could go into deeper reasons about "why" one person is more attracted to some type than another, but what's the point? Attraction is attraction, desire is desire, sexy is sexy.  You have it for someone or you don’t.

This runs contrary to what the media wants us to believe. Television, movies, and magazines perpetuate the myth that there is only one ideal: young and thin. The goal of these images is to scare you into thinking you are not sexually appealing to others, so you'll buy products to make you feel confident. People are fed these messages so insidiously that they come to believe that young and thin is a universal ideal of sexual desirability, and then live in great fear of not being seen as fuckable to others.

Consequently, it is not uncommon on social media platforms and on the therapy couch to see beautiful gay men of all ages openly questioning their physical self-worth.  I often witness people verbally sharing dissatisfaction about their looks, shaving their bodies, getting invasive plastic surgery, and losing drastic amounts of weight in unhealthy ways.  It has been especially painful to see people react to these toxic myths during COVID19, a time when many people gained weight while coping with illness, taking care of others, or simply trying to survive by staying home.

Although there is no universal consensus on what is sexually attractive, I’m pretty sure there is a consensus on what is unattractive:  Angry desperation.   When someone comes across as needy, emotionally unstable, or urgently seeking validation, it’s a turnoff.  Unfortunately at that point a negative body-image becomes a nasty self-fulfilling prophecy:  (1) You communicate desperation and self-loathing to the people you’re attracted to; (2)  they run away from you; (3) it confirms your belief that are you are not sexually desirable; (4) now you have "evidence" to support your claim.  It doesn't have to go this way.  

When I was in my teens and twenties I took rejection very personally. I thought if someone wasn't physically interested in me that it meant I was less of a person, a loser, a nobody. I didn't understand back then that my self-loathing and self-hatred were universal turnoffs that transcended physical type.  And I certainly did not have the tools to understand it's not personal if he's "just not that into you."

I then had the benefit of living in Palm Springs in my early thirties.  During this time I saw gay men of all ages participate in social life, develop communities of friends, contribute relevantly to the community, and have LOTS of pleasure.  Sometimes it seemed my retired friends in their sixties and seventies were having a lot more sex than I was.  I got to witness first hand how attractive a zest for life can be.  When they would walk into a bar they would literally attract men because they exuded so much joy, so much gratitude, so much fun.  They would have no problem making new friends, having fun with tourists, and getting laid when they chose to do so.  They role modeled for me that sexual connection has very little to do with age, and has mostly to do with how one expresses joy and confidence.  And sometimes, no matter what, you're not a lid for someone's pot.  That's okay. 

I have now been living and socializing in gay communities for thirty-two years.  And the one thing I know for certain is that some guys think I’m hot, some don’t.  For some I’m too young, for some I’m too old.  I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and this was just as true when I was turning twenty as it is as I turn fifty, as it will be true when I turn seventy.  The peace is knowing that it’s FINE for people to not find me attractive, there’s absolutely no reason to create suffering around it.  Liberating oneself from inaccurate myths is where the peace and play in aging begins.

 Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist helping individuals and couples enjoy life with peace, purpose, and pleasure. His books "Absolutely Should-less" and "Rational Relating" help people experience connection with joy, serenity, and meaning. His work has been featured on CNN Health, The New York Times, MSNBC, USA Today and more. He can be reached at or 347-227-7707 

No comments:

Post a Comment