It is now more than two months since I have worked, or even set foot, in a sex shop. Two months since I handled a phallus that didn’t come from my personal collection. Two months since I’ve been able to pick up a Rechargeable Magic Wand on the sales floor to relieve the plentiful knots in my back. Two months since I’ve resisted the urge to snatch a bottle of Astroglide from a customer’s hand and hurl it across the room.
Having spent the last five-and-a-half years working in such an environment, you might imagine it’s a bit surreal. As my final days approached, I was eager for a change of scenery. As amusing as such a profession can be, it is also incredibly draining. While it can definitely be rewarding, those rewards are often eclipsed by the blatant displays of ignorance and sex-negativity that one has to face on the front lines. In my times as a dildo-peddler, I’ve met men who thought the clitoris was inside the vagina… Women who were too ashamed to invest in lubricant… Doctors(!) who could not comprehend that the items in the store were not just ‘for men’ and ‘for women.’
I wish I could say that these moments were dramatically outshined by the woman who returned a week later with a gleeful look on her face because she needed a bigger butt plug… the fairly famous musician who stocked up on my favorite condoms per my recommendation… the customer who called the store five minutes after leaving to make sure my manager knew that I was awesome. On some days, sure. But over the years, “keeping up a positive attitude” slowly slipped from my skill set.
There were periods where I was somewhat resentful… one can only be compensated with free vibrators for so long before they begin to question their worth. And the other perks one would expect? An absolutely epic sex life? Never happened for me. And I don’t see any signs of that picking up any time soon.
And despite all of my whining? I miss it. Not all of it, obviously. But certain elements. Knowing about all of the newest masturbatory gadgets, and seeing people’s faces when they pick them up. Nerding out about sex with other sex nerds. That one really hot vendor representative with the drool-worthy accent…
I thought that stepping out of the sex shop environment would revive my passion for…well…passion. Would reignite my enthusiasm for reading and writing about sex because it wouldn’t feel like work anymore. Also, actually having sex because it wouldn’t feel like work anymore. But again, no such luck yet. Now, I just feel out of the loop. I’ve still got my sexy know-how, my passion for pleasure, and an army of sex toys overflowing my drawers. But I apparently used my job as a crutch way more than I thought in my own independent work, and now I’m wondering what I have to do to pick myself up again.
I have never taken one. Because I do not go to the gym. I suppose I should say “a gym”, but so many people treat it as a holy temple that I feel like I should address it as “The Gym.” Anyway, as I was saying, I am not gym people. I tried it for a while… I’d say a year or two… but to tell you the truth I simply didn’t enjoy it. The brain chemical aftermath was pretty swell, but after a while, it just wasn’t worth suffering through the constant self-consciousness. You’d think it would fade over time. But it didn’t.
Perhaps this is why I don’t “get” gym selfies. I like looking at pretty guys in literally* every other context, but gym selfies bore me at best, and severely irritate me at worst. Typically, when I see a gym selfie, it’s like seeing pictures from a party I wasn’t invited to. And to me, feeling left out is literally** the worst feeling in the world. And sure, you could argue that I could wander into any Gym and sign up for a membership, but one could not possibly guarantee a welcoming, encouraging environment. And thus my bewilderment.
*probably not literally
I know that I say this a lot, so feel free to roll your eyes accordingly, but I do feel like this experience is a bit different as a gay man. Not only because there’s just so much societal pressure to be “fit” and “hot”, but also because there is a lot of instinctual pressure to look like what you’re attracted to. When I see a flexed bicep the size of my head, I grow disappointed because that bicep is the size of my head and not the size of my own bicep, and then I remember that owners of biceps the size of my head will probably never think I’m cute because society says they aren’t supposed to. There have been exceptions, of course, but overall these rules hold true.
I took this question to my personal Facebook profile the other day, and my friends’ responses were less agreeable than I had anticipated, but certainly substantial:
Does anyone, as a spectator, actually find gym selfies interesting? Please explain it to me.
“I hate it when people take selfies at the gym. I especially dislike it if I’m in the gym when they are doing it. Do your god damn work out and get the fuck out.”
“I think it’s only interesting to people also obsessed with the gym. I’ll usually see another girls gym pictures on Instagram, want her biceps and then be inspired to also go and lift heavy things.”
“Actually yes. It’s fun to look at other people gym selfies. The grr face amuses me.”
“I take gym selfies, not shared to general social media, but to individual friends. A few reasons why: a group of us are trying to motivate each other into better health habits, and workout selfies are part of that. Seeing my fit friends working hard to be fit shows me that I have to work hard too. Secondly, I have multiple friends who find sweaty workout pics particularly attractive, and because I feel like the most awkward and unattractive duck at the gym (all my own neuroses), it’s nice having these friends telling me that specifically, at that moment, they find me to be EXTRA attractive, just when I’m feeling awkward and self conscious.”
“For some the gym is more than being healthy it’s about sculpting their ideal. I’m not saying it’s not obnoxious on occasion, I’m just saying we all have our way of preening and flaunting. Just a bunch of peacocks. I personally enjoy seeing a person who is proud of their accompmiments in fitness. Whether it be the ripped athlete showing off or the new person full of sweat after running their first mile. Kudos to them all.”
“I think this is assuming all gym selfies are celebrating normative bodies and/or very “fit” bodies. I like gym selfies when they are weirdos at the gym – fat people who are shamed at the gym all the time, gender non-conforming people, as two examples. Or I like gym selfies of women being really strong. If I ever saw an elderly person taking a gym selfie I would like it. I feel like gyms are hostile places to me as a fat woman who isn’t interested in losing weight but would love to be stronger (I would love gigantic arm muscles!). The gym is full of hostile looks and a million microaggressions assuming I want comments on my supposed goal thin body. Seeing other fat people at the gym is helpful. But yeah, a million normative gym selfies would get to me.”
“I do it and have no shame in it. I have always been a mentally and emotionally strong person. But physical strength is something I always felt like I lacked and being fully in love with my body regardless of whatever state it was in, was always difficult. As it is for many men and women.
It’s not social media Masturbation or Peacocking for everyone. For many, it is about being proud of killing a 7-9 min mile for the first time or being able to bench press your own body weight.
My live birth selfies of both my children are just as impressive as doing 30min of non stop Jump tuck burpees. Also, both of those activities feel the same.
I think it’s important that we don’t hate on people who just do something to feel pride in themselves. Especially in a society where we either preach being body positivity or shame those for not being conventionally fit.
Selfies of a new hairstyle is body positive, selfies of your booty in a new pair of leggings is body positive, selfies of your stretch marks is body positive, selfies of a new fitness accomplishment is body positive.
Just respect the selfies in all it’s form.”
I applaud all of my contributors. Thank you for sharing your brains with me.
I think we can all agree that there are two ways one can share a Gym Selfie: a benevolent expression of progress and inspiration, and an act of extreme douchery and superiority, and the difference can vary between the participant and the spectator.
The main source of my struggle with The Gym as a concept is this: my body is fine. For the most part, it does what it’s supposed to do, and there are many people who find it attractive. I would much rather become better at loving the body that I have than putting in countless hours and dollars into shaping it into the one that thousands of Instagram photos tell me is more desirable, but after several years of fighting that fight, I have grown weary.
I know what you’re thinking:
There’s something different about me.
But what could it be?
Are those new earrings?
Nope. Did you get taller? Motherfucker, I wish. Oh, you finally got that blackhead off your face!
Um, that was over a year ago, asshole.
OH WAIT, YOUR HAIR IS BRIGHT PINK!
Ding ding ding! We have a winner!
And I know what you’re thinking now, too: Why pink?
Well, the short answer is somewhere between “Why not?” and “Because I can!” The long answer is barely more complex. My new adventures in Boston have drawn me to employment behind the phones at a hair salon (Yup, no more dildo-peddling…but more on that later.) Now being presented with a new form of job perk, and being almost 30 and having never colored my hair, I figured if I’m going to go for it, I might as well go for (what some may consider) the most wild, controversial color I could on my head.
I hadn’t put that much though into it, really. I’d spent the last few weeks behind the front desk at work, observing my coworkers’ colorful creations, and thinking what I might want to do myself. A handful of colors entered my mind (having been forbidden to bleach my hair in the heyday of the boyband, there is still an itch that lurks deep down, and may surface one day in the near future) but then I caught a glimpse of Adam Levine on The Voice last week, and thought “THAT HAIR NEEDS TO BE MINE!” Two days later, I’m walking home from working looking pretty in pink.
(Actually, that’s not entirely true. I got caught in the rain and the wind sabotaged my umbrella, and I ended up resembling a drowned flamingo.)
I hadn’t intended for my choice in hair color to be any sort of political gesture when I chose it, but damn do people look at you differently when you’re a dude with a cotton-candy-colored coif. As I strolled through a nearby shopping center on the day of the ‘do (post-process but pre-monsoon) I couldn’t help but chuckle silently when several gentlemen who walked by me looked visibly repulsed, and almost personally offended, by the presence of my pinkness (And speaking of Her Royal @Pinkness, go check out the awesomeness of Crista Anne just because I said so. She’s been rocking the pink hair way before I ever even dreamed of it.) On the flipside, the biggest fans of my chosen pigment have been adorable middle-aged to elder women who stop me on the street to tell me it’s “very classy.” (Not my choice of words, but fuck, I’ll take it.)
I can’t tell you for certain how long the pink party will go on for. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely obsessed with my current hair and completely incapable of avoiding mirrors (but then, what else is new.) And yet, as much as I love attention, this vivid color has brought me a completely different kind of attention that I’m not at all accustomed to. Reactions are less likely to be “Hey, that guy’s cute!” (or, more promisingly, “Damn, that dude’s awkward) and simply “Wow… that’s a lot of pink.” But fear not…I will ride the bubble gum wave as long as the tide is right, and when that time is up… A new color? A different shade? Back to basics? Only time will tell…
Also, whether or not I can find the right conditioner to quench my hair’s thirst. This crispy struggle is very real.
You know that thing… when someone is super into you, and you are super not into them, and it should be perfectly obvious because for chrissake look at you, but they still have the nerve to approach you as if they could possibly have a chance and HOW DARE THEY! Isn’t that just the worst?
Well, no, actually…it isn’t. It’s pretty cool when people think you’re cute. But with the way some people behave, you’d think this sort of situation was the worst slap in the face that has ever…slapped a face.
[Before I continue, I want to emphasize that I am not in any way endorsing cat-calling or any similar forms of misogyny or harassment. That type of behavior is never acceptable. In this previous and following circumstances, please assume that the interactions are completely respectful.]
We’ve all heard that line: “(S)he’s out of your league.” Or even worse, “I’m out of your league” (this is indication of a total turd.) I, for one, can’t think of a more despicable frame of mind. This concept of “leagues” is the one of the most disrespectful ways to regard fellow humans, and more often than not, it is often based solely on one’s level of physical attractiveness. Or, perceived level of physical attractiveness, I should say.
And I’m no innocent little lamb or dove or whatever animals represent innocence the most. I’m just as guilty (inside my own head, at least, and hopefully it has all stayed in there.) I have definitely captured the interest of many people that captured no interest of mine, and sometimes, it feels illogically unflattering. It’s like craving a salty snack and all you’re being offered is candy bars galore (is that a fair analogy? I might have fucked that up. Let me know.) Or rather… It’s like there’s water, water everywhere…and technically you could drink it, but tap water varies from state to state and sometimes in certain places it just tastes completely unsatisfactory even though it’s perfectly safe to consume… Ya know?
But a candy bar’s inability to be salty, or a glass of water’s inability to be palatable, is not a direct attack on it’s prospective consumer. You may have looked at that bag of M&Ms, but you really wanted that can of Pringles. That’s fine. There’s no reason to throw a hissy fit because someone offered you some of their M&Ms. Just say “No thanks, I’m here for the Pringles” and be done with it. No need to yell “WHY ON EARTH DO YOU THINK I WOULD EVER ASSOCIATE WITH SMALL PIECES OF COLORFUL CANDY-COATED CHOCOLATE! I AM BETTER THAN THAT!” Do you see what I’m saying?
When you want a specific type of sexual/romantic partner and everyone that presents themselves to you is not what you’re hoping for, it can get frustrating. I get this. When I attended my first kink event, I received more attention from women than I’d probably gotten in the rest of my life combined, and you best believe I freaked out. But I responded with a polite “no thank you” and these awesome women still seem to think I’m a pretty cool guy. There are worse predicaments to be in.
It becomes more challenging online, of course. Sometimes a simple “thank you” does not register as a conversation ender with undesired suitors. Sometimes ignoring is the most acceptable form of rejection. And sometimes it just makes things worst…
I’m not going to sit here and pretend I have all this shit figured out, because it is utterly ridiculous.
My point is: the amount of attraction you feel or don’t feel toward your suitors is no indication of your own level of attractiveness. Someone thinks your hot. And they felt confident and/or comfortable enough to tell you so. Congratulations. Enjoy it. Be polite. Say thank you. And you never know… the next time someone thinks you’re hot, maybe it will be more to your liking. And the previous person who was into you won’t pull them aside be like, “oh don’t talk to them, they suck.”
Appreciate your admirers, even if they aren’t the age, shape, gender, type, species, or whatever that you’d prefer. They clearly found something to appreciate in you. Prove them right.
You may have noticed… I’ve been a bit of a selfie-slut lately. (If you haven’t noticed, you clearly aren’t following my Instagram account. You should definitely do that, if for no other reason than the simple fact that I’m adorable.)
There are several reasons for this… One being the fact that I’m currently unemployed so I have a lot of free time on my hands… Another being that I’m embarking on a new adventure in Boston that I want to share with my friends and family and… well, anyone who will listen.
But there’s more to it than that.
How do I say this without sounding vapid or cunty… Hmmm…
There is a…certain type of gay male that is successful on social media. It varies from platform to platform, so the code is somewhat complicated to crack. On Youtube, it seems to be obviously-beautiful well-toned caucasian men who regurgitate unoriginal inspirational messages and pretend they don’t know that they are only famous because they’re hot. (Oops, I guess the claws came out after all.) Nerdy guys and awkward humor tend to flourish a bit more on Twitter and Tumblr, but then again, so do dicks.
On Instagram, though… it’s all about the models and muscle boys. Every time I venture into the “Explore” sector, this is virtually all that is offered to me. And I’m not going to pretend I don’t follow a few of those fellows myself. I, too, can be a sucker for a six-pack sometimes. But the amount of abs is overwhelming, to say the least, and I personally believe that we have plenty of that in the rest of our media. Instagram should be a place where everyone can show off their own brand of beauty and have it celebrated, not just the same ol’ studs.
My mission here…is to fight the formula.
Simply stated…I’ve already spent enough of my life hating the way I looked. I’ve done my time. There might be a few alterations I would make, but overall, I think I have a pretty good package (and I’m not talking about what’s between my legs.) Am I shallow because being considered beautiful is important to me? Possibly. But that opinion can be your own. From where I stand, I only have one life, and I want to spend it walking confidently in the shape I’ve been given, without being told that it isn’t enough to make me interesting or worth your attention.
While I do enjoy the aesthetic of a well-toned bod, it infuriates me that it seems to be the only example of male beauty that the public wants to see (with the exception of the bear community, which I respect overall but have observed that sometimes they can be just as narrow-minded about masculine ideals…but that’s a completely different blog post.) The only thing that infuriates me more is the hundreds… thousands… sometimes millions of viewers who flock to these boys’ accounts…double-tapping the bajeezus out of every single post…and never stop to think about how idolizing these individuals devalues their own beauty. If we continue to only celebrate one type of body, we’ll never make room for the rest.
I am… typeless. I am definitely not a jock, a twink, or a bear. If you were to Google my body type, your results would come up short. But that doesn’t make me less desirable or interesting. I litter my posts with ridiculous hashtags because that’s what I have to do to get noticed, and yet none of them really describe me. My selfies are self-care… self-empowerment. Through them, I am claiming my right to be beautiful, among the porn stars and the gym bunnies…not just because of my image, but because of my personality and my wit. Say what you will about selfies, but they have helped so many people learn to love their looks over the years. If you haven’t tried it, treat yourself to a little #selfiecare. You might even…#treatyoselfie.