by NOAH BRAND
Warning: Some of the below images are NSFW (not safe for work)
My body is a testament to high testosterone. I have a body type one sees a lot: male pattern baldness, plenty of body hair, builds both muscle and fat very easily. You see guys like me all the time, with our wide shoulders and wider beer guts. Burly sonsabitches, often rocking the shaved-head-and-beard combo. It is not, it’s fair to say, a body type that is highly lauded by media culture.
I didn’t always look like this. When I was a teenager, I was so skinny I won awards for dressing as Jack Skellington, which sounds like a joke and isn’t. When I was twenty, I dressed as Nightwing for a costume contest, and the woman MCing the show called me “the reason spandex was invented.”
That was a long time ago.
Nowadays, I’m technically considered obese.
BMI is one of those measurements like IQ. You can know perfectly well that it’s a bullshit metric based on a whole bunch of flawed assumptions, but you still want to know your number. And once you know it, you can’t get away from it. Mine is just over the line where “overweight” turns into “obese”. It’s hard to come out and say that, hard to admit to being one of the people our culture loves to shame and deride as weak and disgusting and horrible. But ya know what, I’ve tried the easy stuff and it hasn’t worked worth a damn, so I’m going to plan B.
I will not get into the things I’ve done out of self-hatred and shame and fear over the past decade or two. I will not repeat the deflections and lies I’ve said to women who’ve told me my body is sexy. You either know most of them already, or you don’t.
Some folks will say I’m not fat enough to be doing this. Others will say I’m too fat to be doing this. Both groups can feel free to go piss up a rope. I’m not doing this for them, I’m doing it for me. And maybe for you.
Taking and processing these photographs has been a very interesting experience for me. I asked one of my lovers to see if she could capture what I really look like naked, naked the way she sees me, not the way I see myself. At the same time, I didn’t want any flattering, fake shots, artificially composed to make me look more like the men on the movie posters.
I honestly think more men should do this. I have found it intensely liberating, taking steps to directly confront my fear and shame about my body. Maybe that’s just me performing masculinity again, “If you have an emotional problem, punch it to death.” On the other hand, punching it to death is helping me, and I am loath to argue with results.
I don’t know how to fix the broken ways our culture talks about bodies. I don’t know how to make people love themselves. I don’t even know how to mend the disconnect between my sense of self and my physical shape. What I do know is how to confront fear and shame and self-hatred, at least for myself, and how you do that is head-on.
I’m Noah Brand. This is what I look like stark naked. You can like it or not, that’s your own business and I respect that. I have wasted too much time being afraid of what other people think, and as of today, I am done.
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