Why mag covers like this set gay men up to fail.

Stefan Gatt on the front cover of DNA

I’m new here. I recently arrived from the UK and I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by great people that made my move easy, painless and stress-free. On arriving, while I was VERY comfortable dossing on my mates’ sofa, I couldn’t help but notice that it was something on the coffee table that wasn’t sitting well.

It was DNA. Australia’s best selling magazine for gay men. And, there was Stefan Gatt adorning the front cover.

Now, I had perceptions of what guys would look like in Australia. British beer belly they would not be.  And, I admit I hit the gym rather hard in London before I relocated because I wanted to be “up to standard”. But, those were my standards – and my aspirations.

This was different. I found myself distracted. How was this dude so perfect? “I’m off to the gym” I announced – “alright, sweets – have a good one”, the response.

For me, the gym’s always been a great place to think. So I got to thinking. I’m not an irrational person. I know that boy on the cover is airbrushed. Either that or he has no pores. What am I doing here benching my own body weight at 8.15 on a Sunday morning?

It kept happening – finding myself in the gym as a result of the bloody coffee table dude. This wasn’t aspiration. This was obsession. I’m in marketing – I should be immune to this type of influence. But what was he selling? Nothing? Himself? The magazine? The magazine. So what’s the positive sentiment of this piece? Is there any takeaway value? Eurgh. Let’s not go there.

I’m rambling, so I’m going to make a point. I don’t think that the issue of retouching is solely a women’s issue anymore. The gay press is at it too. What message does this deliver to gay men? Yes, it’s something nice to look at. And that’s what sells these magazines. Though, I’m not against attractive people. I’m against setting unobtainable standards. And, I’m not against aspiring to better yourself, I’m against reaching for something that you can’t reach. That’s what is happening here.

Then again. It must work. It must sell products. It certainly shifts magazines for Australia’s best selling magazine for gay men. Like so:

But what else?

Here’s what. Men suffer from eating disorders too. Thinking about this, I had a scout around Google and found Anorexia athletica. Now there’s something new. Originally a term coined in the 80’s it means exercise addition, a condition with psychologies similar to eating disorders. Harder to diagnose, however as those effected are ‘healthy’. It’s defined as someone’s compulsive need to exercise in order to contain their body within a set of unobtainable parameters – often distorted by their own perceptions.

And what else does it say? What message do these images land? They land the point that this is obtainable. Does this fuel infidelity? Does it tell you that every lump and bump you find on your partner is a compromise? Does it mean that you’re always on the lookout for something better?