As a gay man, I’m not usually one to complain about seeing chiseled, shirtless men every time I open an app on my phone or head to my favorite website to catch up on the latest happenings of the gay Interwebz. In fact, to be clear, I’m all for the celebration of the male physique. When it’s appropriate. For example, appropriate is showing almost naked guys in speedos for a piece about vintage pics from Waikiki’s gay beaches. The fact that we’re seeing skin here is painfully self-explanatory. But seeing a shirtless guy as the intro to a news roundup about Bernie Sanders, Ariana Grande, and the Ecuador earthquake? I’m not quite following the motivation here. I mean, I get it. But I feel like I deserve more.
With the exception of more news-oriented gay sites like The Advocate, it seems like most gay media views its audience as a big blob of teenage hormones. Everything, including actual news stories, needs to speak to carnal desire first to attract readers. It’s as though each of us is nothing more than testosterone, dick, and balls. I’d find it really concerning if I logged onto Huffington Post, Man Repeller, The Cut, or any other website that doesn’t specifically target gay men, and I saw pages lined with naked men and women instead of the wonderfully informative and sarcastic stories I love to read. Heterosexual readers have the luxury of digesting the news without a side of skin. Why can’t gay media afford us the same opportunity?
"It seems like most gay media views its audience as a big blob of teenage hormones."
I’m not saying skin has no place on the web. Obviously, that would be a crazy case to make. It’s just that there’s a time and place for it. Just as straight guys have ‘lad mags’ like Maxim, we have our equivalent skin mags in publications like DNA. They’re known for serving a specific purpose, and it’s all good. But when it comes to forward-thinking discussion about gay rights, politics, and a host of other issues within the community, shouldn’t the content of the piece be enough? Isn’t that why we writers work so hard on our headlines and lead paragraphs? So we can pull readers in without having to resort to desperate measures like sticking a naked guy at the top of the page to get people to read it?
I find it offensive to my intelligence. If an article interests me, I’ll click on it without being prompted by a naked torso. If the headline is compelling enough and the subject matter is unique enough, that’s all it takes for me. I’m in. I don’t need a visual of some hot guy to feel compelled to read an article about Bernie Sanders. I’m not some card-carrying member of the moral majority. But I consider myself smart enough to get pulled into an article based solely on the promise of good writing.
"When it comes to forward-thinking discussion about gay rights, politics, and a host of other issues within the community, shouldn’t the content of the piece be enough?"
But then I think about why gay sites do this to begin with. It must be working. It’s not to say that our community of wonderful gay men is shallow or stupid. But clearly there are enough guys clicking on the articles with shirtless men to convince the editors-in-chief that this is essential to their mission. After all, the name of the online game is page views. If the people want six-pack abs, give them six-pack abs.
I just wish gay media didn’t always assume that’s what I wanted. I want the creators of gay media to assume that I’m an educated young man that wants to know more about the issues. That would rather see a picture of a newspaper for a news roundup than a picture of some guy from Instagram. I’m smart enough to deserve this. We’re all smart enough to deserve this, right?