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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Ongoing Saga of Trials of My Online Gay Life Part 3: "The nekkid and the nude"

Over nearly five decades on earth I’ve seen my share of nude men. In paintings. In statuary. In drawings. In photographs. In the pages of magazines. Even in person. And in online profiles.

That’s a lot of penises, butts, torsos and every other conceivable body part and I think I’m well passed the possibility of being shocked by any of them. Truly, I don’t even think I’ve been mildly surprised by a depiction of nudity since Jimmy Carter was president (and, besides, that was when I inadvertently opened a copy of Larry Flint’s Hustler magazine and saw sights no self-respecting gay man should gaze upon).

I used to worry that my inability to be shocked – or even react to nudity with more than an indifferent shrug – meant I was jaded. Now I think it’s more a matter of being bored.

The average American man, no matter how sexually liberated he claims to be in his online profile, makes a naked body an object of ennui instead of an igniter of lust and desire.

I made this discovery while perusing a gay personals site that includes lots of European men. Now those men know how to pose for the camera! Perhaps its their proximity to museums that feature the best of classical art and sculpture. Or maybe they just aren’t as hung up about nudity as American men.

Take your average American gay male, remove his clothes and ask him to pose for a nude photo and here’s what you get: A guy standing their stiffly (and not in a good way) with a deer-in-the-headlights look that says, Oh shit! I’m naked and I don’t know what to do with my hands!

It’s true. Take 100 Americans from all walks of life and tell them you want to take their photo. Unless you tell them specifically how you want them to stand, they will invariably do one of three things:

1) Shove their hands in their pockets

2) Stand with their arms stiffly at their sides

3) Turn their hands into makeshift fig leaves and cover their “naughty parts” even if they are fully clothed

Don’t believe me? Try it sometime. Unless you cheat and take photographs at a nudist resort or at a porn star convention, I’d bet 90 percent of the subjects will automatically do one of the above once the camera is pointed in their direction.

European guys, on the other hand, seem to have a knack for finding just the right light and arranging themselves in just the right composition. You could probably show up unannounced at an Italian gay guy’s house early in the morning and you’d find him artfully sprawled on his bed, the sheets disheveled in a way that draws the eye to the natural lines of the body, and the early morning sun casting a delicate interplay of sun and shade through the slats of the window blinds and falling across his naked body in sharp lines that contrast with the suppleness of his sleeping form.

(Whew! I need to stop now for a cigarette!)

The majority of American guys will just stand there. Usually against a blank wall. They’ll wait for their photo to be snapped with a mixture of worry and shame on their faces. Then when the photo is snapped (inevitably with a harsh flash), their skin ends up looking at least four shades more washed out than it actually is.

What are these guys thinking when they post the finished product in an online profile? Yeah, sure, my skin looks as pale as if I just go out of prison, but at least my dick shows and that’s the main thing. I just hope this picture will get me laid.

When it comes to nudity, most American gay men (and, in fact, most American man) are darn near schizophrenic. On the one hand those long-dormant Puritan genes kick in with a hearty “SINNER! It’s an affront to Gawd Almighty to show yourself NEKKID!” Maybe it’s precisely because we still carry a whopping load of guilt about our bodies that we turn in the other direction and cruise the Internet or pop in a DVD looking to wash away our guilt in an overload of porn. In a backlash against those Puritan ancestors, we watch images where everything but the genitalia is superfluous and the camera seldom gets above crotch level. About the only time a porn actor’s face is important is when it’s attached to the mouth that is in turn attached to the engorged and throbbing naughty part of his co-star.

Because Americans in general are so schizophrenic about sex and nudity most of us are never quite comfortable standing naked in front of a camera. Our discomfort comes through loud and clear in the end product which we post obediently on our profiles because they look just like the photos other guys have posted.

Somewhere deep inside we wonder if perhaps the Puritans weren’t right about how we should feel shame about our bodies. After all, if God had meant for us to pose nude, He would have surely provided us with pouches like the kangaroos so we’d have a place to put our hands.