Ian Somerhalder knows how to seduce us. Long before he played the devious and handsome Damon Salvatore on the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, he flaunted his sexuality in a pair of whitey tighties and made out with James Van Der Beek as the openly gay Paul Denton in The Rules of Attraction.
I was eighteen when Rules hit theaters in the fall of 2002, and it seemed like every WB (now CW) actor starred in the film: Jessica Biel, Kate Bosworth and, of course, James Van Der Beek. Actors I recognized not only because of their celebrity and frequent tabloid escapades, but as faces of my generation. However there was one face that was unfamiliar: a porcelain face, with cool blue eyes, dark hair and unnaturally rosy cheeks. That face belonged to Ian Somerhalder.
I had just come out of the closet when Ian flaunted his sexuality into my life. I was in complete acceptance of liking boys; however; the gay world was still this undiscovered frontier that only existed when I snuck into gay bars or met boys off of XY.com. I was terrified of my emerging lisp and was still dealing with the ridicule I endured from attending a small private high school. At the time there were no Kurt Hummels or Blain Andersons, characters that showed what happened after you came out of the closet, and the revolution one openly gay boy was capable of inspiring.
But then there was Ian, who was a beacon of hope. Ian played Paul Denton as a character who was in complete control of his sexuality. Paul was in college, liberated from bullies and was at the center of his own world. He openly dated men, spent his free time doing yoga on the front lawn of his dorm, and made out with James Van Der Beek (note Van Der Beek played big man on campus “Sean Bateman” in the movie). Van Der Beek was still hot off the Dawson’s Creek fame, and was arguably one of the most profiled leading men in America at the time. To see these two men kiss on screen was jaw dropping, if not groundbreaking.
Ian’s portrayal represented a new world order. The tide was shifting for the LGBT community and we were being integrated into the mainstream media. I didn’t have to be afraid to openly hit on men or practice my downward dog in public. Ian taught me my body and sexuality were beautiful, amazing feats of biological architect, and it was okay to embrace it.