Certainly data that reveals gay men are leaner than straight guys should be enough to get any parent to hope their son is a ‘mo, right? After looking at some 67,000 Massachusetts residents ages 18-64, Boston researchers reveal in a study published in American Journal of Public Health that gay men are thinner than their hetero counterparts (and 50 percent less likely to be obese), while gay women are heavier than straight girls (and twice as likely to be obese). How to explain? It’s all about sex.
That’s the logic of Esther Rothblum, a San Diego State University women’s studies professor: “People in sexual relationships with men — heterosexual women and gay men — get more pressure to look thin and to otherwise conform to attractiveness norms than do people in sexual relationships with women — lesbians and heterosexual men.”
That’s a sweeping conclusion if there ever was one, but might it hold some weight? Rothblum’s remarks have us thinking it’s men who are to blame for their sexual partners’ body image issues — they’re the ones pressuring the people they have sex with to look a certain way. In a gay male relationship, that means each partner is equally at fault.
Moreover, that sort of thinking removes from the equation the multi-billion dollar beauty, fitness, and wellness industries that teach us all we’ll be happier and healthier if we’re thinner. Why do those messages somehow get better interpreted (some might say brainwashed) by people in sexual relationships with men?
The data is striking, but I’m not convinced there’s a clear answer. (Unless it has something to do with the water in Massachusetts.)