great expectations

Gay bros sound off on the pressure to be muscular

Muscular man in gym clothes

Despite the societal push for body positivity, gay men can still be absolutely image-obsessed, with an emphasis on the “ab.”

Yes, given our fixation on bulging biceps, protuberant pecs, and thunderous thighs, who among us hasn’t felt compelled to gain some gains?

Well, a few of us haven’t, it seems. On Reddit’s r/askgaybros forum, a user recently asked, “Do you feel a pressure to be muscular?” And while most commenters replied in the affirmative, a few said they didn’t—or, at least, they didn’t feel that pressure from others.

Related: What is bigorexia and do you suffer from it?

The gamut of comments illustrates the physical, mental, and emotional toll of being swole. Here’s a selection of responses:

“Yes, and I’m failing at it.”

“I’ve got muscular legs and that’s it. The rest of me is dad bod, though I’ve lost about 30 pounds recently, just eating slightly better. Took the advice of not eating until I’m full and eating slower.”

“Constantly! Especially as a top who sounds gay… Haven’t found a guy yet who just accepts me as I am and that I find attractive as well.”

“I used to be lean and lanky, in high school and uni. Given my height, it’s not a good look. I looked like an emaciated lamp post. Then my mid-20s came in, and I decided to bulk up and get the abs with the fit lifestyle. But geezus christ… the amount of sh*t I had to consider putting inside my body was truly mind-numbing, and it was so much that, most of the time, I was grumpy and mentally exhausted. So before I turned 30, I opted to proceed with the ‘eat whatever I want in moderation’ diet, then go to the gym, and then work out. The result was, my body turned chonky but still muscular. I’m way happier now. Happy belly = happy me.”

“When I was single, it definitely felt like pressure. However, after a few years of routinely working out, it felt pretty rewarding to see how different I looked compared to before I started working out. I’m in a monogamous, long-term relationship, but I kind of love getting checked out and being stronger.”

“I felt that pressure all through my teens as a skeletal twink. When I met my boyfriend in my early 20s, he introduced me to working out, went to the gym with me, and showed me it isn’t scary. Now I’m in my late 20s, and working out is one of my main hobbies. I’m still with that same boyfriend, and we both enjoy seeing me get checked out but also generally treated better. Pretty privilege is real!”

“Muscular and body fat low enough for visible abs. SO MUCH PRESSURE. Definitely some body dysmorphia at work here.”

Related: Guys name the male body parts they find least appealing

“Yes. Very much. I am very attracted to muscular men and want to look like that for myself, also. It is a constant pressure I place on myself. I look good now, chonky but discernible muscle. I always see where I need to improve and change. There are times when it gets the point of not eating or heavily researching steroid cycles. The social anxiety of other gays judging my body plays on a loop in my head whenever I am out with friends. Therapy, lifting, a good nutrition plan, and a very understanding coach has helped me get the worst parts of it under control.”

“No. But I do feel the pressure to be thin.”

“I’m a gay male, so yes, I do.”

“No. I want to have the best body I can so I choose to work on it. But I don’t feel pressure. What else am I going to do? Taking care of my body is my responsibility and my obligation to myself. You did say ‘muscular’ and not ‘healthy,’ which can be two different things—I’d never risk my health to be more muscular than is naturally possible.”

“Not really. The gym is how I escape the voices in my head, and helps me vent frustration at the world. I think if I hadn’t started working out, I’d be doing life by now, lmao.”

“Yes, but it’s not like this is an exclusively gay thing.”