A weird thing has happened to me and my gay mates: after years of obsessing about other men’s bodies, we’re now obsessing about our own. Big time.

Some of us are on the quest to rack up muscle, and others are looking to slough off fat, but all of us seem to be going about it like mad things.

And the obsession extends beyond exercise. One friend tells me he’s taking so many protein powders at the moment he feels like he’s going through a second puberty. Another is trialling some crazy new nitric oxide supplement which is keeping him awake at nights and, apparently, putting his libido into overdrive.

We’re manic, the lot of us. No amount of effort, expense or trouble seems to be too much in our quest for a fuck-off hot body.

The question about all this, of course, is why. Why are we so driven to improve our bodies?

There are any number of reasons. Feeling healthier and looking hotter are just two of them.

Ten years ago, the American writer Michelangelo Signorile explored these issues in his book Life Outside. In that book, Signorile painted a pretty damning picture of the gay muscle culture, suggesting that it prompted a series of damaging behaviours and anxieties that we could do without.

A decade on, nothing’s changed: gay men are still obsessed with brawn, and the behaviours and anxieties that Signorile wrote about are still with us. Some gay men are still jeopardising their health by using steroids, while the gay beauty ideal continues to taunt many of us with an image of perfection that we can’t live up to.

But as bad as all that is, I believe there’s also something very empowering about bodybuilding and exercise. It’s something about the idea of improvement.

No matter how fat, skinny, or otherwise removed from the gay beauty ideal we are, we can all get that little bit closer to it, through exercise. We can all make the most of what we’ve got.

The great and funny thing about this is that it even works for the ugly guys. Looking around Sydney I see plenty of guys who are a bit rough around the head, but because they work out they still manage to look hot. A friend of mine calls these guys prawns: not too pretty in the face, but quite tasty in the body department.

I look at guys like that and feel there’s hope for all of us. If ugly guys can still be sexy, anything’s possible.

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