Increasingly, I find excuses not to go to the plethora of indie queer nights sprouting throughout the northern suburbs. Each one seems to be run by a friend of a friend of a fuck buddy who once put their MP3 player on shuffle at a party and had their best friend say the lounge room was totally pumping for about half an hour there. I seem to have a good time when I actually go along, but more often than not the prospect of lying in bed with a plate of soysages and a season of New Girl keeps me from leaving the house.

Still, I try to make it to Melbourne’s Midsumma Carnival every year. Aside from the chance to pick up more free condoms and lube than I’ll ever use, the open-air, family friendly event is an opportunity to be reminded that, at least sometimes, you can be whoever you want in queer community.

I felt the same way this year, at least until I saw the Manhunt stall. One of many commercial enterprises with a presence at Carnival, the online hookup site made its presence felt with a huge banner, dominated by the image of a tanned, chiselled torso with just enough body hair to confirm the viewer’s suspicion: he’s a man’s man.

Manhunt were far from the only company to advertise themselves with such an unattainable vision of hyper-masculine sexuality — underwear brands peddled sex just as brazenly, and a wall of DNA magazine covers promised a ripped, naked white guy for every month of the year.

Both Manhunt and DNA are sponsors of the festival. While Midsumma should be congratulated for a diverse, un-airbrushed marketing campaign, I find it hard to reconcile any sense of diversity and community with a constant bombardment by these messages, telling us to all be the same.

This is nothing new. Commercial interests in the gay community have been borrowing the “sex sells” tactics of hetero-targeted marketing for a long time now. But we should be better than that. If we want a safe, accepting community, we can’t keep selling such a damaging ideal of beauty.

The Star Observer is one of Midsumma’s media partners.

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