Our weekly “Ask a Dad” finds our resident dad, Cody, answering questions and doling out advice.
Hi! Been a fan of the podcast for a while. I am a 23 year old living in the East SF Bay Area where it is much less gay than you would think. Although I was out to friends in college in a different state I am not out to my family and friends after moving here. Your podcast has been a great resource to, for lack of a better term, connect with LGBT issues even though I do not have people to discuss them with in person here.
I am a big dude but not hairy (6ft6 300lbs) so I would consider myself bear adjacent. I find on Growlr there is a good deal of fetishization over my height and weight because I have a bit of a belly. Although sometimes the attention is nice I can’t help but feel objectified for these features but also don’t know the best way to express my feelings towards it. Should I just accept that awkwardness even if it is a guy I would want to meet up with in person because the attention is overall positive? Or does my silence about my discomfort towards it perpetuate the same standards of objectification that is seen in the mainstream? I feel like this is something that happens alot in the bear community that quite frankly I had thought was the opposite reason for having a more body positive category of gay men.
– T. in San Francisco
Dear T. –
It’s a little tough to really dig into this, because there are a lot of questions marks here. Is the attention only online or does it bleed into “in person” interactions, too? Is the attention just focused on how attractive someone finds you or are they really pushing fetish scenes on you? Are you dealing with some body insecurities in general that make conversations about your physical qualities difficult? All of these things would contextualize the conversation differently.
But here’s something I can offer that might be useful.
If you’re feeling objectified by someone — online or in person — you abosolutely have the right and should feel comfortable speaking out about it. No matter how well-intended someone is when they’re praising your physical features, if it impacts you in a negative way, they should listen to you and stop doing it. Or at least give you the space to air your feelings about it. Impact overrides intent. You don’t have to “suck up” negative feelings for the sake of someone else. Just be kind, honest and forthcoming with how you feel.
And a word about the apps… Growlr, Scruff, Grindr and all of their kindred are going to tend towards the objectifying. It’s in their nature. When a picture of a dick halfway across the globe is instantly available with just a tap on your screen, we’re going to be reduced to our parts more often than not.
Be confident in asking for what you want. The guy who leads with “your belly is so fucking hot!” might not be an objectifying asshole. He might just be a guy who’s playing the Growlr game. Make it clear it’s not all about your looks. If the guy obliges, feel confident you can pursue him without feeling like you’re caving on your values.
If a guy wants to reduce you to just your belly or just your height, tell him to click the profile to your right.
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