Manly Man

My name is Alexander Cheves. My nickname is Beastly. I write about sex.

Have a question? Email askbeastly@gmail.com or go here.

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Yo Beastly,

First things first, I love, love, LOVE the amazing work you are doing here. I’ve only recently discovered your blog and I’ve been reading nonstop. You’re an amazing writer, and your pieces are appreciated by this 18 y/o Kenyan queer boy.

So I’m planning to attend college in the US, and I’ve always thought it’ll be when I finally break away from my homophobic environment and start dating guys. However, I’m starting to realize how due to the media I consume, my taste in guys has always been hot/conventionally attractive masc guys, and I’ve been wondering if this, though completely fine, doesn’t feed into internalized homophobia.

As a black guy, I know I would be very disappointed if reached there and found part of the gay community to be racist ie: that my blackness is considered a flaw of some sort (though from what I can tell, there may be elements of truth there. Sheesh). And so I worry I’m feeding into the other “-ism”s when I—a (mostly) masc presenting guy—perceive femme, old, or disabled gay men as not really attractive to me, regardless of how much I respect them.

I’d appreciate it if you gave advice on how to expand your normal dating type.

P.S: Please drop your IG. Couldn’t find you there and I’ve heard good things…

Hey friend,

Let me welcome you to our shores. You will find that gay men in the U.S. — like gay men everywhere — are not immune from society’s worst features. Some are racist. Some are not. Seek out the good ones.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being exclusively attracted to masculine or “conventionally attractive” men. I never shame desire, even when desires seem to support widespread prejudices. There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about body standards, gender roles, and behavioral standards, which include gender dogmas: namely, that men should be masculine and women should be feminine.

Body/image standards exist because many people in a particular region find those features appealing — though standards have often been set and enforced by a few people with power (lawmakers, kings, business leaders, celebs, church figures, and so on). Conventional gender roles are fairly standard across most world cultures, with some variation. The people who accept these roles and standards are not all morally bankrupt. In fact, they have little choice in the matter. We are all products of the cultures we are raised in.

It’s a weightier task to ask why most people accept and enforce gender roles and behavioral/image standards, but we don’t have space to go into that here. You’re allowed to like what you like, and more to the point, you can’t really control what you like — at least not at the beginning of your sexual journey.

You’re new to queer culture, so the only thing you know is the culture you’re from, which, by your own admittance, is homophobic. Homophobic countries tend to enforce traditional gender roles more stringently, so it makes sense to me that you only find traditionally masculine men attractive.

That may never change — and it doesn’t have to. A kinky playmate I had a long relationship with in college said these words I’ll never forget: “You can make a fuss all day, but you really can’t control what makes your dick hard.”

The only thing you can do — and what I’d encourage you to do — is to keep an open mind. Be curious. Be adventurous. I know many open-minded men who only like masculine guys because that’s simply what they like — yet I know far more closed-minded, sexually uncomfortable men who only like masculine guys because society says that is what they’re supposed to like. See the difference? Feminine men trigger their internalized homophobia, their misogyny, and their shame.

You like “conventionally attractive” men, but that’s a rather meaningless phrase. Conventions differ from culture to culture, and region to region. When I lived in Zambia, a woman in the village of Zimba where we lived complimented my mother: “You are so lucky, you are old and fat!” My mom was neither old nor fat by American standards, but we were in a place where many people suffered from malnutrition and median life expectancy was low compared to the U.S. — few people had access to a hospital and AIDS ravaged most communities. To the woman, my mother had desirable qualities — age, fat — because these features were rarer there.

Conventions in the U.S. tend to infect other parts of the world, and global image standards have, over time, become increasingly Americanized. This is because the United States’ greatest national export is entertainment. In the U.S. (and, increasingly, the rest of the world), image standards are set for us by television, celebrities, brands, and other consumer products. My tastes were shaped by these things and yours were, too.

By the time a queer man is aware of his internalized homophobia — when he’s old enough to understand the concept — he’s already internalized the homophobia he’s experienced. Awareness helps, but you can’t turn the clock back and impart your younger self with your present wisdom. The only thing you can do, going forward, is to keep an open mind and ask the kinds of questions you’re asking now: Am I being homophobic? How can I combat the harmful beliefs and perspectives I was taught? How can I scrutinize and challenge them? How can I grow?

Try to recognize your internalized homophobia when and where it appears. You won’t suddenly find every kind of man attractive, but you will be happier, I promise.

Internalized homophobia makes some queer men grow up to be right-wing, anti-LGBTQ politicians who pass laws that harm us. Other times, internalized homophobia makes men like you and me — guys who try to be the best versions of ourselves with what we have. I wish I knew why some go one way and not the other; I had all the ingredients to be a conservative, hateful bigot. Instead, I became me. It sounds like you turned out well. Before even reaching college, you’re asking questions I did not ask at your age. By asking them, you’re probably not going to grow up into a homophobic, hateful bigot. And I predict your “type” will naturally expand as you age.

When I went to college, I thought I was exclusively into masculine blonde men close to my age. A decade has passed since then and my “type” has expanded to include men of nearly every size, age, skin color, and gender presentation — and even a few women. The man I’m dating now would not have been attractive to me when I was in college, yet I think he’s the hottest person I’ve ever dated. Tastes and “types” change and yours likely will.

Remember that masculinity can be a cage. It can keep you from exploring your own self-expression, and worse than that: it can keep you from meeting and loving people who will truly be great for you. While you won’t be alone in finding masculine men attractive or being attracted to masculinity (I am), enjoy masculinity enough to be able to play with it if the mood ever strikes you to do so. Masculinity is malleable. At its best, masculinity is fun and hot. At its worse, it’s a fragile construction of social expectations that have resulted in widespread negative mental health outcomes for men everywhere. Men are the primary victims of toxic masculinity (men are three times as likely to commit suicide than women).

Lastly, being Black is not a flaw. Don’t ever think that. As a queer Kenyan, you have a powerful perspective — one the world needs, and one this country certainly needs. I’ve been to Kenya. I know it’s a homophobic country, but it’s also a beautiful one. If you haven’t already, read about the queer Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, one of the most prominent Africans to ever come out publicly as gay, who won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002.

The U.S. is a racist country with some good people in it — find them. Black culture and Black people are beautiful. Anyone who doesn’t think so is trash. When they appear in your path, discard them.

I doubt that you’ve heard anything interesting about my Instagram. I’ve never figured out the platform and am a very boring person, but my handle is the same as my Twitter: @BadAlexCheves.

Love, Beastly

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