“It sounds like you may be into athletic guys, too,” my therapist said a few weeks ago, as we talked about my attraction to men.
Over Therapy Portal, I gave her my signature skeptical look:
“Okay, let me explain,” she said. “You’re very athletic. You jog, you play tennis, so I wonder if you’d be looking for the same in someone else.”
After my therapist asked me this, I spent the next few weeks reflecting on my relationship with athleticism. I came to realize that what she said about my own penchant for exercise rung true. Every day I either jog or play tennis, and I like going on a lot of walks on a daily basis to break up all the time I spend staring at my computer. Still, I hesitate to embrace the label of someone who enjoys athletics.
I feel some fear embracing my athleticism because of how queer men often glorify exercise and fitness, which produces shame and exclusion. I know several queer men who act as if hiking, going to the gym, and walking their dogs constitute a three-dimensional personality, and I have observed so much body shaming, femmephobia, and ableism enacted by fellow queer men. I suspect that queer men who glorify athleticism and fitness do so to gain proximity to masculinity and whiteness, such that they want to manifest society’s glorification of manliness through the physical presentation of their bodies. As someone who loves my feminine characteristics, I would hate to perpetuate femmephobic and harmful societal norms, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
On a more psychological level, I also reflect on the precariousness of exercise as a tool for self-punishment or self-avoidance over self-love. As someone who dealt with anorexia several years ago, I recall using exercise as a way to chisel down my body, to repress myself and my emotions instead of directing my energy to dismantling systems of oppression. I also know people who exercise to avoid self-reflection
though that’s probably not me because I’m literally publicly self-reflecting on the internet with this post lol meta, who go on hikes in the mountains or jogs in the woods instead of exploring their internal landscapes, their difficult and nuanced emotions. The potential pitfalls of exercise sometimes feel immense: how much exercise? Exercise for what reason (e.g., aesthetics)? Is exercise replacing some other tool to bolster one’s health, like self-reflection, or can they co-exist?
I do love working out though. For me, exercise matters not because of how it will make me look but how it makes me feel. I cherish the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement to the beat of BlackPink’s “How You Like That,” the notion that I can provide for myself some sense of pure physical pleasure, whether that’s the chemical dopamine or the internal sense of autonomy that accompanies uninhibited movement. I like sprinting across asphalt to return a tennis ball, the tensing and loosening of my calves as I swing my arms and my racquet makes contact. Most of all, exercise gives me the energy to accomplish what matters to me in the rest of my life: the energy to be present for my friends and those I work with, to fight and resist white supremacy and patriarchy, and to advocate for compassion and social justice broadly.
I exercise because I love my body and I love myself. Men
including my eventual next crush, Armadillo, an attractive man of color who will buy me novels and feed me Jeni’s ice cream can call me ugly and I literally would not care at all. Athleticism, for me, revolves around providing physical pleasure for myself, relishing in my autonomy and independence, and generating energy so I can pursue the meaningful change I want to help create in society. Fatphobic, ableist, and femmephobic standards of fitness in the queer male community can go drive themselves into a rainbow-colored ditch.
As for whether I’m into athletic guys, I’m still unsure. Though, I guess I wouldn’t mind a guy who can run fast because I do like being chased. On that perhaps unexpected note
though is it really unexpected considering I literally wrote a post about wanting a guy to dominate me?, I’d love to hear any reactions to this post and how you navigate exercise! Until next post.