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Heterosexual and gay Masculinities

As indicated at the outset of this book, several marketing agencies have identified gay men as an important target audience for grooming products and services, arguing that they are more interested in the market and have a greater disposable income than heterosexual men (cf. Edwards 1997). Moreover, various academic studies have also found that gay men experience greater body dissatisfaction than their heterosexual counterparts and “are encouraged to accept that physical attractiveness is a defining feature of their self-identity” (Lanzieri & Cook 2013: 253; see also Jankowski et al. 2014).

In light of the literature, I expected the gay male participants to be more (openly) interested in grooming than their heterosexual counterparts. However, as has become apparent throughout this chapter, no major differences could be detected between the interviews with my hetero- and gay participants. It does need to be noted that my sample was very limited, and the data may be skewed as I knew three out of four participants. The only clear difference between the discussions with Shaun and James, the gay participants, on the one hand, and Matt and Daniel, the heterosexual participants, on the other, relates to the discussion of the male models in the magazines. Whereas the former two men frequently commented on the (lack of) attractiveness of the models, Daniel and Matt would only point out models they thought looked ‘ridiculous’.

In addition to the expected differences in the interviews with hetero- and gay men, I anticipated finding more articles and adverts on beauty products and services in the Gay Times than in FHM. However, this assumption was also not supported; the relative number of pages devoted to advertising for grooming products and/or cosmetic procedures was similar across the magazines19. Both magazines included one article on grooming in each issue across the years - i.e. a total of 12 features per magazine in the core corpus. Despite the similarity in numbers, a dissimilitude in the nature of the adverts and articles in FHM and the Gay Times can be observed. As introduced earlier, for example, features in FHM often include a light-hearted, humorous undertone, whereas - particularly in the 2001 and 2006 data - the Gay Times tends to adopt a more descriptive approach when discussing grooming products and/or services. However, as the Gay Times has changed over the years, some of the recent articles also include some tongue-in-cheek humour. An article on a grooming travel kit (February 2010: 76), for example, commences by stating, “[the] ban on liquids over 100ml on air travel may well have done wonders for security, but has done nothing for the nation’s wrinkles”. This statement also clearly plays on the stereotype that gay men are (openly) interested in beauty/grooming practices.

As noted in previous chapters, some of the themes in the adverts are found more frequently in FHM than the Gay Times and vice versa. Reflecting stereotypical concepts of hetero- and gay masculinities, metaphors related to fighting, violence, and/or war, for example, were far more likely to appear in FHM than in the Gay Times. In contrast, in line with the gay male body ideal, advertising in the Gay Times is more likely to include references to (looking) young, youthful, and/or rejuvenation. Furthermore, the Gay Times includes significantly more references to wellness and a holistic approach than FHM20. Salons and pampering (spa) treatments in particular still seem to be unacceptable for heterosexual men21. However, a relatively recent article in FHM (broad corpus, March 2015: 116-119) addresses the unfamiliar territory of the spa as it “sent a trio of burly rugby pros to experience the terrifying world of pedicures, facials and waxing” to discover whether they are indeed “a load of girly nonsense” or if “guys have been missing a trick” (p. 116). As some of the treatments “[conjured] up images of Sex and the City” (p. 118), the article repeatedly undermines any associations with the feminine; the Vitamin C Facial treatment one of the men had, for example, uses a “Ghostbusters-like steam gun” and is described as “one of the manliest facials you can get”.

Although the nature of the adverts in the Gay Times and FHM differed in significant respects, it is important to note that the (group) interview participants pointed out that the magazines looked very similar (if not identical). For example, when I asked James and Shaun whether they thought the heterosexual/gay dichotomy was significant, Shaun recommended I should not be guided by it as he argued that the FHM and Gay Times data were very similar. Adding to this, James also commented on the resemblances when discussing the alleged homoeroticism present in both magazines.

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