The Incredible Shrinking Circuit Body
Circuit party boys could be likened to almost anything; from "crystal queens" to "roid users" to just-plain "average Joes," the accuracy of who does what and when is left up to interpretation. Still, Circuit parties - whether in Miami, Dallas or San Francisco - have always had one constant: the guys with the incredible Adonis physiques.
He’s the man on the poster, muscles bulging, package stuffed. A real-life demigod - like the mythical Adonis, loved by Venus. We would watch him dance, lusted after him, idolized him, and maybe were inspired to work out and diet even harder by him. The Adonis look was at the top of the food chain. It meant you were masculine. Using their bodies like currency, these beautifully sculpted men danced in our dreams, went to the head of the velvet-rope line, and made us somehow feel prettier just by dancing next to them.
"The Adonis ideal epitomizes everything masculine," Roberto Olivardia, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, told noiZe. "Big biceps, strong chest, chiseled pecs, powerful legs. What is really being idealized is not the body, per se, but the expression of masculinity. To achieve an attractive, fit body is to be the envy of other men, and the object of desire at the same time."
A fit, muscular body is also subtle communication of one’s sexual prowess. "However," Olivardia added, "these days there is less emphasis on the ’roided’ look, but that doesn’t mean that looking fit has faded away." Even the emo guy with the skinny jeans is still supposed to look lean and fit. There is a more androgynous look acceptable these days."
Others have also noticed the incredible shrinking gay men - in terms of muscle, but maybe not so much in girth. But are the number of twinks and cubs really increasing on the dance floor?
Collin Kwan, 31, a graphic designer and self-professed Circuit boy living in San Francisco, says that he believes the perceptions of the Circuit body changed along with the aging of the generation that objectified them. "Ten years ago I attended my first Circuit party and the definition of what was ’ideal’ has changed dramatically," he said. "Back then everyone wanted a tall, young, white muscular guy. Now it seems that the standard of beauty has changed, because the same people are still going to these events and they have gotten older. As we’ve aged, so have our tastes for what we used to like."
More of All Kinds of Bodies & Ethnicities
Kwan, who is Chinese-American, says that there are now many more nationalities attending the big events and that lusting after the white male Adonis has begun to fade along with the homogeneity of the dance floor.
Like Kwan, Skyver Sagun, 28, is a Circuit veteran of recent vintage (seven years) who has also noticed a change in what and who is considered hot: "We used to follow around the big muscle jocks; but now it seems like young twinks are more prevalent on the Circuit, and they are the hot commodity."
Robert J. Vezina, founding president and executive director of the BBCM Foundation, which produces Montreal’s mammoth Black & Blue Festival, said he has witnessed what he calls a "nice evolution of the clientele attending our festival over the years. Of course, there are many buff and muscular guys from all over the world who attend and enjoy not only our main event, but also our popular specialized activities such as the Jock Ball, the Leather Ball and the Military Ball."
These other partygoers include younger people who may be less into bodybuilding; beautiful bisexual French-Canadian men who have a European look; and gay-friendly straight men (who are often more into big muscles than we are). He welcomes the diversity. "It makes for a very interesting, hip and exciting crowd," he said. "We believe that this special mix has ensured the major continued success of the event over the years."
Add to that the increasing number of dance events that cater to bears, such as Blowoff in New York and Washington, D.C., and the many bear parties in San Francisco. At these parties, being lean and buff may not exactly be a detriment, but it certainly isn’t the accepted norm, either.
Waning of the Buff Obsession?
New Yorker Shawn Flanningan, 42, who has been attending events like Black Party for more than 20 years, noted that "being on the scene for so long, you expect many things to change, such as which is the hottest party drug of the moment." But there was one change he says he never expected to change - the worship of the Adonis types.
"Obsessing about body image, whether you want to shrink or bulk up, can get unhealthy quickly," Olivardia said. "Eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, steroid use, cosmetic surgeries all start with an obsession about body image." Obsessing about your physicality is often not a good thing because it means "that you are too preoccupied with your body image, to the exclusion of other important things in your life." Olivardia believes that literally millions of men are adversely affected by problems of body image.
For a while, Flanningan says he "was one of those guys. But in the past five years, I’ve noticed that the waif-twink had made its return to the top of the pedestal. Don’t get me wrong, the buff guy will always be admired for his rippling muscles. But there are just more and more skinny young dudes at these events." He believes the younger generation’s dream guy doesn’t look like what he remembers wanting when he was their age.
The shift in attitude may very well be the outcome of the barrage of marketing thrown at gay teens of images of super-skinny boys in tight jeans. If you look at current trends of style, big is out while tiny is in.
All in all, the openness to different body types and even idealizing them is probably a healthy sign that the Circuit is entering a more inclusive phase. In the 1990s, the biggest guys dominated the dance floor. Not a bad thing necessarily, but some of them (or many, depending on your point of view) gave off attitude toward those who didn’t meet their standards. Today, regardless of body image - whether you’re an Adonis, a twink or a Goldilocks (not too big, not too small) - you’ll find the dance floor open and fun loving. An overall feeling of inclusion and acceptance for all body types, ethnicities and ages is good for all of us. Even the Adonises.