Let’s Talk About Male Body Positivity

Ranging from body hair to short height, from fat to too skinny, facial features to penis size – the list of body-related issues men face can be endless.

In our often hyper-masculine and heteronormative society, it’s time to start a conversation about men’s bodies in addition to women’s. Every type of body is beautiful, and more importantly, every type of body is different. We all hold weight and muscle in different ways. And it’s time to share our stories and a little love. ‘Body’ is the result of crowd-sourced, anonymous accounts of men’s relationships with their bodies.

Ever since forever I’ve had people literally look down on me because of my height. It was difficult growing up, it got worse when I stopped growing altogether. I’ve had a girl tell me ‘I’d fuck you if you were taller’ … I mean what am I supposed to do with that sort of a statement? Thank you and I’m sorry? Who would have thought that patriarchy can be tough on guys as well, in some cases. In a lot of cases actually.

“I’m fat.” This I reluctantly admit to myself as I look up from the jell-o that is my stomach to the misery on my face. I’ve been struggling with my weight for as long as I have been aware of body weight being a valid issue that people have. I just want to be able to walk out of the swimming pool changing rooms and not want to shrivel up and die.

While growing up, I guess I hit puberty way before my peers at school. I would have hair all over my legs and arms and I would stand out, especially since they make us wear shorts until 9th grade at school. Soon, I started spouting chest hair – and people started pointing it all out to me. They wouldn’t do it as an aggression, but it would still make me conscious of being different and at that tender age, you really don’t know how to cope with it.

I’ll be on the lookout for someone who won’t be ashamed of me, for being me. Someone who won’t call me out. For the acne that I have. For the thigh gap, I don’t have. For the muscles that I don’t want to build. For the stretch marks that cover my skin.

I am skinny, it’s not half as amazing as you’d think. My waist has been called feminine. I have no complaints to being compared to the opposite sex, it’s not fragile in any way. What hurts me is the meaning behind their pungent remarks that stay etched in my mind, like scars.

For most of my pre-teen years, I was asked to gain weight, exercise and ‘look fit’. Being called names like ‘clothes hanger’ and ‘walking skeleton’ wasn’t really a surprise to me. I was 11 or 12 at the time. I thought it was just a normal thing to body shame thin and fat guys, that it was just a school thing.

It doesn’t matter how many times someone’s told me being skinny is okay, it gets hard to believe. Society, my friends, even my parents have created this image of this archetype of a perfect ‘gora’, ‘chitta’, ‘lamba’, Indian guy.

As I started getting older and started to realise my sexuality and preferences, I realised I was gay and also very feminine. So again, my weird face and skin tone + tons of body mass + wore glasses + not excellent at studies or sports (because I felt if you’re a guy that’s what you are supposed to be good at, NOT cooking or fashion or beauty or being soft or polite) + a queer person. I felt life was a disaster.

 

The ‘not enough’ body: I’ll never have a body that’s big enough. I’ll never have a beard that’s dense enough. I’ll never be tall enough. I’ll never have the ‘ideal’ male body. It’s hard to still keep trying.

 

Any male person can attest to the fact that they’ve observed their penis in ways that they haven’t observed anything else. They know the shape, curvature and texture of it so intensely, it’s burned into their minds throughout their lives. Purely biologically speaking, a man is identified as a ‘man’ by his penis. This isn’t exactly true from an identity standpoint, but subconsciosuly, it’s what we look for. For this reason, men tend to be hyper-conscious about what their penis actually looks like, which of course lends itself to a lot of insecurity about its length, girth, shape, curvature, girth etc. Any art series on large varieties of the male form is incomplete without acknowledging the difference between every single penis from each other. With this, I conclude ‘Body’.

Veer Misra is a 21-year-old artist based in New Delhi.