The world of dating can be quite daunting but there is certainly an added pressure when you feel you have to look good on dating apps.
Some men go to extremes to look picture perfect when looking for love, so much so that they could risk their life.
Extra.ie chatted with two gay men who admit to feeling the pressure.
Former Mr Gay Scotland Jamie Love said that as ‘a young, gay, white male, it’s important to acknowledge that I can’t comment on the LGBT world as a whole — however, something I would say is common across the entire community is the immense pressure we experience in our online dating and social media sphere.’
He told Extra.ie: ‘A lot of these pressures stem from the need to fit in. Despite being a diverse and progressive community that seeks to unite in the face of oppression, we sure do like to categorise. Be that into a category, tribe, or type.
‘As gay men, we class one another dependant on their look, size, age, style etc. These categorisations change and evolve as people get older, fitter, skinnier, larger, and so on. As you might imagine, this constant pigeonholing results in feelings of inadequacy and perpetuates judgemental attitudes.
‘Not to mention a constant need to define yourself according to pre-existing boundaries, rather than just being able to take pride in your own uniqueness.
‘Pressures are then magnified on social media. Gay men’s culture is notoriously superficial and Instagram has become the 21st century hive of this.
‘There are literally thousands of perfectly sculpted, good-looking men with large thighs and even larger followings. Their “perfect” lifestyles are beamed directly to our daily feeds and our admiration can quickly mutate into envy and body image issues.
‘During my time as Mr Gay Scotland, I created a campaign called Be Your Hero. Its focus centred on empowering LGBT youth to look within for their strength, validation and self-acceptance.
‘This campaign was very much a response to the toxicity of the social media landscape in which gay men dwell. I wanted to encourage young LGBT people to resist the lure of online validation and know that they are worthy just the way they are.
‘Images for the campaign pictured me in hero poses — the irony lying in the fact that I have a body that would be classed as more feminine than the average super hero. For a long time I felt ashamed that I had a more feminine appearance and tendencies.
‘This was a great way for me to give the middle finger to those standards of masculinity, and feel proud of my natural self.’
Dublin man Conor Daly, who bravely opened up about being groomed as a teen, says as an out gay men there is a lot of pressure on how you look and act within the community.
‘This pressure mostly comes from apps such as Grindr and Tinder where you have to fit into a certain “tribe” or have your bio worded a certain way or have certain pictures up that will get the right guys attention,’ he told Extra.ie.
‘You don’t want to come across as too “fem” but also not too “masc” all in the hopes that the type of guy you find attractive, will find you attractive.
‘When it comes to appearance, how you dress and present yourself can be a minefield in itself. I know people who will dress a certain way if they’re going out to an LGBT friendly venue in order to be seen as attractive.
‘I feel that when it comes to younger people in the community, there’s this impression that if you sexualise yourself that not only will you be attractive, but you’ll also be popular with people.
‘I also feel that there’s this pressure from Hollywood to be the “token gay” or the GBF [gay best friend] within groups which is a strange stereotype as your friendship with someone should be based on commonalities rather than sexuality.
‘Hollywood has created this narrative where the gay character is either this super buff, masculine guy or a super feminine and sassy character which I feel puts pressure on guys to either be one or the other and in a way, let their sexuality define them rather than let it be a part of them.
‘While there are media outlets out there that are breaking this constructed norm, we still have a long way to go.’
According to a report by the BBC, a number of gay men are going to extreme lengths to alter their body in order to be ‘accepted’ by others in the LGBTQI+ community — including using steroids and having cosmetic surgery.
Several told the publication that they felt pressure from online, comparing themselves to what is seen on social media and dating apps.
A study in 2018 found that 28% of Ireland’s young people felt constant peer pressure and scrutiny.
Young Social Innovators and Amarach Research Index found 31% indicated unrealistic beauty and life satisfaction perpetuated by social media makes life more difficult for today’s young people.
Anyone affected by issues raised in this article can contact The Samaritans on 116-123, text 087-2-60-90-90 or e-mail email@example.com.