Since I never went to summer camp as a young kid, gym class in 7th grade was the first time I ever had to undress in front of other boys. The different genital sizes were glaring, and the word we were using back then was "meat." My best friend told me once that "you have no meat."
In contrast to many women (I'm assuming), apart from that one comment, I can't remember ANY comments from ANYBODY about ANY part of my body, EVER! Oh, I just remembered--in my 40s I developed a belly, and my mother once said, "What do you have, a tumor in there?" She now has Alzheimer's, and I lost weight.
Another man shared a story about shared showers in high school and his experience there, then went on to share other, more positive experiences:
The communal showers in the male dorms at [my boarding school] were a hard place for me. Experiences, not of words, but of others scoffing and laughter about my body are harsh memories from those days. Not everyone, but a few who fit into my category of jerks.I had thought, when I asked this question, that most of the responses would be from women. Somehow I keep being surprised when men respond as strongly to my blog as women do, but they are making it very clear to me that men suffer from the same types of body image issues as women do. I think it used to be more of an exclusively female issue, but the media has begun to show impossibly fit men as much as they do women, leading men to have horribly impossible expectations for themselves just like we do.
A more positive experience of a doctor who asked me as a 14 year old about my body's sexual functioning. It was fine. A moment of confidence building.
But the greatest impact has been in my relationship with my wife. We have the kind of love and intimacy which has been so affirming. We are both overweight 50-somethings. But she has so intentionally lavished love on me (and I on her) that the gift our bodies are to each other is life and perspective transforming. Simple words like, "I love your body," "Your body gives me so much pleasure," and "I love the way your body does ...," are so affirming. I think this is part of what life and love are about. We have found partnership, and part of it is the physical connection we feel in each other's bodies.
Interestingly, when I look at this beautiful picture of the man's abs, I know it isn't what most men look like or could look like or even should look like. This man has a very unusual physique.
But when I look at a similar picture of a woman, I immediately think that's what I should/could look like. I wonder what that's about?