Body Checking

How Grindr fosters negative body image among queer males

Illustration by Shagnik Chakraborty
31 May, 2023

“Not Fat, Not Femme,” was the reply my friend, a doctor, received after he sent his pictures, and kept following up desperately on the Grindr profile of a man he described as an ideal gay man to date, with a milky-white complexion, wind-tousled hair and a body so buffed it looked as if it had been lifted from a porn video. Only after getting that curt reply did my friend notice that the young man wanted only no-strings-attached sex, which he was not looking for. 

The desire we feel when looking at a potential mate is rooted in evolution, allowing natural selection to operate subconsciously. Athletic, able-bodied males offer a better promise of longevity and protection from predators. It is from this aesthetic, compounded with social expectations, that images of an ideal man, such as Michelangelo’s David, are derived. This dissonance between the “ideal” and “real,” however, often weighs in on the body image of a man.

Body image is a multidimensional construct with psychosocial, cognitive, behavioural and perceptual implications. Most men have a mental image of their body and a fixed belief about its unattractiveness owing to the almost unattainable standards described within popular culture. This dissatisfaction with one’s body is further accentuated in queer men that translates into projecting the same standards onto the bodies of others. When gay men look for partners, the body, and its cuts and curves, become doubly essential.

“When one comes out, gay men have a whoring phase. As our bodies are denied intimacy and smeared with shame, our bodies react by wanting more sex,” Dr Saumil Shah, a resident at Delhi’s Guru Nanak Eye Centre, told me. Compounding this unhealthy mental relationship with the body, gay men often find themselves caught within the binary of masculinity and femininity. Owing to growing up in a heterosexual family and the lack of queer role models, they end up replicating existing gender binaries.