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    Photo Credit: Paul E. Pratt

Around the Gym: How does media impact body image?

By Paul E. Pratt

A recent rerun of “Roseanne” showed the surgically-enhanced comedienne lamenting the unobtainable beauty "norm" that the media sets for women. Indeed, for as long as there have been television and film, critics say women have strived for unrealistic and, quite often, unhealthy standards that lead to negative body images.

Meanwhile, straight men escape similar pressure for physical perfection. Especially in terms of TV, the more average men tend to be more popular with the masses. In fact, quite often these ordinary guys wind up paired with complete knockouts!

Gay men aren't quite as lucky. Critical—some might say bitchy—by nature, we view ourselves and others with a more scrutinizing eye. Whether aspiring to the hairless, sculpted muscle of the Titan man or sinewy ideal set by Lance Armstrong (with both testicles, of course), nearly every gay male's concept of perfection has been shaped by the media.

Find out just how Hollywood affects these four RealJocks' images of self and their workouts. What goals would they have if paired with a personal trainer for six months? Finally, if they had to pick an ideal, which star would they most like to resemble?

Christopher Humphreys, 26
The images I see in porn influence me to want to work out. Right now, my body is a "fixer-upper." There's nothing really wrong with my body, I just don't really have what I want. I'd have more confidence if I had more to work with. I have 'peacock syndrome'— wanting bigger feathers, the prettier colors.

If I had a personal trainer I would like bigger arms, a flatter stomach and bigger man-boobs. Then I'd be able to strut it around. I'd have more confidence to get laid. A trainer knows more than I do. My knowledge of gym equipment is limited to the little posters up next to the machines. I like Brandon Routh, who plays the new Superman. He's very well-proportioned. His chest isn't a Schwarzenegger chest. His arms aren't as big as his head. The guy who played in Batman Begins (Christian Bale) was the same way: Very toned, very well-proportioned.

Travis Creston, 33
Doesn't every American judge himself against the media? I think the media really confuses our perceptions of ourselves. I think it teaches us that we don't look good the way we are. The media gives us an inflated image of what beauty is.

I always tell everyone the reason we all work out is to look better naked. Anyone who tells you different is a liar. Some people mask it and say it's for their health, but the bottom line is we all want to look better naked. If I worked with a trainer, I'd want to work on lean muscle mass, though I'm pretty happy with my results right now. If I were to emulate a celebrity, I really dig the Jean-Claude Van Damme thing. Being able to be between those two pillars and spread his legs out horizontally is totally hot! It at least makes for good conversation in the gay world, right?

Rolando Grasso, 39
For me, working out is a medicinal thing more than aesthetic. I don't work out because I see great bodies on TV or movies or anything. Right now, the media has a big influence in people's workouts, but I think in America it's a little bit more than where I'm from in Italy. It depends on your age, too. In your 20s, you are more influenced by the media and other people's bodies. When you cross 35, you're more into yourself and working out for health than just trying to be pretty.

If I were to work out with a trainer, I'd focus on losing fat. They would push me to do more stuff to attack those points. I just do the same things I've been doing forever. When I work out with friends, we share what knowledge we have. If I worked out with a personal trainer, I could tell him to focus on a leaner waist. When people work with trainers, you see them really pushing their limits. I'm not sure which celebrity I'd emulate. There are so many cuties in Hollywood. I guess Vin Diesel. I would love to have his body! If we can dream, why not?

Bernhard Wetsch, 47
I'm not somebody who watches a lot of media and I don't compare myself to 25-year olds. For a 47-year old, I think I look really good. I don't think I need to work out more. Maybe I'm not the right person to ask. Maybe a younger man would be more influenced by or looking to media for images. I'm not working out so people flirt with me. It's more for health reasons.

For me, a great body doesn't make great sex. I feel like I may compare myself to times when I was physically maybe more fit and keep pictures of myself. I think, 'I had great abs there. I wonder what I do now.' It's also a matter of age. I used to be a personal trainer myself, but if I were to hire one, I'd want to focus more on my abdominal muscles. That's the only thing I'd like to focus on without having problems. I know what kind of stretching and warm-up I need but still have trouble with lower back. It would be really good for me to work with someone who knows other ways of working muscles, like maybe pilates.

As far as current celebrities, I don't think there's anybody who could be my idol bodywise. Mostly they're all beefy, and I don't go for that. I'd go for older celebrities, like from the 70s, since that's the body style I go for. While I can't name names, it would be a body that is very defined yet very lean. I was never much into big muscles.