Scott Barnes

Straight vs. Gay Models

Filed By Scott Barnes | June 24, 2006 8:18 AM | comments

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With Bil busy moving this weekend, he's asked me (perhaps the least vocal of the bilerico contributors) to make sure that something's posted every day for the next two or three. So here I am! And one word of warning, I'm re-posting something that I've already written about on my own blog, so if you're a reader, you've seen what's coming, already. Sorry.

Anyway, here goes.

Those few of you who know me might know that I'm a gay photographer, and one of my specialties is male figure studies. But one of the things that sometimes perplexes me a little bit is that for a gay photographer, the men who model for me are primarily straight. Looking through my figure studies, I only find three gay guys, all the other men on my site are straight.

Don't you think that's a little bit peculiar? I do.

But then last week, I approached two guys and asked about their interest in posing for photo art -- one straight, the other gay. The straight guy is 18 and literally just graduated, and he's interested in Nascar and his girlfriend and partying all kinds of other things that would usually scare me away. But he was so flattered that I approached him, and he was gracious and professional, and I'm optimistic that we'll be getting together this summer.

The gay guy immediately copped an attitude and wanted to know how much I'd pay him. When I suggested that we'd talk about money after I had some more information about him and his level of interest, he became HUGELY bitchy and insisted that he wouldn't talk about anything at all until I gave him a monetary reason to do it.

Needless to say, this was a short conversation. But then it dawned on me: It's like this all the time. Almost every straight guy that I "cold call" is respectful and flattered even if he's not interested. But almost every gay man starts the conversation with an attitude and list of entitlements.

I don't get it. It just seems to me that if I'm starting off a conversation by saying that you look good enough for art and then offer you a situation that might involve monetary compensation (or at the very least, free merchandise), then you should be a little bit respectful, or at least attempt to be friendly enough to convince me that I'd want to spend two hours in your company.

Yet this phenomena isn't a new thing, I've been meeting rude gays for as long as I've been a photographer.

What do you think causes this? I can't be looking for models in all the wrong places because I look for them everywhere I go: gym, supermarkets, malls, Pride festivals, bookstores, on the street, online. . . I can't help but wonder if it has to do with the way society sexualizes people differently: a straight guy would be flattered to be approached by a photographer because that kind of thing just doesn't happen to him, but a gay guy is used to being perceived as a sexual object (maybe in much the same way a women can be) and immediately thinks that he's going to be "used" and/or possibly even hurt.

And I realize that's a very simple generalization for what could be a complex phenomenon. But I'd really like your thoughts on this. Comments?


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Bah, I'm gay, 20, and would be *jaw-floor* flattered if some guy asked me to pose for him. You've just been asking the wrong guys. And besides, if they look good enough to approach, they're going to have a complex anyway, no?

Having seen your work, Scott, I know you're totally legit, and if I ever need a portrait I know whom to call, but I've gotta say (as a 21 year old gay guy) that when an "older" man asks someone around my age to pose for photos, the reasonable way to take it is "come do a porno" or "come sleep with me". Tough but true.

If we assume that the reaction you get is something more than just avoiding pickup lines and porno shoots, I think it's likely that the young hetero "knows" he's on top of the world -- NASCAR-watching, party-happy young guys generally think they're just GREAT and your asking him to do photos just reinforced that feeling. Among many (although certainly not all) young gay men, there is much more self-doubt. Even guys who are undeniably attractive (and maybe afflicted with Body Dysmorphic Disorder) don't always FEEL attractive, which is what I would imagine counts when one decides to be a model or not.

If it helps any, young gay guys are just as hard to date as they are to photograph!

Marla R. Stevens | June 28, 2006 5:08 AM

Insightful comments, Morgan.

I'd tend to look at it simpler -- just someone insisting on a well-defined business relationship. I wouldn't pose commercially without a sound contract and would advise the same to anyone.

Marla R. Stevens | June 28, 2006 8:41 AM

Insightful comments, Morgan.

I'd tend to look at it simpler -- just someone insisting on a well-defined business relationship. I wouldn't pose commercially without a sound contract and would advise the same to anyone.

Exactly, Marla. I have a variety of release forms, age-verification forms, and whatnot for all my models to sign, depending on the individual agreement. The problem is that with gay models, the conversation typically never gets that far. Either their bad attitude convinces me that I don't want to work with them, or they dismiss the conversation before we even get to the contract.

Your site is great