Age and embodied masculinities: Midlife gay and heterosexual men talk about their bodies.

Published: July 17, 2013

Abstract

This article integrates critical gerontology and masculinities theories to examine how midlife gay and heterosexual men experience their bodies in relation to cultural discourses of aging. Analyses of in-depth interviews with 15 gay and 15 heterosexual men ages 40-60 reveal that while both groups of men describe their bodies as deteriorating or declining in terms of functionality and are often distressed by these changes, midlife gay men also articulate a concern with a perceived decline in bodily appearance. Both gay and heterosexual midlife men frame their bodies as fundamentally different from women’s, possibly in an attempt to protect a masculine identity in response to the threat that aging bodies pose to that identity. We argue that midlife men’s embodied experiences are shaped by a discourse of midlife decline as well as inequalities between gay and heterosexual men. We also discuss the implications of embodiment for midlife men’s well-being.

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