When I was in college, I was clinically obese. I hated the way I looked in shorts and I’d wear long pants and sleeves, even on a sweltering 98-degree summer day. After losing 100 pounds during my sophomore year, I quickly seized the opportunity to wear shorts again—something I hadn’t done in close to a decade.
The more proud I was of my body, the shorter the shorts became, and the more eager I was to share my new looks on the Internet. To be clear, the shorts weren’t too scandalous. I have a sense of propriety, and I’m (mostly) aware that day-to-day life isn’t the “Pour It Up” video. My favorite pair sat about a third of the way down my newly trim thighs.
What I quickly discovered, though, is that while women are encouraged to expose as much of their bodies as possible on the Internet, people lose their damn minds over a guy showing leg. In the eight years since I lost weight, I am constantly bombarded with harassing and mocking comments whenever I wear a pair of cut-offs. A few weeks ago, I was wearing short shorts when I passed a group of high school students, boys and girls, on Avenue A. They stopped dead in their tracks to gawk and laugh and joke loudly to each other about my choice in bottoms.
The problem extends to social media as well. On Instagram, guys who can’t stop drooling when they see women’s legs love to give me shit about the length of my shorts. (To be fair, there’s both a demand on women to expose their bodies on social media, as well as a ton of unfortunate slut-shaming that goes on, but that’s fodder for another piece.)
Early on in my DJing career, an employer saw a relatively tame picture of me in shorts on Facebook and commented, “Ew! Put your fucking legs away! haha!” Another time, I showed up to a gig and one of the night’s promoters approached me in the booth. “I just started following you on Instagram,” he said. “Bro, we need to take you out for some longer shorts.” Cool, thanks, bro.
An employer saw a relatively tame picture of me in shorts on Facebook and commented, “Ew! Put your fucking legs away! haha!”
Back at the beginning of my short shorts obsession, comments like these used to really upset me. I think I even cried once. (I cry easily.) After having put so much work into my body and being bullied about my weight all through high school, it felt like I couldn’t win. As a gay man, it also made me feel like even more of an outcast in my already exceedingly heteronormative industry.
For a while, I actively avoided posting pictures on the Internet. Now, I mostly just wonder: Why do pictures of a man’s legs make people, especially other guys, so uncomfortable? Is it the build of the leg? Is it the hair? Is it the possibility of seeing dick, or, more accurately, the suggestion of seeing one?
I’m of the belief that the things that scare us most, that cause us to react viscerally, are the things we’re most intrigued by. Considering how much homophobia is built into our contemporary notions of masculinity, I can’t help but wonder if the straight guys who have the strongest reaction to my exposed limbs aren’t expressing some of their latent desires. But I think there’s also a great deal of discomfort with the male form in general. After all, men aren’t encouraged to dress provocatively in our society nearly as much as men are.
In any case, when it finally warmed up last week, I decided to take to Instagram do a little experiment. For the first time in a while, I started posting pictures of myself in cut-offs. I wanted to see what got everyone so heated, or if anyone would try to step to me like that douchey club promoter did. Frankly, I was trying to bait as many idiot shorts trolls as I could, so I got pretty salacious with the pictures. I took inspiration from Rihanna, queen of scandalous Instagramming.
Although my short shorts likely would have solicited some tasteless comments in the past, I was surprised to see that these new Instagram posts got unanimously positive reactions. The pics got a lot of likes, as well as a pretty high quotient of assorted “Yassssses.”
The positive reactions on social media made me feel pretty great, in the way that most positive reactions on social media usually come with a fleeting but vaguely satisfying rush. And although I’m less inclined to search for validation about about my appearance though social media than I once was, let’s face it— it’s never a bad thing to be “Yassed” excessively. It is, after all, the highest honor our generation bestows.
Let’s face it— it’s never a bad thing to be “Yassed” excessively. It is, after all, the highest honor our generation bestows.
I’m not sure whether the positive response to my short shorts selfies means that people are becoming more comfortable with the male body, or if it means that the followers who used to share their opinions in my comments now have the good sense to stay quiet. But one of the more positive aspects of our culture is a huge and rapid shift in what’s deemed acceptable clothing for a man to wear as well, as well as our general perception of what defines gender. This is largely thanks to celebrities like Kanye West and Jaden Smith wearing dresses and trans people coming out loud and proud, like Caitlyn Jenner did in her white bodysuit in Vanity Fair.
So guys: get out there this summer, wear the shorts you damn well please, and don’t let anybody put you down for it. And make sure you post the evidence all over Instagram too. As Ms Jenner taught us this week, information spread on social media has the power to effect great change. But one thing that’s never ever gonna change? Me, out of these shorts.
Photo via Louie XIV/Instagram