Over winter break, gay santa brought me some gifts: among those was my first jockstrap. Retrospectively, it was a moment of self-reflection to get those for myself, after all even my pen name was born based on my desire to wear this type of garment because I had always been curious about what it would be like to have one.
I used to see jockstraps on billboards of jocky, muscular guys in sporting goods retailers and think to myself that one day I wanted to look as good as they did. Little did I know, I was just aroused by the images of guys with only a small piece of fabric covering their crotch and a spandex strap to keep it all from hanging loose.
As a (somewhat) grown gay man who has taken the liberty of exploring different cultural iconography and pieces of gay media, I have come to realize I am not the only one with an interest in jockstraps.There are countless homo-erotic pictures — and other kinds of more mature media — depicting men wearing jockstraps while engaging in some of the sexual pleasures we all know and love.
I had never dug deeper into how jockstraps became popular in gay culture, but after a friend of mine was confused as to why I would even get a jockstrap when I was excitedly telling her about my recent purchase, I decided to look into it.
It turns out the jockstrap is quite the vintage piece, created in 1874 by a guy named CF Bennett who worked at a sporting goods company called Sharp & Smith in Chicago. Their purpose was to, well, keep everything in place while doing physical activity, and they became popular among athletes and cyclists.
However, gay circles picked up their appeal by the 1950s, when all the rage was jock guys with big flexed muscles wearing jockstraps. The image of a gay man in a jockstrap was born out of a process of re-claiming these traditionally masculine garments worn in spaces where queer men were excluded, like football.
This same iconography has been replicated in modern iterations of queer art like Lil Nas X’s music video for “THAT’S WHAT I WANT,” depicting him as a football player having some steamy fun in the showers after a game. Even Lady Gaga debuted a jockstrap as part of the release of her latest album “Chromatica,” which further proves how the jockstrap is a gay icon in and of itself.
Now, this obsession with the masculine and its adoption into the mainstream gay culture can turn problematic. I wouldn’t describe myself as a particularly masculine guy, and I have experienced being turned down because I was not “masc” enough. This definition of masculinity however is very subjective; it always implies fitting a stereotypical image of having a muscular and defined body, potentially having body hair or just trying as hard as you can to look like some of those jacked Marvel actors.
It is no secret that some other gay guys and establishments look down or just simply discriminate against those who don’t fit this stereotype, leading to a toxic cycle of self-deprecation and having to force yourself into a very narrow definition of masculinity to become desirable.
While the jockstrap could arguably be considered the peak manifestation of these over-masculine behaviors born out of internalized homophobia, I have decided to reclaim it and re-define what it represents to me.
My jockstrap is hot pink.
That was an intentional choice to break the typical stereotype of fitting in with the “jock” type. I am also fairly slim, so I do not fit at all those images from retro — and modern — magazines. And I am proud of that.
But when I wear my jock I don’t feel any less masculine, or any less desirable. I have actually tried it out with a guy I talk to sometimes and he liked it a lot, so much so that he wanted me to wear it and model it for him. I guess not giving a f*ck about masc4masc does make you sexier for the right people.
Get a jock and see for yourself.
Jack Strap is a student at Cornell University. His fortnightly column Gulp Fiction is a discussion of queer sex life exploration.
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