Over at Mediaite, Michael Triplett has posted an interesting look into the editorial decisions of (mostly male) gay bloggers, who must carefully tread the line between hard news LGBT activism and the desire of some of their readers to see the occasional bit of beefcake. The column arises out off a feud between (now former) Bilerico blogger David Badash and the site’s editor, Bil Browning, after Browning wrote a post about a porn site featuring Mormon men masturbating.
Open up almost any LGBT newspaper or click on almost any gay blog and you are going to see a little sex. Whether it’s shirtless models posing in underwear (or less), ads for sex chat lines, escort classifieds, or just regular advertising that features guys busting out of their tight shirts or jeans, sex is everywhere. And it helps keeps gay publications and blogs afloat. In addition, there is the added layer that sexuality is what unites its readership. Sexuality isn’t a dirty word for many LGBT media consumers and glorifying–even objectifying–sexuality isn’t problematic. In responding to Badash’s concerns, Browning conceded “[s]exy pictures always bring in viewers. I’m not ashamed of using that mentality to continue to bring new readers to one of the smartest, sharpest and controversial LGBT websites where you can talk openly about anything remotely queer.” Browning called the correlation between sexy posts, increased page views, and advertising impressions that lead to more income a “win-win” and that the content of the site was not lessened by a few posts that have a sexual content that appeal to gay men. Browning’s site is not all “boys in underwear” and porn links; far from it. With a large number of lesbian and transgender columnists, it reads more like a queer studies lecture than a porn-script. In fact, there are actually very few photographs visible on the site’s homepage.
Triplett points to Towleroad as an example of a site that frequently features shirtless hotties as post subjects, yet has the reputation (and resultant traffic) as the top LGBT news site in the nation. As longtime readers know, I’ve only very rarely gone the beefcake route, although I think it’s totally fine within limits. (I should probably start a Bear Of The Day feature or something.) Sometimes I do worry that the banner ads, which I don’t see until you do, might cross the line into NSFW and cause a reader some problems at the office, but the service is very responsive whenever I ask for a change.
Triplett makes the excellent point that comparable straight sites often feature at least as much skin or frank sexual language as the average gay news site, but appear to suffer little criticism for it. Is JMG too porn-ish? Do you tend to dismiss an LGBT activism site as non-serious if they occasionally veer into sexual imagery? Obviously, this is a decades-old dilemma for gay print, but a relatively recent issue for gay blogs which are mostly read at work. Like you are doing right now.