Dark side to Leonardo’s ‘dad bod’
If you're a man who has spent the last few months skipping the gym, indulging in comfort food and generally just packing on the winter kilos, you're in luck: dadbod is officially back.
What is dadbod, you ask?
Well, the term was officially coined by writer Mackenzie Pearson in 2015 to describe a particular kind of male physique that she - and many of her female friends - found attractive. "The dadbod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out," she wrote, for The Odyssey.
"It's not an overweight guy, but it isn't one with washboard abs, either."
So think along the lines of Seth Rogen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Drew Carey, Kanye West, or Jack Black. Vladimir Putin or Malcolm Turnbull. Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or Pierce Brosnan now. A dadbod is a male body that is probably a little hairy, most likely sports a pot belly, and considers a big workout to be an afternoon of backyard cricket rather than a sunrise session in a CrossFit gym.
When Mackenzie Pearson wrote about her love for the deliciously normal male physique back in 2015, she started a dadbod craze. Women (and men) around the world agreed with her, catapulting the humble dadbod to the heights of a sex symbol.
It was the bod that launched a thousand love letters, and now the numbers are in: according to a survey done by gym chain Planet Fitness, women can't get enough of the dadbod. And I'm not here to disagree!
I've written before about my appreciation of older men, but there's something specifically very sexy about the dadbod (and one need not be a dad, or of dad-age, to possess a dadbod, either).
When we're constantly bombarded by media that preaches physical perfection as the ultimate goal, bodies that proudly reject the male beauty standards of flat abs and bulging biceps are sexy in their rebelliousness.
It's a turn-on to know that someone's comfortable in their own skin, especially if that skin has body hair, or stretch marks, or has never seen the business side of a fake tan application mitt.
There's something sensually intimate about seeing someone in all their raw, imperfect, unfiltered humanness and that's exactly what the dadbod is all about. Make no mistake: I am very in to it.
But! Like everything that is rapidly embraced by the internet and turned in to a pop culture phenomenon, dadbods have a dark side, too.
There's a disappointing hypocrisy revealed in the way we celebrate men's imperfect and average bodies, but still expect women to look glossy, effortless, and freshly Instagram-filtered at all times.
We might have come a long way in embracing women's curves over the last few years, but we've still only expanded the parameters of sexiness to include a certain kind of figure. Women who possess the physical qualities that men with dadbods are celebrated for having - soft stomachs, full thighs, or, god forbid, body hair below the bridge of the nose - aren't dubbed the new sex symbols so much as we are pointed to as symptoms of an apparent obesity crisis.
As much as we might consider ourselves woke to the ways of women's bodies in 2019, a the depressing few days I spent on a dating app last week reminded me that sadly, many of us are still in the dark ages.
"Not looking for a girl who's going to spend half an hour getting ready every morning," read one man's profile, while another wrote that he was just seeking someone he could stand to look at without make-up on.
"I take care of myself and I expect my partner to as well," one man said, curtly, while another had a laundry list of physical qualities they couldn't accept in a partner: hair extensions, lip fillers, fake eyelashes, and the Instagram puppy filter all made the cut.
"Not in to the armpit hair that a lot of girls have these days," said one charmer.
"Sorry ladies, TENS ONLY," wrote another.
After a few listless scrolling sessions, in which I repeatedly reminded myself why I had deleted my dating app profiles long ago, the reality became clear.
Men might be celebrated for letting it all hang out, but women are still expected to curate their appearance meticulously while maintaining it effortlessly; appearing chill enough to order a burger at dinner and get ready for a night out in the blink of an eye while never letting ourselves look like we, you know, eat burgers for dinner or spend five minutes getting ready to leave the house.
None of this has dampened my love of the dadbod, of course, but it has given me food for thought.
If I someday work up the courage to get back on the dating apps and try my luck at meeting someone, maybe I should specify my requirements for a man using the same language that men employ to talk about the kind of woman they want.
"Not looking for a guy who's going to spend half an hour in the gym every morning," I could write, or, "very in to the body hair that a lot of guys have these days."
"Sorry guys," I'll write on my profile, making my expectations clear from the get-go: "DADBODS ONLY."
Kate Iselin is a writer and sex worker. Continue the conversation via @kateiselin