Looking at the ever-rising rate of obesity in America, you'd conclude that most men are not too intimidated by all this exposed flesh. Toby Miller, among others, counters that men are feeling the same pressure as women do to appear fit. He cites skyrocketing rates of eating disorders among men, as well as the rise in use of hair dye, Botox shots, and gym memberships.

Then there is the use of steroids by men, and even teenagers. Books like Looking Good: Male Body Image in Modern America and The Adonis Complex discuss the beefing up of icons like Batman and G.I. Joe as examples of how society is sending out the message that beefier is better. "There's increasing pressure on the average middle-class man to obsess about his personal appearance," Miller says. "It's not just their saying, 'I want to look good,' but 'The boss says I have to lose weight.' "

Not so long ago, medical companies looked for beauty queens to call on doctors and hospitals. So I was surprised recently when, doing a profile for Crain's New York Business on a company that sells surgical equipment, its president told me that he recruits among college athletes. The male sales force routinely works out or plays sports together. Even if they have never seen the photo layout of super-cut-up men working in a machine shop in a recent issue of the (now-defunct) gay magazine Genre, these men have fallen under the influence of our pervasive celebration of beefcake.

Meanwhile, gay men—the ones blamed for the whole muscle obsession in the first place—are apparently slimming down. On those same Fire Island boardwalks from which Guy Trebay decried the triumph of the "muscle fascists" in a celebrated Voice article back in 1999, the men appear noticeably skinnier. Nate Silver, a brilliant young statistician with a pencil-thin build, has become the new gay icon. Popular gay blog AfterElton calls him "adorkable," while Queerty teased him about his status as a sex symbol. Another website, Hipster or Gay (hipsterorgay.tumblr.com), equates Williamsburg geeks with gay chic.

Who knows? Maybe a future photo shoot at the Belvedere will feature regular guys lounging around the baroque pool in their BVDs.

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