The answer is and has been for many years now that Details is the gayer of the two magazines. In January 2003 Details ran a cover featuring Colin Farrell biting his lower lip with the ambiguously unambiguous headline HAVE YOU HAD SEX WITH COLIN FARRELL YET? and really they never looked back.
But you don’t need an expert’s encyclopedic knowledge of magazines to answer this question, you can just go straight (so to speak) to the magazine rack. I didn’t mention Esquire, whose cover this month features Robert Redford looking manful and stately and one million years old. Esquire is clearly less gay than either Details or GQ. Robert Redford is the go-to sexual fantasy for straight women who want to fantasize about having sex with a really old person. Gay men (as far as I know, and I consider myself somewhat of an expert as a gay man myself) would rather just fantasize about sex with a young Robert Redford from Barefoot in the Park or the less well-known The Electric Horseman (where he plays a misfit cowboy) as the possibility of a consensual sexual experience with Robert Redford seems about as likely as going back in time to 1967 to hook up with him and make his costar Jane Fonda our new BFF. The sexual availability his image projects doesn’t easily transgress the gender divide.
Compare with GQ, which has not one but three covers (because the people who run GQ are total geniuses) displaying Bruno Mars, Jason Bateman, and Jimmy Fallon each wearing nut-hugging trousers and a little bit of lippy and looking super-duper gay. But Details, O Details, has graced its cover with an image of Matthew McConaughey with a thin black V-neck sweater clinging to his torso, gazing out from the photograph at me with eyes that say, “I like the way cashmere feels against my bare skin.” Eyes that ask, “I feel vulnerable sometimes, are you the kind of person with whom I can share these experiences?” Eyes that admit, “I know you have fantasized about being friends with me, because part of my job as a celebrity is to inspire those kinds of fantasies. If you have other kinds of fantasies about me, that’s okay too.”
The fact is that the question which magazine is gayer is totally beside the point: all men’s style magazines are gay as fuck, even Esquire. (For the record I think straight men are more likely to fantasize about sex with Robert Redford than gay men. Robert Redford is just like that.) Even magazines like The Advocate aren’t as gay, because they seem to be focused on integrating gay culture into mainstream culture or vice versa, which results of course in the exact opposite, so that when The Advocate crows CHECK OUT ZAC EFRON IN HIS FIRST GAY INTERVIEW the article itself creates the inescapable impression that Zac Efron like a performing monkey has been carefully placed on display for an audience of gay men and like said monkey he is of a completely different species than they; sex with him would likely be immoral and illegal.
It is the ambiguity created not only by Matthew McConaughey’s sultry stare and Colin Farrell’s lower lip but also by the very homosocial space of discourse which even Esquire avidly peddles that makes all these magazines seem so so so gay. Heterosexual men have anxieties, have hidden desires – they have needs, dammit – that they cannot share with their lady friends. They need to hear about Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Refreshing Masque with bamboo sap and hyacinth to smoothe fine lines (which btw costs $15 per single-use portion) and they need to hear about it in this men-only space where everyone is agreed that gay men are not only welcome, we are indispensable. We are role models not only but especially sexually as becomes clear in The Details Sex Report 2013, where we not only find out about increasing vasectomies among young childless men who, according to Jennifer Landa M.D., “think they aren’t capable of being a good parent,” and have “trust issues” with their female partners for whom “those accidental pregnancies might not be so accidental,” (and why wouldn’t they have trust issues, Jennifer Landa, you judgmental harpy?) but we also learn about the increasing popularity among straight men of being anally penetrated by their girlfriends. We not only learn about the etiquette of asking your partner if you can cum on her face and tits but also discover the statistical fact, revealed by Details readers, that gay men get more blow jobs (by a surprisingly low margin, however) and have far more orgasms per month than do their straight sexually active counterparts. Compare our article on Zac Efron in The Advocate to this same Details sex report in which the “most fuckable celebrities” survey includes categories for both genders, and Zac Efron comes in second only to Ryan Gosling. Fuckable by whom? Straight men? Gay men? Straight women? Doesn’t specify. You know, just fuckable.
The reason gay men are so notably role models not only in style, when we “try experimenting with luxe blazer-and-trouser combos,” not only in the kitchen, where we offer “tips on how to keep your blades sharp,” not only in technology, with an app for your phone to “take panoramic photos with one pirouette,” but specifically in the bedroom where Dan Savage gives straight men tips on receptive anal play, a practice he calls “pegging,” which word like all words Dan Savage invents immediately enters the contemporary lexicon – the reason is that what gay men promise that straight men want is physical and emotional intimacy with other men. The feminized aesthetic knowledge of the master shopper is merely a mask for the even more feminized capacity for emotional vulnerability, which calls to men with a siren’s song of fear and craving. Gay men cannot deliver on this promise for anyone, least of all themselves, but they can offer a proxy for this intimacy with the passionately dispassionate ability to consider one’s own body as an object instead of an instrument, an object of beauty, pleasure, wealth, and power.
The greeks of classical antiquity knew something about intimate men-only spaces. Their story goes like this. Tiresias was walking down the road one day when he saw two snakes coupling in the dirt. He knocked them apart with his walking stick and was transformed into a woman. He lived for seven years as a woman, and then, walking down that same road, again saw two snakes and separated them. He was transformed back into a man. When Zeus and Hera later argued about who has the greater pleasure in sex, man or woman, they went to Tiresias to settle the matter. When Tiresias agreed with Zeus – that woman has the greater pleasure in sex – Hera was so incensed her secret had been revealed that she struck Tiresias blind on the spot. Zeus, grateful for this ally in the battle between the sexes, gave Tiresias the second sight to compensate.
I ask you this: was it Zeus who gave Tiresias second sight, or was it the snakes? And who tells this story? And why?
Eli Rarey is Ohio Edit’s Magazines and Media Expert. He has lived in New York, Santa Rosa, Dublin, Reykjavik, Los Angeles, and his own mind. He is available for parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. His feature film “The Famous Joe Project” is coming out on DVD later this year.