Sexual Objectification of Males (Part5)
(Final part of blog series)
This topic is full of controversy. Many women and some men think there is no “Sexual Objectification” of men. I hope to present both opinions to give the reader “food for thought” on the subject.
I am active on Facebook and as such am a member of many groups containing writers and readers including romance and erotica groups. I see the men and women able to post sexy pictures of males and females on a moment’s notice. Because these pictures have to be Facebook friendly the head of the penis along with the female nipples and mound have to be covered. Often this is the only thing covered and minimally at best. The action in the pictures has no restrictions. A man’s head between a woman’s legs is acceptable if the sexy bits are not showing.
Needless to say almost all the men and women have “hot” bodies by today’s standards. The women frequently make comments like, “I wish that man would move his coffee cup a little” and “I wish he would drop that towel.” These are the same women who say, “Why does every man want to send me pictures of his junk.”
I understand where they are coming from. Wanting to see what is behind the bump on a sexy guy model is not even close to unsolicited photos of some perverts penis. I will leave my commentary for the comments now and share some information gleaned online.
From an article in “The Telegraph” newspaper from UK:
Men are now objectified more than women. From Fifty Shades and Magic Mike to Beckham and Gandy's underwear ads, men are now the objectified sex. But unlike women, says Martin Daubney, we don't really mind.
You cannot move at the moment for buffed, topless men in the mainstream, pre-watershed media. Try as you might, you just cannot avoid their hairless, Ronseal-coloured bodies.
The article goes on to say:
Notable by its absence was any form of serious protest from men, who, lest we forget, were the ones being endlessly objectified here. And for that, I will be eternally proud of British men. Because we’re bigger than all this nonsense. Sure, there were a few lame-o Meninist groans of “stop objectifying men – I feel violated!” from dunderheads keen to launch futile torpedoes at HMS Feminism.
But those lonely howls of faux-protest were drowned out by the sound of collective hand-rubbing, dental flossing and growling into bathroom mirrors, as hopeful men prepare themselves for their amorous partners’ returns from girls’ nights out to Fifty Shades or Magic Mike screenings.
Our frankly tremendous response to all this male objectification hasn’t been “the world’s a terrible place, I might start a protest at change.org” but a very healthy “Mmm, what’s in it for me?” and a knowingly cynical “If I look more like these guys the women swoon over, I might get laid more often <Googles gym membership>”
So we don’t complain to Ofcom, or peevishly whinge to Everyday Sexism. We react sensibly – and get our arses to the gym so they’ll look better in David Beckham underpants. But there’s somehing else. These days, it’s acceptable for straight men to admit we actually quite like looking at Jamie Dornan’s body – and Beckham’s budgie smugglers or David Gandy’s pecs. It's not a sexual thing, because we look at these men as objects: superior physical beings we’d like to be a little more like. Straight men thinking more like gays – and that’s healthy.
A fresh wave of today’s gym and porn-obsessed young lads are getting plenty of attention, thanks to endless selfies. Just over a week ago it was reported that young Brits, aged 18-30, posted over a billion selfies in 2014 - and men were posted more of them than women.
Mark Simpson, daddy of “the metrosexual” who has written the definitive essay on male self-objectification, goes a step further, saying straight guys actively crave gay attention these days, as it proves they can “have” anybody - male or female. This is objectification as taking power – not disempowerment.
Male objectification is everywhere. This is no more true that in porn land, where everybody is ripped, hairless and objectified. Men are by far the biggest consumers of porn, yet you don’t hear them protesting, nor hankering after the good old days of pot-bellied, hirsute lotharios like Ron Jeremy.
These days, it’s Daniel Craig who gets his tits out for the lads in Bond movies, as PC scriptwriters gave the Bond girls lab coats. Page 3 has fallen, the lads mags are all but dead and it’s Men’s Health’s topless covers we leer at, as they sit on full display to minors in Tesco.
The fact it doesn’t even occur to men to complain means male objectification is not only here to stay, but, much like David Gandy’s codpiece on the side of a skyscraper, it will only get bigger.
If that’s an equality of sorts, then thank us later, ladies. The naked truth is: we’re all objectified these days. Now can’t we just all get over it – and concentrate on the stuff that actually matters?
Shannon Ridgway is a Contributing Writer to Everyday Feminism writes:
Can women objectify men?
That’s a question that gets asked a lot in feminist circles. And the answer isn’t always easy.
Viewing it simply, one would think that the answer is yes.
Because if we define sexual objectification as seeing people as no more than the sum of their parts and what those parts can do for us sexually, then yes, of course women can objectify men.
After all, there are women out there who “use” men for sex with little regard to their feelings, personalities, or desires, just as men do to women.
Sexual objectification, however, puts one person in the role of subject and the other person in the role of object. In heterosexual coupled relationships, these roles are usually assigned to the man and woman, respectively.
Sexual objectification requires that one person choose what they want sexually and the other person is required to perform to their standards.
And this kind of thinking permeates our culture so deeply that sometimes we don’t even recognize it.
To understand how objectification works, we have to start at the societal level.
Sexual Objectification as the Status Quo
The status quo of sexual objectification places the man as the subject and the woman as the object.
This idea has been so ingrained in society that it’s become part of our everyday culture. Sexual objectification is everywhere.
We see it in the form of everyday advertising — companies use scantily clad female models to sell their products (and we see this in both men’s and women’s magazines).
We see it on TV: Female characters (even powerful ones, like hospital administrator Dr. Lisa Cuddy on the show House, M.D.) wear low-cut shirts and tight clothing, while their male colleagues dress in normal business attire or loose clothing.
It even shows up in our everyday actions, like when we tell girls in schools to dress a certain way to avoid “distracting” their male peers.
So even though male objectification occasionally occurs (usually in the form of advertising), we can’t forget the context within which this operates.
Often, male objectification is done in the form of tongue-in-cheek references to ads that have objectified women for centuries.
And even if it’s a man being objectified in an ad, he is usually shown in full form with complete awareness of his presence, unlike women who are often shown with heads missing or from the back, effectively dehumanizing them.
Objectified men in ads seem to be saying, “Come hither; look what I can give you,” while objectified women seem to be saying, “This is yours for the taking.”
Even if a man is objectified on occasion, it is not the same thing as living within its oppressive structure day in and day out.
It’s akin to white people saying that reverse racism exists: It just doesn’t — because white people have never experienced systematic, centuries-long oppression like people of color have.
And men haven’t experienced systematic, centuries-long objectification like women have.
Is it possible for men to feel affronted or even demeaned when women comment on their chiseled chest, six-pack abs, or large penis? Of course. Just like it’s possible for a white man to feel offended when a black woman calls him a cracker.
But those instances are not nearly as common, nor do they contribute to a larger system of oppression like sexism or racism. If we refer to those insults as oppressive, then we’re reducing system-wide, institutionalized objectification and racism to petty, interpersonal slights.
Or, as Jamie Utt says in his amazing article “’That’s Racist Against White People!’ A Discussion on Power and Privilege”:
“We need to recognize that not all hurtful words or deeds are equal when certain ones are backed by a history and current system of domination, violence, oppression, repression, dehumanization, and degradation.”
Sexual Objectification and Its Role Within Misogyny:
Not only is sexual objectification part of the status quo, it also plays a role in the underlying current of misogyny that courses through our society.
Misogyny is defined in many dictionaries as the “hatred of women,” but it’s much more complex than that. It’s dehumanizing.
Misogyny denies that women have thoughts, feelings, and rights. It robs them of everything that makes us human.
And when we reduce women to the sum of her parts — that’s misogyny. We are effectively saying that her thoughts, feelings, and opinions don’t matter. All that matters is her body.
When we use her for sexual purposes only and cast her aside, we are dismissing her worth as a person.
This simply does not happen to men — at least, not at the same level. Because there’s no system of oppression in place for men like there is for women.
Again, that’s not to say that women can’t use men to satisfy their sexual needs only.
But it falls more under the realm of awkwardness and less under the umbrella of objectification and oppression.
So is it possible for women to objectify men?
Possibly — at the micro, interpersonal level.
But since sexual objectification is so intertwined within our culture and within misogyny, it would be a falsehood to say that it occurs against men at the same level that it does against women.
In the end, all arguing, “Hey, women objectify men, too!” does is distract from the real problem — deeply ingrained, misogynistic, sexual oppression against women.
From Alexia LaFata
Oh, the objectification of men.
I hear the cries of sexism already. Men see male strippers in “Magic Mike,” shirtless photos of sexy male celebrities in Cosmo and 14 photos of hot guys who have great butts on, yes, Elite Daily and proceed to cry about how they, too, experience discrimination on the same levels as women.
They immediately go up in arms about how they feel sexualized, how it’s not fair, and how if it’s not okay to objectify women, it shouldn’t be okay to objectify men either because that’s totally a double standard, and that’s totally why feminists are hypocritical bitches and blah, blah, blah.
Well, I hate to silence straight white males again (I know you guys have been getting a lot of flak from me for merely existing lately), but until you live in a world in which your objectification leads to excessive victim-blaming, unwelcome catcalling, mortifyingly high rates of sexual assault and rape and having your value in society based exclusively on what you look like, I will continue to exercise my God-given right to objectify you.
Because the objectification of women leads to all of those things. The objectification of men does not. And that’s why it’s okay to do it.
“The Male Gaze”
There’s a widely-accepted concept in academia called the male gaze, which is the idea that TV shows, movies, advertisements and any other sort of media you can think of are specifically created to satisfy a straight, male audience.
If you’ve ever noticed a movie camera linger a little bit longer on a female body or advertisements in which women are dressed provocatively for seemingly no reason, that’s the male gaze at work.
It creates a culture in which men are always assumed to be the consumer of media. It creates a culture in which men do the looking and women are looked at, in which men are the subjects and women are the objects.
Since men are literally in control of the majority of media behind the scenes, the concept makes a lot of sense.
According to a report by the Women’s Media Center, a non-profit organization founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem that tracks female progress in the media industry, women only directed 28.7 percent of top-grossing films in 2012 and only accounted for 23 percent of creators, 24 percent of executive producers, 38 percent of producers, 30 percent of writers, 11 percent of directors, 13 percent of editors and 2 percent of directors in photography of broadcast, cable and Netflix television shows in the 2012-2013 season.
All of these media industry leaders dictate what stories are told in the media and how exactly those stories are told.
So, because significantly more men create the stories, significantly more men control the stories — and, therefore, control the gaze.
There’s no such thing as a “female gaze” in our society. Women never do the looking, except when we go see “Magic Mike,” browse through the hot guys of Cosmo and giggle over which dude has a nicer ass on the Internet — in other words, except when we objectify you! See how this works?
How the male gaze works in society
The male gaze doesn’t just exist in popular culture; it exists in everyday life.
Women learn from a young age that a compliment like “You’re beautiful” means way more than a compliment like “You’re a good person.”
Everyone gasps in horror if a woman is called ugly, yet chuckles in amusement if a woman is called a bitch, as if insulting her appearance is so much worse than insulting her actual character.
A woman’s appearance is the most important thing about her. Her worth is based almost exclusively on what she looks like, how youthful she looks and whether or not she’s f*ckable.
Amy Schumer’s wonderful sketch, “Last F*ckable Day,” illustrates this concept perfectly: As women age — as their skin becomes more wrinkled, their hair becomes drier and greyer and their body loses its lust factor — they “expire,” much like milk, medicine, makeup, credit cards or a driver’s license. Much like, well, objects.
This objectification leads to us not being seen as living, breathing human beings but as things, as pieces of property, as something that someone else can take ownership of, claim as theirs and define.
And society doesn’t hesitate to let us know our worth is defined by someone else — specifically, by men.
Because when a woman’s worth is defined by how beautiful she is and how sexually desirable she is, it’s another way of saying her worth is defined by how much male attention she receives and how much men want to f*ck her — how much she’s satisfying the male gaze.
Men don’t operate this way. Men don’t live to satisfy a so-called female gaze.
On a societal level, a man’s worth is defined by way, way more than just his hotness and f*ckability, so when we objectify a man, we do nothing more than just make an innocent comment on those two things.
A comment on a woman’s appearance isn’t just a comment, but a comment on a man’s appearance is
Women don’t live in a world in which a comment on our appearance is just an innocent comment.
We live in a world in which a comment on our appearance is systematically engrained into society’s attitude towards us.
It’s used as a way to measure our value in society, as a means through which our entire f*cking identity is defined.
In her piece “You Can’t Tell the Attorney General She Has an Epic Butt, But Here’s What You CAN Do,” Lindy West gives a perfect example of what a comment on a woman’s appearance can mean in different circumstances and how the meaning behind a comment differs between women and men:
If you are friends with a woman in your office, you two are hanging out in the break room, and you notice that she’s gotten a fetching new haircut, it’s completely normal to say, ‘Hey, Cheryl, righteous haircut.’ But, say, if you are in the middle of a meeting, and Cheryl has just presented her quarterly report to the board, it is not appropriate to raise your hand and say, ‘I’d just like to point out the flattering way in which Cheryl’s blazer nips in at the waist.’
“Can you see the difference? One is giving a high-five to a friend in a relaxed, unprofessional setting. The other is derailing and devaluing a colleague’s professional contributions; drawing attention to the fact that she’s a woman in the board room, not a person in the board room; and reminding her that her primary utility, in your eyes, is as a decorative and/or sexual object.
Imagine if every day you came into work, and your boss said, “Really fillin’ out those pants today, Jerry,” and he never said anything else. Do you think you’d eventually mention it to HR? Well, now imagine that “Really fillin’ out those pants today, Jerry” was built, systemically, into the entire culture’s attitude toward you from birth onward.
A man’s appearance doesn’t define him nearly as much as a woman’s appearance defines her, so commenting on his appearance has an entirely different meaning than commenting on her’s.
When you comment on the female body, like West says, it can reinforce the deeply ingrained idea that a woman’s appearance is all that matters about her and that her sole purpose is to be something for men to look at (see: male gaze).
The fact that we are people doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Except the way a man’s dick feels about us.
On the contrary, when I comment on the male body, I really do nothing more than that.
I observe it, say a few words about it, and then, since it has no real effect on the status of who he is as a person, I kind of just move on.
In fact, when a New York Magazine article asked if men can ever be fat-shamed, the answer, ultimately, was no.
As Kat Stoeffel writes in the piece, tabloids reporting on Leonardo DiCaprio’s weight gain did little to affect his identity — his extra pounds were “no more or less damning than the hideous graphic T-shirts and newsboy caps he wears” — whereas reports of Jessica Simpson’s weight gain warranted a dramatic, emotional talk show segment dedicated to her “weight-loss journey.”
That’s why objectifying a woman carries a heavier, more noteworthy meaning.
When you objectify a woman, you perpetuate the idea that her worth lies exclusively in her appearance.
When I objectify a man, it’s just… fun.
And that’s why it’s okay to do it.
Comments to above information:
TLDR; Women objectify men, but generally, not in terms of sexual objectification.
I love Tom Morris' answer to: Do women objectify men?, but I don't agree completely.
The reason? He says it himself (emphasis mine):
The problem isn't the objectification but the fact that objectification of women upholds a sexist view in society that women are actually nothing more than sex objects, which isn't something we do for men.
This discredits the argument, because that is the exact definition of objectification.
• degrade to the status of a mere object: a deeply sexist attitude that objectifies women.
I'd interpret this to mean that there is a difference between seeing someone as a sexual object and objectifying someone.
The epitome of objectification.
Seeing someone as a sexual object or appreciating their beauty, sexuality, etc. is not necessarily reducing that person to no more than a sexual object. As Tom explained, we as society can see men as sexual beings without reducing them -- this is not a contrary view to seeing them as powerful, rich, confident, intelligent, or otherwise.
However, objectifying someone reduces them to nothing more than an object, which means that person is not only not seen as intelligent, powerful, rich, confident, etc., she is not even seen as a person.
Some women do sexually objectify men.
So, do women sexually objectify men? Not really. At least, not generally as a group societal norm.
But back to the original question: Do women objectify men?
But most frequently, it is done in a different way. When a mother says that all that matters is the size of his bank account, that is objectification. When he is being seen as nothing more than an object that makes you look good because of his job, car, etc., that is objectification, because he is being reduced to the status of an object.
This objectification happens in a lot of different ways:
reducing his worth to the work he can do for her (ie: carrying boxes)
reducing his worth to the value of his job, bank account, etc.
reducing his worth to how he makes her look (status, car, etc)
reducing his worth to something without emotions. (losing respect for a man that cries, invalidating his feelings)
Objectification happens in a lot of ways, and I think one of the biggest differences that can be made for "equality" is to also appreciate all of the ways that we reduce men from full human beings. Men & women both perpetuate this by pretending there is some list of skills and abilities and traits a person has to live up to to maintain his "man card."
If men get to stop pretending at being the perfect macho man, they might find a comfortable way to acknowledge that they respect women, without feeling society will see them as weak.
Written May 27, 2013 •
In these adverts, it's pretty clear what's going on. Sexy ripped muscular man used to sell underwear or perfume or jeans or whatever.
How is this not objectification? Well, it is. But there's an important difference between female and male objectification. As someone who enjoys a bit of male objectification, this may be a self-serving argument.
When women (and gay men) objectify men, it doesn't lower the man's status. In pornography or in glamour modeling, women lose societal status. We could imagine a man from a Calvin Klein ad becoming a business leader or President or having a high-powered job as a top corporate lawyer. That he can take his shirt off and make people fawn in adoration doesn't really change that greatly.
But for women, the objectification isn't just about the woman being attractive, but it also changes her status. She appears in pornography and she becomes a slut, and that's considered a bad thing. Society doesn't consider women who are beauty models or who sell their attractiveness to be equal agents deserving of equal respect.
Think about how this plays out with politicians: during the 2008 US presidential elections and primaries, there was so much commentary on how Hillary Clinton dressed and on her hair and personal appearance. I don't remember any similar commentary on how Obama or McCain dressed. We've seen huge amounts of commentary on Michelle Obama's appearance too. Apparently, how politician's wives look and dress is considered an important topic but not the male politicians themselves. Paul Ryan's personal fitness and thus attractiveness wasn't likely to be considered a matter of controversy like the women's appearances are. In British politics, there has been a certain amount of vitriol leveled against Cherie Blair or against Sally Bercow because they've spoken their minds rather than sat and simply been pretty faces, especially as Sally Bercow also then posed with a bed sheet for a newspaper.
Think of women who have been glamour models or even prostitutes who have also been intelligent people with things to say. Think of the hoo-hah around the outing of the pseudonymous blogger and prostitute Belle de Jour as Brooke Magnanti. There was considerable disbelief that an intelligent woman who had done a Ph.D in forensic science could also be a call girl.
Another aspect to this is when men are specifically objectified by, say, appearing shirtless in a photo-shoot for a gay magazine, it doesn't really affect their careers in the same way that an equivalent female would if they'd posed topless for a lad's mag. David Beckham has been in plenty of magazine appearances and has been idolised by some of the gay magazines, and it didn't affect his career at all. Imagine if a female athlete had done likewise: people would have seen it as tawdry and as a reason to not take her seriously.
Women (and gay men) objectifying men doesn't result in those men being considered "sluts" and thus thought unable to do anything other than take their clothes off by society. The harm done is not the same. It is simply the larger dynamic of the "stud vs. slut" thing played out at a societal level. If a man gets lots of sex, he's a stud, but if a woman gets lots of sex, she's considered a slut. Objectification of women thus runs the risk of putting them into that slut category, while objectification of men is most likely going to put them into a category that is socially respected.
I guess I'd have to say that both women and men objectify other women and other men. The problem for me isn't so much the objectification but the double standards that come with that objectification. There's nothing wrong with finding someone attractive, and to make it a bad thing to imagine doing dirty things with that person is really a sort of thought crime and a denial that many of us are sexual beings. The problem isn't the objectification but the fact that objectification of women upholds a sexist view in society that women are actually nothing more than sex objects, which isn't something we do for men.
This information and these comments are posted to give information and as “fodder” for debate and comment. Comments can be left here below or in the Facebook status that directed you here. This concludes the information portion but hopefully the comments will continue as everyone must have an opinion about something they read in this 5 part blog series.
Joe P. Attanasio