The Success Myth

Noah Brand tells of his greatest professional failure, explaining his theory of The Success Myth, and introducing the idea of the female gaze.

 

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The masculine equivalent to what Naomi Wolf called The Beauty Myth is The Success Myth. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe said, “A man being rich is like a girl being pretty” and everyone nodded their head, recognizing and endorsing the sentiment. When a rich guy marries a slim young “trophy wife” we all nod our heads again, recognizing that, like it or not, this is a match of two high-value people, a conventionally-successful man and a conventionally-beautiful woman. It would take way too long to get into all the horrible things that arise out of these paired myths, from “gold-digger” stereotypes to men who kill themselves for being “failures”; for now let’s just talk about the idea that men can’t be considered attractive.

See, part of the poisonous idea that men are only valuable or attractive because of our worldly and material success is the implication that we cannot be attractive or sexy just for being… y’know… attractive and sexy. This is tied in with the equally-popular societal myth that women aren’t really into sex. Straight men are left to numbly accept that we’re never going to feel sexy or attractive, and deal with that with the poker-faced stoicism that is our permitted range of emotional expression.

♦◊♦

A little while back, I found out what a lie that is, and it led to my own collision with the Success Myth. I’m a geek, and I run with a geek crowd. If anyone I know can’t quote The Princess Bride from memory, they have the good taste to keep that to themselves. This means that the women I get involved with tend to be fangirls, which means they tend to write and read slash fiction. That was how I first began to learn about the female gaze.

Slash fiction, or erotic fan fiction involving male characters from popular media, is one of the largest gift economies on earth. Yaoi manga, Japanese comics featuring tales of beautiful and sexy men, written by and for girls, is one of the most dominant genres of manga in the world. Romance novels, pornographic tales of gorgeous, sexy men humping the hell out of either women or each other, account for fifty percent of all paperback sales in the U.S., and were the first major success story in the ebook market. The female desire to look at, read about, obsess over, and lust after men is absolutely massive, and kept discreetly off the cultural radar. It’s How To Suppress Women’s Writing all over again: how to suppress women’s porn. Yaoi is dismissed as being for teenage girls and therefore irrelevant, romance imprints are excluded from bestseller lists, and slash fandom hides in Googleproofed communities online, entrance gained only by introductions and shibboleths, many of its fans afraid their husbands or boyfriends might find out that they…

That they what? That they’re really into men? That they find the male body, male sexuality, male emotions to be intensely, obsessively erotic? How exactly did our entire culture agree to keep it a secret that straight and bi women are turned on by guys? Shouldn’t that be less of a taboo and more of a tautology?

♦◊♦

Plenty of the movie and TV shows out there spend lots of time on the male gaze, the camera drooling over one woman or another in the same old predictable ways. Much rarer is the female gaze, which is not just the male gaze pointed at guys. The female gaze has its own subtle vocabulary, its own tropes and in-jokes, and it is almost never seen in mainstream movies or television, because the few women who are allowed to direct films know that their job depends on not shaking things up too much. I don’t blame them, I blame the cultural pressures that delete female desire, thus leaving straight men feeling perpetually undesirable. To find the female gaze, you have to find the images of men that women create or share with each other when they don’t think men are looking: the fan art, the carefully-selected stills, the doujinshi, the endless underground economy of female desire.

I was stunned when I discovered this world. I’d grown up on a million jokes where the sight of a naked man is greeted with “Ewwww!” I’d seen umpteen hundred TV shows where women occasionally agree to have sex with a guy as a favor or in exchange for something else. I’d absorbed the misandrist, misogynist idea of men as slavering, horny beasts and women as purer, more spiritual (meaning sexless) beings. Having found my way into slash and fan art circles, I was eyeball-deep in unchecked female libido, men seen through a lens of sexual desire that I was unfamiliar with, but instantly fascinated by.

A lot of men didn’t believe me when I told them about this. I was, after all, arguing against a mountain of cultural conditioning, armed with nothing but reams of smut. At the very least, I was assured, women are not aroused by men visually. There have been Studies. Using Science. All I could say was no offense to science, but I was forced to demolish this beautiful, brilliant theory with a few ugly little facts. If women aren’t visually aroused by men, I asked, why is Orlando Bloom famous? Because he’s the finest thespian of his generation? What do you see when you look in a teenage girl’s bedroom? A bunch of vivid textual descriptions of her favorite actors and pop stars? The personal written correspondence of Robert Pattinson or Gerard Way? Hell no! You see endless, endless photographs, pin-ups, posters, visual images of gorgeous dudes. The female gaze is real, and it is hungry.

♦◊♦

To some of you reading this, this isn’t news at all. Others will find this in direct contradiction to what they think they know to be true, and should take this paragraph to draw a deep breath and try not to get the bends.

What is the female gaze, you might ask? What are its characteristics? If the male gaze, as seen in… well, every shot of any woman in every Michael Bay film, is about lots of skin on display, emphasis on T&A, and a general visual sense of being posed for display and sexual availability rather than actually doing anything, then what does the female gaze look like? Well, I wasn’t the only person asking that question, and a lot of research turned up some interesting info.

First and most importantly, there is no one, singular female gaze any more than there’s one singular male gaze. What we refer to as the male gaze is a rough average of some tendencies that show up over large numbers. Every guy has his own variation on it, and some of us find the “normal” male gaze rather tediously predictable and dull. Indeed, it’s assumed to always be directed at women because, as usual, gay and bi men get erased as an irrelevant minority. Just as much variance exists with the way women ogle men, but again, one can find some interesting patterns and tendencies over large samples. So as I talk about the female gaze, bear in mind that I’m referring to general rules of thumb that seem popular, not This Is What All Women Want. There are enough assholes selling that latter line, and I’m not one.

One of the first things that jumps out is how different the guys look from eroticized images of men done by and for other men. Gay porn for guys tends to veer toward the hypermasculine: big muscles, square jaws, and a lot of emphasis on the cock. Tom of Finland remains one archetypal example. Images of sexy men done by and for women tend much more toward slimmer, less beefy guys, with more androgynous facial features. Hands and wrists are frequently focused on and overtly eroticized, as are lips and eyelashes. As to penises, it’s not that they’re left out, but they’re not the main event. They become part of the overall package, no pun intended. To put it another way, I have never read a piece of gay erotica by a man that didn’t include a specific measurement in inches, and I’ve never read one by a woman that did include it.

The key, I think, is vulnerability. Guys seen through the female gaze appear vulnerable, not covered in bluster and emotional armor. Very often traditional forms of male emotional or symbolic armor are present, but opened, damaged, or in some way cracked. A man wearing a good suit, but with his tie loosened and his top buttons undone, is one popular example. The armor of male privilege and protection is there, but opened enough that the viewer can glimpse the vulnerable man inside. He’s not just showing us what he wants us to see, we’re seeing what he might not choose to show.

♦◊♦

As this gradually became clear to me, I became fascinated with the possibilities. I formed a partnership with my best friend, and she and I set out to try to produce a porn magazine that would feed the female gaze. In the process we worked with some wonderfully talented writers, and some utterly charming and fun models. Nice, nice guys, and all gorgeous. We provided a greater range of hot guys than the boring shirtless dudes one sees in Cosmopolitan, the standard-bearer of bland. Skinny little pretty boys, muscular ladykiller types, tough ex-military dudes, soft-eyed teen-idol faces… it was an all-you-can-eat buffet of beefcake.

Anyway, long story short, it failed. Not because the material wasn’t popular, though some Monday-morning quarterbacks have assured me that this just proves that they were right all along about women not finding men hot. No, everyone who bought the magazine loved the smut, loved our sexy guys and hot fiction. It’s just that it turns out I’m really crap at running a business. I’m vague about paperwork, I subcontract the wrong jobs and handle the wrong ones myself, I’m actively horrible at marketing and I kind of hate social media… I take full responsibility for the whole thing going bust.

Which, I don’t mind saying, put me in a pretty bad emotional position. I’d been fond of joking that I was too ugly to appear in my own magazine, a reflection of the fact that I do feel insecure about my looks, my own damage from the Beauty Myth. But the nature of the socialized male ego is such that while one can take plenty of splash damage from the Beauty Myth, the Success Myth is usually a direct hit. And here I was, thirty-three years old and a failure in business.

“Failure” as a noun is one of those incredibly potent and damaging concepts, especially for men. American culture in particular has a real habit of equating business success with personal virtue, our “anyone can make it if they really try” mythology. Therefore, the failure of the magazine meant that I, personally, was unworthy as a human being. Sure, I knew that it was gender-socialized bullshit, but knowing something and feeling it are two really different things. Hell, look two paragraphs up and see how much I felt compelled to insult myself, because the manly thing to do is accept responsibility for what a big fat failure you are. The despair, the feeling of profound and personal worthlessness, is hard to overstate. For a little while there, I was pretty seriously not okay. And I’m still gender-socialized enough that that’s a difficult sentence to type, because it feels like admitting weakness, which is impermissible.

♦◊♦

Luckily, it was around that same time that I started blogging at No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz, and was startled to see it take off spectacularly well. It served as an antidote to the sense of failure. Suddenly I had an outlet for all the thoughts about gender issues I’d been mulling over for years, and my words were finding an audience. It turns out that one thing that really helps with feeling worthless is having a lot of people tell you that your writing has changed their perspective or made them feel understood. I’m aware that I’m spectacularly lucky to be able to say that from experience. And now, I’ve been invited to write for the Good Men Project, where I will be contributing more of my generalized sociological noodling, along with republishing some of my “greatest hits” from NSWATM. That, too, feels pretty damn validating; to be invited to join a community of this size and caliber helps me think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not a worthless bum after all.

Still think I’m ugly, though. Even though I know better.

photo laverrue / flickr

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. I finally understand the mass appeal of K-Pop to Asian young female audiences.

    “Images of sexy men done by and for women tend much more toward slimmer, less beefy guys, with more androgynous facial features.”

    • Jin The Ninja says:

      ‘asian’ conceptions of gender and beauty are actually quite different, and the men you call “androgynous” aren’t considered “feminine” in those conceptions.

      • Cannot speak for all women but I did notice that when I was lean and toned and had a swimmer’s build I got more glances and attention from ladies than when I was in my large bodybuilder phase.
        Working on getting back to that lean build at present.

  2. Great article, Noah. I love all your articles over at NSWATM as well.

    I couldn’t help but wonder if you had any of those magazines left…I’d gladly shell out for that. ;)

    On a more serious note, as a woman who’s always found men attractive and always vocal about it to my friends and family, what would be your advice on how a woman should approach telling a man that she finds him attractive without freaking the living hell out of said man? I am on match.com and see many seriously gorgeous guys, and would love to let them know that they are (at least to me) attractive without coming off as an overly horny creepy pervert chick. I get messages from guys about my looks, which is normal considering how women’s beauty is so emphasized, but I don’t know how to respond in kind without them thinking I’m lying or just “being nice.”

    I know few men in Real Life whom I’d love to compliment that way too but am afraid to do so for fear of seeming “loose” or crazy. (I hope that makes sense. It’s late/early in my time zone and my brain is a bit fuzzy at the mo’).

    Anyway, great article!

    • wet_suit_one says:

      RK448, just for the record, in general, and I think it’s fair to say that in most cases, there is no such thing as “an overly horny creepy pervert chick” from the male perspective. It doesn’t really exist. That’s a female concept that has (in general) little relevance to the male psyche. Depending on how unattractive the woman is, she might be (and pardon my vernacular here) a “slumpbuster” or a one or two bagger, but never really “overly horny” (WTF does that even mean with respect to a woman?) or “creepy pervert” women. She might be “alternative” or “different” or downright weird (like that chick who likes to poo on her partner), but never ever “creepy pervert.”

      Men in cars giving candy to children in the playground to come with them are “creepy perverts.” The closest female equivalent is the female teacher who has sex with her male students (there’s a website on this). And trust me, most heterosexual males (if they were lucky anyways) had more than few female teachers who they would have liked to have had a private lesson or two (or 10 or 100 or 1,000 such lesson) with.

      Women just aren’t “creepy perverts” except if they’re molesting children. It just doesn’t really exist. Even my co-worker who wasn’t attractive, who arguably sexually harrassed me, who grabbed my ass, and made the rudest of suggestions one Friday night in the back room (about riding her dirt road as it were) wasn’t “an overly horny creepy pervert[ed] chick.” She was simply someone I didn’t want to do (not that I did anyone in those days, if I were, I probably would have and she would have been a slumpbuster).

      Guys, am I wrong? Be honest now. And those of you who are AMOG who can get any woman they want and can afford to have standards don’t count.

      Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, we can carry on.

      • wet_suit_one says:

        P.s. I still got uncomfortably hard due to her suggestion even though I turned her down. Proof that men are not totally ruled by their little guys.

      • Yes I’ve found girls to be creepy, and no I do not have a plethora of women. Clingyness to the extreme, or stalking are creepy, touching me in certain places without permission is creepy (I was groped), any act they do that makes my muscles twitch and cringe. Thinking all men are evil or pedophiles is creepy, teaching others to hate men is creepy. Yes women can definitely be creepy.

        • wet_suit_one says:

          I knew there would be at least one. Still, it too 7.5 hours for the post to go up. I consider that something to proud of.

          I still stand by my statement, though. Whatever it is you find “creepy” in a woman Archy, has little or nothing to do with what RK448 is talking about and most men won’t find it creepy that a woman touches them inappropriately in the same way that a woman find a man touching her inappropriately.

          Sigh…

          A solid definition of the term “creepy” sure would help rather than it meaning anything and everything that people want it to mean.

          As well, the day you recoil physically from a woman because she looked at you (which I doubt happens, though I concede it is possible though such a possibilty is not reflected in the examples you gave), might be the day I concede that you find some women “creepy.”

          For a man to be found creepy, a woman need only look at him. He need not open his mouth, move towards her, or do anything. It’s simply a condition that he must overcome. In fact, one of the things that most young men must learn to overcome is the “creep factor.” Again, men don’t have such a thing for women. There is no “creep factor” for women.

          Unless I’m wrong, which I’ll readily concede is a possibility, but I’ve never heard of such a concept and I’ve heard about a lot of things, though by no means whatsoever everything.

          But I blather on without much of a point…

          • wet_suit_one says:

            Except maybe to beat a dead horse….

            Oh the irony of that statement!

            I kill me! LMFAO! Sexy and I know it!

          • Creepyness is subjective so it’s kinda hard to define, but basically it’s being made to feel uncomfortable to quite a large degree. It’s probably less common in women than men though women have had many years of the stranger danger omg rapists are everywhere mentality to probably make it more common that women find some men creepy vs the opposite.

            And I’m in a diff timezone to the U.S hence the late comment:P

            • I see where you both are coming from. Granted I wasn’t functioning at my mental best when I commented (sleep deprivation can do that to a person, haha), but I understand.

              I might be projecting the “lessons” taught to women about men who stare too much onto men, who, as you say wet suit one, have to overcome the barrier of de facto “creepiness.” When I think of creepiness, I think of being followed around, touched without my consent, having people insert themselves into my personal zone without permission, being leered at in an obviously lustful way – things that have happened to me personally by guys. They might have just been socially awkward people who didn’t realise what they were doing made me uncomfortable, but being openly gaped at by someone who doesn’t care if they’re caught at it tends to send negative vibes through me. A sense of objectification, I suppose, of being blatantly reduced to a less-than-human status in someone’s mind.

              I don’t mind being appreciated as a beautiful person – a few men have told me I’m attractive, and from their “aura” and tones of voice I could tell they were respectfully complimenting me – and I admit that I do take time to appreciate beauty in men around me. I just ask because once when I told someone I had a bit of a crush on that he was good-looking he just sort of started at me like I was a rabid monster from outer space. So I’ve not voiced opinions like that aloud ever again for fear of being labeled a creep.

              I had one final thought though on your idea that women can’t be creeps: that a general mentality like that would allow women to get away with doing horrible things to men and treating them like crap (like your god-awful coworker) while covering their actions with the idea that women are incapable of being nasty perverts. Feel free to refute me of course; I may once again be projecting my experience as a woman onto that of men.

              Archy: I totally agree that the current cultural Myth of Men Being Creeps by Virtue of Being Men is horrible. This wonderful, nice young man at my university whom I had never met before walked me to my car one night out of sheer kindness, and when I told my mother about it, all she could do was criticize me for walking with a stranger I didn’t know. It really sucks for men for men to have to deal with automatically being labeled “potential rapist” just because there are a few assholes out there who are rapists. What people ignore is that a fair number of those rapists are also women…but I blather on, haha. :)

              Anyway, thanks for taking my response seriously, odd as it was.

            • wet_suit_one says:

              Well, I still didn’t find my co-worker to be creepy. Arguably a sexual harrasser, but not creepy. I can see how some might consider that “creepy” behaviour as I imagine it would definitely fall under the “creepy behaviour” category if it was a man.

              At the same time, I never felt creeped out and I don’t think most men would. Most men wouldn’t like it either, but it’s not a “creepy” dislike, it’s more of a “I wish this unnattractive woman would leave me alone” kind of dislike. And still, there’s a fair number of men who would have slept with her just because they could. I don’t think that too many women sleep with creepy guys just for the hell of it (but I concede that I could be very wrong here).

              As for the “creepyness is hard to define because it’s subjective,” I believe then that the proper response is to have different words for the different feelings evoked. They aren’t all the same so they shouldn’t all have the same word. The Inuit have 30+ words for snow. Why? Because there are many different types of snow (even though they are all snow) so they differentiate accordingly.

              It’s rather like the use of the word terrorist today (which I despise). It has essentially no meaning whatsoever. If you’re trying to communicate, it’s terrible to simple call everything one word because the meaning of what you’re trying to say gets lost.

              Anyways…

            • “So I’ve not voiced opinions like that aloud ever again for fear of being labeled a creep. ”
              This sounds quite like what some guys would say, I do the same actually and hold back on compliments regarding looks as I don’t know how others handle it unless they’re a good friend. Seems other compliments such as intelligence, etc are much more acceptable.

              Being socially awkward can be a real pain in the ass, for fear of being thought of as a creep or making others uncomfy I generally do NOT touch anyone first, so when a female friend touches me on the arm it takes me by surprise (the guys here generally never touch other guys, but girls seem free to touch anyone). I always found the touching stuff to be quite strange as I never really learned it when I was younger/in school. Hopefully it comes back naturally the more I socialize though seeing as touch is quite important in communication and socializing.

      • AllSaintsDay says:

        I’m a little bit late, but my view is that there are overly horny women and creepy women, but being overly horny isn’t really in itself creepy (at least in the general consciousness, though individual guys may differ).
        Like, I have seen men look over at a woman and recoil physically, but it was because they were “weird.”

  3. “As to penises, it’s not that they’re left out, but they’re not the main event. They become part of the overall package, no pun intended. To put it another way, I have never read a piece of gay erotica by a man that didn’t include a specific measurement in inches, and I’ve never read one by a woman that did include it.”

    Hi Noah, here a long-time lurker at NSWATM. Nitpicking a bit : I’ve read a lot of yaoi, and it doesn’t look like penises are being left out. Same with ‘romance’ novels (at least in my country). Doesn’t saying that penises are ‘not the major event’ is kinda like uhh, a non-acceptance to (some) women’s lust? To me it sounds like you’re erasing one fundamental part of any kind of “gaze” that is objectification. I hope you can clarify this :)

    • As a bi woman with a high libido, I feel that I can sort of help you out here. From what I can gather, exact penis-size measurements seem to be very important to men. How long, how wide, cut or uncut, etc. For a woman, measurements and descriptions of penises are interesting, but we tend to care less about the size of the tool and more about how the man handles it. If a romance is about a woman’s first time, there is a LOT of emphasis on foreplay and gentleness and the exquisite care with which he breaches her Love-Barrier-Of-Love. (I’m only being slightly facetious.) If a woman is described as having gone through a rough spell and aching for some full-contact, no-holds-barred satisfaction, the sex scene will describe the man taking her with wild abandon, hitting all her pleasure spots, etc.

      Penises are necessary to the whole straight-sex (and guy-on-guy sex) process, but women tend to care less about how big it is, and more about the degree of speed, tenderness, and (for lack of a better word) thoroughness which which the act itself is performed.

      That, and when the penis is not described, the woman is free to imagine the exact size and shape she wants. ;)

      • wellokaythen says:

        From what I understand, penis size can also be quite subjective and contextual. A woman who feels very aroused by a man will tend to see his penis as bigger than if he did not arouse her very much. If a woman falls in love with you and is very excited by the idea of having sex with you, then size matters even less than if it was a one-night stand. The exact same size can seem bigger or smaller depending on the situation. (Again, this is what I’ve heard. Maybe someone was just saying this to make me feel better?… : – ) )

        Very odd that there seems to be an unspoken assumption that women are all the same size. Wouldn’t the *relative* sizes be the crucial physical factor anyway, not a man’s absolute measurements?

  4. Ed Sparrow says:

    It’s extremely difficult socialisation to overcome; I’m in a relationship with a woman who is quite vocal about the things she likes about my body and the fact that yes, she does find me sexy, and yet even with this constant reinforcement it’s a hard idea to wrap my head around.

    Anyway, mostly just wanted to express my appreciation of this piece and your writing in general. I enjoy your work, and usually walk away with a new perspective on *something*, even when I disagree with you in some areas. Keep it up!

  5. Joanna Schroeder says:

    Awesome piece, Noah! I never thought about The Success Myth and how damaging it can be to men. I’m really grateful for your perspective on this…

  6. I really enjoyed this article. As a lesbian, I spent a long time trying to figure out whether my lack of attraction toward men was something I actually didn’t feel, or whether it was something society cultivated. For a long time I couldn’t figure out whether I was a lesbian or bi, in part because of the way the media does focus on the heterosexual ‘male gaze’ but not the heterosexual ‘female gaze.’ Anyway, my point in bringing that up is that this is an issue that affects pretty much everyone, and yet is so rarely discussed. So thank you for writing such a well put together article about it.

    It’s also interesting that usually the term ‘male gaze’ is used as a negative. But here you use it (and female gaze) as a positive…or at least as a neutral term. It is something that just exists. I like this perspective for these two terms. It’s another way to think about it.

    • wet_suit_one says:

      The positive of the “female gaze” is that it’s discussed from a male perspective. That’s what is key. I don’t know how the “female gaze” could be negative. Even if it was idolized and as socially dominant as the “male gaze.” I’d love to know that every woman that sees me wants to do me. The feeling I get most days is that most women want to flee from me out of fear or that I simply don’t exist.

      Remarkable how different it is on either side of the gender divide isn’t it?

  7. Welcome Noah and THANK YOU!! When more of us see ourselves as we are rather than as we think we’re supposed to be, men might finally get a clue. I’ve never been able to figure out if I’m a plumber who plays at being an author/actor or an author/actor who survives by doing plumbing but I’m leaning to the latter. All the same, it scares the crap out of me to fail at all levels because I can’t commit fully to one or the other. That said, I’m still tilting at windmills so………thanks for a little perspective.

    • What exactly do you mean by ‘men might finally get a clue’?

      • A clue that women do see us as sexy in a different but no less powerful way. Ok not all of us qualify as sexy any more than all women qualify as sexy, (in a socially stereotypical kinda way) but you know, there is a lid for every pot. Someone out there finds you sexy no matter how unsexy you feel about yourself……………

        • PursuitAce says:

          Uh..no they don’t. And I don’t see the male gaze becoming acceptable again for a very long time…if ever…
          Just another 180 opinion.

          • Acceptable again? Are men allowed to look at women or not?

            • DavidByron says:

              Even I know the answer is “not”.

            • “I don’t see the male gaze becoming acceptable again for a very long time”

              How and what men choose to look at can only be judged acceptable by ONE person. The man doing the looking. As for you….who cares whether you think its acceptable. Its none of your business. There aren’t your eyes.

            • PursuitAce says:

              I didn’t make it unacceptable. Those are societal standards listed under the phrase sexual harassment. Unless I’ve missed a recent definition change.

            • wet_suit_one says:

              ““I don’t see the male gaze becoming acceptable again for a very long time”

              How and what men choose to look at can only be judged acceptable by ONE person. The man doing the looking. As for you….who cares whether you think its acceptable. Its none of your business. There aren’t your eyes.”

              It took me a long time to figure this out and shed my guilt about liking what I like. So far as I’m concerned now, society and what it thinks about my interests in what I look at, can go frak itself. I run my life, not society and it’s myriad of ridiculous rules of comportment.

              In the immortal words of Nuse Jackie, “BLOW ME!” (see end of season 2 for the reference).

          • LMAO – I have seen (and I’m sure you have too) some hugely ugly men and women with a big smile and a bunch of kids. Just because there isn’t a lineup of supermodels begging to blow you does not mean there is no one who finds you sexy.

  8. Just take the Super Bowl commercials, for example. Women don’t love to see David Beckam in his underwear because they are aroused by suggestions of soccer. (Okay, maybe for some, but those women generally call it “football.”) It ain’t primarily because they think tidy-whitey underwear is sexy. It’s the body. I have stubble and it’s time to shave. He has stubble and it’s gorgeous. (Unfortunately, that’s about the only way I can realistically put him and me in the same paragraph.)

    Now, does the fact that he’s rich make any difference? I’m guessing yeah, it totally does.

    • does the fact that he’s rich make any difference? I’m guessing yeah, it totally does.

      It does? I suppose I can take your word for it, but for me, when I’m watching that commercial, the “who” he is doesn’t even enter into it, much less how popular he is or how much money he makes. I see a muscular, well-toned, well-groomed, masculine body, on a guy who is smiling and flirting and having a whole lot of fun at the camera. He could be a bum they picked off the streets, cleaned up and trained into shape, and if he looked at the camera like that, I’d enjoy it every bit as much.

      • Just to get your opinion (if I’m thinking of the right commercial) he also had a lot of tattoos too.
        Was that a plus or negative or null affect on the whole shebang?

    • I would say less that he’s rich than that he’s really successful.

      I’ve never been drawn to rich guys, but I always liked guys who were really *great* at something. I dated a stand-up comic who was SO funny and everyone loved him, but who worked in a shoe store to pay rent, I dated a director who was amazing at what he did, but was just starting out and so he worked as a PA. Mostly all stories like that. Both are very, very successful now and famous in their industries (no, I’m not telling you who!) and probably drowning in women, because yes success makes guys seem hotter.

      And I challenge Barbara to look at any random cologne ad and see if it’s as hot as one of David Beckham or Ryan Gosling or whomever is hot who is successful… There’s something special there, something about them being at the top of their game, that makes them more attractive.

      Though I’ll take funny and broke than humorless and rich ANY day of the week. And I have proven that a few too many times!! ;)

      • That is a nice and honest answer. But it speaks of something that has been bugging me for a long time.

        Namely the feeling deep down that I would like gender dynamics to shift in such a way that guys are valued for what they look like and not how successful they are. Women are fighting against the expected high standard of grooming. – But the positive side is that women can be attractive without being successful. But this is a way, a role that is precluded for men. In fact, being successful is much harder to get and more easily lost. Also, the idea behind this success standard for guys is that there is nothing desirable or nothing of intrinsic value in guys such that they have to struggle for their recognition – whereas the same can be done for many women by buying nice clothes and makeup.

        I´m not saying you are actively asserting this – I just think this is a framework in which one has to view this attracted-to-success standard, which seems unfair.

    • Uh, no. I saw the commercial and went into a sort of zombie mode. I think I poured coffee on both feet and didn’t notice. My boyfriend, whom I generally try to spare from evidence that I’m aware there are other men in the universe, caught me gaping in abject wonder at the sheer sexiness of the commercial.

      And I had no idea who it was. So no, Beckham’s money had nothing to do with the fact that the ad was paralyzingly awesome.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      That Guy I quoted you over on the blog. Hope that is okay.

      http://goodmenproject.com/good-feed-blog/david-beckham-man-or-myth/

    • I wonder if we can say the same about Steven King and how attractive his near-billion make him look?

  9. AllSaintsDay says:

    While I don’t doubt the existence of the female gaze, there’s still something the male gaze has that’s missing, that I pinned a few months ago as what bugs me.
    The lady I was dating at the time and I were going out with a bunch of her friends, and she wanted to get “all tarted up,” that is, to dress sexily in such a way that she’d attract the attention of many men. That notion is pretty much completely foreign to men, at least the ones I know. (I’m not saying all women can do this, but even the not-conventionally-attractive ones have their heads wrapped around the idea in a way even the guys who get drooled over don’t.) The obvious explanation is the lack of a female gaze, or at least one as powerful as the male gaze. And while I don’t *like* this explanation, and I find it less than completely satisfactory, I haven’t found one that’s any more satisfactory, or that I actually like.

    • I’d say the guys are probably still trying to show wealth vs looks although lately it seems everyone is on the whole beauty train. New studies showed men as insecure about their looks as women however women getting tarted up usually have to put on makeup and do their hair, far more than a male’s preparation usually.

      And I guess just looking at the popularity of gym and weightlifting, if you want to see how some men try to attract the female gaze….just goto the gym.

      • AllSaintsDay says:

        Sure, men have limited amounts of preparation, but that doesn’t make what I said any less true (It’s not like men could, if they chose to prepare more, get “tarted up.”) It just means that women have a gazee role that they can’t escape, while men have a gazer role that they can’t escape.

        And I’m not sure about the gym. I’m not looking for men *trying* to attract the female gaze; I’m looking for men *attracting* the female gaze, and I’m not sure if that qualifies as both or just the former.

  10. “At the very least, I was assured, women are not aroused by men visually. There have been Studies. Using Science.”

    Have you been talking to people from the 50s? That myth was expelled years ago for being, well, nonsense. Every study I’ve seen about women’s sexuality states that men and women respond sexually in almost exactly identical ways.

    http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/news/item/?item_id=22044

    In a similar vein there’s the whole “women are more mature than men” thing, which stems from the fact that most people think girls go through puberty earlier than boys. In fact boys and girls start puberty at the same age, but girls have more VISIBLE signs earlier on. After-all, boys don’t grow breasts, and penile growth isn’t generally noticeable because we all wear clothes. The voice doesn’t tend to break until later on in puberty (regardless of age, yes, girl’s voices break too) and this is often seen as the start of “manhood” for a boy, being the most prominent change.

    My point is that many people win arguments with the retort of “they did a study”. Who did? When? Can you direct me to an article on this? What kind of controls did they use? How large was their sample group? Has it been peer reviewed? Has there been any further research in the field?

    Most people think they know what science is, and few actually seem to have the slightest idea.

    • Matt Lowe – I agree with every single thing you said. Great response! =)

    • natureartist says:

      I agree with you about studies. Most studies are approached with a bias already in place, and funding to feed that bias. Occasionally they are honest, but for the most part, studies on human behavior are most often approached with a particular point of view in mind. It is not hard to taylor the study to swing one way or another, even if that is not the direct intention of the person doing the study. Sometimes they just can’t help themselves. Behavior studies are not like medical studies, where the product or procedure either does what it says or it doesn’t.

    • I suspect that one key difference is in how men and women “gaze” at people they’re attracted to. It’s not necessarily a difference in how much men or women notice, but HOW they notice.

      I have the sense that women just tend to be a little more subtle and just multitask better – a brief glimpse and then the visual is incorporated into their imaginations quickly, mentally filed away for future reference while they go about their business. Women are better at noticing without appearing to notice. For some reason, whether it’s nature or nurture, men tend to stare longer. Men tend to notice more overtly. This difference means that men often fail to see women’s notice and means that women are often appalled at men’s staring because it seems so unnecessarily obvious.

      There are overstated studies about how women have better peripheral vision than men do while men have better central vision. That difference is probably overblown, but I think there is something to that. Perhaps this difference is not inherent but develops because of how men and women use their eyes. Many men seem to be incapable of noticing a woman’s breasts without looking directly at them for several seconds. They cannot see eyes and breasts at the same time. (Perhaps they are afraid if they look away the breasts will disappear?) Women seem much more capable of looking into a man’s eyes and STILL checking out the rest of him with peripheral vision.

      How’s that for working up a theory based on stereotype, personal projection, and gender essentialism?

  11. Anon E. Mouse says:

    The female gaze is frowned upon because generally, those women that are honest about it are also unashamed about it and tend to be more promiscuous. Men like promiscuous women for a night, but not long-term. Thus, women hide their carnal urges in order to give the perception that they are “clean” or “pure.”

    • DavidByron says:

      It always seems like in those explanations, whatever women do, it gets blamed on men somehow.

      The male gaze is far more frowned upon but that’s always blamed wholly on men.

    • wet_suit_one says:

      Personally, having met more than a few promiscous women in my time, I’m rather fond of those “promiscous” women.

      Forget the virgins. Who wants to be with a woman who doesn’t know what the heck she’s doing and is afraid of everything? That spells awful sex to me. Gimme a woman who’s been around the block a few times and knows how to rock my world with confidence and skill any day.

      Just my 2 cents.

  12. Matt Lowe – I agree with every single thing you said. Great response! =)

    As to the men inquiring about David Beckham’s appeal. Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, even former-hotties like Clint Eastwood – are women today drooling over these successful men? No. Most women are attracted to David Beckham (Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, and the likes etc) solely for their looks – handsome face, amazingly toned/tanned pecs/biceps/butts, hair, skin, smile, etc. It has very little to do with their success. Things like career/finances only make men attractive when they are your “regular”, “real-every-day” men. When you are ultra-conventionally attractive, all those expectations of success are less of an issue. Just like with you men! Does Megan Fox become less hot if you found out she was a high school drop out or something? Probably not. And yes, women DO drool over celebs, we are just much more discrete about it because we don’t want to hurt the men in our lives (really wish some men would return the favor! LOL!).

    I know that paints a very shallow picture of women. BUT along with valuing the “regular” guy’s success, we also value his intelligence, his loyalty, his kindness, and a slew of other qualities (and depending on what you actually have, the ratio of each item’s importance will vary – we will work with you on what you have!). We, in that way, are a lot like you men! You can definitely appreciate a young pretty Megan Fox or Scarlet Johanson or whatever – but that’s not how you measure all women in real life (I hope) – you might want a woman who displays an aptitude for motherhood or wifehood or who is intelligent and shares your humour. Unless, of course, you are one of those guys who only exclusively chases those hot young babes throughout your life. In the end, men and women are a lot more similar than you’d think – we both objectify celebrities, we both value different things in the people in our real lives.

  13. I forgot to mention that we DO find handsome “regular” men attractive physically (some of you think we look at you all as walking bank-books or portfolios). If you don’t already know that women secretly objectify you – you must be living under a rock!

    • That´s the first time I actually hear about that. If it´s true what you´re saying, then it´s a secret well kept.

    • I’m not sure what you’re saying is what you really mean…

      I’m perfectly ok with the idea that there are people making value judgements about my looks. But when you say ‘objectify you’ and there are criterion (looks, butt, pecs, smile, etc) that is implying – especially in a conversation referencing “Male Gaze’ – that those are your sole criteria for deciding the worth of that person. Thus my personality, status, etc are irrelevant and you have ‘dehumanised’ me. This is what men are assumed to be doing to women all the time. Do you want to be in that boat?

    • PursuitAce says:

      I doubt if it’s as high as 10% of men who are being “objectified”. Maybe 2%. And if women are keeping it a secret how would we men know? You know what? I really have nothing to do with this conversation. You and the 10 or 2% of the men involved in this issue feel free to continue. As we say in the military, carry on.

  14. Tom Matlack says:

    Noah this is some good shit man. THANK YOU.

    Because the conversation turned to Beckham (which I am not sure fits into your idealized man for women’s gaze but has sure caused a stir) over on our blog: http://goodmenproject.com/good-feed-blog/david-beckham-man-or-myth/).

    “Having found my way into slash and fan art circles, I was eyeball-deep in unchecked female libido, men seen through a lens of sexual desire that I was unfamiliar with, but instantly fascinated by.” LOL. Yeah me too. I don’t know anything about it but I take your word for it. Absolutely fascinating and cool and liberating to the male box we put ourselves in.

    One of the greatest things about GMP is that as a guy who knows very little about very little, most specifically gender, women and, now I find out, men, I get to learn all this cool stuff about how we all view ourselves and try to battle our way through life and… sex.

    On the business front I have my share of success but honestly its only because I have had even more failure. I learned more from failing than succeeding. And I always took the attitude that I have nothing to lose. I win, I win, I fail I just try again. And I have tried again a f’ing ton.

    Welcome aboard our little party ship mate. We are REALLY glad to have you.

  15. This is a great piece, and one I definitely need to read again. For years (years of a mostly sexless marriage, I’ll add), my husband tried in no uncertain terms to tell me that he needed me to objectify him. I don’t mean in a domineering way, but in a honey-you-are-hot-and-I-want-your-body kind of way. Because at the time I didn’t need it from him, I definitely didn’t give it back.

    We are in a different place now, and I find him so attractive and delicious. He catches me leering, and he becomes aroused when I tell him how much I want him. What I’ve learned is that men, or at least my husband, need the same kind of physical ego stroking women need. They just need it in a slightly different way. He’s not worried that his ass looks fat in those jeans. Rather, he wants to know that I find him attractive as a sexual object, and that my love for him isn’t just about his mind, but it’s about his body, too.

    • I wonder if this could be related to how men and women are taught to view relationships and the opposite sex differently. As a woman, I was always taught that all men would find me physically attractive (if I conformed to certain beauty standards, etc) but the thing that would make a relationship truly personal was whether a man appreciated my personality and intellect. The classic stereotype that all men want is to get into my pants, but a good man will want to talk to me too.

      I wonder if men feel the opposite (as a generalization). Like this article discusses, we are conditioned to believe that women don’t care about men’s bodies. So I wonder if the assumption by men could be that all women will want to ‘get to know you,’ but the way you can judge whether a relationship is good is whether she still finds you physically attractive.

      • Being an overweight male who copped quite a lot of flack for it from females in school, I think looks are probably important to both genders now. The impression I get from women is that looks are quite important and so is having a job, a decent job at that, and a sense of direction in life. I’m not sure what women think of men who have part time jobs, or are studying though but then again people vary in what they like so there is no one easy answer.

        The stereotype of a man having more money = more attractive though is still common though. I’d say men are conditioned that women want relationships, love and long term commitments more than short term stuff. It’s a changing world though, I’m not surprised some people are at a loss to know where they fit in the world.

        I’ve seen a few females who confuse a man with a high sex drive as ONLY wanting sex and not caring about them though, which is annoying if you’re the man especially if you do show you care about them as a person, their interests, praise their personality as well as their looks. I wonder if much of that insecurity they have is from being told over n over that men just want sex and a few relationships that didn’t go long term?

        It is possible to have a high sex drive, want lots of sex, AND also care about your partners personality, want their self esteem to be high, want the best for them etc.

  16. I am a middle-aged woman who loves looking at men (yes, Beckham, too!) and loves sex; does that make me a freak?

    I never have cared about a man’s wealth or lack there of. I have always told the men I have been with how much I lust after them, one, because it was the truth and two, because we all want to be seen as desirable.

    You’re not ugly at all, Noah (and I don’t know how you look), because you are insightful and interesting; you could work with that! And a business that didn’t take off isn’t necessarily a failure; you tried, it didn’t do what you hoped it would, lesson learned and move on. Isn’t that what we do all the time in every aspect of our life? It’s OK to “fail” — and I wish we took ourselves off the hook for the mistakes we made under best intentions.

  17. wet_suit_one says:

    Isn’t it just amazing how much bullshit we’re fed about so many fundamental things?

    I mean seriously. Why are there so many such “big lies” out there that we are sold?

    I do wonder about that. Is it religion and control of the masses that drives it?

    Hmmm…..

    • Well humans tend to create norms and then place a high value on those norms. When most people do something a certain way, or believe something, people tend to think of it as being ‘right.’ It’s linked to the way we create identity. I like x, y, and z, which makes me This. You do not like x, y, and z which makes you That. And because I am part of This, it is better then That. It’s an us-vs.-them mentality. Then on top of all that, we share our ideas. The more people we can convince to become This, the more it validates our own identity as This.

      So we’ll pretend I don’t like giving blow jobs. It turns out my friend doesn’t like giving blow jobs too. And we meet a few more women who don’t like it. Plus, my religion and culture could be interpreted to say that giving blow jobs is wrong. So now I feel like my hatred of blow jobs is normal and right. It is the right way to be.

      Um, I hope that was somewhat clear. But that’s my understanding of it in a very simplistic way.

  18. Noah doesn’t ‘introduce’ the idea of the female gaze. I have a book from 1988 called ‘The Female Gaze’!

  19. Gloria Lemos says:

    I like this so much that I am already anticipating your next writing. Please keep The Good Men Project alive.

  20. Wow.
    Great article.
    This is far more interesting than hearing about how men objectify women.
    Ten more like this, please.

  21. It’s all determined by personal taste, isn’t it? My girlfriends at age 13 would drool over the gorgeous lifeguards at summer camp…and to tell the truth, I haven’t seen such a gorgeous collection of Olympians in one spot since then…Wow! But truthfully, I preferred my gangly, cute 13 yo Jewish BF, who had freckles and knobby knees (who reminded me of Paul McCartney, who was the ultimate for me then)….

    David Beckham is cool and sleek in his undies, but personally I turn my gaze to Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud (fully dressed!) and Michael Fassbender as Jung (also fully dressed!)….or even Aidan Quinn (also fully dressed somewhere on the prairie interacting with Julia Ormond)….Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump” is also very sexy….

    Different strokes for different folks, ay?

  22. wellokaythen says:

    Here’s where I part ways with some modern academic views of gender.

    A “gaze” is not an actual force. It’s not something that someone does to someone else. Your eyes don’t send out rays like Superman’s heat vision. They just receive the light rays/particles that go into them. Looking, staring, and even “leering” (if you could even define such a thing) are not invasive actions against another person. If you “feel someone’s eyes on you,” that is an illusion. It’s a very real sensation, of course, but that sensation comes from inside you, not from outside. It’s not the same as a sound or a touch.

    I would make a clear distinction between staring and actual physical invasions – catcalling, touching, standing too close, getting in someone’s way, etc. Once you hold other people responsible for how you feel when you’re looked at, you’ve shifted your issues onto them, and you’ve moved your boundaries onto their bodies, which is exactly what catcallers do.

    It’s a handy, very powerful political move to put “the gaze” or “leering” on the same spectrum as sexual assault, physical intimidation, rape, murder, and all sorts of sex-based exploitation, but that’s a huge leap. It’s the same with blaming “the female gaze” for men’s view of success or appearance or achievement. Now we’re blaming other people’s eyeball movements for the ills of society. Not sure what the solution to that could ever be – totalitarian reprogramming of necks and eyeballs?

    If and when I look at something, it is a passive sensory experience. If someone objects to my staring, that person is objecting to the way that I move my visual sensor array. That person doesn’t like the way that I turn my head or how I move my eyeballs. Well, it’s my neck and my eyeballs. It’s my body, and I’m just moving it within my own personal space the way that I want to. Not liking the way that I’m looking is the same as not liking my appearance. That’s other people’s problem more than it is mine.

    Devil’s advocate here: how is staring really any different from listening intently? There are times when I’ve stopped what I was doing and sat quietly because nearby I happened to hear a voice I really liked. I wanted to hear all I could of a particular woman’s voice, because it was a very attractive voice. Presumably that is the equivalent of staring, but there is not a lot of objection to “audio-staring,” for lack of a better word. Is there a word for the audio equivalent of staring with your eyes?

    • Great post

      “I would make a clear distinction between staring and actual physical invasions – catcalling, touching, standing too close, getting in someone’s way, etc. Once you hold other people responsible for how you feel when you’re looked at, you’ve shifted your issues onto them, and you’ve moved your boundaries onto their bodies, which is exactly what catcallers do.”

      But what about art? Say I paint a picture of a naked woman posed in a way of my choosing… That’s often classed under Male Gaze in art literary circles. I’m projecting my fantasy onto the female form, or something like that…

      • wellokaythen says:

        The flippant response is to ask the person commenting on your painting why he/she assumes that artistic images are supposed to be representational. Who says that what one sees as a female body is meant to represent a female body? That person sees what he/she interprets to be a female human body, but that viewer is simply imposing a bourgeois representationalist interpretation onto what is in reality shapes on a canvas. That’s the great slippery thing about art crit – you can always challenge the assumptions of the viewer and suggest that they are acting out their own issues when they look at your painting.

        I’d ask why a critic thinks that I painted like that because I’m male. Maybe I painted like that because I’m right-handed or because I like the color red or because I was insufficiently toilet trained as a young lad.

        If the Male Gaze is a serious issue when a (sighted) man creates art, then perhaps the male artist should stick to sculpting female nudes and only while blindfolded. Perhaps that would be a “Male Caress” problem instead of the Male Gaze problem?

        • Hah… I don’t know about the blindfold sculptor, but here’s a response to sculpture…

          http://www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/fales/exhibits/downtown/soho/sohoart/documents/kruger.html

          This kind of view is practically fundamental at the art school I attend. Eventually I’ll have to tackle these views head on in my work – especially the view that the gaze is a form of violence. That really bothers me.

          Thanks for your thoughts

          • wellokaythen says:

            I would think that a cutting-edge, avant garde, postmodernist approach to art would call into question the very categories of “male” and “female” as entirely narrow-minded philistine blinders. If someone refers to you as a “male” in art school, I say you challenge their internal construction of you as such. Who are they to label you as “male” at all? That is SOOOO twentieth century anglocentric.

            Are they suggesting that they cannot really come to a valid critique of a piece of art until they know the gender of the artist? That seems hopelessly essentialist somehow. And I don’t know how that mindset would deal with artists who are transsexual, transgendered, or intersexed. (Sorry if I left anyone out!) Or how to deal with “males” who are visually impaired. Do they have a male gaze also?

            This reminds me of some people I know who see a phallic symbol in anything that’s longer than it is wide.

            • wellokaythen says:

              Visited the link just now.

              Kruger makes a completely valid point, though it’s so obvious as to be absurdly, unavoidably true. Yes, a stone sculpture is on objectification in which what you see is something silent. Hard to say that a stone sculpture has been silenced, of course. Traditionally, anthropomorphic sculptures don’t speak. So, it makes perfect sense that feminine sculptural subjects don’t speak, because male subjects don’t speak either. Praxiteles’ discus thrower doesn’t say very much either. (Maybe he’s talking beyond the range of human hearing?)

              If you heard the rock speaking before you carved it into a “female” form, then I suppose you could say that it is a silenced woman, but hearing voices in inanimate objects suggests a more immediate personal problem.

              Now, if you showed a silent film of an all-female orchestra playing, that would be more effective in making a point about women being silenced. That would actually play on one’s expectations about the medium.

              That blurb about Kruger’s work makes it sound like she’s important just for being female. Again, assuming “female” is even a worthwhile or tenable category any more to apply to a particular artist.

              I would love to see more descriptions that dispense with gendered pronouns entirely. How would an evaluation of someone’s work change if we didn’t know if the artist was a he or she?

          • Silly question, but: how do they know that you’re “male”? How do YOU know that you’re “male” if you think that you are? Was there a box on your art school application in which you had to identify as a particular gender? That sounds so archaic for a place that’s meant to explore creativityand push boundaries….

            • There are boxes on the application. For statistical purposes, I assume. No option for trans-gender or otherwise.

              @wellokaythen: I interpreted the silencing critique as a metaphor that is meant to fit into the narrative of patriarchal oppression. Women are to be seen and not heard. And there’s a sub-text of violence linked to male lust. I think it’s quite underhanded in its approach.

              “This reminds me of some people I know who see a phallic symbol in anything that’s longer than it is wide.”

              Hah, yes… Sometimes I toy with the idea of baiting the tutors and class by casually integrating as many supposed ‘objectifying’ and ‘phallo-centric’ themes as I can into one of my works, just so I can observe their reactions upon group critique.

              As it happens the studio I’m in is being tasked with holding a public exhibition at a Pioneer Women’s Hall. From the brief…

              “The project will inherently engage with a raft of ideas including Sex, Gender, Class, Labour, Religion and Nationalism. Students will critically explore the historical, political, feminist and Queer contexts pertinent to the project, as ways to frame their own studio making and collaborative aspect of the project”

              I suspect strongly the idea is to laud the achievements of the suffragettes. It would be interesting to play with the idea of claiming the space as gender-neutral.

  23. prettypetal says:

    Very awesome article on the female gaze. Also true for me…i am an older woman but find myself obsessed with certain asian boybands on u tube and now buy asian movies why? cos they have hot guys who get naked!… but the films also tend to have a heart which seems always to be the backbone of the movie with action etc layered on top. I find this is lacking in western movies. Also in the west that kind of beauty is pretty much non existant in media images but it correlates with what the author above states. Manga also, gorgeous drawings of the prettiest boys imaginable but who are cool all at the same time.

  24. fantastic article, thank you for sharing! gives me hope (as a man of [in my opinion] average attractiveness) but also makes me even more self-conscious, though I think that internal conflict is a good one

    • bluenotebacker,

      I feel the same mix of hope and self consciousness. In what way do you find that internal conflict to be good. I’m looking for a way to re-frame it.

  25. But just like plenty of men fall in love with women who aren’t “perfect-sexy” according to our cultural ideals, plenty of women also fall in love with men who are hardly “perfect successes.” Or anything close.

    Many, many of us women fall in love with men who maybe have a great sense of humor or share our interests, or just “get us” or, maybe ideally, are seen as our perfect counterpart.

    I think that men and women both feel like they need to meet ideals that our culture tells us are important when real people aren’t nearly so narrow-minded.

    • “Many, many of us women fall in love with men who maybe have a great sense of humor or share our interests, or just “get us” or, maybe ideally, are seen as our perfect counterpart.”

      and many, many of us men also fall in love with women who maybe have a great sense of humor or share our interests, or just “get us” or, maybe ideally, are seen as our perfect counterpart. Looks are not important at all

  26. Interesting article, and I certainly agree that men’s looks are a lot more consequential than traditionally assumed. However, there is no question that men are far more affected by a woman’s physical looks–the face and body–than women are by a man’s, when it comes to sexual arousal.

    Teen girls have posters of pop stars and movie stars because these men are famous, and enjoy high social status. Not necessarily because they are good looking. Take the Beatles in their day, or Mick Jagger, for instance. Take Justin Beiber, Bruno Mars (who actually looks kind of girly), or Usher (who does not look particularly feminine or masculine, but just… not pretty).

    An example of a “good looking” man in the masculine sense (square jaw, strong brow, etc) would be Arnold Schwarzenegger in his bodybuilding days.

    The fact that softer features and a more feminine look (like Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio) can also be considered attractive just demonstrates that women are fundamentally less affected by physical looks (in the sense of bone structure and facial fat distribution) when it comes to sexual arousal. If a woman is hot for an Arnold Schwarzenegger type, she would describe him as “hunky” or “masculine,” and if she was hot for a Leo DiCaprio type, she would describe him as “cute.” But her attraction to him is mostly based on his behavior, personality, swagger, confidence, status and other attributes (which are what are emphasized in romance novels).

    Men’s sexual arousal is far more influenced by physical appearance–which is precisely why we see that emphasis on the hyper-masculine look in gay porn (the equivalent is emphasis on the hyper-feminine in mainstream porn for straight men).

    If women were so enthralled by men’s looks, then how come romance novels (the female equivalent of porn) don’t have pictures?

    The science has all but proven, and any casual glance at people’s behavior shows, that women are far less interested in a man’s physical looks than the other way around, when it comes to sexual desire. Now that is different from “looking good” in the sense of being fit, dressing well, having a great hairstyle and being well groomed, etc. That definitely makes a difference in a man’s attractiveness.

    • If women are more attracted to slimmer guys this implies nothing but that the beauty ideal men think most wimen have is not certainly what women want. The rest is your interpretation.

      Also the notion that what men find attractive only when focussing ob womens apoearence is looks only is shortsited: If it would be so, why could beauty ideals change so fluidly? The change of beautyideals very surely shows that we find beautiful at least to a oart also what is socially accepted, i.e. associated with conformity, recognition and success. Hence mens tastes cannot be explained by some never changeable attitude towards looks, which is also visible if you look at a mans personality and hia taste: which women he finds attractive is often conbected to his values and worldview.

  27. when eyes find each other it can become a channel of intimacy as sexual as actual contact. when you have both it is ecstasy. usually it can’t be this intense and be “out in the open” but it is secret which intensifies it.

  28. I would like a copy of that magazine!

  29. Dina Strange says:

    Whoever claims that women don’t get horny just as much if not more than men, hasn’t met me in the morning :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] at The Good Men Project. And check out some of the other great writing that Brand and others are doing at No, Seriously, [...]

  2. [...] his theory of “The Success Myth,” and introduces the idea of the female gaze, for the Good Men Project: The masculine equivalent to what Naomi Wolf called The Beauty Myth is The Success Myth. In [...]

  3. [...] his theory of “The Success Myth,” and introduces the idea of the female gaze, for the Good Men Project: The masculine equivalent to what Naomi Wolf called The Beauty Myth is The Success Myth. In [...]

  4. [...] out there about how women aren’t as “visual” as men, well I think that’s a whole lotta hoopla. Women appreciate a fine sexified strutting beardy peacock just as much as the readers of Maxim [...]

  5. [...] a way of approaching or attracting women without becoming vulnerable. (Of course, I’ve also talked about how male vulnerability is a massively popular fantasy among women, but let’s not get too [...]

  6. [...] there is a lot of good stuff in this article and some of my favourite bits are when he talks about women having powerful, visual; (yes! Please [...]

  7. [...] society likes to grade men hierarchically by worldly success, what I like to call the Success Myth. Consequently, if you’re not on the absolute top, you are, to at least some degree, a loser. [...]

  8. [...] female demographic. A lot of more modern action movies are fairly clearly directed at the female gaze; in fact, I was a little uncomfortable at some points in (say) X-Men First Class, because of how [...]

  9. [...] Here’s a good summary of these two roles and how they hurt us from a male perspective. [...]

  10. [...] gender issues, or who just want to hear about my most enormous personal failure, I’ve got a post up at the Good Men Project, all about success and beauty and porn and whatnot. Enjoy. /* Filed Under: [...]

  11. [...] written before about the research I did into the female gaze, the erotic images of men that women construct for [...]

  12. [...] damage of the “success object” imagery around men is pervasive and complex, so bear with me. It’s going to look like I’m [...]

  13. [...] Repeating Iraq’s Mistakes in Afghanistan – War correspondant Michael Kamber of the war in Afghanistan, which seems to have learned little from the war in Iraq. More of Kamber’s breathtaking photographs can be seen here. [...]

  14. [...] female demographic. A lot of more modern action movies are fairly clearly directed at the female gaze; in fact, I was a little uncomfortable at some points in (say) X-Men First Class, because of how [...]

  15. [...] the “wrong” religion could get turned away from even an entry-level position. But the success myth is stronger than any logic; we believe that any man who wants a job can get one, that the job is [...]

  16. [...] is used as a weapon against women in our society, much as success is used against men. If you weren’t born beautiful, you better be doing everything you can to [...]

  17. [...] this dynamic. Oddly, however, even those rarely focus on the male lead as the object of desire; the female gaze is commonly absent from these stories. Instead the heroine tends to be the object, and the hero [...]

  18. [...] this dynamic. Oddly, however, even those rarely focus on the male lead as the object of desire; the female gaze is commonly absent from these stories. Instead the heroine tends to be the object, and the hero [...]

  19. [...] This comment of the day was by Introverted Playboy on the post “The Success Myth“ [...]

  20. [...] also recommend taking a look at The Success Myth (mentioned in the article) because it is definitely a good overview of gender roles. Also! Check [...]

  21. […] you’re not familiar with the concept of success objects and the Success Myth, let me give you the short version: there’s a pervasive idea that a man’s social and […]

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