Too Much Ado About Women’s Asses – Equity Doesn’t Enter Into the Picture

Lolo Jones, AP Photo

Austin Gunter explains how the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies may not be purposeful objectification, but a result of a natural tendency on behalf of both men and women.

In her post, Much ado about Women’s Asses in the Olympics, Joanna Schroeder makes an interesting observation that Getty Images of Olympic athletes have an disproportionate number of close-ups of female booty than male booty. I’ll confess to you all right now that I read the article because Joanna’s tweet about her post had the words “Female Asses” in it. My male brain read those words and my male hands clicked on the link immediately. I took the linkbait, basically.

I’m a dude. Almost any dialogue about the female form is going to get my attention. I also happen to be an ass man.  I’ll date a girl with a big butt and a flat chest, but I’ve never dated a girl with no butt and big boobs.

Now that we’ve gotten all the “Austin is a red-blooded, sexually-charged 20-Something” out of the way, let’s dig into the questions that Joanna asks in the post.

The first question is, “Why the hell does the media objectify women, but not men?”

Implicitly, anytime a woman asks “why is there a difference between how men and women are portrayed in the media?” I always feel like the discussion is going to revolve around “What the hell is wrong with us as a society that we behave this way???”

Why on earth do we disembody women but not men?

Surely this is something that only men do, right?

Actually, no.  Men and women objectify women, and don’t objectify men the same way.  A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that men’s and women’s bodies are processed differently by both sexes equally.  When presented with an image of a man, we rely on “global” cognitive processing to evaluate him.  We see him as a whole. Both men and women process the male body the same way.

When presented with an image of a woman, both men and women’s brains process her with “local” cognitive processing. In other words, we look at women’s bodies one piece at a time. Start with the ass, move to the breasts, examine the crotch, let her legs and arms come into the picture, then get to her face.  Maybe the order is different, but men aren’t to blame here.  Women objectify one another as much as men do. Ever heard the saying that “Women don’t dress for men, they dress for other women?

Sarah Gervais, the study’s lead author says:

“‘We can’t just pin this on the men. Women are perceiving women this way, too,’ Gervais said. ‘It could be related to different motives. Men might be doing it because they’re interested in potential mates, while women may do it as more of a comparison with themselves. But what we do know is that they’re both doing it.'”

We already covered the fact that I’m a dude and I have a healthy appreciation for the female form. I’m not shy when I lavish my appreciation on a woman when I date her.  My last serious girlfriend loved the way that I would take my time to appreciate her body. I would take my time and “appreciate” her, one bit at a time. She asked me many times, “Do you think I have a small chest?” (she didn’t), or “Do you think my butt is too big?” (it was perfect).  She was objectifying herself every time she looked in the mirror.

Never once did we spend any time talking at length about my butt or my chest. Not once did I ask her if my shoulders were broad enough, or if my jaw was square enough.  I didn’t spend time asking her if she liked how my ass looked. It just wasn’t something that I was thinking about. Honestly, I was way more interested in her body, and I think that she was too. Given the choice between discussing whether I had a nice ass or she had a nice ass, we always chose to talk about hers.

It’s too easy to play the blame game in this discussion and pin the responsibility on men for objectifying women. Or maybe we could pin the blame on women for being too self-absorbed in every little bit of their appearance.

I don’t want to place the blame. In my comments on the original piece, I asked why we couldn’t assume there is a positive reason that we, as men and women, as humans, as people behave in a particular fashion.

“I think a more interesting question isn’t, “What’s wrong with us that we think this way?” but instead, “What’s *right* about us that we’ve adapted to thinking this way?” There has to be a purpose, let’s honestly ask after it and give ourselves credit as humans with good intentions.”

Of course another commenter had to ask the question, “Are you sure we didn’t get brainwashed into this behavior?”

No, I don’t think we got brainwashed into this. On the contrary, I don’t think the media is actually working that hard to change how we think about things. They’re just after pageviews, so they’re pandering to our impulses.  The media is just giving us visual junk food, and we’re rewarding their bad behavior with pageviews.

I’m not sure the person actually read the study that I posted, because they offer various evolutionary perspectives about why men and women both recognize women’s body parts quicker than men’s body parts.

I’m not a scientist, and I’m not interested in providing a scientific basis for why we behave this way. But I do believe that, as a general rule, we have good intentions guiding our behavior.  I think that as a species, we have done a great job of adapting to our environment, and to one another. Let’s actually assume that men and women treat each other differently because we are different, and deserve special treatment that honors our differences, physically and otherwise.

In this instance, I think it’s probably as simple as evaluating a woman’s fertility. Men and women both have reason to do this. And if the (reductive) evolutionary goal is to pass our good genes along to the next generation and have healthy, happy children, then a woman’s fertility is going to play a powerful role in the shaping of human history.

That doesn’t mean that women begin and end with their fertility and their physical attractiveness. But it does mean that we need to give ourselves a fucking break and not rage when the media gives us what our brains are programmed to look for. Blogs, including this one, are designed around pageviews, and they’re going to do everything they can to generate pageviews. Pageviews = ad revenue.

If women’s asses generate more clicks then men’s asses, that’s a response to our natural human tendencies, not the other way around.

I grew up feeling shame whenever I wanted to look at a girl in school. Girls were working hard to look beautiful, but as guys we weren’t supposed to notice. There is a difference between appreciating beauty and being distracted by it, and most of the time, I think that men and women have a sincere appreciation for a woman’s beauty. It’s clear that as a whole, women’s bodies are more beautiful than men’s bodies. The success of Playboy compared with the failure of Playgirl is an obvious example.

We don’t look at men’s and women’s bodies in the same way, and that’s because they are different in a million ways. The implicit concern is always about equality, but equality means “the same treatment,” but that’s not appropriate when women are different from men. And I also don’t think that the opposite of “equality” is “oppression.”  The opposite of equality is treating people according to who they are as individuals, which means appreciating their beauty as unique.

When I told my girlfriend that I loved her ass, or I thought that her breasts were perfect, I wasn’t about to share those same sentiments with any other woman that I knew.

As a man, I don’t want to feel shame or guilt for this. I don’t want to feel the need to justify being a man, or how I look at women’s bodies to appreciate them. I don’t think it’s fair for guys shoulder the blame for something that both sexes do.

But let’s be clear that we don’t have to objectify women or men in the media to appreciate their beauty. Playboy isn’t the zenith of appreciating a woman’s beauty. And her beauty isn’t the grand total of her value either. Women are complicated, man. They confuse the hell out of me. I love women, but I’m not saying that I understand them. I don’t think that women understand women sometimes.

We don’t have to objectify men in order to appreciate their beauty, either.

At the end of the day, who we are as men and women affects how we are treated. That includes how we look, how we think, the tone of our voice, whether we smile a lot, or if we talk a lot or a little.

That said, let’s not get up in arms about women’s bodies vs. men’s bodies. Women are absolutely beautiful, and I’m in favor of celebrating that all day long. My idea of a perfect afternoon involves closed blinds, cellphones turned off, and the opportunity to bask in the beautiful glow of a woman who I am in love with. I could spend hours and hours going over every last inch, getting lost a thousand times along the way. I’ve never run into problems when I wanted to appreciate a woman’s body that way.

Let’s give ourselves a break when a blog wants to give us the vending machine version of loving a woman’s beauty. They’re pandering to the very things that make us human. It’s our responsibility to recognize that pictures of a woman’s ass don’t compare to the real thing. The pictures should serve us as a reminder of the beauty that always surrounds us. The beauty that walks and talks and disagrees with us, telling us that we’re dumb, and asking us if we think their butt is too big.

It’s female beauty that we can all agree is superior to male beauty. Doesn’t it say a lot when the photo of a woman’s butt is superior to the whole of a man’s body?

I’d say we’ve got our priorities straight. And if the woman on the other end of Lolo Jones’ butt happens to read this, she should write her phone number in the comments so I can call her. We share a lot of the same values, and just like any other woman, it starts with an awesome booty, but that beauty knows no bounds and would take a lifetime for me to really fully appreciate.

I’m no different from any other guy. I want the opportunity to appreciate a women, one bit at a time, for the rest of my life.


Also Read: Much Ado About Olympic Women’s Asses by Joanna Schroeder

About Austin Gunter

Austin Gunter is a 20something blogger at Austin has had Rheumatoid Arthritis since age 13, and also spent time as Pick Up Artist in college. He's worked at startups since he graduated college with a degree in Rhetoric, and has made a career as a content marketer for tech companies.  Austin drinks yerba maté, drives a convertible, and tweets at @austingunter. He works as the Brand Ambassador for WP Engine, developing brand and content strategy for their managed hosting platform. He wants to hear your story too.


  1. Mrs. Smith says:

    Why are women objectified more? Because by far more men then women still run the media and they want to see women. Are women more beautiful than men? In my opinion, no. Do I look at a man as a whole and women in compartments? No. I see them both in compartments. I objectify them both. They are both equally beautiful to me but for different reasons. The muscles and broad shoulder to hip ratio of a man; the soft, voluptuous curves of a woman; both very attractive and very different. Why else are women objectified more? Because men still want to believe THEY own the corner of visual lust (they do not) and because men whine and complain when they have to see other men in a sexual way! Have you never noticed this? What big babies they are if they are forced to see a half naked (or God forbid fully naked) man? Their minds go tilt because they are afraid of finding the male form attractive IMO. They falsely think that if they happen to realize another man is attractive they themselves must therefore be gay. This isn’t even logical thinking. Noticing attractiveness has nothing to do with sexual preference and everything to do with attractive is attractive, but this is why I think women are objectified more.

  2. Ass is nasty. Women crap too.

  3. I have known my spouse for a quarter century. She never shows cleavage (she is not well endowed either). She never wears short shorts, and wears bermudas only on the 5-10 hottest summer days. Nearly all days, she was wears loose trousers or full length skirts. Leggings never. She has never owned a bikini. She wore sleeveless in the 1960s and 70s, but no more. She gets her hair cut every 6 weeks, and has never had a perm or set. She got a bit of unwanted male attention between the ages of 18 and 30, but none since. No one perves at my wife but me. I and our daughters are also the only persons who see her naked. She is an atheist, not a Mormon or Orthodox Jew.

    In my family of origin, my mother was always the one to make risque remarks about scantily clad and well-endowed women. All her siblings were male. She once admitted to me that she had read a copy of Playboy cover to cover, and that it did not bother her. She would joke about “exotic dancers” with a twinkle in her eye. My father, a product of American Protestant rectitude, never did any of this.

    If women dressed with a casual and natural modesty, a lot of social difficulties would go away.
    I decided a generation ago that younger women enjoy revealing themselves about as much as men enjoy perving at women who titillate. Let me explain. The internet has made it possible for hundreds of thousands of women to bare all and be seen by all of humanity. Quite a few of these women conceal their faces, of course. Some who do show their faces reveal that they are anxious or unhappy. I suspect that the person behind the camera is a boyfriend about whom they have mixed feelings. But what do I see in the facial expressions of most women who reveal all of their assets on the internet, and do not bother to conceal their faces in any way? Joy, self-satisfaction and — dare I say it? — deep pride. I submit that quite a few women enjoy stirring up male lust and female envy, and their numbers are set to grow. More and more women will choose to live by the following quote: “I will not let male immaturity dictate what I can and cannot reveal, dictate how I am supposed to think about any aspect of my body. I will never ever be ashamed of my female anatomy.” This is sex positive feminism, a deep tendency of our time that has attracted relatively little media attention.

    • Yes edouard – conspicuous display, whether it is by man or woman, whether it is overtly sexual or displays of prestige, status and wealth, attracts a more singular gaze: and as the author alludes to, it’s a feature not a bug. The feature can become a bug if the culture amplifies it far beyond its communication design intent. The internet is just such an amplifier, as we see with celebrity and fame, and the answers lie with awareness of the abundance and trivial nature of these displays, not by lamenting their existence and trying to cover them up under the weight of a moral force.

  4. Does this mean I won’t catch flack for saying men mostly see women as body parts?

    • Not quite…It means that men AND WOMEN both see women first as the parts that make up their body. Read the study that I cited in the article. But let’s not make generalizations about how all men see women, particularly when that generalization marginalizes men as walking sex organs.

      • You mean generalizations that marginalize men AND women as walking sex organs? Again, who’s being dehumanized here? Austin, the biggest problem with your article, which many commenters are responding to, is you used a very simple study and slapped evolution onto it. The neuroscientists who conducted the experiment don’t dare extrapolate, likely because they know what bunk evolutionary psychology is (seriously, it’s not real science).

        You say “because they offer various evolutionary perspectives about why men and women both recognize women’s body parts quicker than men’s body parts.” I read the article twice and didn’t find any such thing. Would you care to tell me where these examples are?

        You’re insisting that the way these study subjects saw bodies is our natural state, not a state that stems from, say, women being treated like body parts in the media. You want it to be our nature informing the media, but there is zero proof of that case.

        Of course, it’d be easy to dismiss this all as bad journalism if you weren’t essentially telling everyone to just get over it in this article. If a man feels guilt about they way he sees women, I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to explore that. Not steep in shame, necessarily, but examine and deconstruct the cultural forces at work. We are all subject to heavy forces in this world that tell us how we’re supposed to be. What’s wrong with taking the lens back a little bit and exploring “Why” these things are? Why are women paying thousands of dollars for fake breasts and bleaching their hair and skin? Why is that no matter how many times you tell your wife she’s beautiful, she’ll hate the way she looks in the mirror? Why do men measure their value by their car instead of their heart? These are far more useful and interesting questions if you want to understand intimate relationships between the sexes.

        Your interpretation of gender roles and society could use far more examination and deconstruction if if you want to further the conversation.

        • The gist I get is that its fine for men to see women as parts because men like women oh so much. Since this is being portrayed as positive, it shouldnt be a problem when I point out that men mostly see most women as T&A. It is now completely unnecessary for male posters to try to tell me how thats just not true.
          I’m not going to deny that women may focus a lot on another womans body, be preoccupied with her own appearance, or what not. I’m not sure if I would consider that positive, but how men view womens bodies IS being portrayed as positive and normal. Women should accept this and not be offended by these natural male tendencies is what I hear.

          “all men see women, particularly when that generalization marginalizes men as walking sex organs.”

          But wait, I could use evolutionary psych and say just this! After all, men need to sow their wild oats don’t they. Someone could also extrapolate from that and come to some other very unsavory conclusions about men, but Ive noticed that this science is mostly used to justify why men see women as body parts (and why its ok).

          I dont think what I say is true of all men all the time, but rather most men most of the time. This based on observation and the testimony of honest men.

          • Where does it say men ONLY see women as tits n ass? My impression is that men and women notice women by their body parts early on.

            If you really think men only see women as tits n ass then quite frankly you must live in a completely miserable world, if other women feel this way then I feel sad for them. Most men I know see women for far more than tits n ass, but it’s more common that women will act as if the men only want sex, only see them for T&A whilst ignoring the rest of a man’s actions.

            Do you think most men who get married because women are just doing it to be married to t&a? Is it possible that men see women and are focused on body parts fully realizing THEY ARE CONNECTED TO THE REST OF HER BODY and that she is a full human?

            • Archy:
              I didn’t say all men, I said most men most of the time.

              • Alice, that was my general opinon as well. That it’s okay to see women as parts because men think women are beautiful and as long as we say how beautiful women are and how much we like that, it’s okay to objectify them. Also, apparently, women are the only ones that need to be fertile which is why we objectify women more. Apparently men don’t need to be fertile or show signs of fertility.

                By the way Archy, we do live in a miserable world that often sees women as just body parts. I don’t think men *only* see women as t & A but I do think spend a lot of time thinking of women as t & A.

                I did a little research of my own on this study and I discovered that this was a popular study posted by a few popular male websites with headlines along the lines of “Men, You aren’t To Blame When You Objectify Women”. Seems like the kind of stuff some men would eat up to justify objectifying women.

                Austin also doesn’t address the very last part of the study that talks about how when the research changed a variable in regards to the images of women, the responses of the people looking at the women changed as well. So it’s not just that we see women as objects. The last paragraph points to the idea that we are easily manipulated into seeing women as objects more readily because of our culture. I wish Austin had talked more about the entire study but he just seemed to want to focus on the objectifying part.

  5. paul kidwell says:

    WWTSD? What Would Tilda Swinton Do?

  6. I hope to have more to say on this later but this article is really depressing to read. I am left with the impression basically that it’s basically women’s fault if they are objectified, we are “too self-absorbed”, men are not at fault at all, men are more “whole” people then women, this isn’t because of social conditioning but apparently simply just how it is, men don’t want to be shamed for viewing women as disembodied body parts because they are “men” and are entitled to do just that, if you talk about feeling objectified as a woman you are shaming men, that fertility is only important in women, apparently men have no fertility problems and it’s not important since men are such virile whole human beings to begin with, and that it’s okay to say all these things as long as you talk about how beautiful you think women are. All these things are okay as long as you are attracted to female beauty. All this objectification is okay because women are beautiful. Did I get that right?

    I am very frustrated right now over this piece and a lot of what it’s talking about. I am going to take a little time to organize my thoughts in response. I am just really disppointed all around. Having to deal with the way women are represented in our culture isn’t easy. Men feel shamed when women are vocal about not liking the way they are represented or treated but what about the shame women feel? I feel shame everyday when I am pitted against another image of Playmate, Maxim model, or other classically driven male fantasy forms. But I am told I am insecure if I feel that way.I’m not allowed to feel shamed for these protrayals of women’s bodies. But men are allowed to feel shame if women are honest and open about being honest about these things? I don’t think men are entirely to “blame” at all, but to say that men have no responsiblity, which is basically what Austin said and that women are totally at fault because we are too self absorbed and have spending power (what kind of spending power?) and a bunch of other stuff is really upsetting.

    • I think you spend too much time giving authority to nonexistent forces. You are responsible for your own emotional well being and no one is “in charge” of regulating Male fantasies but the individual male himself. If this causes you distress, I could only recommend that you lighten up.

      Collecting photons with your eyes is not a crime.

      • I am not interested in regulating male fantasies. i am interested in how femininity is represented in fantasy though and I think I have right to that. Just as men have a right to consider how they are represented in modern day media as well. Such as all those sitcoms and commericals that project inept men.

        I also don’t know why I should “lighten up”, perhaps you should take things more seriously? Or perhaps neither of us should make suggestions about how the other person should take things in.

        Colleccting photons with your eyes isn’t a crime. Who said it was?

        I always find it interesting in this discussion how we expect women to ignore or not talk about how they are projected in things that are driven by male desires. And if they do, they are shaming men for it. We tell women not to buy into these things or messages. We want women to be “above” it. Yet we justify men buying into them. We don’t tell men to ignore them or to be “above it” when they buy into the fantasy.

        • Why are you trying to be someones fantasy? Fantasy is often unachievable, no point even trying to reach it. You’ll never ever come even close to my fantasy woman because that would involve superpowers (telekinesis, etc). Thing is, I know it’s a fantasy and it’s not actually what I look for in real women, maybe people need to remind themselves that fantasy isn’t always what a person wants in reality.

          Men have a part to play but quite frankly the most common form of denial I see is by women themselves as to the part they play. Take a look at women’s magazines, that shit is more vile than most porn, the insidious level of judgment in them about other women, the constant messages of weight loss, etc. If women are purchasing material which is making them insecure then quite a large portion of fault lies with those women who are filling their life with material which makes them insecure. I totally understand how billboards, and other media which they don’t ask for is harmful and agree it needs to be toned down but if someone is buying those insecurity-inducing-magazines then they need to stop n look at the material they are filling their life with.

          I know of women (and men) who say they need to lose weight even though their partners love how they look now. What is represented in popular media isn’t always a reflection of what the MAJORITY of men like, hell women’s magazines seem to be more the editors guess at what WOMEN want to see, I hear comments more often from men of the women being too skinny to be appealing than anything else. I’d say a large portion of blame should be with the advertisers, fashion folk, anyone who makes the choice on what women or men to display. And a huge amount of responsibility goes to the women who are buying those magazines, they’re funding them, telling the bosses that showing women like that works so why would the magazine want to change?

          There is FAR more diversity in the portrayal of women in pornography than their is in magazines for women (fashion, etc). I will bet my left testicle on that fact. I can find women who are large, small, fat, thin, black, white, asian, every ethnicity, shape, size, hairy (even arms n legs), transgendered, tanned, pale, even women missing limbs. Try find that diversity in the woman’s day, etc. It’s sad when FANTASY material made for men shows far far more variety of women than material for women shows.

        • Roxy, please read the study I posted. Women and men both see women the same way, it’s not limited to men as you’re stating here:

          I can understand that you’re feeling upset about this, but I’m not sure that you’re reading what I’m writing. I’m not an apologist for objectification, but I am saying that there is a lot more going on that reducing women to body parts and separating them from who they are as people. It’s not that simple, and fewer people, men or women, are guilty-as-charged.

          • why shouldn’t women be upset if we are seen as walking boobs and vaginas? Even if we accept your argument that it is “natural” for men (or other women) to see us thst way, we are still entitled to feel pissed off and wish that there was more depth and nuance in how we are judged by others.

            Also, as I said in my vomment on supernormal stimuli, you also have to consider how our natural responses may be hijacked by artificially exaggerated triggers, which is different than just saying “everything that’s natural is a-okay”

            • *comment, ha ha. vomment sounds like something else

            • Correct me if I am wrong but doesn’t this study just show that people notice body parts first? They notice the whole man first, but for women they zero down on certain parts (and I’m guessing look the woman over). Wouldn’t this mean you can still see women as more than just body parts if you wait more than a second?

              I have a very hard time believing that society itself doesn’t see women as more than just the sum of their parts unless I am a completely unique human. I don’t see walking vaginas, tits, etc, I see women who HAVE vaginas, tits, etc. Infact the first thing I usually look at are the eyes, face and smile and then look down. But I guess someone could say I am objectifying women for their smile!!11 Meanwhile my first thoughts are along the lines of “She looks nice, I wonder what she is like?”.

              I saw a woman I have never seen before last night, first thing I saw was her face, second was her hair (blonde), first thought was “she looks familiar, how do I know her”.

              My best guess is we focus on women’s parts whilst realizing she is a woman, a human, and we study their body far far more than a male. I guess the woman is assembled in our brain in higher detail than the man, similar to taking 20 10mp photos of a woman n stitching them together into our brain for a very large resolution and highly detailed image vs just taking 1 full-body 10mp photo of the man. I guess women’s entire body is more important to be noticed than men in our society.

              Quite frankly I think there is a stereotype where women perceive society to be looking at their body parts and ignoring their entire body, or women thinking men are staring just at their tits but really I believe men are looking at far far more than women realize. Of course certain body parts do draw more attention, such as cleavage, etc but I doubt average men are simply ignoring the rest of the woman. I also believe quite a lot of women are looking for negative reinforcements of that belief and will hear men talk about looking at a body, focus on when men are “perving at women” whilst simultaneously being more likely to ignore the time men are looking at them as a whole, appreciating them for more than ther looks, etc.

              • Archy, that’s exactly the point I hoped to make. Thank you for saying it so eloquently. I think you’ve made the right point that men *are* seeing women as complete people, and the objectification would be an edge-case.

                That’s why I object to being shamed. I’ve always felt like when men were shamed for this it was a giant assumption that was being made, without actually considering the feelings of the so-called objectifier. It’s the same reductive thinking to call a man an “objectifier” as to only think of a woman as a walking “whatever body part.”

                I don’t want to be on the defensive about how my mind works.

                • I don’t intend to shame anyone but how can I possibly know if a given man is appreciating more than just my body parts? Because sometimes it is hard to tell; I have had many interactions over the years with men who did not seem to see me as a person but only as a pair of breasts, or whatever. It just gets a little tiring as depressing. I realize maybe men “can ‘t help themselves” but it can make one feel a bit cynical, sigh.

                  • No we don't says:

                    You can’t ever know for sure. You can ask and hope they’re honest. You can observe actions and try to infer.

                    I can certainly understand your cynicism regarding how men seem to be. The differences between men and women can be frustrating.

                    I wish more women fucked like pornstars, but I understand that’s just not how most are. Such is life.

                • Also, the idea that men ate mentally taking high res photos of my body makes me insecure b/c I don ‘t have a perfect body, yikes! 🙂

                  • Well not that they are mentally recording, but more that they are focused on the detail. I myself love the entire woman’s body, I LOVE detail, closeups, high res, I like the curves, the shapes, the face, the eyes, like seeing the pattern in the eyes, the dimples, the smile, etc. Catch me at one point of time and you might think I’m only focusing on say the breasts but really I am looking at the entire body, just in “detail mode”. My mind is adding to the image in my head of what she looks like. That’s about all I can do, getting to know her comes after that first few moments where you start a conversation, etc.

                    Because society seems to break women down more into parts, that could be teaching people to see women as parts BUT not ONLY as parts. If anything it might be telling society that men are not really interesting to look at in “parts mode”, no point zooming in on features.

                    For me, not all features people are insecure about at bad. Things like freckles, red hair, I think are very attractive yet they commonly get a bad wrap. Any man worth his salt knows women are not perfect and it won’t bother them if he’s still attracted to you. One case in point is the vulva, I mostly hear from women that they think they are ugly. The vulvas I’ve seen of women who’ve said they were ugly, I have found to be extremely beautiful AND I tell them that because I don’t want them to think their most intimate areas are even remotely ugly. Most men I know think vulvas are beautiful, the wide variety of them not just the Photoshopped small inner labia softcore porn style (which is like that to avoid the censors). Most of us realize there is a woman attached to that vulva, we don’t go around looking at women as JUST a pair of tits. Even some of the most misogynist guys I know see women as more than a pair of tits.

              • But this is not what the alluded-to article was talking about. Why are people so willing to argue for those disembodied images of women’s butts? They do absolutely nothing to show the athletic prowess of a woman because while that butt may be muscle, a butt is not the power house of any athlete–it is the core, the abs. But of course, the core is nothing without all the rest of the parts, so I don’t understand why women’s whole beings cannot be shown to reflect this as their male counterparts entire bodies are shown. I know I am more than just a muscular butt as a dancer. I take pride in my muscular legs, my overall physique, and I would hate to be reduced to my butt because as a dancer, my butt is only a smidgen of what gives me the power to jump and turn. I suspect butts are only a smidgen of what gives any athlete his or her true power. Why focus on the butt for a swimmer or a volleyball player? That isn’t where they’re getting their power from. You see, that is what I don’t understand.

                • No we don't says:

                  “Why are people so willing to argue for those disembodied images of women’s butts? They do absolutely nothing to show the athletic prowess… ‘

                  I’ll argue for butts all day, because I like to look at them. Period. Nice legs, nice abs, nice whatever on a woman. I’ll look at those too.

          • Hi Austin, please pay attention to my actual name on the board. It’s Erin. We both know where the “Roxy” came from but I would appreciate if you didn’t over share information here.

            The fact that you called me Roxy and not Erin leaves me with the impression that you didn’t pay attention to what I wrote very much. At least I got your name right.

            I hope to write more in response to yours later because I find your article misguided, misinformed and demoralizing. You appear sensitive to the issue of blaming and shaming men while you don’t do women the same justice or even want to recongnize the ways women are blamed and shamed in this culture as well. We certainly aren’t blamed and shamed for the same things men are but it’s still there.

            • Erin, anyone who subscribes to the comments has all the data in their inbox, including what you’re referring to. Please don’t reduce the time I’ve put into writing the post or attending to the thread because of a technicality. That’s too easy, and it’s not giving me the benefit of the doubt here. I’m having the conversation with you, but I’m being attacked. Can you see why I might feel defensive?

              • Did you give me the benefit of the doubt Austin when you suggested that I am not reading what you wrote? Could you see how that statement would make me feel defensive? Making the assumption that I just came in willy nilly without reading what I am commenting on? Could you see how it could be further exasperated by not even taking the time to get my name right? We all make mistakes but my name isn’t a “technicality”.

                I don’t get the impression you are having a conversation with me at all. I said a lot in response, in my original post, and none of it was really addressed.

                • Erin, allow me to address something you said in your original post. You said that you are very frustrated with how men are blaming women for the situation of objectification.

                  Why be frustrated? I say, OWN IT. Be the woman you want to be, in the fullest sense. Find fulfillment and don’t let yourself be so emotionally affected by realities that you have little to no control over. Whether or not you believe in god or evolution, Men are Men and no cultural revolution of feminism shall mold that which is innate in manhood.

                  Men here have had their own experiences with observing women’s sexuality gaining them unfair privilege. That’s part of life. For good men, they find ways to appreciate the beauty (inside and out) of women. I suggest you look for the beauty in men instead of flaws (aka nagging).

      • No we don't says:

        “Collecting photons with your eyes is not a crime.”

        nice answer!

        • No one is saying it’s a crime or that it should be. This is derailing. The point that many are bringing up is that Gunter assumes that the parsing of women’s bodies is natural and therefore nothing worth deconstructing or examining. Where there are plenty of women here and else where who say quite clearly it is dehumanizing and demeaning.

          If men feel shame or guilt for taking women’s body parts away from their identities and humanity, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to examine that. No one is suggesting it’s criminal, just that it may indeed be an unpleasant byproduct of a media machine that uses images of beautiful, skinny women to sell pretty much everything.

  7. “I’m not a scientist, and I’m not interested in providing a scientific basis for why we behave this way.”

    If this is the case then why do you appeal to the authority of a certain branch of science (evolutionary psychology) to back up your argument?

    I think that you’re abusing the ability of scientific buzzwords to lend more credence to your argument (that it’s impossible for women to objectify men on the basis of sexual appeal) here.

    This study has shown that people are more likely to believe an argument about human behaviour when logically redundant information and terms from neurological science are included than when they are not.

    When the observation of different ‘cognitive processes’ when looking at men’s bodies compared to looking at women’s bodies is mentioned above, that’s an example of redundant information in terms of the overall argument here – the fact that a difference has been observed in cognitive processing doesn’t make it any more real or innate, the ways in which our brains respond to stimuli is in some cases hardwired and in some cases learned.

  8. “It’s clear that as a whole, women’s bodies are more beautiful than men’s bodies.”

    I know this is a dual display of cherry-picking AND nit-picking, but please exactly how heterosexist this sentence reads. Blanket statements like this tend to suck for their imprecision, as I assume you’re not actually biased against gay or bisexual men just saddled by your own perspective and writing a bit carelessly.

    • “… but please UNDERSTAND exactly …” is what I meant to write. Heh.

      • Mark, I think that’s probably an interesting discussion to have. I wouldn’t say that men are as beautiful as women, and I’m not gay or bi-sexual. My bias doesn’t necessarily make me wrong, but it certainly is a bias. I wouldn’t disagree that men have an innate beauty all their own, but I would ask if there is true equity in beauty between men and women? Could it be clear as a whole that the beauty of men and women is different, and not the same? Could one be preferred over the other? Probably so. Could one actually be more beautiful than the other? Might one objective measurement actually demonstrate one as superior to the other, and still provide validity to alternative points of view?

        I’d say that any of those could be true.

        • @ Austin I’m more incline to agree with those who say that a man’s body is a tool of productivity. His beauty is generally found in the exceptionalism he shows at a chosen endeavor. You cant objectify the Male form without itemizing it’s value to society first.

          Ironically, the Olympics Games are an international event specifically tailored for the promotion body worship. Whether or not some people see this as objectification is rather pointless.

  9. There is a concept in biology that gets very little discussion in the media even though I think it is important to keep in mind when offering “fertility” explanations from evo psych. It’s the concept of “supernormal stimuli.” Many animals have “triggers” for certain behavior — a color, a shape. They can be easily manipulated by things that exaggerate those qualities. So for example a bird might be triggered to sit on an egg that is round and blue. If you put a rock in the nest that is brighter blue, larger and more round, the bird will neglect its own egg and sit on the rock, even though the rock looks nothing like a normal egg for that species. Or maybe a female bird looks for a male with a long tail. If you glue a super long tail on the male — longer than anything that occurs naturally — females won’t recognize that he’s abnormal, they will flock to him because they are triggered by the long tail.

    This concept can be applied to humans as well. Yes, aspects of female body parts may trigger thoughts of fertility but the bodies of Olympic athletes, models, celebrities, airbrushed photos and surgically enhanced porn stars have a “supernormal” effect in that they exaggerate qualities that males may have evolved to look for. So males will flock to the female with the exaggerated qualities and ignore the “normal” females who are equally fertile but have more normal qualities, just like birds will ignore the real egg and sit on the rock.

    I’m just pointing this out because there is an ncorrect assumption in popular culture that our evolved perceptual systems are “perfect” when in fact they are not — evolution takes a lot of short cuts and in an artificial environment, can lead to absurd results, like birds sitting on painted rocks (which could never happen nder normal conditions) or men lusting after porn stars with DDDDD breasts.

    This does not mean it is “good” or “bad” to focus on women’s body parts but I think it is important for a full understanding of what is going on, if we are going to give evo psych explanations.

    • Man, I really love the point you make here. I think you’re absolutely right about the content of Women’s magazines. Those things are chock-full of vapid and shallow content all about appearance, sex, and expensive makeup. There are good exceptions of women’s magazine that promote diversity in how you can be a woman (Bust, for example), but the most popular woman’s magazines, show how hard Women are on themselves for their appearance.

      As you pointed out, men like a huge variety of women, and we are super honest with the women we love about how much we love how they look. There was a girl I dated once who I remember crying harder about her appearance than she ever had when we had bad fights or I was simply being a jerk. Her appearance not being perfect cut her deeper than anything I ever did.

      Now, I don’t want to be a porn apologist, and I think we ought to be careful about using Porn as the moral high road because there is diversity in the medium, but you are right that porn does portray a great diversity of women’s bodies. If you google it, you can probably find porn for it. Men love women’s’ bodies, and we love them in all shapes and sizes. More shapes and sizes than Cosmo portrays. Like I already said, I love a bigger butt. Cosmo doesn’t celebrate how I like my women to look.

      It would be pretty interesting to see men’s magazines with Cosmo-esque headlines: “Guys, how to trim inches off your butt and still eat Ice Cream!” “Thin! How to fit into those boardshorts for summer!!!” “Make her lust for you, get your thighs just like Brad Pitts”

  10. There’s a lot wrong with that article, and Austin Gunter is drowning in assumptions that destroy his credibility. Gunter cites a contemporary study as a means of exonerating himself from being an objectifier. “See?! It’s SCIENCE! It’s NOT MY FAULT!” he seems to be shouting. The core of this essay is an evolutionary psychology argument that men and women have “evolved” to see women as parts, while we see men as whole. Of course, the study he cites never says such a thing. To do so would entirely undermine the credibility of the study. Evolutionary Psychology as a field is fraught with bad science, but when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like fertility signals.

    He uses his baseless argument to claim that men and women HAVE to objectify women. It’s how our brains work. Not his fault.

    The fundamental flaw of Evolutionary psychology is that it engenders a constant chicken/egg problem. Does the media objectify women more than men because people do it? Or do people do it because the media does it?

    All of this to justify the fact that Joanna Schroeder noticed there are far more pictures of female volleyball players’ asses than there are men’s. She suggested that maybe, just maybe, the media is complicit in objectifying women and creating a culture in which women are devalued and parsed into elements rather than treated as whole, complete human beings. This is not news to anyone with half a brain and a television set. But when she dared draw attention to it, Gunter became an apologist for all those who didn’t see a problem with it.

    So, there’s absolutely no evidence that Gunter is right about any of this. However there IS evidence (plenty of it) that our subconsciouses are prone to suggestion. (Remind a student of his or her gender before they take a math quiz, for example, and their scores will line up neatly along gender stereotypes. Leave out the gender question at the beginning, and girls do just as well, if not better, than boys on the exact same quiz.) Might people in a study evaluating men and women’s bodies succumb to similar suggestion? What if the participants read a magazine that day, watched television, saw an ad featuring merely a woman’s naked legs, or hands, or back, or mouth? Is it evolution now?

    Do I think it’s wrong for people to have a hierarchy (or order) of attraction? Hell no. What I do think is wrong is treating this body-parsing as though it’s natural and necessary. I doubt it’s natural and I sure as hell don’t think it’s necessary.

    Claiming “Science Made Me Do It!” sounds like a pat excuse to avoid treating women as humans.

    • Philippe Lewis says:

      The tricky bit about your comment, Allison, is that you begin the article by labeling Austin. Just from reading one article from him, you were able to put him in a neat little box called “objectifier”. But isn’t this labeling a form of objectification? After all, did you engage with him to get to know him and truly understand who he is and where he is coming from? Even better, did you repeat to him what you understand in order to see if he agrees? Heck, he might actually tell you that you are right!

      But I will make the wild guess that you did not do any of that (though correct me if I’m wrong; perhaps you and Austin have met before and you actually know him)

      So then could you see how it would be difficult to take your words seriously, seeing that it appears (to me) that you are treating him as a stereotype, to easily cast your own judgments on?

      And yet i do think you have something important to say. Could you possibly say it without talking about Austin, but rather by talking about you?

      Looking forward to it!

    • “Gunter cites a contemporary study as a means of exonerating himself from being an objectifier.”

      That’s what this is about isn’t it? The prosecution of objectification as a thought crime and the constant reminder of how Men are objectification’s chief perpetrators.

    • “The fundamental flaw of Evolutionary psychology is that it engenders a constant chicken/egg problem. Does the media objectify women more than men because people do it? Or do people do it because the media does it?”

      How about both. The society is a reflection of evolutionary forces. It doesn’t oppose those forces … it often reinforces them. The error of feminists is believing that just because society influences people this implies that everything is socially determined and we can just alter everything by altering society. But society itself is biologically determined. In other words people are influenced by their biology and they create societies that reinforce what is biologically natural so that society itself is biologically determined. There is no nature vs nurture…..because nurture is determined by nature. So all there is is nature.

  11. Men are probably objectified far more for their ability to provide, their utility, their wallet. You don’t need to focus in on body parts for that.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      That’s why I referenced Noah Brand’s “Success Myth” in my comment.

      • Exactly. This article isn’t about men being objectified for their success. Men in the Olympics are looked at for their athletic prowess, which is what they should be looked at for because that is what the Olympics is showcasing! Women, on the other hand, are being cut into parts and not looked at as a whole, with the complete eschewing of their athletic abilities, as if these women just compete to be ogled at in bikinis and short shorts.

  12. Quadruple A says:

    “Objectification is natural, it’s even necessary. If you feel desire over Ryan Lochte’s appearance, you’re naturally going to make an object of desire out of him – because he can’t be more to you. You can’t know him, you can’t build a solid foundation of friendship or love with him. This is normal behavior.”

    Well we might all tend to “objectify” persons to some degree. And whether we admit it or not when we appreciate beauty we do perceive a “more” to it. That is really what we are expressing when we say “beauty” in the first place because beauty implies some kind of “meaningfulness” which is more than just saying “that appearance is pleasant to my tastes”. We sense that physical beauty symbolizes an inner more imperceptible quality. Whether or not that quality implies some kind of limitation on the freedom of an individual obviously is a question of some not inconsiderable concern but the fact is that is how we perceive beauty. I think this appreciation for beauty can be appreciated by both sexes with regard to both sexes but there is a particularly different way in which female beauty is appreciated.

  13. “It’s female beauty that we can all agree is superior to male beauty. Doesn’t it say a lot when the photo of a woman’s butt is superior to the whole of a man’s body?”

    Oh, please. This is contrary to the first 2000 years of art history. With the exception of recent times, the male nude has been the primary subject of art. Male beauty, especially that of young men, has been the inspiration of many of the greatest philosophers and artists.

    The greater interest surrounding female nudity is due to a few reasons; one, western media is so saturated with male nudity that it goes unnoticed unless extremely graphic; two, there’s a lot more taboo surrounding female nudity due to feminism and chivalrous Christianity (taboo always results in sensationalism); and, three, homophobia has led men to believe their bodies as non-sexual and less appealing.

    • Quadruple A says:

      “homophobia has led men to believe their bodies as non-sexual and less appealing.” – There is more than homophobia going on in the male ambivalence toward the sexuality and physical appearance of other men. The hierarchical way that men relate to each other as part of a social chain makes it difficult for men to aesthetically appreciate other men because it can make them feel vulnerable to the relative power, sheer meanness, and status of those men.

      • Sorry it’s taken me a bit to respond. I’ve been conferencing all weekend 🙂

        I really like what you have to say about this. Particularly the part where you say that if you’re attracted to Ryan Lochte, but you can’t have a more substantial relationship with him, you’ve got to turn him into an object of desire. Now, I’d wonder at what point that objectification is not only harmful for him, but also for you. I like how you’ve created a category for normal or healthy objectification – an object where we can direct an emotional response. I would make the point that directing too much emotional energy towards the object you’ve created, you’re also isolating yourself from the world around you because your limited desire isn’t available for a real human being. Objectification keeps us safe from vulnerability in this instance, and it’s the cause of addition.

        I guess the point is that the objectifier is at least as harmed as the objectified. It’s a negative cycle.

        I’ll second the talk about Noah Brand’s work, as well as the purchasing power women hold. That’s important to acknowledge anywhere.

      • I think the homophobia comment is probably more true than men are capable of acknowledging at all.

  14. Joanna Schroeder says:


    So first, I didn’t say that the media (or anyone else) is objectifying women and not men… I wondered about why we’re disembodying women and not men.

    I think women and men are objectified too, for many reasons. I think to name all objectification as “bad” is also goofy. Objectification is natural, it’s even necessary. If you feel desire over Ryan Lochte’s appearance, you’re naturally going to make an object of desire out of him – because he can’t be more to you. You can’t know him, you can’t build a solid foundation of friendship or love with him. This is normal behavior.

    Objectification of people becomes problematic when we dehumanize somebody, and that happens on both a large and small scale. We dehumanize these volleyball players when we show only their asses. Does it actually harm Misty May when we look at her butt and don’t even know it’s her? No. But it sends a message out to women (and some men) that this is what women are for. We’re for having a perfect butt. Our athleticism or our skill come second to our asses, so much so that even our faces don’t matter.

    On a smaller scale, obviously dehumanizing someone in your daily life isn’t going to be good for that person, and probably not for you either in the long run. If someone objectifies me while I’m standing in line at Starbucks because I’m wearing cutoff jean shorts (which seem to be the reigning item of clothing to draw the gaze of men lately), that is probably okay, as long as I’m not being dehumanized. When I suddenly am just a body to them, and my humanity is second to that, or even non-existent, then their gaze can cross the line to staring or even approaching me without recognizing my body language (or verbal language) that I may be uncomfortable. If I’m dehumanized, the starer probably won’t notice and/or won’t care.

    Those are some the practical reasons why we have to be careful not to objectify.

    As far as these photos and the photos of men, I think you’re mostly on track. I’m not sure that you can truly extrapolate the findings of this study to the behavior of the media and call it adaptive, but it’s a fun theory for us non-scientists to entertain. There certainly is *some* reason why we have 50 photos of women’s disembodied asses in bikinis and one of a man’s, and then like 8 billion photos of the male Olympic swimmers in their full kits, and significantly less of the female swimmers in their full kits.

    There’s something to the difference in desire here. But it’s not as simple as the way we evaluate bodies. It’s probably a whole confluence of what you’re saying here along with society’s willingness to accept that all those beach volleyball players’ asses are somehow more important than their entire beings. That speaks to how culture has taken nature and left it sort of unchecked, when it should probably be checked in on. “Is this okay to show only her ass? Should I show her face? I like the ass best, but is it truly the right thing to do to show only her ass?” would be a great place to start.

    There are ways in which we should check in with ourselves in the ways we objectify men, too, but that’s for another story and can be sort of entertained by reading Noah Brand’s “The Success Myth”.

    And it is certainly not *men’s fault* that this is happening. This is a cultural phenomenon here. If it were just something men wanted, and women were against it, it wouldn’t fly. Women are roughly 50% of the population and by some estimates control up to 80% of the spending dollars in the US. If women weren’t buying into this, it’d be dead (in mainstream media, that is).

    • There’s one thing here that your not taking into account. One of the greatest Fau paux in photography is to show the back of someones head. So if I’m a professional photographer, it’s easy to show you an athletes face while photographing his’package’ for your enjoyment, since they’e both on the front of his body. However, it’s much harder photograph a butt with a face to go with it. (remember, these are ‘action’ shots we are talking about) since I,m takingths BEHIND the athlete. Besides, these women wear these skimpy bathing suits by CHOICE. They could wear shorts or even sweatsuits ie they so choose!

    • “But it sends a message out to women (and some men) that this is what women are for. We’re for having a perfect butt.”

      At first I was going to disagree with you, but you’re right about this. When men are seeking partners, they are looking at their cut-off jeans and assessing or appreciating the assets. In terms of a reproductive nature, which is what I understand many women value, it is important to be able to attract mates.

      In a society with obesity reaching 33% and overweight at 66% (including obese people), I argue that for women to understand the value of being fit is quite important. Are women motivated by intrinsic healthy choices (I hope so), but if they aren’t, then the idea of being able to attract a GOOD MAN with her physical assets (along with her personality to seal the deal) is a smart approach.

      Why are you so worried about little girls learning the reality of that? The message is true, that their butts are very important in attracting a good mate. If Lochte didn’t win the gold medal, would he have been as valuable as a mate? Women want winners, but only so many men can be winners.

      Such is the nature of the mating game…


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