These are comments by Heather N and avern on the post “Sexualization of the Male Body On Film“.
Heather N said:
I disagree with you that no body hair=objectification for men. I do agree that there is an element of a female gaze (or a gay male gaze) in these images…but it’s not quite as simple as you say. Body hair covers muscle definition, and muscles = power. Often these images of nearly nude men aren’t there for sexual titillation, but to portray strength and action. Even Daniel Craig as 007 isn’t objectified … so much as his role as an active subject with agency is considered sexy.
The Starz show, Spartacus, has a lot of interesting examples of this … particularly because it very deliberately courts a gay male audience along with a straight male audience.
I agree that the objectification of men is not a simply a matter of a waxed or natural chest, but only because Noah is incorrect that chest hair is currently considered unattractive. A waxed chest is more immediately seen as sexual because of a stereotypical association with porn stars and strippers, but hairy chests are seen as more manly which equals more attractive to those who find masculinity attractive, which is most women over thirty and almost every gay man I know.
“Often these images of nearly nude men aren’t there for sexual titillation, but to portray strength and action.”
Strength and power are intricately tied into sexually titillating images of the male body; look up the term “sporno” as coined by Mark Simpson. But the relationship between strength, power, and action and male sexual attractiveness makes the images above no less objectifying because those qualities do not concern an interior experience and most of the time lead audiences to disregard the interior lives of the male characters depicted.
Heather N responded:
“But the relationship between strength, power, and action and male sexual attractiveness makes the images above no less objectifying because those qualities do not concern an interior experience and most of the time lead audiences to disregard the interior lives of the male characters depicted.”
Yes, strength and power are intricately tied to sexual attraction of men. No, this does not make images of strength and power objectifying. A picture of a nearly-nude, powerful man still depicts that man as a subject (a person taking action, an agent, someone doing a thing). Strength and power are actions, they are qualities that a social subject has. This hypothetical man is sexy because of what he DOES — and, it does concern an “interior experience.” As I mentioned, the muscles symbolize power…not just physical, but in personality and character. There is an element of the representational … an image of a nude man isn’t only sexual because it’s an image of a nude man.
With objectification of women, it is precisely the opposite. Female imagery also often breaks a woman’s body down into parts. In the case of film, the camera will slowly pan up a woman’s leg, or over a woman’s breasts. In the case of still images, sometimes all you get is a woman’s butt or breasts, without any sense that the person depicted is a whole person. With depictions of men, even these nude men, usually the camera is more static, and THEY are the ones moving (again the ones doing something). And rarely are there shots sliding over body parts…a man’s face is almost always in frame.
So are these images of men sexual? You bet. Are they even exploitative in some ways? Yup. But very very rarely do you find an image of a man being actually objectified.
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Photo credit: Flickr / siegertmarc