When women objectify men’s bodies, how does that affect our cultural concepts of desire and agency?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I love Pinterest. I know I am not alone in this. It is my go-to site for between-task time-wasting, and I’ve found endless inspiration there over these past months. I have, however, realized that there are some things I really don’t want to see in my feed. They include:
- Food: I am a lousy cook but an excellent eater. Seeing endless photos of Peanut Butter Butterfinger Pretzel Brownies with Salted Caramel Frosting and Fudge Dipping Sauce just makes me hungry. Even when I’m not actually hungry.
- Thinspiration: Needs no explanation.
- Fitspiration: I feel that the lines between thinspiration and fitspiration are blurry, so I just avoid both. Also I don’t need to see a thousand different ways to do crunches.
- Hunky half-dressed male bodies: That’s what we’ll be talking about today.
So I’m a heterosexual woman and I totally dig man bodies. I also know that men have been sexually objectifying women for ages and that it may seem like objectifying them back is a way of restoring some sort of balance. I also also know that users of the Internet post, pin, and say things far worse every second of every day. But I can’t help myself. I’ve gotta say something about this.
Think about the phrase “man candy” for a minute. It’s fantastically demeaning. Demotes a human being to something sweet, temporary, and devoid even of nutritional value. Think about the golden rule. If you found a similar board featuring scantily clad women’s bodies labeled “Yummy,” how would it make you feel? Think about how hard we have to fight to turn the tide of socially sanctioned objectification of the female form. And how little progress we’ve made so far. Will objectifying the male form really help in that battle? How could it possibly? At what point in time have two wrongs actually made a right? Think about what a Pinterest board is: It’s a collection of images meant to inspire you. What does it mean when women are filing away half-naked male bodies like so many recipes or home decoration ideas? If we want a diverse beauty ideal for ourselves, shouldn’t these man-focused boards include short men, hairy men, fat men, old men? I know that to be human is to be hypocritical. But I also know that choosing to publicly objectify sexualized male bodies just makes it easier for men to publicly objectify sexualized female bodies. If we’re doing it, how can we reasonably tell them not to?
Empowering women is my main goal in life, but respecting other human beings will always be one of my core values. And that holds no matter what sex, gender, or sexual preference those human beings express. Men are people. If we want them to treat us with more respect, treating them with LESS respect is a patently ridiculous way to go about it. This is not “a taste of their own medicine.” This is feeding the problem we’re trying to fight.
I will say that many of the man-focused pin boards I see my fellow pinners creating aren’t quite as titillating or pants-peeling-focused as the screenshot above. But they’re also more prevalent than I would have expected, and even the tamer ones almost always include a couple of greased-up washboard ab shots. Pinterest has relatively few rules and I doubt that they’ll ever enforce a ban on “man candy,” which is fine. I won’t be leading a puritanical crusade against pin-up shots anytime soon. I just wanted to point out that regardless of sex or gender, all human bodies can be objectified. And no matter whose body is being objectified, it has the potential to affect us all.