Put it to you, you were married to a gay man.
Put it to you, that this hypothetical gay man were to say, “Darling, I love every single aspect of you, except your body. I’m just not aroused by it. But I love everything else about you, except your body. It does nothing for me.”
How would you feel? Exactly how most heterosexual males in our culture feel, I can say with good authority. You see, many men are convinced that their bodies are somehow less “sensual”, and less “aesthetically pleasing” than the female body, having been indoctrinated by numerous cultural messages which dictate that women’s bodies are just “sexier” than men’s.
Well you know what? You guys have been living a lie. In this post, I am going to do what I’ve always been doing: Deconstructing the contemporary Western cultural myth that only women’s bodies are “sexy”, and that men’s bodies are functional at best, or comical at worst.
The bodybuilder Charles Atlas sold a physical training course, which was supposed to “manufacture weaklings into men”. Atlas’s target audience were skinny, flabby unfit young men, who would apparently grow into mega-hunks by taking his course. His ads usually depict a frail-looking young man named Jack, who takes a girl out for a date. The couple is then confronted by a huge muscular thug, who beats Jack up, humiliates him and steals his girl. Jack then buys Atlas’s course, pumps himself up, and in no time becomes a mega hunk. He then proceeds to work his primordial revenge on Mr Bully, by beating him up and stealing his girl back. Atlas’s ads played on a man’s insecurity at not being able to “protect” his (preferably female) partner. Jack’s revamped body is not an object of “aesthetic beauty”; it is not a “sensuous object”. It is strictly functional in the same way as a jeep, to quote Elaine from Seinfeld (whose script, was not surprisingly written by Larry David, a straight male). It is what makes him a “full man”, as opposed to “half a man”, yet it is not portrayed in itself to be an object of aesthetic pleasure, in the same way 1950s films portray Marilyn Monroe’s body as an object of aesthetic pleasure for the male gaze. It is objectified no less, but not as something “sexual”, but rather, as a mere tool whose only function is to clobber jackasses, make babies and kill saber-toothed tigers.
I came across this blog by a lady who was saying that most of the women (including her) she asked on whether they found the male or female form more “sexy”, “sensual” and “aesthetically pleasing”, would pick the female form, and she was also musing on how women could never appreciate the male form in the same way men appreciate the female form due to cultural conditioning in modern Western society (women over-sexualized, men under-sexualized, hence no erotic pics of men), and how men’s bodies just don’t have any effect on straight women due to that so-called “conditioning”.
Some quotes from her blog include:
“While in surveys women say they find men sexier, when they are wired up, their vaginas say something else. I’m sure this is cultural and not biological.”
“While I would call the female body more erotic, I’ve never wanted to have sex with a woman.”
“… If I’m secretly lesbian because I’ve been bombarded with sexualized images of women that make me see sexually-dressed or posed women as sex objects (who I don’t want to have sex with) then pretty much all women are. All women in the study I cite were more aroused by a nude woman than a nude man. That doesn’t make sense biologically. Biologically most women are hetero. Seeing woman as sexier only makes sense in terms of socialization that comes on top of biological preferences.”
(To a woman who said she could appreciate the male form erotically and aesthetically in the same way as men appreciate the female form):
“But strong patterns do arise among humans of similar cultures, and according to research you’re quite unusual. Sounds like you’re even unusual among your friends and acquaintances.
That’s neither good nor bad, but you’re an outlier, and you shouldn’t be accusing others of being crazy for living in a culture that teaches them that women are the sexy half of the species.”
As someone who once worked on a stint at Madame Josephine’s (topless waiter), I take Broadblogs’ articles on the female gaze (or lack thereof) with a pinch of salt. In fact, I’m almost afraid of hearing Broadblogs’ take on gay male sexuality. It’s depressing enough for straight men to go through their entire lives thinking that their bodies are “asensual”, that they can be desired for their intellect, or their resources, but never for their bodies. It’s extremely depressing for men to hear such quotes from an apprantly heterosexual woman, and frankly I think all this “Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars” faux lesbian bullshit needs to come to an end.
Let me tell you something: As a heterosexual woman, each time you denounce the male body as “less sexy” than the female body, or “non-sexual”, or “not arousing in any way”, you are marching to the tune of (that’s right) the patriarchy. Although you may not be aware, the idea that women’s bodies are someohw more “sensual” and “beautiful” and “interesting to look at” than men, is exactly what the patriarchy expects you to parrot. It’s a male-centric theory that straight men have subscribed to for generations and it’s been that way for over the last hundred years. If you were to ask Darwin, he would tell you that in human society, men pick their mates through fertility cues (e.g. big eyes, muscle tone, wide hips, long legs, fair skin), while women on the other hand look for resource cues (e.g. nice car, stable income, thick wallet). Now on the surface, we believe it to be true, and there’s nothing wrong with being attracted towards resource cues; point of fact, money is sexy. Yes, very sexy. I like money, and I love buying and wearing pretty things, like most humans do. But the problem with this theory is that while women may appreciate a man’s ability, intellect, etc, the idea is that she can never “desire” him physically, and the only function of his so-called “junk” is for “continuation of the species”, but it can never be desired aesthetically in its own right. While Darwin was doubtless a pioneer in the advancement of the human race, there are two problems with this theory.
1. It’s worth noting that for all his brave and novel ideas, Darwin was still a product of his time. As we know, the Victorians (at least straight guys) had a “Mars and Venus” take on sexuality. (Bear in mind that Victorian society was male dominated) Men were assumed to be “visual”, while women were not. Men were assumed to be the visually stimulated beasts of humanity, who would go crazy over the sight of a woman’s exposed body, while women were the asexual little angels who had no desire for sex or the male form, sex in that theory being like childbirth in a sense that women had sex not for pleasure, but strictly for the continuation of the species. Till Eugen Sandow the Father of Modern Bodybuilding came around and challenged this theory that most heterosexual men believed, and what “respectable women” were supposed to. In fact, rich women literally paid hundreds of dollars each just to go backstage and stroke his muscles! Note that Darwin being a straight male, and probably having no openly gay friends (homosexuality was still taboo back then) to tell him otherwise cannot be blamed for subscribing to the “Mars and Venus” theory.
2. The tragic fact of the matter is that during Darwin’s day, in Darwin’s society, women were considered the property of men. (first their father, followed by their husband) Many women did not get a say in who they were to marry, as it was usually decided for them by their parents, and marriage considered the mark of a respectable woman. Thus, many women, probably even closeted lesbians forced themselves into loveless marriages out of duty. The fact is was that during Darwin’s day, it was considered a woman’s RESPONSIBILITY toward her family to pick a suitor with the best resources, regardless of whether she liked him or not. Hence, the theory that women were not “visual” would have been superficially proven correct by the fact that rich, obnoxious men with nothing to offer in the physical department (e.g. guys like Rush Limbaugh) would have been able to find wives.
It is these cultural messages that cause feelings of inadequacy among heterosexual men, believing their bodies go be “asexual lumps of flesh”, so to speak. Thus, women are enculturated by patriarchal norms to express their utter asexuality towards the male form, and men are conditioned to unquestioningly believe this to be gospel truth. It’s an unspoken rule in patriarchal society – That no “normal” woman can feel anything for the male body (as Broadblogs seems to imply), sort of like how no “normal” person should have the cheek to criticize their host’s cooking in front of their face.
It’s a loss for women, but it’s an even greater loss for heterosexual men. The reason I say this is because gay men have escaped this crushing indoctrination, by virtue of being born gay. Gay men are perfectly aware that the male body is in no way inferior to the female body, and that women are just as aroused by the male body as heterosexual men are aroused by the female body. Thus, gay men have been able to experience the things that many heterosexual men have been sorely deprived of: The feeling of their bodies being “sensual”, of being desired in a physical sense, of being longed for and lusted after, and placed on a pedestal for their beauty. But while it’s easy for a gay man who is completely aware of his own “sensuality” to scoff at the ludicrousness of Broadblog’s post, for an impressionable young heterosexual boy to read stuff like that can be extremely demoralizing for his own self worth and body image. We talk about teaching women and girls to love their bodies, espousing the importance of women’s self-esteem, but I find it strange that we don’t do the same the same in men.
I did however find a post by the Australian journalist Clementine Ford, called Why naked men don’t sell http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opin, and Ford seems to have a more sensible take on it. Rather than just dismiss women’s desire for the male form as non-existant, Ford says that it’s there; women love and are as enchanted by the male form as much as men are by the female form, but are just too shy to admit it, for fear of being thought of as “sluts”. (That’s basically the gist of her article)
I rather like Miss Ford’s take on it better; i felt really depressed after i read Broadblogs’ post last year, but when my mum showed me Ms Ford’s article the other day, my mood lightened up alot. To me, Ms Ford seems alot more honest, and comfortable with her sexuality than Broadblogs is. I think Broadblogs is still in a way, loath to admit the truth about heterosexual female sexuality, for the sake of social respectability. (e.g. a “nice, NORMAL woman” shouldn’t see men in a sexual way) The fact is that there is absolutely nothing “unusual” about a heterosexual woman being visually drawn to a man’s muscles, his smile, or his V-shaped torso. It does not make them “outliers”, unlike what Broadblogs seems to suggest. It makes them normal. It is outdated, Neo-1950s literature like this that is what makes heterosexual women feel guilty about lusting for the male body. It is outdated, anachronistic rubbish like this which in itself keeps women’s sexuality repressed; it’s a vicious cycle of sexual repression that keep heterosexual women unable to express their desire for the male form, for fear of feeling like abnormal “outliers” (As Broadblogs so prudishly seems to imply), and keep heterosexual men sadly unaware of just how happy their bodies can make women. Truth be told, there is nothing “abnormal” about appreciating the beauty and sensuality of the opposite sex. We are all human after all. We desire, and desire to be desired.
Let’s just hope that the days are still coming when heterosexual men can revel in their own physical desirability, and be aware of just how much women love their bodies. Until then, this will be nothing but a fantasy for most straight men; the longing and quiet desperation to be seen as “beautiful”, so to speak.