How you guys can pull off cleavage – And look sharp!

I confess the title of this blog post might have been a little misleading, as it seems that most of us automatically associate the term “cleavage” with women. However, seeing as most of you ladies have been getting the flamboyant chest-baring look right, I thought this post would be more appropriate for the guys, who want to partake in the fun as well. You see, I have a confession to make. I NEVER wear ties. None, zilch, nada! To me, ties have something of an ultra-conservative old-school patriarchal Mad Men 1950s vibe, that simply does not gel with my flamboyant, youthful and progressive persona. I suppose for me to wear a tie, would be almost like a woman wearing a Hijab (Muslim headscarf); I simply don’t like the aesthetic of a tie, any more than most women like the aesthetic of the Hijab. When it comes to my taste in clothing, I’m alot more progressive than most of my male brethren. The only time I might be willing to put on a tie is:

1. If I have lost a bet. Well people do ALL kinds of crazy things after losing bets. Some guys do drag, others wear their wives’ Sunday best out in public, I wear ties.

2. I am attending a funeral of a very conservative person. ANYBODY’s funeral – But my own. 

Hence the phrase, “I wouldn’t be caught DEAD in a tie.”

So… What does this have to do with you? In this article, my friend, I am going to teach you the ESSENTIALS of pulling off the latest craze in flamboyant metrosexuality – Male cleavage. What? Male cleavage you say? Why; good sir, for that almost sounds like an oxymoron, if I didn’t know any better! For only WOMEN’s bodies are aesthetically worthy of being put on display like that; men are better off covering up in the entire drab predictable Victorian ensemble: Tux, TIE (Ew) and long pants.

Not so my friend, not so. If DONE RIGHT, male cleavage worn correctly can be just as captivating and enchanting as a nice, juicy set of b**bs on a woman in a modern cocktail dress. Straight men often are under the impression that the male body is somehow less aesthetically pleasing and less “sexy” than the female form, and that heterosexual women can never gaze at the male body in the same manner in which heterosexual men gaze at the female body. Not so, my heterosexual friend. Not so. BUT of course, as with any style, there is a tasteful way to pull it off, and a tasteless way to pull it off. 

You have to understand that the “man cleavage” look has gotten a VERY bad rap in recent years. Critics have described it as “tasteless”, “sloppy” and “under-dressed”, not very flattering terms indeed. Of course, technically to call any man showing abit of skin “sloppy”, while condoning a plunging neckline on a woman in a cocktail gown shows blatant sexism. (the notion that the beauty of men’s bodies should be covered up and not displayed openly) The fact is, if pulled off right, the look is HARDLY sloppy, and makes a refreshing change from the strict, hyper-conservative Victorian dress code that contemporary Western men are currently being subjected to, thanks to aggressively conservative and conformist media like GQ and Askmen.com, which highly frown upon this look. But just like alcohol, we mustn’t ban it completely, unlike what mainstream men’s media (and some women) seem to suggest. That would be equivalent to the Fundamentalist Muslims banning alcohol completely, just because of a few irresponsible drunks. Instead of denying men the pleasure of showing off their physical beauty, why not teach them how to do it in a tasteful way, rather than insisting that they wear that somber Victorian noose? (the tie) Men have chests and collarbones too, don’t they? Are men’s chests and collarbones simply less “pretty” than women’s chests and collarbones? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

So… For the cream of the cake: How then, can a liberated metrosexual man display his flamboyance when it comes to showing off his figure, yet toe the fine line just before trashiness? A few basic tips to remember: (REFER TO PICS BELOW!)

1. Wax/shave/pluck. DO NOT wear this look with an ultra-fuzzy chest!

2. Get pumping. Although a nice, normal chest is okay, a toned muscular chest would look EXCEPTIONAL if it had that “cleavage line” in the middle, look at bodybuilders for instance – They all have one thing in common; that “cleavage gap” in between their chest. Make sure you grow out your chest with exercises like Bench Press and Dips, and you’ll see it.

3. Make sure you keep your collar INSIDE the suit if you’re wearing a jacket. Take style inspiration from Alexander Skarzgard/David Beckham/Hrithik Roshan, but NOT John Travolta in Saturday nite Fever or Al Pacino in Scarface! The 70s gangster look is NOT what you are shooting for!

4. For God’s sake, man; DO NOT over-expose when you’re out of the gym! (No more than 60% of your chest should be on display; show too much skin, regardless of whether you’re a man OR a woman, and people will take you a little less seriously than they would otherwise)
(PS yea; I’m an old-fashioned man. I would certainly tell my daughter the same thing about her low-cut tops and gowns, hahahaha)

When in doubt, observe the best-dressed ladies. They either have nil cleavage showing, or just a hint to tantalize, but not over the top flamboyance that screams, “LOOK AT ME!”

But at the gym, yea; wear what you like! haha

5. Make sure your shirts… FIT! Man-cleavage worn with a baggy shirt gives the impression of sloppiness. It’s the same with women; if she’s gona wear a low-cut top/dress, it should be form-fitting so as to give the impression that the bare chest is intentionally flamboyant, not accidentally sloppy.

6. In case you forget everything, at least remember #1, that’s the MOST IMPORTANT rule!!!

This is a picture of my glorious chest, just after getting a good pump at the gym! Note that only about 45% is being shewn

This is a picture of my glorious chest, just after getting a good pump at the gym! Note that only about 45% is being shown

Yep; Hrithik does a fine job at displaying his chest in its blazing glory; note he has a slick V, and doesn't have more than 30-40% of it on display (But for events of a more formal nature, I would keep the upper abs a little more concealed =))

Yep; Hrithik does a fine job at displaying his chest in its blazing glory; note he has a slick V, and doesn’t have more than 30-40% of it on display (But for events of a more formal nature, I would keep the upper abs a little more concealed =))

Unfortunately due to shows like Scarface and Saturday Nite Fever, the popped collar heavage has gained a "gangster" rep

Unfortunately due to shows like Scarface and Saturday Nite Fever, the popped collar heavage has gained a “gangster” rep

The ex football captain David Beckham has got it just right - Collar tucked in, just the right amount of skin, and a nice "V", with a form-fitting jacket

The ex football captain David Beckham has got it just right – Collar tucked in, just the right amount of skin, and a nice “V”, with a form-fitting jacket

Or if the plunging neckline look is too gauche for your taste, but you want something less "stiff", "stern" and "Victorian", then skip the tie and wear it Lee Kangto style! (the protagonist of my FAVORITE K-Drama, Bridal Mask) Collar stays tucked

Or if the plunging neckline look is too gauche for your taste, but you want something less “stiff”, “stern” and “Victorian”, then skip the tie and wear it Lee Kangto style! (the protagonist of my FAVORITE K-Drama, Bridal Mask) Collar stays tucked
Another snappy chappy; This guy's got it right; note the "line" in the middle of his chest. There is nothing "douchey" about this look. The only people who call it that are PROBABLY politically correct homophobes.
Another snappy chappy; This guy’s got it right; note the “line” in the middle of his chest. There is nothing “douchey” about this look. The only people who call it that are PROBABLY politically correct homophobes
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Why every man must watch Downton Abbey

Why every man must watch Downton Abbey

 
This is going to be a fairly refreshing change from my usual gloomy hardcore lefty aggressiveness (I’m libertarian verging on fanatical liberalism), so don’t stop reading just yet! Today I am going to discuss with you why as a man, gay, bi or straight, you MUST (not should, MUST) watch Downton Abbey!

What’s it about?

Basically, Downton Abbey is set in the fictional British estate called Downton in the World War I era, and is about the Grantham family; a wealthy but highly disfunctional household. The first episode is set after the sinking of the Titanic in 1914, in which Lord Grantham’s future son-in-law Patrick has (apparently) been drowned. Now as we know in the bad old pre-Germaine Greer days, it wasn’t legal for women to inherit a family fortune. Supposing a man had a daughter, it would be passed down to his son-in-law. Which is unfortunately the case for Lord Grantham, the patriarch of the house, who only has three unmarried daughters and no boys (gasp!). So what moves the series along is mainly the conundrum of finding a bunch of male suitors for the three girls, so as to solve the problem of inheritence. The main characters so far (in the first 2 seasons) include:

Lord Grantham

The protagonist of the series, and the master of Downton, Lord Grantham served as an officer in the Anglo-Sudanese War of the late 19th century. Although old-fashioned and conservative, he is a kind man, and is loved by his friends and employees alike.

Cora Crawley

Lord Grantham’s American wife, she is extremely concerned about finding suitors for her three daughters. Like her husband, her heart is set in the right place and she treats her servants well. Not as class-conscious as her more conservative in-laws.

Mary

Lord Grantham’s eldest daughter, Mary is probably the bitchiest of the three. In the beginning of the series, she treats others with disdain and even declared that she wasn’t sad at her fiance’s (apparent) death because she never loved him anyway. She matures throughout the series and becomes a better person throughout the war years.

Edith

Lord Grantham’s second daughter, Edith is apparently “the uglier one”. While being a nice and friendly person, she suffers from low self esteem and tends to be clingy and emotionally needy, which frightens guys away. She and Mary hate each other.

Sybil

Lord Grantham’s idealistic youngest daughter, Sybil strongly believes in a non-judmental world where people are all equally valued. She is a first-wave feminist, and joins the suffragette movement of the early 20th century. She falls in love with the chauffeur, which causes her to be estranged from her conservative father.

Matthew

A distant cousin of Lord Grantham, Matthew Crawley is a young middle-class lawyer who falls for Mary. Initially she does not like him, finding him too simple and unrefined for her taste (rich b*tch!). He joins the army as an officer during the war, following the footsteps of his uncle.

Why should you as a man watch Downton Abbey?

Now you must be thinking, “It’s great that you love Downton Abbey and shit, but will straight guys actually enjoy it? Isn’t it something like Sex and the City?” NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! It isn’t rubbish, this is quality stuff and I will tell you why. A great aspect about Downton Abbey is that it isn’t a typically feminist (as most dramas are) piece which portrays everything from a male-oppressor-female-oppressed point of view. Too often we find that mainstream feminist literature cannot discuss issues which affect men without reminding them that they’re still somehow overprivileged and that their issues are less serious than women’s issues. Downton Abbey is unique in that it talks about and critiques the issues women face/faced, but doesn’t sideline the issues that us men face. Men are also victims of domestic/emotional abuse(e.g. Mr Bates and his wife), men are expected to be strong, aggressive and brave, and “wimpish” men (nice guys) who don’t conform to the boy code (traditional Anglo-Saxon notions of masculinity) are despised and marginalized by our society.(e.g. William who is given a white feather of cowardice for not joining the army) Also, men are not simply emotionless drones who are utterly devoid of feelings. We too are living, breathing human beings, but not like Mary is aware of that in the way she treats Matthew in the beginning. Not only is she extremely sarcastic to him (“yes, I agree the whole thing is one big joke”) despite his genuine apology for what he said, she also subtly insults him at the dinner table, comparing him to a “sea monster” of Greek tragedy. Later, to rub salt into the wound, she tells him, “Oh you know what? I really do like you; But um, we’ll have to wait and see if mum’s baby is a boy (her mother becomes pregnant in mid Season 1). Until then I can’t promise you anything.” (the message is that he’s simply a moneybag and nothing more and that she doesn’t REALLY like him, she only wants to marry him for respectability and a patriarchal inheritence). Most people don’t know how hurt men can get at these kinds of things, and Downton Abbey does a splendid job at illustrating the fact that men too have fragile feelings that can be hurt, men need to be able to express their vulnerability, to have a shoulder to cry on, or they’ll resort to other, destructive ways to channel their emotions (e.g. Matthew joining the army and going off to war).

Why do I love it?

But I think the main thing I love about Downton Abbey was that I found myself relating very closely to Sybil. Although Sybil and I (Yes, I’m talking about her like she’s a real person!) come from different socio-cultural mores and entirely different time periods, we’re both the same in that we are progressives; Sybil is trying to expand the horizons of female gender roles in the 1920s, while I am personally striving to gain a wider range of acceptable male forms of self-expression in contemporary culture. In other words, I really like Sybil because I can relate to her, and I think she and I would be good friends if she lived in this time period. Compared to mainstream TV like Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City, Downton Abbey is beautiful in the sense that no matter who you are, you will find a character you can closely relate to, because they are all human. They aren’t perfect, but you realize that they’re just trying to find their place in the world, and I feel our world today is no different; I see myself as the guy version of Sybil, who is bringing revolution to a changing world (with changing gender roles). To me, I strongly, strongly believe that history should be largely taught through TV (e.g. The Three Kingdoms, Downton Abbey, The Borgias, The Last Emperor, Jodhaa Akbar, etc). The beauty is that the facts will be more memorible because the historical figures in question aren’t just pictures in a textbook; they’re living, breathing human beings with unique personalities and problems just like us, and students will also get a hands-on view on things like power, class distinctions, gender and sexuality and how these things shaped the world we live in. So when somebody says he/she hates history, it means they haven’t been learning it the right way!

Watch it Man, you won’t regret it!

A Brief and Sordid Poem about Men’s Ties:

This sombre noose clings round the neck
A sad old Victorian artifact
This colored rope we call a tie
Your grandpa wore with one big sigh

Alas the progressive gentleman
Is obliged to play his own hangman
In digging his grave of fashion freedom
One step away from Islamic burqadom

Now the GQ guy would certainly frown
Upon my style when I go about town
But what GQ boy should very well know
Is that his fashion freedom’s been placed on death row!

The myth of the ugly male body

(This was taken from my Hubpages blog, I couldn’t resist sharing it on wordpress)
The male body as it was represented in Ancient Greece - As a sensual, erotic symbol of beauty
The male body as it was represented in Ancient Greece – As a sensual, erotic symbol of beauty
The male body as it is represented in contemporary society - As a gross, bumbling lump of flesh best kept under wraps
The male body as it is represented in contemporary society – As a gross, bumbling lump of flesh best kept under wraps
Back in those days, those surfer shorts did not exist; men could wear Speedos without having their sexuality thrown into question
Back in those days, those surfer shorts did not exist; men could wear Speedos without having their sexuality thrown into question
Male model in a dress, c. 1968
Male model in a dress, c. 1968
Many men are still not aware of the fact that women find the male body "sexy"
Many men are still not aware of the fact that women find the male body “sexy”

The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up.

-Marilyn Monroe

You might be surprised, but the vast majority of straight men do not have any awareness of their own physical attractiveness whatsoever. A man may know what it is to be appreciated as a provider and/or confidant; he may know what it feels like to be loved and adored, and looked up to as a leader and role model, but I can assure you with good authority that very few men have actually had the sense of being longed for in a physical sense. You see, we boys have been indoctrinated by society into thinking that the female body is a work of art worthy of display, while the male body is a horrendously hideous hunk of junk, practical enough for the menial tasks of killing sabre-tooth tigers and skinning wooly mammoths, but nowhere near comparison to the female body in terms of aesthetic attractiveness. In other words, while the female body is an indication of The Creator’s artistic genius, the male body is a representation of His artistic mistakes. In this essay, I attempt to debunk the myth of the male body’s aesthetic inferiority, and maintain that the male body is no less beautiful and worthy of physical longing than the female body.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it should come as no surprise that contemporary Western women enjoy more fashion freedom than their male counterparts. The average woman’s wardrobe contains a vast array of garments which exist in all shapes and sizes, and these range from sleeveless blouses to backless tops, from suits to trousers and ankle socks. When you compare it with the average man’s highly restrictive choice of garments (no skirts, no backless tops, and Lord forbid you wear anything other than a conservative 3-piece shirt and pair of long slacks on formal occasions), the world of fashion does seem pretty bleak for the boys. Is it any surprise why many of us guys wear women’s clothing? It’s because we can’t find anything that suits us within the rigidly defined norms of male fashion! In fact, with the exception of that one rule of decency which forbids women from exposing their bare breasts in public (a double standard no less, but soon to be abolished in our highly feminist society), I think most of us can agree that women have much more leeway as to how much skin they can expose in public. It certainly doesn’t help with the running dogs of the patriarchy, the so-called guardians of male dignity, rambling on about how men should cover up to be cool. Here’s a snippet of what a male blogger whose name I will keep anonymous has to say about men showing off their physiques through their clothing:

“They wear tank tops all the time (the ones they call ”wife beaters”)… or those sleeveless T shirts. These are the same guys that wear Under Armour shirt to the gym (hint… all of us look much more muscular in those shirts, but they are really corny). Make sure and wear fashionable clothes that ”happen” to show off your nice physique. Maybe a fitted short sleeve vintage T shirt instead of a tank top. Wearing clothes that are blatantly meant to show off muscle mass make you look totally cheesy. Show off your body in the context of ”good fashion”.

However, this same blogger contradicts himself with regard to handing out fashion advice to women:

‘I think women are too conservative at times. There are times when it is appropriate to wear skimpy clothing, especially if you are in great shape. You won’t look good forever, so enjoy it while you can!”

So let me get this straight. This guy is basically saying, “If you’re a bloke, then please cover up. Nobody wants to see your ugly male body anyway, especially not women! But if you’re a woman, then please bear all! Because everybody wants to see the beautiful female body as opposed to the horrid male body which is better left to the imagination.” I don’t know about you, but from what I can see, the undertones of his advice simply reeks of patriarchal conditioning. So this guy is basically saying that a woman who shows off her body looks sexy, but a man who shows off his looks stupid. It’s funny though, how these so-called straight male fashion gurus seem to have the world all sorted out, especially since “the world” is a phenomenon that occurs through their rigid, hetero-normative viewpoints. Perhaps they haven’t considered that women also possess libidos, and that straight women also lust after the sexualized male body in the same way men lust after the sexualized female body. Don’t believe me? Then go ahead; go and pay Madame Josephine’s a visit on Hen’s Night, and see what I mean! And check out what this lady had to say about the current trend of today:

The male body is an exquisite miracle that should be honored. I, for one, am so tired of the female body and it’s glamorous position in our society. Give it a rest girls and let they guys turn it on.

…When I see the male form, I stare in awe at the incredible beauty of the shape, form and texture. It’s not strength, power or any of those other typical male associated attributes that stand out, it’s the sexuality, the passion, the way they are enjoying the way they look and sharing it with others, particularly me.

…I can’t describe how sick I am of having to see the female body sexualized all over the place. I can’t go anywhere without being exposed to the images of scantily clad women posing in provocative ways. It’s everywhere, t.v., magazines, movies, games, anywhere and everywhere. It just doesn’t reflect what I want to see when I go out into our over-the-top commercial society.

The fact is that:

“Males have always determined and governed the rules of modesty—both for women and for themselves. Men have always decided, in this and every other culture, how the body will be displayed, and where, and to what effect.”

(Kevin Esser, Baggy Pants)

It’s interesting to note that in Ancient Greece and Rome, it was not the female body that was glorified as it is today, but rather, the male body. Ancient Greco-Roman society was of the impression that the male body was essentially more artistically pleasing than the female form, in the same way that contemporary Western society is of the impression that the female body is more artistically pleasing than the male form. Of course, it is important to note that these societies were under a powerful gay influence (I don’t mean to sound homophobic, but many of the big men of Ancient Greece were actually homosexual men; prior to the advent of Christianity, homosexuality in Greco-Roman society was not at all considered taboo). As Esser puts it, it was men who have always more or less been the governors of the body’s modesty. In that regard, Ancient Greece and Rome could well be said to have been no less patriarchal than contemporary Western society; the only difference being that while the former was a gay male patriarchy which catered for the homosexual male gaze, the latter is a straight male patriarchy, which caters for the straight male gaze. In my humble opinion, neither of these phenomenon is healthy; both of which undoubtedly end up repressing a certain segment of the population from expressing their sexuality, and a certain segment of the population from enjoying the aesthetic value of the opposite sex.

If you were to observe the trend from the 60s, onwards to the present day, you would notice that boys and men did enjoy a brief period of liberty with their bodies during the liberal era of the 60s, onwards to the 80s. It was the era of Jimi and Elvis, an era which celebrated freedom and diversity over conformity. In fact, I even managed to get hold of a photo of a male model from the 1960s in a (manly) dress! (Fig. 4) Men proudly strutted around the beaches with their speedos and short shorts, which came in a wide assortment of colors from red to yellow. They weren’t afraid of donning tank tops and tight tees, of growing long hair and toying with the androgynous.

The original Flower Child exuberance gave way, in the Seventies, to the feral excess of punk and glam, a carnival of hedonism and sexual ambivalence featuring the likes of Queen, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, David Bowie. Long hair on girls, long hair on boys. Short-shorts on girls, short-shorts on boys. The teen idols from these years—tender boytoys such as Davy Jones, David Cassidy and his brother Shaun, Leif Garrett, Tony DeFranco—were the perfect avatars of this new androgyny.

There was a unisex worship of the id, a unisex celebration of the Body Erotic that reached its heyday with disco, with Village People and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, with macho men doing the milkshake and having fun at the YMCA. Suddenly, remarkably, gay and mainstream were one and the same, no segregation, no distinction between queer and straight, an entire culture cheerfully and unwittingly homo-eroticized. The hetero aesthetic and the homo aesthetic had become indistinguishable among young males—in matters of music, hairstyles, and, yes, clothing—no thought or care given beyond looking good and feeling good.

(Esser, Baggy Pants)

Hell, it was not until recently when I discovered that straight women DID indeed desire the male body, and that most straight guys were wrong in their assumptions that women had no interest whatsoever in the male body. Until of course, that fateful day 2 years ago when my dad remarked that there was a woman who was checking me out. At the time, I still could not believe that women saw the male body in the same way men regarded the female body – it was all too incredulous for my patriarch-indoctrinated mind. But secretly, I had hoped that it was true; that I might be longed for by women in the same way I longed for them. Soon, I would meet women who were honest enough to voice their desire for the male body; women who were not ashamed of admitting that they found the male body, and mine in particular, to be attractive. (Many men are actually under the assumption that all women are asexual, in that they have absolutely no visual interest in men) And it wasn’t as if I am some single-digit bodyfat underwear model-esque type either. I’m a boy with a healthy weight for my body type, with good muscle tone, but I’m not unrealistically lean either.

In that bygone era, the dark ages of conservative, homophobic tyranny had yet to befall the world. The baggy surfer shorts which have become a uniform of sorts for beach-going men of today had not yet come into existence, and all men, regardless of their sexuality and/or body type, wore speedos without shame. Our forefathers enjoyed a much greater degree of personal liberation than we do today, and would doubtless be ridiculed in this present day and age, in today’s highly conservative, hetero-normative era of GQ and Esquire.

It is not only men who have bought into the notion that the male body is detestable, and should be deliberately kept hidden away from the naked eye. It seems that some women also seem to regard the male body with a certain disgust that resembles that of our hardcore conservative brothers. In the article by The Guardian UK writer Jess Cartner-Morley titled The male cleavage: put it away, boys!, the author seems to be highly critical of even a slight display of male chest.

I have tried, really I have, to look on the bright side and welcome this development as a step toward gender equality. But (a) is it not a little depressing that of everything women have contributed to civilisation, it is displaying your naked chest that men have picked up on, and (b) well, just, eew. I can’t take it any more. Those photographs of Cowell in his boxfresh white drawstring trousers and mirrored sunglasses, an overgrown Ken doll dressed unconvincingly for kung fu, were bad enough, but then Cowell has long famously struggled with the concept of where one’s waistband should sit, so it is only to be expected that he would misjudge how much chest to display. No, the final straw came when Jude Law – the 11th best-dressed man in Britain, according to GQ magazine – took Sienna out for dinner in Mayfair, dressed in a V-neck sweater slashed as low as a wrestler’s vest. Gentlemen, please. Put it away.

How any heterosexual woman can come up with something like this is beyond me. It does not seem, in this case, that the author is simply pointing out a fashion faux pas made by men. It would seem that her vilification of male sexual expression results not from personal sentiment, but rather, through social conditioning, which manifests itself in the highly prudish manner we as a society treat the male physique. It almost seems as if the author is deliberately going out of her way to vilify the male body with choices of words, such as “ew”, in order to conform to social expectations of her gender. You certainly don’t hear of men telling women to “cover up”; it would certainly be unusual, for instance, of a man saying something to the extent of, “ladies, I’ve tried. I’ve tried really hard to appreciate your boobs, to be visually turned on by your bodies, but I just can’t! So please, for the sake of us all, and for the sake of your own dignity, please cover up”! I imagine that a man who said something to that extent would either A) Have his sexuality thrown into question B) Be regarded as a fundamentalist religious nut whose delicate sense of propriety is offended by the slightest display of female flesh. C) Be labelled a sexist misogynist pig who has no right to tell women what to wear. But it would seem that it is perfectly acceptable, heck, even admirable, for women to say that men should cover up, which reflects the misogynistic attitude that implies women have absolutely no interest in the male body, that they have sex not because they enjoy it, but simply to please their husbands/boyfriends. (Which is an extremely male chauvinistic as well as misandrist way to look at it, because you’re implying the notion of woman as a prostitute who rewards the man in her life with her body, and the man as a pimp who provides for his wife/girlfriend in exchange for sensual and visual pleasure)

Boys in contemporary Western society have been taught that women are a type of being which exists on a higher plane of existence than themselves; we’re taught that women are more gentle, less aggressive, more hygienic, less animalistic, etc (Homer and Marge Simpson for instance; while Homer and his son Bart are bumbling incompetent slobs, his wife and daughter are the complete opposite), and that the female body is a work of art, while the male body is somthing disgusting best kept hidden away. You see it on TV all the time; the stereotype of the male body as grotesque is certainly nothing new. In the last scene of The Hot Chick (2002), Rob Schneider’s body is portrayed as a hairy, sweaty, bumbling lump of flesh; the very caricature of humanity. On the other hand, his female counterpart, dressed in a tux, is seen as being possessed of a certain dignity which is the very anti-thesis of Schneider’s cross-dressing portrayal. The message is clear: While women can successfully pull off men’s clothes without making fools of themselves, the male body is so ugly that if men were to try donning clothes of the opposite sex, they would simply fail, and be humiliated in the process.

And then there is the school of thought which maintains that women are interested in the male body, but they are only interested in ONE particular type of male body (e.g. Calvin Klein models with <10% body fat). The obvious lack of “plus-sized” male models gives men the impression that in order for women to desire their bodies, they have no choice but to strive for that “ripped” ideal, despite the fact that it may not be in their genetic cards. You certainly do not hear of men being told to “love their bodies”. The moment a man brings up his body issues, he more often than not gets rebuked. He is often told (by other men no less) to “stop making excuses”, that everyone can get a six pack if they try hard enough. (That may be true, but the fact is that six pack abs may not be healthy in the long run for certain individuals, it would be like naturally curvaceous Marilyn Monroe trying to attain and maintain Gwyneth Paltrow’s naturally slender frame; not a healthy pursuit at all). Society has finally began to admit that female beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and this is reflected by the success of the so-called “plus-sized” female models, e.g. Crystal Renn and Lizzie Miller. However, society still lack a solid “plus-sized” male modelling scene, which is an issue that I feel needs to be addressed, for the sake of men who do not meet the impossible-for-some ideal espoused by Abercombie/Calvin Klein/etc. I mean to say that while women of all shapes and sizes are beginning to be represented in the media, society still has a very skewed perception on what the ideal male body should look like. To you boys out there who have been trying for six pack abs, you need to realize that you may be hotter than you think you are; just as straight men can appreciate the aesthetic beauty of different female body types (don’t believe that men are only attracted to thin women; that is absolute bullsh*t), women are not only attracted to male bodies with six pack abs and V-cut torsos. Male beauty also comes in different shapes and sizes, and to say that a Calvin Klein model has a better body than say, me, for instance, would simply not be a valid comparison. That would be like saying Kate Moss has a better body than Mae West, when in fact neither is essentially “better” than the other. They are simply different, that is all.

Men’s fashion only comes in one type these days: Fitted/Baggy and ALWAYS painfully modest. The men’s department is devoid of backless tops, short fitting shorts, tube tops, etc. It almost seems as if there is no market for figure-hugging/daring cuts in the straight men’s wardrobe. Women often remark how boring men’s fashion is, and I have to agree. And don’t tell me it’s because women aren’t interested in viewing the male body, and men aren’t interested in showing their bodies. They ARE interested, but for some reason, it seems that most women are’nt too keen on voicing their desire for the male body, and men don’t seem to keen on voicing their desire for personal liberty. We like to condemn the fundamental Muslims for their repression of female sexual expression, but have we considered that we are indeed a case of pot calling the kettle black? Perhaps some day we may even be covering men’s heads with the contemporary male version of the Hijab, lest any sight of male flesh were to upset the delicate sensitivities of the patriarchal male gaze.

Conclusion

My point in writing this hub was not, as many people seem to think, in order to place men in a subordinate position to women, nor to place women in an authoritative position over the male body. I simply want to make people aware that the male body is in no way any less beautiful and worthy of display than the female body, and that men would do well to realize that their bodies have a wonderful kind of beauty that is not only appreciated by gay men, but also by straight women. It has perhaps been one of the most reassuring things for me to know that straight women desire the male body in the same way straight men desire the female body, and that I didn’t need to look like a single-digit bodyfat Calvin Klein man in order to be construed as having an attractive body. And if you really love your husband/boyfriend, you will take my advice and tell him how beautiful he is in your eyes. You will tell him how much you long for his body, how much you long for its touch, its smell, its taste, its texture. You will tell him that his body is a work of art, no less desirable in any way than yours.

Bridal Mask and the repressive Boybox

(WARNING, MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION)

Trailer for Bridal Mask

I love Asian drama. This may come as no surprise considering that I am Asian myself, but I particularly love Asian drama that “gets” to me, so to speak.

There is a particular Korean drama that was released this year, that is known as “Gaksital” (lit. Bridal Mask), and it has become a sensation not only in Asia, but throughout the world. Gaksital is set in the 1930s during the Japanese Occupation of Korea, and is about a masked vigilante called Gaksital (Bridal Mask). His alter ego is Lee Kangto aka Superintendant Sato Hiroshi (Back then, Koreans who worked for the Japanese Imperial Army took on Japanese names), hated and reviled as a traitor by his own countrymen. But behind the mask, he is Gaksital, masked avenger who rights wrongs and protects the innocent with his martial arts skills during one of Southeast Asia’s darkest periods.

Anyway, Kangto’s best friend is ironically a young Japanese man named Kimura Shunji, a schoolmaster in a local school. When the characters are introduced in the beginning of the series, Kangto starts out as a really brash and arrogant police officer, while Shunji is a sweet, gentle young man who wants nothing more than to live a good, simple life. However, all of this changes when Gaksital (aka Kangto) kills Shunji’s brother Kenji. (Kimura Kenji is an evil sonofabitch by the way, but for some reason Shunji loves him) Not only is Shunji overcome with grief at his brother’s death; the fact that he lives in an extremely patriarchal society, and his father is an extremely cold and callous patriarch who more than strongly disapproves of Shunji’s gentle ways means that as a man, it is his obligation to avenge his brother. The final straw I suppose, is when Mokdan (the woman he loves) rejects him, despite his clearly expressed affections for her, and his father’s lack of affection towards him, coupled with his grief at losing his brother, drives him to a tremendous degree of bitterness and low self-esteem. Shunji thus develops an obsession to catch Bridal Mask, and unmask him personally, and prove his worth to his cold, overbearing father, an obsession that will drive him to the brink of madness, Inspector Javert style. In other words, kind and decent Shunji gradually turns into, for lack of a better word.. A monster. He beats up his subordinates, takes sadistic pleasure in torturing people for information (this was actually common practice by the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II), and grows into a bitter, cynical, angry man.

A fellow follower of Bridal Mask has compared Shunji with Kurtz, the antagonist in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness.

Japanese by ethnicity and under tremendous pressure from his samurai father Kimura Taro, Shunji abandons a “benevolent colonizer” role to take up the mission of hunting down Gaksital, who killed his brother and has stolen the heart of the woman Shunji loves. Though at the beginning of the drama, Shunji presents as gentle, soft-spoken, and rational, he rapidly changes into a seemingly violent and tortured individual who lashes out, sometimes without provocation, going to extreme lengths to unleash his anger and pursue revenge.

…I argue that Shunji’s character has in fact not changed; rather, he presents differently – often ruthless, sometimes insane – given the influence of the “colonial mentality” on him as a colonizer. To shed light on this transformation, I turn to the character of Mr. Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness.

… In treating African people as animals (or worse… for more on the genocide in theBelgian Congo, please refer to King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild) for the sake of his own avarice and ambition, Kurtz has lost his moral compass completely, and by extension, the sanity not just of his body or mind but his soul.

…Like Kurtz, Shunji is motivated to participate in the colonial project by seemingly noble ideals. In the first instance, he indoctrinates children (albeit gently) to eschew their cultural identity and embrace Japanese-ness, to buy into a system in which they will always be second-class citizens at best. He also strives to uphold the honor of his family, especially following the death of his brother at the hands of local hero Gaksital. And he wants to use his position as a police officer to protect his childhood love, Mok Dan. But in Shunji’s increasingly violent and erratic behavior, we see the same slip into spiritual insanity, his self-control failing and the “primitive emotions” that drive colonialism surfacing. Shunji’s madness of the soul is present, then, from the beginning, since he passively accepts the argument that Japanese culture should dominate Korean culture; the madness begins to manifest itself once the stakes are higher due to the murder of his brother and Mok Dan’s rejection of Shunji in favor of Gaksital.

It was an interesting analogy, to say the least, for Shunji to be compared to Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. Radio Palava has obviously done her homework, as she is aware of the humungously imperialist mentality of Japan at the time (during world war II). The fact is, MOST Japanese of the time felt that the Japanese were the finest breed of Asians, the so-called “Yamato Race”. (Yamato meaning “Aryan”, in a Nazi context) It is therefore not surprising why the horrendous attrocities of Nanking and Singapore took place under the Imperial Japanese army; by “dehumanizing” their victims, the Japanese viewed them at the same level they viewed animals, and if you’ve ever seen a live fish getting chopped up to be served in a traditional Japanese restaurant… Well, you can imagine how it must have been like for the victims of WWII. However, I do take issue with the notion of Shunji being an innately cruel and bloodthirsty sociopath, as she seems to suggest. The fact is that Shunji does get sudden fits of remorse at his actions, and even though these become more and more sparse the further Shunji degenerates into darkness, they are still there – No matter how cruel, how callous he may get, kind and gentle Headmaster Shunji is still somewhere under violent and sadistic Superintendent Kimura. Furthermore, he makes it clear to Rie that he has no “imperialist ambitions”, and describes her as a “pitiful woman”, for her lust for power. But, just like Anakin Skywalker under Darth Vader, that decent part of him has been put aside, for more reasons than one, which will duly be elaborated.

I was once scrolling through the Bridal Mask fanpage on facebook, and I was surprised to see a whole group of passionate Shunji haters. Remember he was once a decent guy, who went out of his way to teach Kangto Kendo (Japanese swordsmanship), and even got himself beaten up by his father so he could save his nanny? I don’t hate Shunji; I think he should be pitied actually, coz no matter how nasty he gets, he’s also a victim of the strict gender role society places on men. The rigidly defined expectations patriarchal society has on him as a man totally contradict his nature, forcing them into strictly defined hegemonic masculinity. And since men are supposed to bottle their feelings up, some men just reach a point when they explode. Shunji is like that; he is forced to repress who he really is, in order to please his cold, imperialist father and avenge his brother, and as a man, he doesn’t have much emotional support he can turn to, since society assumes that men being the “overprivileged gender”, “don’t need a support system”, and if he speaks about his problems, society would probably just laugh it off because he has a d*ck, and therefore no right to complain. So he goes around bottling up his rage and hurt, and jealousy towards Kangto (for Mokdan’s affections), that he just.. Explodes. (e.g. when he shoots the lady from the circus, when he beats up his subordinates, when he tortures Leader Jo)

“Masculinity is a tightrope that men are forced to walk at the point of a cultural gun. In exchange for infibulating their feminine side, they are granted the illusionof power.”

(Big Fat Trauma Queen, Female blogger)

I highlight the term illusion because I see it in the same way the 1950s trophy wife might consider herself more “powerful” than her single, un-hegemonically feminine friends. It’s not that women who were fighting for their rights to wear pants and men’s suits were fighting for the same “freedoms” that men enjoyed. People are quick to blame the patriarchy for forcing women into tightly bound gender roles, while the big bad men get to do and wear whatever they want, but have they actually stopped to wonder if men were actually happy in their assigned role? Some people seem to assume that all the men were happy with their assigned gender role, since they were already somehow “over-privileged”. How do you know that men CHOSE what role they wanted to play? And how do you know that most men today actually CHOOSE their assigned role in society, if you haven’t considered the possibility that a great number of men have actually been forced into this role? I know it sounds politically incorrect, but truly – The term “male privilege” has been thrown around so much that it’s not funny.

In most parts of the world, patriarchy isn’t some form of wicked underground organization which was formed by a coalition of men to systematically oppress women. Rather, it is simply a system that prefers feminine women and masculine men, that is all. But men historically haven’t actually had the luxury of fighting for their rights to express themselves, considering that they were expected to go out, make a living, etc. And when somebody is filling your rice bowl (e.g. your conservative boss), it is very important to please that person by wearing what he/she expects you to wear, even though you hate it. (e.g. Ties, suits, etc)

Notice how the more evil Shunji gets, the more… “GQ” he looks? I think the producers of Bridal Mask may be hinting at something by Shunji’s progressively stiff and conservative dressing. The way I see it, the restrictive and drab Don Draper uniform (the dark suits and ties) of Superintendent Kimura, as opposed to his former more relaxed, bohemian tieless style as Schoolmaster Shunji serves as a symbol that Shunji has now become a “slave” to the patriarchy, and its rigid gender roles. In order to meet the demands of the patriarchy, Shunji must change every aspect of his life, and the fact that even his wardrobe has had a complete overhaul just goes to show what a changed man he has become as a result of the pressure to conform to patriarchy’s strict expectations of the male gender. Shunji, has in other words become a repressed corporate drone, a man Chief Kimura would certainly be proud to call his son.

Let’s just hope that Shunji sees the light, before he is completely engulfed in darkness.

I DEDICATE THIS VIDEO TO ALL WHO HAVE HELPED ME THROUGH HARD TIMES. GOD BLESS THEM.

Shunji expressing his grief to Kangto at his brother's death. That was before he became an evil homicidal maniac.Shunji expressing his grief to Kangto at his brother’s death. That was before he became an evil homicidal maniac.

An early Shunji, as Headmaster Shunji. An early Shunji, as Headmaster Shunji.

Shunji after his transformation and descent into darkness. Not only has his wardrobe been given an overhaul; overall, he is a much more tense, moody, cynical person; a far cry from Schoolmaster Shunji
Shunji after his transformation and descent into darkness. Not only has his wardrobe been given an overhaul; overall, he is a much more tense, moody, cynical person; a far cry from Schoolmaster Shunji