Thursday, May 06, 2010

Click on That!

The above picture is of football (soccer) players by Annie Leibowitz. The title of the web-story goes "The World Cup's Stars Wear Their Flags -- And Little Else -- for Annie Leibowitz," and the story has remained first or the second in the "most clicked" category for at least two days.

The five men in the picture are offered to us as sexual cupcakes, no? Should a feminist blogger put up this picture at all?

I recall a fervent debate on this here blog about whether men, too should be viewed as sexual objects since women are viewed that way all the time. Most comments argued against equal objectification as somehow an improvement over the current situation. The correct path was to decrease the objectification of women, not to increase the objectification of men.

At the time I pretty much agreed. Now I'm not so sure, for at least two reasons:

First, I see no reduction in the sexual presentation of the female body. Rather the reverse: The most recent portrayals are of women flung about like broken dolls, staring with unseeing eyes at their tormentor and enjoying every minute of it! Whatever resistance there is to such images appears pretty powerless.

Hence Plan B: Encourage equal objectification of the male body, not because that would somehow be a better situation but because that might be the only way the message of us "prudes" would get through: If it's sauce for the gander, it's sauce for the goose and the gander learns what it feels like to be sauce.

Second, I'm not at all convinced that women have no interest in visual depictions of the generic male body. That's what evo-psychos and people like that argue, and that's their explanation for why pornography is mostly a market for male consumers.

But consider the initial female reaction to the Beatles. The mass hysteria you probably have seen in news clips from the time seems to have very little to do with the music of the band and quite a lot to do with the physical bodies of the band members. Elvis (the pelvis) Presley was initially criticized for provoking sexual thoughts in girls and women.

If the society brings up girls in a way which discourages them from enjoying the visual images of male bodies (but indirectly encourages them to enjoy the visual images of female bodies) how can we tell that the current market in erotica is somehow totally driven by biological differences between the genders?

The short and sweet summary of these two points is that I'm willing to consider the sexual objectification of the male body for two reasons which initially look contradictory: Because perhaps only such objectification introduces that term into all vocabularies through that old teacher: experience, and because we might then get something less extreme for both sexes: fewer sado-masochistic portrayals of women and more vanilla-erotic portrayals of men.

What do you think?

Note also that the above picture wouldn't qualify even for "vanilla" pornography. It's the equivalent of the WW II female pin-ups (Bettty Grable, say).