Mark Simpson has a great article up at OUT about male sports stars strutting their loveliness for their adoring audiences, and guess what? They love it! They find it a source of power! How can that be? We all know that looking at someone’s body is teh heinous!! It is objectification!!! It is abomination!!! Well, no, not so much, apparently.
And in a splendid show of synchronicity, Jim Muldoon at AVfM discusses and article by someone named Nikki Gemmell who imagines, incorrectly, two things: she thinks this is some awakening of the “female gaze” and she imagines that these men are put out by this attention, that men are finally having to suffer what women have suffered for so long…sniff, sniff, fetch the salts!
Simpson starts in with some examples to set the tone. Here’s one that would have the prigs on fire if it were asked of a female celebrity:
”There’s even an MTV Movie Award for “Best Shirtless Performance,” which in 2014 went to Zac Efron for That Awkward Moment — but only after he stripped again, onstage at the ceremony, without being awkward about it at all.”
But Simpson goes on to make his main point – these guys are not doing it for a female audience:
“Here in the States, pumped underwear model Alex Minsky — the indelibly inked U.S. Marine Corps vet and amputee — is very happy to mercilessly titillate his many appreciative gay fans with naked naughtiness. And even a major film star like James Franco can’t seem to leave them alone, posting all those semi-naked selfies on his Instagram feed.”
“She’s not wearing it for you?” Ha. He’s not taking it off for you. He’s taking it off for us. Other men. Deal with it.
He goes on:
“Blame the metrosexual, who was born two decades ago, outing male vanity and the masculine need to be noticed. “
I have argued elsewhere that the metrosexual is simply the re-emergence of the aristocratic ideal of masculinity, which has been submerged by first the bourgeois – the man of the world, well-paid, solid citizen – and then the blue-collar – muscular, plain-spoken, unshaven, unadorned and scorning adornment – ideals, in that order. And now the aristocratic ideal – the strutting peacock warrior glory of Cú Chulainn strutting on display before the bards and ladies of the court of Emhain Macha, the high decibel gaudiness of regimental uniforms from two centuries ago – is coming back.
“In just a generation, the male desire to be desired, or “objectified,” to use that ugly word — which the metrosexual exemplified — has become mainstream: It’s regarded as a right by today’s selfie-admiring young men, regardless of sexual orientation. In a visual world, men want to be wanted too — otherwise, they might disappear.”
That’s right – they experience being looked over not as “eye-rape” but as empowerment and acknowledgement, the way Mae West did. (“It’s better to be looked over than to be overlooked.”) God I miss Mae West.
And her sensibility.
And her common sense.
Simpson explains why this is all aimed at other men:
“They also need to look a lot at other men in order to better understand how to stand out. Bodies they spend a great deal of time, effort, and money fashioning into hot commodities down at the gym, tanning salon, and designer tattoo parlor — and then uploading to the online marketplace of social media for “likes,” “shares,” and cutthroat comparisons with their pals.”
This is revolutionary in our culture. Men are ONLY supposed to look at women. Look at Western art – it’s all the human form all the time, and that human form is overwhelmingly female. Women are beautiful, their genitals are beautiful, while men’s genitals are “junk” and we are supposed to recoil in horror if we ever catch sight of them. And here these beautiful men are parading their beauty and sculpted bodies for men. And why? Because only men can truly appreciate the effort and the achievement of developing and maintaining one of these bodies.
“The 23-year-old Osborne, like a lot of today’s self-objectifying straight men, loves The Gays. Really loves them. Last year he appeared in the U.K. gay magazine Attitude, very generously offering readers his shapely bubble butt across a double-page spread, with the strapline “Sex is fun. Be safe and enjoy it.” He told Attitude, “I’ve had a few bum pinches, and I don’t mind that at all. Maybe it’s because a guy knows how hard it is to train, so they appreciate it more.”
That’s right. Gay men are the audience for this display, but not just gay men, by a long shot. It’s all men. A lot of this is tied up with the culture of professional sports, with sports figures parading their beauty where in the past they just talked gruff and macho. This is aimed at sports fans, stereotypically hetersosexual all the way. Professional sports is the Church of Masculinity for a huge percentage of modern straight men, however gay it may actually be. And here these sports celebrities are strutting it right out in public. Quiet Riot Girl calls it sporno, although she may or may not have coined the term. There’s a fashion connection, which David Beckham worked to full advantage. Nick Youngquest and others have followed the trail he broke. It is officially a thing.
Here’s how revolutionary that is. Traditionally this kind of lucrative display was the sole preserve of women, who could cry all the way to the bank over the oppression of being found attractive. Here’s a woman, Nikki Gemmell, who imagines that women are getting all brazen and empowered and “shocking” and “audacious to look at men”. Jim Muldoon quotes her at AVfM and looks at her claims.
“I can only stand back in awe when I read anything by Nikki Gemmell. Just recently in the Australian she did it again for me with her piece, “The new female gaze is shocking for its novelty and audacity.”
As Jim points out, there is nothing the least bit novel about this female gaze:
“Interestingly, she dates this “new” aspect to women, that they can be lusty, to within the last 20 years. Perhaps she hasn’t heard of the intersection between young girls, four lads from Liverpool, and screaming. Perhaps she is unaware that Elvis made a few bucks on female admiration.
Perhaps she’s not even listening to herself.
Given her educated knowledge of film theory, she should be aware that the female gaze was well and truly focused on celluloid from the beginning. Douglas Fairbanks and John Gilbert won many hearts in their day, although both were in the shadow of Rudolph Valentino. There was nothing hidden about this “gazing” either, it was just a lack of media to record it, and a lack of gender studies classes to turn it into a sign of oppression.”
Sigh. There is no shame in being this ignorant of popular culture, only in posing as an expert on popular culture when you are this ignorant of it.
“We’re gazing. Openly and boldly and with a good old giggle, and some men aren’t enjoying being reduced to their mere body parts. The shoe, now, is well and truly on the other foot.”
Couple of things, Nikki. “A good old giggle”? That sounds a lot like you whistling past the graveyard there, Nikki. “Want it baby, beg for it….” is more like it. And is this just a revenge fantasy, considering the harsh judgments of men on women’s bodies? Ah, but it isn’t men making those unkind judgments, is it, since men are not in sexual competition with the women they are looking at. And a helpful tip: Someone whose genitals look like a raw oyster dropped in lint doesn’t get to make fun of penises, or men’s bodies, because it exposes you to ridicule, my dear…
And secondly – when it comes to being reduced to mere body parts, men know all about that, Nikki. As Simpson says in conclusion:
“It’s clear to anyone who wants to notice that in the spornosexual 21st century, the male body has been radically redesigned. With the help of some “objectifying” blueprints from Tom of Finland and D&G, it is no longer simply an instrumental thing for extracting coal, building ships, making babies, fighting wars, and taking the trash out. Instead it has become a much more sensual, playful thing for giving and especially receiving pleasure.”
Yes, Nikki, men are quite, quite used to being reduced to their body parts: strong backs, work-hardened hands, frostbitten feet, cannon fodder, wallets… it’s called male disposability and it’s the basis of the privilege you have as a pampered white women to whine about being looked at, to profit from it the whole time, and then to gloat about it when it happens to men, as if it’s a bad thing.
And a third thing, Nikki. Men aren’t enjoying it? Sad, clueless Nikki. Men are reveling in it. And as much as this is going to hurt, these men don’t feel victimized at all. You gloating over their dismay looks pretty ridiculous. And to rub it in a little harder, Nikki, they aren’t doing it for you women. They are doing it for us.
Want it baby. Beg for it.
These men know better than your trite, tradcon narratives of chaste virgins ogled by drooling pervs and trembling in fear. They know your game because they are playing it – and a lot more attractively at least to my gay taste – and your carefully constructed narrative of eye rape victimization and “objectification” is coming unraveled.
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