whb: guys gone wild
August 2, 2004 01:05 PM

Brigitte's question on WHB: does objectifying men bring us closer to equality?

I was watching "Best Week Ever" on VH1 a few nights ago and they were discussing the recent release of a male equivalent to the "Girls Gone Wild" series. If equality really is about evening things between men and women, is it a "good" thing that men are being sexually exploited and objectified more and more in the media? Or, as the suffragists suggested, is the ideal equality men achieving a level or morality comparable to that expected from women. In other words, are men supposed to be as "good" as women, or are men supposed to be as debased as women for things to be equal?

Ah, Best Week Ever. Fun show.

I think the treatment of men as sexual objects is a logical result of gains made by feminism combined with our porn culture (that is, predominance of the use of sex to sell things & the sale of sex). Women are more sexually assertive than they had been in the past. Sexual "attractiveness" continues to used to sell everything, and women are increasingly the larger consumers (in the US and most western countries, at least). So the male object becomes more of a product. This trend is much more complicated than just the result of two intersecting forces (the rise of gay subculture is certainly also a contributor, as is the growth of the fitness/diet industry), but I don't have enough knowledge about those other factors to do them justice.

Is this a good thing? In that this is a sign that women are considered more powerful in the world of consumerism and are seen to have independent sexual initiative, I actually do think that objectification of men is a positive sign. I also hold out hope that with most of the population subject to absurd "beauty"/health/diet standards (which is very related to the objectification question), frustration with and resistance to these things will increase. So yes, it's a good thing; it's development in one aspect of our culture that needed a change.

Is this where we want to be? Well, no. Evaluating everyone on a standard of appearance and sexuality is a bad plan. It's a sign that our culture's a bit out of balance - and particularly combined with our weird moralism around actual sex and our bodies, is strangely schizoid.

I assume because it's out of balance, that there will eventually be a swing in a different direction - not, I hope, towards the "new modesty" extreme that a few small subcultures promote, but maybe towards a balance between the desirable sex object and other values. And maybe the people held up as physically "ideal" will actually be remotely attractive.

As a side note, there was often an undercurrent of "Women are the supercoolest because they're so sweet and good and pure" in certain suffragist arguments for equality - alluded to in the original question. Idealizing only the "good, feminine" qualities of people, regardless of gender, is also not equality and is not realistic. I'd be fine never hearing that take on "equal" ever again.

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your wicked thoughts

I was under the impression that "Guys Gone Wild" was really for other guys, not for women. Maybe my circle is somewhat limited, but I don't know any women who are interested in purchasing a video full of guys flashing their junk.

these are the thoughts of Kimberly on August 3, 2004 03:47 PM

...and on that note, I wanted to let you know that I went back and did a little research and expounded a little on the point about gay men that you asked for expounding upon. Still not sure if it's all there as yet, but perhaps an improvement.

Still. Interesting implication in Kimberly's comment, there - that objectification isn't really being turned around at all, even if it's men being objectified, if it attracts mainly a male audience.

these are the thoughts of house9 on August 3, 2004 09:03 PM

Most of the folk I know well wouldn't touch either one of them. BUT I actually do know a handful of women who thought the "guys" version sounded like a good time. Have no idea if they'd actually go out and buy it, but I think the male version may attract a female audience of a similar caliber to the male audience for the female version.

I could be wrong, though. I have no idea who exactly watches these things.

these are the thoughts of april on August 4, 2004 09:47 AM

Out of curiosity, I talked to a couple of my gay male friends who have seen it and apparently many of the men on the video are gay themselves and the general concensus (among my friends anyway--for whatever that's worth) is that the video is definitely targeted towards other men. I also hear it's pretty funny.

these are the thoughts of Kimberly on August 4, 2004 05:12 PM

I find the "porn is funny" argument pretty shallow, it just seems like an excuse, but that's just my opinion. Regardless, I really liked your response to the topic, it was very thoughtful and I appreciate that you took the time to really think about the topic.

these are the thoughts of Brigitte on August 5, 2004 06:56 PM

Well, I would totally buy it, and it is funny, I just read this after reading the Washington Post forum about Jessica Cutler, which also touches on feminism/ sex/ empowerment. I have a slightly different approach. I am gay, and objectify all the time. I am ok with it. I am also objectified, and it is ok too. I think the real issue is taking objectification too seriously. When it is crossed with nefarious power issues, that is one thing, but really objectification for objectifications sake is not that big of a deal. I think we are seeing a culture where a woman can be objectified, can have power because of it, and (if they are wise) rise above it. I think an interesting parallel is fame, and the culture of fame that we have. Again, neither morally one way or another, but a difficult beast to contend with...as is sexual objectification. It is immediate, and more like a drug than a real relationship. You live and die by the sword.
An aside, You emailed me recently and I havent responded. I started a new job and have been extremely busy. I will write soon.

these are the thoughts of Trey on August 17, 2004 08:50 PM

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