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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Sexual objectification of men

203 replies

DSM · 17/11/2011 12:14

Maybe not feminism, but not sure where else to post..

Am I alone in being uncomfortable with the sexual objectification of men? Was just watching this morning where holly willoughby was interviewing some young chaps from the new twilight film.

Commments such as 'within the first minute you had your top off and I though 'oh yes, there it is'' and 'we've all been waiting a long time to see your sex scene'. There were many references to their bodies, their beauty and the fact they get naked, all met with 'phwoarr' type comments.

I felt like the men were being objectified, and if it had been a man making those comments to a woman on daytime tv, all hell would break loose.

Why is it accepted from female-male? Surely in the interest of equality this kind of behaviour shouldn't be acceptable to/from either sex?

Am I over reacting?

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Trills · 17/11/2011 12:17

It shouldn't be acceptable in either direction.

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WoTmania · 17/11/2011 12:18

Not acceptable either way and I disagree with your statement 'if it had been a man making those comments to a woman on daytime tv, all hell would break loose'. These kinds of comments but about women are frequent and almost unnoticed. When someone complains (usually a female writer) the reaction is that theya re an oversemsitive feminist with no sense of humour.

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DSM · 17/11/2011 12:34

Hmm.. Maybe but I have seen lesser comments being vindicated, remember the sky sports news debacle?

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Nesbo · 17/11/2011 12:34

Just before I read this I walked past a branch of Gilly Hicks, with the usual topless male model (standing next to a fully dressed female model) to entice girls/women in to buy clothes.

This presumably represents enlightened progress as no one seems to raise an eyebrow (although a lot of girls seem to like having their photo taken with him).

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DSM · 17/11/2011 12:37

I've felt similarly when spotting the male models in nothing but pants at abercrombie and fitch.

A store wouldn't get away with having girls in bikinis outside doing PR, so why men?

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tethersend · 17/11/2011 12:46

The objectification of men is patriarchy's way of justifying the objectification of women and making it more palatable under the guise of 'equality'- when in fact, it's anything but.

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SinicalSal · 17/11/2011 12:47

no it's not acceptable in either direction.

However men don't have a long long history of being objectified at the expense of everything else about them, and women generally don't have power over men to the extent that men have over women. So I could be a leery female chauvinist pig who sees men only as objects but it's less likely I'll be interviewing them/managing them/granting funding for their studies/judging them in a courtroom/giving them housekeeping whiled they sahp/raping them, with my subconscious belief that they're not quite human - objects in fact.

There's an argument in which men say 'I'd love to be objectified, so I don't get why women don't like it!'. But your (men, generally) preferences don't trump mine, you don't get to decide on my behalf what I should or should not like.

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SinicalSal · 17/11/2011 12:47

& what tethers said

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DSM · 17/11/2011 13:45

Sinical - IMO it isn't right to sexually objectify men simply based on their looks, and I am not comfortable with the thought process that it's not as bad because men haven't had the same history as women.

Much like it's not more acceptable to be racist toward a white person because they haven't had the same history as black people.

I believe in equality and don't think it's appropriate.

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SinicalSal · 17/11/2011 13:51

It's not 'more acceptable' - but without power to ACT on racism/sexism all you can do is TALK about it. So it's not as harmful to a member of the privileged group as it would be to the oppressed group. Sticks and stones etc.

It's good that you believe in equality, no feminist would condone sexism, or racism for that matter. But they would analyse the power dynamics at play.

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DSM · 17/11/2011 14:03

So it's okay for the power dynamic to shift, making women the dominant sex whereby they can say what they like about men and they have to accept it because they haven't had years of oppression?

Nonsense.

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MillyR · 17/11/2011 14:05

Obviously it isn't acceptable to treat anyone in an unpleasant manner. But the impact of calling a person who is generally popular a nasty name is usually less than the impact of calling a person who is being bullied a nasty name. For the bullied person there is no respite from that bullying, so your name calling is going to become part of their world view that the world hates them. For the popular person, the remark may hurt, but they can be reassured that the rest of the world does not agree with the remark.

That is surely what we mean by institutional sexism, isn't it? Sexism is entrenched in the institutions of our society, so any sexist remark is reinforced by the social structure.

On an individual level, if I see somebody making a horrible remark to anybody, I am going to make a judgement that the remark maker is mean spirited. Who they are making the remark to is not going to change how mean spirited I consider them to be. But when looking at the impact on the person the remark was made to, I would take all aspects of what I knew about that person into account when considering how hurtful the remark might be.

Also, what SAL said about groups with power being able to act.

I also think part of the issue with sexualising men is that it makes women less humane if the sexualisation of men happens often enough for it to change women's perceptions. I think that once you start to think of any group of people inhumanely, it becomes very easy to switch that inhumanity across to any group, including vulnerable ones that don't have the power to protect themselves than men collectively have. Young men and boys (under 18) for example, could be harmed by this perception and the behaviour that follows from it.

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SinicalSal · 17/11/2011 14:07

Dominant sex? Really? I would disagree.

But as I've said, a few times now, objectification in either direction is NOT acceptable. It's very harmful.

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spugglers · 17/11/2011 14:09

It makes me uncomfortable. I always cringe when I hear such a comment. I used to work opposite a firestation and I hated the fuss my female colleagues made over the men. I want to be taken seriously at work and that isn't going to happen if I show signs of being a gibbering wreck every time a man in uniform walks past.

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tethersend · 17/11/2011 14:10

"So it's okay for the power dynamic to shift?"

But it doesn't.

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JeremyVile · 17/11/2011 14:15

DSM - RE your last post, nobody said that Confused
Everyone is agreeing that, no its not ok to objectify anyone in this way.

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MoreBeta · 17/11/2011 14:17

I'm not especially bothered about the sexual objectification of men but tethersend said something that got me thinking.

"The objectification of men is patriarchy's way of justifying the objectification of women and making it more palatable under the guise of 'equality'- when in fact, it's anything but."

On televison and printed media the constant barrage of reference to a guest or presenter or some celeb looking or being or acting sexy. Is just tiresome. It devalues everything to a lowest common denominator. It happens to men and women. However, it is noticeable that female presenters, especially young ones on programmes aimed at the youth audience, have increasingly been encouraged to adopt a 'ladette' pose of in your face oggling and lewd references to blokes physical appearance as a sort of badge of office.

They hide behind the 'oh its a bit of laugh for us girls, its not like when a bloke says stuff or leers at a woman'. No doubt their producers and senior TV executives (usually blokes) encourage it to lift the ratings though.

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tethersend · 17/11/2011 14:24

"They hide behind the 'oh its a bit of laugh for us girls, its not like when a bloke says stuff or leers at a woman'."

Yes, exactly- and worse than that, it is then used as evidence that women are equal to men and that any oppression is imagined.

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SinicalSal · 17/11/2011 14:26

that's it exactly - 'oh, but women do it too!'

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PamBeesly · 17/11/2011 14:28

I felt the young guy on XFactor, Frankie, was exploited. His sexuality was entirely torn open (I realise it was his choice to get tatoos of girls names on his bum) but the producers really went with it and exploited it every week. Rotten if you ask me.
Similarly, at the audition stages of the XFactor (sorry for all these references) the female judges would encourage male auditionees to lift up their tops or give them a little kiss, if this had been the other way around there would have been (and rightly so) uproar. I'm not saying the individuals complained about it but it just normalises objectification.
Exploiting anyones sexuality is awful and objectifying people based on their looks and percieved sexual attractiveness is horrible. I think its done a lot in the media to reduce people, both men and women, to a version of twisted sexuality, where we must objectify.
I hate the way sex and sexuality must always be played out in public when they are in fact very private and intimate, belonging only to those who posses them and nobody else.

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FoodUnit · 17/11/2011 15:15

There are huge numbers of people who think feminists are just being fuddy-duddies complaining about the objectification of women. I would imagine that the kind of women that go phoar! about objectified men, are probably the same women that would call feminists fuddy-duddies. They are using a different tactic to cope with sexism, other than the direct calling-out and rejecting that feminists do - they are trying to 'out-bloke the blokes' - adopting blokey male-bonding techniques to scramble together a temporary feeling of superiority. But of course it goes against the grain of the status quo, so once the bonding through blokey posturing is over, they'll be back to 'oppression as usual'.

The objectification of women/misogyny/sexism surrounds us all the time. It is SO tiresome and commonplace it creates a hostile, oppressive environment for women, that puts all women in a state of inner conflict as to how much they'll bow to the pressure or resist it. It normalises sexual harassment, trivialises sexual violence, creates obstacles to women being taken seriously, or taking themselves seriously. It is bad bad bad and has countless knock-on effects that counters any moves towards equality.

Seeing a man objectified is shocking and memorable because it is not the norm - hence the OP wrote here. Although it is tacky and degrades the individual males being objectified, its not as though men as a whole are being degraded as a sex class by it.

So yes, it is unpleasant and bullying when done to men too, but its not anything they should lose sleep over, unless a day comes when the world is governed by women with revenge on their minds...

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DSM · 17/11/2011 15:17

Pam - another good example. I remember seeing that and thinking the same - why is it okay to ask a man to lift his top so the women can swoon over his body?

My last post was intended hypothetically, btw.

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FoodUnit · 17/11/2011 15:24

Well capitalist sex is great for business though eh? If we can all project sexuality onto the 'unreachable celebrity world', then we will buy, buy, buy - whatever sh*t is sold to us - even voting more on the X Factor...

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leares · 17/11/2011 16:34

Whilst its undesirable, taken in the context of the whole of society it will only cause the most minor damage if it causes any at all. So whilst I wouldn't condone it I don't see it as a big issue.

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OrmIrian · 17/11/2011 16:39

I think it's a pretty bad thing to raise the sexual temperature of society by objectifying human bodies of either sex.

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