On the double standard and why I perv at shirtless videogame characters - Tactical Ninja
Dec. 5th, 2013
09:24 am - On the double standard and why I perv at shirtless videogame characters
I like to look at nice bodies. All nice bodies, but I have a preference for men. I'm not above perving at a nice shirtless man pic, and I'm not ashamed to admit that some of the pics I perv at are of fictional characters.
I also admit that my desktop background at home is a slideshow selection of my favourite pictures of fictional men, some of whom are depicted shirtless or near-naked. I'm not all that keen on looking at cocks so there's none of that. YMMV.
The thing is, I also have a feminist objection to the objectification of women in media - the way women are presented in various states of undress and sexualised for the sake of 'the male gaze.' Yesterday when I was confronted with a Twitter post from someone who I otherwise like, that had a picture of Miley Cyrus on the wrecking ball, only with the wrecking ball removed so it was basically her in her undies, and a caption saying "Every man should have this at the top of his Christmas tree" I unfollowed the guy.
And when I mentioned this to Dr Wheel, he pointed out that I look at objectified pictures of men, and talk about looking at objectified pictures of men, as if that's ok.
And he's right, I do. So, am I a hypocrite for saying objectifying women is bad, while objectifying men myself?
Here is my thinking on this so far:
I'm probably not alone in my interest in looking at nice bodies. I'm pretty sure people of all genders like to look at the bodies of their preferred gender.
In doing so, there is probably a certain amount of objectification going on, and likely a fair amount of sexualisation if the preference is for semi-naked or naked pictures.
So if I'm right about that, then it's relatively normal to sexualise and objectify the bodies of others for one's own viewing pleasure.
If that's the case, then why do I see it as ok for me (and other women) to do this to men, but not ok for men to do this to women?
The answer, I think, is found somewhere in the idea of a structural power imbalance. I actually have no problem with the idea of men looking at pictures of women and finding them attractive. However, historically it has been men who held the power to decide which pictures were presented for mass consumption, and therefore to decide who was objectified and sexualised. And because it was mostly men, they catered to the tastes of men by presenting women's bodies in this way.
Aside here: I saw an idea the other day, which went along the lines that "Sex sells" is pure unadulterated bullshit. Fact is, if sex sold, there'd be as many scantily-clad men in advertising as there are scantily-clad women, and there'd be as many cocks as breasts on Page 3. What is being sold is an idealised and misogynistic vision of 'the perfect woman'. To men.
Anyway, because of the ongoing power of men to present women's bodies to other men for consumption, it has become ingrained in our culture as a Thing. One doesn't have to be very observant to notice that in music videos, video games, advertising and general entertainment, women are generally wearing less clothing and are presented as more sexual than men are. And this has flowed into general society too - walking down the street, who's wearing the least? Etc.
But, times are changing. More and more women are in positions of power, making those decisions about whose bodies get presented to us as sex objects and whose don't. Still not many, not at the very top. But slowly, the idea that marketing to women using men's bodies isn't such a bad idea is creeping in. See also: "I'm on a horse" dude. Is it Old Spice he's selling? I can't remember. Although, I remember the ad.
Dr Wheel pointed out about that ad, that while it does use a man's body to sell a product to women, it's also presented as a joke. He thinks that it's perhaps because if it were presented as real, men would feel threatened. I can't speak to that because I'm so inured to women's bodies being used seriously in this way that any threat I might feel from that is purely abstract. However, it's true that being sold this vision of The Perfect Woman all the time does create an atmosphere of competition between women, and also does pretty nasty things to some women's heads. See also: anorexia.
So if it's true that the presentation of bodies as sex objects for consumption is harmful, is the increasing acceptance of men's bodies as a vehicle for objectification actually a good thing?
And this takes me back to the original question. Why is it ok for me to perv on men's bodies in the media, yet I get offended by women's bodies being presented for perving? Or, I don't like women being objectified, so is it ok for me to like objectifying men?
Frankly, I think it's ok for anyone to enjoy objectifying anyone's body as an individual, especially when it's happening only inside your head and doesn't affect the way you treat them as a person. The problem occurs when it becomes:
a) A culture-wide trend of dehumanising people for the sake of that objectification
b) The major way in which those people are presented, to the detriment of their personhood as a group.
So my conclusion from that is that the problem with women being presented in this way vs men, is that for women, the damage has already been done, and we have had to fight (and are gaining more and more traction these days I have to say) to have our existence as people acknowledged outside our presentation as sex objects for the consumption of the male gaze. For men, they are still seen as people first. Even when I'm objectifying Cullen on Tumblr, I'm still thinking quite hard about what it would be like to be him.
There are some who would say that men are presented as providers first, and that they have had to fight to be seen as people too, but in a different way. I would argue that 'provider' is still an action-based label, which acknowledges personhood and agency much more fully than 'sex object'. This does not detract from the fact that it's still a limiting label with serious negative consequences.
I guess the bottom line is that there's no harm in my perving on fictional and non-fictional characters with their shirts off, just the same as there's no harm in a man liking to look at boobs. But we need to be careful that we don't allow that to become harmful by assuming that 'sex object' is the most important label we can apply to a whole gender.
Or am I just rationalising so I can get away with applying a double standard?