Turnin' The Tables

The Discussion Zone

The Subject Matter

In a most unusual reversal of roles, men have suddenly become sex objects! Here's what's going on!

"Then I got larger and cut, a little tanned, and all of a sudden they're (the woman) twisting their heads around just to get a good look (at me) and making all sorts of comments loaded with inuendo. Some were much more blatant about what they wanted."

There are places where suddenly women have started admiring the well-prepped male physique. Sure, in a world where the body is one's calling card - the ultimate credential of first impressions - a well-tuned physique may just be what the gene pool gravitates toward... the production of itself in ever more perfect form.The best, i.e. the strongest and most developed, getting to mate with the best, and in our culture generally that would be the pulchritudinous, like it or not. An as politically incorrect as the preceding ovbservation may seem in today's world, it pretty much reflects the ultimate reality in the battle between the sexes.

Haven't said all of that, I want to suggest that there's a lot more going on here than mere propagation of the species - much more. For example, how can one explain the hugely successful phenomenon known as Chippendales. At one time considered an anomoly of entertainment, today the male-stripper emporium is a multimillion dollar business, a fiscal boom in bodyworship. And interestingly, a lot more pawing of the male dancers goes on than can be found at counterpart emporia where women dance for men, the strip joint now so popular in yuppieland.

Another example is the male "slave" auction. Held under the protective umbrella of "fund raiser" for one or another worthy cause, the male auction is just that. Buff, built, awesome physiqued men parade and gyrate for women who bid on the body of their choice, with the winner being the woman willing to outspend her female competitors in pursuit of her beefcake quarry (in certain quarters this would sound like sexist behaviour guaranteed to bend snoots out of joint if the tables were turned, but that's another issue).

You see, men, unlike so many women today, don't mind being objectified, not yet at any rate, because it's such a new experience.

Men As Sex Objects. No matter where you turn, men are increasingly being treated like sex objects. But that should be no mystery, considering what is going on in our most popular forms of popular culture.

A casual browse through the pages of any women's (even men's) magazine today will bring instant awareness to the wealth of beefcake advertising. Male bodies are being utilized to sell everything from underwear (Jockey) to perfume even to vodka. And if you note the objectification of men in current films, which are to popular culture what arteries are to the heart, lifelines of what's hot and what's not, what do you find being peddled as much as female object. There's Tom Cruise and the ubiquitous Partrick Swayze, who is guaranteed to doff his shirt in at least one scene per movie; there's Arnold, to be sure, who has even become an object of worship in the lesbian community, and his muscle pals Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolp Lundgren, also of the flashing pec school of drama; and of course there's Sly Stallone, the ripped-Rocky-Rambo, and the man he helped beef up into sex-object status, John Travolta.

And lest you think that man as sex object is reserved for the relatively young, dispel that notion pronto. Even aging actors like Michael Douglas get to sport their white saggy butts on the screen with impunity. Hell, men have been objectified to such a degree that even actors like Nick Nolte and Kevin Costner, not exactly champions in the muscle department, were each voted at one point Sexiest Man of the Year.

Then of course there's the slew of new beef - TV beeflings, as it were, in the making - young guys who make women swoon (and lust). I am talking about Luke Perry and Jason Priestly from Beverley Hills 90210, soon to be followed by wannabe objects from Melrose Place and Crown Heights, not to mention the hunks that make every noon soap worth its opera. This list could go on and on.

Mixed Reviews. Male as sex object is everywhere on the popular horizon, although his objectification gets mixed reviews, it seems. Women certainly do look with admiration at men, but that the way they look at them is significantly different from how a man stares at a woman in object rapture. Men fix their gaze lustfully not taking into consideration the entire person before them. Women, on the other hand, place men into a much more global context when they objectify them. considering other variables of their personalities, not merely the physical aspects.

Does that mean, I wondered aloud, that when a woman spots a particularly appealing specimen of manhood she doesn't get excited merely in a sexual or physical sense? Generally speaking, was my feminist friend's reply. I walked away thinking, Perhaps to a staunch feminist that may be the case, but many women I've spoken to confirmed just the opposite.

A good friend put different spin on it for me. "Sure, we sometimes view the man as something to take to bed," she said, laughing,"but when we wake up in the morning, in order to avoid feeling guilty about having slept with him strictly for sex, we convince ourselves that we're in love with him."

Women do talk about men in a way that treats them as mere objects. Many female psychologists do not consider this a particularly healthy development, for it perpetuates the treatment of people as everything else save what they are: feeling, caring, sensitive individuals. Admittedly not all women that have been researched felt that secret urge to possess, if even for a night, a hot looking body, but a significant number did confess to such lusts - and strictly because the guy looked good, especially his tight butt.

Men As Objects. And why is that? Well, one theory holds that as long as women were financially dependent on males, it wasn't acceptable to treat men as objects. Before the women's movement men were viewed almost entirely as providers of security. The successful man gave his woman a better home and garden than a less successful man. At that point in time, physique or costly cologne or the right to cut of clothing mattered little in the security sweeptakes. Men of this era could get by adhering to "a grey, rigid, lifeless gender stereotype". And from this lifeless man, the lucky female lotto winner got everything she wanted in suburbia, including eventually the desire for independence from her malaise of security. When that desire arose, women's growing self-sufficiency, however small, allowed them to become increasingly more selective about their choice in men. Eventually this began replacing enormous pressures on men, once they began to comprehend the sense of heightened competition among themselves for women. For the first time, heterosexual men (were) now vulnerable to female sexual selection and rejection. Under such conditions, objectification of men became almost inevitable.

Despite this postulates, I suspect that men aren't concerned with their objectification at the moment. No pain, no gain, as the saying goes. And gain in this argument refers to heightened desirability. Beyond muscle and fitness as items that will improve one's health, men train by and large precisely to be appreciated by their peers and especially by the opposite sex.

Competition Stiffens. As I noted earlier, it's survival of the fittest, and in most developed parts of the world the competition has gotten real stiff during the last ten years. Despite the rumoured shortage of males - nonsense promoted by numerous magazines aimed at women - since 1980 the bachelor pool has increased by more than 20%, leaving a whopping millions of single men to compete for the women of their dreams. And the number of men in the prime marrying age group - 24-44 - constitutes more than a healthy 40% of all bachelors. It's become a war, and the man with the best armour has a better chance of winning, particularly if that armour happens to be an awesome physique (in addition to a nice wallet, political incorrectness be damned). Which may account for the record number of men now training in gyms around the world trying to turn themselves into lean, mean sex machines. And which may also accont for the astounding increase in cosmetic surgery sought by men (up serveral hundred percent) during the past decade. Further, the money men have begun to spend on clothing recently has skyrocketed.

And if for the moment, men become sex objects precisely because they are changing their physical structure (excluding cosmetics), many feel that's as it should be. Turn about, they say, is fair play after all. And most of us men support the shift, with the understanding that down the road, of course, matters may change. A big question arises on this score, incidentally. Will being objectified by women bring even greater pressure on men to be something other than what they are or can be? It is a thought. A friend recently said that he'd been approached by a woman who'd been checking him out for quite some time. She was polite, though an attitude about her disconcerted him. After a brief introduction and a few minutes chitchats, she asked boldly whether he was busy for the next few hours, because she wanted to find out for herself, in her words, "Whether you're as good as you look."

I asked how he felt about her invitation. He seemed embarrassed at first, though I finally managed to coax the following out of him, "I was flattered, naturally, but I was also intimidated. I'm certainly not some bear in the circus who has to dance on command." What was that saying, not too long ago? Oh yes, "You've come a long way, baby."

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