Flashing images

March 28, 2013

I’ve noticed several times how women express strong feelings of disgust at the sight of a man’s penis, be it in pictures or as a joke in casual situations. Where accidental or “accidental” showing of female body parts are usually considered embarrassing or exciting, the male equivalent is quite often met with disgust.

I wonder why this is, and have come up with some ideas.Image

Within feminist theory, there’s a term called”the male gaze”. It refers to the assumption that since white, heterosexual, men are the norm in western society pictures, whether in merchandising, movies or art, are made with men as the main recipient.

This explains why females, at least if they’re young and pretty (and they tend to be), are quite often shown from angles and with lighting that will emphasize sexualized body parts such as breasts and behinds whereas men are not.

Women are presented as something men would like to go to bed with, (or rather, a thing that heterosexual men with enjoy looking at) while men are presented mostly as someone the men can recognize themselves in.

The male gaze can occasionally be homosexual as well as heterosexual. In this way of viewing things, a big poster of David Beckham in boxer shorts is not aimed at the female erotic mind, but at that of gay men, and possibly also as a physical ideal for other heterosexual men.

It is understood that women as well as men look at pictures using the male gaze. Women may be in the audience, but the camera identifies with the men and looks at what the men are expected to be interested in. Most of us are so used to this we don’t think about it, and since it’s very seldom mentioned but rather considered the default view, women are trained from childhood to be interested in, or even identify with, the male gaze.

Now, in order to keep up the assumption that ALL men are (or rather should be) heterosexual, a lot of policing is going on, and one assumption is that if men are sexually aroused by naked or exposed women they are as a consequence NOT AT ALL aroused by men’s bodies.

ImageYou would think that NOT BEING AROUSED should show itself as indifference, but since the notion is that ALL men are (or should be) heterosexual, the non-arousal must be publicly recognizable and therefore expressed as disgust or ridicule. The women who identify with the male gaze will, as a reflex, react the same way as the men in the audience are expected to react.

There is another interesting point in this. Since most of us are very used to the male gaze, we’re not at all used to seeing men in vulnerable positions. In fiction, of course, men are quite often imprisoned, shot at, injured in sports etc, but the camera with the male gaze makes sure not to sexualize the temporary loss of strength and power. Instead that’s quite often understood as the fuel for the revenge that is to take place in one way or another.

The vulnerability of the sexualized and naked female body must then be interpreted in another way in the case of men. We are given the assumption that vulnerable men are not good and I suspect the unexpected vulnerability about the naked male body makes us confused, and that confusion leads to anger because we don’t know how to handle it.

There’s a third possibility, and that is that women have very few opportunities to laugh at and ridicule men in public. The unexpected flashing of private body parts is one permitted reason for laughing at men. Perhaps women take the opportunity to get back at men for all the policing of women’s bodies (about food, weight, skin, hair and the extremely difficult balance between showing enough body parts to be interesting but not so much that you’re a slut).

The negative reaction from females towards viewing male private parts is possibly, then, an expression of homophobia. If true I find this very interesting. I also find it very depressing.

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