|The image that was labeled "deeply offensive"|
For almost its entire existence, this blog has posted "male beauty" photos which celebrate the male form and what at least I view as beautiful males. Critics said that I should omit these posts, but a poll I once set up on the blog showed that 70% of readers said "keep the pictures!" (Women readers were most vocal on retaining the male beauty posts.) Why is it fine to glorify - or objectify depending on one's outlook - women, but not men? The reality is that if one looks at almost any fashion magazine, woman are depicted in all manner of undress and perhaps objectification. The same treatment of males, however, is something that is rare outside of gay publications and blogs. A piece in Huffington Post looks at the puritanical double standard and the bizarre aspect of American society and male indoctrination that makes male beauty and sexuality something scary. Here are article excerpts:
The photo in question was my chosen pic for an article I wrote about, among other things, the selling of sex. The site removed the piece and banned me for a week, then sent me a not-safe-for-hurt-feelings email saying the photo was “deeply offensive” and “soft-core porn,” and that I ought to be ashamed of myself for placing it on a respectable, liberal site. They threatened me with permanent blockage if I ever tried such a stunt again, “even in jest.”
And I just thought the photo illustrated my satiric point.
Before I try and figure out the answer, let me post the entire photo, not just the cropped version used for this piece. This is your official warning, so you might want to lock the kids in the closet, close the curtains, hide the bibles, keep the smelling salts handy, and chain yourself to something secure so you don’t throw yourself out the window or jump into oncoming traffic.
But why is it “deeply offensive” and “soft-core porn”? The Urban Dictionary’s Top Definition for the latter is “pornographic material that shows everything excluding insertion or penetration.” Other examples say penetration with a partner and masturbation is okay provided you don’t show ejaculation or an erection or cunnilingus. Playboy is often depicted as soft-core porn.
Forgetting for a moment that the photo has been displayed on mainstream gay sites worldwide, and that almost every “serious” cable show now shows male nudity, Grand isn’t naked in the photo—you don’t even see the Facebook-forbidden butt-crack or pubic hair. He’s not masturbating, there’s no partner, unless you count the showerhead, and he’s not erect. He’s wearing the male version of the type of undergarment female Victoria Secret models show off on posters and commercials and TV ads on a daily basis.
[M]y educated guess is that the photo was removed, and I was body-posting shamed, because you can see an imprint of Grand’s penis. (I hate to sound vulgar, but I felt it necessary to use the technical term.) It’s also homoerotic.
We’ve come along way in regards to male nudity and homoerotism (while straight women are likely to get excited by this photo, the artistic feel of the shot, the clothing, the openly gay model, are geared toward homosexual men). But for reasons that I still don’t understand, we’re major prudes when it comes to male genitalia.
This makes sense in the GOP world, where all risqué photos are taboo and all semi-naked men are an abomination (unless the former are nude modeling pics of the First Lady in lesbian-bondage poses and the latter are the male prostitutes they found on Grindr). We know they’re hypocrites.
Penis-phobia in the progressive world is far more surprising. You’d be hard-pressed to spend a day on social media or looking at ads without finding allusions to male anatomy. It’s everywhere, even in our political discussions. It’s in our puns, our jokes, our masculine “measure of worth”—you can’t even write a sentence about the subject without unintentionally finding a pun. Yet show any suggestion of it in the open and it’s a crude, graphic display.
Not only is this a perverse double-standard, and one that adversely affects the gay community, it reinforces the notion that the male body is shameful. When we’re only allowed to allude to it, and not celebrate it the way we do the female form, it’s tantamount to saying our admiration should be kept in the closet. I’ve met few straight men who will admit they appreciate the nude male body, and many who won’t even admit that a man’s face is attractive. That’s an unhealthy way to live and a choice most women ignore.
Our macho sensibility tells men it’s wrong to admire each other’s physicality, which leads to insecurity, fear, and a general lack of self-awareness.
It’s also time to stop the patriarchal, outdated nonsense about male genitalia and start treating the male body in the manner it deserves: as a thing of beauty, as something to admire, to be inspired by, to get excited about, to love, and to look at.
A parting thought: Could the double standard be due to (i) GOP and Christofascist males being afraid of the desire such images invoke in them, and (ii) such photos reminding the majority of straight males that they look like Hell physically?