The Beautiful Man

Why men’s bodies are just as beautiful as women’s.

When women’s bodies are being used to sell yet another product, one of the most common defenses from both sexes is that women’s bodies are just prettier than men’s. It’s not sexism when a woman’s curves are used to entice us to buy toothpaste and batteries; it’s just that women are so much more lovely, you see. Implied is the idea that if men’s bodies were somehow less visually unfortunate, their bodies would be used, too. I call bullocks.

Men’s bodies are just as attractive as women’s. Certainly, the Greeks thought so. (Or, they are both unattractive compared to a truly graceful animal like a cheetah. My personal taste leans toward the latter – human beings’ patchy hair, awkward upright walk, and usually unfit bodies aren’t so beautiful compared to many other animals.) However you see the relative attractiveness of human bodies, it is a cultural idea, not an inherent truth, that women are more beautiful than men.

In feminist studies, the idea that a whole society learns to see through heterosexual, male eyes is termed the “male gaze.” How many thousands of movies have you watched in your life, how many photographs created from the male perspective? A movie with negligible female casting or character development is for everyone, and women and girls are expected to enjoy and empathize with male characters all the time  – reverse that and it’s called a chick flick. There are men who have no problem putting themselves in a woman’s perspective while reading a book or watching a film. These men prove that being only interested, willing or able to see from the male perspective is learned, so they are a good example (not to mention better dates).

That generations of women have grown up seeing the world through the lens of a straight male gaze would yield the unsurprising result of women considering women’s bodies to be more beautiful than men’s. But I challenge you to imagine a world where men’s bodies are used as commonly as women’s to indicate beauty, a future where perfectly sculpted men’s thighs and calves rather than women’s are used to hawk plasmas and sneakers.

As a straight woman, I have precious few opportunities outside company with my significant other to enjoy the male body as casually and as constantly as my heterosexual guy friends do. Yes, of course I can search out male art photography, but most of that is also from the vantage point of men (gay men produce some gorgeous male nude art, but it’s not from a woman’s perspective). And the few places where men’s bodies are celebrated and exemplified seem to focus on what men think women want to see, not what women actually like looking at. It helps when the photographer is a woman, like Lynda Churilla, whose work, shown above, is viewable at Robin Rice Gallery.

Gradually, we are seeing more attractive men’s bodies in media; perhaps this is a trend in the making? Until then, I always have the archives of hot soccer players from the World Cup (Jezebel’s “thighlights” being a particular fave of mine).

 

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