(note: I have no romantic or sexualized experience myself, so I admit *some* of these points rely entirely on secondhand stuff and media)
One thing I think is not talked about very much is that straight men live pretty much desexualized lives if we’re not actually having sex at that moment, and then there’s not much room to be the object rather than subject.
As I’ve said before, we men don’t have clothing options for “dressing sexy” in masculine clothing (there is cross dressing but that is different). There’s no male equivalent to the short skirt or low cut top. There’s no male lingerie that isn’t seen as a joke.
Further, we just don’t get validation for our sexuality outside of a sexual partner. We are almost never complimented for our looks or sexiness from platonic friends like women are, especially same sex friends.
There really aren’t many straight male role models for raw aesthetic sexiness in mainstream culture (besides unnaturally muscled men). In fiction, male characters are almost never attractive for embodying sexiness but rather for doing things (saving the world, being extremely witty, being a genius, winning the tournament, etc.). Their sexiness is non-aesthetic and sometimes is in spite of their aesthetics.
Anecdotally, it seems like a lot of men aren’t even called physically hot and sexy by their own sexual partners, who themselves focus on personality. There’s not much room to fulfill the role of passive sexism object for you partner for many/most men.
I think it is telling that a lot of porn for men ignores the man’s personality and has a woman just throwing themselves at the man, overcome with lust.
Also there the fact that women seem to rarely approach men and some seem to often expect the man to do most of the sexual escalation, especially in the early stages.
We talk about women of color or women who are disabled being sexualized, but we don’t talk about how all straight men are desexualized and denied the ability to be sexualized object.
oh my god… that’s why they send dick pics
There are occasional reddit threads about things like this: “guys who send unsolicited dick pics, why do you do it?”
The answer always seems to be some combination of slot machine mentality (“maybe this one will like it, and make the other 50 worthwhile”) and a desire for witness. Surprising numbers of people admit that it’s validation even if the reaction is negative, simply because they’re still being viewed in a totally sexual context.
At the very least that has obvious consequences for people trying to reduce dick pic sending. There’s some core of people who can’t possibly be reached with “it’s not attractive to women” because that was never their expectation.
More broadly, I think efforts to get (Western?) men to emphasize with objectification wildly underestimate the challenge they’re facing. It’s not just a sympathy shortage, it’s a totally unfamiliar feeling. Making things even harder, it’s a feeling a lot of men say they wish they could have.
The usual narrative on not (politely) complimenting the appearance of unknown women is “sure, it’s nice if it happens once, but think about how annoyed you’d be if it happened all the time”. Fine in general terms, but I think a lot of men don’t have any way to intuit the emotional difference between too-frequent compliments and being pestered with too much of something totally innocuous like requests for the date.
The comments on those articles are frequently from men saying they’ve literally never received a single compliment from a stranger on their appearance, and can’t imagine what it would be like. The ones who have are often talking about a single, years-old compliment they still cherish. That’s not a framework that supports more than a purely theoretical understanding of what’s it’s like to be valued for your appearance too heavily - or at all.
Obviously that’s not universal, any more than all women are catcalled, but it seems like a really serious communication failure to appeal to a sense of objectification that much of your audience has literally never felt, and desperately wants.
Reblogged because thefutureoneandall describes exactly why I have trouble empathizing with feminism columnists.
Can confirm, I’d take literally any compliment on anything at this point, and would cherish it.
one day we gotta get all the men and all the women to sit down together and hash this stuff out between them, how hard can it be.
This discussion kind of reminds me of a story that made the rounds about a year ago, where
a woman, after having gotten a bit tired with dick pics, decided to try to get her “revenge” of sorts, by sending unsolicited vagina pics to 40 random men:
Let’s be honest: while I enjoy penises, I don’t necessarily want unexpected visual boners intruding on my day. I wondered, “What would guys do if I turned the tables and sent them an unexpected vagina pic?” And so, in my own twist on revenge porn, I sent 40 unexpected vagina pics to men on Bumble.
This … didn’t work out the way she apparently expected it to:
Overall, I was surprised that I didn’t get my, “Gotcha!” moment. I’d initially hoped the guys would see how invasive it is to receive such intimate photos from a stranger. When I’m excited to get to know a guy, his penis isn’t the first part of him that I want to know. But given that men like to send dick pics, I suppose their enthusiasm for v-pics makes sense.
So, basically, women experience dick picks as a net negative, as an intimacy violation, while men experience v-pics as a huge positive, as validation and an indicator of interest.
This seems consistent with the above discussion, where it’s a pretty common male experience to basically never receive any sexual attention ever and thus respond really strongly positively to whatever scraps come their way (or to start trolling for attention - with the point of some of these dick pics apparently being to get any attention at all, no matter how hostile), while a common female experience seems to be more like being flooded with unwanted sexual attention and wanting a way to make it stop -
resulting in an absolutely massive inferential gap - with the result that if you’re on one side of the gap and try to describe your feelings and experiences to the people on the other side, whatever words you have will just fall on deaf ears because the feeling and experiences you describe are … not just unfamiliar, but outright alien, to the ones on the other side.
This alienness is … mutual.
For men, it feels like no men are sexy to women.
For women, it feels like all women are sexy to men.
It’s like one person dying of dehydration watching another one drown.
“It’s like one person dying of dehydration watching another one drown.”
the conversation has gotten longer, so i’m reblogging
… This is so cool. It actually makes sense.
but of course women are wary of just giving men compliments, because attention-starved men are likely to take it as a come-on. what a dilemma.
So what I’m getting from this…
Is that my idea of taking popular types of fiction and essentially ‘flipping the script’ so that there are sexy male characters as ‘damsel in distress’ types would actually be very good and help a lot of people become comfortable with their sexuality?
it could well! i’m not the guy to answer this really, i’m queer and also i’ve always been pretty comfortable with being the one giving the compliments (and just asking for validation when i need it). but i do think there’s a place in the world for fiction where The Sexy One is male.
consider chris hemsworth in ghostbusters. that one’s a bit mean-spirited, with him being hilariously clueless, but you’ve got that dynamic where what he contributes is, he’s hot. that’s it. and i found it kind of a breath of fresh air, not because it was a fuck-you to sexist tropes, but because it’s never, ever enough for a guy to be attractive, but here it was, and that was fun to see.
i once thoughtlessly complimented a guy on his jacket, because he and his friend rounded the corner and suddenly i was confronted with an extremely handsome young man in a very fashionable black leather jacket, and i blurted out ‘whoah, nice jacket, you’re looking good!’ and the look on his face was just this explosion of surprise and delight– he actually kind of missed a step. the next minute i was like shit shit SHIT what if things get weird JEEZ but he and his friend were already walking past, and his friend just started laughing. kind of this ‘whoah, cool, what the hell’ laugh, and when i glanced back they’d both kind of lit up and were elbowing each other as they walked away. i was extremely relieved to have like dodged a bullet of ‘if you let a man know you are attracted to them at close range GOD KNOWS WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN BUT IT’S GONNA BE OBNOXIOUS PROBABLY’ and then also pleased that i’d made that guy’s day. but also like. i guess now i’m realizing i probably made that guy’s decade…
i wish it was more common to compliment people– especially guys– in a casual way. but when you live as a woman you can spend a lot more time dodging men’s attention rather than soliciting it…
maybe male poledancing is like, the next big fad to cash in on? guys can enjoy getting hit on and girls can enjoy there being a specific space for that, that they, the girls, can leave afterwards.
I’d honestly never considered this before; it makes a lot of sense. *internally recalculates a bunch of stuff*
but of course women are wary of just giving men compliments, because attention-starved men are likely to take it as a come-on. what a dilemma.”
This is a huge part of my experience. I’m a queer, fat woman who genuinely enjoys giving other people compliments. I have MASTERED the art of complimenting women who are strangers to me in a professional, non-threatening way. (Seriously, dudes, if you need some help, come talk to me.) But men? Damn. Sometimes I’m worried about making eye contact with men. Let me tell you a thing about what has happened when I’ve been nice to men who don’t already know me:
1. They assume I’m flirting, even if I just smile politely at them, and respond to it as if I’ve asked them for an intimate relationship. It’s worse if I strike up a conversation, even in customer service situations where it is literally my job to do so. Telling them I’m not flirting results in them becoming hostile, sometimes violent. I’ve had multiple workplace stalkers before, including one that got so bad we had to call the police. It’s not fun.
2. They assume I’m flirting, even if I literally treat every other person who walks past me the same way, and are disgusted because I’m not personally attractive to them, and therefore make me into an object of mockery and treat me badly. This is really difficult with coworkers as it makes the work environment really unpleasant. Telling them I’m a lesbian doesn’t help. It just increases the harassment one way or another. Have left jobs over this kind of situation before.
So guys, let me just beg you for one thing: If someone compliments you in any environment, please keep in mind that women are under constant threat of pursuit and harassment and respond respectfully. Find your inner chill (or at least your outer chill). Smile and say “thank you.”
I can also tell you that a woman who perceives you as a safe person, even just casual acquaintances, is way more likely to A. be emotionally open with you and B. actually find you attractive if she is capable of being attracted to you.
Please, please make it safe to compliment men. A lot of us really want to.