Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Sexualization of Male Agency

Recently, I had an excellent discussion of sexual objectification in an ethics course. However, I was concerned about the way in which my students—especially my female ones—insisted that anyone who “dressed like a ho” was denigrating themselves. My concern was the cultural and historic tone-deafness in which these claims were made. To try to get them to pause and reflect, I told them that by the standards of my youth in the 1980s, the typical dress of contemporary young women is scandalous. The implication was, though I am not sure anyone got it, that those who were decrying the other women were in fact in violation themselves. Hence, I tried to get them to move beyond drawing lines given whatever current beliefs they had. I failed, I believe, but at least one of my male students make a funny comment about male sexual objectification and “crotch rockets” (not referring to motorcycles), and thus I would turn to male sexual objectification, which is much less discussed in contemporary American culture.

While there is much fuss over the hyper-sexualization of the female body in American culture, there is not enough discussion of the sexualization of male desire and agency. While one can rarely watch a commercial without a female sex object implicitly hawking wares, rarely does the public consciousness note that such marketing treats men as dumb brutes largely subsumed by the power of sexualization and gendering. Should we really conceive of masculinity as wholly beholden to any seduction that fulfills heterosexual male fantasies?

In all the public discussion of the hyper-sexualization of the female body, where is the discussion of such for male desire and critical intelligence? In fact, while the female submission to male fantasies, becoming a sex object, is publically considered “bad” or at least ambivalent, the male submission to these heterosexual fantasies is meet with knowing glances, fist bumps, and backslapping.

I long for a resistance to the sexualization of male desire and agency.

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