Filament is Dead, Long Live Filament

A black and white image of a naked slender man playing the celloI need to take my hat off in mourning- the next issue of Filament Magazine, a fabulous example of photos of men made by and marketed to women, will be its last- not due to any lack of demand (there’s more than ever!) but for personal reasons.

I am announcing that Issue 9, the next issue of Filament, due out 1 December 2011, will be the last. My reasons are entirely personal. Perhaps this is also the right time, because we are finishing on a high.

To answer some questions you may have:

  • I’m a subscriber. Will I receive my money back for the issues I haven’t received? Yes. However, this is labour-intensive for us, with over 1000 subscriptions to individually refund. We aim to complete this process by 30 June 2012. If you don’t want to be refunded, please and let us know.
  • Will Filament continue as a website? Not as such, but we plan to try and put most of our past content up on and will add articles as exciting and relevant topics come up, so please keep following ourfeeds. We will also continue to sell issues through the website until they run out. Our stockists will also be getting in Issue 9 as normal, and will continue to sell Filament until they run out.
  • Couldn’t someone else take over as editor of Filament? It’s doubtful, for various reasons that I can’t go into.
  • Perhaps a company would want to buy the magazine? We have had offers, but always from those who seek to turn Filament into something that doesn’t seem consistent with the reasons you have told us that you like Filament.

I know that Filament means a lot to many of you. At various events I’ve had readers approach me to thank me, with tears in their eyes. This makes me feel proud, but also incredibly sorry that I can’t continue this for you.

So first? Buy up issues of Filament!

And secondly, I’m thinking it might mean that next year is the year to take Andro Aperture to the next level and try to pull together something more concrete. Because I will mourn its passing- Filament inspired the hell out of me and helped me solidify my belief that women DID want to look at images of men made for their consumption, of different body types, ethnicities, and cultures.

I’ll miss them. 😦

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Mirror Images

I need to start off by apologizing for dropping this blog- life got pretty hectic and it’s not slowing down, so while this is on my agenda I’m focusing on… well, getting paid. Even angry activists need to eat. 😉 BUT I will be updating this blog again a little more frequently, so hang tight!

When I found out about NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body Day, I got really excited. I’ve blogged a lot about body image; topics have ranged from fat politics (the good, the bad, the ugly) to sex and disability (emotional and physical), from the sexualization of children to the everyday nature of the male gaze, even in activist spaces. It’s pretty important to me, of course, as it’s deeply personal.

Going through the submissions to their blog carnival, there’s a lot of excellent topics being covered. Of particular interest to me were ones relating to “sexy costumes“, women of colour’s struggle to see their skin as beautiful, the issues surrounding child beauty pageants, and how people with disabilities fight hostility and disgust when they leave the house. It’s angering, but inspiring to see so many speaking out (though may I speak up briefly in defense of women who choose to get their breasts augmented– it doesn’t automatically make them idiot pawns, ok? They do have agency).

But I also notice that they are mostly women blogging about body image. Charlie Glickman posted about “finding his ass” in a sweet post that made me smile, but I don’t see a lot of discussion generally about body images and masculinity. In fact, “Love Your Body Day” is specifically described as being for women and girls:

Each year NOW Foundation celebrates Love Your Body Day to send a positive message to women and girls that beauty comes in all colors, shapes and sizes.

And that makes a lot of sense, frankly, as I feel like women do deal with a lot of body image related bullshit on a rather constant basis. But one of the things that I think will help fight against that is to acknowledge that men struggle with their body image as well- that this is an issue, not about rescuing female bodies from exploitation, but about fighting the capitalistic ideals that make all bodies into commodities with a value defined, not by the actual market, but the constructed one of the media.

Now, I am a sex worker who works a lot with people who have disabilities, though not exclusively, and works with a lot of people who are male-identified, though not exclusively. And body image issues are pretty prominent. They don’t always say something immediately- sometimes it takes a couple of sessions before they start pouring our their worries that they’re too chubby, or too skinny, or their hair is too thin, or their skin is too freckled. But as I was told on twitter, while men might not call it “body image issues”, they definitely look at themselves in the mirror and wonder if they would be attractive to others.

Penny Barber wrote an interesting post about the male desire to be desired that’s well worth a read- and I really liked this quote she quoted:

Describing her clients, Crane said, “Men really want to learn how to please women and our multi-faceted feminism has left them very confused about how to do that. I don’t think men want to buy women, I think they want to feel desired by them.”

The further you go from privileged groups, the more likely these issues exist, too, in my experience- not that middle class, white, cisgendered heterosexual men are at ALL immune to worrying about their sexual appeal (far from it, btw) but I do notice that men of colour, transmen, working class men and queer men are more likely to admit that they’ve been concerned about their attractiveness.

It’s not really surprising, either, the number of men who have told me that it took them a while (or that they’re still struggling) to see themselves as having sexual bodies. While women complain about there being so many incredibly stupid “sexy” costumes for women and girls (I love the feminist costume list), men don’t really have sexy costumes that’re… well, sexy. Sexiness for men is seemingly about being either hilarious or flamingly gay. This underlines an incredibly problematic idea- that women’s bodies are to be consumed, and men are the consumers. By not creating space for male bodies to be sexualized, we do everyone a disservice by maintaining the status quo- one of the things that was an inspiration for the Andro Aperture Project.

Feminism has done a lot for me and my relationship to my body. It’s not perfect, by any means, but there are websites, support groups, books and even fat-positive porn out there to support me, to help guide me through. But my boyfriend and the other men in my life don’t have similar access to help them. Not only that, but it seems difficult for people hearing about these issues to know how to comfort and reassure the male-identified people in their lives. I feel like as long as the discussion of body love centers around female bodies, we’re still focusing on female bodies, which is part of the issue.

Katherine on Feministing put it really well:

A mentor of mine a long time ago told me that if you stand on a chair and hold hands with someone standing on the floor, it’s a lot easier for them to pull you down to the floor than it is for you to pull them up on the chair. Feminists can’t win by only addressing female bodies, or by only including males in that they too shouldn’t hate our female bodies. Yes, we have experienced the effects of body hatred in different ways, compounded by the gendered power-structure of our society. But that doesn’t mean that men don’t experience body-negativity at all. By addressing only female body perceptions, we leave men on the floor. We need instead to create the tools to get them up on the chairs with us.

Yes yes yes. This. Body image is an issue that crosses ability, class, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, and orientation. It’s a human issue, and I think the way to fight body fascism is through the respectful appreciation of the diversity we display.

Because ultimately, that is what’s beautiful.

This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival.

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Guest Post: Why “Sexy” Costumes for Men Really Aren’t that Sexy

So if you’re familiar with my Purrversatility blog, you may have seen that I’ve been kind of busy tackling rape culture in BDSM communities. I’m running a workshop on that with Maggie Mayhem on the 4th, after which I imagine I’ll hop back onto this project.

In the meantime, I’ll be highlighting some guest posts on men as objects of desire- enjoy!

Article by Mike Stryker

Originally posted at Good Vibrations Magazine

Here in the UK, we don’t make as big a deal of Halloween as people do in the US. Heck, I really could have used almost any country in place of the UK in that sentence and it would have been just as true. Halloween is a big festival in the States in a way that it simply isn’t for most of the world, no matter how much we may try to play catch up, gradually trying more and more to emulate the sort of festivities we see in American films and TV shows.

Still, it can be a hard thing to translate internationally sometimes, as it doesn’t always work so well abroad. For example, last year I was actually in the middle of travelling around Australia – specifically Adelaide, South Australia – when Halloween hit, and it was interesting seeing what the Aussies made of it. There were the usual parties and dress-up opportunities for young people, obviously. But still, it didn’t quite ring true as Halloween for me. I mean, seeing a young man excitably running around, dressed as the killer from Scream and brandishing a plastic, faux-blood-stained knife might be mildly thrilling on a chill fall night in suburban Massachusetts or some such, but that same guy looks almost hilariously out of place when you find him on a hot, sunny, late-spring evening on the beach, as I did.

The truth is, I’ve never actually had an American Halloween. Nor have I had an American Independence Day, Thanksgiving (although the American students at my British university all tried really hard to push that one on us, and got mightily disappointed at the lack of holiday staples like canned pumpkin in British stores) or Christmas (yet another one that is so much bigger West of the pond), although I do intend to come and experience all of these at some point, if only simply to say that I’ve done them.

Still, as a foreigner, I do try to wrap my head around these things and comprehend them as best I can, especially with all of the American friends that I have. In years past, I may have spent post-Halloween early-November gathered round a big bonfire, sparklers in hand, at a Guy Fawkes Night (not Guy Fawkes Day, as Americans are wont to call it) celebration, rather than calling in sick to school/work after a massive overdose of candy/booze and shenanigans on Halloween night, but vive la différence, I say.

Still, one thing I can’t wrap my head around are the costumes. I’m all for dressing up. I actually quite frequently go to parties where dressing up as crazily and as creatively as one can is the norm; far more than just once a year, certainly. But Halloween, when it becomes assumed that loads and loads of young Americans are going to be dressing up for their evening’s jaunts, and ready-made costumes are pushed on young consumers with quite some veracity is something that still makes me scratch my head. Why? Because it brings into focus a most astonishing gender divide.

No, I’m not about to bring up the classic “why is there so much pressure for women to dress as sexy x as opposed to just x” argument, which has been voiced in multiple different ways throughout the years (although still bears bringing up, of course), but instead I ask: why isn’t there the same pressure for men?

I for one embrace sexy costumes for men: costumes that are perhaps as flimsily connected to the concept they’re supposed to represent as Karen from Mean Girls’ classic lingerie-and-tiny-ears “I’m a mouse, d’uh” costume was to an actual mouse. “But Mike,” I hear you say, “there are sexy costumes for men! Loads of them! Just do a search online and you’ll see!” And indeed, I have searched and I have seen, and that’s really part of the problem and what inspired me to write this very piece. The notion of male sexuality presented by men’s costumes is a fairly problematic one.

In the interest of full disclosure I should probably give some backstory here and explain more about my relationship with male bodies, costumes and the performance of sexuality. I volunteer at a magazine that is essentially an upmarket soft porn magazine for straight women, so I see lots and lots of images of men: images that have been engineered to try and appeal specifically to the female gaze. A lot of these men are just plain buck naked, some are naked apart from some Japanese rope bondage or the like, and some are in some pretty out-there get-ups indeed. The latest issue, for example – a ‘supernatural’ themed one at that, appropriately enough for this Halloween season – features photoshoots of men as sexy elves, sexy vampires, sexy greek gods and, believe it or not, even a sexy boy zombie, I promise you.

Now, the notion of sexy elf-boys or sexy vampire men may not be a new one, as anyone who remembers the massive outpouring of love for Orlando Bloom following the release of The Fellowship of the Ring can attest. As can anyone who hasn’t been living under the proverbial rock and has been exposed to some sliver of Twilight fandom. So yes, there is becoming a distinct mainstream-isation of tailoring supernatural & fantasy images to the female gaze. This is, I have no question, a good thing, as it’s a sign of a gradual mainstream-media acceptance of women as actively sexual and as gazers, if you will, as well as an increasing acceptance of men as acceptable subjects of being sexually gazed-upon outside of a gay context.

But still, returning to the theme of Halloween costumes here, this trend is only just beginning to break into the Halloween costume industry, a great deal of which still presents a rather broken and ridiculous take on adult male sexuality. I obviously need some examples here: a quick look through this slide show features some of the very worst offenders, I think. To be fair, it’s a bit skewed. It’s a humorous collection that’s actually designed to show off some of the very worst examples, but the fact that half of these costumes even exist, that people created them in the knowledge/faith that there’d be a market for them, the fact that I can all too easily imagine bumping into half of these at a party speaks volumes, I feel.

This list of “inappropriate” Halloween costumes basically features a large number of costumes that are, essentially, dick jokes, just dick jokes that happen to be wearable over your body. There’s the banana penis and the elephant-trunk penis. There’s the genie’s lamp penis, the frankly baffling prisoner penis and truly strange, not-even-really-a-pun “Knight to remember” penis. It’s not just dick jokes, though. Other costumes in this list that play upon a “oh, isn’t it hilarious” version of male sexuality include a ‘funny bestiality’ (?) costume, a ‘funny blowjob’ one and a ‘funny “the shocker”’ one.

All of these are, apparently, professionally produced. Each of these plays upon the same fallacies of what actually makes something ‘sexy’ as do novelty cookie-cutters in the shape of a penis or drinking straws made to look like cock & balls: it’s all just a bit too silly and demeaning, and the butt of the joke is the idea that men can, in fact, be seen as legitimate sexual objects, not just as all a bit silly. ‘Sexy’ for men in the Halloween costume industry seems to mean something very different than it perhaps should. I know that these costumes are perhaps some of the sillier examples but they belie an unfortunate trend: male sexuality as a joke, male sexuality played for laughs and male sexuality and, really, sexiness being seen as something all a bit silly. It’s that last part that really riles me in particular, as again, it seems unfair to not just make jokes at the expense of men’s desirability, but to also jab at those who would otherwise find men sexy.

Again, I work around a lot of images of attractive men – or at least, I’m told that they’re attractive by the many straight women I surround myself with – and not just for the magazine, either (Filament magazine, in case you were wondering). I’ve been to a lot of boylesque (boy burlesque) shows that have, in the tradition of classic burlesque, had an awful lot of intelligence, creativity and humour about them, all of which enhance rather than detract from their sex appeal. I’ve seen an awesome boylesque show wherein the performer comes out as an honest to goodness mouse. No, not the Mean Girls mouse, a big, pantomime-style mouse costume (not quite all-covering, like a furry or mascot get-up), with whiskers and a nose attached to his face. But the unexpected thing is, this performer works it. He makes it work as just about the sexiest mouse boy you’ve ever seen.

At the Male Tournament of Tease in London earlier this year, I saw men absolutely rocking looks such as hot Cossack (dancing Russian guys), hot Scottish highlander, hot Billy Elliot (really!) and, my personal favourite, hot The Groom (as in, a male version of Kill Bill’s ‘The Bride’, complete with yellow & black jumpsuit). These costumes didn’t, like the ‘sexy genie’ example linked above, mock or degrade the sexuality or sexiness of the men who wore them or the women who might want to gaze upon them. Hell, I’d love to see a hot The Groom costume available in stores in Halloween. I’d probably wear it.

To be fair, there are costumes that do play up male sexuality and appeal to the straight female gaze, but a lot of these simply tie-into and repackage the hot male pop-culture figure at the moment, such as Captain Jack Sparrow or Heath Ledger’s Joker. While that’s nice to see, it’s a far cry from the sexy female costumes. Many of the female costumes do mimic pop cultural icons, but, as with the above examples from the Tournament of Tease, they also take archetypes that may not be generally considered sexy and play up the latent sexual content in them. Although really, by the time you’ve resorted to ‘sexy’ Nemo from Finding Nemo or ‘sexy’ Cookie Monster of all things, I really don’t know what to say. However, maybe these two are done in some sort of ironic jest. Maybe it is, in fact, a very subtle commentary on the very absurdity and ridiculous-hyper-sexualisation of other ‘sexy’ women’s costumes. Although really, probably not; though I still live in hope.

In the end, whilst I’m not too pleased about the old, much-discussed gender divide and uneven social expectations that mean men can just dress ‘in costume’ while women have to dress ‘sexy’ on Halloween (I feel your pain, Lindsay Lohan’s character in Mean Girls), I’m much more pissed about the massive divide between ‘sexy’ costumes for men and women. I don’t want to see costumes that, ultimately, work to insult, degrade and demean male sexuality and those that actually find men sexy. It’s offensive and frankly, not very funny. Sure, you probably wouldn’t find the guy who’d think to buy the ‘Rub Me’ genie outfit very sexy anyway, as I can’t imagine that he’d have that great of a sense of humour.

Still, come Halloween next year, I’d love to see costumes being pushed on men that attempt to get them to play up real, adult, male sexuality. It’s not hard. Hell, even if you do have to just mine from the year’s blockbusters for a while, producing yet more like Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter or Johnny Depp’s Sweeney Todd or whatever the hell else Johnny Depp is being. I imagine it’ll be a while before we get round to male sexy Cookie Monster though, but I like to think that we will at least get some more sexy male archetypes sometime before I start to look far too old to go out in costume Halloween night.

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Review: For the Girls- e-zine and erotica for women

I’ve been aware of “For the Girls“, a porn website for women, for a little while, thanks to Filament’s editor. To be honest, I hadn’t thought to look much further, because my first impression was to be turned off by the type of man portrayed on the front page- almost all white, hairless, overly buff. I like cubs and queers myself!

BUT I’m glad I did get a peek behind the curtain thanks to Ms. Naughty because I was very pleasantly surprised to see what was there- a buffet of interesting interviews, erotic stories, snippets of advice, and men, men, men.

A younger man with shaggy hair stands in a messy bedroom, looking down, mouth open slightly, at his hard cock.First, I went right for the core: the photos of hot men for women’s appreciation. Well, that is kinda what this blog is about, right? There are 6 categories: Hunks, Black, Muscles, Military, Mature, and Amateurs. I personally mostly enjoyed poking through “Hunks” and “Amateur” as there was a bit more body variety. There were some delicious men in there- I really liked that there was a variety of ways that men looked at the camera, some directly, others not, so you could pick and choose. I also loved that there were different ages represented- awesome!

A man in a military shirt bends over to kiss his cock in a forest.One thing I do wish is that there were more images displaying some sort of scene or environment- a lot of them had a fairly naked set which didn’t give me a lot to imagine (not this one, though, and how hot is he kissing his own cock in his Army uniform!). And for my own project, I personally cringe a little at “Black” and would say “men of colour” as it would be more accurate and more PC- YMMV. I’m very conscious of the fact that I live in super-liberal queer political Oakland, and “For the Girls” is in Australia, so somewhat different cultural standards etc.

A Black man with long dreads reclines, one arm behind his head.

Anyway, in addition to the images (and there’s lots of them- in fact, they may want to collaborate with Andro-Aperture, yay!) there’s a lot of text stuff- I found myself checking out articles about sex and disability, male sex workers, an interview with Jiz Lee, all sorts of stuff and all over the map. I enjoyed the column where a guy answers questions from women about possible reasons for male behaviour (it’s not scientific, of course, but it seemed to ring true for my own experience). There was also a section for adult movie reviews, and I really liked that they reviewed DVDs across the board, from real-life couples to POC queer sex to high concept art smut. And I LOVED that there were negative reviews in there along with positive ones! That tells me that the reviews are honestly offered.

A 30-something man stands, eyes closed, with one hand in his white boxer briefs. He is otherwise naked.Surfing through the stories gave me a good variety to pick from. Most of the material is heterosexual, with a little bit of queerness thrown in for the heteroflexible. There’s some kink, some loving sex, some strangers hooking up… it’s got a little bit of everything. But what made me grin and really happy was that some of the stories were just written in such a realistic voice:

Katrina looked at him and gave a little sigh. He just didn’t seem to get it. She straddled him once more and moved her face so that it was mere inches away from his. She looked intently into his brown eyes. “Listen Jack. We agreed to role-play that you’re trapped, right? So could you just act like you aren’t incredibly happy to be here right now?”

You Make Me Feel Like… By Imari Shi

I giggled because I can so imagine my partner and I having that conversation!

A long haired man sits with a small smile on his lips, his flaccid cock resting between his legs.Finally, I checked out their video section. There’s a hot new one that went up of a man masturbating as he talks about how he can’t stop thinking of this one woman… I loved watching his face, the muscles in his arm flex and relax, his hand on his cock, his toes curling. Watching his stomach tense up as he covers it with cum was just super sexy. I love watching men wank! And I also liked seeing his flaccid cock afterwards.

The site is working on a revamp that promises to improve the few things I cocked an eyebrow at, and I look forward to giving it another poke around (hee!) when that’s happened. Until then, I’m sure any woman can find something she’d enjoy within “For the Girls“, whether that be articles, smutty stories read aloud, or just hot hunks of manflesh. And keep an eye open because soon Andro-Aperture might have some stuff submitted there as well!

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Notes from the Andro-Aperture E.B. Meetup

The same image appears twice of a nude male, hands over his genitals. In one image he's not retouched, in the other he's got pecs and abs photoshopped in.So our first meetup went pretty well- we had about 9 people total, mostly men interested in the project and expressions of masculinity. Sitting outside on a sidewalk in Berkeley talking about dick shots was really fun and I had a great time of it!

To start, we discussed a bit about masculinity generally. Issues such as the need to be seen as “hard” in POC communities were commented on; one thing that came up is the idea that the erotic male nude is seen as either aggressive/dangerous/creepy, or as gay or humorous, while erotic female nudity is seen as sensual and attractive. “This Film is Not Yet Rated” was brought up, as was Susan Bordo’s “The Male Body“, which I now need to add to my reading list. We mentioned “standers vs leaners”, the idea of an active, aggressive male sexualization being ok, while a passive, leaning one was not ok and weird.

Then we talked about what women who have responded to my poll are looking for in their erotic photography: seeing enjoyment on the guy’s face, seeing his face, a variety of men (body type, POC, trans) being pictured, and some teasing shots rather than blatant cock-in-face. We also discussed this ethereal idea of there being a story suggested in erotic images of men, some sort of chemistry or dynamic that you can feel, some dramatic tension. It’s kind of hard to create a guideline for something that you either feel or you don’t, but it was definitely a defining factor for what made an image erotic or not erotic. We also talked about how confidence in your body and being in front of a camera made for sexier photos, and how possibly having someone who knows you taking the images helps that along.

One thing we agreed on was that erotic photography is often best when it’s a negotiation and collaboration between people, rather than static images. When a photographer has an idea in their head and just molds a body to fit that idea, the image can lack the dynamic found within people just taking photos as they have fun.

(side note: I’ve realized I probably need to write a guide on how to take erotic images and how to model for them, particularly because there’s not really any resources out there for female-identified photographers or male-identified models. As with lots of things it could be a chicken/egg thing, where a lack of resources = a lack of people learning what to do and giving it a go, which means fewer male models or female photographers, which adds to the belief that there’s no need for them. If you have some tips for starting photographers or models, please comment and add to it?)

On the fun side of things, we worked out some ideas for shoots- stuff involving a hint of danger, or eroticizing the mundane, showing a spectrum of male experience. We want to show images that aren’t hyper-masculine, reduce the need to perform a stereotype of gender. We also talked about wanting to show cocks in all different stages of arousal, foreskins and cut, small, medium, and big. Humour is definitely a plus, as well as creating space for men to be hot AND cute! Not knowing how to be sexy as a male is a huge part of the problem, and something that will be hopefully discussed further. Also, we discovered that we can use a lot of the same tropes of erotic photography of women just changing a few variables makes it subversive.

On that note, there’s four projects we may start with:

-Male Pinups

-Fun and Games (Filament)

-Science and Nature (Filament)

-Male Submission

Looking forward to the next meeting!

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Andro-Aperture East Bay Meetup Tonight

This is the first step in teal life- just a meetup for a bunch of photographers and models to get together to discuss potential shoot ideas, get some tips, and chat about what the female gaze and male sexual objectification means to them.

We’re here to discover if there’s a market for this that has just been ignored or misdirected. It may take time to build buzz for the female consumer market, but I believe this is a project that will have impact. I already have an offer to show a gallery of work at Mission Control, and will be talking to Wicked Grounds, the Citadel, and Mr S, among other galleries.

Please be honest about your experience. These first shoots will likely be unpaid TFP shoots as we get things started! Bring your passion for representation, and leave male privilege at home.

While I will do everything in my power to make sure models are professional, please use usual precautions. Think about what sort of shoots you want to do, what sort of men you like, and how you would shoot them in a way that captures a story, a moment, not just an exposure of the body.

If you’re in the Bay Area and might be interested, check out the listing on Fetlife:

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Poll: what’re *you* looking at?

A hot long-haired pretty boy lies on the floor, his leg supported by a white black, a lollipop in one hand

This is kind of especially for someone who loves boys with their lollies...

So due to a lot of discussion about who has what kind of gaze and whether a question like this is even appropriate and what is gender anyway etc. etc., I feel the need to say that for ease of data collection on this subject, I would appreciate it if people vote on this poll who identify as female and who might look at male-identified erotic images. I certainly enjoy looking at genderqueer and female-identified bodies as well, but that’s not for this blog!

Also to be clear- I’m not seeking to define an over-arching description of “THE female gaze”. Not to say that there aren’t people who don’t identify as male or female, but if you personally do, I’m interested in what your female gaze actually is- what sort of image of a male catches your eye, and for what reason?

So, onto the poll (top 5 things, please, though feel free to comment!):

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