I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some projects who have been doing/have done some fantastic work or saying some fabulous, thought-provoking things in regards to discussing the female gaze and male objectification.
And the best way to start this off is with a very important PSA.
Onto the projects!
Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze: I’m really sad to only have found out about this today, as the artist call ended May 20th! But the California Arts Council is curating an exhibition which will be shown at the SOMA Cultural Arts Center November 4th-26th. From their website:
The exhibition will examine the visibility of men and masculinity from female/feminist/transgender perspectives. In so doing it necessarily problematizes notions of “men,” “male,” “masculinity,” “women” and “female” while exploring new possibilities for the gaze. This is an inclusive show, and we welcome women and transgender artists to challenge what it means for “women” to look at “men.”
Not only will the male figure be taking on the historically “female” or passive role as object of the gaze, but the surveyor is now positioned as active and critical of traditional gender roles, thus creating a truly feminist stance. The male body and its gender expression become spectacle for a woman’s viewing and contemplation. Surveying the ways men are represented in contemporary art by women, this exhibition will open new dialogues regarding the myriad of ways how women view men in today’s culture and society.
I’ll be checking this out, and hope you do too!
Filament Magazine: I talk about them a lot because I am really, really fond of what they do. Also, I write for them sometimes, so I’m biased! But they have taken this issue of creating an erotic magazine featuring the female gaze and they do it very well. From their site:
Kinsey popularised the idea that women aren’t visual in his 1953 book Sexual behaviour in the human female. The idea is still widely believed today, even though his research methods are no long considered reliable and more recent research using better methods has refuted his findings.
If only something else Kinsey said had been so influential: ‘There are almost no male or female nudes which are produced for the consumption of females’. In fact, many people believe that even though the vast majority of erotic imagery is produced by men for men, this material will ‘do’ for women.
Many women’s erotic magazines of the past used mainly photography created for and by gay men, sometimes even selected solely by men. In Filament, we only publish photography made for or by women. We call this process ‘female gaze’.
Candy Rain: I haven’t gotten to flip through this yet, but if Filament is the filthy but elegant tea party, Candy Rain seems like the all-out kegger of the female gaze world. Which is kind of awesome. They’ve got a blog, too. Here’s a bit from a review of one of their launch parties:
Last night I attended the launch party for the second issue of Candy Rain Magazine, a glossy little treasure trove of cock shots geared towards “ladies who love the D.” (For those playing along at home, that stands for “dick.”) There were scantily clad people gettin’ it on all over the place. There were water guns. There was burlesque. There was booty rap. And yes, there were dicks, and lots of them. In a jarring reversal of spring break culture, guys could show their dicks to get in for free. Wooooo!
I also appreciated this bit of the article, which, I think, really sums up the difference between objectification of men by women vs women by men:
None of the guys who pose for Candy Rain get paid; it’s all strictly “pro boner.” They are not doing it for money, approval, or because society tells them to. (In fact, I’d venture to guess society tells them not to.) They are doing it because they want a bunch of girls to look at their dicks. In a world where women are supposed to get looked at and men are supposed to do the looking, I think it can be subversive to reverse the direction of the gaze. Contrary to popular belief, women are not solely attracted to men based on their income, accomplishments, or ability to care for children. We’re also into guys who look good naked! And, things being as they are, it’s a lot easier for a man to tell he’s doing it “because he really wants to” than because he’s oppressed by the matriarchy. I’m almost kind of jealous of men for how wonderfully un-complicated that must feel.
For the Girls: This website is devoted to creating porn from a female gaze, for a female gaze. I particularly appreciate their standpoint on what women might like to see, which is to say, giving space for variety:
We do our best to ensure the female point of view is given priority. Everything is geared towards female pleasure and female fantasy. In a practical sense it means we create our own content that reflects that female viewpoint, and it also means that we present existing photos, videos and movies according to what turns us on and what we feel our members would enjoy. We’re always looking for something different, something that depicts the spectrum of human sexuality in a positive way.
It’s often considered that “porn for women” is all about complicated storylines, soft focus and no real sex. While we quite like the soft focus, sensual stuff, we’re also not afraid of offering serious hardcore content. We aim to offer a full range of adult material, from cute guys in briefs to slow, kissy lovemaking to full-on hardcore sex acts, including orgies and anal sex. There’s enough material in the members area to satisfy you, no matter how far you want to go.
I’ll be looking into getting an inside scoop on what they offer in their members area- from the images I’ve seen, there’s a lot of white, traditionally fit male bodies, but I’m curious to see what sort of diversity is expressed behind the wall.
Naked Men, Happy Women: This blog, also a website, has some great galleries to peruse with tasteful male nudity and some clothed female/naked male work as well. I’m hoping we can create on some collaboration! From their site:
Nowadays images of naked women are commonly shown everywhere; in advertisements, commercials, games and movies, art, on billboards and on TV. A naked female body is pleasant to look at, so no complaints here. But something is missing, isn’t there?
Have you, like me, been wondering why there is so little male nudity in every day life for us hetero sexual women to enjoy? Do you agree it is unfair to say the least, and do you want to see more? Then this blog is the perfect blog for you. Naked men, happy women, aka NMHW, is created to discuss various related topics with you, to post examples of how things could/should be, and to find ways to change the current situation to our advantage. It is about time men catch up with us when it comes to showing their goodies, and even more for us women to tell them what we want.
Definitely check out their galleries- I particularly enjoyed seeing the various advertisements that showed clothed women and naked men- a nice change from the norm.
Male Submission Art: I love this project. It’s one of my go-to places to find hot images of male submission that really turn me on and that doesn’t have incredibly stereotyped femininities. And that’s in part because it’s basically one of the ONLY places to go. From the founder’s blog:
But the problem is actually two fold. One problem is, of course, that there’s simply an insanely disturbing general lack of the stuff. In fact, it’s so bad that if you Google for the three words “male submission art,” you actually get female submission links littering the first page of results.
This is actually even worse if you go actively hunting for porn with the hopes of finding erotica depicting men who are submissive. Instead, you’re much, much more likely to find erotica depicting womenwho are dominant. This is actually a major nuisance for a lot of people—including many submissive men, I might add.
Arguably even more frustrating than that, however, is that what male submissive porn is out there is total shit relative to the porn available for other sorts of orientations. In such erotica (unless it’s gay imagery, of course) men are portrayed as impotent, ugly creatures. That is not sexy. It’s also insulting.
My proposed solution? I launch MaleSubmissionArt.com and have people send me hot pics of men being submissive. I figure there just has to be enough people out there as fed up with this situation as I am, and if I can get some of them to send me contributions from their personal stashes of erotica or while they are browsing the Internet hunting for more, I’ll be able to crowd-source the content for a shared porn collection full of the kind of stuff we actually like.
maymay himself is a treasure trove of thought-provoking, hard-hitting, angry and accurate observations about sex-positivity, that being a woman doesn’t necessarily mean offering a female gaze, and how erotic satisfaction relates to the gaze generally. He links to a lot of great stuff, and while you may not always agree with him, you will think one hell of a lot. His commentary and Male Submission Art are huge inspirations for this project.
Bitchy Jones: On the other, dominant female side of maymay’s submissive male (in the theoretical sense at least) is Bitchy Jones. Sadly she is no longer updating her hilarious and often provocative blog, and not all of her posts are up anymore, which is a sad, sad loss, but there’s a still some great entries to read through, like this one about submissive male attractiveness:
If you’re a female supremacist – well one, you’re a fucking arsehole because deifying a culturally disempowered group is just as damaging as demonising them – but, hey, I’m not going to change your mind, because you are an idiot. But look, if you really do think you are inferior to all women, if you really do think that it is your role to enhance the lives of all women everywhere, why not take a tip from me. Here’s a way you can do that without having to dial down the ultra creepiness ten thousand notches so a woman who isn’t charging fee for being in the same room as you can speak to you without vomiting her own human dignity out of her eyeballs. Look hot. Work out and eat right and get an expensive haircut…
Look, I know you’re going to accuse me of all sorts. Of being shallow. Of buying into lamecore body-fascistic ideas. And I’d answer those points myself but I pretty much agree with (and was, in all honesty, partly inspired by) this essay on 1585 dot com. It’s not about kink, but the point he’s making applies so strongly to submissive men. And the overall point about how men feel they can’t be hot because it doesn’t work with some other image they have going, applies to submissive men as much as anyone. I can’t be buff ‘cause I’m a gimpyboy and who’d ever heard of a buff gimpyboy? Hey, honey, start a trend – and I’ll start saving up for a dungeon.
Sometimes I shake my head at the things she says (we don’t share a taste for buff boys, and her stance on pro-dommes pissed me off sometimes), but often I nod right along because I think she says some of the stuff the BDSM community is really, really uncomfortable with. And that pleases me.
The Mammoth Book of Gorgeous Guys: Ok, so it’s 94 days til the publication, but it’s a really exciting book. Why in particular? Because out of 46 photographers, 16 are women. And that’s a refreshing change. From “The Female Gaze” Livejournal community:
I was concerned that the list of proposed photographers she had included so few women. However, I was too scared to ask her why: I really have got enough bruises on my head from bashing it against the wall after being told “Men are just better at photography than women” or “Nobody will be able to tell the difference” so many times. So I simply gave the editor a list of about 20 photographers to look up, most of whom were women.
I followed up with the editor today and she sent me a list of all the names confirmed to appear in The Mammoth Book of Gorgeous Guys….At least one of the female photographers on that list I know to be mainly seeking a gay audience, and it’s possible that some of the men are aiming their photography at women. However, that’s still 16 women out of 46, or almost 35%. It sounds like small numbers for a book aimed at women, but this is actually a massive leap forward: I have several male erotic photo anthologies that are either aimed at women or at least, don’t state an intended gay audience, and the highest proportion of female photographers there is a pitiful 7%.
This is yet another example of the fact that challenging these “truths” about the female gaze and the audience for erotic male nudes IS STARTING TO WORK.
Sociological Images: This blog talks about a lot of things, and I recommend checking in with it at least once a week! I can follow links there for hours. But relating to this project, they’ve particularly talked about the objectification of teenage boys, and how that’s seemingly ok, but we’re very concerned socially about the sexualization of girls:
Justin Bieber is 16 years old — just a year older than Miley Cyrus was when there was a scandal about her photoshoot for Vanity Fair, such that it appeared to potentially threaten her career at Disney by ruining her safe, clean-cut image. I think it’s safe to say that if Miley Cyrus, or another female teen star, posed in photos that showed evidence of being kissed or grabbed by male fans, people would be up in arms about the sexualization of girls. But as we often see, there’s a double-standard, based on the idea that boys are naturally sexual at earlier ages and that boys are sexually invincible. While we might see a teen girl surrounded by men as being in danger, we don’t think of girls as being sexually threatening to boys, or of male teen celebrities’ sexuality being as open to exploitation by publicists, photographers, or other members of the media. And thus, these types of images of Justin Bieber don’t lead to the same outcry as similar images of female teen stars, and don’t cause concern that his career as a teen idol is over.
I also really enjoyed reading their post about Munich’s Oktoberfestlast year, and the images that ended up at Boston.com. What I really liked, though, was the response that came from Boston.com’s editor of that slide show, which means that people ARE trying to pay attention on some level. And annoying as it can be, he makes a good point (and I know Filament’s gotten this too)- “we can only work with the images we receive”. Now if THAT’S not a call to arms I don’t know what is!
Not really a project per se, but I also really appreciate what ValleyMichael is doing on Fetlife- he’s keeping track of the number of images in the section labelled “Kinky and Popular” (where images with the most comments are listed) are of “scantily clad white skinny bottom women”. It’s an eye-opener! Well done. I hope he keeps it up, it’d be nice to compare multiple weeks.
Got other projects or people I should be aware of, cause I know I’m missing some? Please comment below and I’ll update this page! We need to band together and rock this goddamn boat.