who’s looking?

A man with eyeliner, fine cheekbones, and a cowboy hat lounges in a bubble bath.First off, I want to say that I’m about to embark on reading both “Metrosexy” (which has been recommended by Quiet Riot Girl relating, I think, to disposing of the ideas of a male/female gaze in preference for a queer gaze) and “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture” in order to understand a little bit more about various arguments against this idea of a female, male-objectifying gaze, from two (I’ll assume) very different standpoints. I’ll update later about each book and my response to it.. but before I take that journey I wanted to say a little something as my stance prior to investigating this whole thing from other viewpoints.

One of the things that I’ve found really interesting on announcing this project is the number of straight male photographers who are staunchly against this being an idea with any merit. Most of the opposition so far has been from them. Not all, but most. Sometimes it’s because they think that women aren’t visual, or because they think there’s enough cock on the web to please women, but also sometimes because they think a project focused on investigating, discoursing, and exploring a female gaze is ignoring or discrediting the male gaze on other men (a point that QRG also brought up).

To which I want to say “whoa nelly”.

I am ALL ABOUT men gazing at other men through whatever lens they like. And I think the gay male subculture should equally be taken to task for body image, but I also know, as I’m not a male looking at other men, that I’m not the best person to do it. It’s a worthy project though, and I think it should be done! But frankly, gay men are a lot better at making some sort of space (and visual points of reference) for various male beauties, even if that can often be able-bodied, cissexist, and racist. It’s still a lot better than what’s offered to women.

But I have some issue with the idea that a project about male beauty *must* involve men as the gazers in some way. Why? There’s been some great stuff created for women who enjoy looking erotically at other women (“On Our Backs” comes to mind as a great example, sadly no longer with us, though Cyberdyke, No Fauxxx, The Woman’s POV, and Pink and White are also excellent). I wonder, sometimes, if straight male photographers scolded these women, asking them why they felt the need to start queer porn sites for women, considering there was PLENTY of girl on girl for them to enjoy!

Sounds ridiculous? It does to me too. So why not something focused on women who like looking at men?

That said, if you want a site that’s simply about male beauty for all gazes, check out Heavenly Spire:

HeavenlySpire is a Shine Louise Houston creation for the purpose of masculine appreciation. HeavenlySpire focuses on masculine beauty and sexuality and how it manifests on different bodies.

Following the same vision as Houston’s previous projects HeavelySpire focuses on capturing genuine pleasure with a unique cinematic style.

One of the photographers there emailed me to say they’re a fan of what I’m trying to do, and fingers crossed I’ll be able to give you all a review of what they’re doing at Heavenly Spire.

The fact that there’s a bunch of projects popping up around this idea of a change in how the erotic male nude is displayed and offered out to consumers says to me that not only is there a market for this, there’s a desire for it, a change of market, and a shift in consciousness.

Hopefully I’m right, cause then there’s a straight male photographer out there that owes me a bottle of Hendrick’s.

(I want to note that the image on this post is from a thread all about women commenting on sexy men in music… so… obviously women think about this stuff all on their own)

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15 Responses to who’s looking?

  1. This is all dealt with in Metrosexy!

    When you have read it I will come back to the issue of men looking at themselves and each other. But I expect you will see more what I (and maybe some of those photographers) mean.

  2. Ms Stryker, I salute you. Partly because this is an absolutely brilliant project, and obviously needed (I posted links on my vanilla SN sites, and it was reposted – and volunteered for – immediately. At 2am. I think this is a good sign…) and partly because that Fetlife thread actually made me want to kill someone. Several people, in fact. And you were so calm and cutting in fielding the Fail. Can I be you when I grow up?

  3. P.s. ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ ? I think that sums up Ms Levy pretty well.

  4. P.p.s. I think photography, in general, is a very male-dominated area and some photographers are sexist.
    But it is an industry-wide issue not just about ‘the gaze’ or erotica.

    Chris Floyd is a great UK photographer who takes photos of men and women, including some great male nudes. Yes he’s a bloke but I like him!


  5. John says:

    I know I shouldn’t be, but nonetheless I am shocked at how much push-back you are getting for what seems to me to be an entirely logical viewpoint. Could it be that you and I see a more distinct difference between male nudes as art or as pornography? As a gay male, I am perfectly able to admire a classically beautiful male body with defined muscles, ripped abs, etc. I am able as well to appreciate the female body from a purely aesthetic perspective. Nor is my appreciation limited to the narrow range of traditional body types or gender strictures.

    But that’s such a different thing from what arouses me when I am masturbating. That same “perfectly” proportioned male image does nothing for me erotically. If I’m stroking I want to feel a connection to the scene depicted, not to feel like an outsider observing something that I could never be a part of. I want to imagine how he feels, smells, tastes, to imagine him pressing his body against mine, penetrating me with his cock or begging me to penetrate him. So I don’t want him to be a straight man pretending to want me. I want him to kiss me like he means it. I don’t even want to think that when the photographer snapped the picture he was fantasizing about all the women who would want to fuck him. Yeah, I want him to be gay. Isn’t that what you are saying but from the other side of the gender/sexuality spectrum? You want him to be straight – or straight enough, maybe?

    • Bad luck John. Loads of porn actors in gay porn are not gay. They are barely even ‘gay for pay’. They just fuck infront of the camera for money, and yes, pleasure. But their pleasure is not linked to a sexual identity in the way yours is.

      This is the modern , ahem, metrosexy world.

      And women looking at men have to deal with that too.

  6. Also lots of gay men are ”straight chasers’ so their fantasies are all about fancying and fucking ‘straight’ men. And that fantasy is catered for in gay porn. Showing that the gay gaze, even, is complex.

    • John says:

      Yeah, I’m well aware of both those facts, the gay for pay and the gay fantasy of fucking straight men. My point – if I have one – is that I’m not turned on by either of those situations. Obviously, under some circumstances it’s hard to tell that it’s a gay for pay scene, but if I do detect that that’s what going on, I lose interest in a hurry. There are a lot of subtle signs that some guys would miss or ignore. Not me. This won’t come as a shock, but when I’m masturbating it’s all about me and my perception. I’m guessing Kitty feels the same way.

      • I think the idea that we can tell someone’s whole sexual identity by watching them take part in a single, or a few sexual acts, is quite ridiculous! And part of this complex debate so I am glad you brought it up John.

        How do you feel about bisexual men fucking on screen for your pleasure? Can you tell them apart from the gays? REALLY? I’d be so surprised if you could.

      • John says:

        I don’t use porn to analyze the complexity of anyone’s sexual identity, I use it to excite myself, so it is only my perception that matters. Can I ALWAYS tell if a model/actor is not gay? Of course not. All I’m saying is that if I DO (correctly or not) then I lose interest and move on.

        BTW, QR Girl, if the dude identifies as bi rather than straight, I figure at least I’m not completely out of the ballgame, so that’s cool. I can get into that. You actually capture the issue by saying “fucking on the screen for [my] pleasure.” I can even get into it if the guy is a straight exhibitionist who actually does get off on knowing his image will be used by horny men who are masturbating.

        Sorry this is getting so deep. I don’t want it to become a dialog between QR Girl and me.

  7. If you can get off on straight exhibitionists who get off on knowing their image will be used by horny masturbating men, John, then I believe you can get off on nearly all porn that includes men.

    Men these days, the ones who end up in front of cameras, anyway, which is quite a lot, seem to get off on being masturbated to by *everyone*.

    So you are in luck after all! Porn is for you (and me), as is advertising, as is pop music imagery, as is sports, as is well just about every aspect of visual culture.

    • John says:

      ROFL! Now YOU’RE telling ME what I can get off on? Are you seriously not getting the point of this project (and mine), or are you just messing with me? I have no complaints about the quantity of gay porn available to me. There is even quite a bit aimed specifically at some of my personal sexual proclivities which I don’t care to enumerate here. Can you say the same? Kitty, I gather, would not. I’m saying she has a valid complaint.

      As an aside, on the subject of men getting off on camera, maybe you need a little sex education. Young men can pop wood and ejaculate at the drop of hat, and now older men have a pill for that. So I suggest you don’t rely on those to judge whether a man is “getting off” except in the most literal sense.

      • Thanks for the offer of sex education John! I hope the lessons are fun.

        I am not telling you what you can get off on. I am saying that there is no distinction between men who do porn acting who are gay/straight/bi in terms of their performances and their enjoyment of performing. The distinctions you make are kind of flimsy.

        I find that most porn is over-commercialised and over-commodified. That is pornography for you. This has nothing to do with my gender or sexual identity.

        If Kitty wants to make/showcase less commodified pornography that is fine. But trying to turn it into an issue of the gender/sexual identity of the viewer and even the makers of the porn seems unnecessary to me.

        I too have some rather esoteric proclivities. Many of which involve looking at /reading/writing things which are not even classed as ‘pornography’.

  8. Penny D says:

    Mmm, Brian Molko.

    And bravo on the project! I’ll be watching and contibuting with enthusiasm.

  9. Very helpful post man, thanks for the info.

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