Men Need Clothing. Women Need To Be Sexy.

Our society constantly shouts that women are sexy, men are utilitarian. And a lot of guys complain on my blog that they are none too happy about this. They want to be sexy too!! And lots of women complain that they are seen as being all about sexy and little else.

Here’s yet another example of that “women-are-sexy-men-not-so-much” holler, which I found on Sociological Images, courtesy of American Apparel. The pics are presented just as they were on their website a few weeks ago:

Screenshot_1Screenshot_2

If you go to their site now you will still see women posed sexily and men just posed.

Occidental Sociology Prof. Lisa Wade says, “This is — all too much — how we look at men and women in our society today” and credits Caitlin Welsh with putting it nicely:

Women are presented too often not as consumers of the product, but part of the product – a sexy body sexily getting ready to surf, or a sexy body sexily wearing American Apparel. We’re used to seeing women look sexy and undressed in ads, while men in ads tend to just wear the clothes properly while also looking handsome in the face area.

When we are all bombarded with these sorts of images it all unconsciously sinks in somehow. Women start to seem like the sexy half of the species. And sexy seems to sum up who women are and how they’re supposed to be. And that hurts women, whether they feel they don’t measure up, or whether they yearn to be so much more. And too many men feel entirely left out in the cold when it comes to that sexy scale.

Source: Sociological Images

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Women Seeing Women as Sexier than Men
Men: Erotic Objects of Women’s Gaze
Men, Women React to Male/Female Nudity

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on November 6, 2013, in feminism, gender, men, objectification, psychology, sex, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. So much agreement here!

    Personally, I’d love it if more men could be sexy, feel sexy, dress sexy. One of my main complaints about typical clothing options is that women’s bodies are *always* on display but men’s *never* are. Being bisexual (but primarily attracted to men), it’s very weird to have society say that only women can be sexy. The rare time that I spy a man in a tight shirt or pants…I automatically smile with pleasure, even if I don’t find the man in question particularly attractive.

    A lot of talk goes on about how women need to feel comfortable in their bodies, and I totally agree. But men are also in dire need of someone to tell them “Yes, you are physically and sexually appealing too!”

    • Yeah, and as it is, when men to appear sexy they too often come across as “gay” to women because women are so used to sexiness being meant for the male gaze. AND: when real women and men look at nude – or nearly nude — men, women often feel uncomfortable thinking of them sexy. While men look at them as sex objects and say – in an appalled way — “What do I think of them? I’m not gay!”

    • You said that that you are bisexual but primarily attracted to men, may I ask you something? with broadblogs permission of course.
      The -primarily attracted to men- is the reason why I’d like to ask you,
      do you also consider that women are more sexy than men?
      if that’s so how do you define your preference to men, is it based more on personality attraction?
      if your sexuality resembles more to that of a male, have you ever experienced love at first sight with a man? are you capable of “falling in love” with a man just by seeing him?
      I asked that because all men have experienced “love at first sight” but many women don’t even believe in the existence of “love at first sight”.
      Mind you that I specifically asked if you “fell in love at first sight” with a man and not a woman, since women are considered to be more physically attractive than men, it would easy for someone to see the beauty of woman,
      but seeing and falling for the beauty of man, now that would be something.

      • @Jean Claude

        Interesting question. While I do find some women sexually attractive (in that I’ve met/seen women who I could easily imagine having sex with) I have never had sex with a woman yet. I’ve been sexually active since about 2 weeks before my 22nd birthday, so about 8 years…but only with my male FwB.

        I did find him extremely attractive the first time I met him, especially his scent. But it took over 2 years of knowing him as a friend before I felt safe enough to have sex (I was sexually abused by my stepfather from age 10-17, and was afraid of physical contact)…no, I’ve never experienced what you speak of.

        If I may though, NOT all men have experienced it either. All my friends are men, and only 2 of them have ever said they felt this way. I don’t understand how you can “love” on first sight…love is for someone you truly care for and about. You can’t do that with a stranger you don’t even know. What I think men and women talk about is really “lust at first sight”…which totally makes sense!

      • @Jean Claude

        But yes…since feeling better about sexuality, I’ve seen a great many men that have struck me as being beautiful and sexy.

      • No, I am not talking about lust. If it’s lust then the man is going after the woman because testosterone “takes control”.
        When it’s “love at first sight” it’s a breath taking emotion, the man get nervous and it’s hard for him to approach the woman in a confident manner. He has butterflies in stomach.

        Love and trust haven’t much to do with each other. If that was the case then any friend that someone could trust, could turned into love. But what usually what happens is that women friendzone guys that they can trust and they never, ever leave the friendzone.

        Trust is really needed for woman to decide if she can actually date a man. But men aren’t that afraid of stranger women, so it’s easy for them to fall in love at first sight.
        Love, it’s a primitive feeling, just like fear, anxiety, happiness, pain, we can’t reason with it, it’s located in our “primitive” part of the brain, so one can’t help it.
        I guess there are men who haven’t experienced it, just like there are some women have indeed experienced it. Everyone is different.

  2. And why can’t men in ads ever SMILE? My son picked up on that at a fairly young age and did his best to keep a stern or neutral face in public because “men don’t smile”. Took us a while to figure out and correct (he’s now a happy, grinning, adult man!

  3. Good post. I just started reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolfe (it’s about time) and your post really hit the nail on the head. There’s nothing wrong with being sexy — but there IS something wrong when only women (and not men) are told they MUST be sexy. It takes away our full potential and reduces our self-worth — in turn preventing feminism from making any strides. Love your blog!

    • Thank you.

      So succinctly, and so well put: “There’s nothing wrong with being sexy — but there IS something wrong when only women (and not men) are told they MUST be sexy.”

  4. Wow– it makes it so obvious when the pictures are juxtaposed in this way. Dang. I’d not heard of “Sociological Images,” I’ll have to check them out…

    PS The shorts ad above is just ridiculous.

  5. It’s not so much that men aren’t seen as sexy, as that this perception is based on things other than their physical appearance. I remember reading once that one can tell a lot about a man by how he laughs, how he dances, and how he drives. This suggests there is something hidden to be ferreted out, while with women it’s all supposed to be on the surface? But generally speaking physical appearance is given less weight for men, as one can see by how older men are treated vs. older women. Also, women tend to find intelligence attractive, while men often insist on a less intelligent partner.

    It is, I gather, a different story for gay men, where there seems to be some similar kind of objectification of the body going on, although obviously all gay guys do not only take up with models.

  6. Thank you for pointing this out. There needs to be more of a balance. We are taught that the value of a woman is mostly within her ability to appeal to the male gaze, and that the most important thing about men is their status and power. This really needs to be shifted.

    I think men can be just as sexy as women can be, but socially we are just not used to seeing things that way.

  7. “The whole surface -sexy thing is really high maintenance. Women are expected to put up this whole front, including our habitations and habits. We are held to much higher standards. This is not privilege. It’s a form of social coercion. Female slobs get called names and ostracized, male slobs are seen as charmingly eccentric, or perhaps in need of a female servant. I figure that’s part of why the Internet overall seems so male-dominated, it’s because they have more free time.”

    to mieprowan: I don’t know what you’re talking about. A male slob having free time, is seen as worse than a female on. A lazy man is seen as worse than a female one, as men are supposed to be the bread winners even in today’s society. A man is more so a bum if he’s not working or doesn’t have a decent job compared to women. What is a female slob anyway? One who is chubby or fat?

    • I would be appalled at anyone calling someone a slob because of their weight. Some people keep cleaner and tidier environments than others. I see men getting judged less for this. And when men live with women, the women usually do more or all of the housecleaning, even if they are both employed. I agree that there is more pressure on men to be employed.

  8. I look optimistically look forward to the day when women and men can both be seen as sexy without them being seen as only sexy.

    Sometimes I think it all comes down to gender roles. What are the gender roles? All of the above.

  9. This was a very interesting article about the gender exceptions among society. I think clothing companies, like American Apparel, know that women are expected to look their best at all times. Thus, making women model pose in sexy ways to get the costumer to want to look sexy like the models. Where for men, they are not expected by society to be as sexy as women. It is extremely manipulative how companies are to get you to buy your products, they think that stereotyping sells. Unfortunately, as from men’s comments regarding the models posing in men clothing, it does not. Men and women are coming out expressing how they want to be treated the same, thus men want their clothes to be modeled in a sexy manner.

  10. first: Women are already enough screwed up with their bodies and how TV/movies/magazines said that they must look , they feel ugly, a lot have eating disorders, etc, and you are trying that men suffer the same??, because that is what is going to happen, just take a look to the women.

    Second: you said it, breast fetish dont exist in some tribes, they aren’t normal, its wrong, so if you said that turning body parts of the women in fetishes is wrong, why are you trying the same with us??, maybe the day the men and women are screwed up in same way, bingo!!, our society is better(?)

    third: Im a men, and i really, really enjoy that i can dress is i like, and really nobody is interested in that, im wearing a tight t-shirt and what?, and walking topless and what??, maybe some old jeans with dirty hair and what???, im free to do that, but you are a woman so you dont know that kind of freedom, and you wanna take it away???

    Looks like a big double standard this post, first you talk about everything that is wrong in our society and the next your solution for that is……do the same to the men???, sorry but i think you are very wrong, you must choose what kind of society wanna build, a society when men/women are free to be in the way that they want(like the tribes that you talk), or just wanna live in a world where women and men live hating their bodies, with movies and posters telling the people how the must look and dress.

    So tell me, in the tribes that you always talk, men are depressed because the are not sexy??, women are worried about men not being sexy??, women have problems with their bodies?

    • You haven’t read enough of my blog to know that I agree with you.

      I feel it’s fine to be sexy (vs one-dimensional, dehumanized sex objects) but that “sexy” shouldn’t be mandatory for either sex. In fact, I never make an effort to be sexy — at least not in public. (I do often make an effort to be attractive. But I don’t think that should be mandatory for either sex either. And I don’t always try to be especially attractive, either.)

      I also think “sexy” should be more broadly defined. Variety is the spice of life!

      And in a comment above you’ll see that I said this:

      men on my blog still complain that they want to be surface-sexy, too, like women are. (In future I’ll write something to men on the downside of that. It ain’t all roses.)

  11. I think it’s all about society again. Society basically shows everyone that girls are suppose to be sexy and men are just there. Every ad you see out there that has something relating to girls, the models are always showing off their breasts, legs, or butt. The models are always showing off their lips and pose in a sexy position, as well. Sometimes when I shop online, I notice that the girl section is always “out there,” while the guy section is just plain, ole boring. When I also see the models wearing the shirts or skirts, their pose is always saying “oh look at me, I’m so sexy..” I wonder if the photographers tell them to pose that way or if they just do it themselves. Sure, there are hot male models who pose in Calvin Klein’s underwear or Abercrombie & Fitch ads, but they’re not everywhere and all up in your face. I feel bad for some male models who want to be sexy because if they pose in a sexual position, some people may think they’re gay, when they’re really not. I also noticed that male models who advertise underwear are always shown to be very sexy, while male models who advertise socks or shirts are just there.

  12. I agree that society tends to portray women more than men as sex objects. I think this is because of a woman’s physical features like big breasts, nice hair, lean legs, flat stomach, etc. that are wanted by the majority of the female population. I think it is easier for women to appear sexy because of their physical features. A girl also has more options for wardrobe and appearance. For example, I attended a dinner cruise with my boyfriend not too long ago and mostly the men just wore tuxedos since it was a dressy event. They all tended to look the same as far as dress and the only thing that really made them stand out was their facial features or body build. The women, on the other hand, wore a very different variety of dresses, skirts, pantsuits, blouses, you name it. There were many different hairstyles, makeup choices, and more skin was shown in the women which is typical and I guess what is deemed “sexy.” I think when we look at an ad like the ones in this example, the girls are viewed sexy because of their thin frames, toned body, lean legs, and so forth. In my opinion, these features shown on a guy aren’t as appealing. It is more like his body build, abs, or if he has really good facial features.

  13. My take on this is that it again goes over the idea that when you are a woman, how you look is the number one most important thing. Don’t exercise for health and fitness and fun, exercise to make your body sexy and look sexy while you are making your body look sexy. If you are a man how you look is just one part of who you are.
    Seeing this has just made me want to avoid American Apparel, they are overpriced anyway!

  14. First off, I agree with this idea! Lately, I have been starting to notice that even the looks that men and women have are different with women looking sexier. Their attitude in the magazine ad even claims the sexiness, whereas men are just posing normally. I think American Apparel was a great example to use here since it really brings the point across. When I looked at the site, the women have that sexiness look and you can see it in their face even, let alone their pose. Men are just there and clothed. I do not like that women are always portrayed to be sexy because there are so many other ways to look at them. For example, boys tell me there is a difference between being cute and hot. When I ask what the difference is, they almost never know. Maybe since women are always shown as sexy in the media, men always have this image in their heads. I think this was a great post- it makes me more conscious about this topic!

  15. Christin Janicki

    In our society women’s bodies have become overly sexualized. it has become so common in our every day lives that we don’t even notice it anymore. Before reading this post i would have never noticed the differences between the male and female images. Even though i never thought about these images, subconsciously they have effected the way that i dress. I feel that i need to dress in a certain way in order to be noticed. These images also effect the way that men see us. With all of the sexy images of women in every day life, men have started to expect more from the girls that they meet. Their expectations are never met though because no women actually looks like the models in the pictures. The way that these images portray women make us feel bad about ourselves, and persuade us to buy clothing that we may not be completely comfortable wearing. Girls clothing have become more and more revealing because that is what men expect to see.

  16. I blame the media for making women feel they need to dress sexy to be beautiful and pretty. All of the commercials on T.V., photos in magazines, bus stops, etc. women who pose and dress sexy get attention and get the men. Since women are feed these kinds of images it brain washes them that this is how they should be to be accepted in society. Websites of women apparel have women posing sexy make women want to buy the item so they would look like the model on the site. The sexier the model looks the more women would want to buy it.
    As for men, in my opinion I do not like seeing men showing off their body in surf shorts or anything. I think it is more attractive when men wear suits. Men look better when they have the conservative, clean cut, GQ look. A man who can wear a suit and clean up good attracts more women.
    The way women want to be sexy because of all the media does not apply to men. Men do not care as much about “what is in”. Women are more sensitive and want the attention.

  17. I agree with this! A lot of times, women are usually objectified in ads and commercials. They are not only selling the object, but they are practically selling their bodies. Women are often portrayed to be sexy and revealing whereas men often pose in a way that makes them loom powerful. We would often see men stand up tall, hands in their pocket, suggesting they are confident and dominant. On the other hand, women are usually displayed looking weak, fragile, and innocent as opposed to powerful. Women’s bodies nowadays are extremely sexualized and the media has bombarded us with those types of images to reinforce the gender roles. For instance, I recently came across an ad in a magazine where a woman was seen on the bed wearing lingerie and posing in a seductive manner… What really shocked me was that this ad aimed to sell cereal. I don’t really understand the connection between a woman in lingerie and a box of cereal, but it is really interesting to see how the media portrays women now.

  18. The images shown above definitely are making a statement about gender roles. It not only implies that women are sexual objects and should portray that at all possible times, but I also see these images making a negative impact on younger girls by telling them that this is how they need to dress in order to get attention from the opposite sex. This even more obvious when viewing the two columns of pictures side by side. The girls shown, working hard to show skin and their bodies, juxtaposed with the relaxed poses of the men also tell women that they need to work harder than guys do. This is a common headache for girls my age who talk about how there are no more gentlemen around; it is rare to get asked out on a date, and this post is a good summation of why. Girls are being shown that they need to work harder in order to get attention, therefore making it easier for guys to just “hook up” with girls when women are told time and time again that they are merely sex objects.

  19. This is interesting. I’ve never noticed how brands set up women and men differently like this. I guess when I’m online shopping I just go straight to the women’s department. In everyday life though, I do feel that women have to be the sexy ones, smiling all the time, and wearing the right outfits to show off some skin, while men can have their hardcore, stern faces on with baggy, drab clothing and get away with it. Our society expects women to walk out of their house looking like models with sexy clothes and perfect skin/makeup because of ads just like this one. I feel as though people are brainwashed though. Recently, not sure what site, maybe youtube?, but I saw this video where a model was being photographed for a magazine cover. It showed the evolution of the ad from how it started to how it ended up to my publishable. The girl was laying down on her stomach with her legs bent back towards her head, with short blonde hair and skin that looked just fine, but then it showed all the airbrushing that happened afterwards. Inches were taken off the sides of her body, she was given extensions, bronzed, makeup, etc. This is the “sexy” everyone wants these days because of media. It’s sad!

  20. While reading this, my eyes were open to this different perspective that not only viewed the opinion of men and advertisements but compared it to women. While women are being displayed in either very little clothing in advertisements or they are boxed into pieces to display only the parts that they want consumers to view, men are shown posed in ordinary poses nothing that accentuates their individual beauty, photo shopped or otherwise. Individual beauty should be worshipped and appreciated but when it comes to being sexy both genders should have that ability to be as sexy as they want to be. Photoshop should of course always be avoided and as long as men and women are equal both should have the ability to be as sexy, beautiful and perfectly original as they would like.

  21. When I look at clothing websites, what I’m looking for from the model is an idea of how the garment will fit on my body. I want them to be doing something that will show me how it fits. I find action shots do this better to some degree, and find the above photos of the men just standing there rather silly. The womens photos though are no better, the ” sporty” clothing woman is not doing anything sporty, and the ” swimming” woman is showering with her butt out? I have no idea. I will say though, that despite the horrible photos, american apparel seems to be a company that as a whole encourages sexy from both genders. I weigh 105lbs and wore a pair of their mens ” sport shorts” and they were full on booty shorts So I imagine most males past puberty are going to be showing some serious skin in those! Still, I agree with the poster above who mentions that men in body hugging clothing are often perceived to be homosexual, and the ones who tend to dress that way are always assumed to be the ” bottom” or the female. I think in the last decade these stereotypes have been challenged by celebs who seem to be giving the public permission to have fun and wear colors like pink or purple v necks if they want to.

  22. Laura Catherine Wolff

    American Apparel is definitely one of the worst offenders in oversexed advertising. Just Google Image searching “american apparel ad” produces pages upon pages of borderline-pornographic advertisements featuring photos of women stripping, aiming their crotches, backsides, or breasts at the camera, and performing sexual acts, all apparently in the name of selling clothing. These “sexy” ads are not only objectifying (literally–men respond to images of scantily clad women as if they were objects or tools (http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/02/19/women.bikinis.objects/)), they’re a poor business decision. Contrary to conventional wisdom, sex doesn’t sell unless a product is actually sexual in nature. Otherwise, sexual advertising will actually turn consumers away from a product, whether it’s because it offends them or because it distracts them from the actual product being sold (http://www.businessinsider.com/do-you-think-sex-sells-think-again-2012-4).

    I know in my personal experience, sexy ads make me significantly less interested in buying that product. For example, I still remember a commercial I saw on television for some fast food chain’s new burger. The commercial was narrated by a man describing how, to make consumers remember to buy the burger, they decided to make the entire commercial a long, panning shot over the body of some supermodel or beauty queen wearing a bikini printed with pictures of the burger they were selling. This was several years ago, and while I can still picture the exact color of that swimsuit and the pier the woman was standing on, I haven’t got a clue what sandwich was being sold or even what fast food chain it was from, because to me, the bikini-clad model was so completely unrelated to the product they were trying to sell that the burger seemed like a minor, unimportant detail.

  23. Interesting topic, I believe society does create an idea for us on how women must always appear sexy especially in billboards, ads, media, etc. There is, I believe, a pressure created for any age woman to have what is believed of a sexy body. As noticed in magazines for example, when advertising certain things as simple as a perfume there will be a woman half naked with sexual poses to try and sell the product. This itself might even lead a man to buy the product for his girlfriend/wife because of the energy the ad is providing. On the other hand, not to often do we see men half naked. As noticed, in movies, when sexual activity is involved a woman is most of the time completely body shown whereas men only go as far as showing their butt. It focuses more on women than what it does on men. Therefore, the camera is on the woman for a minute as to 30sec for a man perhaps even less. In my opinion, I believe men just as women should be able to be sexy and not considered “gay” for doing so.

  24. Caroline Staudenraus

    This reminds me of an experience I had recently in a business class that I am finishing up an incomplete for. As a part of our final grade, we are presenting five minute sales pitches on a 15 page business plan we have worked on all quarter. The class this quarter consists of mostly men, about forty, and about five or six girls. Last week, the professor was giving us tips on presenting. He told the men to wear ties and slacks and gave them advice on where to find affordable ties. He encouraged them to buy slacks especially since they will need them in other business classes. His only advice to the girls? “Don’t dress like you’re going to the club.” I was pretty shocked since he didn’t give a warning to the boys as to how to dress appropriately. Clothing is representative of the way we think of people, so putting women into boxes through stereotypes and advertising can only hurt them. Clothing is definitely yet another way that women become inferior to men in institutions and in daily life.

  25. I don’t really find this to be entirely accurate to be honest. Many people, whether they are men or women, can be depicted as sexy. But some of the points you bring up are very true, such as the bombardment of the idea of women needing to be sexy. Both sexes can be sexy, it’s just that we usually see women in sexy poses more often than men but such actions still come from men. Department stores usually depict women as sexy and that could hurt the self esteem of some women as they feel like they can’t live up to society’s expectations, I agree with you on that. But men can be depicted as being sexy, some department stores model their male models as being sexy such as Calvin Klein, American Crew, and many others.

  26. Society has been guiding women toward the understanding that their bodies are supposed to be sexy, and that women should look desirable to men by showing off more of their body parts. Clearly, it’s okay for men to be dressed appropriately- they don’t have the same pressure as women do to become “beautiful” in a photograph. The less clothing a woman wears, the sexier she is, according to society. This way of showing off women is not right, and we shouldn’t have to show some leg in order to be considered pretty. Only in magazines, modeling, and any type of public scene do I find this true; society can be just as judging to men than they can be to women. Women prefer tall men with a nice body, just like how men prefer women who are skinny and have nice legs. Men have to live up to a standard too, just like women.

    • Actually, we do have a narrower standard for men. And you see evidence of it in a number of ways. Women have way more eating disorders, Women are much more expected to be blond and blue-eyed, and if they are quite to have lighter skin. When men and women world down their height, weight, and how they felt about their weight, guys were overweight thought they were just right. Women who were just right thought they were overweight. Men don’t have anything like the equivalent to have an unnatural body type of skinny but enormous boobs, And possibly an enormous butt.

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