Men, Women React to Male/Female Nudity

By Lisa Wade @ Sociological Images

We’ve all heard the truism “sex sells.”

But whose sex is sold?  And to who?

If it was simply that sex sold,

…we’d see men and women equally sexually objectified in popular culture.  Instead, we see, primarily, women sold to (presumably heterosexual) men.  So what are we selling, exactly, if not “sex”?

What is really being sold is men’s (presumably heterosexual) sexual subjectivity: the experience of being a person in the world who was presented with images that were for his titillation.  Women do not live in the world this way.  They are not exposed everyday to images that legitimize their lust; instead, the images teach women that they are the object of that lust.

In light of this, Sociologist Beth Eck did a series of interviews attempting to tap into what it felt like for men and women to look at male and female nudes.  Her findings were pretty fascinating.

First, she asked men and women to look at naked images of women, including this one of Cindy Crawford:

Women viewing images of female nudes almost inevitably compared themselves to the figure and felt inadequate.   Said one women:

…the portrayal of these thin models and I just get depressed… I’m very hard on myself, wanting to be that way.

Women ended up feeling bad whether the model conformed to conventional norms of attractiveness or not.  When looking at a heavy set woman, they often responded like this:

I am disgusted by it because she is fat, but I’m also… I need to lose about 10 pounds.

I don’t necessarily find her body that attractive… Her stomach looks like mine.

Men, in contrast, clearly felt pandered to as holders of a heterosexual male gaze.  They knew that the image was for them and offered praise (for a job well done) or criticism (for failure to live up to their expectations).  About Crawford they said:

Personally I think she is attractive.

I like that.

Both men and women, then, knew exactly how to respond to female nudes: women had internalized their object status (women as sex object-things) and men had internalized their subject status (men were people looking at sexy objects).

Eck then showed them male nudes, including this one of Sylvester Stallone:

Interestingly, both men and women felt uncomfortable looking at male nudes.

Men responded by either expressing extreme disinterest, re-asserting their heterosexuality, or both.  They did not compare themselves to the male nudes (like women did with female nudes), except to say that they were both male and, therefore, there was “nothing to see.”  Meanwhile, because men have been trained to be a lustful sexual subject, seeing male nudity tended to raise the specter of homosexuality.  They couldn’t see the bodies as anything but sexual objects for them to gaze upon.

In contrast, the specter of homosexuality didn’t arise for women when they looked at female nudes because they weren’t used to being positioned as lustful.  Eck explains:

When women view the seductive pose of the female nude, they do not believe she is ‘coming on to’ them.  They know she is there to arouse men.  Thus, they do not have to work at rejecting an unwanted advance.  It is not for them.

Many women also did not feel lustful when looking at male nudes and those that did often experienced lust mixed with guilt or shame.  Eck suggests that this may be, in part, a reaction to taking on the active, consuming, masculine role, something they’re not supposed to do.

Summarizing responses to the male nudes, she writes:

Men, over and over again, reject the seductive advance [of a male nude].  While some women welcome the advance, most feel a combination of shame, guilt, or repulsion in interacting with the image…

This is what it means to live in a world in which desire is structured by a gendered sexual subject/object binary.  That is, men are taught to be subjects who see women as objects, and women are taught to be objects.  It’s not just “out there,” it’s “in us” too.

This piece was originally posted in Sociological Images. A slightly edited version is
reprinted here with permission.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social 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. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 12, 2011, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 72 Comments.

  1. This post is interesting because it also seems like a reflection on how women and men handle discussions on body image or looks. Women often compare themselves to their peers and discuss these things with each other. I think that men probably compare their bodies as well, but there is a lot more taboo surrounding that. I think this is most likely where a lot of the male reaction of not wanting to seem gay came from, from years of being taught men don’t look at other men’s bodies and if they do that’s gay. Women on the other hand have had to endure years of the opposite, having the female body plastered on newspapers, ads, movies and comparing themselves to those, as well as comparing themselves to their peers. Additionally, women have to endure comments about their bodies from men as well.

  2. Catherine Flores

    The hyper sexualization of models in the media industry is unbelievable. In the magazine covers shown, it is crystal clear that it is supposed to be a sexy shot. When it comes to the reaction of the public most of the time there is an understanding of how they feel, even if it is not the reaction that the magazine expected. Of course everyone react gracefully and positively to the female ads, only when it fits the beauty standard, but when it comes down to the male models, women react positively and men show their fragile masculinity. Some men who do show that express their disgust for it because they think that complementing the model will make them gay.

  3. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s a common thought for women to think of themselves as objects. Being a women, I often do feel as though I am just an object for men to gaze upon for their own pleasure. As for looking at nude women, my first thoughts are usually, “She’s gorgeous!” or, “Wow, I wish I had breasts like that.”, and I admire the woman’s physique. It’s strange how when men look at nude photos of men, they think the exact opposite, and feel as though they shouldn’t even be looking at the photo. Men and women react so differently because women know that they are, supposedly, supposed to look beautiful for men. Women have such high standards to look perfect in the nude while men don’t seem to care as much. This is because men are the subjects who see women as objects.

  4. I believe the result of this research is very accurate. As in our patriarchal society, men are taught to be dominant and need to be attracted by sexy girls, they need to proof their manhood by having sex with girls. However, for women, they are taught to be tender and obedient towards men. Female have to look good and have great body shape in order to please men. If they fail to do so, it is their fault. And that is why when men saw naked woman, they feel aroused and while female look at it, they feel depressed and guilty as they think they are not as good as them. On the other hand, when men are looking at nude man, they feel disgusted because it is like a king of diminishing their manhood if they say they like it.

  5. I am of an age where I am very comfortable with my sexuality and my attraction to the male body. I think Sly looks hot although he doesn’t have the type of male body I generally prefer. I realize that Cindy’s picture has been photo shopped to remove any flaws and accentuate her body to make it even more appealing and perfect. I have been able to do the same with my own pictures. I often lust after attractive men with no feelings of shame or guilt. My friends and sisters do the same thing. All of us are over 50 so it may be that we have grown comfortable with ourselves over the years. I am sure that if the tables were turned and men were objectified sexually they would respond with feelings of inadequacy just like women do now. Those are normal primitive response inherent in the majority of humans.

    • I think you are right that men would have the same problems if things turned around. In fact, as the male body becomes more objectified, men are increasingly having body image concerns.

      I know of men who wish that women saw men’s bodies the way men see women’s. They don’t get the huge downside that will likely show its face when and if that happens.

  6. When first reading this blog posting I was not at all surprised at the picture of Cindy Crawford and was enjoying reading the blog. I agree that most women due to their upbringing and societal expectations will and do compare their own bodies with that of Cindy Crawford and probably feel pretty discouraged by the comparison. I was surprised to read that when women are shown a picture of a heavier model that they still compare their bodies to the models and are critical of their own bodies or do not find the model as attractive or desirable as the typical model. I am personally what would be considered plus size and am usually pleased to see plus sized models and am not envious of them or think they look undesirable I think it is great that more of the population is being represented in an attractive way. I guess that I do not have so many of those insecurities as many women do as I may not be satisfied with my body but I am comfortable in my own skin and am happy being me. I was not surprised at all that men were uncomfortable with the image of nude male models such as Sylvester Stallone. I was surprised in reading that most women felt uncomfortable with the image as well and those who were not felt guilty about being in the typical male role of luster. I was also surprised that I also fell into the category of feeling uncomfortable with the image of the nude Sylvester Stallone although I am not sure if it was the image of a nude man I found uncomfortable or that it was Sylvester Stallone as he is not someone I personally am a fan of. Women are so used to being bombarded by images of nude or partially nude women that it is nothing too shocking for us to be confronted with and instead of feeling uncomfortable with our sexuality or roles as men are we instead compare ourselves to the models and criticized our bodies for not living up to almost impossible standards.

  7. I like this because it challenges us to really think about how we react to things. Is it us or society making our decisions. I have noticed that although people think they are doing what they want are you really

  8. Of course I love looking a nude magazines or any magazines that shows a women almost naked. I think a women should be confident whether she’s skinny, fat, short, tall. See women don’t like looking at magazines because they wish they looked like that woman so then they become ashamed of their bodies. Some women looking at them magazines might get encouraged and start working to get their bodies like that. Me, I don’t mind looking at men nude in magazines. It gives me something to compare myself to. Some men think it gay but I’m very confident in my manhood and when I see a man with a body better than mine it just makes me work in the gym a little harder.

    • Well, it does encourage plenty of women to start working to get their bodies like that.

      Problem is, even the models don’t look like that (they’re all photoshopped). And that’s after they starve themselves and already have the sort of genes that get them somewhat close to the image.

      So when young women try to look like that, they end up with horrible self-esteem and eating disorders.

  9. “There’s often a lot of debate about the pressure women feel to compete with the Photoshopped models and celebrities which adore their favourite gossip magazines – but what about men? Well the truth is, we’re made to feel just as insecure about ourselves as women. 4 best friends got together to create a short comical series on the body types of everyday men vs the perfect tanned and toned bodies of the elite.”

    • Men are beginning to feel similar pressures. But their pressures haven’t caught up to women yet because there aren’t near the number of sexualized images of men.

      And so when a man sees a “perfect” male body he feels worse about his own body. And then he will get over until he sees another picture. Women, on the other hand, never get a break from it.

      David Beckham’s Sex Sells

      • I am not sure that men feel so bad about their own body and of course not as much as women do. One reason is that there are only few images of male bodies in the media.
        Another reason could be that men instinctively “know” that women don’t value men’s physical appearance as much as men value women’s appearance, so they could be thinking “it doesn’t matter if I don’t look like a model, women don’t care that much about looks” whereas when it comes to women’s value unfortunately is all about looks.

        But then the next question could be that women indeed don’t care that much about men’s appearance hence the few images of male bodies in the media because of the little interest women have in males bodies or that women learned not to care about men’s looks because they were taught that way by society and media?
        or perhaps it could be both.

      • I’m pretty sure it goes both ways.

        And regarding this “men instinctively “know” that women don’t value men’s physical appearance as much as men value women’s appearance, so they could be thinking “it doesn’t matter if I don’t look like a model, women don’t care that much about looks” whereas when it comes to women’s value unfortunately is all about looks.”:

        Since 80% of women have poor body image most of them would probably be relieved if women were treated similarly.

        Since I don’t think that the sexualization of women’s bodies is ever going to go away I would just prefer that we appreciate a variety of types of bodies (and different cultures do appreciate different body types) and same for men — or else men are going to end up in as bad a situation as we are.

        When it comes to sexualizing male bodies, be careful what you wish for, as they say.

  10. Tonya van de G

    Men, Women React to Male/Female Nudity

    It is interesting to discover that I am not the only female who finds themselves ‘embarrassed’ to look at a ‘tasteful’ nude photograph of a male celebrity or public icon. Thumbing through the magazine racks at my local bookstore, I see dozens of half dressed, suggestively clothed women; celebrities, models, singers, etc… and I honestly don’t bat an eyelash it the covers. It is such the norm to be bombarded with these images everywhere; check-out lanes at the grocery stores, convenient stores, libraries, bookstores, multi-media, etc…

    At one point in time, the images would make me think poorly of myself and my personal self-image, but as I’ve grown older, I have a better understanding of why my body shape and stance is what it is. I find beauty in my curves and even went as far as to call the dimple in my right hip ‘Ben & Jerry’ as tribute. Beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder and we were never meant to look like each other. Besides, gravity takes ahold of us all someday, except for Cher, who has cornered the market.

    On the same token, I have only seen the muscle/weight lifting magazines featuring men from the waist up at the bookstores. A quick glance and I find myself moving on to other subjects/titles. I have yet to see one posted at the check-out lanes, and I would go as far as stating that 99% of the paper media ‘impulse’ lanes is female audience targeted.

    Now to look at Sly Stallion, I find myself filling guilty and looking over my shoulder to see if anyone noticed me looking at his cover. There is nothing tasteless, sexual or indecent about his picture, but for some reason, I personally feel like I am doing something indecent, like watching a neighbor in the shower. I believe it goes back to our childhood upbringings where girls were taught it was not ‘lady like behavior’ or it was ‘inappropriate’. Society has played a large role in these feelings with us all.

  11. I didn’t realize how long it was. Sorry.
    You can keep whatever you like and you can ignore the rest.
    Sorry again.

  12. something from the above link about the exhibit in Vienna

    “We got many, many complaints,” Klaus Pokorny, a spokesman for the museum says. “We didn’t realise that many, many people would be really upset or really angry in a way that we are also afraid about security, about protection of the visitors.” Museum director Tobias Natter says the flap serves to point out “that nobody gets offended by naked women, but with naked men: yes.”

  13. He was the director of “Pumping Iron”.
    I am honored that you asked me of doing a post but I don’t think that I could write a “coherent” post. I will write a few more things and personal thoughts and you can decide if can you use any of these. Some of them may not be connected.
    Culturally, Pumping Iron redefined anything we knew about movie stars until then. Arnold at that time wanted to be an actor but everybody thought he was TOO big to be an actor. At that time the movie stars weren’t musculars. But a producer was looking for a big actor to play Conan. The rest is history. Action movies with muscular movie stars became popular and the average joes were going to the gym to get big and strong. The once mocked muscular male body became the embody of maleness.

    I don’t know if you saw the exhibit of bodybuilders at the museum at around 49:00.
    It’s almost comical, art critics went to watch a bodybuilding show!! in a museum. If you had asked the same people to actually go to a bodybuilding contest, of course they would have denied and considered it to be ridiculous.
    I guess you can sell anything to anyone as long as you know how to sell it.

    The reason I posted that video is because I had read comments about the notion that “female form is more aesthetically pleasant and there is more art presenting females” which is wrong.
    In all art history there are more presentations of the male body than the female. The artists considered the male body more of a challenge and more interesting, e.g. Da Vinci’s David.
    The whole idea that the female body is more pleasant began the last few decades thanks to the Playboy, etc. They used the female body to sell products by using men’s sexual arousal.
    Men confused the sexual arousal they were experiencing with the female body supposedly being objectively more beautiful than the male. To their minds it was sexual arousal = aesthetically pleasant. So they didn’t want to see attractive males and have their sexuality confused, what if God forbids saw a naked man on TV and they thought that he was attractive! because in their minds it was aesthetically pleasant = sexual arousal.
    Just a few personal thoughts.
    The funny thing is the men always watch and admire muscular male bodies without realizing that. In sports. But women don’t watch sports so they don’t get used to watching male bodies.

    The reason I posted that video is because it was actually one of the very few times that the male body was presented literally as art in the last 50 or so years. That was in 1976 and now after so many years another museum decided to make an exhibit about the male body.
    There was also another exhibit of the male body last year in Vienna.

    If you ever have the time you could watch Pumping Iron and Raw Iron (making of Pumping Iron). It shows how things changed culturally about the view of the male body and the fitness.

  14. There was a time when bodybuilding and bodybuilders were considered to be a joke and they were mocked by men. But then “Pumping Iron” changed it all. It started the 80’s craze about fitness and gyms.

    The curious thing is that nobody cared about a movie with almost full naked men with huge muscles, so they had a limited budget and at a point the production ran out of money and ended up in development hell for nearly two years. In an effort to raise funds, they arranged an exhibit with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York: Bodybuilders would become “living sculptures,” posing on rotating platforms while art critics analyzed the aesthetics of the bodybuilding physique and compared and contrasted the men to Greek sculpture. That exhibit had a great success and they gathered more money than they expected.
    Who could imagine that at a time when nobody cared about bodybuilding even as a sport,
    art critics and art fans could be interested in watching bodybuilders posing just because they were “sold” as art.

    You can watch that scene in 48:45.
    5000 people gathered at a museum!! in 1976 to watch bodybuilders posing as art.

    • This is so interesting. If you have any other interesting bits of information please feel free to tell me more. Or maybe you would be interested in doing a guest post that ties into what you just wrote and the Orsay exhibit you linked to before.

      I’m happy to write something, myself, though.

      Who’s the person circled in the picture?

      • have you written anything about this exhibition or the Musée d’Orsay exhibition? any chance seeing it any time, it would be interesting

      • It’s been in the back of my mind. I’ll have to get around to it at some point. If you have anything you’d like to point out, feel free.

  15. Interesting. Thanks for the input. And I love Musée d’Orsay! Hoping to see the exhibit in the near future. And thanks for the link.

    Looks like an interesting topic to write on.

  16. Masculine / Masculine. The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the Present Day.

    [While it has been quite natural for the female nude to be regularly exhibited, the male nude has not been accorded the same treatment. It is highly significant that until the show at the Leopold Museum in Vienna in the autumn of 2012, no exhibition had opted to take a fresh approach, over a long historical perspective, to the representation of the male nude. However, male nudity was for a long time, from the 17th to 19th centuries, the basis of traditional Academic art training and a key element in Western creative art.

    Therefore when presenting the exhibition Masculine / Masculine, the Musée d’Orsay, drawing on the wealth of its own collections and of other French public collections, aims to take an interpretive, playful, sociological and philosophical approach to exploring all aspects and meanings of the male nude in art.]

  17. Couldn’t agree more with this article. There’s a constant bombardment of media objectifying women, while so few male nudes out there, due to straight men’s homophobia. I hope that this will change in the future. At least, I felt happy (and not guilty in the least) when I saw my city’s streets covered with this ad a few months ago:
    And now men have also magazines like Men’s Health with attractive half-naked men on the cover, to feel also bad about their appearance.
    Maybe karma is slowly working?

  18. Anyone ever wonder why seeing your siblings opposite gender is never a turn on? Its usually because we find them repulsive to look at sexually. Many guys find my sister hot, but I don’t even want to think about that instead I want to throw up lol. This is all taught by society and our environment.

    I still find women attractive but not my close family. I will say I saw my cousin for the first time in 25yrs and she came to my room; she was really attractive and sexy looking ,my heart jumped from the surprise of a stranger in my room and it being a girl.

    I was repulsed by the thought of me finding her sexy and attractive. I forced myself to not think that way since I learned this from society, to not be attracted to family. I think if a sexy shirtless man walked in on a girl in her room she would feel the same way, which is repulsed and think to not think that way. I think its hopless to undo what’s been done to men and women in this society.

    We need to focus on the next generations and not let them be repulsed or unaffected by the male form. I will have to say its driving me crazy knowing I do nothing for women, I’d probably be better off with a ugly fat woman that way none of us feel sexual attraction for ones body meaning EQUALITY!!

    • Sorry it took me so long to respond. Your comment kind of got lost as I answered a bunch of comments that came after yours — and ended up on top of yours, but I found it again.

      re: Anyone ever wonder why seeing your siblings opposite gender is never a turn on?

      Well the taboo that we all learn is probably part of it.

      But also kids who grow up together tend to not find each other that sexually attractive. Maybe it’s nature’s way of stopping incest? If they aren’t twisted? So kids who grew up in a kibbutz tended to need to meet people from a different kibbutz in order to find them sexually attractive.

      In terms of sexual repression you can overcome it to some degree. I know this from personal experience, having grown up in a very fundamentalist subculture. But I’m not sure that it goes away completely. I think you’re right that it would be most effective to change things intergenerationally.

  19. No need to get confused. It’s clear. Society men and women are inter dependent that any changes in one will effect both. In all animals males are considered as beautiful than females. When we say lion, image in mind is lion not lioness. Its aggression, body hair, size, strength, deep voice, virileness etc is seen as its beauty. In humans women are beautiful because of dress and makeup. Men are always hot with out those. But sexual attraction differs in gender. 1] Men experience lust first and them love and women vice. 2] Men are behind their eyes(pictures) and women their ears(romantic) 3] Men are less emotional and women vise 4] Ultimately men expect love from women BTW women expect love and protection from a man. Women should be emotional where as men should be emotional as well as emotionless in need ie why we have MMF in most films. hero,heroin,villain.

    It’s tough job to be a perfect man-lol

  20. This is quite interesting.

    When I look at female nudes, I do compare my own body to theirs…but not in the way you describe. I am far more likely to think “hmmm, her breasts are smaller than mine, they’re cute” or “hey, she’s skinnier than me, it’s a good look for her body type.” At no time do I think of them as an ideal (or lack thereof).

    Also, I find looking at male nudes very arousing, especially if their manhood is visible. Curiously, my mind goes to different “switches” according to how the penis looks. If it is flaccid I think of what I could do to make it hard. If it is already hard, I definitely experience a sense of the “this image is for me” that you speak of above. If it is a nude male, but his genitals are covered, I actually feel a bit cheated. Like it’s more of a tease than anything else, and can make me more frustrated than when I started!

    • Well, there is always some sort of a bell curve on these matters. Your experience is just less common.

      If your experience were common then Playgirl wouldnt always be going bankrupt, and there would be way more than Playgirl out there so that women could get turned on.

  21. While reading the blog post on how men and women view nudity I found it interesting that women sat there and compared themselves to the models where men could care less about comparing themselves they just wanted something sexy to look at. I can understand why women would compare themselves to the models because I have done it myself. There is a stereotype out there that women are supposed to be skinny, always put together; basically they have to be perfect. It saddens me that this is what it’s come to. Everyone is different and pretty in their own way, but society doesn’t recognize this.

  22. Stephanie Orellana

    After reading this article I find it completely eye opening and very much true. It’s a little bit heart breaking to me that society programs our minds this way. I would like to say that I don’t feel the same when looking at woman or men nudes but I do. I wish their was a way to change this because it is completely unfair. Men can glance at a picture of a nude male without actually relating themselves to it but the article said they were also not as intrested. Why has our society trained us to think this way? How are woman suppose to empower themselves as individuals when we are taught that it is ok for nude females to be lustful objects but not men? I don’t necessarily mean to judge our society too harshly but just state that there seems to be a lack of equality with this thought process. If we can put a skinny nude female on a cover to gain sells why can’t we put a male and make the same profit? We should hace the ability to visually be pleased by both genders if we should choose to. This article although honest leaves an unsettling feeling of the world we live in today.

  23. Christopher Speer

    I think its fascinating that so much emphasis is placed on men and women to follow a standard set by society or at least that’s the feeling. The body in my opinion is nothing to be ashamed of. Its a house for the soul. I feel it does not help when people are not as open about the beauty of the human body. In some ways, I wish our culture emulated the Greeks in this fashion. They praised the body for what it was and what it could do. Also the Greeks looked at both the female and male bodies seemly with equal interest. The men and women did so much as even work out and bath together naked. This process would later be followed by the Romans or Latvians. Why our culture doesn’t view the human body for what it is, I do not know.

    Looking at both photos, I find myself, obviously as a guy, very much attracted to the female in the photograph. That being said, there is a certain beauty about the man as well. Of course I’m openly not into men the way I am with women… I am straight =). As Erica said, I hope that there will not be a barrier of thinking about these kind of photos and in turn we will view both the male and female bodies for the beauty that they hold.

  24. This is a particularly interesting topic to me. While the idea that men and woman have completely different perceptions on images of nude males and females, I cannot help but feel this is a learned social norm. I am curious to what the different reactions of men and women are in other countries as well as what the reaction of these people really were. I think that is is possible that many participants could have changed their initial opinions in attempt to fit social norms. The naked male is nowhere near as exposed as the naked female body. This leaves a gap in comfort zones. On top of the lack of comfort with male bodies most men in western cultures attempt to seem much more “manly” than they really need to. By admitting to lack of confidence or any attraction to the male body they may risk their reputation or at least fear they will. I also find the concept that women are less afraid to compare themselves to other women because they have learned that they are not the object of desire to be an interesting outlook. I personally have never looked at a naked woman in a magazine and thought that it was okay only because she is not attempting to attract me however this could very well be true. Although as time goes on I feel that the lines are being blurred and this topic will gain much more complicated arguments. Ad’s seem to attract women with woman’s desire to be beautiful and sexy as well as men’s ad’s with men. It seems that men and women alike are becoming more comfortable with their own sex.

  25. After having this conversation in class the main thought in my mind is that self image, and the way it is portrayed through the social media today is nothing short of a monster. I agree with the fact that in today’s patriarchy people defintely categorize women as “sexy”, as if that is what they are supposed to be, but the truth is aren’t they? The big issue is who’s defining whats sexy, but still what most women want to be a man’s dream girl, that’s how she will catch her dream guy! The entire conversation is contreversial because I’m sure there are many women who would agree that women should be worshiped, seen as “on a pedistool” even, goddesses if you will. Women are undeniably meant to bear children, sex is the process, and attraction is the catalyst. With that said, I understand why in today’s world women are considered the objects of sexual desire, through a biological lense. To journey of course slightly, my great grand father used to say to me ” If there were no women on the planet, assuming men could survive somehow without them, all men would wear sweat pants, be fat, and own a big screen TV”. Essentially trying to prove the point that men only even compete with one another in life for women, this connects to the idea in the blog that Men do not even compare eachother to one another because there is no sexual desire. Random, but very interesting to me!

  26. Scott,

    Firstly, I am a gay man and very comfortable with my sexuality. I found this article very interesting.

    I couldn’t help but think of how society (whether we realize it or not) has preconditioned us to respond to the male and female body image. Whether the male is the subject and the female the object is probably just relevant to our western world cultural and upbringing rather than it being an absolute gender characterization. I think that my response to the naked male and female body is reflective of my cultural upbringing and how I identify myself as a gay man living in western world culture. I would like to say, that my response is raw and true to who I am and may or may not not fit any mold. It is just my part in response to this intriguing article and is hoped will contribute to us all understanding ourselves better as human beings.

    My response to Cindy Crawford was, “Ok, she is this glamorous model – known and paid for her extraordinary beauty!” How lucky is she to be blessed with such attributes so as to be the envy of women and the desire of men (generally speaking) world wide. At this point I have to admit, I was feeling jealous of her. I guess it’s because I am very conscious of how I look and want to present well and can admire her for doing that so well. In relationships with men, I always crave his attention and his affirmation of how I look. I think that Cindy achieves that.

    Now moving on to Sylvester Stallone. Well he is the epitome of masculinity here isn’t he. Very sexy in the sense of how he portrays confidence and assurance in himself. He conveys strength, calmness and stability by the way he poses. These are things I look for in a man. His eyes are alluring and mysterious. It’s hard not to drift away with your thoughts on this one. Umm yes very dreamy! After this I’m comparing his physique to mine and am wondering if my body looks as good as his.. A quick look in the mirror confirms my fears – nup.

    Well I hope this contributes well to this very interesting article?

    Bye 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment. Good to get perspectives from people who aren’t straight, since that’s all the research looked at.

      Very interesting!

    • As a straight woman, your view on Sly Stallone was the only one I could agree on. I found him very sexy and even lusted a little bit wishing hat his genitals were not covered up. I must be a woman who is a gay man because all my Pinterest friends who have photos of men are gay men. If it weren’t for gay men, I wouldn’t have many dicks to look at and I really love to see men naked. I feel no guilt, no shame and as far as women go, I find women so dull to see naked (after all, I see myself all the time and I am a cutie) that I love seeing two or more men together just so I can see more naked men responding to each other. I also do not feel threatened by gay male porn because the men are equal and so any sex between them is about real lust. Most porn with women is there for men and is geared towards men so the women come off as fake and slightly dazed and confused. Their obvious need to please men without any pleasure themselves while acting all hot and bothered is fake, fake, fake as any straight woman will tell you. I think of porn geared towards men as a culprit in how men expect their sexual experiences to go…but I digress. thank you all gay men for giving some woman out there some real nice big c*cks to look at.

  27. I am a somewhat chubby heterosexual man and I find both images as beautiful as the other. I may look at the image of Sylvester Stallone and feel like I should go to the gym a little more but I can’t say I have feelings of inadequacy, I have just focused on different areas of my life up to this point.

    While the image of Cindy Crawford is also beautiful I cannot say it fills me with any sense of desire and I would never think of making the comparison of worth between her and another woman on this kind of representation. Even though I would admit to what is termed here as fetishistic thoughts about areas of women’s bodies, I think real sexiness tends to come from a sense of connection and acceptance of the whole of another person (or people) and cannot be restricted to a particular imposed body typology. I think this is true in gay pornography as well as heterosexual pornography and is one reason why so much of it is often so poor (I will admit to having watched both homosexual and heterosexual pornography and enjoying some of both).

    I am unable to say what this means in terms of the critique that is developing and I certainly hope I have not upset anyone but I thought it was worth adding to the conversation as a response to some aspects of what is being said.

    • Thank you for your perspective. I’m sure you’re not alone.

      Social research always discusses what’s most typical. And what’s typical will not be experienced by everyone. There’s a bell curve. Thanks for making clear some of the variation.

      But social research like this is not necessarily covering every aspect of a person’s experience of sex. So I suppose that a man could have both the response indicated by this research and your experience when with a real woman.

      Your comment helps to recognize the complexities. Thanks.

  28. Little? Miss! Sunshine

    Given where I’m at in this journey of identifying sexism (in the world and in my own attitudes), an article like this really helps me get traction on the ways my culture falls far short of its purported egalitarian ideals. The beginning of this article highlighted that “sex sells” is one of those widely accepted phrases that neglects to tell the whole story–that sexual content is specifically marketed for one gender/sexual orientation to consume. This phrase deceives not by openly contradicting truth but by describing a gendered phenomenon without any gendered language–leaving out parts that are essential to the whole picture.

    The idea that language reveals the normative male perspective jelled for me today in class. We watched “Tough Guise,” a short film created to expose the cultural narratives that shape societal expectations of masculinity. It was particularly striking to me that the headline “kids killing kids” was almost uniformly applied to all the school shootings, when in fact the killers were male. The sense was that these were quintessential American kids–they lived in middle class suburbs, they were white, they had generally stable family environments–and therefore we describe this epidemic as one that affects all youth. Actually, it was disproportionately affecting male youth, so it wasn’t not a “kid” problem so much as it is a “boy” problem–and that assessment affected the way the problem was talked about. Many women internalize their sense of inadequacy and lack of self-respect–and so do men–but for these male shooters, the solution was to act out that fear and loathing by forcing others to respect them, even in a hideous way. The realization of this “incomplete telling” in our society makes me want to pay more attention to what is being unsaid (what gets assumed).

  29. If a straight man is not aroused by the male nude, why should he feel uncomfortable viewing it? I’m not normally turned on by the male nude, but I admit have been on occasion. It’s occasions when that’s been the case when I feel the most uncomfortable viewing male porn, as I tried to repress it.

    It’s interesting that women would felt lustful looking at the pictures of the male nude should feel ‘shame’ and ‘guilt’, especially since aren’t they ALLOWED and expected to lust after men? I wonder how old that study is. I think women, too, have been sub-consciously trained to not find men sexy, because men are also so rarely portrayed as being sexy or even FEELING sexy. For a man to feel sexy is to be horny for the object of his desire, not because he feels he himself is sexy. Women buy into these ideas which results in them suppressing any interest in the male form. And since what turns them on is already malleable to start with, society creates a rather confused pattern of arousal which may indeed make their sexuality even more inward focused than it would be, which might affect their sexuality.

    Is it just me, or do people notice the avowed bisexual women with experience with both genders tend to lust after the male body the most? They seem more open-minded about sex in general. I think most bisexual people just have a more inclusive view of sexuality. Like it’s what turns them on that matters, not the whole social politics behind it.

    • It’s true that the more bisexual a woman is, the more she seems to enjoy sex. Both recognizing bisexuality and enjoying sex may be due to lower-than-average repression.

  30. I have experienced that I have been unable to generalize this theory. I have been surprised at the wide spectrum that both men and women have to nudity. Personally I do not enjoy looking at the male’s body. It has been related to a Jeep, solid transportation but not a pretty thing to look at. I do often compare myself to the men that women seem to idolize, Twilight has been a great indicator of what women appreciate. Large muscles and pretty faces, I had never considered women being offended by other naked women. Obviously there is a rampant problem of self-loathing due to self image, however i did not think that women were as uncomfortable looking at the female body as males seeing the male form.

  31. This is a topic that is brought up frequently and is constantly debated over. The fact of the matter is exactly what is stated in this article, “That is, men are taught to be subjects who see women as objects, and women are taught to be objects.” This parallels the conflict in our women’s studies textbook over wether or not a persons traits and characteristics are learned or biological. In this article it is said they are learned habits, which I agree with, however, early philosophers believed these things to be innate and biological. This can be rejected by a simple test, take two children of the same gender from the same family, raising them in different ways so that one takes to gender specific ideals while the other is gender neutral. I can almost guarantee that the results will bust the idea that these things are biological. Everything we know, our opinions, our perceptions, our language, etc., is all based upon the society in which we are raised.

    • One thing to do is look at different cultues. In tribal societies breasts are not a type of sex object, for example. In ancient Greece, men were seen more as the sex/beauty objects. Men are becoming slightly more likely to be seen as sex/beauty objects in the past, when they weren’t at all.

      • Broadblogs, your comment is bit sexist against men. In ancient Greece men were seen more as the sex/beauty objects because they WERE. No I’m not gay, I just think both male and female bodies are aesthetically pleasing to look at. Are you saying that Male form is not as good as female form?? Both are equally good in their own ways. But unfortunately in our society only women are shown as beauty objects. Its very immature of you saying that there is no beauty in men.

      • I’m afraid you’ve confused my opinion with the opinions of the people being questioned. I’ve said before that I think the male body is just as attractive as the female, but that as a society we’re taught to see otherwise. This hurts both women and men.

        See this post:
        Women Seeing Women as Sexier than Men

      • clandestineC

        I have no problem looking at that Sylvester stallone pic, I think he looks great in it and was a work of art, and I’ve seen way sexier men than him. I don’t feel gay by looking at it one bit and I’m 100% straight.

      • First, I edited your comment because I found it rude. See my comment policy. And I usually “spam” comments like yours but I decided to answer this one because I want to make a few points.

        The article (originally posted in 2011 by Sociological Images) doesn’t say that no women found nude men attractive. It said that some did but that that most felt uncomfortable. If you fit into the group that does find nude men attractive, that doesn’t mean that everyone does. It is common for people to think that everyone sees the world the way they do. That’s why you need social research instead of people projecting their own ideas out into the world.

        And I’m not sure whether you are a man or woman because you write like a man. Comments like the one you just wrote (which I edited) always come with male names attached. I never receive comments like that one with female names. Except once, when the guy put a female name in the “name” section, but had a male name on his email. (I noticed you went gender-neutral on both.) So how would you know what women think, anyway?

        Next, assuming that you are trying to write from a women’s point of view, no one is saying that a woman who looks at a sexy nude male image feels gay. That would make no sense. This weird way of wording suggests that you haven’t had a typical female experience and are probably not a woman. And since it is very common for women to see “sexy men” images and experience them as “gay,” that also suggests that you’re probably not an actual woman. An actual woman knows that she can see sexy men images without them seeming gay, but that there are times when she sees sexy men images and they do seem gay.

        Now, on your “reading comprehension” on “women seeing sexy men as gay”: What the relevant article says is that women see sexy images through men’s eyes because straight men are the ones that sexy images are almost always directed to. So women get used to seeing the world through men’s eyes. So if they see a sexy man thru straight men’s eyes, they will see it as gay, just as a straight man would.

        Your comment sounds like one coming from a man who feels threatened by the notion that a world controlled by men leaves women too often uncomfortable with sexy men, and too often seeing “sexy men” images as gay.

        Not to mention, seeing women as sexier than men. See these:

        Men: Erotic Objects of Women’s Gaze
        Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze
        Women Learn the Breast Fetish, Too
        Women Seeing Women as Sexier than Men

        So that leaves men like you angry. You don’t want to see the world change to become more egalitarian, and so you attack, instead.

        Hmmmm, you’ve inspired a blog post idea. Thanks!

  32. I never realized how by looking at nude or semi nude photos we support old and out dated definitions of men and women. We look at women as beautiful creatures for men to fawn over and other women to be envious of. When we see nude photos of men we don’t view them the same way, we only see women as sex objects. It’s a little upsetting to see that we still to this day judge women on looks and not too much else.

  33. Francesca DeVore

    Before reading this article or discussing this topic in class I wasn’t aware myself, how uncomfortable it is as a straight women to look at a nude photo of a man like the one in this article, yet I’m am not uncomfortable to look at the nude photo of the women. Now that I am more aware of my own perception of how I feel toward nudity of men and women, I completely agree with this article. Sex, the idea of it imagery and so on seem to be solely surrounded around women. This seems to be set up to only attack and criticize one gender women, and benefit the other men. We have become trained to feel uncomfortable as women to allow our selves to be attracted to men in a sexual way as women are objectified. It seems wrong and in a way feminine to see a man nude in the way women are portrayed consistently in our culture.

  34. This is an interesting topic. When reading the title, I thought to myself, “Female nudity has become such a norm that I’m sure no one really cares when they see a nude picture of a woman. As for men, we don’t see photos of completely nude males very often, but it probably isn’t a big deal when someone comes across one.” However, after reading this article, I was surprised that women aren’t aroused by male nudity. Personally, I don’t get “turned on” when I see male nudity whether he has an amazing body or not, but I just figured that I was one of the few women who doesn’t enjoy male nudity. When I see male nudity, I’m almost disgusted. It’s very strange and I can’t explain why I don’t feel this way when I come across female nudity. I guess I’m not the only female who feels this way about male nudity. Although most nude females that I’ve seen have nearly impossible bodies, I’m unsure as to how I would react if I were to see a not to perfect body.

  35. Jaylene Caampued

    After reading this article I have came to realize, women do tend to look at male nudity and don’t really get aroused off it. It is also true that women looks at another women’s picture they some times compare, for example ” I wish I had her body” or “why can’t my eyes be that color”? But we also know how beautiful she is and can’t seem to stop looking at it. I believe men don’t look at a nude picture of another male and think, ” I wish I had his smile ” or “his abs are nice” because he will feel like he is checking him out or feel gay. I likes this article because not only I can relate but I’m sure a lot of others can .

  36. I really found this article interesting. I am like most women when I see a beautiful model or actress on a cover of a magazine I suddenly feel inadequate. I could have been feeling great all day but the moment I see these images it just reminds me that this is what a man wants and you will never look like that, so in return I am not beautiful. It saddens me that this is what the media wants to portray to women as “beautiful”, you rarely see an average looking women on covers looking glamorous.
    When it came to the nude picture of a man, I certainly wasn’t shocked to learn that some women felt shame or guilt because I was one of them. It’s interesting how men immediately felt threaten by the picture for fear of being homosexual. That if they look at the picture then they will immediately be gay. That’s society doing instilling fear and making us thing gay is bad.

  37. I agree with the previous commenters. the womens body is a beautiful figure, but thats what we have learned to be attracted to. but the sylester picture isn’t unattractive its just different from what were used to seeing on a magazine cover. i also think that most of the time were just used to seeing men only half naked. theres something more appealing about a man in shorts with no shirt than a fully naked man for some odd reason. you would think since women completely naked are very attractive why can’t a fully naked man be just as attractive. its a weird concept but i just think it all goes back to the way one was raised as a child and what they’ve seen growing up.

    • I actually posted something in another thread, ‘do women only care about a guy’s upper body (torso)?’ I said this because I noticed this because depictions of male ‘sex objects’ tended to only feature their naked torso. I asserted that it seemed to me women didn’t care so much about a guy’s legs, let alone genital areas, because if so shouldn’t there be more pics of guys in speedos, short shorts, or in the buff? Why are some women opposed to seeing men in speedos? Many women I meet automatically label him as a ‘perve’ or ‘gay’ yet wearing a g-string is totally okay?

      I asserted that muscles were as much a depiction of power, of what the man could do to the woman, rather than appreciating his phyisque. I think the preference for bulky men is the same as the breast fetish – something that is culturally conditioned. As men we think that being buff = sexy. A slim man cannot be sexy, even if he actually has decent strength, is healthy and not underweight. Why is this?

      Do you think that when men showed off their legs more (like the 70s) women actually appreciated that part of a man more? His legs, butt.etc. We both have legs – some individuals have better pins than others – but in terms of what is presented ‘legs’ are definitely seen as a female body part. Women constantly show off their legs: at a cocktail party, they might wear a short dress, while you seldom see men wearing anything above their knees anymore. Paradoxically while ‘arms’ are now seen as a more ‘male’ body part, women tend to wear sleeveless tops while many guys stick to t-shirts.

      • Men only think women like really big muscles. Just like women only think that men like really skinny women. On average, men and women feel otherwise about the opposite sex.

        Re: “Why are some women opposed to seeing men in speedos? Many women I meet automatically label him as a ‘perve’ or ‘gay’ yet wearing a g-string is totally okay?”

        Even a g-string can seem “gay” so long as women learn to see the world through male eyes.

  38. Brian – thanks for the male perspective on this. I never really thought that the male could be emotionally harmed in this particular situation. It’s easy to get trapped in only thinking about what females deal with (since, obviously that’s where I am coming from) thanks!

  39. First off, it was a natural reaction of mine to skip the nude photo of the male. I guess I have society and culture to thank for that. Because of this, I couldn’t agree more with the idea that men “reject the seductive advances [of a male nude]”. I think it is just how society raised heterosexual males. If you take anytime glaring or looking at another male, you are considered gay instantly without hesitation. The situation is entirely different from a women’s perspective. There is nothing wrong with women checking out other women. It happens all the time. Even when you see straight women show public affection towards one another in public, it is socially accepted. The same can’t be said for males. Culture and peer pressure plays a huge role on the way people behave and act in society.

  40. I feel that the woman is very beautiful and artisitc. Yes it shows some of her breast, but she’s covering the most important parts of her body. As for the man, there isn’t anything wrong with the picture besides the fact that he’s really tan. Other than that, it’s just like the woman’s cover. Tasteful and artistic.
    Personally I think women do subject themselves to being “the object” because of the entertainment of today. Some of the shows I watch “Single Ladies” where the main girls work hard on getting wealthy men’s attention, is a perfect example of the women being the object and the men being the subject. Some of the guys that I hang out with go out to parties and walk around trying to find girls like they’re animals or something.

  41. This is the third time the in the last few weeks I’ve been exposed to this topic. First in class, then in reading, and now on the blog. It’s definitely something that peaks my interest, and something that as a woman I fall prey to constantly. I definitely see myself as a sex object for men, but that view has been changing slightly- evolving if you will- I now see myself as a sex object for some women, and a sex object for myself. When I receive attention from men (as we talked about in class today “being ogled”) I feel sexy, so why not learn to enjoy that sexiness for myself as well? I know that I’m playing into stereotypical female roles of submission to men, and existing for their pleasure, but being raised in this culture I have learned to at least enjoy that role.
    I understand the feeling of guilt and shame associated with enjoying seeing the male body nude. It makes me think of the subject of porn. Many men I know are very open about the fact that they enjoy watching porn, and do it often. I used to watch female porn with my male friends as a form of twisted “bonding” and it was always very exciting to them to have a female watching female porn with them- but if I ever suggested watching gay porn, or porn that focused primarily on the man’s role it was laughed at, some joke was made, or the subject was avoided entirely- as if I hadn’t said anything at all.
    I wonder if it is possible- or how to begin to challenge this issue of women comparing themselves to other women. It’s such a destructive practice, but something that is so engrained in us- there exists this constant competition to be the most attractive, well liked woman, and when you see it working around you (receiving constant attention from men) then you feel like a success as a person- and when it doesn’t work, there is something terribly wrong with you. I behave this way constantly, and have since I was a small girl- I used to stand in front of the mirror and imagine what it would be like to be a woman. To be sexy, and desired by men. Now that I am a woman, I realize how stressful, and hurtful it can be to live in this society where women are sex objects- always having to be better than the next in order to feel even slightly okay. Tough subject. Great blog entry.

  42. Corinna Peixoto

    Before reading this and learning about it in class, I never truly thought that women would find looking at nude male picture shameful. I always thought if women saw a naked man they would be aroused just like a man looking at a women. But now that i think about it, whenever i see a naked or partially dressed woman, i always think, gosh she is s beautiful, i wish i had her breasts or perfect skin etc. but when viewing a male photo the most sexual thought I have is, im glad his junk is covered. It actually does make me feel uncomfortable to look at the naked picture of a man. and i do believe that these feelings have been rooted from a lifetime of seeing my gender be objectified and sexualized.

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