David Beckham’s Sex Sells

This Super Bowl Sunday the tables turned — at least a little — as “sex sells” warped into the alluring form of David Beckham, who flaunted his buffed bod to promote his H&M bodywear.

As Mary Elizabeth Williams over at Salon described it:

He flexes his numerous tattooed muscles to the tune of “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” glowers in an “I mean business here” way that’s remarkably persuasive, and uh, I forget what I was talking about.

See the ad here.

Does Beckham bring balance to the scales of objectification? From Ryan Reynolds to Ryan Gosling to Taylor Lautner men’s bodies are increasingly drooled over.

While we are seeing more sexy guys, the fact that it’s newsworthy says it’s a bit unusual.

But last November DETAILS’ tackled men’s rising fixation with their bodies. Their slide show traced the phenomenon from 1986 home gym informercials through Mark Wahlberg’s giant Times Square boxer briefs ad (that snarled traffic in ‘92) to the emergence of light beer and the “the slim silhouette.” By 2002 Us, In Touch, Star and OK! eagerly exposed men’s six-packs. In 2008 Beckham’s Armani briefs overtook giant billboards on Main Street. And Emma Stone could be heard shrieking, “Seriously?! It’s like you’re Photoshopped!” as she gaped at Ryan Gosling’s rippled abs in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

So is this a turn for the good?

I don’t think it’s a problem to see some sexy men and women in ads. The problem comes when this is the main way people (okay, women, in reality) are portrayed.

And when ALL we see is sexy women, even women start to see females as “the sexy ones.” What are we supposed to look at? It’s hot to see some sizzle emerge in a male form.

And so long as men continue to be portrayed in plenty of other ways Beckham, et al., will hardly transform men-at-large into sex objects.

On the other hand, men are becoming more body-conscious and young men are increasingly falling victim to anorexia and exercise addiction, while cosmetic surgery has increased 88% among men between 1997 and 2011.

Some had hoped that if men were objectified they wouldn’t like it and would stop objectifying us. Instead, men and women now both obediently follow body “perfecting” dictates.

But then, it’s not men so much as marketers, male and female, who know that 1) pretty bodies draw attention, even when they have nothing to do with the thing being sold and 2) inciting insecurity moves a lot of product as we spend endless sums hoping to embody a phantom perfection.

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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 February 6, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, men, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. In this article we are getting present that it’s starting to be more normal to see men being objectified. Objectification is seen everywhere, in magazines, TV and in hundreds of social medias. The focus has always been more directed towards women than men. In some cases the objectification is extreme and the only thing people associate girls with is a sex object. Of course this is a generalization, but women usually gets seen as a product more than men do.
    I believe it’s important to get equality between the genders. Maybe the social Medias should change, but I also think our attitude has to change. It’s okay to feel offended some times, but it gets a little too much if we always gets offended.

  2. In this article we are getting present that it’s starting to be more normal to see men being objectified. First of all, it’s presented that it’s not always something bad to objectify men or women, but when the only thing a women get seen as is a product, something is wrong. Either if its men or women that are being present as sexy, fit and beautiful this always effects people’s self-esteem and body image.

    I believe it’s important to get equality between the genders and I wish that instead of increasing pictures of sexy men, so we get more of these types of pictures, we rather decrease all the pictures and commercials that objectify the women. Maybe girls and women’s self-esteem will be better.

  3. I agree with your worries. Indeed, after women are objectified for a long history, men now are gradually being objectified by women and some females regard this as a rise in female social status. Yes, we treat men like how we are treated. Increasing ads of naked men are used to attract people’s attention. And a sense of being muscular has been communicated among men. The outcome is reasonable, just like women go on a diet and crazily do exercise, the eagerness of men to have beautiful body drives some of them mad. It’s really surprising to know that the cosmetic surgery has increased 88% in fourteen years. Well, I think this trend seems to be inevitable, and the eagerness to have a beautiful body is good as long as people do it healthily and don’t go too far and too crazy.

  4. i dont even know where to start..; but hey! this is what its coming too, i live in pittsburg california and let me tell you that ” jersey shore” , gets around!!! i bring this up because before tht tv show came out it wasnt as serious as this is know…everyone male going to gym! not that is anything wrong but because mostly every guy in that show is huge and gets alot of PLAY ( sex or a bunch of females or attention without having to do anything let alone flexing their brain muscle, instead flex a tricept) thats what should be done..in my mind i think were leaning to a more immediate satisfaction route. like that little motto goes we need to use as little as possible but squeeze the maximum out..something like that haha

    kush roots

  5. Cool. You had all my thoughts already! Glad to be following you 🙂

  6. My initial reaction to this post was, “well, at least they are leveling the playing field.” Advertisers seem to use sex to sell everything, but it’s usually an almost naked woman. It’s kind of nice for a change that it isn’t JUST women being objectified. But I would definitely agree that there has been an increase of men’s body issues. And because years of women’s objectification and body image issues leading to eating disorders and depression don’t seem to change how things are portrayed in the media; maybe if it begins to effect the male population as well, someone will finally take notice and finally make some changes for all.

  7. It’s about time the men are the ones in the ads half naked. We have been so use to seeing half naked women. The reality sex has always been a money maker.
    Advertising is a game of competition; it has always been focused on the sexuality of women or men. The ad says, “Pretty bodies draw attention, even when they have nothing to do with the thing being sold.” it may not have anything to do with what is being sold but in advertising the more eye catching the advertisement the better chances it will convince the consumer to buy. This time we are seeing sexy, muscular men such as David Beckham and Mark Wahlberg in these ads selling these products. Looking at these men could convince a woman to go out and buy it for their man. It could also convince a man to go buy it for themselves hoping that maybe they could look that way too. I like how Mary Elizabeth Williams ends her quote with,” I forget what I was talking about.” We as women look and have the same thoughts going through our mind. I guess it could be the same way when a man see’s a woman in such ads.

  8. It’s very interesting to see men objectified for a change. Now women can get the feeling of what it’s like to be around scantily clad males, which is usually somewhat of a rarity – men are shown with their clothes off much less often than women. This becomes slightly fairer for the female gender, though females are still portrayed as sex objects too often and the objectification of men might be unlikely to go as far as the objectification of women.
    In response to this: “And Emma Stone could be heard shrieking, “Seriously?! It’s like you’re Photoshopped!” as she gaped at Ryan Gosling’s rippled abs in Crazy, Stupid, Love.”:
    I’ve seen countless scenes in movies or TV shows when women drool openly over men’s bodies and I’ve always thought it petty and annoying. (I wonder if men feel the same way in the opposite parallel?) Are the movie-makers trying to tell us women what is supposed to be attractive? What if that’s not what we’re attracted to? Is that not normal then? I believe the answer to these questions is that everyone has different opinions on what is and what isn’t attractive and we don’t have to agree with cultural standards of beauty.

  9. How interesting to see more men in less clothes in the media. It is usually the women who are close to naked. I found the fact that men are becoming more body conscious really interesting since it has always been the opposite. I think the media has as a whole made it more acceptable for men to have all different body types while women must be tall and skinny with the appropriate curves. To now see men turning to cosmetic surgery and exercise addiction really says a lot about how powerful the media really is. One example I thought of is the guys that stand outside Abercrombie and Fitch without shirts to see jeans. They have been doing this for years and while it does seem like it objectifies them I must admit I was glad to see it was a man and not a women in a bikini standing out front for once. I think it is almost a given that women are often objectified in the media and sexualized, so to see the tides turn a little bit is interesting.

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