Magic Mike Turns Tables on Objectification, Desire

I must be obsessed with male strippers, you think, with a third post inspired by “Magic Mike.”


I am obsessed with objectification and desire, and that movie offers the rare turning of tables to see what’s on the other side.

In this table-turning do women experience men in the way that men typically experience them? I’ve already suggested that the answer is no.

However, we’re seeing chinks in the armor.

In “Magic Mike” women’s desire is acknowledged and catered to as the camera hones in on glutes and abs to accommodate the female gaze… and as Matthew McConaughey bends over to give us a full-moon shot.

All this in a place with “no men allowed.” Not formally, as Joanna Schroeder over at the GoodMenProject points out, but because most men don’t want to be there. But that “all-estrogen” space can feel empowering.

And for once women are calling the shots (or feel like they are) demanding, “Take it all off!” and letting ‘em know what they like: “Yeahhh honey, do it again!”

Only problem is that objectification is damaging. When women or men are objectified their looks and their sexuality become their worth – in their own minds and in the minds of others.

Those who objectify themselves are prone to body shame, low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders and sexual dysfunction. They even have more difficulty navigating everyday life because they’re so distracted by how their body looks.

And the objectified are treated like “things,” meant to serve others’ desires. They are things that lack thought or emotion, so they are not offered empathy. And when they age and lose their sex appeal they are worth nothing at all.

Do we really want to turn others into objects? (Keep in mind that it is possible to be sexy without being a sex object.)

But looking closer we see the table is only half-turned: women are also objectified, even in this film. While not revealing any male body parts that are prohibited on a public beach, the film hones in on naked breasts from time to time. One of the strippers even passes his wife around and encourages the guys to fondle her breasts because “she loves it.”

Meanwhile, the simulated sex on stage often mimics male pleasure, with women’s heads shoved against cocks and men humping women’s faces or behinds. How about a little clitoral action?

And in a movie that promises to take us out of our boxes we end up right back inside the virgin/whore dichotomy as Magic Mike chooses between the sexually adventurous Joanna and the virginal Brooke. No surprise, really, who triumphs.

So things have changed and they’ve stayed the same, which provokes the question: Where do we want to go?

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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 July 18, 2012, in feminism, gender, objectification, pornography, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Thank you for your post! It seems the issue here is oversight of double standards on selling sexuality. For those engaging in watching this movie, I believe there are two ways to look at it. On the one hand, you have people who will view Magic Mike as a guilty pleasure—much like the reverse is true for men and different programs. On the other, it may be an equality or justification marker. Women do not necessarily like the high expectations beset by media, but as soon as the tables are turned views become muddied. The media is no longer the opponent—even though it is the true source of this expectation. Suddenly the enemy is men—not the media which taught them their values—and the pitch forks are pointed toward the incorrect party. Men are getting a taste of their own medicine, or so it seems. It seems that instead of analyzing the sexuality between men and women, the camera should turn toward the producers of these programs.
    This is the point of advertising though, is it not? To have need for supply, a demand must be established. When people are objectified, you now have a product ready to be sold.

  2. I loved reading this blog post! Thank you for creating a website that openly discusses some of these issues for both men and women. I find it fascinating how society has come so far in many other senses, (i.e. technology, the internet) but we have managed to stay on a fairly common ground when it comes to the sexualization of both men and women. This article brings up a great point that I feel is truly overlooked when sexualization is discussed. The sexualization of men is very present in today’s society and is an issue that needs to be addressed. You mentioned some of the effects of this sexualization for both men and women including eating disorders and body shame. The idea that we are created to be objects of desire creates the idea that we are defined by how we look. Movies such as “Magic Mike” only promote this idea and I’m grateful you have taken the time to address that. As a young adult in this ever-changing world, it seems to me that body shaming and eating disorders have become a staple for my generation due to social media and marketing.

  3. DarknessPinokio

    Hmmm, i think it’s better if we don’t have double standard, if female get pissed off to men that watch girl strip then we can’t said the reverse situation where a girls watch magic mike for example are acceptable, honestly that’s hypocrite no matter what’s the reason, we should have an equal “legal action” & equal freedom…

  4. Hey, Georgia–I just nominated you for the Inspiring Blogger Award–cuz I love your blog!

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