Objectifying Men’s Bodies for Profit

magic mike movie rip off cloths[1]by Lisa Wade, PhD @ Sociological Images

I always love a good behind-the-scenes marketing story and last month NPR reported that Proctor & Gamble is facing falling men’s razor sales as beards have become more fashionable. Their response? To put more pressure on men to shave other parts of their bodies.

Always a glutton for punishment, I set out to discover just how they were going to try to convince men to do this… and I was not disappointed. See video below: 

Gillette has hired models to convince men to shave, well, their whole body.  A slightly longer ad featuring three of them begins with the question, “What do you say to a guy who grooms everything?”  To which they answer, “Yaaaaaaay!”  No really.

This is the sexual objectification of male bodies. The use of threats like “you’ll be disgusting to women if you don’t do what we say” is a form of social control. One point for capitalism over its long-enduring opponent in the male hygiene and grooming market: gender ideology.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College

Reposted with permission from Sociological Images.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
David Beckham’s Sex Sells
Sexual Objectification, The Harm

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 24, 2014, in body image, feminism, men, objectification, psychology, sexism and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. Its interesting to see how men in recent years have been objectified so blatantly. Not only that but something interesting about it is how it truly hasn’t affected men as much as it has women. In general you can see how modern media has affected girls in america, anorexia, bulimia, and very low self-esteem, on the other hand for boys to my experience there is little to no self esteem issue.

    On a slightly random tangent, the historical component as to why women began to shave themselves was because of a razor company not making enough money from men, so he redirected his customer group to women, promoting the necessity to shave. The popularity of it all didn’t begin until after WWII, short skirts were a major thing and women then became conscious of their body. The main point I’m trying to make is that this obviously was just a ploy to make more money, and this slowly emerged into one of the most common ‘necessities’ for a women to do today.

    • Men haven’t been as affected as women because this is a new thing for them, and not nearly as prevalent as women’s objectification. But eating disorders among men are rising as men become more objectified with these crazy, narrow standards.

  2. I find it kind of funny how marketing ads are pushing men into grooming their bodies using models to drive the influence. This gives the illusion that if you’re a man and shave your body… you’ll get yourself a model girlfriend. For years, marketing companies have objectified women, using both women and men, to make us feel inferior if we don’t use their product, follow trends and simply comply with social expectations. Men don’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot. But I do believe turnabout is fair play.

    My husband and son have admitted to grooming a little, but would never shave it all off. My son has a natural fur coat, but says he would never shave his chest for fear it would grow back thicker. These ads are trying to sell different razors because men are growing beards and not buying the traditional razors. Proctor & Gamble has nothing to fear because women will continue to buy their razors. God forbid women go without shaving and have hairy legs! As with all trends, this will pass soon.

  3. sapfelzweig

    Except it’s not the same the way things are advertised to women. Quite different, like you said. It actually might be flattering if women were so effected by men, that a good looking man could pursuade women to shave their legs, etc. But it’s more so, women competiting or keep up with the jones so to speak as in looking as what they perceive is sexy and trying to stay as sexy as the next girl to attract men or just look better than the next woman. Wheras, these ads its about the persuasion and power a beautiful woman has over men and getting them to groom to get positive attention towards these men from pretty women.

  4. So, I’m biased because we see the objectification of women’s bodies everywhere and it’s rare to see the objectification of the male body so frequently. But, here you have beautiful women advertising for male-targeted razors, urging men to groom. I don’t really understand the problems, seeing how women are told to shave and urged to do so through a similar kind of advertising. While women are more influenced to shave because they see other beautiful WOMEN urging them to do so, Gillette has found that men are more influenced by what WOMEN think (not what other men think). On a personal note, I like men who groom and at the end of the second ad, one of the women says “whatever style she wants, make sure it looks perfect.” I don’t think this ad is urging men to do necessarily one thing over an another when it comes to grooming, I just think it’s provoking men to consider grooming as an option. These ads really don’t bother me because we see SO MUCH objectification of the female body for profit,

  5. Seeing ads like these always make me cringe. Women shouldn’t dictate how a man dresses or how he takes care of his body, just like how I expect men not dictating how women take of their wardrobe or hygiene.

    Sadly, not many people seem to share this mindset as people always go uncomfortable due to ads such as these. Men and women are always bombarded by ads such as these and because of it, lose confidence, thinking to themselves that they should change for the approval of the other sex.

    Remember, it is your body! You, and only you have the right and power to change your body. If you are not comfortable with your own body image, you are on the wrong track.

  6. When sales are down, to what length will a company go to sell their product? These videos are going to an extreme with sexism, and down playing men. In the first video, Kate Upton’s gives a sexy look and winks, insinuating if a man shave’s down there he may be receiving a little something special sexually. In the second video, she states, “his grooming shows how he feels about himself”, by whose standards is she comparing the man to. I always thought men were supposed to have more hair then women; testosterone creates more hair growth which men have in higher levels. These women suggest sexual privileges, value placement, and to please your woman, if she looks and acts like Kate Upton, one should man scape. They are categorizing all women to like a clean shaven man which is just untrue and unrealistic. I find it a shame that equal rights have only brought us to equally objectify men as we have women for years.

    • Luckily, sexually objectifying men isn’t the only thing equality is brought us. Women can now: vote, hold office, get pretty much any job they want, get financial security on their own, have their own credit, all universities are open to them, go to university without having a 10 PM curfew… I could go on.

      I suspect you know know this and were just pointing out a major inadequacy that must still be addressed.

      Thanks for the observation.

  7. This is probably off-topic or perhaps “objectifying”, but from my own quirky point of view, but Kate Upton is pretty “generic”, I think, and if I were in her vicinity (I’m not), her age group (nope), or her social sphere (um, no), I wouldn’t shave for her. Maybe for someone that has something more interesting or unique about them. No, still wouldn’t. Yes, it sucks that we are made to feel we aren’t good enough just by being ourselves.

    • Doesn’t seem off-topic at all. I’m glad beyond doesn’t have the intended effect on you.

      Typically these things are more powerful when you’re bombarded by them. And so far man aren’t bombarded the way women are. When that happens it’s hard for it to not sink in subconsciously.

      Even then there is always a bell curve on these things so that some people are more effective than others. But you see social patterns that show the messages do have effects.

  8. I came upon a story from nightline on TV tonight. I don;t know if you knew of this or not, but hopefully justice comes. There’s some yoga guru guy who’s a billionaire, called Bikram. It’s weird because I know much of the popular names and workouts and trends, but I’ve never heard of this guy. But I guess his yoga is very popular and he is and celebrities have tried it all across america, etc He’s made a great fortune from his yoga. There’s something cultish to me though, even though it’s widely popular. Here’s the article though, unfortunately where it seems as usual, rich and powerful men paying their way or using their status and money dodge charges against them, He’s accused of rape or sexual assault to 5 of his femal students and sexual harassment as well. Listening to him talk, I can’t help to feel he did do such stuff. He’s denied the accusations, but the guy is extremely narcisstic, which is scary, because when someone is on that level, they naturally don’t care abotu what they do to others or put themselves in a delusional, above others, I can do whatever I want sense. Listening to him talk, he does sound like nutjob. Here’s the article though.


  9. Was in a hurry yesterday and wanted to comment right away but also didn’t feel like I said anything much to add to the dialogue or say anything that I hadn’t said before 🙂 So I’m here again. I don’t agree w/ how men are being subjected to objectification, but I hope that with translation that the author of this post is providing, this will allow them to walk in women’s shoes more to better understand how objectification of the female body can make us feel on the inside. Also important to note that women have been known to objectify men too- per example above–] and it’s not just a one-sided street when it comes to this so hopefully we too can stop. I have certainly, especially when I was younger, been mesmerized by certain men because of their appearances with no interest in knowing them beyond my limited idea of how I thought men should be… thank you, fairy tales, etc. for contributing to that.

    • Thanks for bringing more to the conversation.

      I also hope that this will help men to understand women’s experience.

      I’m not sure that women objectify men in the way that men objectify women. Not because women are better, but because we aren’t taught to. We aren’t surrounded by images of men that cause us to sexualize them in the same way and see them as objects that exist just for our sexual pleasure. No part of the male body is fetishized by our culture, so that makes it harder for women to objectify men. I do think that women sometimes purposely try to objectify men -– in fact some have told me that they do purposely try to –- because they get tired of always being on the other side of it. But even the effort put into it shows that it doesn’t come naturally.

      For more on my thoughts on this, see these posts:

      Men: Erotic Objects of Women’s Gaze
      Why Aren’t Male Strippers Sexy?

      I’ve actually written a piece asking whether women objectify men, but haven’t gotten around to posting it yet. (I write in advance for my busy times.)

      • Agree that it is not exactly in the same way- but I think there are ways in which women can forget to see the total person but instead the idea of what he represents- financial security, prince charming, etc. Perhaps objectify is the wrong word. Will check out your articles

      • I agree with you on that.

        Men can live in a fantasy world, seeing women as sex objects, whereas women can live in a fantasy world seeing men as Prince Charming. And neither seeing the whole person.

  10. Almost all men want women to be shaved. This is not ok, but I’m not sorry for men at all. If a man wants me to be shaved, he should be shaved too. But even if he didn’t I still prefer shaved chest and not long pubic hair. I’m brainwashed. Those ads won’t have the same effect they have on women. Capitalists are not the devil, they just sometimes use the situation in our own society. We are the devils, nobody else is responsible for our stupidity.

    • As I wrote to someone else:

      The way we see the world doesn’t come from just one source. So you can’t blame Gillette, alone. But when you get a lot of media throwing out the same message, whether advertisements or movies or TV, for instance, it all sinks in unconsciously and has effects.

      You can see the unconscious effects of socialization/internalization in many ways, people coming to see their bodies is unattractive when they are perfectly normal, in societies that tell them so. Versus societies that don’t tell them so, in four people have better body image. Racial bias, preference for lighter coloring light blond hair, perceiving men as more competent than women…

      These things all vary from culture to culture. We aren’t born with opinions. They unconsciously seep in from the messages we receive in our societies.

      I’m not surprised that you see things the way do you. Because the process as unconscious, it simply seems normal, and as though they aren’t having effects.

  11. This has gone on though before these commercials. I think some coined it “metrosexuality”, where straight men manscape, tan, and look more after their bodies. It’s typically young men who do so than the older generation men. I don’t know if it’s all commercial advertisements though. As I know plenty of girls and seen plenty of women, whom it won’t stop them from dating and liking men who are hairy or so. But perhaps from shirtless men shown in movies without chest hair or something younger women see and got adjusted to. That girls like less hair on men. There seems to be a generation difference. It seems like older women like guys with hairy chests.

    And it can be an individual preference. But many girls do like men’s chests without hair or little hair or trimmed at least, especially if the guy is hairy. And the pubic hair, is nicer for women when it’s trimmed a little too. But some of my friends girl friends and girls I know said something how hairy chests aren’t attractive to them, so it’s not just gillette’s commercial here. I can understand hairy backs not being attractive as I’m fairly hairy, but even with that. I do think guy’s with hairy backs, don’t look good. They look like cavemen, I know it sounds bad, but guy’s who have back hair or hairy backs, are generally very hairy men. Luckily for many guys, I think much more guys don’t have back hair than one;s who do. Like I said I’m fairly hairy, with a hairy chest and legs, etc, but don’t and never had back hair. They can do what they want, but I think it’s an honest assessment for women to not care for back hair. I guess I’m a culprit, but I do a little hair maintenance. Not much though, I don’t like being hairless fot he chest, like a prepubescent boy. But I don’t like how my torso looks as it can be pretty hairy. So I just trim the hair, so still got some hair, but less or lighter hair. And I can’t blame women for the pubic hair they like on maintence as there is a hygiene thing and tidyness if a guy trims a little down below if he’s growing out prety good down there.

    Women do it with their lady parts, with trimming the hair many times and not leaving it a hairy bush down there so I can’t fault them for wanting or liking their man to do the same and it nicer for them when going down on their man.

    • The way we see the world doesn’t come from just one source. So you can’t blame Gillette, alone. But when you get a lot of media throwing out the same message, whether advertisements or movies or TV, for instance, it all sinks in unconsciously and has effects.

  12. I personally think that this is really messed up. I mean, people shouldn’t be targeting men in these ways and be trying to convince them to change. Its like our world hasn’t come up with enough ways of bullying. calling a man not attractive because of something that he has naturally is 100% wrong. For instance, I don’t mind my boyfriends “natural” appearance, infact, I actually prefer it. I am not saying that a guy should or shouldn’t shave. what i am trying to say is that a guy shouldn’t be pressured into doing something that he doesn’t want to do. I also agree with what Breanna Wright had to say, “It shouldn’t be their decision and shouldn’t be judged because they choose not to or be judged because they choose to.” Our society keeps on coming up with more ways to mess things up even more. Its already bad enough that we are judged and labeled by things like our sexuality.

  13. I personally feel that that type of grooming should be a personal decision. It shouldn’t be a standard and people shouldn’t feel like they aren’t good enough because they don’t “groom”. It should be their decision and shouldn’t be judged because they choose not to or be judged because they choose to.

  14. Getting a taste of their own medicine, are they?

    The whole shaving thing is just another fetish. I really find it appalling that anyone should consider themselves untidy or disgusting for failing to shave such as pubic hair. All these grooming dictates are time-consuming and uncomfortable. I applaud anyone with the strength to ignore them.

    What does it say when you find a person’s hair disgusting? Your hair is part of you.

    • I certainly agree that we shouldn’t be disgusted by our natural bodies.

      And of course, the problem isn’t men, but rather how the powers-that-be so often work for their own benefit without care over trampling over others.

  15. What women want? You don’t speak for me ladies! I like my men manly and hairy, but what I really like is a man comfortable in his own skin on not influenced by revolting ads like this one. I’m sick and tired of companies telling us our bodies are unacceptable and we need to spend money to change them.

    I was interested to see the beard being back is a world wide thing. The beard is massive now here in Australia and I have been curious if it was just here or if it was a global thing.

    Men, I honestly don’t know many (or any!) women that expect you or want you to shave off all your body hair! But of course, if that is your thing, go for it, it is your body, just don’t listen to stupid ads like this one.

  16. It’s interesting and what I always expected. Studies like you’ve shown is how women compare themselves and feel bad when seeing a beautiiful woman’s body. Whereas, men are usually less affected negatively when seeing a handsome fit man’s torso..But have an ad with women, pretty women, saying how they like men to look this way, and then you’ll see the negative effect on men. It’s amazing how much a woman’s desire effects men’s self esteem versus simply seeing a well built man. And like that one article I posted about beautiful women in maxim and how it actually made men feel worse about their looks and body than images of fit men. And I think it’s because of the huge desire to wanting to “check” the boxes from women and be attractive to women. It’s a contradiction too. Like I can feel good about my body and not so good at the same time based on the context. While I know I’m not perfect, I’m pretty proud of my physique as I lift weights and have always had an athletic build from playing sports.I’ve also been flirted with sometimes and checked out a decent number of times by cute girls, sometimes at work, or just in public and other times when working out at the gym.

    But on the same token, I guess I get why women are shown everywhere. And I’m not homophobic, i can see and admit a good physique from a guy. But I can’t help feeling the limittations of my body from simply being male. I don’t know if oither guy’s feel that way but I think they do. For instance have a woman or someone tell your average guys they want them to wear speedos at the pool. I don’t have a desire to wear them, as I look shorts fine And I don’t thinkt hey are gay. And even for the guy’s who don’t think wearing them gay. Most of these men will feel silly wearing them and feel they look stupid and probably mock themselve and just be stupid or goofballs. It sounds funny, but I’ve seen sexy images of women and I remember just admiring the beautfy of one in a pic I saw, naked butt, but the smoothness and curves. And then I remember thinking how stupid I would with a close up pic or camera panning of my body like that., And I don;’t mean because it;s girly. Say the pic or there was a video where I was not posing like a “girl” but standing tall and not looking at the camera, maybe lifting something or doing something to show action. I’d remember thinking even there was a shot of me butt naked like that. That I couldn’t imagine too many women liking it or what women could get out of seeing such shots ha. Maybe gay men, but then again I nor other straight guys don’t want or could care less for gay men obviously.

    In the same context though, if getting nakd in front of a girl and ready to have sex, the lights can be on and she can see me in my glory I don’;t care. So I don’t know how to explain it, there’s confident aobut my body in many ways, but I don’t, I don’t want to give too much information, but seriously god must’ve been a prankster, because some of the places us guys have hairy or hairyness, eh..can’t help feeling like neanderthals and feeling the male body is less attractive as a result and no wonder women would not want to see the naked lower half of a man and why I can’t blame them regarding my self in such shots.

    • I really don’t think the problem is the male body so much as the culture. Ancient Greece greatly admired the male body.

      But women have a different problem. There is an ideal body type that hardly anyone fits– If anyone. Even the models are Photoshopped.

      So if idealized women’s bodies are thought beautiful, But normal women’s or not, that doesn’t do women any good. That’s the risk men run as men’s bodies increasingly become objectified. Check out the post I referenced on David Beckham.

  17. It’s sad, and maybe even more influential to young men or boys about their bodies. Because there’s nothing more pursuasive than beautiful women talking about what attracts them to me. Guy’s are so invested in women finding them sexually attractive or getting the extra step toward it, since men usually aren’t hit on or told too often they are hot or attractive by women, let along outright lusted after. Guy’s usually have to go out and get rejected and playt the numbers game to find out how attractive they are and be wanted and date and have sex. So beautiful women saying this, is obviously going to make plenty of young guys and boys groom their body now so they can be wanted or in hopes that it helps somewhat to be desired by pretty girls.

    This commercial isn’t much different than the effect axe body spray has and it’s profits from use of pretty women suppsedly desiring men because they use the fragrance. Old spice is like that too. I don’t know if you’ve seent the mom commercial with them worrying about their boys becoming men from attracting all these girls. ha. The problem with this commercial though is that its making men feel they need to groom to be hot, whereas, all old spice and axe are sprays and deordorants. This is not that new though. I’ve seen those hair treatment commercials for bald buys or receding hairling guy informercials where beautiful women were saying their men or men weren’t so sexy bald. But then after the guy’s had hair again and seeing them, the same women said how much more attractive these men looked and how much sexier they looked, etc.

  18. Thanks for sharing. Objectification hurts everyone-both men and women. I so appreciate that you address this on your blog.

  19. Ok, so as a guy, I’m wondering what your female readers think…Should I shave/wax or not?

    • Can'tsleeprightnow

      Female here. I don’t shave. I trim somewhat regularly. And dude, the guys i’ve been with recently all shave! (its a total of two guys). I personally don’t like shaved. And I feel bad that I don’t, but it itches and I don’t like it so I’m just like “whatever”. If they like to shave, okay, but I hope they don’t think I “expect” them to shave, just like how I refused to show up to every sex session waxed. Every way is okay. No one should feel ugly one way or another.

      Gah this is something I struggle with and my girlfriends struggle with. Feeling ugly for having hair. And now they are doing it to guys too. Makes me so mad

  20. Hi G 😀 It seems to me that there is a culture of uniformity with the younger generations. In my time it was Mods, Rockers or Hippies. I think it’s just a phase they are going through. Ralph xox 😀

    • I’m afraid it’s much more than a phase.

      Ads work by making people feel bad about themselves so they’ll buy stuff to feel better.

      Women have been attacked this way for years and 80% of young women now have poor body image. Now the aim in broadening to include men and they are increasingly suffering. See post referenced on David Beckham.

      Its all market manipulation.

      By contrast, Mods, Rockers and Hippies seem to have organically grown out of youth culture. The hippies were even countercultural – questioning what authority/society told them.

  21. I had a discussion with a co-worker about how the future of gender equality won’t be the absence of objectification. It will be equal objectification.

    Also, I’m not surprised. That’s about the same way the originally convinced women to start shaving their legs and such.

    • Yes, ads making women feel bad about their bodies to sell prodect has been the norm. Now these ads increasingly aim at men, too.

    • I agree with a previous poster, TK; in the future, objectification will simply be equal. Ultimately, sex sells and this commercial probably will too. I don’t see that changing. Like many (most?) other animals, it’s important to our way of life and being an extremely expressive species we find many ways of displaying that. Both men and women want to feel attractive to the outside world, even when we really try to stop caring.

      On top of that, women have been expected to remove hair from more and more places. Like sex selling, I don’t really think that will change either. Women try to find permanent was to remove their body hair and even see doctors to achieve it. It’s not completely improbable that in our future, all humans will walk around hairless!

      Women are expected to primp and prime, and the ideal man has long been the rugged, handsome, dusty, cowboy type. Maybe the correct way to go isn’t for those expectations to be lowered for women, but instead to be heightened for men so that they are equal.

      It does suck though that children have to be subjected to trashy advertising like this. It would be nice if they chose a less in-your-face approach. If anything, I think it’s more offensive to women. The implication here is that what stands between a man and one of these women is body hair. How shallow would those women have to be to actually react so negatively?

  22. I do not want my 17 and 13 year old boys being influenced by these women! This makes me so mad!!!

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