Why Aren’t Men Objectified?

Playgirl went bankrupt

Playgirl went bankrupt

Women do find men sexy. But we don’t objectify and fetishize their body parts. Not too many of us, anyway.

And so Playgirl goes bankrupt while a plethora of “girlie” magazines thrive.

Yet in some places women’s bodies aren’t fetishized, either. Like in tribal societies where women walk around wearing the equivalent of a G-string. And no one cares.

That clues us in to why male body parts aren’t fetishized.

The body becomes arousing when a society:

  • Selectively hides and reveals it — creating sexual tension
  • Declares a body part sexy, and then says, “Don’t look at it!” — creating sexual tension
  • Obsesses over the body part: The camera zeros in on it. People talk about it incessantly… Because it is declared so sexy.

When we treat women’s bodies in this way, they become arousing. When we don’t, they aren’t.

But we never do that with guys.

Sexy Don Draper, all dressed up

Sexy Don Draper, all dressed up

Maybe that’s because men have been in charge of literature, art, media and religion?

So a lot of guys are envious of women’s ability to allure and arouse. But there is a huge downside to all of this.

For instance, patriarchy just might be motivated to objectify women for a couple of reasons that aren’t so great:

  1. Women become reduced to their sexuality, which disempowers them in most areas of life.
  2. Modesty (actually necessary for objectification — one must hide the sexy body part) gets women in the habit of obeying — as with the directive to “Cover up!”

More problems also arise, which I will discuss later.

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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 May 13, 2015, in feminism, men, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. Carolyn Honeycutt

    I don’t believe it is true that male sexuality is not objectified. While it is certainly true that women are objectified, it is also true that men are. If they weren’t, shows like Chippendales, movies like Magic Mike, and fragrance commercials like Calvin Klein wouldn’t be popular.

    Women may be shamed for their sexuality, but often men are shamed for their lack of sexuality. Where a women will be asked to “cover up,” it is considered “unmanly” for a man to leave his shirt on at the beach, or not have large biceps. I also believe that your list of what makes a body part arousing to society can easily be attributed to males. Cinematography will often use shots included covered male genital to increase the “sexual atmosphere” of a scene. The results of the objectifications of men and women are incredibly different, but that does not mean that they do not exist. Where women have to live with the concept of “modesty,” men are expected to have six-pack abs and large upper bodies in order to be “manly”. Bodies are beautiful and because of that fact, media loves to objectify them, wether they be male or female bodies, or both at the same time.

    • Your comment is about body image for men (an expectation that men should look a particular way) not objectification.

      Just to clarify, sexual attraction and objectification are two different things. One is natural the other isn’t. With objectification there is a subject and object, and the object’s hopes dreams and desires don’t matter. And then people get hurt.

      Objectifying men may happen, but rarely, as I’ve written before:

      Do Women Objectify Men?

      And there is a reason for that as I say in the post.

      1) Women aren’t taught to objectify men. Men are much more strongly taught to objectify women.

      2) We simply don’t live in a culture where the male body is fetishized. No part is selectively hidden and revealed and obsessed over. Cameras rarely focus on men’s butts or linger on their chests. Just like men, women can be drawn to the beauty of the opposite sex and linger on it. But since the male body isn’t fetishized — doesn’t create the same level of titillation that so often grabs and compels men, making them feel they have no choice in the matter — there’s less push to see a man as a sex-thing that exists for our gratification (and not his own). And so it’s easier for us to make different choices.

      It’s #2 I was talking about in the post.

      I even wrote a post after the first Magic Mike show came out talking about how a lot of women seem to WANT to objectify — almost to equalize things a bit, but it feels more like “playing at” objectification:

      Why Aren’t Male Strippers Sexy?

      “Cinematography will often use shots included covered male genital to increase the “sexual atmosphere” of a scene.”

      Really?! Where? I’ve never seen such a thing.

      If it ever does happen, it certainly isn’t often. Are you talking about porn? Even then see this:
      Women Aren’t Visual? It Depends https://broadblogs.com/2015/06/22/women-arent-visual-it-depends/

  2. Interesting read. Thank you.

    The theory of objectification has always fascinated me even though I don’t believe in it.

    I have to say I disagree with this:
    “Women become reduced to their sexuality, which disempowers them in most areas of life.”

    If anything I feel more empowered because of my sexuality.

    • You say: I disagree with this: “Women become reduced to their sexuality, which disempowers them in most areas of life.” If anything I feel more empowered because of my sexuality.

      Sex object power isn’t much power at all. The power to turn a head. The power to manipulate —getting someone else to do what you want — as opposed to having direct power.

      And sex object power is extremely short-lived. You’ve got about a decade.

      Women are much more powerful when they aren’t seen as sex objects. Because anyone who is all about sex and nothing else is not going to be hired in high-paying jobs like CEO, attorney, scientist…

      And in bed, your thoughts and feelings don’t matter. Because that’s part of what defines a sex object.

  3. I agree that sex sells only to men because of the history of objectification of women BY men. Men have been at the forefront of objectifying women and continue to do so, definitely taking a huge head start from women doing so. Straight men, to be specific, react to sexual tension (as do girls) but this is because of where it is derived from: Straight men calling the shots on what’s sexy and what’s not. As seen in your other posts, Playgirl went bankrupt because women weren’t taught or exposed from the get go to embrace this sexual tension and propel towards it. I think it’s more than just hormones and jumps right into how much objectification has affected how women see women and how women see men. If anything, women are more willing to see women not only because of how “sexy we are” but of how “sexy” we are portrayed to be and how desirable of a body we want to have in reflection of these magazines, media, and other physical depictions of what is sexy. This is all around the board and can be said for all things- objectification is authored by men in all aspects of life, reversing that doesn’t necessarily justify ourselves but…maybe a little. Yet, rather than go that far, we have to level the playing field and help people see that preference is healthy, but only ONE type of preference (the majority of white, slender female bodies seen in the media) is definitely possible evidence of receiving and accepting objectification of women.

  4. We live in a society where we place women as the pretty one of our sexes. In the U.S we clearly see how women are being objectified by our media each day. We don’t let women walk around topless yet it is okay for a guy to do so. We have created the sense that women’s body is more sexy than mens. This playgirl magazine shows how much we have repressed women’s sexuality. Playboy, I believe is far from going broke anytime soon because that’s what we crave, it is internalized in us that it is okay for guys to like sexual materials.

  5. Within the article, there are hints suggesting male dominance is the cause for objectification of female, “Maybe that’s because men have been in charge of literature, art, media and religion?”, “patriarchy just might be motivated to objectify women”. I would agree that patriarchy can be the root. Yet, my interpretation of objectification of female is a more business based reason. Since, guys react to sexual tension from media quickly and males do generate more income, therefore, companies can use this to their full advantage. The result is that objectification of female is far more effective to the market. On the other hand, according the studies and other posts, women are less interested at nude male features. This refers objectification of male would bring these profit.

  6. Men aren’t objectified for their bodies as often or at least not as openly. This does not mean they aren’t objectified. The number of times I’ve heard women in the classroom or workplace breaking down why they broke up with so and so, or who they need to meet etc. based on a laundry list of requirements “Needs to make x amount of money, be x’y” tall, have ____colored hair, be good with kids…” This is overlooked as them having standards or some such. However, what happens when they check every box on the laundry list save one and still aren’t good enough? Isn’t that objectifying them?

    I’m wondering this based on the experiments showing the same man standing next to a cheap car vs standing against an expensive one and how women rated his attractiveness for example. Also I’m curious, in the study where women determined that the majority of men were unattractive (physically) vs men who determined the majority of women were attractive is one group objectifying more than the other? Jezebel etc. state that yes, clearly the males are objectifying the women more in order to find them physically attractive but how is objectively stating that the majority are unattractive any different?

    • “Laundry list of requirements “Needs to make x amount of money, be x’y” tall, have ____colored hair, be good with kids…”

      On the things you list, to the extent that the list is true, whether it’s a problem or not depends. “Be good with kids” is really important if you want to have children someday. And it’s not about objectification. Hair color is pretty stupid thing to go by, though. Still not sure that it is a problem of objectification — more a problem of being shallow.

      Seeing someone as attractive is not the same thing as objectifying.

      Objectification: If you are sexually objectified you are seen as 1) being all about sex and nothing else and 2) existing for someone else’s pleasure, not your own. We don’t fetishize hair color, so it’s unlikely to make someone see the hair color and think/behave like 1) and 2)

      Women objectify men much less than men objectify women. But it’s not because women are better. We just don’t live in a culture that fetishizes men’s body parts. (Some women wish they would!)

      I want to say that the problem of objectification is not about men versus women. When I’m talking about objectification I’m talking about a culture that is heavily internalized by both men and women — but not that everyone acts on it in a negative way. A lot of women internalize it and feel bad about themselves if they don’t have a particular body type, for instance. (They see their worth as relying too much on that one and one-dimensional thing.) But men aren’t the problem so much as a culture that both men and women so often uphold.

      I’m trying to help both men and women get out of that trap. But also help them to see that the idea of a trap may be more of figment of the cultural imagination than real:

      As I was trying to point out, women often think that men have more narrow notions than they do. And men often think that women have more narrow notions then they do, too. Like in a post I recently wrote, there are all these women who feel bad about having small breasts, and even mutilate themselves to fit the cultural ideal. And yet women with small breasts have been named “sexiest woman alive,” or “#1 hottest hottie,” or married a prince. https://broadblogs.com/2015/06/10/making-peace-with-my-small-boobs/

  7. The reason why men aren’t objectified is because that is what society made it seem like that men have more power, that men are superhero and can do anything when in reality their is nothing a woman can’t do that a man can do but since women are always put down, they are always used a object in everything and men are powerful that can do anything and provide a home and is the beard winner. and everyone think that men has all these power when really they don’t in my opinion i think a woman can do much more and much powerful but i feel like that is going to be impossible to change because it has been a forever thing now and it is not right that our society and norms say that and teaches us that basically. i wish things were more fair and everyone can get along and just know we are all humans, we are struggle and no one is perfect.

  8. Maybe men are objectified, but they themselves are the ones doing it. When they watch porn, do they not objectify their male counterparts as much as they objectify the women?

  9. I think men aren’t objectified in American culture as much as women (however, I do think it’s rising for them as companies want to sell more products to more people) because American culture was constructed, built, and maintained by the white male perspective within society. This way of thinking originated in Europe’s society and migrated to the Americas as people moved. It hasn’t been too long since we’ve legally recognized women and other minorities as equals to white men; even congress today still debates contraception and abortion. If you look at other countries, you find them to be more progressive about gender equality. Even though we have laws that protect women and minorities, our society culture/beliefs is what is tainted with patriarchy originating from the past. It’s up to the people today to become aware of harmful norms within our culture that we’ve become blind to, the inevitably have an impact on how we see others (for example the media)

  10. I know women are way more objectified than men, but I don’t agree that men are never objectified. Maybe before yesterday I would have agreed, but through certain events that happened yesterday I had to think back at the diet coke commercials. I remember as a teenager talking with my friends about these commercial and singing the “I want you” song. (These commercials were played in Europe, I don’t know about America.) But the commercials were always the same. It would start out with women looking at the clock and calling each other, because t was 11.20. After that they gather at the window and a guy that is working across the street is taking a break and is taking his shirt of. After that event, he opens up a diet coke and drinks it while the women are totally going crazy. After that they tell each other: See you tomorrow, the same hour. Another more recent video is about a guy mowing the grass. When reading this post I had to think immediately about this commercial, and knowing how popular it was. How we as adolescents reacted on the commercial, the same way some guys react on commercial with hot women.
    But then I need to think in what society I grew up. We are more independent and patriarchy is less prominent.

    • Women definitely notice attractive men, But it’s on a much lower level than what guys experience. The commercials you talk about are pretty rare and the male body doesn’t provoke the same response in women — or very few women. That’s why Playgirl went bankrupt even though there are a plethora of girlie magazines. The male body just isn’t eroticized — it isn’t selectively hidden and revealed, Creating sexual tension in the same way that the female body is. Women don’t masturbate to the male body. (rarely if ever) Sure, women experience lust, But given the much lower degree to which it is experienced, And how rarely it is experienced, it feels like a much different thing. When women go to strip clubs it’s more like they are playing at objectifying than really doing it. And at the very least, Since our culture does not eroticize the male body, It’s simply much easier for women to Control themselves, and not behave like men only exist to serve us, And our desires. And we don’t give a hoot how they feel.

  11. Yes we like them but we don’t objectify them. Also, its so right that common things doesn’t affect people. But, if a person wears something new and short than earlier it does attracts some attention!

  12. Still in these cases women see men as sex objects

  13. Can this be considered as men being objectified and some women being aroused by the male body?


    • There are a number of possibilities here:

      Women who watch violent pornography often don’t like it at first, And then they can learn to find it arousing. So it makes sense that women could watch gay porn and learn to find it arousing.

      That doesn’t mean that they are getting aroused just watching naked male. I mean, nothing in our culture would cost women to do that. Just does nothing in other cultures causes meant to find naked women arousing. They may be getting a arouse from the sex part. In Meredith Chivers research she found out blood flow increased to the vagina when women watch men with men — but not when they just watched a naked guy alone. So the sex part could help with blood flow.

      I also noticed that some of them said that they could use these techniques with their partners — and they liked learning about these techniques. A few of my female students say they watch porn only so they can learn with guys like.

      • Like I said, if they are straight, I don’t think it’s simply the sex thats turning them on, but men’s bodies having a part to do with it. Here are some links with answwers about it.


        “hotter guys in gay porn

        they get the same as some straight guys get from lesbian porn”


        “Same reason straight men watch lesbian porn. If one dude is hot, two dudes are even better.

        Robin W
        To quote Margaret Cho, “That’s where all the hot guys are. I mean, have you SEEN the guys in straight porn? EW EW EW”.


        “Do other girls/women watch gay porn? What’s your thought on this?
        By gay I mean two men 🙂 I’m totally straight and have a boyfriend, though he doesn’t know I watch gay porn.

        The reasons I do are because:
        – the men is gay porn are so much hotter than in straight porn
        – in straight porn, the camera angle is always aimed at the girl, it’s not really made for women to watch because you barely even see the guy
        -watching 2 guys is always better than 1, right?
        -in straight porn, it’s always women fake orgasming, in gay porn this never happens
        -in straight porn, men seem to get off on the idea of women being slapped about and enjoying it. Its not realistic and all and quite male chauvenistic”

        There’s more of that from yahoo answers, just wanted to show a few. There are questions about lesbian porn with straight women of course too. The one’s who answered who say they are straight and sound it though, there answers are different for the seasons of some straight women who like gay porn like I showed there. Usually for straight women watching lesbian porn, it’s about the sensuality and connection of the women and oral sex and seeing the pleasure they give. Wherese, two hot men and the visual of men is more of a reason for staight women watching gay porn which would make sense or like that woman said, the camera angle on the man’s body whereas straight porn is on the woman’s body more often.

        Lesbians talking about gay porn say its not for men’s bodies, but because it doesn’t have fake bodies, and not authentic or something like that. And maybe they identify to the male in it, maybe because some lesbians can be butch and the sex, but the bodies aren;’t the reason which would make sense. Otherwise, I don’t know if one can legitimize or make a distinction with women’s arousal and visual attraction and liking to men compared to women. There should be a distinction if women are straight and the distinction should be the reason for visual arousal between the porn. And like I said there seems to be the differences and distinction like you’d expect if a woman is actually straight with reasons for arousal gay porn vs lesbian porn.

      • Interesting. I’ll check it out.

  14. You make a good point about modesty being necessary to keep this wheel turning – reminds me of something I read a while ago about strippers and their fake tans, how they always leave a white triangles aroudn their nipples to remind customers that they’re looking at something that’s usually covered up…even though it’s totally manufactured.

  15. So is arousal psychological then? We are conditioned to be turned on or disgusted? I wonder.

    • Sex is socially constructed. Which is to say there is a biological component, But there is also social learning. And the visual aspect of arousal seems to be socially constructed since you don’t find in every culture — or every gender. (And I’m making the distinction between arousal and finding someone attractive — although there are cultural variations without to: obese women preferred in some cultures and anorexic Victoria Secret Angel’s preferred another’s.)

      But touch, For instance, seems to work anywhere in the world, so long as sexuality hasn’t been repressed.

  16. I think you are right ~ men are in the position of power (media primarily) so they can dictate what is put in front of us and form societal norms. PR is a century/millennia old art and history has shown us how powerful it can be. Great post.

  17. Reminds me of something I heard a comedian say many years ago–something to the effect that being naked in a public place is considered by society to be immoral, but what would be truly moral would be for all of us to go naked.

    BTW, did you hear the news report of a couple (I think in CA), that got arrested for having sex on a public beach, while covered by a blanket? They now face a possible 15 year prison sentence. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/05/the-right-penalty-for-having-sex-on-the-beach-in-florida/392510/

    • I don’t remember hearing about this. Quite the sex-negative culture, isn’t it? 15 years is crazy.

      • It certainly is at least a split-personality nation. So many prudish and/or religious people man the battlements to fight against such things while the porn industry is one of the most lucrative in America. Mind you, however, I’m not opposed to porn so long as children are not involved and no one is exploited. It certainly has therapeutic value (as I think I’ve mentioned before . . . somewhere.

      • Yeah there is. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • That’s ridiculous. They should just get a fine and no jail sentence at all. Something is so fucked up with our judicial system. You have god damn pedophiles with shorter sentences, even rapists who have been sentenced for a lesser time. Sometimes murderers let go early on their 15th year. But an innocent couple, being exhibitionists on a beach and that?

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