Men React to “Nude” Sly Stallone

Sly Stallone on Vanity Fair Cover

Sly Stallone on Vanity Fair Cover

I recently asked my students to write down their thoughts when looking at nude-ish pictures of Cindy Crawford and Sly Stallone.

Had attitudes changed since sociologist, Beth Eck, studied reactions a decade ago?

We’ve spent a lot of time with thoughts on Cindy. Now let’s turn to Sly.

Sly doesn’t affect male self-image — much

Nearly nude supermodel, Cindy Crawford, made women feel pretty inadequate: around 40% said she made them feel insecure

But only a couple guys looked at Stallone and said they might need to gain more muscle. None said his picture made them feel insecure.

Yes, he has a great build, but several thought he looked unrealistic, photoshopped, or suggested he used steroids.

And while most of the women said Cindy had a great body, only one-third of the men were as complementary towards Sly. Did homophobia blind them to his great physique?

Men admire nude Stallone — but they’re not gay!

When Dr. Eck asked men their opinion of Mr. Stallone in 2003, the guys often reasserted their heterosexuality.

Twelve years later none of the men responding to Stallone felt a need to make that claim. Maybe that’s because homophobia has decreased so much in the last decade?

But one young man worded it this way: “Women would find him attractive.” As if he were making it clear that he didn’t.

Dr. Eck pointed out that when women see a sexy woman they don’t see it as a come-on. They know that sexy images are (almost always) meant for guys, not them.

When women looked at Cindy Crawford it never occurred to them to tell Dr. Eck, “I’m not a lesbian.” And none of my women students felt the need to say, “Men would find her sexy,” as if they must make it clear that they, personally, didn’t.

Comfort levels with male nudity will be looked at in an upcoming post.

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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 1, 2016, in feminism, men, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. It’s an odd choice, though. My initial thought on looking at the picture was how well he suits the pose and seems like classical statuary. I have admiration for Stallone as body builder and writer/actor/director, but I have never thought of him as attractive – though I dare say he is. So I wonder whether reactions would have been very different to the Vanity Fair cover with, e.g., Hugh Jackman.

    • The original researcher showed a variety of pictures, but these are the only two that I am aware of. So they are the ones are used for comparison with 15 years ago. So I have two thoughts. The first is that women have changed a bit over the years. The second is that magazines — or I should say magazine (because Playgirl is the only one) haven’t sold well with women. And I written before about how nearly naked men can you come across as “Gay” to women because women are so used to sexualized images been meant for the male gaze that even if the guy is attractive it can create discomfort. So it’s kind of distracting in that way. And some of the comments in this post the women were reflecting that.

  2. The reason why men are unaffected by stallone’s or any other male body is because they know that women don’t really care about the male body. It’s not what attracts women to men and they know it. But god forbids if a man is presented as uncool, nerd, coward. That will hit all his sensitive nerds.
    The whole point of Crawford / Stallone about body image is that women are judged by their looks whereas men aren’t judged by their looks. Men are judged by their actions and behavior.
    The worst insult for a man is coward or loser

    • Well, women can be attracted to sexy guys, and some of my women students were attracted to him. But the main reason why there can be discomfort is probably because of patriarchy. Then have had control of images for so long that sexualize images have almost always reflected the taste of a heterosexual male. So women often come to see sexy images of men through male eyes. So they can seem gay. Or they just aren’t used to it. And it can cause discomfort. That’s starting to change a bit, and you can see a bit of change in reflected 15 years after the first study was done.

  3. In reference to your earlier post and the one here, Cindy is a work of art in progress, fabulous body and a persona that so fills up the frame as to put other properties therein in the shade. Much the same can be said of Sly. As to response of the audience seeing their almost nude pics, the varied reaction may be taken as a sign of straight and grudging appreciation. Many of the aggrieved parties in the audience will be surely making plans to hit the nearest gyms or contemplating other forms of workouts to get into better shapes.

  4. I never was a Stallone fan. Maybe that’s why the photo doesn’t much register with me.

    • Maybe. But magazines displaying attractive naked men have never sold well with women. So probably other things are also causing that sort of reaction, more broadly.

      • Could be. We’d need a different face on that body to check my reaction. Hmmmm, I’ll have to think about that. In the meantime, at least for me, we may have answered the question that attraction is not specifically visual and more directed to the “who” in questions, rather than just to the assembled body parts.

      • Yes. Plus gendered patterns, which are affected by our culture: on one side you have bankrupt Playgirl and on the other you have Maxim, FHM, Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, Barely Legal … (I could go on)

      • ” But magazines displaying attractive naked men have never sold well with women.”

        That reminds me – how did we decide that spending money on images is the metric by which we measure enjoyment of those images? I know it wasn’t your decision – I’m just curious if you had any thoughts on how we arrived at that shortcut.

        Putting myself in other women’s shoes for a moment – if I had a husband that I knew would FLIP if he found a Playgirl magazine in the house, I’m not going to risk spending money on it. Or if I’m the stay-at-home wife and I know my husband is managing the money, I’m not going to lobby to spend money on pictures of naked men. If I’m a single mom, I’ve got WAY better things to spend my money on – like food, for example.

        My point is, I can think of a million reasons that would cause the differences in how men and women spend their money that have nothing to do with whether or not they enjoy naked pictures of the opposite sex.

      • Women just aren’t interested enough to bother to buy magazines that display attractive, naked men.

        A number of things come together to lead me to the conclusion that women aren’t as “into” men’s bodies as men are into women’s.

        There’re some data in this post, Plus the earlier research that I referred to, Which found women uncomfortable with male nudity.

        Sexy looking men can also come across as “gay” — something a lot of women talk about experiencing and been puzzled by. But because we’re so used to seeing eroticized images as being meant for the male gaze that women can look at a naked man and see him through the eyes of a male gaze. Hence, sexy guy often looks feminized or gay.

        Magazine sales tell us a lot. Women don’t care enough to bother to buy magazines that show attractive naked men. That’s a huge indicator. If women have the same response to men that meant have to women, then women would surely want to buy those magazines to the derive pleasure. But they don’t bother. Plus, men buy those magazines even though their wives might flip out, or they don’t have a lot of money to spend on food,

        And even when research subjects wore goggles that tracked eye movement, and watched a naked man and woman in foreplay, the men focused on the woman’s face and woman’s body — pretty much in equal measure. But the women focused half their time on the man’s face, And the other half on the woman’s body.

        I also wrote a blog post on female sexual alienation which talks about how, because women have the sexualized bodies they are often more focused on their own bodies than their partner’s. Either getting aroused by her partner’s desire for her, or — maybe more often — worried that she’s not “attractive enough” and distracted.

        And the fact is, we live in a culture that eroticizes the female form and ignores the male form. So all of this is not at all surprising.

  5. I think a couple of things in play. Stallone is not the best looking guy so I think that negates possible attraction women could feel and men, though some deny, can evaluate and have some idea of a man’s looks too. So guy’s acknowledging stallone is not great looking even with the buff body, makes a man not feel bad since he knows the face is important to women as well as personality, so the students can feel they are better looking than stallone and not feel bad because of that even though they aren’t as fit as stallone.

    The other reason is stallone has a steroid body, many women don’t like that and more men realize it too so for men most stuff is about women. If a man feels he doesn’t have to be ripped like stallone to get girls then stallones build isn’t going to hurt his esteem much. And you see it, guy’s who are otherwise fat or short who get dates and sex with girls, because they are confident, funny, charming, etc and have ‘game”, so many guys internalize that and I guess gives them some hope or not too consumed about their body to feel bad, because for many guys, as long as they have “something” “personality” “$”, status, that can help them get laid, then their less than flattering body is not as hurtful to them. Not to say that it doesn’t but a reason less so. Though men can be macho and just not admit it and like another poster said, they hit the gym after ha.

    I think it would affect men more with a better looking, less muscly but fit body. I think the same image of say Channing tatum, Chris Evans, Hugh Jackman or Liam Hemsworth who are all considered good looking and having nice bodies and more like the body girls like and toned and fit, but not veiny, roid like stallones. Plus the fact of guys knowing how many girls lust for tatum could more likely cause insecurity because of jealousy whereas, not as many guys know or hear it openly of how girls or women want stallone. The weird thing is I think a sexy hot woman’s body is more likely to cause a man to feel bad about his body than other men. They’ll appreciate and get possible turned on, but it could turn inward if he’s a man who hasn’t had too many dates or sex or dry spell, like it can be for more guys than they’d like to admit. An interesting thing though, is while stallone is known for his acting and his body. The man is actually a genius. He sounds funny when talking so genius is the opposite of what people think. But there was a list of celebrites IQ’s and his is 160.

    • Well he’s not all that unattractive. And he does have a beautiful body. But as I mentioned before, even when the men are attractive women don’t tend to buy magazines like Playgirl.

      • Not buy, but I think if come across and see, they will appreciate more if said man is good looking or better looking and has the body of their preference.

      • Sure. There’s also a difference between imagery and actual men. Especially a man that woman is in a relationship with. If a woman is in love with the man his body will probably seem pretty appealing.

  6. Stallone wrote the whole rocky movie script in just a day I think, that is probably 50 pages or so. And the producers really liked the script and were willing to pay him, which was a good chunk, but he wanted to act in it and be the main actor. So he stood pat and refused. They liked it and wanted it so much that they amped up the price which he refused until they accepted him to be the actor and there you have it. But I guess that was a sign of his intelligence though, he’s produced and directed movies too. But I’ve done broadcast communicates, and tv, especially movie scripts are not easy to write. There is a lot of visual and intricate detail need as well as specific audio ques and specific camera shots in each section. It takes a lot of time,months, year, years to write and he did it in just a short period time showed he had to have some mental brilliance.

  7. Sure. There’s also a difference between imagery and actual men. Especially a man that woman is in a relationship with. If a woman is in love with the man his body will probably seem pretty appealing.”

    I’m not talking about relationship or actual men in person. But just saying, a woman may not buy a magazine if nude men. But if she’s presented with a picture like in your class or waiting at the grocery store line and is looking over covers of magazines. She’ll be more appreciate if and when looking at a picture of a man she finds good looking and the build that she preference wise, personally finds sexy. Stallone isn’t a hearthrob or considered good looking like Actors Hemsworth, Evans, and Tatum are, which is why I think men like that shown shirtless, while women probably won’t buy it, because mere male nudity or bodies is not something worthy in itself for women to buy. They will though, probably appreciate more and eyes linger more on these better looking actors and bodies they like more to their preference. Many women aren’t crazy about the muscly body of stallone and like the more leaner build or not as buff build as stallone so I think the female students would have been more appreciative if with more attractive choice, because it matters more of who the guy is and women are more selective it seems with body preference, looks between each other.

    • I’ll have to redo this by comparing Sylvester Stallone with a good looking guy, maybe Channing Tatum. Since he did a movie about strippers I can probably find something with him showing a lot of skin.

      • If you are planning to redo this, I would suggest to try this:
        Instead of a still photo, try a slow motion video, with some nice music. Women care more about creating feelings than just visual images.
        I would suggest to try the australian version of diet coke ad. You had made a post about that ad. I bet that there will be plenty of positive reactions by your female students.

      • I should probably do it both ways because they’re looking at different things. But thanks for the idea. If you find a video that you think would be good, feel free to send a link, or links.

      • It would be very interesting to hear about your students’ reactions to this video.

  8. I’m a Stallone fan :-D…loved the picture…
    My husband appreciates good male physique….

  9. By looking at the image of Stallone, I just got the thought that he has maintained his body so well. But not once I thought that my husband should have same body like him. I just want my man to be fit 🙂

  10. Also, Stallone’s photo seems set to establish certain masculine ideas about strength and a buffed physique- his photo isn’t sexualized the way so many sexy photos of women are.

    • True. I have a follow-up post on this, though, which finds plenty of both women and men feeling uncomfortable with his nudity. It’ll be a while before I get to that post, though.

  11. The “Nude” Sly Stallone is a piece of art in my eye. I enjoy exercising and believe that it takes a lot of time to train his body that way with all the muscles and to pose like “The Thinker” a well-known sculpture by Rodin. As a woman, we are often objectified as the subject of lust/sex to men. Men are used to seeing beautiful, sexy, barely dressed women in media and often time would offer compliments and lust/desire after the sexy women. Men’s nudity has not been displayed as much as women have, therefore when men see “Nude” Sly Stallone it made them uncomfortable, they feel like they have to compete/prove their manhood, so homophobia definitely blinds them to his great physique. Men tried to make themselves look and feel better by making comments such as they thought he looked unrealistic or suggested he used drugs/steroids. Our cultural/society has made men see sexual desire as a (female) gendered sexual object, and they can’t see the nude body of a male as anything but sex object.

  12. In todays society we see the majority of magazines showing bare skinned women on the covers. I feel that because our country holds a lot of patriarchy, being a gay man is much more looked down upon than being a lesbian. Because of this, and the fact that women’s bodies are widely used to get men sexually aroused, could it be that abundance of ‘sexy’ women in magazines train women’s brains (as well as mens) to be aroused by women’s bodies?

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