Why Aren’t Male Strippers Sexy?

Channing Tatum in “Magic Mike”

Women go to strip clubs for “fun” and female bonding, not to get aroused.

Or maybe they want to prove that they can objectify men just as much as men objectify them.

Sure, some women find male strippers sexy, but as Tracy Clark-Flory over at Salon acknowledges:

The typical atmosphere in such an establishment isn’t one of arousal and longing, the kind that reliably fills the air in a female strip club. As far as I can tell, female patrons are typically cracking up, shielding their eyes in mock horror or cartoonishly objectifying male dancers as a performance for their friends.

Her observations come by way of the movie, Magic Mike, which gets a lot right, she says, but shows male stripping as it mostly is: “goofball, absurd and sometimes repulsive,” which is how she describes her own first – and last — male strip show outing:

Onstage was an overly tanned dark-and-handsome type dressed like a race car driver. He slowly unzipped his onesie while popping his knee to the throbbing techno music, which was accented by sounds of a car engine revving. Once naked, he took his flaccid penis in his hand, stretched it out as far as he could and let go; it snapped back to his body and flopped around as he wiggled his eyebrows at the crowd.

And so she asks why these strip shows are libido-killers and offers her thoughts. I agree with her on some points, but on others we see things differently. For instance, I think evolutionary psych is largely full of crap. Here are my own musings:

Men’s bodies aren’t sexualized

Male bodies aren’t sexualized in our culture, as I’ve discussed in pieces like “Men: Erotic Objects of Women’s Gaze,” or “Women Seeing Women as Sexier than Men.” So I won’t dwell on the point.

Despite feminism and more women in charge of cultural images we still see fewer sexualized images of men. Maybe because the women in charge of media have be socialized to see women as the sexier half of the species. And no male body part is fetishized like women’s breasts are.

So lusting after men isn’t something that women learn to do in the same was that men unconsciously learn to lust after women.

Some say women are just more erotic, yet breasts are only sexualized in places where they are either hidden or selectively hidden and revealed. The U.S. is so obsessed by the secreted breast that even women can develop a fetish. There’s no biological reason for that.

Women’s sexuality is more punished — and repressed

Women’s sexuality is more punished, leading to repression (nearly 1/2 of U.S. women have low interest in sex — not natural).

Repressed sexuality may also make it more difficult for women to respond to the visual. I don’t have data on this other than personal experience and talking with other women about it, but a few of us were better able to respond to visual stimulation when we were very young and less repressed.

Forces of repression? I’ve discussed these before (see links in this paragraph), but repression arises as women are slut-shamed and told that sex is bad – for them, anyway. Sex lessens from mom and dad are more negative for girls. We’re the ones who get screwed and f’d — not nice imagery. And women and girls are also more often the victims of sexual abuse, which colors sexuality with negativity.

Sexy men can look “gay”

Making matters worse, when men do show skin they can look “gay.” This seems to occur because women are so used to nudity being meant for the male gaze that they can come to see nude males through male eyes, too. That’s jarring, not a turn-on.

Men doing “women-things” like stripping can be jarring, too. (I’ve got data on that from my students. More later.)

Women get aroused by being desired

Straight women also tend to get more aroused by being desired by their lovers than by desiring men.  This is probably due to a culture that objectifies women much more than men. While women don’t learn to see men as sex objects, they do come to see themselves that way. So in a convoluted form they can become aroused by experiencing how men are experiencing them. Yet another factor preventing women from desiring men in a fetished way.

Just some of my thoughts on the topic.

An edited rerun — I’m on taking a few days off.

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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 August 7, 2017, in men, objectification, sex and sexuality and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. This post struck a familiar, comfortable chord with me. I thought it was just me who felt this way. I am so disinterested in male stripping that whenever I see them on television, such as in trailers for the Magic Mike or what have you, I get a little “I’m going to throw up” feeling.

    But now that you mention it, I’ve analyzed this for the past day and realized that the concept of male strippers just seems to be so foreign and rare…not quite on the level of a circus—which anyone would probably enjoy—but something of an awkward freak show. I’ve often felt that there were just male strippers out of necessity, to appease feminists or because they somehow require it to stick it to men. But I found so much truth in your comments, that really women are rarely “getting off” on watching the strippers, but more so over-reacting and screaming to try to make it fun for their friends. It really has always seemed to me that everyone was trying a little too hard (no pun intended) to have a super great time at a male strip club, and based on my few visits (okay I think just once) to a male strip club, it seemed to take a lot of fake laughing and a lot of alcohol.

    I think if people truly enjoyed them, there would be more of them. I don’t think I’d even know where to find a male strip club other than Las Vegas. Certainly I’ve seen many female strip clubs – and quite frankly I’d rather watch a naked woman dance than a naked man.

    And as for their sexiness – you’re right, to me many really are not sexy….at least they’re usually not MY idea of sexy. I guess I don’t have in interest in seeing a man wiggle his hips like a little girl. All the posing and bending and whatnot – it’s seeming so high schoolish, like when a boy is just discovering his muscles and how he looks in the mirror if he flexes.

    Thinking about the type of man I find sexy…my first reaction is the typical strong, silent type….with clothes on, thank you very much. Probably wearing nice dark jeans (not too tight) and a plaid flannel shirt. Or a really nice dress shirt with those really beautiful contrasting patterns under the cuffs and collar, and a nice tie. I just realized I wrote “nice” three times just now while describing my sexy man. I reckon that the way I want to see a man, is probably not too dissimilar from how a man wants to see his wife or girlfriend – looking classy, leaving something to the imagination. There’s a time and a place for everything. I guess the big difference is, men like to fantasize and look around, and while women may want to fantasize and have some fun, at the end of the day I get off on the emotional, physical, spiritual connections I have with a partner.

  2. IMO the problem is women = men.

    We men, are diffrent from women, we can have the same right but we are not the same. estrogen isnt testosterone, women can have child while men cant.

    so feminist take all the men do and say “women are the same as men, so just copy what men do and problem solved”.

    Men vist strip clubs?, so women must vist strip clubs-
    men like women dressed in skinny clothes and dancing sexy?, so women must like the same.

    and here we are, asking why women dont ask the same as men.

    Women need to find their own path, fate, likes, hobbies, but they continue just coping what men do, sorry, thats not gonna work, and isnt working.

    • Women and men are not identical. And no two men are identical either.

      However all men are created equal anyway. In women and men are created equal. We all have equal worth and dignity and should have equal opportunities.

      Turns out that women and men are much more alike than different though. And insisting on a big difference stifles our ability to fulfill our full potential. I’ve grown up with men telling me that as a woman I would like certain types of things, And yet I do!

      Men, Women not from Mars, Venus

  3. I would leave a comment to add a thought….but shucks, you pretty much covered it. (No pun intended.) Great post!

  4. very informative… thanks

  5. Maybe because the women in charge of media have be socialized to see women as the sexier half of the species. And no male body part is fetishized like women’s breasts are.

    So lusting after men isn’t something that women learn to do in the same was that men unconsciously learn to lust after women.”

    Men learn to obsess over women’s bodies and get turned on just by seeing nudity regardless of the context. But lust is natural. Maybe lusting from simple nudity which happens for men with women’s bodies, being topless, because of how sexualized women’s bodies are. But finding bodies sexually attractive, appealing, sexy and which means lust is closely related to sexy and sexually attractive. The excuse is that more men in media are in charge and such. But you just said there’s more women in media than before, and which brings my point things are still dominated with images of women. As a straight man I’m glad it’s well more women and not men since I’m attracted to women.

    But just saying that if men are so sexy and attractive to women and women are so visual like you keep thinking women are capable of, there would be more images of men’s bodies sexualized or celebrating men’s bodies. Women have been socialized to see women as the sexier half is your reason. Interesting, because gay men see all these images of sexy women everywhere too, yet I’m pretty sure gay men see men’s bodies as sexier.I just rather it be that women aren’t visual because it kind of feels insulting that women have to “learn” to find men sexy (I know women find men sexy) but sexy enough to have men’s bodies lusted after and such. Btw women find women sexy too, so men being sexy doesn’t really say that much either.

    • Well we know women are visual sinse they can learn the breast fetish even when they’re straight. It’s just that we fetishize women’s breasts but we don’t fetishize any part of the male body. And that’s not to say that women don’t look at well-built men in jeans with lust. But it’s a different feeling, It’s not arousing in the same way. And male stripping can just feel weird since we associate it with women in that role.

      • It’s just that we fetishize women’s breasts but we don’t fetishize any part of the male body”

        It seems that it’s because you feel that more men control media and images. But you said even with more women in charge there’s not so much of men shown. Do you necessarily have to fetishsize women’s bodies to have it shown in images or for eye candy purposes? The way it works in america with breasts sexualized and teased but being obscene to show nipples. But even in europe or some countries where women can go topless at the beach and do so and it’s not a big deal at the beach. I believe women’s bodies are still shown in sexy ways all over. Like there’s more of a duality with casual nudity with women where they can be topless, but women’s bodies are still the pinnacle of sexiness and still can be lustworthy when a sexual context is set up. Context matters a lot. But I don’t believe men’s bodies are shown much. I don’t know for sure as I don’t livve in european countries, but I feel it probably is like that. And women have shown they are visual, but toward other women, never towards men.

        If women have this potential to be visual and men’s bodies are supposedly sexually attractive enough for women, then wouldn’t they not just want to have sexy men’s bodies shown everywhere, but do so? You said women in media might learn to see women sexier too. Funny because women are so damn sexy and sexually attractive men don’t have to learn this regardless of a fetish or not. Like we’re just so attracted to women and their bodies that we don’t have to learn to find women sexier than men, it’s just we see that beauty and sexiness and it’s so obvious. For example of this, Gay men, bombarded by images of women, yet that doesn’t hinder gay men finding men sexier than women and wanting to show men’s bodies and look at them despite media and cultrue telling them as everyone that women’s bodies are sexier. It seems it must come from the same place but toward men for gay men. Just the eyes telling men straight or gay all the information they need to know.

      • “Do you necessarily have to fetishsize women’s bodies to have it shown in images or for eye candy purposes?”

        Yeah, because it doesn’t happen in places where women’s bodies are not fetishized. You mentioned nudity on European beaches but when I have been they’re only about one out of the hundred women is topless. And they don’t have topless women on billboards and regular TV nowadays. So things have changed quite a bit since the late 70s/early 80s.

        Now looking at gay men, they are responding to attractive men — just as women also respond to attractive men, but not in a fetishized way. But women’s sexuality is also more repressed and more repressible so that’s probably playing a role too.

  6. I think men cant just copy women and expect to be sexy. Women do throw their bras and panties at rock stars so they can get aroused by seeing men perform. I think stripping is just too feminine.

    • I think men are like birds and attract women with their song so if they just dance to music it can seem gay. At concerts the atmosphere does seem to be one of arousal and longing. The girls are always yelling out how sexy the guys are and that they love them. Maybe if male strippers played music it would get a different response!

      • It’s probably largely cultural because in at least one culture — the Wodaabe of Nigeria — the man look very feminine by our standards (that’s how you do masculine in their culture) and there are even beauty contests for the men.

        So when you grow up associating skin with women and eroticized bodies with women, the turnaround can seem jarring. Not to mention the fact that we simply don’t eroticize men’s bodies and women’s sexuality is repressed!

    • I noticed that the posters for Magic Mike 2 were much more masculine. The guys were wearing jeans and posed in more masculine ways. I guess the producers learn something from the reaction to the first film.

  7. A survey that I read, indicated that most women would rather see a man doing housework wearing something feminine than go to see a male stripper.

    • And I wonder if by “feminine” they simply mean naked.

      Women don’t seem to have a problem with their nude male lovers, But they do with eroticized images. The latter is more symbolic whereas (and jarring to see gender reversed) the former comes in the context of human connection.

  8. Totally agree on every point – even the evolutionary psychology thing!

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