Men Looking at Men Showing Skin
Had attitudes changed since sociologist, Beth Eck, found that straight guys were pretty uncomfortable looking at that picture almost 15 years ago?
I asked them to write whatever thoughts came to mind and then I analyzed and published the results here.
But blog readers wondered what men would think if I used a more current star. So I surveyed 40 of my male students. Here’s a comparison of Sly Stallone, Channing Tatum and David Beckham.
Uncomfortable and “not attracted”
I began with an image that Dr. Eck had used years ago, Sylvester Stallone in the buff, posed as Rodin’s “Thinker” on the cover of Vanity Fair.
The main thoughts that came up were “muscular,” “uncomfortable,” and “I’m not attracted to that.”
One in five men made clear that this image caused discomfort (“I don’t like that”… “It makes me uncomfortable” … “WTF! When did Rocky do that?”).
But if we add “I’m not attracted to that” — which suggests discomfort — the number rises to over half at 52%.
Men who spoke to Dr. Eck often made clear that, “I’m not gay” while looking at skin-baring photos of men. In my sample one-third of the men said they “weren’t attracted.” Like this:
- A dirty picture. I’m straight so I don’t have any feelings about men in general.”
- Not attracted; don’t like it
- I don’t like it because I’m not into naked dudes
- I appreciate that he is a built man, but nothing else
A smattering described the photo as “artistic.” I wondered if this was a way of saying “It’s artistic, not a come on… not something to be attracted to.” In fact, one man put it this way:
Artistic rather than sexual, but I’m not fond of it.
If “it’s artistic” comments are included, 40% reacted by affirming that the image was not sexually appealing to them.
By contrast, women who look at skin-baring photos of women never proclaimed, “I don’t find her attractive.” Probably, as Dr. Eck points out, because they know that the images are not meant for them. But men are so accustomed to sexualized images being meant for them that they often made an effort to clarify that they are “not attracted.”
The next most common response to Sly Stallone was “he’s muscular,” which one-third of the men brought up.
An additional 12% said something to the effect that the photo was unrealistic, made them feel insecure about their own bodies, or made them feel like they needed to workout.
By comparison, over a decade ago none of the men told Dr. Eck this, suggesting that men increasingly feel body-conscious and judged. Still, that number is low compared to the 40% of women who felt inadequate when looking at Cindy Crawford.
The rest of the men — about one and five – said they felt nothing, or indifferent.
Magic Mike Stripper
Are men comfortable with sexy, naked men?
I also had the men look at a more sexualized image from Magic Mike (possibly Channing Tatum).
Most men were pretty uncomfortable with this stripper image from that movie. Of the 42 men I surveyed 67% said they disliked it/were uncomfortable.
Another 19% said they didn’t care one way or the other.
Only 10% had anything positive to say.
I don’t like it, it’s weird
Two-thirds of the men didn’t like or felt uncomfortable with this nearly nude image.
A couple of them added that it was disgusting. One said it was bizarre. Another opined, “It is an image that I don’t normally see, and have grown up seen as wrong.” Another followed up with, “I personally don’t like to see a man naked in any way.”
Women, on the other hand, are so used to seeing nearly nude women that skin-baring women barely phase them.
Men also described their displeasure in these ways:
- I don’t enjoy it
- a turn off
- weirded out
- a sense of unfamiliar unease
- not highly masculine
Four of the men disliked his objectification. (These same men didn’t like an objectified image of Cindy Crawford either.)
But one man didn’t like the image for a different reason. He was envious of his body: “Not artistic, a focus on his ass. A little jealous.”
I don’t care
About one in five said they were “indifferent,” “didn’t care,” or had “no opinion.” Or simply described the image without making any judgment.
Another wondered why he was only wearing a G string.
Guys who liked the “Magic Mike stripper” image
Men with positive feelings about the Magic Mike stripper — just 10% — were usually focused on the woman’s pleasure. Since there are just four positive comments I’ll post them all:
- Girl having the time of her life. To women he might seem sexy.
- Wow! In control, taking action and pleasing the girl.
- Sexual. The woman seems to be enjoying it since her hands are all over his cheeks.
- Lady killer. Pimp daddy. Almost butt naked.
One guy had mixed feelings, incorporating each of the three categories above: “Not really my interest, however, I probably would be like the guy and do a seductive dance/pose. He ended by saying “kind of weird.”
Next week I’ll look at men’s opinions on images of well-built shirtless men, which they’re more used to seeing and which occur to them as being more masculine.
Are men comfortable with masculine, sexy naked men?
A little late in the game I decided to survey men on David Beckham, so just 14 men registered their thoughts on this one. Beckham is a conventionally attractive man who looks more masculine than the Magic Mike image above. And this type of photo occurs more often than the others in pop culture, usually underwear ads. Does all that make a difference?
He’s good looking
One-half of the men called him “good looking.” A couple added that he’s, “a great football player” — perhaps a nod to his masculinity, which may help create more comfort.
But another man added “provoking picture” and “I am not attracted to him.” But then, sexualized provocative images are generally targeted to men.
One in five said they “didn’t care” about the image or “felt nothing.”
One-third felt uncomfortable.
Beckham vs Stallone vs Stripper
For a quick comparison of the three images, 20% or 1 in 5 men consistently “felt nothing” or “didn’t care” about any of the images.
The men registered the most positive thoughts about David Beckham, with 50% calling him “good looking.” By comparison 1/3 said Sylvester Stallone had “a good body.” But only 10% liked the Magic Mike stripper, and those who did admired his sexual finesse.
The men were least likely to feel discomfort with Sly Stallone (1/5), maybe because the image looked artistic. One-third were uncomfortable with the more sexualized David Beckham. And two-thirds (67%) were disturbed by the even more sexualized male stripper. This image seems too far removed from what they are used to — and from our notions of masculinity.
[Some men made more than one comment so these percentages won’t always add up to 100%.]
Posted on November 6, 2017, in body image, men, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality and tagged Channing Tatum, David Beckham underwear ad, How men feel about male nudity, How men feel about sexy images of men, Magic Mike, Sylvester Stallone. Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.