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.
I am obsessed with objectification and desire, and that movie offers the rare turning of tables to see what’s on the other side.
In this table-turning do women experience men in the way that men typically experience them? I’ve already suggested that the answer is no.
However, we’re seeing chinks in the armor.
In “Magic Mike” women’s desire is acknowledged and catered to as the camera hones in on glutes and abs to accommodate the female gaze… and as Matthew McConaughey bends over to give us a full-moon shot.
All this in a place with “no men allowed.” Not formally, as Joanna Schroeder over at the GoodMenProject points out, but because most men don’t want to be there. But that “all-estrogen” space can feel empowering.
And for once women are calling the shots (or feel like they are) demanding, “Take it all off!” and letting ‘em know what they like: “Yeahhh honey, do it again!”
Only problem is that objectification is damaging. When women or men are objectified their looks and their sexuality become their worth – in their own minds and in the minds of others.
Those who objectify themselves are prone to body shame, low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders and sexual dysfunction. They even have more difficulty navigating everyday life because they’re so distracted by how their body looks.
And the objectified are treated like “things,” meant to serve others’ desires. They are things that lack thought or emotion, so they are not offered empathy. And when they age and lose their sex appeal they are worth nothing at all.
Do we really want to turn others into objects? (Keep in mind that it is possible to be sexy without being a sex object.)
But looking closer we see the table is only half-turned: women are also objectified, even in this film. While not revealing any male body parts that are prohibited on a public beach, the film hones in on naked breasts from time to time. One of the strippers even passes his wife around and encourages the guys to fondle her breasts because “she loves it.”
Meanwhile, the simulated sex on stage often mimics male pleasure, with women’s heads shoved against cocks and men humping women’s faces or behinds. How about a little clitoral action?
And in a movie that promises to take us out of our boxes we end up right back inside the virgin/whore dichotomy as Magic Mike chooses between the sexually adventurous Joanna and the virginal Brooke. No surprise, really, who triumphs.
So things have changed and they’ve stayed the same, which provokes the question: Where do we want to go?
Last week I considered the lack of excitement. Turns out, women don’t get too turned on by male nudity, at all. When sex researcher, Meredith Chivers, wired women up and showed them sexual images, straight women experienced no arousal — physically or subjectively — when looking at fit naked guys working out. Another time women watched a nude man walking and the only thing that aroused them less were bonobos, an ape species, having sex.
Is it because the male body simply isn’t sexually exciting?
Probably not, since gay men did get aroused looking at nude men.
Why are gay men turned on by male nudity when straight women aren’t? There are various possibilities. And it’s not that women just aren’t visual, after all, women were more aroused by a nude woman exercising than by a nude man. And, some women enjoy porn.
The fact that gay culture celebrates and eroticizes the male body in a way that straight culture does not could play a role.
And then there’s repression. Men are rarely slut-shamed for being sexual. On the other hand, gays are too often taunted as fags or queers. Still, research on men and women who have lived in repressive cultures, like Victorian England, find men less affected (perhaps because they are also less repressed). But even gay men are less affected than lesbians by homophobia-induced repression (even though homophobia is more strongly directed at gay men). Maybe because the male sex drive is stronger, due in part to higher levels of testosterone, while twice as much of their brain is taken up with sex.
Meanwhile, men’s bodies give them better feedback than women’s do. When blood rushes to the penis a man knows it. He feels very excited. But when blood rushes to a woman’s vagina, she can be clueless. Again, this difference may be biological, or due to greater female repression, or because men are less affected by repression, or all of the above. Indiana University researchers believe that women are less responsive for both anatomical and psychosocial reasons.
We don’t have the definitive answer on why gay men get aroused by male strippers when straight women don’t so much, but here’s a little food for thought to munch on.