Monday, November 19, 2012

Changes in Perception

     Sex and sexuality has always seemed to me to be a mostly taboo subject in society. Not unless you were with really close friends could you be completely open about your thoughts on others, and even then it could be an uncomfortable moment. Susan Bordo explores how there have been changes in the way that men and women perceive and think of the human body and sexuality.
      There were two main ideas that stood out to me the most in "beauty (re)discovers the male body" by Bordo. The first is her discussion of how women see the male body and whether or not they enjoy actually seeing a nude body. She cites some studies that suggest that a woman does not react the same way when seeing a nude male body as do men when they see a naked female body. The study stated that "Fifty-four percent of the men were erotically aroused versus 12 percent of the women..." when they were showed nudes of both men and women. These findings may be because perhaps men may be more biologically prone to becoming aroused by naked people, or because women may feel some sort of shame at seeing pictures of nude. Personally, I feel that our society has become much more "sexualized" than it has been in the past, and that now it is a lot more "acceptable" for women to be more open with their feelings of men and looks. In the past, if women were too open about their feelings on sex, they may have been looked down upon or looked at as overly promiscuous. In contemporary society, women are much more visible in society, holding top positions in the work force (Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo) and also in different media (Zooey Deschanel, star of New Girl). This shows that women are not just secondary to men, but that they are people who their own tastes and preferences, and now they are more open to let others know. Women are catered to much more now, and I think a great example of how women are now more of an important market is the move "Magic Mike". The movie, which stars Channing Tatum, is about the racy escapades of a male stripper. The movie features a lot of eye candy, and it was a box office hit, which shows how women are definitely a huge market in our society.

  The other idea that stuck with me in Bordos article is how the perception of a male body has changed. It used to be that it would be wrong to be seen as feminine if you were a male, and instead a man had to be tough and rugged. Today, there has been a change in style for men, and men are now put to different standards when it comes to "beauty". I think a good meter of how there has been a change in what is considered a attractive are the James Bond movies, of which I am a big fan. James Bond, secret agent 007, has always been seen as a sort of sex-symbol, a smooth guy that is always good with the ladies. It is interesting to see how his character and actor has changed over the years, trying to stay contemporary and with the times. The most famous of the early James Bond would have to be Sean Connery. Sean Connery immortalized James Bond, starring in seven films.

 As you can see, Sean Connery James Bond is not overly muscular, and he even has a little bit of a tummy, but still, he is fit but not overly buff. This is in stark contrast to the most recent iteration of James Bondy, portrayed by Daniel Craig. Craig is still just as smooth as the other James Bonds, but as you can clearly see, he is much more "buff" and much more built.

 Men today are subject to these images of what the ideal man and body type are. Of course, to achieve such a body takes a lot of hard work and an excellent diet, which many people are not able to achieve if they have a busy day with a job and kids. This puts a lot of pressure on men to try and look like a movie star, when in fact it is nearly impossible for the average guy. Guys become obsessed to trying to look this fit, and it could lead to the use of steroids or to some sorts of eating disorders, which are not as talked about as they are with women. Of course, the Daniel Craig Bond movies are awesome, and I really enjoyed them (go watch Skyfall!!!), but he is an example of what men are "supposed" to look like today, and the Daniel Craig Bond look seems to be harder to achieve than the Sean Connery Bond Look.
Styles change and what is perceived as attractive will probably change somewhat drastically in the years to come as well. It is difficult for men and women to try and keep up, but sex sells so I doubt there will be little to stop our society from becoming even more health and body conscious. Although being health conscious is not exactly a bad thing, it could lead to a lot of self-esteem issues with many people, especially when extremely fit people are put on a pedestal in ads and movies for everyone to admire.


  1. The "Magic Mike" trailer helped me realize the huge discrepancy between the reception of men bodies versus female bodies in the media. From my memory, "Magic Mike" is one of the few contemporary movies that is focused around male strippers. It seems like the bulk of movies that include the concept of strippers is almost always women, and if it is men it is in a comical sense (i.e. a bachelorette party). Women strippers/escorts in movies in my experience is rather common, and almost expected.

    Just something to think about, something to notice.

    - Barbara Lin

  2. Another point that I would like to bring up about the difference between male and female bodies in the media is that there is wider variety of male bodies in comparison to female bodies. For example, take the show New Girl. On the show, there are three male leads--all with different physiques. Schmidt is the prototypical muscular and fit male, Nick is a little doughier, and Winston is in the middle of the two. However, amongst the two female leads--Jess and Cece--there is only one type of female body, the prototypical young, lean, and fit body. The same example could be made with the characters from How I Met Your Mother. Robin and Lily are slender, young, and fit; Marshall, Barney, and Ted all have different body types.
    Moreover, although there is a wider variety in male bodies, its almost as if males have to make up for their lack of an ideal physique through humor or some sort of other talent. For example, take Seth Rogen and Jack Black. Both comedic actors have enjoyed much success from acting. However, their bodies are not exactly the "ideal male body type." Because they are funny, however, the public seems to accept them.

  3. I would definitely agree with the pressure for guys to look like a movie star or to just bulk up. I don't know how many times my own family has suggested I go to the gym just to bulk up a little (even though I am of a perfectly healthy weight). However, I wonder if there is more pressure on women to lose weight than there is for guys to build muscle.
    Part of that is the social norm that places concern over personal appearance with femininity. For instance, what does the word "metrosexual" mean and what does it imply? Metrosexual referred to men who were concerned with personal physical appearance, but were still heterosexual. The fact that sex has anything to do with this concern already implies certain social biases. Why do we have to make it a point that we are straight, but like to look nice? Or why do we assume most fat men are straight? Because there is a social bias that real men do not care what they look like. But you can't sell products based on physical appearance to guys if none of the guys care. So we get this conflicting message from the media about bulking up and looking good that goes against the social norm of apathy for male beauty. So does these conflicting messages reduce the pressure for men to bulk up or does it actually complicate the pressure making the burden even greater?

  4. Similar to Barbara, I watched the movie recently and it was shocking to me in the scenes where women found it pleasurable to be tied to a fake tree and being serenaded were shown to be widely accepted in the audience. It's as if going to a male stripper show was a profession that wasn't looked down upon, compared to a female stripper show. I'm not sure about the part you say "Women are catered to much more now" since I see it as women are buying into the idea that they are in control, when they're really not. In the movie, the male strippers have the control in choosing who to cater and for a price. The movie is giving women an idea of how to act at stripper shows or generally how they are, when in reality, they're probably not as comedic or creative.

  5. The changes in James Bond's physique is a perfect example of how the concept of ideal masculinity has evolved in mass media and society. I think it's interesting that the current perception of masculinity - physically fit, but also stylish and sleek - has become a norm around the world, not just the United States. This is especially be seen in the Korean wave. I recently visited South Korea, and noticed that everywhere I turned there was an advertisement for plastic surgery. While most of these are targeted towards women (pointing to the fact that beauty is still more of a necessity for women), a good portion of ads were also focused on men and the need to be lean, have double-eyelids, a smaller nose, etc. This new ideal masculinity is not confined to domestic culture, it is a worldwide phenomenon.

  6. Speaking of South Korea, since Bordo talks about the changed male body (in Western media), it gets me thinking how the the perception of the male body has changed differently in South Korea and other parts of Asia. Men in South Korean media are portrayed as more effeminate, slender and softer masculinity (less abs, less sexual appeal and a more softer expression/physique). This image of softer men has become more popular with female fans. It's interesting how Western media and Asian media portrays of men are so different. But maybe the message that these two images convey are similar. I think it could be argued that both messages convey that men are still protectors of women and men that fit these two norms ultimately get the beautiful girl in their hands.

  7. Brian, I found this an entertaining and highly relevant set of examples, and everyone's comments have brought up a number of interesting questions (perceived sexuality's relation to body weight and grooming, differences between Western and Eastern conceptions of maleness, etc.). And having not seen Magic Mike I really appreciated Anna's observation that the movie doesn't so much cater to women as it shows men in control of women's desires--very astute reading!

  8. I've just downloaded iStripper, and now I can watch the hottest virtual strippers on my taskbar.