In our society, we have a big problem with objectification; that is, seeing people (who have dynamic personalities, feelings, and characters) as objects that serve a purpose. The dominant conversation on this topic is the issue of women being objectified, primarily by men, in the media, pornography, stereotypes, and even in personal, everyday situations. In these cases, women are seen as symbols of sex, there to fulfill a man’s needs and look good for him. A woman may be catcalled on the street by males who see her as eye candy walking along for them. She may be referred to in country songs as a pretty little thing who shakes her “money maker,” or in rap songs as a bitch who will “drop that ass.” Explicit photos of women (meant for one person, but leaked) are often circulated through social media websites and cell phones without any regard to her feelings. Men go to see some movies because a famously “hot” or “sexy” actress is in it, not really caring about her acting skills, but just about her appearance. In many cases, pornography focuses on women being there to get the man to cum, not on mutual pleasure or experience. The continued objectification of women perpetuates the idea of women as being only as good as how pretty they are, with little to no regard to women’s skills, personalities, or accomplishments.
However, I have noticed an increasing trend that perhaps women (and guys who are attracted to guys) are starting to objectify men in a similar way. Many females have been openly obsessing about “baseball butts,” and something analogous to a fandom of baseball players’ butts is on the rise. Pinterest is full of pictures and memes of baseball butts; humorous shirts are even being made in wake of this trend.
The skill these guys have at playing a sport is being obscured by the attractiveness of their behinds. Many game-goers in attendance nowadays are appreciating the players’ butts more than their ability to score home-runs. I wonder how the players feel about having their worth reduced to their butts, about being seen as eye-candy more-so than legitimate athletes working hard on the field.
At the soccer world cup, major discussion the attractiveness of the players circulated. Straight women and gay men alike fawned over the fit males on the field. In her article “‘Most Bootyful Butts!’ ‘Best Bulges!’ Why it’s Great to Objectify World Cup Players,” Amanda Hess comments, “Since the World Cup kicked off earlier this month, the site [BuzzFeed] has celebrated the competition’s ‘most bootyful butts,’ ranked its ‘best bulges’ on ‘a scale of zero to five David Beckhams,’ and invited readers to ‘match the six-pack to the soccer player.'” If we would flip these sort of rankings around and think of them ranking female athletes on best butts or boobs, many people would be outraged about the objectification of the women, that they are taken more seriously for their physical appearance than for their ability in the sport. For some reason though, it seems okay to treat male athletes in this manner, ranking them on “hotness.”
In another example, many women (and men) obsess over actors like Channing Tatum, Zach Efron, Taylor Lautner, etc., because they are considered highly attractive and have nice bodies. Some movie-goers are even going to see certain films just to see these guys’ abs. Magic Mike is a prime example–I’ve heard many female friends and commentators say that they did not even think the plot/storyline was all that great, but the movie was worth seeing because of Channing Tatum’s stripper scenes. Many have said that the best part of the movie New Moon was seeing Taylor Lautner’s abs. When it first came out, shrieks of fanatic appreciation rose up in theaters across the country when Jacob Black first ripped off his shirt.
In addition, we have the classic firemen calendars, showcasing muscly hunks each month, as well as a newly popular kind of calendar, “Hot Guys and Baby Animals.” These are both aimed towards female audiences, similarly to how calendars of girls in bikinis on motorcycles are aimed towards male audiences. The photos of these guys are meant to be an attractive wall decoration. Perhaps it would be useful to consider the naked vs. nude dilemma here. Are these men posing partially unclothed as part of art work, or are they shirtless to showcase their attractive physiques and elicit desire?
These are just a few cases where men can be objectified. In the same way some women can enjoy the attention and take male appreciation of their bodies as flattering, some men may like this trend of women openly appreciating their bodies too. However, not all men may feel the same way. As an athlete, it might be an ego boost to see a crowd of admirers at your games, but would it be a good thing if the stands were only full because it’s popular for women to obsess over your arms or butt? What about as an actor, if you only landed roles because producers know that women will watch movies to see your abs? In these cases, the respective skills and talents of the men are being ignored while their attractive bodies are receiving all the attention. They are seen as merely eye candy.
Now this trend has not progressed to the extent that the objectification of women has, but what if it does? It could possibly be seen as positive—a way of contributing to the equality of the sexes: women are objectified all the time, so men being objectified only makes it fair and evens out the playing field. But it may not do that in entirety, men are still the gender with more power in American society. They are generally taken seriously in their fields even if they are attractive, and still enjoy equal opportunities and respect even if they are unattractive, whereas this may not be the case for women. But even if the objectification and emphasis on appearance of women and men were to reach equal levels, is it moral and humane to reduce anyone to the sum of their physical attributes instead of appreciating them for all their three dimensional qualities? Would the degradation of men make the degradation of women any better?
Our culture is just so obsessed with appearance, attractiveness, and desirability, that these things have come to matter more than personality, kindness, and character. It seems that years ago, people were more worried about their qualities and how to become a better person, whereas now, with the rise of the digital and social media ages, people worry about how they appear to others, and so people make resolutions to lose weight, put more effort into their appearances, and dress better. We as a culture have to stop the obsession over looks. We have to learn to look deeper into people and not stop at surface judgments. Though we may like it and find it pleasurable to be complimented and appreciated for our looks, those are fleeting. What really matters is what’s inside a person, their whole character, not only their “bootyful butts.”
In her article “Adolescent Girls’ Sexuality,” Deborah L. Tolman talks about how teenage girls are supposed to “‘perform’ sexual assertiveness,” and that sexual socialization “includes learning to find the ‘right’ people desirable.” In current American culture, it is normal for women to find extremely muscular, fit, and confident men attractive. It’s popular for them to obsess over baseball butts and soccer players’ abs, as well as to enjoy Channing Tatum’s dance moves and hang pictures of hot guys on their walls. Could all of these trends be a part of the sexual socialization of women–their following acceptable scripts in order to fit in? Or could this just be women embracing their sexuality, being proud and vocal of who they find attractive, and reveling in their sexual attraction? Tolman also brings up the latest tendency of women and girls to be seen as sexually aggressive, using examples of girls going crazy on spring breaks, engaging in threesomes, and performing sexual acts for cameras; Tolman also thinks that these behaviors may not be just for the females themselves, but that they may be “performing male sexual fantasies.” Does the sexually aggressive objectification of male bodies by women actually stem from their own desires, or could it be a twisted way of seeming more sexual, and therefore more desirable, to males? Is the objectification of any person okay? Is there any way we can change the emphasis our culture has on physical appearance?