the female gaze and the naked male body

Posted by msnaughty

In modern Western society, women's bodies are commodified and objectified. The media makes regular use of sexualised female bodies to sell products or to draw attention to things. In films, women regularly appear nude or semi-nude without any fanfare. The vast majority of pornography focuses on the bodies of women.

Compare this to how we treat the bodies of men. If a man is presented in a physical way, wearing less clothing, it may be done to emphasise his manliness or attractiveness to women. It's rarely done purely for the visual pleasure of any women in the audience.

Images of naked men are extremely rare in our society. In films, we may be permitted to glimpse the buttocks of a man, but full-frontal nudity is considered unseemly. There are only a handful of mainstream films where the leading actors have appearing naked (e.g. The Piano, Eastern Promises, American Gigolo, Velvet Goldmine). Contrast this with the thousands of examples of uncensored female nudity.

The penis remains a hidden organ and it seems that the creators of visual imagery will often go to great lengths to prevent us from seeing it. This may be due to male preoccupations with size; it's often assumed the (male) audience will feel uncomfortable seeing male genitals and may compare the penis on screen with themselves.

There's also an element of homophobia in this. The male gaze assumes that the audience is made up of straight men. The sight of a penis then creates the fear of "catching the gay" - the idea that a man may become homosexual if he looks at another man's genitals.

The female body is often lauded as the epitome of beauty while many declare the male body to be lumpy or unattractive. The penis and testicles are considered to be ugly and disgusting. Even women will say this, perhaps because they have been culturally brought up to think so. While ever the male genitals remain "off limits", people will continue to think of them as either frightening or unattractive.

The female gaze sets aside all this baggage and unashamedly enjoys the naked male body. Photos of naked men, presented solely for the benefit of women, validates the right of women to look and to enjoy being visually stimulated - in spite of the myth that says women aren't aroused by visual depictions of men or of sex.

The naked male body is beautiful. Straight women are turned on by straight men so it makes sense that women should want to look at nude men in the same way that men enjoy viewing nude women.

Since 2000, a growing number of writers, webmasters and filmmakers have asserted their right too look. The female gaze has become a legitimate movement within several forms of media. Some are seeking to define exactly what kind of visual depiction can fit into the definition of the female gaze. Others simply believe that it's the intent of the author/filmmaker/photographer that makes the difference. If the visual depiction of a naked man is intended for a female audience, then it embodies the female gaze.