March 21, 2008

Refreshingly different

I don't know Simon Castles, have never heard of him, don't know what he looks like, but apparently he's a "Melbourne writer". (So am I for that matter: I live in Melbourne, I write stuff.)

Despite my lack of knowledge, Simon has zoomed up my list of "roolly hot guys" that I don't know, and never will, like Beckham and Pitt and Depp.

Simon earned his place by:

- firstly, not insulting women;
- secondly, not suggesting that women are a bunch of prissy, humorless, lesbian bitches who should just get over it; and
- thirdly, providing an intelligent, vividly presented and original dimension to the real ways in which both men and women are demeaned, exploited and manipulated in Western societies (by lots of things, I would add, not just images).

Edited bits from his little column:

"Eye candy is always bittersweet, even for men in a lad culture.

But if we know roughly how women feel about such a billboard, what about men? The question is rarely asked, for a couple of obvious reasons. Firstly, no one much cares what males think when it's their desires being appealed to and indulged, and not their gender being exploited. And secondly, it is presumed that heterosexual males have only one reaction to such an image, and it is a base one.

Indeed, the same images of female perfection that set up average women for disappointment and failure do much the same for average men. Just as the average woman can never be that person in the airbrushed picture, however much she primps, preens and starves herself, so the average man can never win that woman in the airbrushed picture, however much he strives for power, money and six-pack abs. Neither gender can capture an illusion, and strip clubs succeed in part because they sell men the idea that you can.

I'm not saying men suffer as much from these images as women. But nor are we on Mars and Venus here. Men and women are actually both on lonely earth, staring up at billboard beauties, dealing with somewhat comparable feelings of longing, frustration, resentment and failure.

Men, of course, are also turned on by these images.

And it is this crucial fact that will have women saying that blokes have absolutely no reason to complain. And next to women, maybe we don't.

Sure, it can be a thrill as a bloke to see a sexy woman on a billboard, magazine cover, or shop display.

But for boys and men, arousal of this kind is forced on them dozens of times a day, every single day, since before they can even remember. As writer Timothy Beneke has noted, males have their composure continually challenged by a culture of "intrusive images"; they are bombarded daily by pictures "designed to distract, arouse, and awaken sexual feeling". Who really wants that when you're, say, meeting a client, picking your kids up, or sitting in the car with your mum?

A daily bombardment of sexy images shapes male sexuality. Average men have their sexuality at least partly honed by an illusion.

A friend of mine once made a complaint about an advertisement that upset many women. It featured a perfect pair of legs above the slogan "Yes, God is a man". His message to the ad agency was simply this: "I'm no puritan, and I love looking at sexy women. And yes, well done, your ad succeeded in getting me aroused. But what in hell made you presume I wanted to get an erection while sitting stuck in traffic?"

The flipside of fantasy: a male perspective ...

No comments:

Post a Comment