I’m not out to do much analysis in this post, but rather to signal-boost two very different takes on women wanting to look at men’s bodies.
The first to cross my radar is from fair-trade, feminist porn producer/performer Pandora Blake, whom you’ll see linked under “Recommendations” to the right. Probably worth putting a “NSFW” warning in here, but you saw “porn producer/performer”, right? She writes of her disappointment that brother-site to “Steamgirl”, “Steamboy” turns out not to be a real thing but an April Fool’s joke by the owner/model of Steamgirl. Says Blake:
So when I learned that the announced launch of Steamboy.com, rather than being good news for fans of the female gaze, was instead an April Fool, it made me realise how wrong I’ve been.
I mean, can you imagine? A porn site devoted entirely to pictures of men? The very idea! How silly of me to think for an instant that they might have been serious. Men in porn are of course inherently hilarious, and only a fool would believe that anyone would actually want to look at them erotically. Who would take that idea seriously? The whole concept is just beautifully absurd. What a funny, funny joke!
(Go read the whole lot: it’s one of those “sarcasm as a fine art form” things, really.)
Perhaps telling, and valuable to note in light of the next piece, is the comment from Michael Darling, Blake’s model for some of the photographs in the post. He writes, “And of course let’s not forget that some men, some *deviant* men, might actually want to *be* looked at.” It isn’t an answer to the next piece. It’s about context, and I guess I want readers to think about context in seeing why Blake’s post (and Darling’s comment), and the next post linked, can both be true and right at the same time.
At Role/Reboot, Lynn Beisner writes about “Why I Have To Stop Ogling Jon Hamm’s Penis”. The short version is, that Jon Hamm has made public announcements to the effect that he doesn’t like it when people ogle his penis, and would they please stop it already?
In more detail, Beisner recounts a time that she Got It Wrong on holiday:
I am ashamed to admit that as he ran under our balcony, I went to the edge and applauded. I whistled, stamped my feet, and woo-hooed. He looked up, startled at first by my presence. Then he gave me that painfully familiar resigned look—the one that women often get when walking past a construction site.
I felt like shit. I stopped applauding and yelled that I was sorry. If he heard me, he didn’t acknowledge it.
If you follow feminism at all, you’re familiar with why it’s not okay when these things happen to women. Beisner questions whether it is a case of “turn about is fair play”, but can’t make that argument work as a justification for the behaviour. She writes:
There are men who deliberately place themselves and their sexuality in the public eye. Ogling them and even commenting on them seems fair to me. But I need to be very careful about joining the culture of objectification through a door marked, “Women: No prudes allowed.”
Darling, of course, by performing for a spanking porn website as a bottom, clearly has “deliberately placed himself and his sexuality in the public eye”. He’s also made a public statement to the fact that, in that context, he’s happy – indeed, eager – to be ogled by the women and men who are customers of Blake’s site. All the same, I would hazard that had he been that jogger on the beach, he still might have given that “painfully familiar” look that Beisner describes.
Alright, so I do have a little bit of analysis to present. It’s just this simple truism: context is everything, and what is pleasurable to a person in one set of circumstances may be objectionable to them in another. The same person can be both a porn performer and an innocent jogger on the beach who doesn’t want to be catcalled from a 3rd storey window, and it is on all of us to accept and respect those changing boundaries that others have.