Rafael Nadal has got into some shallow water over at Armani. I think he has been kidnapped by the Italian fashion house and is being slowly, sensually tortured for our viewing pleasure. First there was the poster campaign:

and now a video advertisement that leaves the Spanish tennis ace swallowing fluid and spluttering for breath. As Mark Simpson (Yes him again), the ‘spawner of sporno’ has observed:

‘As if the tarty Armani poster of Rafael Nadal offering his arse to the world wasn’t slutty enough. Along comes the video.

The tennis ace is being shoved up against the (unplastered) wall and then thrown down and hammered on the builder’s bench. Twice.

By the camera. Which chops up his body into sexy, slippery bits and pieces. Tits and ass and abs. Total, rampant, ruthless objectification. Which Mr Nadal – like many young men today – appears to relish.

And that liquid he’s half-drowning in. Is it bodily fluids? Or is he being water boarded by our gaze?

Could this video in fact be any sluttier, without actual penetration? Then again, wouldn’t your actual, standard-issue penetration diminish the sluttiness by making it both ‘hard’ and banal?  Instead of the grainy non-specific sluttiness that drips off everything in our mediated, metrosexy world’.

Finally don’t we have enough evidence now that men are objectified in our visual culture as much as women are? That men’s bodies are cut up and packaged for our delectation, with very little thought for their status and feelings as human beings?

When women are given this treatment the feminists are up in arms:


And yet I expect this latest metrosexual display of  physical  ‘excess’ will go unremarked by feminists, who cling onto the idea that it is women’s objectification that is dominant in culture, and that is a key aspect of contemporary women’s  ‘oppression’. I would happily ignore them except that their perspectives are affecting how women see themselves, and men, and how even governments make policy around gender and sex. The recent government research and report on Sexualisation for example, included consultation with feminists including feminist academics. The result was it focussed on the way girls and young women are ‘sexualised’ not boys and young men. And when it talked about that hateful term ‘pornification’ it referred to pornography primarily as that which is viewed by boys/men and that objectifies girls/women, turning them into nothing but  pieces of meat.

I keep returning to the work of Mr Simpson because it is the only example I can find of a critique of the ‘pornification’ of culture that takes note of how boys and men figure in this picture, not merely as consumers/voyeurs and potential sexual ‘predators’, but also as objects. For the feminist discourse on this subject is used to emphasise how a ‘sexualised culture’ is a ‘rape culture’. It is a discourse which leads to sentences like this being uttered, (and left unchallenged) by influential feminists:

‘Rape culture is the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant.’

Which renders consent irrelevant .

It’s a chilling phrase, isn’t it? We are already raped it says. It is irrelevant whether or not we want to have sex or not. It is almost irrelevant whether or not we do have sex. Women, according to this discourse, are raped by (male) culture.


The Armani ad can be looked at as just another way of selling jeans. Or it can be used as a way of fighting back against the lies told by those who wish to keep women as victims of the ‘patriarchy’.

I sometimes wish Mr Sporno Daddy himself would go even further in taking on the feminist dogma. I sometimes wish he would discuss this issue of how objectification is not just a feminist issue, beyond showing us how bodies like Nadal’s are becoming the bodies – rather than women’s- we see draped all over billboards, oozing with sweat and water and…

But I know he has done his bit.

Maybe I am here to bridge the gap, between analysing metrosexuality and challenging  feminism, between looking and looking and looking at male bodies, and talking about why women’s are just not that special anymore. And why feminists want us to think they are.

But sometimes I too feel like I am drowning, in all this shiny pumped up preening (metro) male sexuality. And however much I may enjoy that feeling, I think it is a dangerous distraction.

It is a distraction from the pernicious, misandrist approaches to objectification that lead to ‘macho’ campaigns like this:


Someone called me Mark Simpson’s ‘sock puppet’ the other day. I was actually very flattered. But if I was his sock puppet, I think my writing and pictures would look a little sexier than they do, a little more metro, if you see what I mean? I think I would have finished this post a long way up the page and left you with the image of Nadal’s pert ass and his fine shoulders, and the thought of his chest, rubbing against that wall until his skin chafed and…

But I am nobody’s sock puppet. I have my own ‘agenda’ to pursue. I still want to know how men’s and women’s objectification fits together, and how feminist discourse on ‘pornification’ and ‘rape culture’ is allowed to co-exist with the blatant spornographic homoerotics of campaigns such as Armani’s. I want to know how we  can actually do something to stop the tide of misandry the waves of  ‘women as victims’ culture that keep crashing against our rocks.

Any ideas folks?

  1. Loz says:

    I find the use of the term ‘homoerotic’ when describing these images quite interesting.

    Does that mean that advertising campaigns are aimed solely at male sexuality (gay or straight)?

    If I remeber what I’ve read of Mark Simpson, he talks about the aethetic of gay porn seeping in to advertising.

    Where is female sexuality in all this?

    Is male and female sexuality that different?

    Is there even such a thing as male and female sexuality?

    • all good questions Loz!

      I don’t know the answers to be honest except I tend towards the view that there is no such thing as ‘male and female sexuality’.

      as for who homoerotic ads are targeted at I think women are expected to be looking at them as well as men. It is as if we all have a homoerotic gaze these days!

  2. gs says:

    The “. . . tide of misandry . . .” is pretty effective figurative writing.

    As a contemporary male, I don’t feel dehumanized or ‘objectified’. However, I think the tide has shifted.

    The misandry to which you refer seems, mostly, a role reversal, The growth of the independece and power of women, to create a more equal society, has only reversed the power roles to some extent from men to women.

    Figuratively, the tide of power, in this case sexual power, can’t be done away. It only shifts from one shore to another. Currently, that shore is men being battered by the changing tide.

    Also, it seems these metaphors exaggerate the problem. I don’t really see it as a ‘battering’ as much as I see it as a role reversal gone slightly haywire.

    • I dont think it is a role reversal gs as women (feminists) are trying to hold onto the ‘victim’ ‘submissive’ ‘passive’ role with men as the big bad wolves. that’s trying to stem the ‘tide’ of gender roles changing…

  3. redpesto says:

    ‘Rape culture is the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant.’

    And the dead hand of Catherine Mackinnon shows itself yet again…but how can one give consent to becoming an anti-porn feminist if such a culture is all-pervasive? How do they get to be ‘free’ in a culture of eternal female victims and male predators?

    PS: I wonder whether the term ‘rape culture’ has shifted from meaning ‘rape discourse(s)’ (i.e how rape is talked about, represented, etc.) to meaning ‘the founding basis of society’ (which neatly dovetails with much of radical feminism, especially in its avoidance of economics). As Califia once said (I paraphrase): ‘I don’t believe I’m stepping into a war zone every time I leave my front door. And I have a crewcut.’

    • i think you are right redpesto- ‘rape culture’ now means ‘the culture ,the conditions that create rape’. I used to study ‘gender cultures’ which simply meant cultures where gender relations are at work. Not cultures where gender relations are always one single oppressive thing.

  4. Three things:

    1/. I see something different from Mark Simpson in that Raphael Nadal video, in that he seems to see something being done to the person in it, whereas I see the person acting voluntarily and doing stuff to his surroundings. In other words, I see a subject acting, whereas Mr Simpson sees an object acted upon. Who now is trying to claim the “victim” status? Maybe Mr Simpson sees what he wants or expects to see, because it fits into his own perception of the world and/or his own sexual interests?

    2/. “Finally don’t we have enough evidence now that men are objectified in our visual culture as much as women are?” Even accepting the video as objectifying (which viewpoint my above comment at least would call us to reconsider), it does not follow that, “Finally don’t we have enough evidence now that men are objectified in our visual culture as much as women are?” My answer is no. And we can never have enough evidence for a comparative in that way, although we can make stronger and stronger inferences based on larger and larger studies. We can say with certainty that men do face objectification in society, and that it is a destructive force (and one that tends to uphold gendered differences, so that objectification of men also serves to harm women, just as sexism against women also serves to harm men).

    3/. “…the feminist discourse on this subject…” You say this as though there is only one feminist discourse, as if there is only one monolithic Feminism. Some feminists would want us to believe that, and want to exclude from the category “feminist” anyone who refuses to toe their party line (the party line that you blithely accept as “the feminist discourse” – but if you have to toe the line, then there isn’t a lot of actual discourse going on). However, they are not all of feminism, and many feminists argue that there are multiple “feminisms”, of which theirs is just one (and not a very helpful one, very often). Some of those feminisms deal with these issues in a way not too dissimilar from what you appear to be proposing here.

    • thanks for the numbered points snowdrop

      1) I will pass that observation onto Mr Simpson. Though it was me talking about ‘victim’ status not him.

      2) I don’t see ‘objectification’ as necessarily or entirely a bad thing. And I think the evidence is mounting up that men are objectified as much as women, though you are right I have not done an effective statistical study on this. But who has?

      3)please show me which feminists write about objectification in a similar way to me I would love to get to know them!

      • Miranda Fox says:

        Porn director Anna Span considers herself a feminist. 😉 And, after giving it some though, so do I. I refuse to let a good cause be damaged by wingnuts, even if it often seems like I’m (we?) fighting a losing battle.

        The problem is, with the dominance of blogs, it often does seem like there’s only one school of thought when it comes to feminism. The opinions of a few become the accepted wisdom, usually through peer pressure. I know for a long time I figured I couldn’t call myself a feminist because I’m pro-porn, pro- female sexuality, support sex workers, rather like men and so and so forth.

  5. redpesto says:

    @snowdrop explodes – I suppose we could go for a carefully nuanced phrase such as ‘the dominant feminist discourse’ (or to be accurate, the one that fancies itself as dominant), but it would pretty much amount to the same thing: there’s a lot of received wisdom going on masquerading as the ‘definitive’ position on whole areas of sexual politics.

  6. Hi Miranda
    yes but I disagree with anna span on a lot of issues including around ‘feminist’ porn.
    I think blogging/internet culture has given exposure to the dominant discourses in feminism. It is not a minority of ‘wingnuts’ I get short shrift from nearly every feminist I encounter online. And the numbers add up! Try arguing a pro-sex work stance with most feminists you won’t last long!

  7. Elise says:

    Popping in again… and this time I’ll check the notifications box, although as I’m late again the thread is probably finished.

    Camille Paglia (one of Mark’s influences) objected to mainstream feminist accounts of exclusive male objectification of women with the example of gay male porn ages ago. Mark has extended this, with his theory of metrosexuality, to include objectification of men in advertising. (Perhaps I should question the term “objectification” as well. If I recall, Paglia suggested that if it equates to passivity and exploitation, it wasn’t easy to believe that of the men depicted in gay porn, and that therefore we should also question whether sexualized images of women are also necessarily “passive” and “victimizing.”)

    Although I’m a big fan of early Paglia, I had a mental reservation about this argument, namely that *in both cases*, i.e. of looking at sexualized images of men or women, men were doing the objectifying – or presumed to be doing it. But I think a lot has changed since Paglia was writing in the early 90s – and Paglia itself, and “metrosexuality,” are some of those changes. I do think that women have learned to assume the “objectifying gaze” thanks to all the metrosexy advertising, and that perhaps advertisers and the media in general have started to assume that women are looking as well. The question is: what does it mean for the “rape culture” argument if women can also objectify?

    I always agreed with Paglia that the link between porn/media images of women and rape was way too simple, but sometimes I want to play the devil’s advocate to myself and entertain the mainstream feminist argument. It’s possible that the question of equal-opportunity objectification and the feminist argument about portrayals of women are less closely linked than they appear. It sounds plausible, at least, that the overwhelming pervasiveness of sexualized imagery of women, including the availability of porn (more than ever now on the internet) may “teach” young men to perceive women as dehumanized instruments of pleasure *if other cultural elements of misogyny are in place* (i.e. which do not apply when women objectify men or men objectify each other). Whether or not this leads to a “culture” in which men are *more likely* to rape, who the hell knows. If it were a reasonable concern, however, the solution would be not to suppress porn but to find other ways to culturally educate young men to be honourable citizens who do not abuse or rape women – instead of leaving their “education” to the media and the internet. In fact, if anything is likely to contribute to “rape culture” it’s the absence of such an education with the erosion of patriarchal culture, which had very specific rules in place about how to treat women, including chaperone protection. With greater freedom for women, including greater sexual freedom, comes certain risks (that point is not original either – I’m adapting from Paglia, I’m her sock puppet after all).

    • Hi Camille, I mean Elise.
      Gosh there’s a lot of stuff in that comment.
      I don’t know about gender and the gaze- I think marketeers have been targeting women consumers, and e.g. cinema goers for a long time now, long before Mark even thought about metrosexuality. Hell, even from before he was born!

      But I know what you mean that in advertising especially men are seen to be able to be objectified by everyone, nowadays. And that does have implications for ‘gender culture’.

      As for feminist concepts of ‘rape culture’ though, I reject them all. I don’t even see why we need to teach boys to be decent human beings any more than we need to teach girls that. The very idea that we might suggests to me an element of ‘misandry’ in our culture rather than (or as well as) misogyny.

  8. Elise says:

    Oh yeah for sure – there’s always been marketing to women, from the “women’s picture” of Old Hollywood to today’s “chick flick.” But objectifying of men’s bodies, in particular, seems to be something new and different. Or maybe it’s a question of degree. You may be right, too, that I’m subscribing to a “misandrist” viewpoint by suggesting that men need specialized education. In my defense, I would say that: for purely physical and physiological reasons, it’s a lot easier for men to rape and physically abuse women than the other way around. *Although* I’m interested in arguments about the under-reporting of physical abuse of men by women. I’ve certainly heard anecdotal reports about it; in some cases, the female abuser may take advantage of her partner’s “education” to *not* abuse women. Which I think still occurs – that men learn from the culture to not abuse women, which suggests that they could learn the opposite (perhaps from different avenues of culture – culture’s a bit of a broad term I’ll admit!). I know when I talk to working-class men, many still speak in terms of men “knowing better” than to abuse women (or needing to receive a lesson in that respect). That’s the sort of old skool education in being civil, a different question for men and for women, that I’m vaguely thinking of. But I’ll stop my flow of verbiage now!

    • My theory Elise is that the term ‘rape’ has come from heterosexual sex so of course it is easier for men to ‘rape’ women than vice versa. Contained in that term is the aggressive sexual ‘taking’ of a woman by a man. I think in order to change our culture and to reduce sexual non-consensual violence, we need to change our language.

      But I, as you may have seen am more of a Foucauldian than anything probably.

      I enjoy your verbiage!!

  9. Elise says:

    Foucault… that’s another of Mark’s influences (or was it Lacan? He likes one and not the other, I think…), and one I don’t share. But I agree that language affects cultural practices, and the term “rape” (which also implies that women are “booty”!) could really be tossed out by this point – “sexual assault,” which includes children and men as well and a range of violations, would probably be more useful.

    Etymology is fun! I had no idea that “rape” and “rapid” were related. The second link (watch out: the page has lots of ads, might carry viruses!) contests the derivation from Latin “rapere,” though. The modern term must carry connotations both of hastiness (like it’s an act of impulsive greed/lack of self-control) and seizing/abduction (as of plunder). The etymology of the term in the second link and alternate terms for what we now call “rape” also emphasizes the woman’s “ruin,” “fall,” or “disgrace,” suggesting that the introduction of “rapist” switched emphasis from the disgrace of being raped to the disgrace of committing it. (Um, that’s my conclusion from a few seconds of internet research.)


    • Foucault is more Mark’s cup of tea than Lacan I think, though I think he has referred to Lacan too-especially in St Moz, the self-analysis book!

      I end up seeming like a big fat copying person but I was into Foucault ages ago too. I am writing (HA HA) a novel about Foucault as it happens!

      I love etymology I will look up those links or find one with less spam that goes into ‘rape’ origins thanks!

  10. Elise says:

    OMG a novel about Foucault? I would actually read that.

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