Gazing at Men, Gazing.

Posted: June 28, 2011 in cock, Desire, Feminism, Mark Simpson, Masculinities, metrosexuality, Metrosexy, Porn
Tags: , , ,

QRG has been getting into a spot of bother-again-about the ‘female gaze’ again! This time by arguing with Kitty Stryker, who has recently set up the Andro Aperture Project.

This is what she says about the project (emphasis mine):

‘Andro-Aperture is a mini-crusade for the appreciation of male beauty in all its forms- sexy men,sexy male, and sexy trans-masculine bodies of all kinds. There aren’t enough images shot for female appreciation, so I want to explore and discuss what defines (and defies) a female gaze.

I want to celebrate the diversity of the erotic male body- encouraging more sexy photos of male-identified people of different ethnicities, body sizes, ages, hairiness, and abilities.

I want to challenge the knee jerk reaction that “female bodies are just more attractive”.

And really, I just want hot porn to jerk off to.’

I have said before I don’t think there is such a thing as a female or male gaze. I have said it in relation to my problems with distinguishing between ‘female’ and ‘male’ in the first place  here:

and here:

and I have agreed with Mark Simpson when he has said it (in not so many words. He takes it as a given, that the main ‘gaze’ in contemporary visual culture, is ‘metrosexual’ or maybe seen another way, ‘Transexy’) here:


and here:


But to take Kitty’s own words on the subject:

There aren’t enough images shot for female appreciation, so I want to explore and discuss what defines (and defies) a female gaze.

I do not agree with this statement. I think it involves a number of reductionist positions. The first is that ‘men’ and ‘women’ are two distinct groups in a gender binary. The second is that those two distinct groups like to look at different things for pleasure. The third is not articulated but it is that the ‘female gaze’ in this context is ‘heterosexual’ – men being looked at by women for the women’s heterosexual pleasure.

Kitty says she wants to discuss and explore what ‘defines’ the female gaze but when I have tried to do this, she and her readers have suggested I am disrupting their project. But she has not discussed, explored or defined it. She has just said it exists and needs catering for by commercial pornography. I do not even know what defines a ‘female’ so how can I know what defines a ‘female gaze’?

She also says

I want to challenge the knee jerk reaction that “female bodies are just more attractive”.

I do not know who has this reaction. Wherever I look I am surrounded by images of male bodies. In The Times newspaper, on Wimbledon TV coverage, on buses, in magazines, on adverts, in the park. The world I see before my very eyes is saying to me that ‘male bodies are as attractive if not more than female bodies’. And that men demand to be looked at, by anyone, and that we notice them looking at us, looking at them, looking at themselves!

So I think Kitty’s project is based on a number of false premises.

I will write more soon I  just wanted to kick off my side of the debate in my own ‘space’ as I am not getting very far in her side of town. This person has summed up my objections very well indeed:

  1. Tim says:

    Dammit, I always forget not to browse your block while being at work.

  2. I understand what you’re getting at about the reductive potential of this position, but I do see where she’s coming from. There may not be a definable difference between the male and female gaze, and you may see images of men all around, but I do feel like there’s more emphasis placed on looking at the female body, and this does seem limiting to me.

    • the problem for me caroline is that I think that ’emphasis’ is in discourse it is not actually how people look at bodies it is how people TALK about looking at bodies. Which is one reason I love Mark S’s work, because he is talking about what is actually there, not what feminists, for example, are telling us is there.

    • billsnshits says:

      I’m not saying you’re mistaken. I have that same “intuition”. But aside from pop divas and music videos, I’d have to consciously disagree.
      But why do you think you have that intuition that there’s “more emphasis” on looking at female bodies. Is it coming from men or women or both?

      Do you spend a lot of time on “men’s” websites, with their fixation on naked or bikini clad celeb photos? It’s a lot more equal on more general appeal celeb sites. Unless something is specifically marketed as “here are naked ladies”, the “here are naked ladies” motif is not the dominant cultural motif, as far as I can tell. Perhaps a more liberal woman, who checks out “here are naked ladies” sites/ads/etc more liberally (not avoiding them) may come to believe that it is dominant.

      I suspect that women who like to look at women (having nothing to do with “lesbianism”) may be more likely to feel that women are being looked at, more. But why do you think you feel it?

      Is there such a profound split as well? Erisiana speaks of women who ogle men versus men who ogle women, suggesting that there’s a kind of norm about hetero looking that parallels the norm of hetero mating. But have I missed it? Are women averse or bored by looking at other women in the same way that they mate almost exclusively with males, parallel to the way men deny looking at men out of a homophobic sense that looking implies potential intercourse?
      I think straight women look at other women A TONNE but was I just exaggerating isolated incidents?

      • billsnshits says:

        that’s a question to caroline, btw.

      • billsnshits says:

        around here there’s so much talk of reaffirming the gaze-on-men-by-men-out-of-gender that I start to forget women exist! They just pop up as links to spectral feminists trying to undermine any post-feminist assumptions of equality.

      • I think a lot of things contribute to that feeling. For one thing, in addition to men and lesbians, so many straight women seem to have such an intense interest in the appearance of other women. Maybe straight men feel the same way about other men and hide it, but I just haven’t observed it as frequently.

        It just seems that, for reasons that go beyond an effort to size up whether they are desirable or not, there’s a lot of focus on women’s bodies. The obsession with the weight of female celebrities is just one example of this.

        I also think the fact that I’m a woman and not a man makes me notice the focus on women more.

        • billsnshits says:

          So I’m not mistaken!

          Yeah, the weight and its continued fascination remains mystifying, I thought we were all past the whole “weight watchers” obsession.
          Men seem to focus on weight where they might feel too far out of health for muscle, while men in better health focus on muscle. So I mean, everybody remains a weight-watchers fiend.
          I wonder if it isn’t a substitute of control with one’s body-as-art-as-goodness when people can’t control bigger aspects of their life.
          Because I don’t give a damn how much Gwyneth weighs or works out and I feel like a martian looking in when I hear about it. It makes more sense when it’s about sports celebrities than non-sport celebrities. But then I think about my own weight. And so it seems an equal divide.
          Or maybe people want to talk about the appearance of female celebrities and women find it more socially acceptable to do so than men, so they do, but they just don’t know what else to talk about besides body mass. They’d talk about make up or about psychology more but they don’t have the vocabulary for it.
          I still can’t imagine the dudes gabbing about an athlete’s or movie star’s hair or abs without being ostracized. All they can ever say is “great passer, great touchdown layer, he-was-good-in-that-movie”. I’ve yet to hear a man who isn’t a coach actually use the phrase “he has good/bad form”. Idk if it’s the intellect-y talk or the body-image talk that would categorize a man as prissy.
          Although guys DO talk about how an athlete must’ve “felt” when he missed that point or while he had to play after being accused of X. It’s like guys get very soft and sensual when talking about hero athletes failing. And they do talk about each other’s bodies quite a lot by both shape and health, in a tongue-in-cheek buddy way. You must’ve heard them joking at each other’s bodies or jumps. They remind me of women talking about buying shoes, when they do that.

          • billsnshits says:

            And guys are also distinctly positive about female celebrities. It’s most commonly a question of desirability when guys gab about [female celeb here]. But the one thing you can’t do is disagree b/c then you’re questioning the other guy’s sexual normativity. So guys tend to never venture into muddying the waters with argument and all female-appearance talk ends up being flat, yet hyper positive. Which is more generous than they are with their own self image.

            If this distinction is what makes it seem like men are focused on desire/sexual conquest while women are focused on pleasing by looking excellent, so an active/passive dichotomy, it’s only b/c guys can’t yak a single self doubt without disturbing the confidence of the whole group.
            I’ll bet if guys talked more openly about their self image and how they compare to famous men, the focus on women by women would seem much less intense.

            But it’s there. There is nothing easier than taking a man down a hundred pegs by telling him he isn’t quite like he should be, like THAT guy or THAT guy. Idk why men don’t do it to each other more. It’s the only kind of pushing that can’t be legally construed as assault.

            I’m just babbling to myself here and I already feel an aching for some men’s peer pressure to shoot out “shut up, wuss!”

        • elissa says:

          “I also think the fact that I’m a woman and not a man makes me notice the focus on women more.”

          Ha! I think she just called you a man Quiet Girl, and on your own turf -:)

          I too can and do feel the same way to be sure – till I see the firemen, police officers, IBM suits, Tour de France cycling dudes, Justin Biebers (back then), Hell angels(Detroit chapter), Financiers, hipsters even, classic crooners, Kurt Cobain, Iggy Pop still, – male sexuality is everywhere, rampant.

          If you too can recognize all of these and more, then you three have been gaaaazing.

          • Lee says:

            I want more!!!! I want them semi nude, in erotic poses and I want them posing for me. Call me selfish, but firemen and police offivcers I see have way too many clothes on.

  3. QRG, you said

    “I want to challenge the knee jerk reaction that “female bodies are just more attractive”.

    I do not know who has this reaction. Wherever I look I am surrounded by images of male bodies. In The Times newspaper, on Wimbledon TV coverage, on buses, in magazines, on adverts, in the park. The world I see before my very eyes is saying to me that ‘male bodies are as attractive if not more than female bodies’.


    I’m forty one years old now, and I’ve spent my entire life living amongst & observing women who feel perfectly free…hell, encouraged!…to ogle men. (Remember Erik Estrada? ‘Diet Coke Break’? Chippendales? Or how about the more recent Biebermania?) Then THESE SAME WOMEN will turn around and bitch to high heaven if “their man” ogles another woman, or cry ‘sexism!’ over some lingerie ad billboard.

  4. redpesto says:


    There aren’t enough images shot for female appreciation, so I want to explore and discuss what defines (and defies) a female gaze.

    The first and second parts of that statement don’t match up. Why not simply say: ‘Anyone got some hot male photos I/we can lust over? Preferably taken by women?’ (btw, kinky types will probably already have checked out Maymay’s Male Submission Art project/blog). Or better yet, make/share them?

    The second part of the sentence is a big – if old – theoretical debate, or a displacement activity as regards making more images. It could even be a self-reflexive approach to making more images – or maybe theory should turn people on?

    Gah… it really is turning into a re-run of the 1980s Sex Wars.

    • I think you are right redpesto. It is strange though as some of the people on one side are more like the people you’d imagine to be on the other, in terms of their actual lives (e.g. sex workers/kinksters)

  5. Theory does turn me on. And it turns on a lot of my friends.

    QRG, I’ve seen that you’e had this argument with other people doing similar projects for at least a year now. As those projects have also moved on and become more successful, my guess is that there’s a market for it. So regardless of whether or not the theory fits that, people *are* buying it more and more, which would suggest there is a niche there that people don’t feel is being met elsewhere. How do you account for that?

    The world I live in, especially now, in Oakland, California, is definitely dominated by half-naked women. It’s on our TV screens (Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, Kardashians, America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, Sopranos reruns, Mad Men- I think True Blood is really the one equal opportunity objectifier). It’s in our magazines and newspapers- looking in the back pages there’s maybe 1 ad with a male for every 20 with females. It’s on book covers at the publisher I work for. It’s in the popup ads my computer blocks. I’d be happy to do a photojournal for a week to show what I mean, if you need that. There’s the occasional sexualized Black male body, say, for an album release, where they look tough and angry- female album covers show them being available and seductive. Sure, there’s Bieber, and for every Bieber there’s a Miley, Jasmine, Taylor, Brittney, Christina, Jessica, etc.

    I watch a lot of porn. A lot. I do a lot of reviews. I do notice that almost all of the time, the camera is on the woman’s body, leaving a disembodied dick plowing into her. Male attractiveness in “heterosexual” porn isn’t seen as that important (starting to among some producers, mostly female ones, like Anna Span) but female attractiveness is compulsory. If, as a woman, you are not stereotypically attractive (slender, white, blonde, mildly or not tattooed, femme), you are far more likely to be humiliated, insulted, and treated roughly. Why is that, do you think?

    Another interesting area is fancy dress, where women get multiple versions of “slutty fill in the blank”, and men get costumes that are scary or silly. If they wear something sexualized, fancy dress or underwear-wise, it will either be from a gay male shop or it’ll be a humorous novelty item. Men being sexy or seen naked (particularly if they’re heterosexual-identified) is often seen in media as hilarious. It’s a punch line.

    I’m more interested in gathering data and asking questions than I am in declaring “this is what a female gaze is”. I’m more into “this is what a female gaze can be”. I’m interested to read more about the male gaze, too, to compare- if you are male-identified, is your gaze male no matter what?

    I’m guessing you equally argue that the male gaze doesn’t exist, right? Maybe I’m wrong but I haven’t seen you mention the male gaze at all really, except in passing. Almost all this debate and discussion seems to center around the female gaze. I’m all for a queer gaze, but no, I disagree that *all* people have it. Perhaps there’s ways in which a homoerotic gaze is more common, but it’s certainly still stigmatized.

    I do believe that people who identify as male tend to (not all, but many if not most) look at different things for pleasure (and with different intentions) than people who identify as female. I went to the presentation of first findings and it did support my understanding that, at least culturally, there tends to be a different response and intention around the consumption of pornography between those two genders. I don’t believe in a gender binary, I believe in a spectrum (maybe even more complicated than that, but spectrum works for now) or a bell curve. I’ve said that a lot, but you do tend to ignore it.

    • Hi Kitty
      why don’t you make a post on your aperture blog about this? so then we can compare notes rather than your points getting lost in my comments? You said you wanted to ‘define the female gaze’ I think you should do that on your blog.

      also my offer still stands to make it easier for you to read Metrosexy. Mark has been making his arguments for over 20 YEARS now. And despite his lack of financial gold-dust, has CONTINUED to do so. Because he believes in what he says.

    • Yes I do not think there is a ‘male’ or ‘female’ gaze.

    • billsnshits says:

      I’ll chime in here (but looking forward to read the rest of the debate elsewhere between the girl and the kitty – funny how you both have antiphrastic names, combining gentle and harsh) because I want to pre-empt caroline, if she feels like answering, from feeling the question is answered.

      There’s a mix of what you call male and female gaze in terms of consumption of beauty/exposure in the media. I don’t deny that.

      But Jersey SHore is most obviously primarily about men and where it’s about chicks, it’s more about men showing off to hot chicks than about the chicks’ hotness.
      Sopranos? Puh-lease. THat has nothing but gino-crook appeal, hardly any significant female-male sexual consumption. It’s a drama largely between groups of the ugliest men and women they could find to tar italian stereotypes for dumb american ethnic humor.
      While newspapers have a bikini girl or an ad, the main attraction as far as “skin” is concerned, is the sports page, which always tends to focus more on bovine men than women.
      Fashion mags are for the girls, with rare exception. It’s girls looking at girls. If you don’t notice the equal volume of “male on male” gaze pseudo porn, from sports mags, to tech mags, to fishing mags, to men’s own fashion mags, please look harder and stop taking the imagery of men for “background noise”, which is the only explanation I can think for not noticing the equal division on the shelves. Then there are the “serious” mags, which are a bit of a toss up but tend towadrs neutrality, not “naked ladies here” exposure.

      Your take on porn is most predictable, which is why I want caroline to answer. I suspect it’s
      what you look for that determines what you think is there. There are beautiful women being mistreated in porn, but not enough to my taste, so I complain perhaps excessively that there aren’t.
      There are meaninglessly ugly males in porn, but if you’re seeking out straight sex that features beautiful male porn stars “servicing” not plowing the woman, you are, like your opposite, going to complain that there’s next to nothing of them. You may not even mind when movie after movie shows 5% female flesh and 95% male flesh, minus his head, because that may be what you were looking for and it’s “never enough”. Nothing is ever enough for anyone.
      There are more than a few male porn stars I can think of who are super beautiful boy muscle hunks that would have “intellectual women” hypocritically slobbering all over them. They fuck gentle and they always show respect. It’s very irritating to me! But there are women who want ever more and so they ignore them as statistically irrelevant. Most “good things” are statistically irrelevant to us in porn because it’s a sea of variety to navigate and quality versions of what we want are rare, like quality in all things.
      I can’t remember the names of those porn actors but I’ll play a little game, which may prove nothing. Search a man’s name and see how many “pretty faces” come up, in a porn database. (this also affirms nothing but that a dissatisfied man-flesh seeker isn’t searching thoroughly enough, or at all properly).


      Okay you know what? I just did that on iafd. Yes, the “men” come last, after the titles and after the ladies. But it would be easier to put links to the ugly thumbnail faces that come up than it would to count all the pretty male faces. In fact, porn now seems to have a higher standard for male beauty, with it’s exploitative low pay, than hollywood’s finest overpaid botox boys.
      I thought I was going to have just a few examples amid a bunch of no-face rotten guys.

      Seriously, those guys are so good looking and so much lower paid per scene than girls, who frankly ARE statistically less beautiful in porn, that I feel a sudden urge to go see a plastic surgeon for an evaluation.

      I;m sorry, I was going to be nice but if pornresearch is your source for analysis rather than raw data, then you have to do your own research. The sheer hatred of male beauty and the denial of it and the pumping up of the ideal of female-only-sexuality is a uniquely north american phenom. Nobody else anywhere is so obsessed with denying that people look at men. It’s a freakish combination of english male insecurity and english female prudery that ends up celebrating and accusing women of being sluts while insisting that serious men are asexual and should be kept in sober outfits. In california, where the age of consent is 18, and harshly unexceptionally so, you may have some historical sexophobia that is so intense, even amid the center of commercial explicit porn (which is only LA btw), that you’ve absorbed it without realizing.
      I personally find the theory of your project interesting as well as its goals but its premises are flawed.

      And one more point/question. When you start to include more variables to find correlations, how can you possibly feel confident of your conclusions? Uglier women are more likely to be treated abusively? How do you measure that. Even with A LOT of viewing? I would say an ugly woman (and I leave it to you to define what that is, I don’t want to do everyone’s homework for them) is more NOTICEABLE in suffering, while a pretty woman’s suffering doesn’t really look all that much like suffering. I would also say that an uglier woman is more likely not to be subjected to pain in porn than a pretty woman is to NOT be subjected to pain. There are more ugly women in porn than pretty ones, hence ugly porn actresses are more likely to be in everything “bad” and “good” than pretty ones. Which should give a clue as to exactly how objectifying/looks-obsessed/intolerant-of-difference wrt women’s images, porn really is.

      I still want an answer from caroline, the culture vulture, who I’m sure has a broader perspective than me.

  6. P.s. I will respond to your comments fully in my next post.

    I was a feminist for 40 years. I did not make any money out of that are you suggesting I was misguided?
    I mean I was. But not for economic reasons.

  7. […] due to a lot of discussion about who has what kind of gaze and whether a question like this is even appropriate and what is gender an… etc. etc., I feel the need to say that for ease of data collection on this subject, I would […]

  8. zari says:

    “[A]lmost all of the time, the camera is on the woman’s body, leaving a disembodied dick plowing into her.” – yes, undeniably true! I would add also there are always clear close-ups of the woman’s face, while almost never the man’s. I find this a really uncomfortable double standard.

    Am also amazed that anyone could deny that the female body is more sexualised and ‘looked at’ in mainstream culture than the male. Images of sexualised (plus ‘idealised’, photo-shopped etc.) male bodies are certainly on the increase though, which I think is an unfortunate way of levelling out the situation. I would rather see fewer sexualised female bodies than more male.

  9. I think Caroline got picked out as the representative for advocating ‘female objectification’ is greater than men’s.’

    Many many people have that view. I think she is right our culture is more open about how we judge women’s bodies. But it doesnt mean we don’t look at and judge men’s just as much.

    I wonder if age is a factor?

    • billsnshits says:

      Great idea on age. I never quite thought of a connection.

      What if the obsession with pure children is stronger in females than males, b/c of the overt anatomical differences that women undergo at puberty (at least the stereotype of what everybody assumes, hence, yet again, diminishing the “womanhood” of small titted adults).

      So we are always judging everyone but when they’re children we get to pretend we’re not really judging (this isn’t sexual btw) we’re just saying irrelevant things, b/c children and their self image is irrelevant.

      So when girls get boobs it becomes undeniably different from when they were children.
      But boys just become bigger, taller, wider, boys. So society can pretend like it notices and comments on men then way it did on boys, with irreverent irrelevance. So noticing those ibm suits, tour de france cyclists, firemen, it’s all just little boys playing dress up and we don’t “really” care.
      But boobs are a marker of adulthood, when things “count”, including visual judgment.

      Which, in a way, makes female objectification greater in accepted meaning than men’s, even if not greater in quantity.

      Perhaps boobs are the key to being taken seriously, after all. No wonder men want to have a pair of their own.

  10. hi Lee – you’re not selfish just sensible. It’s only footballers and rugby players we tend to see naked these days. Maybe the firemen will follow suit…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s