Tube Crush seems so inevitable, I am kind of surprised it didn’t happen sooner. The website, http://www.tubecrush.net/ set up recently by a group of friends (men and women), is a new online hit. People are asked to send in photos of hot men they have spotted on London’s Underground system, that they have taken surreptitiously on their mobiles. The sexy specimens are then uploaded onto the site and rated by visitors. It is a graphic reminder of a fact all urban dwellers have known since the dawn of time: people check each other out on public transport!
But TubeCrush (which is a nice play on words, as you often get quite literally crushed on London’s tube) has received some criticism. Mainly it seems, from, you guessed it, the liberal and feminist media.
Sunny Hundal , writing in The Guardian, said:
‘Erm, is it just me or if this site was about women, would people be getting arrested right about now?’
He goes on to point out how TubeCrush involves men having their photos taken without their permission (or indeed their knowledge), with the sole purpose of providing randoms on the internet with material to ‘perve’ over as he terms it. Commenters on twitter and on the cif thread in question referred to TubeCrush as ‘an invasion of privacy’, a form of ‘harassment’ and even ‘stalking’. Some questioned its legality, citing the DataProtectionAct 1998.
The main feminist argument against TubeCrush can be summed up by this blogger, My Crippled Eagle:
‘If a woman takes a picture of a man on a train and he sees her, one or both will be embarassed but very few men would feel threatened by such behaviour.
If, however, a man takes a picture of a woman on a train and she sees him, immediately she has to think about the possible dangers of the situation. Is this guy a creep? Is he a potential rapist? Is he going to follow up the action with some verbal or physical harassment?
The odds are that this guy isn’t a rapist, but if you’re in a room with 100 glasses of water, 1 of which is poisoned, the odds don’t really hold much comfort. The risk that the worst-case will happen is still scary, however slim the possibility’.
Sidestepping for a moment that old chestnut ‘all men are potential rapists” meme from feminism of old, I think the feminists are protesting too much. I don’t think they really care that these photos may contravene the Data Protection Act, or that men may feel harassed. I never heard a feminist stand up for men as a group before. I don’t think they have been galvanised into action by TubeCrush. No, I think the real reason this has pissed off feminists, is they feel left out.
It has taken an honest male blogger to allude to this sense of disappointment that may come, not from having your photo taken on the tube journey to work, but from not having your photo taken on the tube journey to work:
‘The thing that hurt most of all about TubeCrush -that made me want to hurl my laptop across the room in self-righteous fury- was that I wasn’t on it!‘
And he predicts a depressing future for the no-hopers who don’t make the TubeCrush grade:
‘the longer this website exists, the worse it will become for these unsexy saps. Each day, more and more buff geezers will adorn the page of Tubecrush while the same losers will be continually overlooked. They will endure a daily routine of slumping glumly into their seats while cameras flash all around them- but never at them’.
I think this blogger gets to the nub of the reasons for TubeCrush’s popularity – and controversy. It is about ‘metrosexual’ men’s desire to be desired. Despite how some articles have presented the site as ‘by and for women’ looking at men, the homo-erotics of TubeCrush cannot be ignored. The captions that go with the uploaded photos show that men as well as women take the pics and send them in:
‘Is it me or is it getting hot in here? Watch out because Jon2198 came down with a highly infectious bout of yellow fever after encountering this handsome chap on his way to work…’
‘Thanks for sending us the latest up and coming talent from the pole -dancing scene, Gareth’.
As you all must know by now, our resident gayzer on the male form, Mark Simpson, has been telling us, repeatedly, that men are enjoying their relatively newfound place infront of the world’s cameras. And they don’t want to lose it. David Beckham and other footballers have competed for attention from gay ‘sporno’ fans, for example, French rugby players queue up to feature on the Dieu de Stade calendars, and Mikey The Situation Sorrentino generously offers his GTL tits and abs for everyone’s visual pleasure.
Women have long expressed their ambivalence or downright hostility to the ways they are objectified in visual culture. Forty years of feminism has left women feeling it is somehow wrong to enjoy being the subjects of men’s oppressive ‘gaze’. And yet, now that we are surrounded by images of men’s bodies, in sporno, in advertising, in ‘gay’ pornography, in sites such as tumblr’s ‘hot guys reading books’ http://hotguysreadingbooks.tumblr.com/ and ‘fuckyeahbeards’ http://fuckyeahbeards.tumblr.com/page/32, women seem a little bit resentful that they are no longer the centre of everyone’s attention.
I can’t prove it. But I get the distinct impression that there is some kind of weird correlation, between the increased feminist campaigns against ‘street harassment’ and ‘objectification’ of women, and the ‘pornification’ of culture, and the fact that actually, it is men, not women, who are the chief objectified commodities these days. If feminism were a woman, I think she’d be a slightly dowdy lady in her middle age, complaining, as some older women do, of how she has now been rendered ‘invisible’ in society.
There are suggestions that TubeCrush may become a dating site. Or at least have the option for people to hook up with men in the photos if they agree. But I hope this doesn’t happen. The thing I like about the site at the moment, is the way it occupies that undefined space between gay ‘porn’ or gay websites, totty for women, and the increasing number of ways in which men take pleasure at looking at each other, and themselves. This is another reason why it is causing some people anxiety I believe. I have written before about just how resistant feminist women in particular are, to the idea that there is no clear boundary between ‘gay’ porn and ‘porn for women’. That there is no ‘male gaze’ or ‘female gaze’. And that, if only they would open their eyes, they would see that men are crying out to be looked upon by anyone and everyone. If TubeCrush was a dating site, the ‘gaze’ and the subjects would be split into defined categories: ‘gay men’, ‘straight men’ ‘women’…which would spoil all our fun and inhibit people I think. As Mark Simpson has suggested, ‘homo-erotics’ can be most exciting, when they are not classed as ‘gay’. Especially for non-gay men!
I am fascinated by how a small website set up by friends has caused or at least represented so clearly, this collision between conflicting interests and perspectives over ‘objectification’.
TubeCrush has crushed a few myths and dented a few egos. Long may it continue to do so!