ETA: I just saw the AXE body spray ad that just came out that displays different masculinities, a far cry from their usual abs and babes. Heading in the right direction? Maybe. Let's hope!
One of the most popular posts ever written on this blog was my illustrated guide to dick pics. With the popularity of Critique My Dick Pic and Magic Mike XXL, it seems like culturally we have begun to acknowledge that some women may, in fact, erotically enjoy looking at men. Naked men, even. Though, this goes beyond just men, and to penises, in particular.
I wanted to both cheer those women on. I also wanted to help the average cis dude in particular learn how to take photos of his junk that women would be more likely to appreciate receiving (and only after specifically requesting such).
So I'm not terribly surprised that a lot of people sent me the link to the woman who is taking cis male dick pics professionally and selling them for $10,000. And good for her! I was excited to see what she was doing, because after years of penises (male and otherwise) being mostly photographed for the male gaze, it was refreshing to hear about something different.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed to find out her angle was dressing up penises in comedic outfits.
I mean, quoting Cosmo, "she wondered what a dick pic might look like if a woman — not a thirsty dude — were behind the lens." This is it? This is the kind of genital selfie she thinks women want? I'm... confused. Because I like my dick pics to be well lit, well composed, and, well, showing a beautiful cock that I want inside my hands, mouth and/or cunt.
I don't have that reaction to a dick dressed up like a cop.
It led me to ask... why is it that the only three ways the media shows the erotic male is as threatening, hilarious, or gay? And regardless of gender, why is a penis so often either reduced to being comedic or a weapon? Does this perhaps lead to the toxic masculinity that permeates our culture, where so often men feel this need to come off as threatening to women in how they display sexual interest, because otherwise I guess we would laugh at them? Is this why we're culturally so afraid of trans women that we need to paint them either as villains or comic relief? Why are women not seen as having any sexual agency of their own?
This is how toxic masculinity ends up poisoning the waters of everything else, whether or not you identify as masculine, or as a man.
This is something I've found frustrating before, for example, with the Hawkeye Initiative. Initially started to show the ridiculousness of the poses comics artists put female characters in, I found the images of Hawkeye and other superheroes displayed in an objectifying way to be... kind of hot, actually. And I kept feeling alienated that so often these images insisted on captions or dialogue meant to make the viewer laugh, because they're not supposed to be sexy, they're supposed to be silly.
I'm super into seeing fit men having their clothes torn off by snakes. Or, in the case of these pinups featuring cis men doing stereotypically cis men things but in a feminine pinup style, why did they have to ruin it by making little o-faces? Why couldn't they have cute smirks instead? I mean I think this artist has his finger on the issue more than some others, but goddamn it, I just want to see the fact that yeah, some women actually ARE visual and DO like looking at naked men, validated.
Because here's what concerns me. If we don't validate that opinion, and continue to show male sexuality as either dangerous/frightening or ridiculous/not to be taken seriously, while exclaiming that women's bodies are just "inherently" more attractive, I believe we are feeding the issue of predatory masculine behaviour and the feminine being seen as prey. When we argue that objectification is "bad" and we shouldn't do it to men if we don't think it should be done to women, we ignore that men have a lot more power and agency than women do, that male desire is seen as valid/marketable/worthwhile more often than women's is. I do think that for equality to happen, yes, we should cut back on the objectification of women in every fucking aspect of life, totally.
But I also feel there's something important to increasing the objectification of men, validating the buying power of the female gaze. I remember when I was working on the Andro Aperture project a few years back, there weren't many options for erotic magazines/porn sites focused on women who wanted to look at naked cis men. There honestly weren't many options for women into trans men, either, but there were some. Still, on both counts, the type of male bodies that were considered "marketable" or worth photographing/filming were limited. Able-bodied. Slender/fit. Tall. Often white. Often cis. Often masculine in a very specific, all-American jock sort of way. This is still often the case. And it sucks, not just because I like drooling over hot dudes, but because I feel it ends up underlining and making worse the sexist objectifying bullshit I have to deal with all the time. And frankly, because it makes the men that fit that really narrow ideal of acceptable masculine beauty into egotistical asshats.
I have to say that I appreciate the dick pics I've gotten from not-cis-men have been appreciably better composed, and are rarely presented in such a way that I either am expected to laugh at them or alternately be nervous if I reply with anything but enthusiasm. And I don't think that dick pics are the sole way forward in toppling the patriarchy. But damn it, it's not the worst place to start to push forward, either.