by on Apr.13, 2012

[Part of this post has been removed.]

I’ve announced this series as being “totally gratuitous,” but anyone who follows MV (or my poetry) knows that I think and act with an eye to the political contours of things, especially when it comes to the pageantry of sex and gender.

This series can, of course, be seen as an absurd, ephemeral, ridiculous act of intervention. An intervention into our collective cultural tendency to see the male body as a neutral, unmarked category while we continue to see/position/mark the female body as hypersexed.

It’s like we’re all crammed into some musty Victorian parlor, and everywhere we look, there’s moth-eaten velvet wallpaper with repeating patterns of “sexy” ladies bending over. There are tiny holes drilled between their legs and little strings of meat and cum dripping out. Running down the walls. I find this atmosphere very claustrophobic.

I like ridiculous acts. And I like interventions that fail, that feel like a badly-scripted prom. A prom-turned-pigmeat-extravaganza. With cherries on top.

This series can also be seen as a chance (for those of us who are attracted to men) to let our eyes roll around in whipped cream. We have too few of these chances.

It can be all or none of these things.

Tomorrow’s post will be NSFW.

18 comments for this entry:
  1. kim

    Yesterday, for no apparent reason, or perhaps with some weird undercurrent of a reason, washing dishes or what not, with this series I suspect somewhere on my mind, one thought that occurred was that a feminist expression which stirs in the (average?) hetero male’s brain the sudden urge to violently or otherwise threateningly, domineeringly, insert themselves into the conversation, should be considered a success.

    Just a fleeting thought, gone with the wash water, still, in the light of this post, I feel some kind of congratulations is in order.

  2. Johannes

    the letter sounds very artistic and also like a porno or b-movie from the70s – she was a princess who had been mistreated by daddy and now she was out for revenge. she would do anything to humiliate men. read that in the trailer voice.

  3. Feng Sun Chen

    thanks for this post <3

  4. Lara Glenum

    Thanks, all!

    And Johannka, you’re so right! I was being written into a bad porn script! That explains a lot.

    Part of what provoked this series is that, ridiculously enough, even advertisements for so-called “feminist” porn sites still stress women’s bodies as erotic objects: “Our gallery of girls are all natural! Real bodies!” or “Watch real women get fucked & sucked blah blah blah.” No mention of “hot men,” “smokin’ stables of well-hung boys,” no “men getting raunchy with each other for your straight-girl ass,” etc.

    This all seems somehow illuminating.

    Why is the eroticized male body still so taboo? And so threatening?

  5. adam strauss

    I agree with Kim–the letter seems to me to point to why these pin-up posts are a good move! My central guess as to why the threat: unless it’s sports–Beckham and milk etc:mmmmmmmmm–is the fear that the stylized, PHOTOGRAPHED male body is too faggy? That men are there to be felt but not seen and “devoured” by third-party eyes?! I wonder if this dude barfs at Stetson colgne adds–or does that icongraphy qualify as sufficiently masculine?

  6. MK

    Lara, thanks for this series/post! We say it is “gratuitous” and frivolous, but maybe it’s not if it’s making us think critically about hypersexed female body vs. the “neutral” male body.

    I had a friend in the 5th grade who checked out the high school football team’s asses during their practice (our recess time). She was all, “OMG look at their butts in the spandex!” and I don’t think I had hit puberty yet so the impact of their be-spandexed butts was lost on me. I’m not saying that guerrilla proliferation of the objectification of men is the answer to undoing the damages done by ubiquitous objectification of women, BUT I think we got it in us somewhere except it is not written in the social script of manners to talk about it as openly.

  7. Lara Glenum

    I remember in grade school eyeing boy’s bodies through their fishnet football shirts (??) and feeling very attracted to the contours of their torsos. Also, their rosy nipples. I was clearly way off script.

    I also don’t think that “guerrilla proliferation of the objectification of men is the answer to undoing the damages done by ubiquitous objectification of women,” but frankly, I don’t think their are any clear-cut answers. Only various means of troubling the waters, of trying to collectively spring ourselves into new spaces, which can sometimes be provoked by extreme discomfort. Or better yet, by desire.

    The ubiquitous presence of (nearly) naked women in all forms of contemporary media, and the sensational lack of cock, is kind of, well, boring and absurd.

  8. adam strauss

    Is there any way to convert gay male visual culture into a dynamic that can be “appropriated” by hetero women? I feel like “the sensational lack of cock” is implicitly referencing implicitly hetero venues(I function with the assumption that because heteroville is the un-marked, default position, any element which is not explicitly stating its homosexual/Lesbian/queer awesomeness is going to be viewed as heterosexual/be subsumed by heteroville).

    Lara, do you think there’s still largely the notion that the body in the image is maximally arousing/appealing if it’s understood to be of the same sexuality as the viewer? There’s for-sure enough gaymanmeat to share–or more accurately shots of yummy men in venues geared for gayeyes: I of course can’t know what the photo-subject does off camera.

    Just to make sure: you mean “cock” as a synechdoche for a male?

  9. Lara Glenum

    Adam, I think our culture at large is a “largely hetero venue,” and part of heteronormativity is, obviously, the tiresome insistence on woman as sexual object, not subject. I’m not complaining about the state of porn (it’s not so much my thing), only noting that even porn aimed at hetero women advertises female bodies, not male.

    Of course, gay male visual culture is a positive gala of male beauty and luscious cock, and this is, for sure, accessible to hetero women, but it’s not made for them. This fact creates a vague feeling of exclusion. Like I’m not actually at the party. Like I’m peering in through the window.

    And all us who are attracted to men–whether straight women or gay men–sit through film after film and grocery line after grocery line with gratuitous female bodies dangling all over the place and hardly an exposed male body in sight.

    Because, despite everything we’re told, the highly eroticized male body is in no way neutral. Is a threat. Undoes the social code. Does this have to do with a taboo around male vulnerability. Men as cake, their subjectivity eaten and discarded.

    Many women don’t care to think along these lines because they know how freaking awful it is to be objectified. They don’t want to return horror for horror.

    Still, men are every bit as heartbreakingly and genital-swellingly beautiful as women. To me, even more so. Why is the game rigged.

  10. Johannes

    i wonder why subjectivity is so important? both in your and danielles posts this comes up./johannes

  11. kim

    I quite like the enterprise of objectifying men, not just as a guerrilla counter measure, but as a positive influence. It seems to me that a healthy identity to inhabit is one which is allowed to play in both spaces, to be an independent subject in the world (denied women) but also be allowed to pose-as-object (denied men). To be useless, non-functional. Adam’s question of “is the fear that the stylized, PHOTOGRAPHED male body is too faggy?” seems accurate at large. To pose, without some stupid prop, without an object, like a tennis racket, something useful, functional, sporty, to hold on to, not even words, with only your body, limbs and eyes, is giving up control, become an object to someone elses subject, a stranger, perhaps another man, and it’s suddenly not golf balls you’re selling. That’s scary shit. Beckham in that commercial, buying a strawberry smoothie, is not an object, or maybe if he is an object, he’s only an object because the woman in the commercial is his object, seduced by “his words” into slow motion, while the gayness at the end, when the manager appears similarly seduced, is of course just a joke.

  12. Lara Glenum

    Yes, a positive influence! I totally feel you on everything you’re saying, Kim.

    The next gallery is for you.

  13. Lara Glenum

    As Kim points out, its also the productive objectivity that’s at stake.

  14. Coley

    I would like to comment on a (probably minor) point made. Be warned that this post is tangential.

    Adam stated (April 14th, 2012 on 9:36 pm):

    “I feel like ‘the sensational lack of cock’ is implicitly referencing implicitly hetero venues(I function with the assumption that because heteroville is the un-marked, default position…”

    I understand this point, but I want to push back on the word “default.” For me, I think a more apt word would be “dominant.” I’m not comfortable with “default” because it implies (again to me)”everything is heterosexual if you don’t think about it.” However, I think most people here would agree that we do want people to think about such things, and all I am pushing for is more careful language. Again, I don’t disagree with the idea just the word.

    As for objectification, it seems inextricably tied to commerce. I haven’t seen the Beckham commercial, but to me it implies the selling of something: Give the vendor your money (an object) in exchange for our goods (another object, unless it is a service, which can be argued is the objectification of human labor). My point is it even possible to commercialize anything and not objectify it, for better or for worse?

  15. Lara Glenum

    Coley, I don’t think this post is tangential at all. The distinction you’re making between “dominant” and “default” seems crucial.

    And yes, objectification and commerce absolutely do go hand-in-hand. Turning the body into a commodity fetish. This was key to Duchamp’s critique of the female nude’s primacy in Western art (all his nudes and queens and brides!), which was, in turn, central to his critique of retinal art. Retinal art lubes the engines of museum culture, which is inextricable from markets of commodity exchange. Art abets capitalism. Is one of its favorite currencies.

    Also, one thinks of Deleuze and Guattari’s writing on “desiring-production” and the way “desiring machines” function in/create capitalist economies, which are fueled/structured along seemingly unlimited lines of consumption.

  16. adam strauss

    I love word distinctions, but here’s a little argument in favor of “Default”: I think in many instances heterosexuality doesnt’t even know it possesses the power it does, possesses the assault it does, so “dominant” seems a bit off for me, as I’d argue the term suggests some degree of self-consciousness: overall I’m guessing many don’t accidentally seek to dominate. Of course whether domination requires awareness is debatable.

    I find the wanting the photo-subject to be framed explicitly in their sexuality interesting; I get the party analogy, but also–and perhaps this is a queer strategy–tend to work the vein which says: feed however you may, because if you have hopes of being fed certain images, yah-right, and I wish I felt owed them, but I’m pretty sure I don’t.

    I’m lost with the porn comment: I was never thinking porn.

    I do wonder if there actually are more examples of male skin in media than you state, Lara, but that it’s, to some degree,a case of they’re less noticeable because less framed/highlighted (not the cover-shot, the inner right hand corner one, so to speak). I do not mean this as some defensive male quip: I dig this discourse!

  17. Lara Glenum

    “Feed however you may,” yes!

    There are increasingly more examples of male flesh in the media, for sure, but the dominant image is usually some upright super-toned guy who positively brims with agency (impenetrable), not men reclining, half-dressed, disoriented, vulnerable, bending over, or draped about like mink stoles. Men aroused. Men undone.

  18. adam strauss

    “Brims with agency”–yes-yes-yes, true/truly more screwy (the cultural dynamic not the point pointed out!); I love that you include the word “inpenetrable”; this gets at a dynamic of photos find interesting–how some models seem meant to be eyefucked, and others seem to render it more difficult or impossible; Kate Moss I’d argue, for example, is massively more penetrable than Naomi Campbell, who (to me) powerfully deflects an aggressive gaze as much as she stirs the gaze to aesthetic excitement (totally not counting her boy and girl in the Mexican desert M Jackson video role, which is all about, I think, unthreatening gorgeousness). This might reloate to Deleuze and The Fold: some photos work such that the subject starts to break out of the frame,to make a kind of holographic agency in which it seems the photo-subject could reach out from the photo, and others seem to keep the model inside the picture; and, and this may ruin any argument I might be sort-of making, my hunch is it’s the model, not the photographer, who primarily makes this happen–tho this ld be because I am very wary of according most of a picture’s success to the photographer, and returning the model to the status of worker who works from luck of genes not acquired/practiced skill.