BillWard SilkStockings 1500

holy fudd! academia discovers that women objectify men, see us as just so much eye-candy

FOR STATING THE OBVIOUS, a re­cent study by two British uni­ver­si­ties an­a­lyzing im­ages posted on Tube­Crush over a pe­riod of three years is tough to top. Tube­Crush is a web­site where people post pic­tures of men (“eye candy”) taken sur­rep­ti­tiously on the London Un­der­ground railway system. The re­searchers came to this as­tounding con­clu­sion: “Mus­cles and money are qual­i­ties that straight women and gay men typ­i­cally find at­trac­tive in men!” 1

The study was done by Coventry and Aberys­t­wyth uni­ver­si­ties and was pub­lished as part of the Fem­i­nist Media Studies on the Taylor & Francis On­line web­site with the post-modernly title, “He’s a total Tube­Crush: post-feminist sen­si­bility as in­ti­mate publics.” 2

The teaser for the ab­stract on the Taylor & Francis web­site is a hoot:

“In this paper, we an­a­lyze the web­site Tube­Crush, where people post and share un­so­licited pho­tographs of ‘guy candy’ seen on the London Un­der­ground. We use Tube­Crush as a case study to de­velop Berlant’s in­ti­mate publics as a lens for ex­am­ining post-feminist sen­si­bility and mas­culinity in the lim­inal space be­tween home/work.

“Value is di­rected onto the bodies of men cre­ating a vi­sual economy of mas­culinity of white­ness, phys­ical strength, and eco­nomic wealth.”

The paper re­sponds to no­tions of re­verse sexism and post-sexism used to make sense of women’s ap­parent ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of men in the dig­ital space, by asking in­stead where the value of such im­ages lies.

We sug­gest that in Tube­Crush, value is di­rected onto the bodies of par­tic­ular men, cre­ating a vi­sual economy of post-feminist mas­culinity of white­ness, phys­ical strength, and eco­nomic wealth. This cel­e­bra­tion of mas­cu­line cap­ital is achieved through humor and the knowing wink, but the out­come is a reaf­fir­ma­tion of urban hege­monic mas­culinity.” 3

 

Eye Candy: photo of well-built young man with smartphone on London Underground.

The re­search by aca­d­e­mics from Coventry and Aberys­t­wyth Uni­ver­sity said that many photos par­tic­u­larly em­pha­sized men’s mus­cular bi­ceps, pecs, and chest—the body parts which sug­gest phys­ical strength. 4

Chicks like eye candy, too!

This academic-oriented paper found its way into the pop­ular media where I found it on the Newsweek web­site with the en­gag­ingly con­de­scending title, “Men With Mus­cles and Money Are More At­trac­tive to Straight Women and Gay Men—Showing Gender Roles Aren’t Pro­gressing.”

“The photos and com­ments fo­cused on the men’s bi­ceps, pecs and chest as well as per­ceived sexual ability. Items that in­di­cated wealth such as smart suits, watches and phones were em­pha­sized.

Pic­tures showing other rep­re­sen­ta­tions of mas­culinity, such as fa­ther­hood, and more emo­tional and awkward-appearing men were far less fre­quent.”

Writer Sydney Pereirab noted that the posted photos of “guy candy” tended to be mostly white men, “de­spite London being a mul­ti­cul­tural city.” From this, Ms Pereira drew the con­clu­sion that “white, male priv­i­lege is still an at­trac­tive quality.”

I will bite my vir­tual tongue here and not re­spond with an iron­ical, “Duh.” And des­pite reading like satire, I couldn’t find any in­di­ca­tion on the Newsweek site that it was any­thing but se­rious (sic) jour­nalism.

 

Eye Candy: photo of good-looking young man with ipod on London Underground.

The re­search by aca­d­e­mics from Coventry and Aberys­t­wyth Uni­ver­sity said that “white male priv­i­lege is still an at­trac­tive quality in men for many straight women and gay men.”

Toned gym-goers flashing flesh

In an ar­ticle ti­tled Mus­cles and money” on the Coventry University’s web­site, lead re­searcher Adri­enne Evans, from Centre for Post­dig­ital Cul­tures, said: 

From smart-suited City workers to toned gym-goers flashing their flesh, the men fea­tured in the pho­tographs on Tube­Crush show that as a cul­ture we still cel­e­brate mas­culinity in the form of money and muscle.

They are marking the middle-class, wealthy, mo­bile and sex­u­ally pow­erful male body, not as a po­lit­ical one as fem­i­nists in­tend it to be, but one that should be ac­tively de­sired.

This cel­e­bra­tion of mas­cu­line cap­ital is achieved through hu­mour and the knowing wink, but the out­come is a reaf­fir­ma­tion of men’s po­si­tion in so­ciety. It’s a problem as be­cause al­though it ap­pears as though we have moved for­ward, our de­sires are still mostly about money and strength.”

Again, I bite my vir­tual tongue here and not type an iron­ical, “Duh.” Again, des­pite reading like satire, I couldn’t find any in­di­ca­tion on the Coventry Uni­ver­sity site that it was any­thing but se­rious re­search.

 

Eye Candy: photo of well-built but topless young man on London Underground.

This photo is ap­par­ently a rather ex­treme piece of an eye-candy man, as most of the Tube­Crush photos I found on the In­ternet showed men wearing some sort of top. Ad­mit­ting I’m now a se­nior cit­izen out of touch with what’s hot these days with younger gals, this photo re­minds me of the ho­mo­erotic, fetishis­ti­cally beef­cake draw­ings of the leg­endary Tom of Fin­land.

Alternatives to TubeCrush

Ex­actly why should a “sex­u­ally pow­erful male body” not be ac­tively de­sired by women? What does it matter? Hun­dreds of mil­lions of non-wealthy, non-white men with sex­u­ally in­dif­ferent bodies (i.e., “normal joes”) love and are loved by hun­dreds of mil­lions of women—some of whom are knock­outs, some of whom are ugly as sin, most of whom are also normal.

But re­search is as re­search does and I ea­gerly await the follow-up ar­ticle: “Women with Big Breasts and Long Legs Are More At­trac­tive to Straight Men and Gay Women—Reaffirming Gender Roles Aren’t Pro­gressing.”

Fi­nally, let’s look again at the line I pulled out and high­lighted as a pull-quote in the first sec­tion above: “We sug­gest that in Tube­Crush, value is di­rected onto the bodies of par­tic­ular men, cre­ating a vi­sual economy of post-feminist mas­culinity of white­ness, phys­ical strength, and eco­nomic wealth.”

Okay? The name of the web­site is Tube­Crush.

That’s C-R-U-S-H.

It’s about sexual fan­tasies, and for most human be­ings, such fan­tasies in­volve part­ners we’re never going to have.

Ex­actly why should a “sex­u­ally pow­erful male body” not be ac­tively de­sired by women?

For ex­ample, I have used my crushes on Nicole Kidman and Marisa Tomei as the sub­ject of sev­eral (hope­fully hu­morous) es­says here. While I may think that both of these beau­tiful, de­sir­able, suc­cessful, wealthy women would ben­efit greatly by knowing me better, I am aware of the fact that I should not be holding my breath waiting for their calls.

That aware­ness does not stop my fan­ta­sizing.

Per­haps Eng­land needs a few al­ter­na­tives to Tube­Crush, and I have a few sug­ges­tions:

Tube­Dads
Sur­rep­ti­tious photos of loving fa­thers changing their in­fant’s di­a­pers on the tube be­cause baby couldn’t wait for the next stop.

TubeGeeks
Sur­rep­ti­tious photos of awkward-appearing men, with an em­phasis on tall, skinny, asexual guys wearing Green Lantern or Flash tee-shirts on their way to the comic book store.

TubeGeezers
Sur­rep­ti­tious photos of old farts like me trying to sur­rep­ti­tiously stare at young women with big breasts and long legs …

 

Eye Candy: cartoon of statuesque platinum blonde by Bill Ward referred to as "Silk Stockings."

FEATURED IMAGE: Much more fa­mous in his time than Tom of Fin­land and per­haps equally in­flu­en­tial were the draw­ings of Bill Ward, who con­tributed count­less draw­ings of al­most non-humanly stat­uesque women to comic books and men’s mag­a­zines from the 1940s into the ’80s!

 


FOOTNOTES:

1  This team prob­ably could also un­cover such ar­cane facts as Earth is round (more or less), the Houston As­tros won the 2017 World Se­ries, Elvis is dead, and there is a vast rightwing con­spiracy taking con­trol of the Amer­ican gov­ern­ment, court system, and po­lice de­part­ments.

2   “In­ti­mate publics”? Yes, there are people out there re­fer­ring to a plural public.

3   To un­der­stand the 135 words in the three para­graphs above, one has to have the fol­lowing:
     • knowl­edge of Lauren Berlant’s in­ti­mate publics;
     • the ap­parent death of fem­i­nism and that we are in a post-feminist era and that there is a “post-feminist sen­si­bility” and a “post-feminist mas­culinity”;
     • know what lim­inal means (“of, re­lating to, or sit­u­ated at a sen­sory threshold : barely per­cep­tible or ca­pable of elic­iting a re­sponse”);
     • know that, ap­par­ently, there are ed­u­cated people in the world who didn’t know be­fore reading the Coventry and Aberys­t­wyth paper that women have been ob­jec­ti­fying men ever since the world began and that many, many women find strong, wealthy, white men phys­i­cally at­trac­tive; and
     • know what “dig­ital space” is out­side of a com­puter. (Did I miss any­thing?)

4   The work­outs re­quired for those well-developed body parts may also con­note an in­di­vid­u­al’s con­cern for his well-being and gen­eral health and may also signal his self-confidence—all traits that both sexes should find at­trac­tive.

 

 

 

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