The Rise of the Hunk.

This article was originally published on TheVine on 9th August, 2012.

“You know the apocalypse is nigh when men want to see a movie about a talking teddy bear and women want to see a movie about male strippers,” read a friends’ recent Facebook status.

While the world may be ending in December, and the integrity of Ted is questionable at best, I think it’s high time hetero women (and gay men to a lesser extent) turn subjugation on its head and become the voyeurs, and they’re using Magic Mike as a tool to do so.

Never before in mainstream Hollywood film can I recall a movie that so blatantly puts the male body on show for the unashamed consumption by straight women, primarily. Tom Cruise may have been shirtless for the majority of Rock of Ages, and True Blood has as much male eye candy as it does female, but Magic Mike is the first of its kind to feature conventionally attractive and perennially half-naked male actors as strippers: Hollywood’s last taboo, perhaps.

The male form has been sexualised for the last few decades, notably in underwear commercials. Remember Mark Wahlberg’s Calvin Klein’s and David Beckham’s distracting Armani ads? Or how about a shirtless Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid Love, which arguably spawned the current obsession with him that has reached fever pitch? Porn star James Deen is experiencing a cavalcade of female appreciation not normally seen with adult actors. Even pay TV channel LifeStyle You is cashing in on the male body objectification trend, using in their advertisements shirtless men carrying out everyday household duties like ironing to reel the women in. (Because women are who we talk about when we talk about “lifestyle”.)

In the male stripper movie vein, there was that late ’90s UK effort, The Full Monty, which featured a bunch of average Joes getting their kit off at the encouragement of women, demonstrating that men don’t have to look like Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello or Matthew McConaughey for women to find them sexy and to want to see them naked. But there is a certain allure to rippling abs, strong thighs and loaded guns that the comedic stripteases of unemployed steel workers just doesn’t have…

Dodai Stewart writes for Jezebel of the hollering and hooting in the cinema when she went to get her Channing fix, while I noticed more of a silent sexual tension in the air. There was nary a squeal of approval throughout, which lent a certain palpability that watching a sex scene with your parents or a potential love interest might elicit. Tatum’s dance moves succeeded in getting me and—if all the mute leg-crossing, uncrossing and squirming in seats was any indication—all the other red-blooded, presumably straight women in the audience hot under the collar. As Stewart continues, “Could it be that women are so used to seeing the female body sexualised on screen—from the point of view of the male gaze—that we don’t even know how to react to the sexualized male body?”

It seems that the characters who are virgins to the Tampa male stripping scene don’t know how to react either, with Alex Pettyfer’s portrayal of Adam consisting of equal parts disgust at Mike’s occupation and awe at the perks of his lifestyle. Adam’s sister, Brooke (played by Cody Horn), is closed in on by the camera when she first sees Mike dance and a range of emotions cross her face: judgement, arousal, amazement, discomfort at the role reversal male strippers provide. Discomfort and concern are also expressed by the bank clerk when Mike attempts to get a loan, showing up with a down payment in wads of ones and fives. Presumably the teller recognises Mike from the male revue, and offers to sign him up to a program for “distressed” clients, inferring that because he gets his kit off for money, he must be either strapped for cash or lacking self-esteem. Hmm, where have we heard this before? Usually directed at women who trade on their looks and are deemed “at risk”, “battered” and, yes, “distressed” as a result. Mike even has to resort to the ol’ spectacles trope to be taken seriously as he enters the bank, an action most often utilised by hot chicks who want to appear smarter. Speaking of hot chicks, in another play on man as sexual object, Mike’s lover, Joanna (Olivia Munn), tells him she doesn’t want to talk about his feelings: “just look pretty”.

With all the double standards that come with being a male stripper in Magic Mike—female adoration, money, drugs—Caroline Heldman at Sociological Images wonders why this kind of “stripping as fantasy life” attitude would never be seen in media about female stripping: because Magic Mike still panders greatly to male sexuality.

“Make no bones about it, this movie is all about reinforcing the notion that men are in control and men’s sexuality matters more…” Heldman writes. “… [M]any (but not all) of the simulated sex acts the dancers perform in their interactions with female audience members service the male stripper’s pleasure, not hers. Dancers shove women’s faces into their crotch to simulate fellatio, hump women’s faces, perform faux sex from behind without a nod to clitoral stimulation, etc. As a culture, we have deprioritised female sexual pleasure…”

Indeed, there is no full frontal male nudity in the film (does a stunt penis in an enlarging device count?!), however Munn and the actress who plays stripper Ken’s (Matt Bomer) wife have their breasts on show, as well as several other female nude scenes. When it comes to the penis, it would seem that it is the last taboo, not male stripping.

That Tatum’s penis ever so briefly flashed onscreen during a bedroom scene means there’s hope for a full-frontal peen shot yet, with Magic Mike 2 on the horizon. You’ll notice that most of the male stars of the films’ careers have thrived on the comidification of their bodies. McConaughey is more recognisable with his shirt off than on and Manganiello has been quoted as saying he “could care less” about being typecast as a beefcake. I find it kind of refreshing that men are wanting to show off their bodies in a way that has been traditionally reserved for women.

For those who cry “hypocrite” at the women who’re now wolf whistling at the screen, as if all women find the sexualisation of their bodies oppressive, I direct you to one of the core tenents of feminism: choice. If women are deemed autonomous enough to make their own decisions about their bodies and whether they want to use them as a commodity, it stands to reason that men are, too. It might be a hard concept to grasp, but after centuries of the ingrained objectification of women, perhaps men want to try their hand at being desired as opposed to desiring.

While the mainstream media still has a ways to go towards female sexual liberation and the refocusing of the gaze onto men and away from women in a way that benefits all parties and exploits none, Magic Mike is a step in the right direction.

Elsewhere: [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] On #DailyWife & Writing for the “Women’s Pages”. 

[Jezebel] Magic Mike, Junk in the Face & the Female Gaze. 

[Sociological Images] Magic Mike: Old Sexism in a New Package.

[The Frisky] 12 Women Who’ve Used Their Sexuality (To Get Ahead).

[Salon] Male Strippers: Please, Just Leave It On.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

greys anatomy you are the sun

Following on from last season’s “lean in” motif, this season on Grey’s Anatomy it’s all about its women taking time for themselves, whether that’s personal or professional. [Bitch Flicks]

Personal space is a feminist issue. [Sociological Images]

Loving football (and, indeed, wrestling) doesn’t make you a bad feminist. [Kill Your Darlings]

How will you know when you’ve made it? For me I think it will be when I’ve been published a) on Daily Life and b) in the American market; headhunted for something; verified on Twitter; and when those I admire in the same industry see me as a peer. How will you know? [The Hairpin]

And Rachel Hills ponders what it means to have made it, and ways to pass the time while you’re waiting to. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Young, single and successful women are increasingly living alone in affluent cities. [Daily Life]

In defence of Amber Rose:

“Amber Rose is hot. Amber Rose is also a mom. Amber Rose was also a wife. And if T.I. can be a convicted felon who’s rapped about sex, guns, and drugs and still be ‘father knows best’ on The Family Hustle once a week, why is a sexy woman suddenly an unfit mother just because she posts photos in her lingerie? If you don’t like what you think she represents, make sure you’re just as vocal about these less-than-angelic men raising children while bragging about one-night stands and trappin’. If they’re just entertaining and expressing themselves, then so is she. If they’re just living up to an image and a brand, then so is she.” [The Daily Beast]

And while we’re at it, in defence of Rihanna. [Buzzfeed]

Can World Wrestling Entertainment #GiveDivasaChance to be in the main event of WrestleMania 32? [Between the Ropes]

It wasn’t Jackie’s responsibility to get the details of her rape correct; it was Rolling Stone‘s. [The Guardian]

Stop calling women crazy. [Birdee]

ICYMI: the ties that bind us in menstruation and do you ever feel like you’re trapped behind a screen?

If these links haven’t sated your appetite for feminist goodness, the 83rd Down Under Feminists Carnival has arrived featuring much more from Australia and New Zealand. [Opinions @ BlueBec]

Image via Tumblr.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Women-hosted podcasts are the next big thing. Glad I’m on the bandwagon then, as I just hosted my first podcast for Outback Championship Wrestling, interviewing TNA star and Amazing Race contestant, Robbie E. I’ll post it here when it’s available. [Bitch Magazine]

And I also recapped last weekend’s Outback Championship Wrestling show featuring Robbie E.

I wrote about Cristina Yang’s radical unlikeability and feminism. [Bitch Flicks]

Also, the unlikeability of Hannah Horvath and Girls. [Kill Your Darlings]

An interview with Caitlin Stasey about her website, Herself. [Jezebel]

My third roundup of links for feminaust is now live.

In defence of Blair Waldorf. [Bitch Flicks]

And Kim Kardashian. [The Hairpin]

Ross Gellar is a men’s rights activist. [The Frisky]

Katy Perry’s religiosity. [Buzzfeed]

What it means for men’s masculinity to not “hit below the belt”. [Sociological Images]

“She’s just so… Black!” The politics of Blackness. [Salon]

ICYMI: 50 Shades of Grey is 50 shades of boring, and am I a Bad Feminist?

If these links weren’t enough weekend reading for you, check out the 82nd Down Under Feminists Carnival. [A Life Unexamined]

On the Rest of the) Net.

blank space taylor swift gif

Taylor Swift could change the way we think about dating and casual sex:

“Sex without commitment is what you do before commitment, no matter what your gender. If more girls like Taylor made it okay we wouldn’t be so fucking precious about when and how girls are allowed to fuck.” [Lainey Gossip]

Bad Feminist Roxane Gay on being a bad victim. [The Butter]

Gay also writes that “2014 was the year we stopped worshipping at the altar of monsters. It was the year when we saw predators for who they really are, even if justice eludes them.” [The Guardian]

The white rappers who appropriate hip hop. [Complex]

Crafting a costume while fat. [This Ain’t Livin’]

Speaking of costumes, I went as Beyoncé standing in front of the feminist sign at the MTV VMAs to a work Christmas party last week. Check out some of the photos here.

The sexual black man in music videos. [Pitchfork]

Why aren’t we talking about the sexual assault scene in Beyond the Lights? [Shadow & Act]

Rosie Batty is Daily Life‘s well-deserved Woman of the Year.

Women ain’t got time or means to shave when the apocalypse is nigh but Hollywood would have you believe differently. [Sociological Images]

I asked what Lena Dunham and the Slenderman attempted murder have in common: they both challenge the way we think women and girls should behave. [Bitch Flicks]

ICYM them, I’ve been publishing some year-end posts throughout the week, on the prevalence of stalking, “The Year of the Witch”, Scarlett Johansson’s banner year, and not a year-end post per se but a short piece about probably the worst time I was street harassed.

Have a happy holiday season and I’ll be back this time next week with the links I loved from over the Christmas break. I’m going back to my home town to relax and have my mum round around after me, so I should have ample reading time. I hope you do, too!

Image via Buzzfeed.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Can men please stop singing songs about women who don’t find themselves beautiful? (I explored the same topic here.) [Buzzfeed]

The man who coined the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” wishes he never did. [Salon]

There will always be hand-wringing and pearl-clutching over the youth’s sexuality by older generations:

“What remains the same is that sex is made out to be a game, one in which men are competitors and women are prizes. Men are tasked with pleading, urging and coercing women into sex, or sexual behavior…

“Young women’s sexuality is so policed and constrained that they are often looking for excuses to be sexual — sometimes it’s drinking too much, sometimes it’s a silly contest. Anything for plausible slut-deniability.” [Salon]

Like Anna Gunn before her, Leighton Meester takes issue with the misogyny hurled at her character on the latest Broadway iteration of Of Mice & Men:

“The insults are thrown at Curley’s wife: bitch, tramp, tart. The further along in the production we go, the more I realise that the audience agrees. In rooting for our heroes—the everyman protagonists who scorn and demean the only woman—the audience finds themselves unquestioningly hating her, too. But why? … [I]n dissecting this piece for five months now, I’ve found that within the writing, there is both a lack of reason to truly hate this woman, and the inevitable and undeniable urge to do so…

“If this woman is purely a victim, why is she so hated? And if she is truly harmless, why is she so threatening? Without question, it was a commentary on the social climate at the time, which still surprisingly applies today. But if sexism is one of the featured themes, why not say it?” [HuffPo]

My Lean In/Grey’s Anatomy post from a couple of weeks ago is cross-posted at Bitch Flicks. Head on over and check it and their other pieces out.

Naked women as props (NSFW). [Sociological Images]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

megan_fox_transformers_2-wide

 

How to tell if you’re a woman in a Michal Bay movie. [Vulture]

How does real life women’s prison compare to Orange is the New Black? [Washington City Paper]

Roxane Gay explains what a “bad feminist” is ahead of the release of her book of essays by the same name:

“Women need to realize that femininity and being strong and empowered are not opposites: They go hand in hand. We have to stop viewing strength as something not feminine because I think strength is extraordinarily feminine.” [Elle]
The Sydney Opera House’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas advertised a talk entitled “Honour Killings Are Morally Justified” on Tuesday and cancelled it less than a day later. Honour killings are morally reprehensible, but if you’re going to promote a festival of dangerous ideas, at least own perhaps the most dangerous of them all. [Daily Life]
Where are all the penises on HBO? [Sociological Images]
I recapped Outback Championship Wrestling’s show last week. [Facebook]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Barbie Sports Illustrated

Barbie is #unapologetic about her Sports Illustrated swimsuit photo shoot. [Barbie Collector]

On behalf of child molestation survivors, Cate Blanchett, don’t accept the Best Actress Oscar. [Thought Catalog]

Modernising the Bechdel Test. [Daily Life]

Fractured friendships on Girls. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

From lady to ladette: media portrayals of female drunkeness. [Sociological Images]