Is it okay to objectify blokes?
Phowar he's a bit of alright.
He's more than alright.
Oooh he's a sort.
I love a man with chubby thighs.
God a man who is just starting to lose his hair.
God that's gross.
No a ginger man.
Like Prince Harry.
A man who is bossy.
A man who is the singer in a band.
A skinny man.
A muscular macho type.
God no I can't stand those.
A good butt.
Yes a good butt is SO important.
A regular chat between a group of women. Up until recently I kind of thought this chat was innocent. A way to let off steam, a bit of fun, a way to bond with female friends. Besides women have always talked about sex and what they find attractive. Back in the day we might have objectified men by going to a Chippendales show or watching a stripper at a hen night (this has never been my thing but I've witnessed a FAIR few oily strip tease acts in my time. It was definitely a thing in the noughties at hens). Then the more everyday PHWOAAR at a young guy in a band or someone on Strictly. Recently I was watching LOOSE WOMEN (and for the record I LOVE LOOSE WOMEN) and two of the older female presenters woman-handled one of the young male guests. They squeezed his upper arms. They made a lot of suggestive comments about his muscles. He looked awkward and tried to say something playful but then possibly realised that anything he said would be deemed inappropriate (like if he commented on their massive arses for example). I laughed at the time (in the same I've laughed watching a stripper thrust on a stage with whipped cream sprayed all over his chest) but I felt uncomfortable too.
The thing is I get the argument that says men have been objectifying women forever- from the builders whistling at young women as they walk past (this never happens to me as I've practically become invisble post 40 ) through to men shouting things out of vans as they drive past (this used to happen a lot to me and it wasn't always positive- often times it was the classic - CHEER UP LOVE IT MIGHT NEVER HAPPEN which made me mad as I was usually dealing with some serious mind-shit and didn't need some cheery oaf to get up in my grid. I never managed to think of a clever retort either).
Any-hoo the truth is being subjected to unwanted sexual attention or comments or physical advances isn't fun. So how do we navigate this new world? What feels permissable and what's off limits? Is it still okay to objectify men? Is it okay to appreciate the male form? How do we talk about it and not sound sleazy and inappropriate?
Well female friends have said the following kind of things...
It's just a bit of fun.
I mean I would never do this in front of a guy.
Women are just getting their own back.
It's cool- it's assertive. We're re-claiming our identities right?
But I come back to the fact that it's double standards. Imagine a group of blokes having the self-same conversation about women. Phowar she's a bit of alirght. I'd like to get up in that. Look at those tits. God they're bloody gorgeous those tits. Sounds RANK yeah? And of course this chat happens. My other half denies that it happens in his age group (40+ Dads in West London) but I'm pretty sure it happens amongst plenty of other male groups. Are we evolving sexual relations and feminism if we just copy what men have been doing for years?
Do we feel comfortable adopting the very codes that have done us a disservice for so long?
I will come straight out and admit it- I've objectified men many times. I still do it. As I get older I'm in danger of turning into the dirty old man stereotype (is there a dirty old woman one?) I stare at a guy if I see him on the tube. I found a profile on Instagram of a guy and I followed him purely because of his piercing blue eyes. This objectification started in my teens with my first poster of Michael Hutchence hanging above my bed. I loved his music yes but it was the energy, the hair, the face, the body that made a massive contribution to his appeal. Then I moved onto other teen crushes. I was never interested in their minds! I didn't want to sit down and have a decent chat about global warming. NO I WANTED TO HAVE THEM ON TOP OF ME AND THEN I WANTED THEM TO LEAVE SO I COULD GET ON WITH MY GCSE COURSEWORK. I developed a taste for rock Gods, front men, men who smelt of leather trousers, whiskey and fags (but not Shane McGowan just to be clear- rock Gods who brushed their teeth and had showers shall we say?) Again I wasn't at all interested in a connection on an emotional level. I just wanted to see them naked. To appreciate their bodily beauty. I wanted to objectify the heck out of them. Teen magazines were all about that. That type of magazine didn't exist for young men (unless it was a porn magazine- in fact if you think about it women are raised to objectify men from an early age just as much as men were-Just Seventeen, More, Smash Hits- they were all about the centrefold that you stuck on your bedroom wall).
Recently the three of us at THE HOTBED were indulging in a bit of man-objectifying chit-chat, just chewing the hunky bloke convo and we suddenly stopped. Was this right? How could we complain about sleazy men in the press and media, and in the same breath sigh about some celebrity-bloke's chest muscles? We stopped. It wasn't much fun to stop (objectifying can be fun of course) but I think we felt more comfortable. The thing is progress isn't about taking the shit things that have happened and repeating them. It's okay to indulge in a bit of fantasy now and then. It's okay to look at John Travolta and appreciate his physical beauty but then there are times when it feels like it's a step too far.
For now I'll be keeping my pervy objectifying chat to myself until I figure it out. Or trying. Or not doing it too much. The thing is Michael Hutchence was a GLORIOUS ROCK GOD OF LOVE AND LUST AND SEX AND I LOVED HIM. Is it okay for me to say it? Is it?