Several folks on Twitter recently promoted a piece originally written in September 2011 “Why is female nudity more acceptable than male?” Author Jennie Rosenbaum offered some possible explanations:
Despite all our efforts to the contrary we still live largely in a patriarchal society. While males dominate industry, advertising and the media there will still be a slight locker room mentality. While nudity remains mainly sexual in the minds of the general public, it will be more acceptable for that locker room mentality to gaze upon nude women than men.
Many men fear nude men, but women do not fear nude women. I do not know why this is. It could be media and advertising, it could be that we grow up seeing semi nude women constantly or it could just be that there is a homophobic backlash still in effect.
Women are more aesthetically pleasing than men nude. It’s the truth. No matter the shape of the woman she is beautiful. Men are interesting nude, but not necessarily beautiful. There is an inherent charm in the swell of a hip, the curve of the breast. We have been taught since ancient times to revere the female figure.
I find the question fascinating mainly because I don’t know that female nudity is necessarily more “acceptable” as it is most commercialized and commodified.
For instance, in music videos, men are often fully clothed with eyes hidden behind shades while women dance about with very little on their bodies. Of course companies often use female nudity to sell ideas and products. Yet, it is still unacceptable for us to walk about bare-chested in most places. Even mothers who breastfeed their children in public receive cruel responses or punishment by law. And of course we know that many people across genders still believe that a woman walking about with little or no clothing is “asking for it.” There are also plenty of women who believe the female nude to be vile and sinful. So, while the female nude is tossed about for money, it is not acceptable for women to own and live our nudity for ourselves. Some cultures jail or even murder women for such displays. But I have also noticed a particular kind of repulsion to the male nude in some contexts. Still in other cultures, any nude could merit prison or death.
Sigh. A very complex question, right?
I want to look at one piece of it, connecting to Rosenbaum’s mention of the impact of patriarchal society and take it a step further. More specifically, I want to speak to the cis-gendered straight male perspective as a major influence on our socialization around the female and male nude. I believe that specific perspective is what claims the female nude to be more “beautiful” than the male nude, because female nudity appeals to the sexual attraction of that particular demographic, which still holds the main reigns of influence and power in many contexts, even education. So, if you have that perspective dominating education and industry, it impacts the entire population across genders and orientations. We begin to accept it as given and true. We see the world that way.
I do not believe that the curves of a female body are naturally more aesthetically pleasing than the curves of a man’s body (also, some men have similar curves as women). And if you know Abigail Ekue and her book Bare Men you would see that plenty of women (and other genders) find male bodies, as well as the stories of the humans associated with those bodies, beautiful. Sometimes men respond with disgust or disbelief when we women say things like that, but that’s honestly how we feel. A lot of women think men are beautiful in a non emasculating way.
I think there is something to her mention of men fearing the male nude, although I don’t know that it is “fear.” Maybe, maybe not. I’m not a man, so I couldn’t say. However, there is a pattern even in the naturist/nudist/clothes free community. A lot of men are happy to reblog, favorite and comment on the awesomeness, beauty, strength, etc. of the female body. Yet, they are quite critical and unappreciative of men and especially their own. “Nobody wants to see me,” was/is a common attitude. I noticed this pattern quite early in my clothes free experience, and it actually made me think the whole naturist/nudist/clothes free thing was a hoax. For all the times men criticized my self-confidence, they didn’t have the space to appreciate themselves. They just kept posting and promoting pics of chicks. It shouldn’t have surprised me, though, since society doesn’t encourage men to see themselves as “beautiful.” Rather, men are “supposed” to be hard, rough, emotionless beasts of industry. Men are often raised to look and consume while women are raised to be seen and consumed.
There are so many intersecting aspects to this question of attitudes towards different types of bare bodies. I couldn’t possibly know and address all of them. I just wanted to add to the conversation.
What are your thoughts?
Photo by ketrin1407