You’ve heard the argument that male superheroes are sexualized simply because they are often bare-chested. But a man taking off his shirt doesn’t make him a sex object. It’s actually rare to find examples of male superheroes who truly are sexualized the way women are in comics. Here are ten examples.
Our Young Avengers’ opening scene being in this list made me smile, in a good way.
What’s so interesting to me was that even a list of ten times, they had to include fanart, largely drawn by women, to make the list. And it included a joke scene.
And in all the examples, while they are sexualized they aren’t objectified. You see them in full-body shots. They’re flexing and powerful, the center of attention with other sexualized, even objectified, women surrounding them (especially in those swimsuit issues). The outfits and scenes are full of their own personality and who they are. You can’t swap out different characters at will with no change in the scene (aside from maybe the Scarlet Spider pic)
You don’t get a closeup shot of Thor’s ass as he climbs up a ladder. You get a full-body shot of him, including his face and what he’s interested in and doing.
Noh-Varr is specifically dancing to impress a girl he just had sex with and we can assume would like to again. He’s in control of what is happening, he’s aware that Kate is watching him. He’s inviting her to keep watching. He has agency in the scene.
If the way women were sexualized in comics were more like the scenes in this, then I don’t think it would be such a big deal. But more often what we see are women broken into body parts, removed of their identity, with no agency in how they’re being presented, and in scenes where they should be flexing and powerful we get glorified porn poses.
Yeah, this list is bullshit. Or, okay, it’s a list that fails to understand what “sexualization” is, and seems to largely equate it with “being shown as physically attractive.” I got into some of this here, commenting on a post that used several of the same Swimsuit Issue images. One major problem with lists like this is what’s being said above: it communicates to people that sexualization is not that serious, and can co-exist with strength and agency. Another problem is that it allows creators to claim that they are being progressive without doing any of the work of being progressive (a string of words I’ve had to use a lot recently when discussing Marvel). This is very dangerous, as it turns actually being progressive in any significant, meaningful way into something supererogatory— something that’s above and beyond the minimum required action, where it should be the minimum required action.
In fact, the most superficial examination of how fangirls and fanworks are viewed & treated should obviously establish that the sexualization of men is still viewed as transgressive and uncomfortable.
1) Completely agree re: the swimsuit issues (though I find the pics of Namor from the “top ten” list to be pretty hot.
2) Requisite linking to Dave Willis’ Sexy Batman comic
I think it’s too easy in sexualization and objectification discussions to equate nakedness with objectification — it seems like such an easy metric! If the discussion moves past that, then it’s usually about the “sexiness” of the pose.
But the bigger issues are actually:
1) Who the sexiness is for. Yes, there are examples of sexy, vulnerable men, but usually they’re sexy and vulnerable for their own sake. The audience is encouraged to sympathize with them, to care about them and their character development. Whereas sexualized females are there for the audience or for the male protagonist. That vulnerable girl in the back? We not supposed to care about her internal life, her character development. Her vulnerability is solely designed to titillate/please *us*, the audience. This is why spandex is magically tighter and thinner on women than on men. (There’s plenty of shots of Spiderman with his crotch towards the audience, but how often do we see the outline of his penis lovingly shaded? His butt deliciously shrink-wrapped? His nipples carefully highlighted? All his poses are about ACTION — what *he’s* doing to advance *his* story.)
Just as a casual illustration: here’s a quick doodle of a pretty naked Winter Soldier Bucky being vulnerable for himself, and another of him clothed, but being vulnerable *for me* (mwahaha). HMMM WONDER WHICH ONE IS MORE OBJECTIFYING?
2) The fact that it’s societal. I tried to think of sexy women “come hither” and “I’m available” and “I’m yours” poses, and at least 20 immediately come to mind. Because women are posed like that ALL THE TIME. When I tried to think of sexy men “come hither”, “I’m available” and “I’m yours” poses, however, I came up with … 5. And 3 of them are from gay/yaoi stuff where the guy is posed “like a girl”. Too often, portrayal of male sexiness is portrayal of *their* power as centers of their stories, when in fact Fandom loves our crying, vulnerable boys. Relatedly, there are very few images where men are just sexy background decoration, where the attention is *not* on them as people but only as scenery. Does anyone ever say “oh dear, I need something to fill this bottom left corner … I know! I’ll throw some half-naked guys in there!” Then why does it happen all the time for women?
I was just going to give this kudos but not reblog it right up until SO BARBARIAN SUCH SCENERY and now I need about ten swimming pools worth of that in my life.