What would male sexual visibility look like to you?

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What would male sexual visibility look like to you? Empty What would male sexual visibility look like to you?

Post by reboot on Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:35 pm

Reading over the comments on DNL prime, it seems like there are a whole lot of different ideas of what male sexual visibility is (e.g. same depictions of men as objects of desire in media as women?, an environment where women act more like men in expressing their opinions on desirability? more recognition of not Hollywood hot men as attractive? more societal openness to men being able to publically display sensuality and sexuality? more societal openness to men being able to compliment each other? all of the above? none of the above?)

So I thought a thread where people could describe what being sexually visible would look like to them, what barriers they see to this happening in current societies, and some solutions or ideas of how to address those barriers.

Caveat: As a sexually invisible woman I have absolutely no idea how to address these issues, so am looking forward to seeing the ideas others have
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Post by Conreezy on Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:14 pm

I think a lot of straight guys would like to see a sexual environment in which women were able to express desire more often and loudly in addition to a removal of the "men must do the approaching and/or prove themselves through feats of sexiness that aren't outright sexy" paradigm that a lot of us internalize.

Sounds reasonable, but unfortunately, many guys are unreasonable in their refusal to acknowledge the societal factors that make number 1 extremely difficult. Also, many men have unreasonable expectations regarding how and how often sex is offered to even the hottest people. I'm guilty of it myself--thinking a six pack will turn the women around me into characters in a late-night Cinemax movie. Life simply doesn't work that way, but so many of us are trained in sexual matters by fiction and never think we have enough real-life experience to let go of the preconceptions that don't jive with reality.

I'm not sure, because it's not my experience, but I'll bet many bisexual guys would like to see a more open male sexuality. For some reason, men are either gay or straight (with varying degrees of acceptance), but women can be some places in between (though not without issues, of course). Straight and gay men could benefit from this too, obviously.

Just brainstorming. I should be studying.

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Post by Guest on Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:30 pm

I think all of the above are elements of it. Even the objectification of men would help in it's own way, even if it causes it's own problems. It certainly causes enough problems for women.

Personally, I think the biggest factor is openness to men expressing their sensuality and sexuality. I have my own problems regarding how I view myself sexually, but I wouldn't feel comfortable discussing it with anyone with the obfuscation the internet can provide.

Anyway, this is coming from someone who thought men were fundamentally not sexy as a rule of nature until about a year ago. Even then I still get the niggling feeling we aren't, but that will fade in time. The word projection springs to mind. So, uh, take it with a tablespoon of salt.

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Post by Werel on Wed Dec 03, 2014 10:22 pm

This is something I was thinking about the other night while walking my dog and passing a cute guy: what if I were to express more appreciation for men's bodies, the way men do to women? And then I thought: wait, do I already do that? When I see a cute guy on the street, I will very often smile at him. Not because I necessarily want to talk to him, or am interested in any type of interaction with him, but because having an attractive person cross my field of vision is pleasant for me, as it is for many of us, and makes me want to smile. I think I tend to give a facial "thumbs up, looking good" without thinking about it.

And, honestly, because I have been reading so much about feelings of invisibility on here, I think I've been (consciously or not) sending more "I appreciate your physical appearance" vibes to dudes I pass on the street. Because what if this feeling of sexual invisibility we hear described on the forums and main site is a problem that could actually be addressed in small ways in my daily life? What if it is actually another component of our fucked gender system that's actively harming men and women? Whose life would be better if normal-looking guys got appreciative looks on the street once in a while? Or would it in actuality make their lives a little worse, as women who receive frequent "appreciative attention" usually describe their experiences?

I think it's important to note that, on the conventional attractiveness scale, I fall somewhere between "average" and "invisible." I'm overweight, pretty tall, and I don't perform femininity very strongly (it's like a 50/50 chance that new acquaintances will erroneously read me as a lesbian). Think Janeane Garofalo plus fifty pounds. So I'm probably a decent litmus test for "do men enjoy any appreciative attention from strangers, or only from conventionally attractive strangers, as women are frequently accused of in street harassment conversations?" (Plus I'm a little bit taller than a lot of men here, so it feels physically safer for me than for most women to engage in appreciative looks at strangers).

The results I get are interesting. Impressionistically, if a guy is not highly conventionally attractive, it seems like there are two main reactions: he'll either seem surprised/pleased (some guys just kind of light up, it's nice to see) or go to straight shut-down avoidance no-eye-contact mode. It's the conventionally attractive men that are the wild card; I've never felt quite threatened by any of them just for smiling at them, but sometimes they seem seriously affronted, like almost to the point of taking offense. I assume this is because I'm not conventionally attractive, so the act of smiling appreciatively at them seems... uppity*? Some conventionally attractive guys seem tickled, and the rest just don't react visibly. Occasionally someone will return with an appreciative look of their own, but this tends to come more from non-white dudes (I don't know why  confused ).

I would be really interested to hear opinions on whether appreciative-but-unsolicited-smiles is a practice I should continue, increase, or discontinue, and why. How would you feel if you were given positive attention in passing from a stranger? An attractive stranger? An unattractive stranger?

*I use the word with full awareness of its connotations, and I admit to a little bit of perverse delight when I get the affronted reaction, because it feels like punching up-- but I trust y'all will point out the problems with this. Wink
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Post by The Wisp on Wed Dec 03, 2014 11:12 pm

Werel, this may be just my personal insecurities, but I personally get anxious when strangers smile at me because I'm never sure if they're smiling at me, or somebody right behind me, or just thinking of something funny and looking vaguely in my direction. Usually, it is the latter two. I think different people will vary on that, though, I'm just one data-point.

As for what male sexual visibility would look like? In my mind, the key would be an attitude change about male sexuality. As it stands, people view male sexuality with fear or with humor and condescension. The primary message sent to young men about their sexuality wouldn't be about controlling it lest it hurt people (you get this from traditionalists and feminists), for instance. Male sexuality wouldn't be portrayed as buffoonish and simplistic on sit-coms. People would view it as titillating that a film had a nude scene of a famous male actor, rather than gross or funny. Men could unironically wear sexy underwear. Men would refer to themselves or be referred to as "sexy" more often. People would talk more about male sexuality in terms of empowering men and how men can enjoy it as an end in itself. Male sex toys would be seen as just as normal as female sex toys. Instead, male sexuality is viewed in a very functional way, which is why men get so upset when they can't bring their partner to orgasm.

I do think women being more vocal about appreciating the male body and masculinity (in its many forms) would ideally be apart of it as well, and also being more actively seeking and desiring it. One problem with women being passive is that it creates this feeling that men have to convince women to find them hot, that the default is a sort of gross, unappealing thing. I have no relationship experience, so this is speculation, but women would initiate sex within relationships much more than they seem to (though, maybe my picture is skewed because people only talk about initiation dynamics if they're dissatisfied with them)

Finally, I think it would mean far more clothing options for men.
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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Dec 03, 2014 11:15 pm

I admit that I am potentially.... hostile to this topic. I do genuinely believe that society is wrong to confine male sexuality so exclusively to outward sexual performance (having sex with other people) and boxing it into a very narrow definition of masculinity. I do think the media should embrace the "female gaze" and offer more examples of what women find attractive.

But damn it if I don't feel a little... annoyed. I have spent my whole life being sexually invisible. And when I wasn't invisible, I was reviled. While society does give women more avenues for expressing their sexuality in ways that don't amount to partner-sex, you still have to find those. I still had to really search and experiment to figure out what worked for me. And I had to find them in an environment that clearly stated that if I refused to be invisible, I deserved to be mocked and ridiculed.

It also seems like women have made an attempt to objectify men more, only for those same guys who say they want that to turn around and demonize the women for it. Like we talked about on the main site, if the object of female fantasy doesn't seem to fit the mold of what the majority of guys think it should, then the guys mock women's tastes.

Take Twilight. Now I have many, many, many problems with Twilight, but it was one of the rare mainstream female gaze movies. The mockery and scorn I've seen from men on the Internet about Twilight hasn't been about its poor writing, its messed-up messages, or its blank protagonist, but instead about how dumb it was because it was a "romance" film. Teenage girls who adore One Direction are ceaselessly mocked online as being stupid and immature. Here are two prime examples of a group of women demonstrating attraction to a not-typical masculine type, only to get disrespected.

It's also hard to be genuinely empathetic when our culture is already so, so focused around male sexuality, and around women as objects and prizes. And it isn't just the traditionally-hot men... the trope of the Fat Husband-Hot Wife and Loser Nerd-Hot Cheerleader is very alive and well. These are examples in the media mainstream of non-conventional men being rewarded. I cannot recall for the life of me when a gender-flipped example happened; not even in media aimed towards women.

I think it just gets under my skin to hear so many guys talk about how they are sexually invisible, when that group so heavily overlaps with the same population that insists women who they don't find attractive remain invisible or ashamed. That's probably unfair, but when that question is asked ("What would male sexual visibility look like?"), my first thought is "It'd look exactly like it does now, only guys would get more sex with hotter women." Kind of like "What would it be like if more women approached men?", my first (admittedly bitter) remark would be "It'd be a world where women get slammed even more for being shallow, and expectations of contributions from the guy's side would be even lower."
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Post by Jayce on Wed Dec 03, 2014 11:27 pm

Werel wrote:How would you feel if you were given positive attention in passing from a stranger? An attractive stranger? An unattractive stranger?

*I use the word with full awareness of its connotations, and I admit to a little bit of perverse delight when I get the affronted reaction, because it feels like punching up-- but I trust y'all will point out the problems with this. Wink

A month or two ago while I was walking down the street, I got a catcall from a woman. It was one of those pretty upfront and vocal ones. She said directly to me in the exact words, I like your jeans, you're fucking hot. I said thank you. Sometimes I do get comments from other people about my appearance. Like two days ago I got told that my clothes looked colorfully bright. Last week when I walked in to the door at my friend's party the first thing that came from the host's mouth was, you look perfect! I think maybe around 60% of compliments I get are from woman and the other 40% from guys. I think maybe a year or two ago another man winked at my once (I think it was a particularly sexually connotated wink) and I nodded, smiled back. And there were guys that told me "nice jeans, dude", "I like your blazer". Oh ok, now that I think about it, I do receive positive attention once in a while. Which is why I don't always feel particularly sexually invisible. I just feel invisible in the form of "senpai, please notice me". And I probably don't get noticed by the people I'm attracted to.

I welcome the publicity as long as its not the "you're on my territory so I'm going to show my dominance over you, wont respect your space, and will keep annoying you even if you're don't want to continue engaging with me" type of catcall or attention.


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Post by Enail on Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:04 am

<mod>RBS, this is a thread specifically devoted to the fact that many men here have expressed a feeling of sexual invisibility - that they are not seen, sexually, which is a different, more specific issue from not having society organized around one's sexuality. If someone in this thread seems to be denying that reactions to women viewing men sexually are often problematic, or making assertions about what women do/don't experience or feel, by all means, speak up about that. Otherwise, this thread should be for discussing what sexual visibility means and how it might apply to men, not the ways in which heterosexual male sexuality is privileged or invisibility competitions. </mod>
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:07 am

About...six years ago? I was riding a bus from my college to...a bookstore, I think. Anyway I was wearing one of those T-shirts that has a witticism written on the front, and an old man sitting across from me noticed and started laughing and repeating the punchline out loud. Really lifted my mood for the whole day, and I still have the shirt.

It's nice being noticed.
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:07 am

To me, a lot of this depends on what else changes. I'm going to assume no one is advocating for a complete reversal into matriarchy, but it's unclear whether people are contemplating nothing about society changing except for men being more sexually visible or if a bunch of changes to make pursuing sex, being in public, being vocal about sexual desires and so on would go along with it. This are my predictions, sometimes considering both possibilities:

- There'd be more of most of the ways of celebrating male sexuality that don't relate to women - the things Wisp mentioned, plus male masturbation and male sex toys no longer being considered purely humorous topics.

- There would be more and more acceptable media portrayals of women desiring men and of men's bodies as being seen as desirable. Sometimes men would like these images and find them empowering, and sometimes they'd feel uncomfortable or intimidated by seeing desire projected toward men who are unlike them and who they may not even want to be like. In a world with drastically reduced patriarchy, these portrayals wouldn't be marginalized into a couple of genres but would also be seen in works aimed toward men. Depending on how skillfully it was deployed, it could be seen as interesting, neutral, or distracting by someone who didn't respond to that kind of fan service.

- Women would ask men out more. In a world where only visibility changed, this would mostly happen in soft social settings. In a world with less patriarchy, this would also happen more frequently in places like bars and online. I don't actually think that we would see significantly more men being approached on public transportation or while walking to work or at the grocery store unless we went full scale matriarchy and gave women a bunch of privilege. In the case of only visibility changing, there'd still be danger from a poor reaction to an approach or from another man's jealousy he wasn't approached. In a world without gender privilege, I suspect it would simply be seen as rude.

- There might be more sexualized glancing, but I don't actually think there'd be all that many more visual compliments. As was mentioned on the prime site, men don't actually do this all that often to women in a friendly way - it either tends to be a prelude to a cold approach or disguised bullying. If the only thing we changed was male sexual visibility, I don't think we'd see all that much of either because of fear either the approach of the bullying would result in a frightening reaction. If we eliminated privilege, we might see a bit more of the approach-related sort of compliment, though I still don't think they'd be all that common. Presumably, these changes would make it more acceptable for men to compliment each other.

- Men who already do well with women would be less stressed, as they wouldn't always need to initiate. Men who are very good at female-coded skills like maintaining social networks full of eligible single people, increasing their visual appeal and ability to stand out, and using body language to signal they'd like to be approach would do much better in terms of finding partners. Men who don't have these skills and who already struggle with dating might or might not benefit - they'd get some approaches, but not necessarily ones from women they'd be interested in. Depending on their attitude toward it, they might feel better about having more dating opportunities or worse at knowing that other men are being approached. And, for some group of men (and a comparable group of women), I think things would hurt a bit more, because it would be clear that they weren't particularly successful either as approachers or as approachees.


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Post by Guest on Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:12 am

Werel wrote:And, honestly, because I have been reading so much about feelings of invisibility on here, I think I've been (consciously or not) sending more "I appreciate your physical appearance" vibes to dudes I pass on the street. Because what if this feeling of sexual invisibility we hear described on the forums and main site is a problem that could actually be addressed in small ways in my daily life? What if it is actually another component of our fucked gender system that's actively harming men and women? Whose life would be better if normal-looking guys got appreciative looks on the street once in a while? Or would it in actuality make their lives a little worse, as women who receive frequent "appreciative attention" usually describe their experiences?

Well, a smile alone isn't exactly the same as some of the "appreciative attention" women often receive and are expected to enjoy. Being directly catcalled would freak the shit out of me like it would most women. Which brings us to your questions...

Werel wrote:I would be really interested to hear opinions on whether appreciative-but-unsolicited-smiles is a practice I should continue, increase, or discontinue, and why. How would you feel if you were given positive attention in passing from a stranger? An attractive stranger? An unattractive stranger?

Being given an appreciative smile? I'll be honest in that, personally, I probably wouldn't recognise it in the first place. But, assuming I did, I'd probably find it welcome if unusual. I don't do that sort of thing myself as I'd rather not been seen as creepy and in public I try and avoid interaction with people at large. I'd like to think I'd react positively - smile back perhaps. But I have a trend of being in my own little world in my head while in public given I almost always have headphones on. My mind lags behind on processing what's in front of me because of what's going on in my head.

I remember I was 'cat called' once, which I posted in the DNL article comments:

But, I do have a positive and relevant tale, much like the Doctor's. One day, I was going to a friends place for a bit of gaming. I picked up a ton of snacks and drinks on the way and was already pretty late so I was booking it as fast as I could while still walking. Apart from dodging around people, I wasn't paying anyone much mind. That was when a random woman who I quickly shuffled past called out to me: "Wow, I love your hair!" At the time, I just kind of turned around a bit while moving and yelled back "Thanks!"

It wasn't until I realised the comment had stuck with me the entire day and the next that, well, it was kind of a big deal for me. I don't get completely random comments like that at all (save for one fellow who thought I looked so pale I was dying on the train... Yeah) and it took me completely off guard. In hindsight, if I wasn't late and shuffling along like a moron I might have at least asked her name to thank her specifically, but them's the breaks.

At least it's a better story than when a woman started fondling my hair from behind with no warning.

The above speaks for itself, I guess. It was unusual enough to stick with me to this day, and it's not an unpleasant memory. For whatever reason, I didn't even think they were being facetious. It took a random yelling a compliment at me on the street to believe it. Maybe it was so sudden I couldn't even think up ways they were trying to make fun of me and skipped to the good part. I dunno.

As for the attractiveness of the one giving the appreciation, well, I don't know if it would matter. I don't think it's a question I can answer without having it happen, but I highly doubt I would insulted or disgusted. I'd have to have a ridiculously high opinion of myself for that, I think.

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Post by Guest on Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:37 am

Werel wrote:
I would be really interested to hear opinions on whether appreciative-but-unsolicited-smiles is a practice I should continue, increase, or discontinue, and why. How would you feel if you were given positive attention in passing from a stranger? An attractive stranger? An unattractive stranger?

This is always going to be complicated since, you're dealing with people who are traditionally not used to handling the amount of attention being explored here. There will always be negative reactions to positive attention. I'd assume that we'd experience similar amounts of unwanted attention relative to what many women experience? And this goes without saying but, there will always be subsets of men whose presence won't be as favourably acknowledged even when 'male sexual visibility' gets increased overall.

Another possible problem might be that you could get more men with an over-inflated sense of how attractive we are? Like what happens when men get approached in dating?

Personally, I wouldn't know if a smile was being given as a polite "Hello!" gesture, or an actual acknowledgement of whatever physical features that might've caught your eye. I would just assume that people were being polite by default.

But let's assume there was a genuine appreciation of my looks: The more conventionally attractive a person was, the more wary I'd be simply because it wouldn't be a part of my lived experienced. Because, I'd probably think, "Am I being made fun of?". I mean, the last person who asked me to be her boyfriend wasn't being serious, and she was conventionally attractive.

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Post by azazel on Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:03 am

HermitTheToad wrote:
But let's assume there was a genuine appreciation of my looks: The more conventionally attractive a person was, the more wary I'd be simply because it wouldn't be a part of my lived experienced. Because, I'd probably think, "Am I being made fun of?". I mean, the last person who asked me to be her boyfriend wasn't being serious, and she was conventionally attractive.

I'll go further and say I go full on panic mode when someone non-ordinarily smiles at me in the street, regardless of attractiveness. I'd say 90% of the time a smile aimed at me in the street was accompanied by audible sneering a moment later.

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Post by Mel on Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:39 am

After seeing some of the discussion re: visibility on the blog, I was actually thinking of starting a thread here for people to post examples of "non-traditional" men who are portrayed as good with women/sexy in media (e.g., I can think of a few Asian guys portrayed as ladies men from TV/movies off the top of my head), and/or for women to talk about and post pics of non-conventionally-attractive men they find hot. Maybe that could be two separate posts. But I'm not sure whether that would be helpful, as a "here's stuff to take heart in/reassure you that some people do see these guys as attractive/show examples of women appreciating men in a sexualized way" thing, or might backfire somehow?  Guys, what do you think?
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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:36 pm

Mel wrote:After seeing some of the discussion re: visibility on the blog, I was actually thinking of starting a thread here for people to post examples of "non-traditional" men who are portrayed as good with women/sexy in media (e.g., I can think of a few Asian guys portrayed as ladies men from TV/movies off the top of my head), and/or for women to talk about and post pics of non-conventionally-attractive men they find hot. Maybe that could be two separate posts. But I'm not sure whether that would be helpful, as a "here's stuff to take heart in/reassure you that some people do see these guys as attractive/show examples of women appreciating men in a sexualized way" thing, or might backfire somehow?  Guys, what do you think?

I, for one, would say that's a very good idea =)

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Post by reboot on Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:49 pm

I see that the way women tend to express appreciation (looks, smiles, etc) is either not noticed or not appreciated by many, but I do not know that we want a world where everyone is yelling "Nice ass!" from their cars is the thing.

So what would be an in between state that might work? And how do we break the somewhat common compliment/noticed me=wants to have sex with me connection? And is there some work to be done for people to learn to accept compliments?

Edit: ignore strike out section. It was a thought that seemed linked but is not.


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Post by azazel on Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:03 pm

reboot wrote:And is there some work to be done for people to learn to accept compliments?

Can you explain what you exactly mean by this? I'm currently parsing it in a way I'm pretty sure you're not intending it to mean.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:18 pm

Short of adding it to Common Core, I'm not sure how you can make people internalize the proper way to accept a compliment (and/or not assign extra meaning to it).

I suspect at least some of the people who say they don't notice other people making eye contact etc. might notice more if they weren't staring at their own feet all the time. :p
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Post by reboot on Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:22 pm

azazel wrote:
reboot wrote:And is there some work to be done for people to learn to accept compliments?

Can you explain what you exactly mean by this? I'm currently parsing it in a way I'm pretty sure you're not intending it to mean.

Oops! Yeah. It came out not the way I meant.

I was thinking along the lines of if someone says, "I really like your hair", if you do not like your hair, avoiding saying things like, " Really? I think it is ugly." Or, "Why? [List of things wrong with hair]" Or not being dismissive? I guess...

Or something like that....it is clearer what I mean in my head than writing though.
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:34 pm

Is that really the problem, though, reboot? I tend to think of people who crave compliments and people who respond to compliments in that manner as being separate groups, with the second one preferring not to be complimented at all (at least for any one given subject, since someone may crave compliments on their artistic work but hate comments on their clothes). But perhaps that's not the case and some people struggle with reacting when they get compliments they enjoy?

In any case, I don't really think this is a huge barrier to women complimenting men more. I think the more serious barrier is it being interpreted as a sexual or romantic advance, and the recipient either being disappointed or angry when one doesn't follow or repulsed or mocking at being approached by someone inappropriate. I'd also say it's one of the longest term fixes of the various things that I think need to be done before we reach anything like the sort of sexual visibility men seem to want. I think it's fairly feasible for people to start calling out people who mock women for expressing their desires (romance novels and some other areas where women do so are generally a joke) and men for expressing their sexuality (the same goes for men's sex toys and attempts at more expressive fashion). It would probably need to be done subject-by-subject, but I think it could gain some traction. Women asking men out more frequently and men taking steps to signal interest in being approached is something that probably requires some generational turnover, but could be promoted in various ways. The compliments bit is difficult, though. I don't think our current culture has managed to create an atmosphere where women typically feel good about compliments given them to men, so reversing something that already isn't functioning seems very tricky.
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Post by reboot on Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:40 pm

eselle28 wrote:Is that really the problem, though, reboot? I tend to think of people who crave compliments and people who respond to compliments in that manner as being separate groups, with the second one preferring not to be complimented at all (at least for any one given subject, since someone may crave compliments on their artistic work but hate comments on their clothes). But perhaps that's not the case and some people struggle with reacting when they get compliments they enjoy?

In any case, I don't really think this is a huge barrier to women complimenting men more. I think the more serious barrier is it being interpreted as a sexual or romantic advance, and the recipient either being disappointed or angry when one doesn't follow or repulsed or mocking at being approached by someone inappropriate. I'd also say it's one of the longest term fixes of the various things that I think need to be done before we reach anything like the sort of sexual visibility men seem to want. I think it's fairly feasible for people to start calling out people who mock women for expressing their desires (romance novels and some other areas where women do so are generally a joke) and men for expressing their sexuality (the same goes for men's sex toys and attempts at more expressive fashion). It would probably need to be done subject-by-subject, but I think it could gain some traction. Women asking men out more frequently and men taking steps to signal interest in being approached is something that probably requires some generational turnover, but could be promoted in various ways. The compliments bit is difficult, though. I don't think our current culture has managed to create an atmosphere where women typically feel good about compliments given them to men, so reversing something that already isn't functioning seems very tricky.

Yeah, it might not be relevant to this topic. It somehow seemed to be when I wrote it, but I might have been thinking of trusting compliments more which is more an insecurity thing?

I am going to cross that part out.
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Post by Dan_Brodribb on Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:17 pm

The thing I see coming up again and again in this thread doesn't seem to be about men being sexually invisible. Women (and non-straight guys) seem to be noticing the men they like just fine.

Instead it sounds like the obstacle is ACKNOWLEDGING male sexual visibility in a way that it can picked up on but isn't going to be seen by one or both parties as inappropriate, misleading, or threatening.

I find that encouraging.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:35 pm

Agreed, Dan. Or I guess I'm encouraged by the part where we've somewhat narrowed the scope of the problem, because focus tends to help with finding solutions.

I don't really agree with framing it as a problem with people acknowledging male sexuality, though, mainly because that expects the majority of people who don't have these problems to take responsibility for them anyway. Encouraging that as part of a cultural shift over several generations may be part of a long term solution, but it's not going to help much right now.

What would help in the short term is a way to either notice signals of appreciation/attention that are already happening (if in fact they are) or encourage one's "audience" to be more overt/explicit/visible about it.

I do think there are additional obstacles tied to race, orientation, and certain physical attributes: some men don't "count" as men just like some women don't "count" as women, to a depressing ratio of people. But learning to notice when other people notice seems like a decent general-case short term solution, no?
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Post by Werel on Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:47 pm

The Wisp wrote:Werel, this may be just my personal insecurities, but I personally get anxious when strangers smile at me because I'm never sure if they're smiling at me, or somebody right behind me, or just thinking of something funny and looking vaguely in my direction. Usually, it is the latter two. I think different people will vary on that, though, I'm just one data-point.

Interesting-- though I'm curious, do you live in a place where smiling at strangers, whether flirty/appreciative or strictly friendly, is common (I don't have much experience with CO cultural norms)? I think Hermit made a good point:

HermitTheToad wrote:Personally, I wouldn't know if a smile was being given as a polite "Hello!" gesture, or an actual acknowledgement of whatever physical features that might've caught your eye. I would just assume that people were being polite by default.

I was raised by southern parents, so I may be more inclined to do smiling as a polite/friendly "Hello!" gesture overall, in addition to appreciative-of-someone's-appearance smiles. That also might be part of the avoidance reactions-- haoles don't send or receive a ton of friendly smiles here, from my limited experience, so me smiling at strangers for any reason may just not mesh with local politeness culture.

But, that specific context aside, it seems like not registering/knowing how to process any kind of stranger-smiles seems pretty common among men, so that's good to keep in mind. I wonder if that would be different in a hypothetical world like eselle is describing, especially more approaching by women/more awareness of one's approachability among men? If men were expecting women to be sizing them up, commenting on their appearance, or approaching them, would they take more notice of smiles/other appraising attentions?

And would that be pleasant, or would it be just another low-level anxiety running in the background at all times? Would it be a drag to constantly be on the lookout, either in the form of "Oh crap, an unattractive woman is smiling at me and I'm going to have to deal with an unwanted approach" or "Oh crap, no women have given me appreciative eyes today even though it's the norm for them to do so, therefore I'm a hideous troll"?

HermitTheToad wrote:
Another possible problem might be that you could get more men with an over-inflated sense of how attractive we are? Like what happens when men get approached in dating?

Hm, I don't know... there's no shortage of women who receive a lot of "positive"/"appreciative" unsolicited attention but still have pretty piss-poor opinions of their own attractiveness. Hearing from others that you're attractive doesn't always lead to believing it about yourself.

And if it did lead men who are attractive to a lot of women to be more aware of that fact, is that necessarily bad? Can someone know that they're attractive to others without overestimating their attractiveness, or placing undue importance on the fact?

azazel wrote:
I'll go further and say I go full on panic mode when someone non-ordinarily smiles at me in the street, regardless of attractiveness. I'd say 90% of the time a smile aimed at me in the street was accompanied by audible sneering a moment later.

Well that just sucks. Sorry you've had to deal with such rude people. Neutral

Mel wrote:After seeing some of the discussion re: visibility on the blog, I was actually thinking of starting a thread here for people to post examples of "non-traditional" men who are portrayed as good with women/sexy in media (e.g., I can think of a few Asian guys portrayed as ladies men from TV/movies off the top of my head), and/or for women to talk about and post pics of non-conventionally-attractive men they find hot. Maybe that could be two separate posts. But I'm not sure whether that would be helpful, as a "here's stuff to take heart in/reassure you that some people do see these guys as attractive/show examples of women appreciating men in a sexualized way" thing, or might backfire somehow?  Guys, what do you think?

I think we had a thread like that on the old forums at one point-- was that helpful to anyone?

Dan_Brodribb wrote:Instead it sounds like the obstacle is ACKNOWLEDGING male sexual visibility in a way that it can picked up on but isn't going to be seen by one or both parties as inappropriate, misleading, or threatening.

Bingo. There seem to be very few ways of acknowledging guys' attractiveness that aren't one of those things:


  • Smiles/eye contact: frequently not picked up on.
  • Catcalling: just threatening and shitty.
  • Compliments: often misleading (if recipient believes compliment, but also believes it indicates more interest than is present), sometimes threatening (if recipient believes compliment is facetious or a prelude to cruelty). Although y'all's examples of well-taken compliments on clothing are heartening; "I like your shirt" or "nice shoes" are tough to take wrong, I hope (I'm always happy to get clothing/style compliments from men or women, and don't find them at all threatening).
  • Winking/more overtly sexual gestures: pretty dang inappropriate in most cases, and easy to construe as misleading.


So... hm... what are the other options? scratch
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Post by Lemminkainen on Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:56 pm

A personal story which I think relates to the issue of male sexual invisibility, which seems to actually be the invisibility of women's desire for men:

I used to find women's desire for and pleasure in sex with men unbelieveable.  I'm not talking about intellectual belief-- I knew intellectually that women experienced lust, had read a bunch of women's descriptions of their own lustful feelings, and seen lots of people fangirling over tumblr guys and yaoi stuff.  But despite all of that, it still felt emotionally untrue to me.  (To get philosophically jargony, I guess that I believed in it, but didn't alieve in it:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alief_%28belief%29 )  My alief only changed when women repeatedly and vocally told me about how much they wanted and enjoyed sex with me, and even then, it took me some time to fully accept it.

I suspect that I wasn't alone in having that particular alief-- particularly because I think that the reasons I had it related to popular culture and popular narratives.

I believe that the woman-as-reward trope is one of the main culprits for this problem.  In most works that aren't obviously indulgent (ie: things that aren't porn, harem anime, the like), the male characters who popular narratives ask viewers to identify with (rather than comedic side characters like Barney Stimson or villains like evil TV jocks) always have to struggle for love and sex-- often having to complete some kind of personal growth or quest that's only tangentially related to their relationship with the love interest, and often aren't even interested in the male protagonist before that.  So, that narrative makes it seem like women only dispense love and affection not as agents with their own volition, but as part of some sort of cosmic karmic reward scheme.  (Or, alternatively, that women are mostly interested in men with proven social status-- this reading of the narrative fuels the Red Pillers, I think.)

Interestingly, even a lot of the existing stories about women don't help with this perspective-- a lot of them follow the Pride and Prejudice model, where the heroine's challenge is about choosing the right love interest among men who want her, or, in a more modern, feminist version, getting away from a love interest who's a jerk and finding happiness beyond romance (see: Whip It).

But in reality, women take a lot of action in pursuing sex and seeking partners which popular culture tends to obscure.  And most want a partner who they want to bang and who makes them feel happy and comfortable rather than one who has just saved the world.  So, I think that a pop culture that handled this issue well would:

a) Dispense with making characters' love, sex, and affection rewards for stuff that has nothing to do with their interpersonal relationships.  If two characters get together as a consequence of a story's events, make that an organic part of the story which ties into the character arcs-- basically, if your story has a romantic plot tumor, give it some chemotherapy.

b) Have more stories about women who feel horny, sexually frustrated, and/or undesirable, and work and take action to find partners.

c) Have more stories with female protagonists generally.

d) Have male characters who are good at attracting partners and who aren't indulgent, comedic, or evil.

Some works which I think do good things towards this: (500) Days of Summer, Don Jon, Pacific Rim, The Amazing Spider-Man, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Sword Art Online, Bob's Burgers, Scott Pilgrim versus the World, Jeffrey Eugenides novels, White Teeth, a lot of stand-up by female comedians.  (Ask me about any of these things and I'll explain why!)

I think that it will be hard to fix this issue for guys who have already grown up, but if we work on changing narratives now, we can help men (and women, since I strongly suspect that they're also harmed by this group of narratives) in the future.

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