Male Body Image

July 15, 2016 4:05 amComments Off on Male Body ImageViews: 65

We’re told, over and over again, that popular culture forces on women an unrealistic body image. Barbie dolls, men’s magazines, and breast implants are all part of a vicious, phallic conspiracy to make women unhappy with their bodies.

What nobody seems to want to admit is that there’s just as much pressure, if not more, leveled at men. We’re told that we’re less than male, less than desirable, less than virile, if our hair thins and falls out. If it even turns gray, suddenly, we are losers who will never again pick up desirable women in bars. “No play for Mr. Gray,” intones one of the idiot ‘sports’ announcers in the Just For Men commercial.

Then there are all the commercials for erectile dysfunction treatments, and the much creepier commercials for those untested, unvalidated drugs that are supposed to make “a certain part of the male anatomy” bigger in general, and bigger or harder when you’re trying to get the job done. All of that is part of the culture of pressure placed on me. After all, we do all the work in bed; we must, therefore, be responsible for some deep and abiding sin if our dicks don’t spring to steel-girder-attention the second the women in our lives reluctantly admit to have sex with us. This usually comes on the heels of them telling us how hairy, fat, and slovenly we are in their eyes, and never you mind that most men have no control over the fact that they start to grow hair in places they never used to have it once they get past thirty years old.

Do you remember when Star Wars action figures first came out? The original three-and-three-quarters action figures actually looked like the actors they portrayed. The Han Solo figure was so painfully gaunt it looked sickly, and that’s because Harrison Ford was damned thin when he first played the part.

Take a look on the shelves of your toy store now. All of the Star Wars figures you remember can still be found, sort of. All of the human beings, however, have been altered. They all have the physiques of bodybuilders, that giant delta shape that I remember first became popular with the lumbering He-Man and the Masters of The Universe toy line. Han Solo, Luke, and all the humanoid characters from the Star Wars Universe are now musclebound He-Man types.

This reflects a shift in popular culture. Men of Action, especially back in the seventies, used to be fairly unremarkable people, physically. Some of them were down right doughy. I mean, come on, Joe Don Baker in Walking Tall was practically subhuman, he was so gross — and yet he was seen as masculine, as desirable, as a leading man.

These days, if you’re not a meat-head bodybuilder, you’re a wimp. You’re less than manly. Look at the rippling-abdominal-equipped twenty-somethings who populate reality shows like Big Brother and The Real World. We’re told that men are supposed to look like that, and anyone who doesn’t is a slob. (This, too, is reinforced in reality programming, especially dating shows where attractive women date “geeks” and other losers who are, well, normal males with normal body types.)

That’s why so many men use steroids, despite the horrifying side-effects. Even if I worked out four hours a day, while I could get pretty big, I would never achieve the type of body that is portrayed as ideal. There’s just a genetic predisposition in some builds that I don’t have; I could get fit, sure, and I could probably even get “ripped,” but I wouldn’t look like the guys on the cover of Men’s Health. I’d have to take steroids to get close to that ideal.

As for women, the idea that they’re being sold a damaging body image is bullshit. You know why I say that? Even though there is an ideal woman that most real women can’t match, most real women can still get a date any time they want. Studies show that, while men look at the “perfect” women in pornography, they generally can and do separate the fantasy from reality. They know they’re never going to score those fantasy women, which doesn’t stop them from looking — but they understand that in the real world, most women don’t look like that.

The same studies also show, though, that men generally DO find their women — their imperfect, normal, human women — to be attractive, and they enjoy having sex with them. This is true despite the fact that most women are unsatisfied with their sexual partners because, well, let’s be honest — it’s easy to be critical when you’re not the person who’s got to perform each and every time. If a woman had to be turned on and had to have good circulation to parts of her body (circulation that was beyond her physical control or willpower to affect) before her breasts inflated and her legs parted, the shoe would be on a different fucking foot, and there would be a huge industry in drugs designed to send those legs springing apart at the popping of a little pink pill.

Ironically, most African American women — again, as reported in studies done by people who ask about these things — report being very happy with their bodies. They believe themselves to be very attractive when, statistically (and this isn’t me talking, this is the studies), they’re farther away from that “ideal” body type than the caucasian women who respond to the same questions. In other words, they’re fatter and they’re uglier, if we can quantify those things (which we sometimes can’t), yet they think they’re better looking than the thinner women who complain more about thier body images. This goes to show that most of this is a question of attitude, self-consciousness, and desire moreso than it is about popular culture being terribly unfair to just women.

Every one of us has got to be okay with ourselves before we can be attractive to anyone else. ┬áJust be aware that there are double standards that aren’t always fair.

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