Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sexualized Masculinity & Sexualized Femininity

Jaime Paetz
Maxim's Hometown Hotties

Audrina Patridge
Maxim's Hometown Hotties

Pierce Brosnan
James Bond

Nintendo DS
Good Girl/Bad Girl Ad

Nike Advertisement

Mark Wahlberg
Calvin Klein Ad

It isn’t difficult to find examples of sexualized masculinity and sexualized femininity in the media and these six images are prime examples of this. Maxim magazine is chalk full of images of nearly nude women so that magazine would be an obvious place to look when looking for any type of sexualized image but the two I chose were particularly pointing out Maxim’s idea of what femininity is or at least what it should be. Both artifacts #1 and #2 come from the online form of Maxim in the section titled “Hometown Hotties” where they feature everyday women (non-celebrities).

Artifact #1 is an image of a woman named Jaime Paetz who is posed nearly nude with only a large leaf to use as cover. She is looking away from the camera and seems withdrawn from the situation in what Nicole Krassas calls “licensed withdrawal” in her article titled Master Your Johnson: Sexual Rhetoric in Maxim and Stuff Magazines. Licensed withdrawal makes the model seem disoriented in the situation and dependent on the protectiveness of others. This photo shows Paetz as the Eve character of Adam and Eve and she is pure, innocent, and vulnerable to the wicked ways of the world and therefore needs protection from Adam. Maxim shows this to be the perfect image of woman because not only is the woman, Eve, beautiful and innocent, but she is also vulnerable and disoriented and needs help and guidance from the man, Adam.

Artifact #2 is an image of a woman named Audrina Patridge who is posed in a playful yet cliché setting of everything girly. She is wearing ruffled pink lingerie and surrounded by pink shoes which according to Maxim is what defines femininity. Feona Attwood’s article Fashion and Passion: Marketing Sex to Women talked about how women are shown to be and need pretty packaging and accessories. Women are not shown or told that they can want sex or that they can be seen doing instead of being and the self fashioning shown in this photo is a way in which a woman can “better” herself physically. The model is making eye contact with the camera but is also displaying what Krassas calls the “feminine touch” where she is holding or touching an object but not putting it to use as she is kneeling on a bed with a stiletto in her hand. This photo says that Maxim portrays femininity as being pretty pink accessories and fashion and that women are and should be “being” and not “doing”.

Artifact #3 is an image of Pierce Brosnan as the character James Bond. Often media portrays masculinity as being tough, handsome, and heroic. According to this idea, what could be more masculine than a sexy man holding a gun, fighting bad guys, all the while surrounded by beautiful, helpless women? Gary Brooks article The Centerfold Syndrome gives a theory as to why men have to act in prescribed ways when it comes to the subjects of sex, love, and intimacy. When boys are young they are yearning for the affection and intimacy of their mothers yet they are pressured to distance themselves from the female body and to take their social place next to other males. This affects the boys from growing into men who are comfortable with intimacy and sensuality in connection to a woman’s body. I think the Centerfold Syndrome also feeds into the need for men to be tough and heroic and have beautiful women but only as trophies at their side and of course as James Bond does, never sticks around one woman long enough to form intimacy outside of sex.

Artifact #4 is an advertisement for Nintendo DS and it is the image of the good girl/ bad girl that men are taught is what they need in a woman (or in this case a video game). Often the type of femininity that men are programmed to look for is the good girl/bad girl. A socially constructed trait of masculinity is the thought that men should be having lots of sex with many partners and very often and this is where they need the bad girl that “likes to play around” as this advertisement says. When men are done playing with the good girl then of course she is seen as used goods and they can’t settle down with her so they then need to find the good girl who “likes to play nice” as this advertisement says. The ideal version of femininity would be this good girl/bad girl in which the woman can both be sexy but can also be brought home to meet the parents. Since it is impossible for a woman to be both a slut and a virgin then the idea of the perfect woman and what femininity should look like is often skewed.

Artifact #5 and #6 are both examples of what masculinity looks like in media where there is often a competition on who has the biggest balls, penis, muscles, and etcetera in order to prove who is the most “man”. Artifact #5 is a Nike advertisement where the winning athlete is shown naked with only a shoe held up by an erect penis. The athlete is the winner of the athletic event but he is also the winner of the competition for masculinity as he proves he has the biggest or most powerful penis and is therefore the most masculine. Artifact #6 is a Calvin Klein advertisement featuring singer/model/actor Mark Wahlberg where he isn’t only selling underwear but he is selling masculinity. From top to bottom the image is portraying the idea of masculinity from the models rebellious backwards baseball cap to his tough guy facial expression to his bare muscular chest to the way he grabs his crotch. All of this proves his part in the competition for masculinity and by having him grab his crotch proves to others that he is a “real man” and he has the parts to prove it.

All of these images are socially constructed ideas that the media uses to tell us what femininity and masculinity is. Since these ideas and messages are socially constructed then as Brooks said, “like all socially constructed realities, it can be deconstructed.”

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