Sexual Objectification of Men in Popular Media
It is common for men to be portrayed in popular media as muscular, powerful and handsome—the idealized image of what society deems a “real” man. We often see men with chiseled abs, broad shoulders and toned bodies featured in advertisements and movies, which often promotes a form of objectification by reducing a man to the sum of his physical appearances.
What is Sexual Objectification?
Sexual objectification is when a person— typically a woman— is treated and seen as an object, dehumanized, and reduced to her body parts, sex and sexual desirability. Women in popular media are especially targeted and it has become increasingly pervasive in recent years, as it has become more socially acceptable to portray them in this way.
Objectification of Men
Though women remain the main focus of objectification, there has been growing evidence that men are also portrayed as objects of sexual desire in popular media. The “idealized” male body is often celebrated and commodified in the media, incorporating images of men with seemingly perfect physiques and chiseled facial features.
Some examples of ways in which men are objectified in popular media are:
- Advertising: We often see men in suggestive poses and portrayed in a sexual way to sell products. This reduces men to objects of fantasy and relies on a woman’s supposed lust for a man in order to sell the product.
- Movies and TV: In many blockbuster films, male actors are often objectified and viewed through a sexualized lens, just as their female co-stars. They are often featured shirtless and in poses that are calculated to attract a female gaze.
Possible Impact of Objectification
This objectification of men in popular media may have a damaging impact on how men perceive themselves. Men are expected to conform to society’s standards of “masculinity” and when they don’t, or can’t, they may internalize feelings of shame and inadequacy. “Objectifying” men can also lead to unrealistic expectations on what a real man should look like, which can be damaging to a man’s self-esteem and possibly impair his sense of identity.
Though men in popular media may be seen as powerful and “ideal” figures, this “ideal” is often based on unrealistic standards. Men are just as susceptible to being objectified as women, yet this is often overlooked or minimized. We should look critically at how the media portrays men and challenge any form of objectification.