So a sexualized woman is one who is advertising her availability for sex. A sexualized man, on the other hand, is advertising his ability to deliver a certain kind of sex. What does this look like?
Ask a woman what turns her on, and generally you will get a list like Mandy's. It's largely all about being. Ask a man what turns him on and you'll generally get a list of things you could do tonight to put him in the mood. This is what sexualizing is. At its heart, sexualization is concrete actions. It's not the T-and-A so much as how it's presented: the twisted, broken spine posture, cleavage, the exposed skin, the facial expression, and the scissoring legs.
Oddysey for giving me this example, as well as helping me to clarify my ideas on a number of points in both of these articles.) Motorcycles grumble with adventure, speed, skill, and freedom. A guy on a Harley is not going to be overly much a gentleman. There's no guessing and there's no games, nor will there be an exorbitance of “please.” He'll make it clear what he wants, will appreciate the same candor from her, and she can count on him to be gone by morning.
Horses work just as well, but the symbolism is different. Skill and command are united with sensitivity. He will be aware of her moods, her emotions, and how she reacts to how he touches her. Sensitivity, however, is not a synonym for "nice." Some horsemen will be gentlemen. But not all.
Other props are easier to come by: the dog-eared copy of Byron's poetry promising slow and intellectually stimulating foreplay while hinting at kink, the well-worn dancing shoes that intimate grace and body awareness, the shirtless and sweaty chest with work jeans and dusty boots betokening an honest and forthright vigor.
That all said, we are brought back to Mandy's list of being-verb men. If you're going to invoke any of these props, you need to be able to follow up on their promise. Any woman can slip into high heels that lengthen her legs, or put on the innocent schoolgirl uniform. The hesitant clutz on a motorcycle is a poser and more laughable than a clutz without a bike.
Even worse, the vocabulary is not as well known or understood for titillating women. The above-mentioned schoolgirl uniform can be either innocent or slutty with the same props if they're just worn a little differently. The visual language is understood so well that great nuance is possible. It's easy and natural to talk about what any individual man wants: we know what it means, and women know how to capitalize on it, when we say that Quentin Tarantino is a “foot man” or that Sir Mix-a-lot is a “butt guy.”
And yet, that is exactly the sort of thing we ought to be talking about when discussing sexualizing men. The wife in the schoolgirl outfit isn't really a schoolgirl, innocent or slutty. And she can just as easily invoke the slutty librarian look, a Wonder Woman costume, or any of a range of lingerie that highlight her husband's favorite parts or brings to mind his favorite fantasies. There are, in short, not just visual vocabularies set up for the sexualization of women, but entire industries devoted to helping her do just that.
These vocabularies and industries do not exist for the sexualization of actual, physical men. In spite of the ease with which it is assumed a woman can get a man in the mood, every woman has available to her an arsenal of tricks and toys to do just that. What do men have? Well, if you believe popular culture, apparently nothing gets a woman hotter than lobster and diamonds. Even those who claim to have the secret to dominating the hookup scene primarily rely on psychological tricks to prey upon insecurities rather than titillations.
Frankly, this state of affairs is bizarre and is hopefully changing. As women become more comfortable speaking about their sexuality and acquire more wealth, we’ll develop the vocabulary, and then the industries, to cater to their desires. We’re still probably a generation away from it, but perhaps someday soon, a woman will more easily be able to express whether she wants a tender, gentle lover, or one she can chain to the bed and have her way with, and her man will be able to easily understand and put together the evening she’s looking for.
Photos by theaudi0slave and aka_serge.