16 Aug Buzzfeed Wants To Remind You: The Male Body Is Disgusting
Seriously, Buzzfeed, why do you think this is ok?
Before we start, I’m aware that the article in question here is from 2014. But I found it on a recent search for something related to bulgey swimsuits and am newly taken aback over it.
I don’t know why it still registers as surprising to me to see a mainstream publication label the male body this way, but it does. It somehow still sucks as much as the first time I ever encountered it. The crux of the article in question – titled 33 Budgie Smugglers You Cannot Unsee – is this: it’s ok to make fun of men who are ok with their bodies, especially when it’s about their genitals. There’s even a tagline asking if readers will be able to “make it the whole way through this post.” Because, I guess, you will be so offended by men in speedos that you will have to CLOSE THE WINDOW AND THROW AWAY YOUR COMPUTER. You will be unsurprised to learn that this was collated by a woman (I’m not here to disparage women, just pointing to a general trend of women being encouraged to see male bodies, and especially penises as threats to their wellbeing).
I bring up the female authorship, because I think it is significant to the framing of these photos as offensive or dangerous or shocking. It takes very little imagination to picture the direct inverse of a list like this, and the groundswell of loud opinions that would have its author eviscerated on social media in short order. Seriously. Can you picture the 33 Women Who Shouldn’t Wear Bikinis listicle? or similar? People would lose their minds. The Dove Real Beauty people would storm the Buzzfeed headquarters.
Body Shaming as Punching Up
I understand the notion of “punching up,” as it has become known to people or groups who believe they are disenfranchised – striking out at those believed to be above them because they can “take it.” But what could the possible point of this be? Is there some social stance that’s being adopted here to ‘put men in their place?’ What could the possible good be in framing this article this specific way? In pointing out that everyone has different bodies and different size packages? What could the value be in juxtaposing professional athletes and models with candid photos of regular people caught off guard? Perhaps most over the top and gross is the covering some of the photos with a “click to reveal” graphic because – what? – those men have more prominent packages or appear to be more overweight than the others? Because that guy was black? What the actual fuck are you doing?
There’s been other stuff I’ve written about how males in our society are conditioned to hide their sexuality while simultaneously being expected to be obsessed with sex and sexual behavior. Especially about how men are trained to be ashamed of their penises in public spaces, regardless of their size.
This is what fuels that behavior. Media coverage that portrays men comfortable with their physicality as laughable or acceptable targets for ridicule fuels the body image problems of all the men who consume that media. Can you see the direct correlation between seeing something like this list as an adolescent or young adult and immediately (perhaps even unconsciously) deciding never to open yourself up to that sort of mockery? Deliberately choosing to never own anything that might show what your actual body looked like, most especially the size and shape of your penis? The horror you’d inflict on society if anyone knew what your penis looked like!
This is where the female authorship element to something like this becomes especially significant. Imagine that same hypothetical kid seeing this as a teenager and making the short leap to assume that all the women he’s going to want to impress or have sex or relationships with in the future think this same way about his body. How fast would he try to make sure he’s as covered as possible, and has smashed his genitals flat against his legs so as never to draw attention to them in public? This kind of expectation-building based on shaming language, in the direct inverse, is why women in our society face bizarrely unattainable body and beauty standards, and are statistically more prone to suffer from dysmorphia issues at any stage of their life. What imagined value could pasting that same shaming language onto men be accomplishing?
Body shaming is not gender specific. It is not acceptable for women to talk this way about men’s bodies any more than it is acceptable for men to shame women this way. We’re all so screwed up about how we appear to others ANYWAY. What good is it doing for you to emphatically point out that men need to be more ashamed of what they look like? And how very dare you be offended that these men live their lives without worrying who knows they have genitals? This is peak grossness, Buzzfeed.
Un-Body-Shaming This Listicle
If there isn’t someone pointing out how we can do better, we’re never going to start doing it. So it may as well start here. In aid of showing how this could have been done without the “ew, gross, men have bodies” angle, I present:
33 Ways for Men to Finally Wear
Something Other Than Board Shorts
Are you brave enough to ditch the baggy trunks in favor of showing off what God gave you? Pick your style:
We just gotta do better about this shit. It’s fucking kids up. It’s already fucked most adults up. You gotta love yourself better. And then you gotta figure out how to extend that to others, regardless of their body or what genitalia they’re walking around with.