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20 July, 2007

Bodies 3: The Revelation

(Considered tagging this 'art', but 'beauty' is probably more honest.)

This is actually the most thought out of any of these 'bodies' posts, and was largely spawned by this post, titled Men Are Pretty, that someone linked to in the way that links slowly migrate through the internet via Brownian Motion. Earlier today I came across Figleaf's 'no-sex class' archive in a link that Amber dropped over at Ren's place, too, and that's in the stew too. (That's all quite long, but IMO the lot of it is worth reading through.)

I came across, the other day, someone commenting something like 'many women's sexuality is framed by how they think they are seen, rather than their own perceptions' or something like that. (I'm pretty sure I'm missing a nuance; I also think I saw it in a standard fem-theory phrasing.)

There's this huge thing, though, about how women are 'the pretty ones', the thing that P. Burke was writing in response to, and it goes beyond just the whole body thing. (At which point I start riffing on my post from last month about clothes, too.) My husband has been known to complain how difficult it is for him to get interesting and attractive clothing -- the options for strutting like a peacock within his taste are limited -- while I have the option of a stunning variety of just cuts of shirt, many of which are readily available to me without having to go to specialty stores. This is because men aren't supposed to be pretty; a man who cares about his appearance frequently gets snarled up in the homophobic dialogues of culture (or their countering responses; see also Queer Eye).

And then people say, hey, women aren't visually stimulated. Women are the ones who care about personal adornment. Women are the ones who are judged on their appearance in a professional and/or general social context. Women need to be Concerned about their bodies. Women are ...

And then people ask why women's sexuality is framed not by what they want to see, but how they are seen. In the context of this whole narrative that focuses consciousness on looking at women, suddenly, in the privacy of the bedroom, the heterosexual woman is supposed to start looking somewhere else. And I don't think that this is some sort of ingrained objectification thing, I think it's ... not having the story available, not being able to work on one's own personal dialogue and relationship with the whole concept of what it means to deal with the aesthetics of maleness. Because there really isn't a narrative for it.

Oh, there's a narrative of "Such-and-such movie star is so hawwwwwwt!", but that's all tangled up with celebrity-worship and fame and stuff that reminds me of reading those early books on pubescent development that talked about the "star crush" as a way of exploring feelings without having to act on them, due to how removed said celebrity is liable to be from one's reality. And maybe that's the start of trying to explore the aesthetics of maleness for some -- I wish it would go further, get a way of doing coherent narrative that people can respond to more usefully. (I don't think the extant narratives of female beauty are terribly good ones, either, mind.)

I mean, I can go and add to that "Men are Pretty" my own personal things -- there's this spot on the side right above the hip where there's this perfect curvature to snug a hand against. I get weirdly focused on the way the neck and shoulder and collarbone interact sometimes (which is why I find shirts with open necks or partially unbuttoned attractive on my fellows -- they draw the attention to that area), but I have a Thing for shoulders. I like longer hair than the 'traditional' male cuts (even on my ex who was best suited to a more mainstream-male style, I thought he looked best right about the point at which he started mumbling that it needed cutting). (*wave*, 'cause I'm all about waving at exes here lately, at least the ones that read this thing.) I really appreciate the way some people's bodies move -- I can recognise my husband well before he's close enough to parse features, clothes, or anything really, just from gross body movement, even in a crowd. (And what's with so many notions of 'beauty' being static, anyway? Motion is fantastic!) I like the fuzziness of my fellows' forearms, not for any particular reason, I just like it. It is fuzzy. I like remarkable noses. All that stuff.

And I can't connect that with the mainstream world at all. A while back in the passing-internet-quizzes-around part of the universe, one of them was a 'What men do you find attractive?' quiz involving picking between photographs -- and the overwhelming majority of those photographs were asking me to pick between men none of which I found particularly aesthetically appealing. Most of them were too thin, except for the overmuscled ones; most of them were diffident and unengaged in that sort of underwear-model way; when there was a model with nice hair I was supposed to be evaluating something else; etc. I just don't have the capacity to engage with this dialogue of beauty; it comes across to me as disconnected from the real world of actual aesthetics; nothing there was speaking my language of attraction or even my-that's-pretty. None of the people presented to me as choices were even close to as aesthetically pleasing as most of the guys in my normal social circle, leading me to comment in several people's journals where the quiz was posted, "Where are the geeky guys with nice shoulders?"

The narrative isn't there for me to engage with; if the question of 'attractiveness' is almost universally centered on men I don't find appealing, it gets hard to talk about at all. And that lack of narrative gets tangled up with the whole question of who gets to wear interesting clothes in bright colours, who gets to wear adornment, and who gets to be pretty. (And who is limited in some way by being evaluated primarily on prettiness, for that matter.)

I want better stories.

And pretty, pretty men.


Anonymous said...

Interesting food for thought.

(And thank you for that link to figleaf's 'no-sex class' ponderings. Reading through them was kind of like a dot-stereogram coming into focus. It's jarred loose things in my head; I won't know exactly what until I give it a chance to percolate, I suspect.)


P. Burke said...

Thank you for the link. But more importantly, thank you for getting the point.

I liked your point about motion. I think there's something important about the body as an animal with feelings and impulses, not just an inert object. Not only do is it hard for me to eroticize others as inert objects, but I don't want to be eroticized that way either. (Why should I be flattered when somebody values a real or imagined aspect of me that I think is utterly valueless?)