So this whole post is going to be based on this thread from tumblr that wound up on imgur that then wound up on my Facebook feed. If you’re unsure about devoting your time to that, I’ll give you the tl;dr from the guy who posted it to imgur:
Men can find it difficult to be validated sexually. Sending a dickpic, regardless of response, provides validation. Women, who can be constantly sexually validated, find it difficult to empathise (and vice-versa).
I’m going to be unpacking this, and it’s going to be kind of long. So quit your job and make yourself a coffee – it’s gonna be a ride.
Two feelings. On the one hand, I call bullshit on the idea that men are not admired for their appearance. Case in point, I compliment dudes probably a bit more than dudettes. The last person I complimented was a male friend on looking “cute” in his instagram picture. And I know that women do talk about the hotness of males, because I’ve been in those conversations. That being said, I have no fucking idea if other women tell men they find them attractive, and my own ratio of compliments does not reflect the world of compliments so, whatever.
And I also feel bad for men if, within their relationships, their partners don’t tell them they’re attractive. I get it. If I’m dating someone, I do want to feel like they are physically attracted to me, and I do tell the people I’m seeing that I am physically attractive to them. But again, that’s anecdotal.
So I’m coming away from this first reading thinking, is this right? Am I unable to empathise with the male experience?
1. Men don’t have sexualised clothing
Mostly true. I mean, men do have the option of revealing a bit more of themselves on the beach (or walking around my ghetto suburb) than women do, and women do objectify these men in conversations. Most likely they won’t call out “nice pecs” or “fatso” the way that men do, but I mean… we notice. Also, dudes look really good in suits, but I get that they aren’t really ‘revealing’. Male clothes are generally not sexualised except for fetish stuff, and the objectification of men is in no way as pervasive as the objectification of women.
2. Men aren’t complimented on their physical appearance by platonic friends
True, I guess? But let me ask you something–do you think your platonic male friends don’t give you compliments because they are afraid of being called a ‘queer’ or a ‘faggot’? Also, when was the last time you called another dude attractive? Is it never? Is that because you’re afraid of being called ‘queer’ or ‘faggot’?
There is always this question like “why don’t feminists stick up for men and their needs?” all the while feminists are like “patriarchal societies and homosocial friendship groups set it up so men cannot show certain behaviours without being shamed for being effeminate.” Like, we’ve gotten that for a while, and we care when men genuinely say “it’s hard for me to live up to this masculine expectation”, as long as there’s not the connotation that we don’t care, or haven’t cared, because we’re too busy feminazing around.
As for female platonic friends, again, I compliment male friends on their appearance, and although that’s anecdotal, I’m pretty sure that I’m not a huge anomaly in that regard.
Let me ask you a question: Do you want other platonic male friends to say you are sexy? If that would make you uncomfortable, ask yourself why. And if that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, if that’s what you really want… then be the change you want to see in the world! Women can’t change what men say to each other on their dudebro adventures, so you’ll need to take the reins on that one.
3. “There really aren’t many straight male role models for raw aesthetic sexiness in mainstream culture (besides unnaturally muscled men).”
I’m gonna call this one as bullshit, because there are men who we objectify. Yes, the unnaturally muscled man is the traditional eye-candy, but hey, women have to live up to unnatural sexiness standards too! The only difference is that, when we don’t, the catcalls turn into just general vitriol, e.g. being told we’re too fat and/or ugly to be raped. I’m not saying men don’t receive criticisms about their appearance, but this argument, again, feels like some dude is trying to introduce us the concept of impossible beauty standards when that’s a woman’s whole fucking life. The only difference, it seems, is that when men don’t live up to beauty standards, their bodies are ignored; when women don’t live up to beauty standards, they are ridiculed.
4. A man’s ability to obtain sex is based on their achievements or their personality, rather than their appearance, and maybe men want to be complimented on their appearance sometimes.
There is only one little nugget of information I can really kinda-sorta agree with in here–if you’re a man in a relationship, and your partner never tells you your attractive and rarely initiates sex, then I can see how that may make you feel unwanted. But that’s when you have an open discussion about it with your partner. Maybe they have reasons for not being as sexual as you, or maybe they never thought about it before because it is expected upon men to be complimentary about women’s physical forms much more than it is expected of men. And if you aren’t getting that need met by your partner, and that partner doesn’t want to meet that need, maybe you’re not getting what you need out of that relationship and you need to move on.
I feel like the crux of the issue with this one is that a man’s virility is so tied in with his worth, and yet at the same time, women are afraid to be more overt about their physical, sexual attraction to someone, because of all the shame associated with being a sexual woman. We’re told to be attractive, but not slutty, and it’s a fine line to balance that honestly wavers from judgy man to judgy man. So women become more selective with expressing sexual interest, and that’s because we’re scared. Like men, we’re scared of being rejected and humiliated. But we’re also scared that showing sexual interest can be used against us as an excuse for sexual violence. A reality about being verbally sexual with a guy is that he may take your compliment and use it as an excuse to force himself on you. Even if you say “no”, or if you say yes but want to stop because you suddenly feel insecure or the guy starts to be too rough, he can use your earlier expressed sexual attraction as a kind of confirmation bias – essentially using it as an excuse to rape.
So while I can empathise with feeling sexually unwanted in a relationship, the majority of women are never going to start being overtly sexual towards men they aren’t dating. At least, not until or unless our sexual interests stop being used as a mechanism to silence, shame, or commit sexual assault against us. Maybe you’re not the guy who does that, but there are enough that do to make us change our behaviour. If you want more women to compliment you on your appearance, maybe work with feminist organisations to set-up a safe space for them to ‘objectify’ you, where they don’t have to worry about mass repercussions. Fetish places have men dress in their sexy leather and have sexual compliments be shared between men and women and everyone on the spectrum, but these usually require a whole bunch of open mindedness and safe-spacery and also, yeah, fetish stuff. If you wanted to set up a similar community for people interested in vanilla sex, maybe talk to people in the fetish community to see how their structures work and make it yourself?
As a side note, I’ve had female friends share ‘objectifying’ images of men on social media, and then be shut down by men for being hypocritical. And to be honest, it’s a bit hard for me to sympathise with men being appreciated for their personality and their accomplishments, rather than their physical appearance. While it is important for a lot of people to feel attractive, a person’s worth being summed up by their character, rather than their image, is just much more beneficial to a person’s overall sense of well-being. So yeah, it’s hard for me to be like ‘poor you’ when I’m routinely in situations where I’m not appreciated for… like… anything, except my breasts. At least if my female friends comment on my appearance, they also compliment me on other things.
Bridging the gap with dick pics
I don’t agree with the OP, but I can understand him. He’s admitted to never having any sexual experience, and to wanting sexual validation, which is a natural thing for us all to want. And I can understand a kind of jealousy when you see it’s so easy for women to find that one validation your missing. Women, on the other hand, are trying to find many validations–appreciation of their intellect, their learned skills, their creativity, their humour, their accomplishments, their humanity… etc etc etc
But here’s where I get pissed off: when this feeling of inadequacy is translated into an excuse for men to act in a a predatory way. In this case, it’s by sending dick pics to women.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and I’ve read some explanations as to why men do it, just because from my own experience I didn’t understand. I received dick pics consistently from a man I had met a total one time. I never responded, but they kept coming for about a year, and it felt predatory. It felt predatory because it was clearly an unwanted sexual advance, in that they had completely ignored my silence and continued to sexually harass me.
The idea here is that either these men don’t care that most women don’t like receiving unsolicited dick pics because of their own feelings, or because they are incapable of even being able to understand that women don’t like unsolicited dick pics. I call bullshit on the latter – even though I have both my arms, I can understand that losing an arm would be difficult and upsetting. I may not be able to fully empathise, but if they tell me that I’ve done something to upset them as an amputee, I’d listen to their reasons why I’d upset them. At the very least I’d stop doing the thing that upsets them so much. So if the vast majority of women are like “please don’t send me pictures of your dick because it upsets me”, and you continue to send women pictures of your dick, you’re not showing an incapability to understand women’s emotions – you’re showing an inability to understand or hear the word “no”, which, for women, is just a really dangerous red flag.
If you don’t care that your method of getting penis validation upsets women, that it can legitimately make them afraid, then you’re just a horrible person. There’s no exception because you don’t get enough sexual validation in your personal life. That’s not the fault of the random girls you are exposing yourself to. You can feel jealous, sure, but there are healthy ways to deal with those emotions that don’t involve taking your frustrations out on other people.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that I can understand that not feeling sexually attractive can be a problem for men, especially when so much of their self worth is tied up in their sexuality. And that in this heteronormative, patriarchal world, women have an entirely different experience, so in romantic or sexual relationships, they may not inately understand that their male partner may crave some sexual validation. And I agree in that circumstance that discussing this with your partner, and trying to get them to see where you’re coming from, is a totally healthy thing to do.
But this whole thread is framed in a certain way, where women just can’t understand how hard it is for men not to feel sexually validated. Really, we understand. We understand because we too want our romantic and/or sexual partners to express their attraction to us. And we understand because we’ve seen men turn nasty when they feel like they haven’t received enough validation. But as Homer Simpson once said “Just because I don’t care, doesn’t mean I don’t understand”. I really would care more if women weren’t the punching bags of male frustration, but because we still live in a world where people justify the sexual harassment of women as the result of their withholding natures, I just don’t.