Saturday, April 18, 2009

Men are silly

I'm almost done with this project and I just realized that I haven't really dealt with men in advertising. Part of this is because so few of the ads I've been dealing with have had men in them.

As with ads with female nudes, the types male bodies shown are a select (normative) few (sorry I can't create an embeddable one that works).

It comes as no surprise that these ads are obsessed with the fit male body. Looking at them, it's so hard to believe in a world without rippling muscles and perfectly smooth skin or people who aren't too not white or too old. The nudity especially seems employed to show off the muscles (this is particularly obvious in the Beckham underwear ad).

But the male models are allowed to act much differently than female ones in most cases. Of course there is the passive/active binary that permeates advertising, but there is another that especially pertains to nudity.

There is a sexy/silly dichotomy. Though male models can be sexual (but for who?), unlike females they are often depicted in silly situations. And it is often these silly situations that allow for males to be shown with body types that do not fit the normative model.

In this ad, for example, the message polices the imperfect body "Make the naked go away!!"), but unlike a good number of ads with nude women, it admits that the male body exists in an "imperfect" state.

PETA, again, makes a great source to go to for this dichotomy. Does their treatment of women apply similarly to men?

Not really. In one series, "Ink not mink" the men and women seem equally passive and not very sexual as the models are mostly just showing off their tattoos. And there is one maybe sexual image of a man in their "Bare skin, not bear skin" series.

But while their media center is populated with print ads of women laying or standing sensually, breasts covered by their arms (or by someone else's arms or by a rabbit), men who aren't clothed or tattooed are, well...


And this isn't limited to PETA:

What are these people doing naked on chairs? Selling them! I guess it might be a stretch to call this silly. I certainly find it amusing. Notice how, for some reason, the man is large and the woman is similar to every other woman in ads that aren't about weight loss.


The man's body isn't abhorrent, but have you ever seen an ad with a woman that was doing anything but seducing (or having a shampoorgasm)?

But where are the penises? Women have breasts (they're what they rest their arms on) and there's really no shyness about vaginas. In most cases they're covered, sure, but the point of covering them seems to be to draw attention to them. In most ads with nudity, though, the covered penis seems more to be about hiding it. Who wants to see a penis? Unless you can make it funny:

When the penis isn't really a penis, that's okay. Because seeing a real penis makes you gay (or a girl).

That brings me to one of the main points of this project: audience. Ads featuring sexualized and objectified women are dominant even in entertainment media targeted at women. These (and probably most) ads are meant for a heterosexual male audience, and it makes sense that this would be the same for ads featuring men. The consideration of this audience, then, limits the content of advertising, and the heterosexual male audience has much influence over what kind of nudity is acceptable.