Across pop culture, it’s the summer of lust by women

The Kansas City StarJune 25, 2012 

ENTER MOVIE-MAGICMIKE 1 MCT

Matthew McConaughey stars in "Magic Mike."

GLEN WILSON — Warner Bros. Pictures/MCT

Arms entwined, the bodies become as one. Her flushed face turns up to him, eyes wide, liquid, eager. He pants as he protests.

“I am more than just a piece of meat.”

“No you’re not,” she murmurs as she rips the shirt off his muscled back.

If you see nothing wrong with that scenario, then you’re going to love the Summer of Lust.

Men are being sexualized at a breathless rate this summer, beyond the usual hypersexy Abercrombie & Fitch beefcake selling clothing while wearing little of it. (Over it.)

Can you hear all the panting?

Have you seen the de-panting?

The New York Times just anointed swimmer Ryan Lochte as “an Olympic sex symbol,” fawning over his “twinkling blue eyes, aquiline nose and dimpled smile.”

“Fifty Shades of Grey,” the erotic novel starring 50-ways-of-sexy Christian Grey, is ravaging best-seller lists. The book and its two sequels have held the top three positions on both the New York Times and USA Today lists for weeks, selling 15 million copies.

In the movie “Rock of Ages,” Tom Cruise is chiseled and toned — “zero body fat,” noted one critic. (Too bad those killer abs couldn’t save a stinker of a movie.)

Thanks to G-strings, we get to see way more of Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and Matthew McConaughey in “Magic Mike,” the male stripper movie opening Friday.

In real life Tatum was a stripper before he became an actor.

Clearly, he earned huge tips.

What? Too much?

Is it bad for women to objectify men — the way men objectify women?

Not at all, say the educated observers we consulted. But there’s a caveat, which we’ll get to later.

“We see women adopting a more free way of being sexual,” says cultural critic Lisa Wade, an assistant professor of sociology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “So this is a kind of safe, sexy, fun thing for women to do because it’s playing at men’s games.

“Sexual objectification is not a bad thing. Everyone wants to be sexually objectified because they want other people to think that they’re sexy. There’s nothing wrong with it — in and of itself.”

Hot guys and gals in advertising, on TV, in movies and books. Nothing new. But it’s getting steamier out there.

“With the Internet we started to see an extremification of everything. Things got more violent, humor got weirder, satire got sharper. And we see it with sexualization as well,” says Wade.

“I think it’s been ramping up, but I think it just seems more extreme now. The way we see David Beckham sexualized is different from the way we sexualized Duran Duran,” those ’80s pop pinup boys.

She must have seen the July issue of British Elle, which for the first time in its history put a man on its cover: soccer stud Beckham, shirtless and dripping wet, stepping out of a pool, leather pants stuck to his thighs like a second skin.

We’d know that taut torso anywhere, thanks to his sexy Armani underwear campaigns.

Still, it’s indisputable that we see far more sexy images of women than men.

A group of University of Buffalo sociologists, for example, studied more than 1,000 Rolling Stone cover images from 1967 to 2009.

Their recent report — “Equal Opportunity Objectification?” — found that both women and, to a much lesser extent, men had become more sexualized over the years.

“We were testing the notion that the media is an equal opportunity perpetrator. But it’s just not true,” says Erin Hatton, an assistant professor in sociology at the Buffalo school. “Men aren’t sexualized as frequently and not nearly as intensely.”

In the 1960s, 11 percent of men and 44 percent of women on Rolling Stone covers were photographed ala sexy.

In the 2000s, 17 percent of men and 83 percent of women were.

No math degree needed to see what’s happening there.

Perhaps that discrepancy is why we don’t hear shouts of “Stop objectifying men!”

We figured if anyone would protest it would be Boston dad Tom Matlack, founder of the Good Men Project. He’s instigating a national discussion at goodmenpro ject.com about what it means to be a good man.

Surely he wouldn’t like the idea of women looking at men as sex objects. Surely he would wag a finger.

Nope.

“I’m not sure if it’s right or wrong, but if that’s what we’re becoming obsessed with … I’m not in a position to say it’s evil,” says Matlack, who has two sons, 7 and 16, and an 18-year-old daughter.

“In terms of men being more sexualized, that in and of itself doesn’t really move me one way or another. But if all of a sudden we’re putting David Beckham or Tom Cruise on a pedestal because he has the best abs on the face or the planet, that’s a shame.”

And there’s the caveat.

“It becomes a problem to objectify people when their own individuality and personality become invisible and all you see is something to want and have,” says Wade.

The Buffalo study concluded that Rolling Stone and others are not depicting women as sexy musicians and actors; they’re holding them up as ready and available for sex.

That’s worrisome, says Hatton, because it shows that media outlets are narrowing their depiction of women.

But there’s a fix.

“As long as sexualized images are portrayed along with other images of men and women being successful entrepreneurs, great actors, great athletes, as long as we’re teaching our children that there are many ways to be a man or a woman … then it’s fine,” Hatton says.

So drool away this hot, lusty summer, ladies, but just remember.

Channing Tatum is more than just a pretty face.

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