Books
Art, Sex and Beautiful Men

Relying on seductive art to draw in your audience is akin to a comedian swearing. It doesn’t take skill to get a reaction.

There have been several recent posts GeekMom and elsewhere about the sexualization of women in comics. Although that’s nothing new, female geeks are finally getting fed up- realizing that being loyal and vocal fans does not grant any respect in the industry.

The discussions on the internet got me thinking about a conversation I had last summer with an artist friend of mine. We were on our way back from ConnectiCon where he had worked with his art and enjoyed chatting with other artists. He excitedly told me about a woman next to him who showed him her “boobie pictures.” Her out-front display was cartoon cats, but she showed him her Adults Only folder with mostly women in sexy poses with big breasts. She encouraged him to display his own “boobie pictures” because they’re fun to draw and sell really well. She said both women and men like pictures of sexy, naked women.

He then waxed poetically about the female figure in fine art, explaining to me how the female form is universally recognized as most beautiful. He talked about slope, curve, and roundness, about masters in the art world, and famous paintings and sculptures. He has a degree in Fine Art and I had no reason to doubt him.

The following day I departed to teach at a teen music camp up in the Adirondacks. The conversation with my friend would not leave me, and I realized I disagreed. However, I’m a musician, what do I know about art? But as the week progressed, I couldn’t let it go.

At a break time by the beach, I informed a fellow counselor about the whole thing. I explained that I don’t find the female form to be any more beautiful than the male form, in fact, I think men are MORE beautiful than women. Why? Because I’m freakin’ attracted to them- duh! And if the masters of the art world, and the majority of art teachers are straight men, then they are going to believe that women are more beautiful because they are attracted to them. Isn’t that obvious? Why should art have all these depictions of naked women? I shouted loudly, “I want more naked men!”

My counselor friend chuckled softly, and slightly uncomfortably. Perhaps this was because we were currently next to cavorting teens of both sexes in swimwear. Did I mention this was a Catholic music camp?

Anyway, comics are just the latest incarnation of the oldest way to show a story (music is the oldest way to tell a story.) I appreciate art with an uneducated eye. This does not devalue my opinion in any way. I know this because the value of an uneducated musician’s opinion is very worthy to me when I write my own music. If someone doesn’t like it, I don’t care how many degrees they have.

Comics are obviously marketed towards men. The covers are to attract the twelve year-old, straight boy’s eye. Do men purchase because of hyper-sexed women and powerful men bursting out of the pages? I know I purchase despite the covers, hoping there’s a good story inside, and wondering why a woman fighter would ever have that much skin exposed. Is it eye-catching? Of course. So is this:

Another Back By Akseru

Would I purchase a novel solely on this cover? My stereotypes tell me this would be called Fields of Passion. And unless the hot guy on the cover is going to come out of the book and snuggle with me while I’m reading, I wouldn’t buy it. I like plot (call me wacky) and many books geared towards women, the ones with hot men on the cover, are sorely lacking in it. That is why I pick up stories with a scantily dressed woman on the cover calling down lightning.

If I told a heterosexual man that Fields of Passion was a gripping tale he really would enjoy, would he try it out? Would he hide the book from friends? Do women hide the “boobie pictures” spilled on our favorite comics? It is taught in library school that girls will read a book with a boy or girl on the cover. Boys are rarely drawn to books with a girl on the cover.

So men only care about stories involving women if they are seducing them?

And women just want a good story?

The picture above is a sexy picture I found while perusing deviantart (some people watch YouTube videos, I browse artwork.) The Greeks believed the male form was the most perfect (and this is not because Greeks were fine with being gay; homosexual practices depended on the city-state) and women were rarely depicted in the nude until late in the age. Why don’t we acknowledge that any human body can be made beautiful by a skilled artist?

But you know, I don’t need a skin shot to catch my eye. All you need is a talented artist who can capture a moment, and I want to know more.

Unison IV By Lukas Sowada

Do I really want more naked men in graphic novels? If the scene requires it- I’m more than happy to drink in the sight. For that matter, I don’t mind looking at a beautifully drawn naked woman. Sex is part of life, a part of stories- a very exciting part! But if it doesn’t follow the plot, then no thank you.

Are the top graphic artists so talentless that they can’t create eye-catching, beautiful art without sex attached- women and sex to be specific?

I am not an artist, but I love art. I love beauty. I love stories.

Don’t give me swear words.

Rebecca Angel

Rebecca Angel was one of those kids that put the dragon book on top of her pile in the hopes that someone would say, "Hey, I'm into that stuff too!" Alas, she had to wait until she was an adult to find fellow geeks. Luckily, she married one and they are homeschooling two children in upstate NY. Rebecca is a singer/songwriter, creative arts instructor, proponent of science literacy and 21st century education, and lover of tea, funky tights, RPGs, anime, manga, comics, fantasy books and movies. She writes about these things on geekmom, her favorite community of fellow geeks!

16 Comments
Scott

February 11, 2012 10:28 am Reply

Really?!?! You think this post belongs on a GeekDad blog? How would you feel if one of the geek dads posted an article about hot chicks? This has no business on a geek blog for parents.

    Mat

    February 11, 2012 11:27 am Reply

    Why?

    Karen

    February 11, 2012 11:59 am Reply

    How was this an article about hot dudes? You should read it again, maybe you missed something reading it the first time. You *did* read it a first time, right?

    chemrebel

    February 11, 2012 12:43 pm Reply

    First off, just because we’re parents doesn’t mean our other human urges are dead (although there are times it sure feels like it). I am a proud mom to two beautiful little girls and I still enjoy sex with my husband. I also read a lot of fantasy stories that contain a goodly chunk of erotica. So, get over yourself.

    Secondly, this article is aimed at not showing off hot dudes, although I won’t balk at one, but showing the inequity in the comics and art world in general about how women have been the dominant fantasy subject.

    Thirdly, this post has every right to be on a GeekDad/GeekMom blog. If you are a GeekDad (I assume you are since you are here – a plausible stretch), then how would you handle it if you had a daughter who began, say, playing D&D, or M:tG? Lots of sexualized women in the artwork there. What would you do if she asked you why so many girls were drawn that way while no one else was?

    Karen Conway

    February 12, 2012 7:51 pm Reply

    I’d urge Scott and others who share his opinion/dismay/what’s the problem attitude to read “Nerds and Male Privilege” http://kotaku.com/5868595/nerds-and-male-privilege

    A fav quote: “Geek society prides itself on being explicitly counter-culture; nerds will crow about how, as a society, they’re better than the others who exclude them. They’ll insist that they’re more egalitarian; geeks hold tight to the belief that geek culture is a meritocracy, where concepts of agism, sexism and racism simply don’t exist the way it does elsewhere. And yet, even a cursory examination will demonstrate that this isn’t true.”

    Frankly, I’m tired as a women and mother of explaining, defending etc why I continue to be fed up with female depictions in various genres, so in this case am happy to leave it to a man to explain to other males….

    I’m with Rebecca — what I want is a good story and if it serves the story give me enticing images of people of all shapes and sizes engaging in the wonders of being human (or superhero, vampire, werewolf, alien…whatever).

    Oh and some sensible armor to cover the boobies would be nice also.

wl

February 11, 2012 6:11 pm Reply

It is not always a picnic being a beautiful man.

Women, despite all their high-minded pretensions, will objectify you as some type of novelty or toy,

but one that’s barely-animate in their eyes.

I never understood the exasperation that cute girls went through, until a few women started doing +/- the same thing to me.

Kind of insulting to your personality and intellect, really; -sort-of the world’s biggest left-handed compliment.

-More to Author’s point though, women evaluate men differently than vice-versa, hence the bias. In-general, men’s looks matter ~differently to female culture; regardless of how fast any woman knows if she’s attracted.

Chuck U. Farley

February 11, 2012 6:13 pm Reply

This would be a great post if it had anything to say or do with anything else anywhere.

Yours is just another example of why people should refrain from writing blogs.

Slow day for writing or not, stop polluting the internet!

    Epona Harper

    February 11, 2012 7:13 pm Reply

    And we have DISMISSAL! Ladies and gentlemen, please make appropriate marks on your Sexism Bingo cards.

Edward Duca

February 11, 2012 7:59 pm Reply

I’m a man and I liked it.

Xvile

February 11, 2012 9:17 pm Reply

The article/blog belongs. The website is Geek *MOM*, dudes. I love action flick movies but I tire of the babes or heroines in skintight clothes and those damn stilletto heels. I thoroughly enjoy James Bond movies but the intro title sequences — blech. (except for the last few ones, especially Casino Royale)

Now Top Gun…damn good and nearly perfect action flick. Dog fights, oneliners, humor, awesome rockin’ soundtrack, intelligent female lead, decent plotline, decent romance, and….the volleyball scene. Still a feast for the heterosexual female and source for a few fantasies….

Mat

February 11, 2012 9:22 pm Reply

There is nothing wrong with wishing to see more equality in the way men and woman are displayed in comic or fantasy books. However I do believe men are displayed just as sexually as females. The Diffrence may be in the fact that the males idea of what a female is looking for in fantasy depictions are quite wide of the mark. Maybe females do not wish to see a man in skin tight or minimal clothing, with bulging biceps, huge pecs, and rock hard six pack abs with a quite obziouse “package” Captain America http://alturl.com/jbr4t
Or a man half naked in fur underwear weilding a sword ( just google Conan). Even the clown Speedball is amazingly built and placed in awkward displaying positions http://alturl.com/wn7ej. I’m not disagreeing with you here, I’m simply saying that both males and females in the comic/fantasy genre are displayed in a unrealistic and sexual/sexulized manner. It may simply be that they are both displayed in what men consider to be sexulized and not woman, or it might be that when women see a sexulized female in the books they stop paying attention to how males are also presented in under the same light.

Tom Triumph

February 12, 2012 8:55 am Reply

Scott raises a good question and Chemrebel offers a solid response. At times, I have wondered if this blog’s focus is more about my children, raising my children, or me as a person who happens to have children. I’m often in the mood for one thing, and the headlining article is something else. I can certainly understand how any reader might be drawn in by a movie review or fun project and find a discussion of sexuality seemingly out of place. I’d like to think we are encouraged to ask questions in these forums, and it’s open enough not to get snarky responses.

I might be interested in Geek Dad following up on Scott’s suggestion of a male discussion of the women in comic books, but really interested in the internal conflict of remembering the teen boy view of women in comic books vs. the view now that the grownup boy has a daughter. (What did I think about Wonder Woman back in the day vs. what I want my kids to think about Wonder Woman). How, for example, does this affect our parenting and the choices of media we give our kids today?

Adding to Chemrebel’s response to Scott, I would also add that, typically, topics like this work because they subvert the dominant paradigm. But such arguments set up an argument that only works one way. Dog bites man (men find Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman hot) is commonplace to the point of not worth being discussed, compared to man bites dog (women find Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine hot) in terms of enlightening the reader. The latter is interesting because, even if its a common thought among women, it’s not written about very often because women often don’t have the platform. This uniqueness sparks discussion and thought, rather than the boredom and eye rolling dog bites man might provoke. It’s a solid topic worth writing about.

For an example of the changing face of sexuality and the control of images, there has been a spate of articles recently on porn star James Deen. Apparently, his looks and personality have made his movies must-see for women, even women who have traditionally been turned off by porn. This new interest by women has created a backlash (from men), which seems to be fueled by the idea that women shouldn’t be interested in such things.

Rebecca Angel
Rebecca Angel

February 12, 2012 10:17 am Reply

It’s enlightening to read the thoughtful comments on this post. Thanks. I wrote this as a women, a geek, and as a mom.

As a paying consumer of geeky stories, I want acknowledgement of my gender: what insults me and what excites me. Not pandering- just realizes my money and opinion counts equally.

I also want my sixteen year old daughter to stop being fed ridiculous images of what an attractive woman should be the stories she reads.

And I want my thirteen year old son to be shown by the men in charge how to be a powerful male that also respects women.

    Tom

    March 18, 2012 2:50 pm Reply

    Hi, Rebecca. First, I would like to say that I enjoyed your post and found it to be thoughtful and insightful. I generally like looking at the human form, both the face and the body and bodies that are either dressed or undressed. I like looking at the female form more than the male, but I still like looking at some (fit and young) male nudes. Further I do not feel that my enjoyment or even excitement at viewing the human form, naked or not and even the naked form of women with large breasts is necessarily sexual. I believe that humans are born with the potential to enjoy looking at the naked form of either sex. I feel there is nothing wrong with that.
    I was very much pleased with your rejection of the claim that the female form is necessarily more beautiful than the male and I was heartened to read your statement “that I don’t find the female form to be any more beautiful than the male form, in fact, I think men are MORE beautiful than women.” I feel that neither the female nor the male form is inherently more beautiful. The degree of beauty depends on the person doing the viewing. I was very happy to read your statement that “I want more naked men!”
    You mentioned the Greeks. I feel the Classical Greeks and the historical works of art since the beginning of the Renaissance show that the naked male could be fine, noble, heroic and beautiful. I would think that those images of naked men would fit very well into a heroic comic or graphic novel. Here is an example: the painting is “Theseus and Pirithous Clearing the earth of Brigands, Deliver Two women from the Hands of their Abductors” (1806). (http://www.artsconnected.org/resource/3934/theseus-and-piritho-s-clearing-the-earth-of-brigands-deliver-two-women-from-the-hands-of-their-abductors – Click on “Full Screen” to see the picture larger.) Theseus and Pirithous are clearly heroes in this case and they are completely naked. The women being rescued are for the part clothed as are the villains. Heroic men are nude, bad guys are dressed. The most interesting thing for me is that this painting, which I like very much, was done by a woman, Marie Josephine Angelique Mongez. I feel Theseus and Pirithous are beautiful as are the two women. I feel this picture could easily be the inspiration of a heroic graphic tale.
    Thank you for your post.
    Tom,

      Rebecca Angel
      Rebecca Angel

      March 18, 2012 4:17 pm Reply

      Wow. That painting is so rich and action-packed! Thank you for your thoughtful comments and link.

Plus1Jeremy

February 12, 2012 1:58 pm Reply

Titillation is fun for all genders. As a rule though, a good story trumps every kind of pandering. It’s easier to just appeal to aesthetics – sexual eye candy is no different than jaw-dropping special effects or a beautifully-choreographed action scene. But frankly, we shouldn’t pay good money for the lazy route. I save my dollars for great stories, rounded characters, and fully realized themes.

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