In sixth grade, the same year that puberty hit me with irrevocable force, I had an art teacher, Mr. Blake…[who said] that great artists all acknowledged that the female form was more beautiful than the male…
In time, I discovered that Mr. Blake was wrong about this so-called artistic consensus. But it took me a lot longer to unlearn the damage done by remarks like his and by the conventional wisdom of my childhood. I came into puberty convinced both that my male body was repulsive and that the girls for whom I longed were flawless.
Schwyzer talks about the first time he had sex:
A year later, in my first sexual relationship, I was convinced that my girlfriend found my body physically repellent. I could accept that girls liked and wanted sex, but I figured that what my girlfriend liked was how I made her feel in spite of how my body must have appeared to her. Though I trusted that she loved me, the idea that she—or any other woman—could want this sweaty, smelly, fumbling flesh was still unthinkable.
Later, Schwyzer (who describes himself as bicurious) recounts a sexual encounter with an older man:
I remember one night when I was still in high school that I had sex with a much older man. He was maybe 40, and I couldn’t get enough of the way he looked at me. I felt a rush of elation and relief so great it made me cry. The sex I had with him was not based on my desire for him; rather, I wanted to make him feel good out of my own colossal gratitude for how he had made me feel with his words and his gaze. As we lay on a motel bed, this man ran his fingers across every inch of my body, murmuring flattery of the kind I had never heard from a woman’s lips… I was floored. How different those words were from my ex-girlfriend’s “Hugo, you make me feel so good.” While she had praised my technique, this stranger praised my body’s desirability. And I realized how hungry I was for exactly that kind of affirmation. I needed something to counter that old certainty that my male body was disgusting.
Some of the comments evoke what I was saying the other day about the delicate overlap between objectification and the inherently human impulse/need to be sexually desired. Stephen writes:
My last relationship came to an end in part because I never really felt like my girlfriend thought I was attractive. After two years, I cannot name one time she just told me she thought I was cute/hot/attractive/whatever. It’s a little disheartening, honestly.
I relate so much. I’ve felt this way nearly all my life. I’m really surprised that someone addressed this issue, and so succinctly. In the past, I’ve not been taken seriously when expressing these concerns; and at times, people have insinuated that I’m not straight (to put it nicely). However, I am straight. Remarkably, I can trace this anxiety to the same nursery rhyme, and also, a teacher’s insensitive comments.
Natureartist confirms Schwyzer’s thesis:
When I was as young as 14 I use to argue about this very issue. My Dad was into photography, and I questioned him as to why only women were the subjects in his photography magazines. He claimed that women were beautiful and men were ugly. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the memo on that. He and I had many spirited arguments on the issue. I always claimed that men were just as beautiful, but it was to no avail when arguing with him. I just agreed to disagree. It is interesting to me that one would even want to see themselves as anything but desirable and attractive.
Jess sees male insecurity reflected in her work:
I’m an art student, and in my figure drawing classes we have yet to have a male model. I’d love to draw one – I’ve become incredibly adept at drawing many different kinds of female figures, from young woman to very old woman, but for the most part I’ve had to teach myself how to draw men. I’ve sat in public and drawn them, I’ve looked up reference photos, and one of my friends even suggested that I look to porn sites and erotic photo collections for varied male nudes.
Dominick brings it home:
I’m gay — hot men’s bodies are awesome.
See also Noah Brand’s recent article about his insecurity with his naked body (NSFW).
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