Saturday 15 August 2009

What Women Want

The past week I've been absent, alternating work with frantic end-of-tenancy cleaning of a house in exactly the state you'd expect after eighteen months of sheltering six extremely depressed precariously employed young people and Neets let down by the government and the economy, surviving on a pittance, on which more later. I have bleach poisoning, and possibly also vial's disease. But right now I have half an hour free, waiting for my small sister to arrive so I can show her the bright lights of London; so I thought I'd point any of you who haven't seen in the direction of Filament magazine.

Filament is a fantastic project, set up by Suraya Sidhu Singh, a multi-talented friend of mine. It's a magazine designed to show erotic images of men that please women, as a counter to the market saturation of male-gaze-oriented images of women, with the assumption that women are actually allowed to have desire of their own, rather than just being the objects of it. So far, so uncontroversial, right? Wrong!

Filament has been in the press recently after Comment Is Free decided to run with the story about how their publishers refused to print tasteful images of an erect penis, deeming them 'offensive' in a culture awash with soft- to hardcore images of breasts and fannies selling everything from porn to purifying facial wash. The extreme controversy and popularity of the article may have something to do with the fact that it's all about knobs (knobs! In the shops!) and has an erection pun in its title. But the piece and the comments are both worth a read if you've ever been interested in the sexual double standard - the same sexual double standard that you, right now, have a chance to do a little something to lessen by supporting Filament. Get ready, here comes the whorebaggery:

To stay in print, Filament needs you to buy an issue, or even, which you can do here. It's full of terribly pretty boys as well as interesting thinkpieces by men and women at the cutting edge of contemporary magazine journalism. They're halfway to their target already- all they need is a little help from open-minded people [and girls with a spare fiver who like to get their rocks off looking at arty pictures of tasty, nubile manflesh].

In case you needed even more persuasion, there's also a regular 'Ask A Feminist' agony aunt column, written by moderately-known shoutyblogger Penny Red, which I hear tell is an absolutely fantastic read, and only a fool would think otherwise. Go and buy the magazine, take back the gaze, and keep knobs in shops.


  1. Richard von Krafft-Ebing15 August 2009 at 15:21

    May I ask a bona fide question?

    Are women really sexually aroused by erotic images of attractive men, with or without erections? I recently saw Meg Ryan in the movie "In the Cut" where, quite near to the beginning of the film, the character she plays stumbles upon on a man being fellated by a woman in a club. The scene is VERY graphic and Ryan's character lingers behind a curtain observing the aforementioned sexual act take place (to completion) becoming more and more flustered and very obviously aroused by this act of voyeurism.

    Should this post make it past the censor can any female readers please enlighten me as to whether or not they can be "turned on" by sexual images in magazines or similar? I know women can definitely be persuaded to act out sexually with, for example, male strippers, in group situations, but am not sure if the same can be said to be true when women are alone and merely perusing graphically erotic literature for whatever reason.

    If it pleases you, enlighten me.

  2. As with males, it depends on the person. E.g. my last girlfriend kept a stash of porn targeted at females (i.e. storyline, attractive men having sex with women instead of some ugly old man, camera shooting, positions, etc. concentrating on the male, not on the female) and actively used my Internet connection to expand it. The current lady of this household however only gets aroused by lesbian porn, preferring her males real.

  3. This is the thing. 'Women' are not a homogenous mass, and what turns one woman on may leave the next one cold. I certainly know a lot of women and girls who find Filament kinky; personally I'm more excited by the articles, and prefer written erotica.

    I'm sure you didn't mean your comment to sound sexist, it sounds like you're genuinely confused. But asking how women react sexually to something, as if we were all essentially the same, is a bit demeaning really. [Not that it's much better for men, who have their desires dictated in upfront ways rather than just ignored, although at least you get the choice of being a 'leg man' or a 'breast man', where women are just the meat.]

    ETA: And, of course, some of us are queer.

  4. "and only a fool or a whore would think otherwise"

    Seriously Laurie, what the fucking fuck? Much as I dislike you using 'whorebaggary' as a synonym for trying to sell your writing, I try to put it down to stylistic differences, but you spouting this kind of misogyny just to make a literary reference that 99% of your audience won't even get is revolting.


  5. Okay, I'll think about my language in future. I don't think the term 'whore' is misogynist, any more than 'bastard' is a slight on someone's heredity; but I admit, I was writing in five minutes with 'Kingdom of Fear' on the table in front of me.

    I think 'revolting' is probably a bit strong, though...

  6. Richard von Krafft-Ebing16 August 2009 at 08:37

    I'm often confused, Penny Red, about many things it has to be admitted! My curiosity was principally directed toward discovering why magazines like Filament publish "glamour" photos of semi-clad men at all. Lad's mags, e.g., Zoo and Nuts, feature pictorials of semi-clad or naked girls for one reason only, sexual fantasy. When I look at erotic photography like that, no matter how artistic or well done, the effect produced is not the same as it would be were I viewing Sandro Botticelli's Venus in Uffizi, Florence: in the former case my personal reaction is autonomically erotic while in the latter case it is cerebrally aesthetic. Behaviour like this may be attributable to cultural conditioning, education or other factors and forces that play upon an individual formatively and throughout their life.

    OK. Back to business. I'm genuinely curious as to whether the Filament readership enjoys the photography of the male form erotically or aesthetically? Comedically, do Filament readers looking at the glowing images of male nudity featured muse "Cor! What a sexpot. I'd like to ride him like a pony until he was exhausted!" like a ladette or "What a beautiful man. His rectus abdominus muscles are appealingly well developed. He reminds me of Michelangelo's David" or even "The sheets the model is lying on are a lovely avocado colour. I think I'll try to get a set similar to that for my guest bedroom."?

    I'm talking about the majority of the readership here. Let's not split hairs about the heterogeneity of womankind. I know all too well that the female of the species comes in a bewilderingly large number of shades, flavours and sundry variations.

    I'm interested in the "average" reader here.

    (If I am a sexist I valiantly try to put up a good battle against its slings and arrows.)

  7. I'm perhaps not the woman to ask Richard (well I'm certainly not the woman to ask), but FWIW, no I don't particularly observe my straight women friends wanting to look at pictures of naked men. That's not to say they're not attracted to men, just that they lack either the imagination or capacity for self delusion (depending on which way you look it) to be aroused by pictures. And women don't go to see the Chippendales to be aroused sexually, they go for a laugh.

  8. Also the idea that women can "take back the gaze" is simplistic at best. The male gaze is dependant on real male power over women and a magazine isn't going to change that. Any more than a black comedian making jokes about white people is going to significantly impact racism

  9. "just that they lack either the imagination or capacity for self delusion (depending on which way you look it) to be aroused by pictures."

    Men don't need imagination to be aroused by pictures. It's a reflex response. We see boobs and we get a hardon. We are incredibly shallow, really. Cats like playing with string, men like pictures of boobs, you are giving us far too much credit if you think it's about imagination.

  10. That's a bit pessimistic, grimoopnorth! I can see you've got a valid point about real male power, and listening to Any Questions panellists talking about women boxing suddenly made me realise how deeply entrenched some attitudes are (to say the least), but surely it's not so bad that attempts can't be made to challenge it - sometimes even if it is obstensically a failure a challenge is still worth making!


    I think my main comment would be that (and this is embarrassing!) my first thought on reading this was 'Oo, how do I make myself sexy to feminists?' (!) I found this quite illuminating as it showed the effect of THE GAZE in its infantile stages, even though at this point I was still obviously the one in control. It made me pretty relieved on retrospect that I don't have to put up with that all the time.

    Still, I liked the articles and recommended it to a friend... So I'm really still not sure what to make! Maybe it's telling that I found the models sexy so that I could try and be like them, rather than so I could be turned on by them. Interesting!

  11. Sebastian - Chill, it was a joke.

    grimoopnorth - Well we'll see, won't we? If there's demand the magazine will stick around.

  12. I am now depressed about neets. Except the one who hit me three years ago today. I don't feel very caring towards her.

  13. Richard von Krafft-Ebing17 August 2009 at 15:09

    Neuro is right, grimoopnorth. When heterosexual men see pictures of naked, scantily clad or sexily dressed attractive woman... schwing! Up it goes, ready or not! The phenomenon is purely physical and has nothing to do with delusion or imagination; don't think for a minute that such a salute means that we actually like you.

    As for the male "glamour" photography in Filament or similar magazines I'm still none the wiser. I have no idea if the images are about titillation or aesthetics or something else.

    Is it pornography or is it art?

    Perhaps the question is as unanswerable as a Zen koan.

  14. **Anonymous001 gets out sed

    As with females, it depends on the person. E.g. my current flatmate finds graphic porn to be frustrating and off-putting, much preferring written erotica. I have previously lived with a devout Catholic, who found any sort of pornography at all to be offensive to his religion and completely off-putting.

    This is the thing. 'Men' are not a homogeneous mass, and what turns one man on may leave the next one cold. Personally I prefer video porn, preferably in 1080p, depicting at least one white female that conforms to my taste.

    I'm sure you didn't mean your comment to sound sexist, it sounds like you're genuinely confused. But stating how men react sexually to something, as if we were all essentially the same, is a bit demeaning really.

  15. Richard von Krafft-Ebing17 August 2009 at 19:41

    Sorry, Anonymous001.

    In a political and moral sense you are correct of course. Individually every man and every women have different desires, passions, needs and tastes as activity in the sexual arena goes. Personally I don't have a "type" in respect to women and pretty much find most pre-menopausal women desirable and sexually attractive. This has benefits and drawbacks. Although I may be be sexist to a degree, because I don't tend to discriminate much as far as the opposite sex goes, at least I no problem in finding partners sans romance at home and abroad. I'm not really interested in finding a special person called Ms. Right and will happily settle for Ms. Right-in-front-of-me whoever she may be as long as she's single, available, not too young and appreciates my interest.

    I apologise if I've inadvertently offended anybody. I haven't had much to do with any form of pornography since I became active with my first real girlfriend from the age of fifteen onward since I always had the real thing and haven't hence needed any alternative stimulation.

    My own life has been strongly heterosexual and so you must try to appreciate that, from my (shall we say) limited perspective, it is difficult for me to empathise with other forms of human sexuality. This doesn't indicate prejudice on my part but rather a display of a benign form of adult innocence, or ignorance, on my part if you will.

    You are quite correct to criticise me for expanding my own stereotypical heterosexuality to include all "heterosexual men" under that umbrella. I should have restricted my comments to my own outlook, experiences and to me personally.

    I originally posted on this blog, half-seriously, because I was at a loose end at work and wanted to kill ten minutes. I really am wasting too much time on this and taking it all far too seriously and so I bid you all farewell.

    It's been emotional, folks.

    Exeunt omnes.

  16. I like watching men with other men. As one great philosopher so aptly put it, "That's hot".

  17. 'Oo, how do I make myself sexy to feminists?'

    Well if you're a dead ringer for Sam Ronson you'll do for me....

  18. It is a little bit more expensive than I anticipated. Why do they only offer first class post anyway?

  19. Really very disappointed in this. I dont think the answer to the degredation and commodification of women in print media is to do the same with men. The same happened with a section of the feminist movement who seemed to think that emancipation for women involved adopting all the very worst habits of men.

  20. @ Selma. Just curious about when nudity is considered acceptable.

  21. Watching men with other men -> Hell yeah!

    -Halo Jones

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