Naked People As Props

21 Sep

So I read a blog called Sociological Images and a while ago they had a post that made me think.  The post was about how naked women are used as props in the media.  As a thespian myself I found this fascinating.

As a woman I found it in abundance.  In the post the writer comments on the politics of disinterest.  The images speak for themselves.  If you’ve ever opened a magazine then you know what I’m talking about.

Robert Pattinson (and women) for Details

It makes me feel bad, however, because my inner feminist (located on my right ear, far away from erogenous zones) gets frustrated, knowing that the magazines motives are probably tainted.  If you’re a photographer how often do you think to yourself “this persons portrait would look so much better with a woman’s thong-clad ass in the background?”

Like I said, it makes me feel bad.  It makes me feel bad because (don’t tell your inner feminists) I like it.  My inner feminist gets angry but my inner…other side is really enjoying bracelet lady’s hands.  When I look at this picture I  can put my face on her body and imagine what his hair and his chest feel like.  The hardness and the softness.

However much I may enjoy this picture though, the spread is in Details, a MEN’s magazine.  If ever there were a place where the male gaze is guaranteed, it’s a men’s magazine.  Based on that we can safely assume that the photographer is not trying to satisfy my desire to touch Pattinson’s hair, but rather some man’s need for…a harem?  And if the need is for a harem, then should it follow that they desire the status and money that a man would have needed to keep up a harem?  I’m not a man.  I’ll have to ask one.

The use of anonymous women’s scantily clad limbs as props to show men’s higher status is nothing new.  Once you know to look for it you’ll see it everywhere.  But if men can objectify us then why shouldn’t we return the favor?

On that note I submit two more pictures for your consideration.

Evan Rachel Wood (and man) for Gucci

This Gucci add stars Evan Rachel Wood (not my favorite but I would truly give something great for her hair color in True Blood) with some anonymous shirtless male neck kisser.  Now, this is an advertisement, not a magazine spread.  And we can also safely assume that they’re selling this perfume (right? I think that’s what they’re trying to push) by leading us to believe that they’re naked and (as the kids say) doin’ it.  Now I’m a grown woman.  I know that the real life Mad Men sell anything they can based on sex.

My question is who is this guy?  And the answer is that it doesn’t matter.  He doesn’t matter beyond the hairy, muscular (and tattooed) arm, 5 o’clock shadow (sweet Jesus) and his overwhelming desire to touch and kiss her (presumably fragrant?) face.  He wants her and she believes that it’s entirely to be expected.

The photographer is telling us that Robert Pattinson’s undead ass thinks these women owe him the honor of hanging on him.  Gucci is telling us the same thing about Evan Rachel Wood.  Both of them are selling something.  Wood is selling the perfume.  “I smell so irresistible, you should smell like me.”  Pattinson is selling himself.  “I’m so irresistable, you should be like me.”  Notice how they’re both looking at us, watching us watching them.  “Look at me.  You want to be me because I’m awesome.”

Eva Mendes (and men)

This picture of Eva Mendes is not an add or a spread.  I have no idea where it came from, it’s just man-in-speedo-licious.  And most importantly she truly doesn’t care.  In the previous two pictures people are props and the disinterest is a byproduct.  A photographer is telling us how much the main person doesn’t care and it’s very effective in telling us their high status.  In this picture Eva is doing the same on her own and it makes her look like a queen.  She doesn’t care about these men or anything they do and it gives her immense power.

This is the power of disinterest.  I’ve been told countless times by my friends to pretend to be disinterested in a guy.  Play hard to get.  Give him the brush off.  Make him call you.

Last night I watched an old episode of How I Met Your Mother (watch it!) called Of Course in which a woman refuses to sleep with Barney, played by Neil Patrick Harris (a damn good reason to watch it).  She has written a book lovingly titled ‘Of Course You’re Still Single, Take a Look at Yourself, You Dumb Slut.’  And on the morning talk show she reveals her secret: “No! By saying no constantly and consistently, you empower yourself, while simultaneously turning any jerk into a submissive, sniveling puddle of a man.”

Neil Patrick Harris...being damn sexy

By showing disinterest, she gains dominance. Is the moral here then that the person who shows the least interest is the winner, standing alone on the high ground?  Should we all be running around telling each other how little we care?

Perhaps the moral here should be that when we give ourselves to disinterested men we allow them to dominate us (and do we really need MORE of that?).  However, I don’t want that to be the moral.

And I don’t want to say that the cure is for us to exert similarly upsetting dominance over men using the same tactics.  (Be aloof.  Make him follow you like a sniveling dog).

No, I think the moral here is that it’s easier to talk to someone on the same level as you, someone who isn’t playing games.  I know I’d rather be with that guy.  And the girl who isn’t playing games?  The one who says straight out ‘I love to touch your hair and to slip my hand between the buttons of your shirt,’ I think I’d like to be her too.

3 Responses to “Naked People As Props”

  1. Webmonarch September 22, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    (I know where you got that hot boys on yachts photo. I saw him get it during our morning class.)


  1. Open Up Or Close Up Shop? « Female Gazing - November 22, 2010

    […] Sociological Images says that the biggest issue in this campaign is the power the men gain from showing their disinterest in the women who throw themselves at the pinstripe wearers.  This idea is something I’ve tried to touch on before. […]

  2. Bored Men With Naked Women – Peter Dinklage Edition « Female Gazing - December 18, 2011

    […] the way back in September of last year I put up a post about naked people as props.  Aptly titled if I do say so […]

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