Bring Out the Studs
First published on publichouse.sg in August 2012
Most of the sexy images we see around us—in advertising and the media—are, of women. Pretty, made up, well dressed, or skimpily dressed, women placed somewhere to sell something, which could be anything from a dress to lipstick to a car or a brand of beer. All this is eye candy for men (and women who like women) and might leave other women envious, in awe, or just bored, but certainly not turned on.
Then every four years we have this wonderful event called The Olympic Games, and for two-and-a-half short weeks, women the world over are graced with images of some of the most beautiful men that walk the earth right now. Male swimmers, divers, gymnasts, volleyball players, cyclists, runners and jumpers, fencers, footballers and more, with amazingly sculpted bodies, congregate for the world’s biggest all-round sporting event and life becomes a dreamy, fortnight-long male Sports Illustrated campaign.
Lusting after women is socially acceptable male behaviour. And why shouldn’t it be? At a base level, we are creatures of instinct who need this drive so that we will do what Mother Natured programmed us to do—find mates we are attracted to, have sex and keep the human race going.
Although deeply embedded patriarchy in most societies has a hand in this (men traditionally have had more power through holding positions of authority and controlling finances), men are not to be bashed for these double standards. Unfortunately, a woman’s harshest critics are usually other women; and the first person to sling the ‘s’-word at a woman is, sadly, likely to be a woman herself.
This is not about the now outdated feminist cliché of ‘if men can do it, women should be able to do it to’. It’s not about having the freedom to have indiscriminate sex. There are matters of conscience at hand—like, if you are in a relationship, to remain true to the level of commitment you and your partner have agreed upon. And of course there are health and safety issues.
It’s about normalising a woman’s sexual desire so it can live in the open and not hide under a veil of bashfulness or shame. It’s about both men and women acknowledging and being comfortable with female desire so we see just as many images of gorgeous men as we do gorgeous women, all the time and not just on occasions like Olympic season. It’s so the ‘s’ word disappears from our vocabulary.
And, should a change like this fully come about, I can foresee good things stemming from it. Female desire can be a powerful force. For instance, if you want me to buy a car, drape one of those Olympic male divers on it, and I’m halfway sold.
But lusting after men, at least openly, is not quite socially acceptable female behaviour. We all know that a man who is highly sexed is called a stud, whereas a woman who is the same—is called another four-lettered word beginning with ‘s’.
And why? Women need and have sexual urges too, because, last time I checked, they make up half of the ‘sex’ bit.
Not surprisingly, gender attitudes come into play.
Emancipation has come a long way since the advent of the birth control pill gave women more sexual choices, but the stain of guilt and shame still hangs over the heads of women in society.
If a man manages to make it with any of the women’s beach volleyball teams, he is going to be one massive hero in the locker room or on his whatsapp group. If a woman boasts of a similar conquest (“I did the US swim team!”), she might not find herself the object of such favour. Remember the scorching former porn star Grace Quek a.k.a. Annabel Chong received at the hands of the tabloids in 1997, when she gangbanged 251 men? Quek’s intention was to subvert gender stereotypes, as she explains in the documentary Sex: The Annabel Chong Story: “I hope to complicate people’s basic assumptions about … the nature of female sexuality.” Her message never properly got across, partly due to her own misguided choice of media—pornography—but also because her extreme act was completely overshadowed by the moral scandal of a woman—an upper middle class, educated Singaporean woman, no less—having a voracious sexual appetite and being audacious enough to flaunt it.