Is Calvin Klein to blame for starting this new cult of male objectification?
You can see it on the pages of any magazine or newspaper: sleek, ropy muscles; oiled chests shaved completely smooth; nipples jutting out like pencil erasers…
And it's not just that there's more male flesh more openly on display; the flesh itself is sleeker, buffer, and more ripped.
Compare the masculine ideals of yesteryear to the physical specimens of today. These days, Burt Lancaster, Rock Hudson, and Burt Reynolds would be the scrawny kid on the beach in that old Charles Atlas comic book ad…
It was that 1983 Calvin Klein underwear ad featuring Brazilian Olympic pole vaulter Tom Hintnaus leaning back against a phallic looking white obelisk. Designed to appeal to gay men, it debuted first in Times Square, but was then emblazoned directly onto a blank spot in our collective unconscious.
Instead of creating images that don't focus on the body and sex, the market now seems to be saturated with even more of this imagery. And many men seem to be reacting to it in the same way that women have:
Spent any time around a young man lately, gay or straight? They're often obsessed with abs, steroids, glutes, and protein shakes…
Oh, and these young guys almost all hate their bodies, certain that they don't measure up to the ideal. It doesn't matter how great they actually look.
In other words, they sound like women.
And who said that men were so different from women? We have already seen an increase in the number of men who have developed eating disorders and other problems associated with body image. Will this new cult of male objectification cause more men to fret about their bodies, the way that many women do? Or will men prove themselves to be immune to the effects of constantly viewing all of this perfection?