Human male sexuality
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Human male sexuality encompasses a broad range of issues, behavior and processes, including male sexual identity and sexual behavior, the physiological, psychological, social, cultural, political, and spiritual or religious aspects of sex. Various aspects and dimensions of male sexuality, as a part of human sexuality, have also been addressed by principles of ethics, morality, and theology. In almost any historical era and culture, the arts, including literary and visual arts, as well as popular culture, present a substantial portion of a given society's views on human sexuality, which also include implicitly or explicitly male sexuality. In most societies and legal jurisdictions, there are legal bounds on what sexual behavior is permitted. Sexuality varies across the cultures and regions of the world, and has continually changed throughout history, and this applies equally to male sexuality. Aspects of male sexuality include issues pertaining to biological sex, body image, self-esteem, personality, sexual orientation, values and attitudes, gender roles, relationships, and activity options, and communication.
Although female and male sexuality show many common features as aspects of a common human sexuality, there are clear differences between the two.
Some commonly held, possibly stereotypical, views of differences between male and female sexuality include:
- sexuality tends to be more associated with aggression and dominance in men than in women
- although men typically desire both love and sex, they are traditionally held to be more likely to desire sex even in the absence of a loving relationship
- paraphilias are more common in men than in women
- men are relatively more easily aroused by visual stimuli than women, and are generally greater consumers of pornography than women
- men are more likely than women to pay for sex
Homosexuality vs. masculinity
The ancient Roman and Greek cultures generally viewed penetration as the key aspect of male sexuality. They typically did not stigmatize or distinguish homosexuality as such, rather stigmatizing the act of being sexually penetrated; to be a penetrator was to be masculine, regardless of the sex of the penetrated person.
In contrast, most modern cultures are very concerned with distinguishing homosexuality and heterosexuality, particularly male homosexuality, and traditionally tend to equate masculinity and heterosexuality, regarding homosexual men as effeminate. These views are now being challenged by more recent social tolerance, as well as increasing acceptance of homosexuality.
Images of Male Sexuality over the Decades
The idea was that it was acceptable for females to display their bodies to arouse males took hold during World War II. Photos of scantily-clad women were sent to soldiers weary from fighting the war. These were dubbed “calendar” or “pin-up” girls. After World War II, the trend continued and some of the popular pin-up girls became popular movie stars in the 1950s, most notably Marilyn Monroe.
Both men and women took their own cues about what was acceptable body image in terms of attracting a mate from watching the movies. Other trends associated with a society more open about matters of sexuality and male arousal soon followed, particularly with the appearance of the first “men’s” magazine featuring scantily-clad women (Playboy, and again, the popular pin-up girl and then movie star Marilyn Monroe was featured.)
Both men and women observed these trends and followed them to the degree. It quickly became acceptable at least for single men to subscribe to Playboy, and share copies with their male friends. The men’s magazines played a major role defining male sexuality in the culture of the 50s and 60s, as well as what was acceptable behavior for women. Women started wearing two-piece bathing suits at the pool or beach, and men were delighted at the display that they may find to be sexually-arousing. By the late 1950s, the two-piece suits became smaller and smaller, and, called bikinis, revealed more and more of the woman’s body in public and to men observing them.
Many women soon decided that since there was nothing wrong with having men look at their bodies at the pool or beach, then why not in other venues as well? The 1960s ushered in the ultra-short mini-skirt, and variations such as hot pants. Now a woman could reveal more of her body and presumably attract the attention of a male other locations other than at beach or pool, such as being observed strolling and being seen at covered shopping malls (newly appearing and the place for young men and women to be seen in the late 50s into the 60s).
Heterosexual men began to think that if a woman is successful in attracting the attention of a man and perhaps arousing them, why would not an analogous approach work for them? If women could reveal body parts that men found arousing at a pool or beach, why could not men likewise. In the 1960s US men started wearing ever smaller and more form-fitting swimsuits at the pool or beach, including the Speedo-style brief. This more revealing design, introduced in Australia two decades earlier, was already popular there and in Europe before men in the US adopted it in any numbers. The men’s swimsuits in the 1950s and 60s usually revealed a covered outline of the male genitalia underneath, and women at that time appeared to be comfortable with this.
Heterosexual men of the period too were in search of ways to display their body to women with the idea in venues other than swimming pools and beaches. They were in search of clothing designs that would do the same thing for them as mini skirts had done for women. Homosexual men had long been interested in clothing styles revealing body shapes other gay men would find attractive and perhaps arousing. The new clothing styles for men in the 60s were often variations on designs that first appeared among homosexual men, in particular, shirts, pants and jeans with a body-hugging fit. These clothing styles soon became popular with most men in the 60s regardless of sexual orientation, and in particular, men wearing these styles were not labeled by women as “probably homosexual” and therefore an inappropriate choice as a mate.
The 1970s marked the beginning of an era that continues to the present in which women have been attempting to redefine their image away from the concept of woman as sex object for men’s pleasure and toward the concept of complete equality with men. Some women nowadays are very uncomfortable with the idea of a woman displaying her body in such a way as to arouse the male. Instead, some women see themselves as not needing men in order to achieve, and that men are only useful as being necessary to provide semen for procreation. To the extent that a woman wants a career and not children, men are not useful at all. Indeed, the idea that men can provide women pleasure in sex is often now sometimes seen by a woman as not as a positive but as a negative.
Still, in the 21st century, most women probably still find it acceptable for women to display their bodies as a means to arouse and potentially attract a mate. Women still appear at beaches or pools scantily-clad in bikinis or even thongs. A short walk through any modern shopping mall reveals large numbers of young women clad in skin-tight form-fitting jeans specifically designed to attract the attention of young men, who are also walking the mall largely in an effort to observe young women.
But a fundamental shift in images of male has occurred. In the 21st century, men are expected to dress very differently in this respect, and in particular to not wear any clothing that would reveal their own bodies as a means of attracting or arousing a woman, especially in North America (including the USA). In 21st century American culture, a young man’s body at the shopping mall is expected to be covered in baggy, loose fitting jeans, and an equally oversized shirt. It seems to be common "knowledge" that this style emerged from ghetto neighborhoods. At the pool or beach, the young man is expected to wear oversized board shorts or “boardies” with folds of fabric that cover any glimpse of and therefore disguise the shape of male genitalia.
Often nowadays, choosing clothing that would allow men to display their bodies as a means of attracting a mate or partner now labels the man as gay not as straight, and therefore unsuitable for a woman as a mate. In short, heterosexual women can still wear whatever they believe a heterosexual man might find attractive or sexually arousing. If a woman does so, heterosexual men generally will not label the woman as a lesbian. But if a man chooses clothing that in any way displays or reveals his body, he will be immediately become labeled by many heterosexual women as a gay and therefore unsuitable as a mate for a female. By this visual cue, whether true or not, many women believe that now only gay men now wear Speedo-style swimsuits or tight-fitting shirts and jeans. Many women are very fearful of marrying or even getting seriously involved with a man who has had or could possibly be interested in having sex with another man, and the man’s clothing if too revealing provides initial visual cues as to which men should be avoided. However, popular styles in Europe and Asia reflect oppinions that are similar to that of the 1970's, with tighter-fitting jeans, and men more into modern style.
These fundamental differences in what is now considered permissible in clothing styles and beachwear for both men and women reveal a lot about both male and female sexuality, and in particular the changing identity of men and women and their roles in society. Men generally do not complain that women continue to wear body-revealing clothing in an effort to attract them nor claim that such women are likely lesbians, but the same rule does not apply to men. A “dual standard" applies. If men choose clothing that reveals anything about their bodies, many women would claim that this is neither desirable nor arousing, but instead that the man looks “ridiculous”.
Of course, choice of dress is not the only way men can assert their sexuality. In the 1960s it was common for men to drive vehicles with oversized engines as a way to “impress” women. The choice of vehicle to drive remains a very important part of the process men frequently employ to attempt to attract a mate, and it is commonly believed that the guy with the most expensive vehicle will have the best opportunity in the mate attraction game. Whether women see the automobile as being as important to the dating process as some men seem to believe remains an unanswered question in need of further research.
Clearly, some types of motor vehicles are far more appealing to men than women as men attempt to make a sexual statement by what they drive. In recent years, males have attempted to reassert their sexuality by driving outsized vehicles. The popularity of the Hummer relates directly to the fact that it's design has become a symbol of masculinity. Other men drive large trucks and Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV’s) as a way of asserting their masculinity and desirability to women.
- Human sexuality
- Romantic friendship
- Gender role
- What happens on tour, stays on tour
- Human female sexuality
- Oedipus complex