Men’s Tits, Women’s Balls & Gavin Henson’s Tarty Body

Rethink Breast Cancer presents: Your Man Reminder

This jokey Canadian ad is aimed, I believe, at encouraging women to regularly check their breasts for strange lumps. Though it seems to have been side-tracked by, er, checking out strange lumps. Albeit perfectly-formed and waxed ones. 

For my charity money the blond, buffed, fashion-bearded presenter’s best asset isn’t his chest but his man-humps — which he, along with the other tarty men in the ad, kindly shoves in the camera during the credits, while disco dancing.

I suppose women are very grateful for this kind of eager self-sacrifice on the part of men, but I’m not entirely sure what the gentle sex is supposed to do with all those plucked, pushy, insatiable bottoms.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what I’d do.

Is a bevvy of men flaunting tits and ass the best way to educate women about looking after their own bodies? It may come as a shock, but I’m probably not best qualified to answer that question. I would imagine though that this infomercial has been circulated on the interweb rather more than more conventional efforts. But then, maybe it’s being circulated by men like me, who can’t recall the last time they examined a pair of breasts that didn’t come shrink-wrapped from Sainsburys.

One thing’s indubitable, however: this ‘inverted’ ad is more evidence if it were needed of the way that in the 21st century men’s tits have not just rivalled but replaced women’s as the touchstone of ‘sexy’ in mainstream pop culture, even when the audience for them is other men.

Speaking of tits, the apparently endless UK version of reality TV series The Bachelor starring metrosexy Welsh rugger bugger Gavin Henson reached its final climax this week on C5. Though I’ve no idea which lucky lass Gav plumped for in the end as I only made it through the first couple of shows. I have a pathological fear of commitment. And crazy ladies with a famous, rich, orange man in their sights.

Ostensibly a reality TV show in which a series of foxy women try ensnare a celebrity playboy who will then treat them like a princess, The Bachelor is, as everyone knows, quite the opposite — or inverse — of how it presents itself.

No matter how many times they make the eligible bachelor say sincerely, solemnly and unblinkingly into the camera, “I am looking for the special woman I will marry and spend the rest of my life with” we can’t help scoffing, loudly. Even when they say it in an adorable, slow-talking Welsh accent. We know that everyone on the show, Mr Henson especially, have gone on telly to spend their life with you and me.

Likewise, despite the traditional pretense of the ‘pretty ladies’ with their ‘stunning’ outfits paraded like cattle in front of the ‘man of the world’, Henson is unquestionably the show’s eye-candy. Or ‘object’ as the feminists would have it (if they could ever bring themselves to admit that men are objectified too — by both women and especially by themselves).

Gav’s the Prince and the Princess of The Bachelor. And, it has to be said, the worst actress out of a brace of very bad ones.

Pink of lip, white of eye and tooth and with a much prettier complexion than most of the ladies, his body, which only seems to be actually clothed after sunset — and then in tailored shirts and suits that advertise his flaring back, his beefy arms, his swelling chest, his voluptuous, shelf-like arse even more — simply has no competition. All must worship it. And do.

It is an astonishing, captivating ‘object’ (much more so than the one in the Canadian ad), which Henson has clearly devoted thousands and thousands of intimate hours to nurturing, feeding, watering, sculpting, shaving, tanning and moisturising. This, finally, is a love story we can all believe in. What’s more, unlike most male bodies on display these days, his also has a actual function. He’s a professional athlete.

Little wonder then that Gav and his body is the relentless focus of the camera’s gaze. Every time he strips off the camera zooms in and grazes along his taut, polished skin, practically licking the Armani body lotion off him. Just as it did last  year when he appeared on the BBC’s Saturday night ‘family show’ Strictly Come Dancing — a reality vehicle targeting the older viewer which also objectifies men but presents it within the faux traditional ‘sexist’ format of ballroom dancing where men ‘lead’ – the eye. Sportsmen appearing on the show have to go topless every week or go home.

OK, having worked myself into a frenzy talking about Gav’s pneumatic body I’ve just taken a quick peek at the final episode of The Bachelor online, and it seems Gav chose as the winner and his ‘girlfriend’ (whatever that actually means in the context of reality TV) a female model – with a Roman nose remarkably similar to his. Whose first, delicate, coy, halting words on seeing him clad immaculately in designer black tie in Episode One,  were: “GO ON!! SHOW US YOUR MUSCLES THEN!!!”

Before doing what everyone else wants to do to Gav, and what Gav seems to want everyone to do — grabbing his bicep and copping a really good feel.

And this is the show that the Guardian recently moaned was ‘demeaning to women’.

Like ballsy ladies, gender reversal is everywhere these days. Below is a UK viral ad raising awareness for testicular cancer, which uses the same ‘inversion’ as the Canadian breast cancer ad, but to rather different effect. Check out the lumps on her….

Rhian for Male Cancer Awareness & Instructions

Tip: DAKrolak

  1. tu quoque: “What media are you watching?”

    Very little, and probably not the same as you. At the moment: True Blood, Mad Men and The Good Wife for TV shows.

    I admit to being totally out of it. It’s why I find your vehemence interesting. I may not be seeing the media that objectify men. For example, I would not watch a “reality” show unless paid millions of dollars per episode. I like to eat, not barf, while I watch TV…

    I also may not understand what is meant by “objectified.” And it’s also possible that what’s happening now is that women got so fed up with being objectified, and because it’s become politically incorrect to objectify women, we’re all objectifying men instead.

    I also wonder if part of this is a resurgence of the idea that women are sexual beings. That phase Mark S. refers to, from the Victorian era into the twentieth century, when men were not viewed in a sexual way, coincided with an anomaly in the cultural perception of women. Before that time, women were seen as dangerously sexual beings that men had to be protected from (or protect themselves from). Then in the mid to late 18th century, women were seen as pure, having to be protected from men and their predatory sexuality.

    Well, that’s over. But it could be that the confluence of these trends, along with the increasing recognition and acceptance of male homosexuality, is leading to a return of the view of men as the desired “object.” Women *and* men are now openly objectifying men and not having to hide their interest.

  2. “I’m really sorry. Did I give the impression that I felt a need to justify my lack of empathy? That is so not what I meant.”

    No worries.

    “And do you really believe that women are *not* more objectified than men? ”

    Men are a thousand times more objectified than women and have always been. The male body is exposed and exploited for the purpose of satisfying audiences’ thirst for titillation, humiliation and violence orders of magnitude more than women’s bodies. I can’t even fathom how someone can see greater objectification of women. What media are you watching?

  3. tu quoque: “Keep pretending that women are more objectified than men in order to justify your lack of empathy.”

    I’m really sorry. Did I give the impression that I felt a need to justify my lack of empathy? That is so not what I meant.

    I’m selfish, self-involved, cold, non-empathetic and generally not a nice person. Although occasionally, like most people, I slip up. Sometimes I do care about another person, but rarely about groups.

    And do you really believe that women are *not* more objectified than men? Really? Is it possible that because now men are being objectified too, in contrast to when only women were, it feels monumentally horrific to some men to experience what women have been experiencing for … a long time?

    To Mark S.: I haven’t had the impression from your posts that you’re looking for empathy or sympathy about men’s objectification, but just pointing out what’s going on these days. If I’m wrong, I apologize to you. I’m not offering empathy, just apologizing for not doing a better job of reading comprehension with my absolute favorite blog.

    And about how it all feels very Right Now!: well, yes, of course it is. But I still don’t think it means men’s narcissism only began with videos and YouTube. It’s like human violence. Inventing machine guns and nukes and RPGs and whatnot didn’t suddenly make human beings violent. It just gave us more ways to be violent on a much grander scale. But we’ve been violent from the beginning (and earlier–see chimpanzees and hunting).

  4. “And until men have to wear eye shadow and mascara and lipstick at the office every day to be taken seriously, I’m not crying over their objectification.”

    That’s it. Keep pretending that women are more objectified than men in order to justify your lack of empathy.

    It must be nice to so easily assuage any feelings of emotional responsibility.

  5. Oooh, I’m sure I would love your china, Mark. But of course, I doubt you’d be interested in showing it to me.

    And I think most of this stuff is naff. Although as a Yank, I’m not sure I know what that is.

    Back in the late 70s, my gay boyfriend would say that tack could sometimes be acceptable, but not sleaze.

    What I like about Restoration comedy and modern comedy is that women don’t have to pretend to be “pure.” Yes, all the self-referential oiled-up naked guys get kind of boring after a while (sometimes I’d rather be reading Jane Austen) but it’s better than the alternative.

    And until men have to wear eye shadow and mascara and lipstick at the office every day to be taken seriously, I’m not crying over their objectification.

  6. I love Restoration Comedy. And I’m sure you’d love my china, Ann. Like most men, I spend hours admiring it myself. When I’m not stroking my thighs in tights.

    Yes, males have been narcissists for most of history, or at least youths of the (teen) age of Narcissus tended to be. Though from the Victorians up to the later part of the Twentieth Century they were meant to stay in the closet about it. Vanity’s name was supposed to be Woman. I know, I know, it seems laughable now, but only a decade or so ago it was still considered gospel.

    I don’t think rugger-bugger Henson, who is nearly 30, and his submissive, shy smile and sensuous-sensational body oozing with product – and total devotion to the camera – are timeless. It screams, impatiently, NOW!. Which is perhaps why it’s also just a little bit naff.

    (Do you forgive me for saying that, Gavin? I’ll still happily help you with your exfoliation regime and fake tan application.)

  7. The woman pulling her nut sack out scared the crap out of me.

    But in a good way, I guess. It made me laugh.

    Mark, I can’t help thinking we really have been here before. I know the new concept is marketing, commodification, etc., but women have been “objectifying” men for centuries.

    I do agree with you though that the biggest change is men’s self-involvement. But it might not be so different: in the past, being “hot” was a way to attract powerful people, men and women, who could enable a man’s rise to power. Today, it’s not one individual so much as “stardom,” which is the product of videos, which are all about looking into the camera/mirror and turning oneself on. The technology and the social structure have changed, but men have always been narcissists.

    I enjoyed watching the men in the breast cancer ad, but it was the humor that did it for me. Sex by itself is boring. But sex and comedy? Irresistible. Restoration comedy proved it three hundred years ago.

    One woman’s biased opinion.

    Please keep telling it like it is, Mark. You’re the only one.

  8. This was all very interesting, but I’m afraid the scary orange man with the panting dog in front of his man-parts has taken all my words away.