“Penises are gross.”
It makes me sad every time I hear my female friends talking about how awkward men look naked, even in jest.
I always call them out on it, and they always amend it with “I mean, if he’s really fit and clean then it’s okay.” But, you know, that’s even worse. By clean they mean hairless, and by fit they mean muscular, or thin and toned.
Nothing is inherently beautiful or ugly.* You could socialize a child to be terrified or repulsed by a sunset and brim with joy at the sight of a turd. It all has to do with the values and assumptions that a society is built upon.
It just so happens that because our society is based on thousands of years of men ruling, the message of “the female body is beautiful” absolutely oozes out of everything, from medieval poems and sculptures and paintings to the scores of pop and rock ballads devoted to praising girls ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErPsx8zdnX4&t=36 ).
I call this gynephilic media. (‘Gynephile’ is a term used to describe people who are attracted to women.)
We ended up in Medieval times with the a heterosexual binary that brought us things like chivalry. Men put women on a pedestal, which was restrictive to both of them. Lots of women enjoyed/enjoy being on a pedestal, but it’s often equivalent to being locked in a tower. And while a lot of men enjoyed the construction of honor built around defending those women, nobody would ever rush into battle and face death to for a lock of an attractive man’s hair, m’lady.
This system stayed in place for a long time (we were given the Gothic novel as a response to the evolution of this dynamic; the men are out having adventures and the women are confined to their homes, but they end up exploring the dingy manors in which they dwell and having adventures of their own), and we’ve certainly come a long way since then as far as women having the freedom to be more than simply adored for their beauty.
BUT, a relic of this ages-old inequality is the revulsion that the male body inspires.
There’s a classic Seinfeld scene in which Jerry’s girlfriend is permitted to walk around naked but Jerry isn’t. (The photo above is comprised of two frames from the episode.)
Elaine: “Whoa! Walking around naked? Ahh… that is not a good look for a man.”
George: “Why not? It’s a good look for a woman.”
Elaine: “Well, the female body is a…a work of art. The male body is
utilitarian, it’s for gettin’ around, like a jeep.”
Jerry: “So you don’t think it’s attractive?”
Elaine: “It’s hideous. The hair, the… the lumpiness. It’s simian.”
George: “Well, some women like it.”
Elaine: “Eugh. Sickies.”
Now, we all know this is meant to be humor.
But we also know that humor hits home when it’s rooted in truth. Larry David (co-creator of Seinfeld, for those who don’t know) is a master of exposing the weird inconsistencies in the social structure by twisting circumstances.
This is a very real mentality, and the hundreds of campaigns to help young girls and women of all ages love their bodies and feel beautiful stand in stark contrast to the utter lack of attention paid to the gross-ification of the male form.
What I’m trying to say is, guys: spend some of your alone time naked. Get acquainted/comfortable with your nudity. Your body is as much of a miracle, as much a work of art composed by [nature/the divine] as anyone else’s.
What makes me sad is that I feel like I’m the only person that’s telling you this.
* I’m aware that assessment of mate fitness via symmetry and other phenotypical expressions of resistance to mutation exists. We’re talking about the element of human beauty that is socialized. It’s obvious to anyone who knows their way around evolutionary psychology that not only is the dynamic I’m describing an entirely socialized thing, but that it’s actually maladaptive.
If you’re really interested in what elements of beauty are intrinsic/evolved, Denis Dutton (recently deceased) wrote about the subject in detail, and delivered a fascinating TEDTalk on it.