Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Every month when the new Playboy arrives at the Hooksexup office, my colleagues scramble to keep it out of my reach for fear I'll call by name (and not quietly) the formulaic inanity I encounter during my masochistic ritual flip-through. Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I'll think I spot a copy lying on the coffee table that somehow slipped through their hoarding hands, only to realize it's any one of a number of magazines we subscribe to. I'm duped by their covers which, lately, are eerily indistinguishable: near-naked, under-fed, over-implanted über-women either in flesh-colored outfits (invisible from a distance) or else topless with, say, pinky fingers extended ever so strategically to conceal those pesky nipples. And I'm not just talking Details, Esquire and their spawn, but Harper's Bazaar, Spin, Vanity Fair, George, even Time.
This ain't news, but sex sells it moves Hollywood blockbusters, Lifetime movie originals, WB sitcoms, trash talk shows, instant rice commercials, cigarette billboard ads, Broadway musicals, off-Broadway dramas, MTV's Total Request Live videos, more and more books (including, um, our own), Tomb Raider videogames, the aforementioned magazines, et cetera. Pushing the envelope is a popular American media pastime, and nothing pushes harder these days than a little sexual innuendo. So with all this sexual ubiquity, how come the only ones who end up naked partially or completely seem to be women?
The relatively few instances of male nudity in circulation are often and obviously intended for that other male gaze of the Tinky Winky variety. Even Playboy's fraternal twin and theoretical chick mag, Playgirl, caters to gay men's tastes in eye candy, as ex-editor-in-chief Judy Cole confirmed in "Playgirl's Queer Canard." And whether here or in the back alleys of the Internet, the recipe for male nudity is, more often than not, achingly predictable: take any member of the Village People, trim moustache, remove uniform, add Weight Gainer 2000, color process, and presto, instant gay porn.
It's the rare exception to the rule of male undress that I pine for: that precious pond scene in A Room with a View, Richard Kern's refreshing "Rude Boy" series, even (and I almost hate to admit it) that Diet Coke commercial with the hottie construction worker taking a soda break before an audience of female suits. Bless super-star harbingers of penile pride, Harvey Keitel and Ewan McGregor but is a little more variety really too much to ask for?
On the odd occasions when we do find and post a male nude that passes Hooksexup's highly scientific and selective anti-cheese test, regardless of whether it's got a decidedly hetero or homosexual charm, I can look forward to one or two viewer complaints, such as this one regarding Mark Beard's recent Photos of the Day: "The guy pics are a real turn off for most of us. BRING BACK THE BROADS!!" Charming, indeed, and yet misinformed, since almost half of Hooksexup readers are female, hundreds of whom write in with many more inquiries, suggestions, critiques, and outright reprimands about our skin section: "Hey, it's your show, but I submit one viewer vote for work by women photographers of men, for balance." "If you are trying to market to females, why the absolute void of erotic male photographs?" "I am disappointed I expected straight women's and/or gay men's interests to be addressed as well." And "Geez, don't you realize how deliciously sexual men's bodies are? I would expect more of you!" Ouch.
Though we hate failing to meet the expectations of readers with whom we feel an aesthetic kinship, we're delighted to report that women aren't the only ones with these concerns. One Hooksexup member recently wrote:
A person browsing pornography on the Net is about 341 times more likely to find a naked women than a naked man. As a straight man, I would hope that this is not because we are not sexy, or because we don't possess sexuality! We should be looking for work in erotica that heightens and finds beauty in male sexuality, straight and gay. The exploitation of female sexuality has prevented women from pursuing other forms of power and status while allowing men to monopolize those same forms. Isn't it time to challenge that?
Right on, brother! To you and your kind I can only send assurances that the photo editors of Hooksexup keep a diligent eye open for just this kind of material; we scour the planet for interesting, innovative treatments of the male figure from photographers of all descriptions male, female, gay, straight. Unfortunately, right now, the demand exceeds the supply.
For those of you whose delicate sensibilities are offended when we succeed in acquiring these hard-to-come-by images (pun intended), I gently offer the words of Germaine Greer in reply: "Men ought to be more conscious of their bodies as objects of delight." And if I'm feeling particularly saucy, I might throw in another favorite quote for consideration, this one from Valerie Perrine: "Most of my male friends are gay, and that seems perfectly natural to me. I mean, who wouldn't like cock?"
It's been the Hooksexup party line all along that boilerplate evolutionary psychology, though handy for spicing up cocktail party conversations, does not do sexually curious women justice; yes, men are visual creatures, but we women have eyes too, eyes that may just be a little weak from lack of titillating sensory input. And since when do women have a monopoly on beauty? I suspect whoever started this rumor let his gym membership expire and wanted to keep his own shirt (and pants) on.
Pro-sex feminists tout the empowerment experienced by the naked pagan goddess proudly spread-eagled, her worshippers bowed down before her in awe. Here's an idea: you het guys ought to try striking that pose some time for a little exercise in role reversal who knows, you just might like it. I know I would.
has written for Glamour, Men's Journal, The Guardian (U.K.), Details and the Boston Phoenix. She and her evil twin Emma Taylor write Hooksexup's weekly horoscopes and sex advice columns. They've also written Hooksexup's two original books, "The Big Bang" (out now) and "Hooksexup's Guide to Sex Etiquette" (forthcoming Winter '04). Some of Lorelei's specific qualifications for her residency at Hooksexup (since 1998) include early-'80s short stories inspired by the "good parts" of secretly-bought romance novels and an eleventh-grade English term paper on Lady Chatterly's Lover.