Objectifying men (Tokyo male host clubs)


[The Reclining Man, Konstantin Somov]

Some anti-feminists argue that an egalitarian society, or a world run by women, would be the inverse of a patriarchy, except with women at the helm. Some say that if women were “empowered” they would also treat men the way they themselves are currently treated, in other words, badly.

I beg to differ. Women cannot rape and impregnate anyone against their will for a start, and I doubt many of them would if they could.

An intangible sickness of the soul lingers among any society where objectification of people is acceptable. Children have been objectified as a group, alongside women, for sometime. Animals too. But we are beginning to see an increasing objectification of men. Not by women, of course; we don’t yet have the power to run mass billboard and TV commercial campaigns. It’s still men in the driving seat. In fact, it’s gay men who run the fashion industry and so it was only a matter of time before we would see them using the power of their class (male) to promote sexualised images of men in the mainstream media. As though two wrongs make a right.

But emphasis on men’s faces and bodies is escalating in an unprecedented way. Personally, I don’t understand the premise, or garner how an image of someone you cannot touch, smell or converse with could possibly be interesting. A flat 2D image on a page is irrelevant to my life and this makes me even more confused about the male obsession with objectifying women.

Very often the images we do see of men are not attractive to women, perhaps because they’re presented in the typical style of patriarchal imagery, which is that of sado-masochism: hyper masculinity or passive submission. They are also homoerotic insofar as they represent the kind of men that other men believe women desire but secretly enjoy looking at themselves. How many women were asked their opnion on the direction and casting of this film, for example?

My guess is not many. It seems that both gay and het men’s wet dreams contain muscular, single-minded warriors. Sometimes the stereotypical gender imagery might be tweaked slightly (in Conan, the hero sports long hair) but the gender representation of females in films remains rock solid, and when women are allowed to transgress their typical look or role, it is usually to titillate men.

It may be that the majority of real women prefer more feminized, androgynous looking men. It may be that they feel safer with these men and that the man-as-protector fantasy primarily exists in the minds of men. For as we know, women and their children are more likely to be killed by the kids’ father or a lover than by anyone else. Given this reality, why on earth would women be attracted to dangerous-looking men? Have they been socially conditioned into doing so? It’s an evolutionary dead-end.

So… Here are a few pics of some androgynous men (compared to the mainstream view of how a man should look) :

[And I realise I may have just destroyed the crux of my argument by objectifying Johnny Depp, but I still wanted to make the point that hyper-masculine men might be a male fantasy, not a female one.]

In Japan, host clubs are an interesting phenomenon. Here is a youtube film of a western man strolling about the streets of Japan. The male journalist is absolutely affronted by the fact that men are lined up as eye candy trying their very best to be sexy for women’s delight, and using classically feminine body language to boot. He is visibly uncomfortable by what he’s witnessing. I’m not surprised. It must be like looking in the mirror and seeing yourself for the first time.

The man pictured in the screenshot below is not the typical masculine fantasy that Hollywood directors believe women are attracted to, and yet his target market is heterosexual women with cash to burn.

Women pay to spend an evening with a particular man, usually making it a ladies night out. They may flick through a magazine of the men, who tend to wear make-up and have long hair. Sex is not part of the equation (and even if it were, women cannot harm men through the sex act of intercourse. They cannot impregnate him, the way that a punter visiting a prostitute can. THey probably will not act out their deepest sadistic fantasies that they have learned in porn, the way men do with women in prostitution. In fact, one could say that the attraction of host clubs is that women are able to spend time with men without having demands placed on them. That’s all women ask of men. It’s not much is it. “Engage with me without making any demands.” )

Although they are taking place in a patriarchy and, as such, the men involved still have the upper hand over the paying female customers, I don’t want to justify male host clubs. Being “like men” is not going to liberate us. Jumping on the patriarchal bandwagon and objectifying men, as they do to us isn’t going to get us anywhere. Women don’t have the moral highground and so I am not arguing from a moral point of view. I simply hope for a future where every person is seen for who they are.

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21 thoughts on “Objectifying men (Tokyo male host clubs)

  1. The photograph of Schwarzenegger is one which typically portrays masculinity as dominant and powerful. Contrast this image with the innumerable ones of women wherein they are all misrepresented as sexually submissive and passive. Or else the female is shown in a sexually enticing pose, wherein she is supposedly saying ‘look at me I’m sexually available to you the male viewer.’ Are images of men portrayed wherein they are represented as sexually passive and alluring? No but they are portrayed as sexually dominant and powerful.

    The image of Schwarzeneggar is one wherein it represents patriarchal masculinity as the epitome of ‘man.’ Images of males who are perceived to be ‘effeminate’ or not depicted as powerful reinforce the view that certain males are ‘not real men’ but effeminate non-male. This feeds into belief some homosexual men hold wherein they believe they are not ‘really homosexual’ because they view certain men as non-masculine but rather as feminine males and hence it is fine for the man to sexually conquer and dominate the effeminate non-male. It is the worship of male sexual dominance which is what these males are adhering to and in their view are proving their male sexual dominance by sexually conquering and dominating lesser males.

    So it is worship of the ‘masculine male’ which is being promoted not the fact most males can never achieve that ‘hard-man physique.’ Take for example how the Ancient Greeks viewed Greek males – because the statues all depict the male as authoritive and strong – his body is taut and he has power. Female statues however emphasise the female body’s sexuality and passivity – the female is not depicted as authoritatively staring directly at the viewer.

    The fact there exists Host Clubs wherein women can pay to be entertained by a male does not for one minute disrupt the fact men structurally and individually have greater socio-economic power than women. The men know they will not be subjected to sexual violence and if the woman does sexually touch the male, it does not disrupt his view of himself as a superior male. He will not experience fear or wonder if she will sexually assault him. Instead he will feel flattered that his ‘masculinity’ has aroused her sexual interest. Irrespective of whether or not he is not remotely sexually interested in her the mere fact she finds him ‘sexually attractive’ reinforces his notion of masculine sexual superiority.

    But if a male customer engaged in sexually touching the male entertainer then this would immediately cause the male being touched to experience concern because he would feel threatened and wonder if the male was interested in him sexually. Or perhaps not because if the male entertainer was sexually interested in the male customer then he would not experience any disquiet and if the male entertainer was disinterested sexually he would feel confident of successfully rebutting the male customer’s sexual advances without being subjected to violence. Or perhaps not – if the male entertainer is desperate for employment and knows that if he fails ‘to entertain the male customer’ he will be sacked. But many male entertainers do not view themselves in an inferior situation – rather they are confident their maleness alone automatically accords them rights which are denied to women.

    Women who are ‘entertainers’ for men do not hold this same position of power because they know they are ‘sex’ and nothing else. They are not accorded power or status unlike men.

    So whenever males claim ‘but we are being sexually objectified too – they are wrong because the dynamics are not the same as when women are misrepresented as ‘mens’ sexualised objects.’ It is masculinity which is being worshipped by men whereas women and ‘femininity’ are objectified in order to maintain male superiority (sic) and male dominance over women.

    It’s a win win for men and a lose lose for women because either men are real men or else they are ‘effeminate pseudo men. Male supremacy has to maintain this divide otherwise the male supremacist system would collapse. Masculinity does not exist without femininity and femininity exists to shore up masculinity – never the reverse.

    Needless-to-say in reality no man can ever hope to achieve 100% masculinity and the same applies to women – we can achieve 100% femininity despite male supremacist claims and that is because we are not all the same. Not all women love pink neither do all men become enraptured with blue but male supremacy has to maintain myth gender is innate otherwise justifications for male domination over women collapses.

    Exactly Cherryblossom – we want a society wherein no woman is seen as just ‘sex’ and men are accorded pseudo rights and power based on worship of masculinity and male domination over women.

  2. “So it is worship of the ‘masculine male’ which is being promoted not the fact most males can never achieve that ‘hard-man physique”

    Exactly, that was the point I was trying to make.

    THis is one of the cruxes of patriarchal power: the sado-masochistic masculine-feminine dominance-submission representations in films such as Conan the Barbarian.

    SO it would be interesting to see what kind of men women would actually be attracted to if they weren’t channelled towards the male fantasy of the hard-man physique by popular media and culture.

    And absolutely, the host clubs take place within a patriarchal society and therefore the power dynamic is completely different to that of a male punter seeking out a prostitute. I tried to make that distinction because some anti-feminists try to say that it is the *same* as a hostess club, (in order to justify male purchasing of women) which is a lie.

    At the same time, I cannot justify host clubs. I don’t see them as being in line with radical feminism!

  3. Yes, the dynamics of male/female host clubs is very different. A similar analysis came up in the BBC Radio 5 programme:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b011j6fm/5_live_Breakfast_Your_Call_Are_gentlemens_clubs_degrading/
    (apologies for those outside UK, you probably cannot listen to the British Bastards Corporation). Programme starts at about 10 mins through to 33 minutes, then resumes at 50 mins.

    Anti-feminists always hold up male objectification by females as an excuse for the ongoing female objectification by males, but given status, economic options, power dynamics – it is never the same. I guess that the objectification of males (by females) is a form of exceptionalism, overall it does not damage patriarchy due to it being an absolute minority situation, it does nothing to address the imbalance of power dynamics in wider society. Most females going to those sorts of clubs treat it more as a joke than a serious sexual conquest opportunity (whereas male patrons almost always visit these types of clubs for serious sexual conquest opportunities, and to shore up their ‘powerful masculinity’ and feelings of superiority.

    I think you are right with:
    It may be that the majority of real women prefer more feminized, androgynous looking men. It may be that they feel safer with these men and that the man-as-protector fantasy primarily exists in the minds of men.

    Because ‘heartthrobs’ for females have never really been the overtly muscle-man dudes like Conan (and my gawd, isn’t he utterly revolting!). The Conans and Rockys etc have always been dude pics for dudes. There is probably a lot of latent homosexuality going on – in patriarchy they are generally not able to express it openly, but they can live it surreptitiously via films. True romance for males is homosexual in nature (“bromance”), because the majority of males do not see females as their equals but ‘less than’ – so romance of unequals is not possible – at least from the up position to down, the down to up is encouraged and is part of the heterosexual brainwashing of girls.

    • Great analysis Fab.
      Yes, I’D forgotten that until fairly recently men had never made a secret of the fact that real “pure” love could only exist between men ( learned it in me Shakespeare lesson 🙂 )
      But when women became slightly more liberated economically (due to the industrial revolution, I suppose) women obviously began opting-out of marriage and another tactic was needed to get women to live with men. Romance was heavily peddled and promoted by the patriarchy (and still is today) and yet despite all the declarations of undying love the power dynamics between the sexes stayed the same, so you have to ask yourself: what does “undying love” actually *mean* to men? Because if you loved someone you wouldn’t stand for being a member of a group that had granted themselves enormous powers over the person you purported to love would you?

  4. All men have ever known is everything always being all about them. They are the center of the universe. They are made narcissistic.

    And they like to look at other men as a form of auto-eroticism; they look at the men they wish they were themselves and since they *can‘t* (ha fricking ha) have homosexual feelings/sexual relationships with other men they are doing it with themselves in the form of Arnie or Sly.

    Liberace’s long-time *chauffeur* claimed (and I believe him) that he was required to undergo plastic surgery in order to look more like his employer so that when they were *having sex* Liberace could pretend that was fucking himself.

    An old Limerick:

    There once was a man from Nantucket
    Whose dick was so long he could suck it.
    He said with a grin, as he wiped off his chin,
    “If my ear was a pussy, I’d fuck it.”

    😐

  5. This is interesting; my grandmother said, when she was growing up women were sold duty: if you were a dutiful wife, god would love you, if not your husband. By the time she was in her twenties and the suffragettes had won the vote. Concepts of female beauty and romance were being brought in on a massive scale, to keep women marrying. She told me, many women her age, who had been taught by men that women’s bodies were ugly and offensive, thought that men had undergone some miraculous change. But it was just expedience, they had a little less power to force women into reproduction, so they sweeten the pill with deceit.

    • She told me, many women her age, who had been taught by men that women’s bodies were ugly and offensive, thought that men had undergone some miraculous change. But it was just expedience, they had a little less power to force women into reproduction, so they sweeten the pill with deceit

      that is interesting about your grandmother, straight from the horses mouth so to speak.

      the patriarchy would fall without women’s cooperation, they *need* us, and frankly it’s very obvious by now that we *don’t* need them (well maybe a few gorgeous ones) and would be a lot better off without them (we wouldn’t get raped or murdered for a start!!!!!)

    • they had a little less power to force women into reproduction, so they sweeten the pill with deceit.

      This describes both the romance and marriage myths exactly – all based on deceit and reversals.

      Females are groomed into being convinced that marriage and baybees are their primary goals in life – and also how hard it is to get ‘reluctant menz’ to marry. 🙄

      Married menz are happier and live longer, married women are less happier and live less than their single counterparts. Males also get remarried much faster than females generally. It is not in women’s best interests to marry.

  6. Personally, I don’t understand the premise, or garner how an image of someone you cannot touch, smell or converse with could possibly be interesting. A flat 2D image on a page is irrelevant to my life and this makes me even more confused about the male obsession with objectifying women.

    Thanks, CBL, it’s great to have company. I really cannot get my head around the male obsession with objectifying women. I always thought that my confusion about our culture in many was was just because I am socially clueless. This has been massively confusing for me all my life. I have never understood it. I also did not quite understand that I was being objectified. At the same time, I could see that I was. I just always thought it was some kind of odd quirk in the man doing it. It seemed pointless.

    Also, the picture of Conan. UGH! I’ve never been attracted to men like this. In high school never liked the football player type and could not see what other girls saw in them. I kinda thought it was status. If I see a cover on a video or a book like that conan one, I just assume it’s about male dominance with other males. Perhaps the least interesting genre. Watching a video about how to mow the lawn or reading the dictionary is more inviting. Seriously.

    • Not to mention, Katie that the new batch of producers and editors and writers and directors and market-eers etc (!) are pretty much all dudes in their early 30s who have been *mentored* by dudes in their mid/late 60s. Yuk.

      They are a bunch of over-privileged, misogynist twits taking over the Reins of the Planet.

      May I suggest the *comic* film Idiocracy to anyone who hasn’t seen it? A glimpse of our future… 🙂

  7. Hi Katie,

    “If I see a cover on a video or a book like that conan one, I just assume it’s about male dominance with other males. Perhaps the least interesting genre. Watching a video about how to mow the lawn or reading the dictionary is more inviting. Seriously.”

    lol. I’m beginning to think that every interaction men make with women is about other men rather the women themselves.
    Did you hear about that fiasco about the German business trip to Hungary. It involved 100 or so men being allowed to do what they wanted to 20 prostitued women and, get this, the prostitutes were divided into groups and only the high-status men were allowed to touch the ones with white bands on their arms (the other women had yellow bands, and the maids and waitresses had yet another colour).
    Anyway, my point is it wasn’t about how attractive the women were, it was about making some of them off-limits to the underlings to improve the status of some of the company men.

    I’m sure men use women like this in all kinds of ways that we do not know about, and yet women still believe in the integrity of men, and take men’s interactions on face value.

  8. “I’m sure men use women like this in all kinds of ways that we do not know about, and yet women still believe in the integrity of men, and take men’s interactions on face value.

    It’s like there is some subterranean and creepy world that exists under the real one. Sci-fi like. But the reality is very different, and much worse than the story we are taught to believe and that is covered over in everyday life.

  9. Yes, cherry, you are right. I was always a feminist (never a funfem, though), but that was what caused me to become radical. I appreciate your insight.

  10. S4 says “May I suggest the *comic* film Idiocracy to anyone who hasn’t seen it? A glimpse of our future… ” Yes, I’ve seen it. The premise was right on. The blatant misogyny was certainly there, too. Too much of it, though. Ugh!

  11. [quote=cherryblossomlife]SO it would be interesting to see what kind of men women would actually be attracted to if they weren’t channelled towards the male fantasy of the hard-man physique by popular media and culture.[/quote]

    Already done. I apologize for not being able to provide a link, as it has been a long time since I read an article about this issue. But there was a comparative study done (by some institution in Europe, if I remember correctly) which dealt with attraction among the sexes. The data included things such as levels of attraction to gendered appearances. The study noted that among social groups which were more health-conscious, women preferred men with a much more feminine appearance. Among social groups which had much more lax lifestyles, women preferred the “hard masculine” appearance such as muscles and prominent jawlines.

    • Hmm… but it’s not ‘already done’ because *all* women are channelled towards the Hard Man physique as that is what is presented to us in popular culture as being desirable. So the women in the study you describe, who had more lax lifestyles would still have been channelled in that direction (unless they were living in a bubble outside of patriarchal influences!) And you have to figure in socio-economic status..if the study you cited is correct then, for whatever reason, women of low socio-economic status (who are naturally less health conscious due to relative poverty) may have been channelled towards the He-men because working class men present themselves as more macho in order to make up for their loss of status in the masculine hierarcy in the culture at large

      I would like to see who women would choose if there were no external pressures influencing their choices

  12. I might be a total hypocrite here in terms of let’s-not-objectify-anyone but I’ve been attracted to long haired men since I hit puberty.

    I got extremely annoyed at the guy in the video poking fun at the guys on the wall, as if it was completely different from staring at “willing” women.

    Slightly more on topic, I know that I, and many other women I know, loved androgynous men like Légolas, Johnny Depp and Visual Kei – singers thoughout puberty, so you might be onto something there. It’s saddening to see how patriarchy even affects my choice in men.

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