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The online diary of an ethical pervert.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Boys (not) playing

At a private house party recently my (uncomfortable) high heels gave me much opportunity to sit down and watch the assembled company and how they interacted. What interested me especially was how quickly and keen the women were to get involved in BDSM play compared to the men. The women were by far being the most tactile, the most obviously available and actively interested in playing - at one point I had two very good looking women kneeling at my feet and another in my lap wriggling happily underneath my teeth. There were boys there who I would have happily played with and who I am sure would have liked to play, but they were clothed, in another room, talking to another boy about football (OK, I made the last bit up, but you get the picture).

The most obvious signifier of this "women only" situation was that the only naked people I witnessed were women. The men for the most part, were fully clothed, often talking to each other at the sidelines, except for those who, also fully clothed, were playing with their female partners.

Now, because I know that there were submissive men present who were interested in playing and didn't; I am intrigued as to why they were uncomfortable, unwilling or unable to express their desire as clearly as the women. This got me thinking. What is it about our group, our society or our gendered ideas about presenting sexuality that makes it easy for submissive women to make themselves available for play and hard for submissive men? For the record I'm specifically focusing on submissives for the moment because I was able to draw direct comparisons between the sexes that evening. There is a massive difference in expectations of presentation, and difficulties in attracting casual play partners for male and female dominants, but I'll just have to blog about that later, so watch this space.

Taking the most obvious point first: we are much more used to seeing representations of unclothed women than we are men. We (I'm talking about western culture here) are fairly well conditioned into being comfortable with the sight of female flesh, especially as meaning "sexually available". The connection between naked or provocatively clad women and consumption is, sadly, a much ingrained trope. Naked men are often viewed as dangerous or threatening, rather than attractive sexual offerings - unless they are gay. In which case they can be perceived as dangerous in quite another way. When considering the classic heterosexual "attractive" male they are almost always rich, powerful and clothed.

Naked men are a rarity: their naked torsos do not grace the third page of the country's best selling red top and their legs don't flash up in adverts for cereal. On a night out in any town centre, the average woman will be wearing less than the average man.
Women find it easier to be naked and semi-clothed, or to wear revealing or provocative clothing - corsets, tight latex etc. They feel safe as well as sexy. Men are not used to doing this and are rarely seen semi-clothed or naked except in certain specific and often purely "men only" contexts. Spaces where society has stipulated an acceptable male nakedness: sports changing rooms, saunas, the beach and certain clubs.

Of course, there are exceptions, and we all know about the naked (often unattractive) man who wanders around the sex club, probably casually masturbating despite the notices on the wall. Perhaps it is fear of being that guy that stops men taking their tops off.

Another element of the "available for play" sign is demonstrated physical contact. In the situation I was in, women were
touching each other and being obviously sexually open. The men were drinking beer, talking and taking sidelong looks at the girls. In my experience of BDSM I have witnessed vastly more girl-on-girl play than boy on boy.

I can only conclude that some form of socially contracted homophobia (it's a disease...) prevents them from touching each other, or of exploring each others' bodies. How many more men than women proclaim themselves straight and feign horror at the sight of another naked body similar to theirs? We live in a sexual culture that considers girls kissing girls as a normal, natural and indeed, it is an almost expected erotic staple. Yet we would not instantly think of those women as lesbians. It is viewed instead as a display piece for the attraction of men. The reverse does not happen nearly enough. Sadly. Although I am doing my best to try and turn the tide.

Summary: men just don't advertise the goods.

I realised I needed a boy's eye view. A quick IM with Dandy (my go-to-guy for chaps who take their tops off) sheds a bit of light on the subject. We chatted about how men have clothing that is generally comfortable, non-tight and does not reveal how they look, which means that on a day-to-day basis - unlike women - how their bodies look is not an issue for them. Something compounded by the fact that their worth is rarely judged on their attractiveness alone:

"Taking their clothes off suddenly means they have to acknowledge they have physiques at which point the man is subject to the most common male physical expectation which is an awesome six pack surrounded by small to large muscles. Dressed means no expectations. Naked means huge expectations."

So far, so scary. But it's a fear I can recognise, because I, and all other women are also surrounded by challenging body image expectations all the time, far more than men. Yet I do not have the same inhibitions. Why?

I think that women are perhaps more used to those body image expectations and have overcome them, either by ignoring them and/or by working damn hard to look good, to dress well and are therefore much more body conscious and ready to reveal. On a wider social level, it can be argued that women are following convention by shedding clothing, men are having to go against the grain.

In a play party scenario, men find themselves suddenly on the spot and having to be physically attractive. This is something that women have had all their lives to practice at and live under the requirement of being sexually attractive first and foremost. So they tend to be better at it - if not happier people because of it (I'd be the first to say that the focus on looks does enormous harm to women and young girls), but neither are men gaining anything in particular by totally shying away from the idea that their bodies might be conduits for desire within certain situations. Both genders have something to learn from the other.

Myself and a few ladies of my acquaintance are considering setting up a support group to help young men become comfortable with being more obviously sexually available. A doll project for boys, perhaps?


M said...

How glamorous your life is when you mention that there are comparatively too many women proportional to men playing at your feet!

Body issues are never too far away from everyday social life (inescapable, even), this is irrespective of gender allocation. My observation is that among my friends who are the most flaunty in terms of their bodies such as getting half naked to wrestle or such are the sexiest of them. I suspect there are a variety of factors and its important not to play down physical insecurity.

Being 'that guy' is like the female version of the negative male gaze. As it is frowned upon that women are percieved as sexually available and open to sexual experiences (yet simultaneously it is encouraged); it is also frowned upon to be the weird pervert guy. Men aren't 'allowed' to say they love being around children and playing with children due to the negative association with paedophiles nor does it seem they want to be the guy who goes too far in a bdsm setting.

Being 'that guy' is something I've noticed guys being consciously aware of in munches. For that reason guys want to keep their distance and appear non threatening, or if appear sexual, not to be threatening and sexual.

As a question to you I pose: Do you think that the other females in the party would feel as comfortable with their kinky expression if there were nude males about?

What if the females are engaging upon some kind of self-imposed male gaze to encourage their nudity? Despite how liberated one may be intolerances or culturally ingrained dispositions are never too far away.

The idea of a male support group/doll project sounds very sexy. Especially a cfnm support group (enter fantasy mode).

I though I'd share this link with you to as food for thought. Although you've probably already seen it:

Hugh said...

The "That Guy" comment is spot-on. Frankly, men taking their clothes off is generally looked upon less favourably than women doing so - there aren't many media/society examples of it going well, and there are LOTS of it going badly (see Friends and the Ugly Naked Guy). Hence, women can take their clothes off with some expectation of a positive reaction. For men, it's quite unusual we've ever expected a positive reaction to us disrobing, except possibly in private with one partner - and even then, pop psychology suggests that we shouldn't expect a positive reaction, because "women are less visual than men".

Men are less tactile generally. It's not just about us all being homophobic. In addition, again, the casual expectation would be for women to have a much more positive reaction from casually touching men than the reverse. Let's face it, the expectation is NOT that any touch from a man will be welcomed by a woman, rather the reverse ("aargh, sexual harassment!") - and there are good reasons for that. Again, back to not wanting to be That Guy.

The same applies for touching another man. Even if I really want to go caress Random Dude A, I'm not going to unless I know him pretty damn well, because the default reaction from another unknown guy to a caress is a punch in the jaw, or at least a violent verbal reaction.

Again, there are good reasons for that. A touch from a woman is not physically threatening. A touch from a man is an invasion of physical space. If a random bloke comes up to me and strokes my arse, my reaction isn't going to be great, even at a play party. (To be fair, the same applies under most circumstances if a woman does it without asking).

Finally, I can't help but feel that you partially turn this discussion of how demonstrative sexuality is harder for men than women into a "well, clearly men have it better than women" argument. I'm not sure that holds water. Both sexes have problem areas and things that are difficult for them to do in society. Women may have more, but that doesn't mean that any percieved disadvantage to a man must necessarily in actual fact be a disguised advantage.

electronic doll said...


Good points. A quick note of clarification, that although my life is indeed glamorous it's more the case that the bits of it I write about are - given the subject matter of the blog. Like everyone else, I have to hoover the floor and wash the tea cups.

I think the "that guy" phenomenon is one that may need tackling seperately, and also one that clearly needs addressing within the scene. I think it is ironic that we can use phrases such "the weird pervert guy" within kinky circles, yet agree absolutely that they are true and indeed I have been in the presence of weird pervert guys.

I think that in both a cases - fear of being "that guy" and fear of being threatening - it's a societal issue. Chaps just don't have the toolkit to deal with being sexy or sexualised or available for kinky play. So they either come across as awkward or go too far in the other direction.

Would the women feel comfortable if there were naked males around? I think that if they were the chaps I was thinking about then yes. In this situation, the crowd generally knew each other and was pretty attractive so the two major blockers to "do I want to see this person naked" are removed: I feel comfortable around them and they are hot.

I don't think I quite understand what you mean by the phrase: "What if the females are engaging upon some kind of self-imposed male gaze to encourage their nudity?"

Could you expand on that?

A need for a CFNM support group, you say? Hmmm...

Yes, I've seen the link, but very interesting nonetheless.

electronic doll said...


Ah, "Ugly Naked Guy"... Now, I'll be the first to admit I'm an elitist when it comes to looks, but then again I work damn hard to look amazing myself so consider it no more than tit-for-tat. In this instance the chaps were good looking. So I guess my questions revolve more around "why don't good looking chaps take their clothes off more" and wondering whether they don't see themselves as good looking or whether their perceptions of themselves (and their "maleness") cannot include being naked in public.

I think we can probably dispense with the idea that "women are less visual than men" - I imagine from your use of quote marks that, like me, you consider this to be socially conditioned twaddle. I do think that we *teach* women to be less concerned about how men look and more concerned about, say, how much they earn...

The point about touching is interesting. I wasn't actually suggesting that men who want play should go and touch women, rather that they should - like the submissiv women in the situation - present themselves as being available and approachable for *being touched*. By me. In intimate places. Ahem.

These weren't random people who had never met - and that's important, because I agree that obviously you can't just poke random strangers in the arse and expect a good reaction. These people knew each other and were friendly. It was a private

The boy-on-boy is neatly sidestepped in this scenario because the majority of the boys present were to some degree bisexual or at least comfortable with touching other boys. They just didn't do it. And certainly nowhere near as much as the women.

This meant that my play-dar pinged very heavily on the nearby, available women and only gave a faint blip at the further away, seemingly uninterested men.

I don't think that "men have it better than women" but I do think that men are bombared with less images of sexualised men than women. I'm not saying that they are presented with no sexy naked men, but they do get a lot less.

In fact, in this instance (being easily able to present onself as sexually available and interested in play in a way that attracts partners and isn't creepy) women have it easier than men.

I think I said that both have something to learn from each other - I think that men need to learn how to be sexy and women need to learn how they don't *have* to be sexy all the time.

electronic doll said...


Sorry for the split - I overdid it in the comments box.

The final point I wanted to make was on the "men are less tactile" - I think that you are right, but only because we teach them to be so, and again, only in certain circumstances. It's also culturally variable, men from other cutures are more comfortable touching other men, not neccesarily sexually but certainly in a much more day-to-day fashion than British men.

What this says to me, is that if it is a cultural trope, it can be unlearnt.

Hugh said...

All very interesting.

A couple of comments from my own experience here:

1) Regarding taking off of the clothes. I don't have a perfect body, but I'm told by quite a few women that I'm fairly attractive. I'm reasonably fit, not fat, etc. Nonetheless, my immediate assumption in that sort of scenario would be that I'm nowhere near attractive enough to take my clothes off unless given a very good reason (and get-out clause) indeed.

After all, I'm not movie-star good looking, and the only times I've ever seen women react positively to men taking their clothes off, the men were Brad Pitt or Captain Awesome. Compare that to my curved back and apparent belly, and - hell no.

I realise that women have the same unrealistic-movie-star issues, but I'd guess that most attractive women like yourself have at least some expectation that if they take their clothes off, men around will react favourably. Men, unless they're really super-hot, don't have the same expectation, in my experience.

So I'd guess there's maybe something to be done with making it known that actually you and the other girls at the party would, you know, quite like to see naked boys?

(Side note - yes, indeed, I consider the "women aren't visual" bit to be bollocks).

2) You say "Men should - like the submissiv women in the situation - present themselves as being available and approachable for *being touched*".

That's really interesting, because as a guy, I'd have to say I have literally no roadmap on how to do that without being the creepy half-naked overeager sub guy. None. Wouldn't even know where to start.

(I would be interested to hear your opinion on How To Do It!)

electronic doll said...


Hmmm, so there's a "how to submit (to me)" post brewing, I think. Realistically I can't talk about much beyond how someone should and shouldn't approach me, but I can certainly kick it about a little.

Babefiend said...

This is really interesting and certainly got my brain whirring.

It's something I've noticed myself at parties, indeed at one last night! I'd never considered what sat behind it.

Thank you for sharing x