Supporting Men > Gender Identity > Sexual objectification of men

Sexual objectification of men

By Enrico Sacchetti/ESO –, CC BY 4.0,


Male sexual objectification involves a man being viewed primarily as an object of sexual desire, rather than as a whole person. Feminist authors Christina Hoff Sommers and Naomi Wolf write that women’s sexual liberation led women to a role reversal, whereby they viewed men as sex objects,[19][20][21] in a manner similar to what they criticize about men’s treatment of women. Psychologist Harold Lyon suggests that men’s liberation is a necessary step toward woman’s liberation.[22]

Instances where men may be viewed as sex objects by women include advertisements, music videos, films, television shows, beefcake calendars, women’s magazines, male strip shows, and clothed female/nude male (CFNM) events.[23] Women also purchase and consume pornography.[24]

Within gay male communities, men are often objectified by other men.[25] Sexual objectification may be more common than the racism in the gay male community. Discussing negative effects of objectification is met with considerable resistance in the community. The sexual objectification of men of color may force them to play specific roles in sexual encounters that are not necessarily of their own choosing.[26]
Research has suggested that the psychological effects of objectification on men are similar to those of women, leading to negative body image among men.[27]


Men’s bodies have become more objectified than they previously were. It is known as “Six-pack Advertising,” where men are seen as sexual objects. Because of society’s established gaze on the objectification of women, the newfound objectification of men is not as widespread. Even with this increase of male objectification, males are still seen as the dominant figures and so the focus is still primarily on women.[28]
Male sexual objectification has been found in 37% of advertisements featuring men’s body parts to showcase a product.[29] These advertisements are a form of sexual objectification. Similar to the issues of sexual objectification in women, it is common for said objectification to lead men to body shaming, eating disorders, and a drive for perfection. The continued exposure of these “ideal” men subject society to expect all men to fit this role.[30]

Male actors featured in TV shows and movies are oftentimes in excellent shape and have the “ideal” bodies. These men often fill the leading roles. When society is subjected to men who do not have ideal bodies, we typically see them as the comic relief. It is rare to see an out of shape man have a leading role. “There are temporal, cultural and geographical ‘norms’ of gender and other aspects of identity, which are often incorrectly considered to be inherent or natural.”[31]

In the media, the ideal version of a man is seen as a strong, toned man. The idealized version of a woman is thin (Aubrey, pg. 7). The concept of body evaluation is more common in criticizing women. However, body evaluation revolves more towards nonverbal cues for men. It is more common in women because sexual, sometimes offensive, verbal remarks are directed towards women. Men, on the other hand, experience more body evaluation through gazing and other nonverbal cues. Gazing is simply the way in which depict men from an idealized perspective. Men tend to experience this from other men, whereas women experience it from both sexes.[29] The Interpersonal Sexual Objectification Scale (ISOS) is a scale that shows sexual objectification of respondents, both men and women. While experiencing sexual objectification it creates the need to constantly maintain and critique one’s physical appearance. This leads to other things like eating disorders, body shaming, and anxiety. The ISOS scale can be related to objectification theory and sexism.[29] Self-objectification, which is the way in which we evaluate ourselves, is concentrated more on women. Men typically experience it through media display. The difference is that men typically do not experience the negative effects to the extent that women do.[32]