You can quickly do your own research on this matter by doing an internet image search for erotic photography, sexy pictures, gorgeous images, or even what would appear to be a benign search for ‘pretty images’. I’m willing to bet you have to go several images deep, or maybe even pages, before you run across any male images. But why? Aren’t men just as sexy as women? Even on search sites for models such as modelmayhem.com you can see the gender differences quite vividly. When doing a search for models in my area, I get a return of 39 models, only 6 of which are male. Keep in mind this is just a search for models, not necessarily models for erotic photography. This would make sense if there are more women than men but worldwide the gender ratio is 101 males to 100 females. My geographic area can’t be that skewed from the rest of the world. In researching this issue, I ran across an article that stated the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that female models earned 80 percent more than their male counterparts.
Can it be as simple as ‘sex sells’? If so, that phrase may need to be qualified even further. Female sex sells! If you go to any site that displays photography where the images are ranked by popularity, you will quickly see that the less a female model is wearing, the higher the ‘likes’ of the image. A picture of a naked lady on a beach will get far more ‘likes’ and comments than a picture of a cute kitten playing with yarn.
Assuming female sex sells, is this a bad thing? I don’t think I am stretching the truth when I say we live in a patriarchal society and that our society is geared towards the male perspective and attitude. It would only follow that the female form would be more sought after in images than the male form. But this is where I find a disconnect – for me personally. As a photographer, I look at all kinds of images from landscapes to boudoir. I can honestly say that I do not find female erotic images more compelling than male erotic images; there are simply far more of them! I find this image of a man’s back just as compelling as any female image of similar composition. For me, beauty and/or eroticism is genderless.
Some photographers have page after page of images of women in all stages of undress and in all sorts of positions with suggestive expressions. Most of the images are simply amazing from a purely artistic standpoint. But where are the men? If a photographer feels uncomfortable photographing a man in the same positions wearing just as much (or as little) clothing, then I think there is a problem. Call it sexual objectification, gender inequality, or whatever, women are subjected to this form of photography far more than men, willingly or not.
Why do I care? Because I have two little girls that I must raise in this patriarchal society to the best of my abilities. Would I be upset if one day they were the model of an erotic shoot? No, not any more so than I would be if I had a son that did the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, I am not placing any value judgments on models, female or male, that desire to have erotic pictures taken of themselves. Conversely, I could care less what a photographer chooses to be the subject of his/her work or how they wish to express it. I guess I just find it so obvious how females are portrayed in photography in general, and erotic photography in particular, and how it seems to be the norm. I think it is safe to say that women are far more sexualized in our society than men. Historically, I believe this has always been the case for better or for worse. I am simply expressing my thoughts and trying to start a discussion on the issue.
And yes, the irony is not lost on me that I too have more female ‘erotic’ pictures in my portfolio than I do male pictures. Am I attempting to justify that fact, or am I a part of the problem?