Where is the humour in sexualizing male celebrities?

Contrasting how we react to the sexualization of famous women exposes a double standard

Celebrity crushes can go too far.

From criticizing Kim Kardashian for ‘breaking the internet’ with nudity to praising male celebrities for posing shirtless, the bodies of male and female stars are treated drastically differently. In the age of social media, the double standards surrounding the sexualization of male celebrities is even more evident.

When Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok allow people around the world to interact with and keep constant tabs on their favourite celebrities, it’s inevitable that some lustful content is going to appear online. Whether these are as innocent as confessing to a celebrity crush or as explicit as disclosing a graphic sexual fantasy, it can feel easier to sexualize celebrities from behind the safety of the internet.

The phenomenon of sexualizing male celebrities has grown exponentially in recent years. With the popularity of Buzzfeed Celeb’s ‘Thirst Tweets’ YouTube series, making sexual comments about male celebrities is a trend that’s frequently regarded as comedic entertainment. For men, reading thirst tweets and being subject to commentsacknowledging fans’ attraction to them is often treated as a bonus of their fame.

However, the fact that we can laugh at videos of Nick Kroll reading tweets about how his fans want to suck on his toes or Dr. Phil asking people not to call him ‘Daddy’ is representative of a double standard that exists in sexualizing celebrities overall.          

An extreme way this double standard manifests itself is in celebrities and their bodies. When Kim Kardashian’s sex tape was leaked in 2007, she was met with harsh backlash. Over a decade later, she’s still accused of having the tape leaked as a ploy to get famous as a ‘talentless’ celebrity.

In contrast, when Chris Evans accidentally leaked a photo of an erect penis on his Instagram story earlier this month, he faced a series of lighthearted jokes on Twitter from both fans and peers. While Kardashian continues to face harsh criticism of her leaked sex tape—something that’s continued to follow her in her career—Evans’ leaked nude was laughed off and viewed as an easily forgivable mistake that could happen to anyone.

When sexual fantasies involving male celebrities are discussed, they’re dismissed as lighthearted and in good fun. When men disclose sexual fantasies involving female celebrities, however, it’s often perceived as predatory—and not without reason.

Actresses like Megan Fox are subjected to being sexualized by late night talk show hosts. The culture in Hollywood, although it’s shifting, continues to justify male directors who capitalize on the bodies of young actresses. Sexual comments made toward female celebrities are often seen as detracting attention away from their talent and reducing them to objects.

While it’s normal to have a celebrity crush, the ways these crushes are expressed are worth considering.

We view it as harmless for young women to express their sexual attraction to male celebrities—they can even be viewed as empowering, a way to normalize and celebrate female sexuality. These comments are viewed as being largely harmless and without malicious intent because they don’t run the risk of contributing to systems of oppression that impact men and limit their success.

When male celebrities are sexualized, there’s no great concern that it will lead to the celebrity in question having their talent overlooked, or that they’ll lose out on career opportunities because of comments made about their bodies.

However, when female celebrities are objectified it contributes to a much larger patriarchal culture in which women are viewed as objects and men feel entitled to their bodies and sexuality.

The double standard that exists doesn’t justify the sexualization of male celebrities—it merely illustrates how sexual comments about famous men don’t contribute to the same systemic issues similar comments made about women do. So, before you laugh at that ‘Thirst Tweets’ video or draft a particularly saucy tweet about Chris Hemsworth, think twice about why you feel comfortable with that kind of content.

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