Pinups and Pecs

“If you want to write something, or need a(nother) topic, I keep having discussions about if guys can do “sexy” and “pin up” photos like girls seem to be able to do. Proceed. I feel like you might enjoy that topic, somehow. I might be nuts. I probably am.”


So a friend of mine posted this on facebook as a suggestion of something to write about and it struck my fancy. I feel like there’s a lot to unpack in this discussion. So first of all, why do girls “get” to do pin up and sexy photos? Is that really ok? I’ve had discussions about this with others who are worried that even enlightened women trying to take back this trend may be contributing to objectification, or perpetuation a lot of old images of women. I think that that’s a danger, definitely. I think that if and when a woman chooses to do a pin up type photo, she should try to be subversive about it; in traditional pinups, women look submissive, domestic: they’re often shown doing cleaning, or in traditionally “female” settings. I feel a lot better about pinup calendars or pictures if the woman in it is being sexy in an assertive way, is actually looking the viewer in the face, is in a different type of environment than the traditional pinup.


And the thing is that I actually LOVE the idea of pinup type pictures. Because very rarely does the average woman get to do something that celebrates her body, her beauty, and her sexuality. I love that different body types can be celebrated in pinup pictures. I love the idea of something like suicide girls. I do wish that more types of women were celebrated in these pictures: I wish more women of color, trans/genderqueer women, overweight, older…all kinds of women got roped in when we choose to a pinup calendar or photo session.


But they aren’t. And I worry that’s because as hard as we try to do pinups for ourselves, to celebrate ourselves, and to be subversive, as woman showing off our bodies we cannot help but be subject to the male gaze. It’s just there. And no matter what we do about it, there will be men objectifying us. To me that’s just a really shitty thing that rains on my body positive parade, and it makes me really scared to promote or participate in pinup pictures because I don’t want to perpetuate objectification by using “the master’s tools” as it were.


So what about guys? I think that guys are in a really unique position when it comes to pinup pictures. Men really aren’t very traditionally in pinup pictures. There is the classic sexy firemen calendar, but those aren’t nearly as ubiquitous and don’t have the same vintage thing going where anyone can replicate the feel. You kind of have to be a fireman (or have a bunch of oversized hoses lying around) to do the sexy fireman calendar. So there is a blank slate when it comes to men doing pinup pictures. There’s no history of objectification (as far as I’m aware at least…anyone in comments feel free to disagree) that would put a historical lens on the pictures and make them problematic. And very, very rarely are male bodies put on display in a sexual way. Rarely are men told to celebrate being beautiful, being sexy, being hot. I think pinup calendars could be a GREAT opportunity for men to make body positivity part of the male conversation, and I think that particularly it could be incredibly beneficial to make it part of the straight male conversation, because generally flaunting your body is considered gay. Only effeminate men let people look at them and do any sort of objectifying apparently, because it’s a woman thing to be the object. But here’s the thing: BECAUSE men are not considered the object, because they are assumed to have autonomy and assumed to be an equal in any relationship (even the relationship between subject and viewer in a photograph), they can bend the traditional notion of pinup to be one that asks us to reconsider how we view women in pictures, how we view sexuality, and how much autonomy we grant those women we see in sexy pictures.


And just as I mentioned with women, this is a WONDERFUL time for different types of male bodies to be on display, to be celebrated, to be considered beautiful. Perhaps even more than women, men have a single body type that is ever shown as the pinup (mostly because all women’s bodies are more objectified), and so seeing more men as attractive and sexy and proud and embodied is a beautiful idea to me. Maybe I should go join a nudist’s colony. But it would also help young women to start to see a variety of body types and begin to understand the different bodies they might  encounter. More exposure to real bodies is the healthiest way to build attraction, sexuality, and honesty


I personally think that men in pinups is exactly the wonderful kind of subversive parody that Judith Butler would promote and love, but I think it’s even more active than a parody because it’s a challenge, and active question to the viewer about how they see the picture. If it was a genderbent pinup, then all the better (men in maids outfits anyone?). I don’t think that I want to see men be objectified the same way women have been, but I also don’t think that ever WILL happen. I think what IS important is to allow the power that a man’s body has to infiltrate the submissive space traditionally occupied by women, and to rebuild that space in such a way that says the space doesn’t have to be submissive or objectified. This is a place where I believe men can do far more for feminism and women than women can, because of the privilege that men already have.


So I personally think that male pinups are a great idea. I don’t think it’s an infringement on a female space, I think it’s a reimagining of a traditionally oppressive space, and I really don’t see how it would lead to the objectification of men since men are nearly always assumed to be the subject and have autonomy, complexity and thoughts. Very rarely are they reduced to a body alone.

6 thoughts on “Pinups and Pecs

  1. edgyhedgy says:

    I want a gender bendy men’s pin up calendar!!

    Really that’s the only thing I can think of that would put men in the same sort of frame. There are a lot of things out there that are like the fireman calendar, but the only one I can think of right this moment is the hot guys and baby animals calendar. It could be interesting to try to do. I wonder how many of my male friends would participate…

  2. Sara V. says:

    I’m all for a genderbender men’s shoot. I think it’d be awesome.
    I recently had a guy friend ask me why guys can’t manage to look as sexy as girls in sexy shoots – pin up or otherwise. I feel like guys have this idea that if it’s not pin up, we’re naked in photos like that – and that’s how they think they would be in a photo that isn’t pin up. And, like you said, that pin ups are girl things.

    I might be wrong here, but honestly? Naked guys? Not…not so much. I don’t care how toned and in shape you are, naked people in general just don’t have the appeal that a tactfully covered person does (weight, gender, race aside), at least to me.

    Additionally, part of what makes a pin up sexy is the knowledge that us girls don’t walk around with feather dusters or trays of fresh cookies or staring over librarian glasses, but suddenly, in those photos, we are. And it’s sexy. Because it’s not usual.

    I like well-dressed guys. 🙂 I’d also love to have guys do a shoot not naked or without shirts (because we see that every summer anyway, it’s not new) but in suits. Well dressed guys, doing actions that suggest they have emotions that aren’t (blatantly) sex-driven. Guys reading? Cooking – or baking! Looking directly into the camera? I’m all for it. Men in suits are like women in lingerie.

    I’m hoping his profile is public enough for you to see this, but can we please have guys like this more often?

    • oj27 says:

      I certainly agree that a well dressed man is wonderful, but I don’t think that pin up means lack of clothing, it just means sexualized. Personally I see nothing wrong with naked bodies, but to each their own.
      And I agree that suits for men would be equivalent to lingerie for women, but I would actually be interested in trying to play with the idea that men wouldn’t have to be fully covered, that men’s bodies could be considered truly attractive. I think it’s a little odd that most of the things that are “sexy” in pinup pictures are very feminine or submissive coded, and I worry a bit about that. I think Rosie the Riveter is more my style 🙂
      That pic is awesome though.

  3. Ian says:

    My brother’s friend made a calendar of the men of his freshman dorm corridor, and though a lot of them were very athletic, not all of them were. It was very entertaining, and played a lot with the pinup idea. He made a fair bit of cash selling them, too. I agree with you, on this topic. It’s a good place for body positivity to be explored.

  4. nadith says:

    So, maybe you all grew up with different friends. A lot of my female friends had pictures of guys in their rooms, pin-up or no. And, while for some of them it was song-artists or whatnot, many actually had pin-up type posters. There certainly is a lot of sexualization of males, I believe a lot more of the conflict there is what is a common sexualization of males. And to clarify I am using sexualization to denote the accenting of sexual expression and alluring traits, settings or characteristics. Many i saw, involved rawness, like elements, or simply stark contrast. Some were soft muted tones with sleek males, slender and hairless, some burly big laborers or simply packing. There was a myriad of them depending on what aspects my friends felt were sexy or alluring.
    Perhaps this is just part of female sexual and social liberation for a more homogenized viewpoint to come forward beyond the burly, safe and strong image, or the sleek, slender, aesthete.

    As for female pin-ups I never really got into them, but from my knowledge of the few friends who had things akin to them and a search on the interwebs, a lot were not so classically 1950’s domestic. There were a few, certainly, like watering plants, doing dishes, or some such, but by and large it was often females in predominantly masculine settings, acting in a way I would relate to a burlesque fashion, or simply on sheets or a bed.

    That said, I am a bit of a recluse. I have a wide variety of friends, but tend to focus on other things than pinups so I am by no means an expert nor someone who can cast an overarching view of the field.

  5. nadith says:

    Oh, and I think it would be fair to say there is a genre of such pinups

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