Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Crush Wednesday: Super Butch

By Mathilde Madden

Here’s how it happens. I’ll be out in a pub, say, out with friends, and I might just start talking about how beautiful men’s bodies are. And some joker will pipe up with, ‘Oh, sure, but you know aesthetically – sexual preferences aside – women’s bodies are just more beautiful then men’s.’

Some people just don’t know where to look. See my lovely Tom of Finland pic here. Now that guy knew what he was doing.

'Cause men who look like men are gorgeous. Stunning. Hard bodies and muscle. Hair and sweat. Move over sweetness, androgyny, move over cute.

But, you know, really my point is made so much better with pictures than boring, boring words...

And god, you know, it annoys me that liking muscle, big shoulders, height, grunt, deep voices… that sometimes those preferences are made out to be almost comical. Like Janet singing ‘I’m a muscle fan’ in the Rocky Horror Show, or Sinatta’s ‘So Macho’. Say you like butch men and people start thinking about Fabio or the Chippendales...

They should be thinking...

I like men. The manlier the better. Is that really so strange?

Oh! So pretty. Superbutch. Real men. The most wonderful looking things on earth.

And, look, while we’re celebrating male beauty can I just say, what the fuck is up with the book covers of erotica books for women that they have naked chicks on the covers? This book cover baffles me. There, are more like this, of course - girlie covers of erotica books - but this one seems so very FHM. Could they not find a picture of someone the gender the majority of women fantasise about the majority of the time?

They coulda come to me!


I mean god forbid a women's erotica book should be sold by *gasp* objectifying men. I know some women are into women. And sure women are pretty (though not as pretty as men.) But we know this isn't what this is about. In fact, whenever I see a cover like that I feel damn certain the book isn't really aimed at women at all. And it's not as if the world is short of pretty pictures of women - for those who like looking at pretty pictures of women.

But where's my slice of the erotica book cover model cake? Because I know I'm not the only straight woman in the world.

But enough hardcore gender politics - let's get back to the smooshier point... objectifying men for a change.

Mmm, objectifying men for a change.

(Oh, I tried, but I just couldn't resist that last one of David.)

(Or this last one of David.)

And finally, if you remain unconvinced I suppose there are other kinds of male beauty. You could go and salve your soul with Olivia Knight's post on skinny boys. (Madness!)


Janine Ashbless said...

What can I say, Mat, except that those photos are beautiful! You got me convinced...

(except for the Tom of Finland picture, which seems to me a caricature of male beauty in the same way that Jordan or Jodie Marsh is a caricature of female beauty: not a natural shape for a human being)

But yeah; muscle is magic. Thank you sooo much. What a lovely start to a wet Wednesday!

Olivia Knight said...

Look, I never said I wasn't a hypocrite! I'll pass on #1, take #2, not so interested in whether the dog gets the underpants or not (he can keep them, frankly - the man or the dog), adore the black and white centre of the trio, glance indifferently at the skinhead and the next trio, go a bit funny over those back muscles, the massive thighs disturb me, but that next bulging arm... umm... blinking Where was I? Oh, yes. Arms. Torsos. Meep.

I think I'll just trot down to the river and watch some rowers...

And oh yes, those pub conversations - for the sake of my blood pressure, I had to stop having them. Now I accept that I don't have to convince everyone else in the world to prove to myself that I'm right. But those wearying, socialised, gendered, historically-and-culturally-specific assumptions being put forth as universal truths - and it being a pub, you're not allowed to combat an opinion with anything so awkward as logic. (And even if you do, a simple, "Yeah, but..." is considered a masterful refutation) And of course these assumptions have a very special way of dealing with real facts:
"Even women find women more beautiful."
"I don't."
"Yeah, but you're the exception."

A whole world of exceptions still, somehow, doesn't shake the original theory. (Don't even get me started on people showing off their ignorance when they say "the exception proves the rule" - it means TESTS, it TRIES the rule - and finds it wanting! Dammit!)

Did I say I didn't need to convince the world? Did I mention being a hypocrite? Right, now where are those rower boys...

Olivia Knight said...

P.S. Oh yes, about the "aesthetically speaking" argument...?
* ancient Greece
* ancient Rome
* the Renaissance (esp in Italy)
* pre-Revolutionary France
* the Age of Enlightenment
...just off the top of my head.
I leave you with this. Oh - and - er - this.

Portia Da Costa said...

Some nice pix there, Mat. I particularly like Vin Diesel and the delicious guy from Lost whose name I tend to forget but who I always fancy when I see him.

I think I mostly prefer blokes lightly muscled and with their clothes on, but a bit of exposed flesh from time to time is most acceptable. :)

kristina lloyd said...


Anonymous said...

Oh thank you everyone. This post was so much fun and it was hard to stop. I'm glad other people have those pub conversations too.

And, ah, Tom of Finland. Well, I can understand why he might be an aquired taste, but I am a woman who likes to go to extremes. And isn't it traditional now to kick of a crush Wednesday with a bit of full frontal?

Janine Ashbless said...

They had to train that dog specially for that photo, didn't they?
Why? I would have done it. For free.

Anyway, I just wanted to say "Tomb Raider 2".

And "300". Careful - NSFW!

Madelynne Ellis said...

I like muscles, but I prefer men to be wiry rather than hulking, and they have to move well.

But I do like Tom of Finland, in much the same way that I like Eric Stanton.

Melissa Heywood said...

Ah! Muscles. Now we are talking! Some very lovely pics there Mathilde. Very lovely indeed (Esp Vin Diesel) but I would swoon some more if you had posted pics of the lovely Johnny Wilkinson (What better then a Rugby player?) or even Jean-Claude Van-Damme in his heyday (The man can do the splits! Think of the position posibilities!)


Deanna Ashford said...

I love all the photos and I so agree that men who look like men, with wide shoulders, muscles and deep voices are more attractive than the pretty boy types.

My only exception to that is Orlando and he looked so much better when he bulked up for Kingdom of Heaven.

Confession here I actually find pictures of barely clothed men more sexy than the naked variety.

Oh and by the way I was really surprised to discover that the cover of my latest book Templar Prize had a naked man on the cover. Unfortunately I didn't fancy him but we can't have everything can we.

At least we are progressing in the right direction. We are trying to attract female buyers so why on earth have a woman on the cover? That defies all logic to me.

Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Further to the theory of women liking to look at pictures of women, may I introduce exhibit A, a stack of "women's" magazines. As you will see from a detailed perusal, the pictures in these are mostly of women.

And now, exhibit B, a stack of "men's" magazines, again mostly pictures of women.

Is it any wonder that book cover designers who don't read this blog think women like to look at pictures of women?

I mean I agree, some of the men in the pictures you've chosen are nice looking, but the photography is ho-hum, shall we say. Couldn't you find something more artistic? Robert Mapplethorpe springs to mind.

But don't mind me. after all, I'm not really the target audience now, am I? It's really kind of fun to listen to women oohing and awing over pictures of guys.

Janine Ashbless said...

Blogger is being seriously arsey about letting me comment today.

With regard to female cover models...

I suspect (without statistical proof) that women are fussier about what sort of men they as individuals rate as attractive - more particular as to type, build, hair, colouration etc. So sticking a picture of Generic Naked Bloke on a smutnovel will not necessarily cause your entire female target audience to go Wow!

(I mean, I love my guy on 'Burning Bright' but the one on 'Divine Torment' is a total dog, and I've seen a hell of a lot of Romance covers that I just find painfully embarrassing, so much so that it would put me off reading the novel. Fabio springs to mind.)

Putting a sexy female on the cover at least has the advantage that it is not actively offputting. We are conditioned to read those covers as a cypher for "naughty contents" even if we don't fancy the woman in question.

Now I really, really have to go and do some work!

Alison Tyler said...

I’m the odd one out, I guess. I rather like girls on the covers of books.

Even worse, I suppose (at least for Janine), I like covers that show people kissing!

I truly like the cover for Dirty Girls, though. Maybe I’m actually a man.


Alison Tyler said...

P.S. Karl, did you mean like this?


Olivia Knight said...

exhibit A, a stack of "women's" magazines

Bless you, Karl, for not knowing too much about women's magazines, and please cherish your innocence... Women's magazines show women in the same way men's magazines show cars, ie, this is what you should have, and in fact, if you were a worthwhile human being, instead of an undeserving unexfoliated toerag of a slattern, what you would have, and now we're going to explain how you could have it if you simply reject your entire current lifestyle and mental well-being in favour of our 3000-step plan. They take a hardline on the 'aspiration' front. The pictures are there to make us go "Oh god, I'm hideous! Let me rush out immediately and invest my life savings on anti-cellulite cream!" The pictures in men's mags are there to make them go "Phwoooaar..."

HOWEVER - there's a new trend in ads for men's deodorants and eau de toilette, to have half-naked men swanning about the place. We get a goodly supply of those, even in women's magazines.

Olivia Knight said...

P.S. For no apparent reason, my image-search for "mens fragrance advertisements" brought up THIS. You're welcome, Janine ;-)

Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Actually Alison, this is more
what I had in mind

Alison Tyler said...

If you look on Amazon's Top 100 Erotic Titles, you'll see it's fairly evenly divided now.

It's pretty much six-pack, naked lady, couple in a clinch all the way through.

Anonymous said...

I don't think women's magazines are really in the business of making women feel sexy

Madeline Moore said...

If pictures of men with erections weren't considered hard core porn, we would have many, many more aesthetically pleasing photos of men gracing mags, book covers, etc.

That said, Mathilde, you have found a lovely bunch of muscled guys who, without their hardons on, still look fantastic.

Yum. I'm beginning to really, really like crush wednesdays.

Alison Tyler said...

I actually used to be a magazine junkie (no big surprise there, right?) But now I'm down to just one—Esquire, which has sublime pics of men in both cologne ads and fashion spreads.

And their interview with Robert Downey Junior was so amazing that I photocopied it and sent it to friends.

In fact, on my desk right now, I have only two magazines. The issue with RDJ and an Esquire from April 1993 with Mick Jagger on the cover. Tres bizarre, no?


P.S. Karl, Iiked my pic better.

Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Alison, you're showing your art historian colours with the choice of that picture. The others may not know that snap was part of Robert Mapplethorpe's "portfolio X" that was highly controversial, as in "Should public funds be used to exhibit and support obscenities like this?" But I'll agree, yours is the better picture. Now maybe between the two of us we can persuade Tilly to insert it either after the Tom of Finland or between the two David Beckhams, unless you can think of a better spot, perhaps at the tail end.

Anonymous said...

I looked at several Mapplethorpe images but I rejected them in favour of teh HOT PIC OF MARKY MARK GETTING HIS TROLLIES PULLED DOWN BY A FREEEEEKIN' DAWG!

Okay. My post. My pics.

Alison Tyler said...

I like the discussion a lot. We had a hugely difficult time choosing covers of His and Hers for Pretty Things Press. We ended up with scans of jeans that are fairly unisex and, um, don't make a whole lot of sense. But the issue was, His is a compilation of 30 stories written to men from a female point of view. Hers is vice-versa, 30 stories written to a "you" reader who is a woman. But what to put on the cover? I wanted to put bra and panties on His and silk boxers on Hers. And everyone said I was insane. We got a lot of flack for the covers, and yet they continue to sell really well five years later.

But when we reprint next, maybe we'll take this discussion into account — put Marky Mark (or someone like him) on Hers and (Helena Christiensen, or someone like her) on His.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

As usual, I'm a fence-sitter! Like Madelynne, I don't go for overly muscled or extremely skinny--she pegged it when she said "wiry." Strength without excessive bulk. Excessive bulk makes me think the guy spends too much time working out instead of, oh, actually using his brain (because my men have to be smart and funny and wicked as well as gorgeous). And I just do not get man boobs. Yech.

What's funny is, some of Mat's pictures fall comfortably in my category. Sayid from Lost for example. Looks like he got those muscles from good hard work, not from posing at the gym. :-)

Oh, and my guess about women on the cover of the novels is that we're supposed to identify with them. We supposedly want to be them. I think there's a partial truth in that--when we read romance, at least, the idea is to have some sort of empathetic connection with the heroine. But as long as the cover has something to do with the plot of the book, I'm pretty happy.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

And wouldn't you know it, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is having a discussion about clinch covers and other romance cover issues this very day!

Jeremy Edwards said...

Here comes another one of my freelance, unsolicited, insane, idiotic ideas:

Could the hunk on the reprint of Hers be posed in the act of offering a fluffy towel with a "Hers" monogram to the reader, and the His babe be shown proffering a "His" towel?

Alison Tyler said...


You're hired!


Kate Pearce said...

Gah...blogger hates me today.
I loved all the pics, except perhaps for #1 who was just a bit too much of erm everything.
I love muscled rugged men with lovely biceps.
I also love all the current naked male torso covers on the erotic romances-my "Planet Mail" is certainly popular.

Although there are apparently limits, the first cover for one of my upcoming books was sent back by the sales force to the art dept for being too risque (Blogger wants me to substitute bisque for risque for some reason) -apparently it was a beautiful naked male arse...sigh

Madelynne Ellis said...

Darn. Stupid sales force dept!

Ally said...

Oh Tilly, tytytyty.

Abs, yes my favorite fetish is abs. If someone were to say you can peek at any part it would be a mans abs.

I was just thinking the other night that yes I find beautiful women beautiful, but hot men I find irresistibly beautiful and oh man my mouth just waters for

Mmm Vin, I want to... Mmm

I like them barely clothed too, naked is just boring, I want to use my imagination. Oh and yes covers with kissing couples, I agree, yum factor, I find kissing so erotic. As for men on the covers it is always easy to get an appealing picture by just doing a body shot like that one of the guys back or this one here, I couldn't help my self :) hehe.

Not that I like all men muscled, sometimes fatter men appeal to me too, I can bite that belly just as much. The skinny ones, I think I would break them, lol.

This one here is the most appealing to me, hot, sweaty, muscled, dirty, sexy and so much a man, I can smell him just by looking at his picture. Licking my lips...I want to **** you like an animal!

Madeline Moore said...

I'll try to post again but blogger doesn't recognize me today and refuses to let me play. Love the post, Mat! I'm really starting to enjoy crush Wednesdays in a big way.

Sacchi Green said...

With regard to book covers, I generally approve of going with the gender of the point-of-view protagonist(s), therefore women for women's erotica.

With regard to visual appeal in general, I can appreciate the well-developed male physique perfectly well, but I do have a knee-jerk suspicion that the guys who work too hard on perfecting their bodies have a narcissistic streak, and quite possibly a homoerotic one as well. Still makes for good lookin', but whoever they're lookin' back at, it isn't necessarily someone of my gender.

My, I sound judgemental, and I really don't mean to. My knee-jerk reactions are as foolish as anybody else's, if not more so. As confirmation, my first reaction to finding out what flavor of Super Butches was under discussion was mild disappointment.

Anne Tourney said...

I love admiring those superbutch, muscle-bound men, but they make me feel so squishy by comparison, like I should put down my coffee laced with hazelnut creamer and go do a thousand abdominal crunches.

That said, I was just thinking the other day that male beauty -- classic, manly-male beauty -- doesn't seem to attract as much public attention as female beauty. I think there should be more frank, outright, drooling admiration of the male form, not just the penis, but the whole damn thing.

I just can't imagine myself actually touching one of those guys. I'd rather take my clothes off with someone who doesn't make me feel so squishy.

Gorgeous gallery!eb

Anonymous said...

I am very, very squishy (and pretty damn happy about it) and I like the contrast of a big hard body next to my soft one!

Alison Tyler said...

Hey Sacchi,

It was a while ago, but we did a Girl Crush Wednesday once. Maybe we're due for another.


Shanna Germain said...

Me too, AT, me too! I LOVE girls on book covers. Mostly. I do like the Dirty Girl cover a lot, and I like the alphabet covers too, but that's because they're all different. I don't like covers that just have women's legs on them...for some reason, we see a lot of those.

That being said, I would not turn down any book that had a man on the cover, naked or not. Bearded or not. Bald or not. Just a man or two (!) would be a nice treat.

Great post, great pix. Hurrah! s.

Madeline Moore said...

The truth - when I rec'd my author copies of Wild Card I thought the long blonde hair belonged to the person with the bicep. I was aghast that BL would put such a butch babe on the cover of my novel. My God, she has muscle. Is that HAIR on her arm? Why? Why, BL, why?? Happily I didn't email my editor expressing my upset, and after taking yet another long look at it I realized - it's a man with a blonde woman in his arms.

I don't think I have a preference, really, for men or women on the covers. It's the overall look that either does or doesn't work for me, (and now that I understand my cover, I like the WC cover very much.)

I too love the ABC book covers. Oh how I longed to be in that collection...oh how happy I am that I'm in 'L is for Leather'. Purty on the outside, dirty on the inside.

I informed Felix that anyone who is anyone in the erotica community ought to be represented in Alison's ABC books...which is actually something I honestly believe, not just a ploy to get him to submit.

I suppose I see the ABC books as girlie, so the covers work very well. But I can see the point of putting, at least, couples on the covers of erotica. Perhaps the powers that be are thinking of women, alone, reading these books and getting turned on - so they put a turned on female on the cover?

Jeremy Edwards said...

Madeline, perhaps your double-take with the WC cover could inspire a new trend in erotic book jackets: ambiguity. You know, like those famous trick pictures (e.g., vase/profiles, older woman in shawl/younger woman in hat). Maybe a clever book designer could provide a suggestive image that the reader could interpret one of several ways. Hmm . . . it could also serve as a sort of inkblot test.

Confession time: Has anyone besides me ever looked at a hazy, close-up erotic photo, taken at an unusual angle . . . and not been entirely sure whether it was breasts or buttocks? (I know, I know . . . if I can't tell the difference, you'll never entrust me with your errands.)

angell said...

To quote FoodTV cutie (and eternal annoyance) Rachel Ray


Can I be the filling in one of those sammis?

Hot, hot, hot and oh yeah


Jeremy Edwards said...

Sorry to comment yet again . . . but—laughing my ass off—this is a belated reaction to Ally's (first) link. I'd been blithely ignoring most of the links in this post, because I'm not interested in naked men. But someone just drew my attention to that particular link. Ha! Naked man, know thyself. (All right, all right . . . I said I was heterosexual. I never said I wasn't narcissistic.)

Sacchi Green said...

Girl Crush sounds good to me!

I just checked out your link, and yes, definitely StockardChanning. AND Alison Janney. (Yes, I'm a wingnut, as in "The West Wing".