Turn on your computer screen and there's Kim Kardashian, breaking the Internet with her glistening booty and mouth agape. Turn on your TV and female characters on shows like Game of Thrones and Orange Is The New Black are disrobing, exposing their bare breasts in carefully framed shots. Turn the pages of a magazine, and there's a woman wearing nothing but a dress of milk.
Naked women are, it seems, everywhere one turns -- so ubiquitous that the sight of them barely registers shock.
But when's the last time you saw a naked man on the Internet, on a show, in a magazine? Likely, the answer is a long, long time ago... if ever. Male nudity is so not ubiquitous that when it does appear, it inevitably registers shock, if not something even more telling: discomfort and mockery.
This paradigm is one that Vivienne Maricevic has challenged with her camera lens for more than 40 years. The photographer behind collections such as "Male Burlesk," "Me And Men" and the aptly named "Naked Men" (her first series, shot in 1978) uses nude photos as a means to reflect on gender roles and objectification -- to challenge our presumptions about who should or shouldn't be naked, and the ways in which we process and enjoy such imagery.
Her most recent book, She Shoots Men, is a compilation of her finest work from her collections, showcasing men lounging in bed, sleeping, holding flowers, standing erect, even cheekily smiling beside a bunch of bananas. Scouting out subjects via Village Voice advertising, clubs, the streets of New York City and her website, sheshootsmen.com, Marcievic has found herself ever-enthralled by the rarely-acknowledged beauty of the naked male form. "Seeing his strength is attractive to me, his broad shoulders, narrow hips," she says. "Yet there's another side that is rarely shown: his softness, which I realized from photographing scores of men they want to explore."
Her work is not just about her own fascination with the male body, but about asking those who consume her work to confront why female nudity tends to be more acceptable, more "sexy," than men in a similar position of vulnerability. Part of it, she things, has to do with the power structure, and who's in charge of producing nude content:
"We live in a patriarchial society, and the majority of heterosexual men want to see female nudes. Men who are at the top are putting out imagery of what they want to view, and that is of the female."
And then there's the issue of objectification. One study found that a key reason men and women respond more favorably to female nudity is because women are accustomed to being the objectified, and men the objectifier. Asking women to gaze at a man as a sexualized object feels somehow wrong, disorienting. Yet on a purely biological level, it's been proven that the brains of male and female heterosexuals register similar responses to erotic images of the opposite sex.
These entrenched ideas and systems are, not surprisingly, difficult to shake. "I find it incredible that it's been more than 40 years that I have been photographing the male nude, and he is still a forgotten subject; not much has changed in his acceptance," Marcievic says. "I see my photographs as an integral part of making changes in the reception of the male nude."
Ladies: Do your part, too, by setting aside any potential mockery and allowing yourself to simply enjoy these images. Do it for the sake of gender equality...