Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Photo of Topless Man Banned From Bookstores

Maybe it's just me but I find these things incredibly interesting. Dossier Journal is an arts and culture journal, they have poetry, painting, photography, fiction, fashion, recipes, crossword puzzles. I never heard of it before, I'm not much for magazines -- or television, for that matter. It seems to be a relatively successful publication, and you can buy it at the major bookstores.

Recently Dossier had a photograph on the cover of a model who is decidedly androgynous, a man with feminine features and blonde hair done up in a kind of fifties-actress hairdo, curled and perfect. He is topless.

Here is Dossier on the left and some other magazine covers on the right, courtesty of Jezebel.com.

Barnes & Noble and Borders have told Dossier they have to put their magazine in an opaque bag, to cover up the photograph of the male model. They won't display it openly on the shelves.

Isn't that fascinating?

Here's Jezebel:
Barnes & Noble recently took an unusual step — the bookstore chain required the magazine Dossier wrap its new issue in opaque plastic before agreeing to stock it. The problem with the cover? Nudity. More specifically, the nude torso of the famously androgynous male model Andrej Pejic. Barnes & Noble was concerned customers would mistake Pejic for a shirtless woman.

Above left is the cover in question; at the right are a few popular magazines whose male cover subjects' bare chests Barnes & Noble apparently did not require to be hidden from sight.

Dossier co-founder and creative director Skye Parrott told me that the directive came as a shock. "We knew that this cover presented a very strong, androgynous image," said Parrott, "and that could make some people uncomfortable. That's partly why we chose it. I guess it has made someone pretty uncomfortable." Added Parrott, "I've been talking to all my friends who work in magazines, and nobody I know has ever heard of anything like this happening. Especially with a guy. Guys are shirtless on magazine covers all the time."

When the message came that Barnes & Noble and Borders, the two largest North American bookstore chains, were requiring the issue be bagged, Parrott says Dossier asked if the stores realized that Pejic is, in fact, a man. The response, relayed via Dossier's distributor, was that the stores were aware of this fact but were still insisting on the opaque covering because "the model is young and it could be deemed as a naked female." Dossier was given the "choice" to accept the opaque wrappers or forfeit the order. (Parrott said her understanding was that the copies that had been destined for the two chain stores would have been destroyed had Dossier not accepted their request.) The opaque covers affect a little less than 10% of Dossier's 20,000 worldwide print run; international chains like the U.K.'s WHSmith, where Dossier is also stocked, apparently do not share Barnes & Noble's and Borders' concern. Barnes & Noble Censors Cover Featuring Androgynous Male Model

What do you think is going on here?

I can only imagine what the booksellers are thinking. My first thought is that some high-blood-pressure board member saw this and freaked, worried about offending people, worried about the reaction from the rightwing community, pictured pickets outside his stores accusing them of selling pornography or promoting the gay agenda or somesuch.

But I think the real problem is that someone is afraid that a heterosexual man is going to see this, and for the fraction of a second before he realizes it is a man and not a flat-chested woman, he may experience a feeling of attraction, maybe even arousal. A straight guy might see the cover across the room and think, ooh-la-la, check that out! Then he will think Oh no, that's a dude, yikes, let me go wash my hands, take a shower, get drunk, purge this terrible flitting moment of inappropriate desire from my memory!

In so much of the discussion over sex and gender topics, the real issue is a fear that men will stop being manly. While our society allows quite a bit of fluidity in female sexuality and gender expression, there is a total lockdown on what is acceptable for men and boys -- see THIS Post article from last week on the subject of confining gender stereotypes for boys in school. In the "gay agenda" battlefront of the culture wars, nobody talks about lesbians, it's all about men failing to live up to the expected macho stereotype. In the gender identity discussions, you hear very little argument about women transitioning to a male gender identity, all the concern is about men abandoning the role that has been predefined for them. It seems to me it is time for people to lighten up, give guys a little breathing room, most guys are going to be straight and relatively "masculine" no matter what, there is no need to enforce gender stereotypes. And if they aren't -- so what, it's not contagious!

Maybe you have another explanation for why the big American bookstores won't allow this magazine cover to be displayed on their shelves. Obviously guys' chests are in-bounds, what's up with this one?


Anonymous Robert said...

I personally think that at the heart of much homophobia is deep-seated misgyny: that women are worth less than men.

A young person told me recently "I don't mind homosexuals, I just don't like the feminine ones."

May 18, 2011 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The photo looks like a photo of a woman.

Is it?

May 18, 2011 5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert, you have a deep-seated mental illness

get help

May 18, 2011 5:29 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Darling, you have deep-seated bad manners, for which, alas, there may be no help.

May 19, 2011 8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my comment was no ruder than yours

May 19, 2011 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are rude, boorish, bigoted, full of (self)hate and decidedly not the Christian you profess to be. Ask your Lord for forgiveness.

No doubt you will attempt your usual childish retort which will be completely ignored, as readers here consider the source.

May 20, 2011 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in the words of Glenn Close, I'm not just going to be....ignored

May 20, 2011 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Anon identifies with an actress's narcissistic craving for admiration here on this thread about a topless androgynous male model.

Very interesting...

May 21, 2011 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, it's all so interesting


May 21, 2011 12:08 PM  

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