Okay, unless the unforeseen happens I swear this is the LAST Beat post about Spider-Woman’s butt. But One of the bingo card arguments trotted out every time there is a kerfuffle of this nature is that “Oh but the men in comics are sexualized too!” which is so not true. I’ve written this a billion times, but “The Peter Parker Paradox” states that “Women are sexualized; men are idealized” in superhero comics.

Except when men ARE sexualized, as in this tumblr set: So come on, reasonable people of the internet, can you see the difference here?

tumblr_naqjd2iOtV1qzkq0co7_1280.jpg tumblr_naqjd2iOtV1qzkq0co10_1280.jpg tumblr_naqjd2iOtV1qzkq0co5_1280.jpg


  1. I believe those images were taken from a Marvel Swimsuit Special from the 90’s… and no, I don’t know how I can remember this useless information.

  2. But if these were offered as actual variant covers of actual Marvel series, it wouldn’t bother me in the least. I might roll my eyes at the transparency of the appeal to a very specific demographic, but that’s about it.

    This is what I don’t get about this whole controversy.

    I don’t know, maybe this is some manifestation of male privilege I’m still coming to grips with?

    Then again, as has been noted elsewhere, Marvel’s currently offering an unprecedented wealth of women-starring series with quality non-sexualized art, so it’s not as though the choice has ever been this Spider-Woman book or nothing.

    Also, as a male, sorry for posting in what so far seems to be an exclusively male comments section. Ladies should not take this as a sign that their opinions are unwelcome or invalid.

  3. Here’s the thing . . .

    Fellow males, the people criticizing this cover have a legitimate reason to express their displeasure. The Beat and the Mary Sue in particular have been very clear that the main problem isn’t that Manara drew a woman’s butt up in the air so much as Marvel decided that the image Manara created was the best choice, marketing wise, to to sell this book to women generally. My wife doesn’t have a problem with the cover, but she also doesn’t represent all women and she acknowledges that this cover doesn’t send the best message if you’re trying to draw in new female readers. This isn’t a question of polling all women and seeing if 51% of them mind or not. This is a conversation about the message this cover sends.

    Is it the worst thing ever? Probably not.

    Was it the best choice considering Marvel’s marketing strategy? Probably not.

    As this story goes on, it’s clear that a lot of people don’t even understand what’s being criticized and that’s definitely related to white male privilege. And, I’m glad the Beat shows the necessary level of disdain for the false “But men are sexualized too . . .” argument because it is totally not a legit argument.

  4. There’s plenty of actual sexism in this country, and this cover isn’t it. I wonder how many of the people who were “offended” by this cover vote for political representatives who don’t support women’s rights.

    The mainstream loved this innocuous opportunity to pretend to stand up for women — the fact that they got to belittle the comics industry again (with our help) in the process was a bonus.

    It’s time to put this one to bed, and get back to work making the best comics we can.

  5. These cover mockups are amusing, and show lots of skin, but a few of them are similar to the covers of body builder magazines. There is nothing really sexualized about them, except maybe Submariner’s clamshell covering. And that could be tilted or made larger for more uh value.
    Now if they were in outrageously flamboyant poses, rather than just sitting and standing around…. then the comparison would be more clear.

    I think the answer is in emphasizing ‘the shell game’ and what lies under the shell. THEN it gets outrageous. Really fast!

  6. Santiago, those are totally from the Swimsuit Specials. They even left in the text.

    Boy, were those things weird.

  7. ” “The Peter Parker Paradox” states that “Women are sexualized; men are idealized” in superhero comics.

    can you see the difference here?”

    I understand the difference. Sexualization is when it’s done to your gender to appeal to the opposite gender. Idealization is when it’s done by your gender to appeal to that same gender. You’re not fooling anyone with this.

  8. I think these images are a great addition to the discussion. However, it should be noted that superhero books are already hugely homoerotic. Most people don’t notice it for the same reasons the don’t notice how queer sports and the military are. You’d be amazed how many man-on-man handjobs were given amidst extended combat in Iraq. A LOT!

    I propose that someone else whip up one more variant cover for this set – The Man-Titted comics fan. Big dropping folds on man-tits and moles and string-warts and folds of fat with rotting food lodged within. Posing in room, near nude while he whacks-off to the Spider-Woman cover that started it all!

  9. What appeals to men and women is vastly different and naturally comes down to our most animalistic base instincts in most cases. These guys don’t come off as protectors, which is a female fantasy as much as a male one, maybe more so if you look at romance books. Also, Playgirl didn’t sell to women it sold to gay males -if showing male skin proved to sell I would think Marvel would go that route and more power to them. Now I’d say idealized confidence of men in most mass entertainment is a sexualization. Hey Drew Barrymore and a few girlfriends of mine have found even Darth Vader sexy. And aren’t superheroes based on the Lois Lane/Clark Kent/Superman farcical axis after all. If most women liked betas more than alphas we probably wouldn’t have nerds and geeks -and we’d maybe have equality overnight, too…or maybe it would lead to the ladies playing the “male” role.

  10. Pardon if there would be feelings hurt :
    I find it absolutely horrible that only ripped-up men can be seen as sexy.

  11. the reason women are sexualized, is because hot tight pussy is GREAt, AND GUYS WANT TO LOOK AT PUSSY AND THINK ABOUT PUSSY. its our god given right. this is a mans world toots, so be obscene and not heard..unless youre fat, then you just dont count

  12. Oh trust me, women are reading this and eyerolling so hard most of us have actually caught a glimpse of our own brain. The issue with a lot of portrayals of women in comics is that it’s a porn pose where the woman is NOT complicit — it’s not like this Alex Toth thing where Black Canary is looking at us like, I’m sexy, deal with it: http://brianmichaelbendis.tumblr.com/image/95862768816 it’s the Spider Woman image, where she is not posing deliberately to attract the male audience (which the frequently-compared Manara image from his erotic book IS doing, which is also why that erotic image is a lot sexier) – she is shaped like a thing into a pose which exists ONLY for male titillation, without her conscious will or knowledge. Most female readers I know LOVE sex and love sexiness — dudes, we are not trying to shut down your wank bank. Wank away! We’re just saying we’re a little concerned about how some of the illustrations take away our personhood.

    And yeah, oh, ripped comics dudes in bad swimwear. http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=2lmwayf&s=7 NO.

    If you want to know what women think is sexy in comic art… you’ve heard of Tumblr, right?

  13. I can think of a number of commercial “non-erotica” comics that treat ripped male heroes rather neutrally– which is what people are thinking of, and incorrectly labeling as, “idealization.” But I can also think of a number of comics in the same category that show off ripped guys as being attractive to women within the diegesis, which in my book is still “sexualization,” even if it’s not as blatant as it is with women. (Okay, no Morbius butt-shots, but it used to be very popular with Nightwing–)

    But supposing feminists who advocate “absolute equality” got what they wanted. What then? A ceaseless quest to monitor the balance at all times, to make sure no one steps over the sacred line?

    Good luck with that.

  14. Hi again Heidi,

    The whole “who’s exposed more” question should never have been one of pure equity. Equity is something to be observed in the workplace or the boardroom, but not in fiction. Fiction is a place where fantasy reigns, and
    as I said in the essay, it’s simply a lot harder to sell hyper-sexualized fantasies to women than to men. I tend to think that this is because in general men are hornier bastards than women, but others’ mileage may vary.

    Equity should never have been the question because equity of this sort is not feasible. There will probably always be more sexualized female characters in pop fiction than sexualized male characters– but that doesn’t mean that the latter don’t occur at all, or that one can sluff off all the chiseled chins and buff bodies as manifestations of “idealization.”

    Also, one of the three covers is actually neutral on Subby’s hottitude, which goes to my point about how certain artists just may not be tuned to
    produce this form of sexualization.

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