Fan Boners vs. Fan Tingles
My posts usually have boring titles, but this one ought to attract some attention. So: Sexiness. It’s one of the key ways that content creators attract (or pander to) a demographic. Where by “a demographic,” I of course mean “straight guys.” Like it or not, eye candy for straight men is a standard part of media, while eye candy for straight women is not. If you’ve hung around in fan circles much, you’re probably familiar with two arguments in support of this status quo: First, that the media in question (be it movies, video games, comics, sports, or what have you) is for (presumed straight) men and therefore they ought to get what they want, and second, that women aren’t into that sort of thing and so there’s no reason to include it, regardless of how many women are in the audience.
But, interestingly, there’s an opposing view of straight female fanservice that gets held by the same people at the same time.
Setting aside the obvious problems (Who didn’t like Black Widow? Loki isn’t even on there?), here we have the idea that fanservice is not only something that straight women like, but is in fact the only thing they like.
The conclusion is that, when straight men are attracted to something, that’s an important, immutable characteristic of the demographic that needs to be addressed, but when straight women are attracted to something, that very fact is proof that they’re frivolous and shallow and there’s no point in catering to them.
If there’s any defense to be made of the obvious contradiction between “girls only like the Avengers because of the hawt guys” and “girls aren’t visually aroused,” it would probably be that, for guys, it’s a sexual attraction, while for girls, it’s a romantic attraction. That is, men want to bang Black Widow, but women want to have a relationship with Captain America and probably cuddle or something. However, this is a) not true (see left), and b) a terrible explanation for why the former ought to be indulged and the latter ought to be ignored.
I think the real reason straight female attraction is dismissed out of hand is subtler: It’s the idea that it necessarily comes at the expense of appreciating the rest of the work. So women can’t like Captain America and also like the special effects–the former invalidates the latter. If this were true, it would at least be an understandable reason to dismiss those fans as frivolous (although surely one has the right to watch a movie purely for fanservice if one likes).
But why should it be true? It’s widely accepted that men can enjoy fanservice and also like the central aspects of the work. Nobody clamors for the removal of Bond girls on the grounds that they keep guys from properly appreciating submarine cars.
Here’s an even clearer example. This time, we can directly compare what men and women are expected (or allowed) to enjoy.
Notice that hot people are featured for both genders. But it’s assumed that men can like hot women and cutting-edge engineering and mayhem and the thrill of victory, while for women, hot guys eclipse every other aspect of the sport. Thus, women are silly and completely miss the whole point of Formula 1 and nobody should pay attention to them.
But in the men’s case, the hot people are truly gratuitous, added for no other purpose than to be checked out, as opposed to the women, who are at least checking out people who are an integral part of the sport. So one could just as easily argue that men are so obsessed with hot chicks that grid girls have to be added to an all-male sport or else men wouldn’t watch it, thus making men the absolute height of frivolity and the last demographic in the world that you should pander to, since you can make them watch anything as long as you line up some girls in short skirts at the end.
In reality, of course, both arguments are equally silly. Both men and women become fans of things for all kinds of reasons and none of them are right or wrong. I don’t think almost anyone gets really into something for no reason except the eye candy, but even if zie did, there would be nothing wrong with that and no reason to discount that demographic (instead, one ought to ask “What else is this person interested in? Can the eye candy be used to get zir interested in other aspects?).
This sort of reasoning does happen when men are the audience. But with women, instead, any level of assumed sexual attraction becomes an excuse to ignore them. If women aren’t into eye candy, then you might as well not worry about what they like, because they don’t actually care. But if women are into eye candy, then you might as well not worry about what they like, because they’re just being shallow. When, no matter the starting premises, the conclusion is always “cater only to straight guys,” you’re got to question the logic.
And the idea that anyone might want eye candy of their own gender doesn’t occur to anyone at all.
Captain America found here. The others found everywhere on the internet.