But as D began to fall apart, the video would be the only thing many fans remembered. “The video was the line of demarcation,” says Harris. “It sent him spinning out of control.”…The trouble began right away, at the start of the Voodoo tour in L.A. “It was a week of warm-up gigs at House of Blues just to kick off the tour, draw some attention, break in the band,” says Alan Leeds, D’s tour manager then and now. “And from the beginning, it’s ‘Take it off!’ “…D’Angelo felt tortured, Questlove says, by the pressure to give the audience what it wanted. Worried that he didn’t look as cut as he did in the video, he’d delay shows to do stomach crunches. He’d often give in, peeling off his shirt, but he resented being reduced to that. Wasn’t he an artist? Couldn’t the audience hear the power of his music and value him for that?
To which Rosenberg adds:
when a man experiences, gets driven crazy by it, it’s not really “some Kate Moss shit” anymore, and it’s not complementary. So much of pop culture is like this. When a man experiences objectification, or stays at home with his kids, suddenly, this arena that women have been playing in for decades is a revelation. How does it feel, indeed?
She’s right, of course, and D’Angelo is hardly the only example of a dude freaking out when he finds himself hyper-sexualized in that way. He looks trim and fit in the GQ photos, but do you remember what he looked like when he was arrested a few years back? The Internet loved to make fun of him for getting fat.
A similar thing happened to Elvis, of course, and to Brando. Jim Morrison, too. Two other dudes who were sexualized the way that we, as a society, sexualize women. Or, if they don’t put on a lot of weight, they do other things to mess with the way they look. They take on roles that reward them for looking unattractive, maybe, or they grow stupid beards, like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, if they’re able to let these things roll off their backs a bit. But it happens a lot, in any case, to men who are treated the way that women are — as objects, whose sexuality and appearance are public property.
Which is fascinating, in a way. Because so much of the rhetoric from dudes who talk about the way women are objectified is that they’d love it if they were sexualized in the same way. And it sounds like a dumb hypothetical, something that has no real connection to reality, because there’s no real equivalence between the way society does (or even can) treat men and the way it treats women.
Except, kinda, there is — and the way the men who do get treated that way tend to do whatever it takes to get out from under it. That’s probably worth considering, fellas, the next time you try to make that argument.
Look, human beings view each other as objects of desire, to some extent. Do we/don’t we, and all of that is part of how we’re hard-wired. Even for people who are asexual, who may feel zero sexual attraction to someone, there may be an aesthetic desire. We view each other as objects of beauty or revulsion.
One of the things that seems to throw everyone into a tizzy is that a raucous, screaming, blatantly lustful sort of desire used to be the purview of men. As we’ve evolved culturally in the last sixty years, women have become increasingly demanding about service to our sexual gaze. This isn’t a bad thing. Yes: much as with men, there are women who don’t recognize that there are boundaries with male public figures (or men in general.) On balance, the majority of women who fangirl over the pulchritude of men on display, are harmlessly letting off steam. If something makes someone uncomfortable (we have much less practice with the instinctive navigation of social boundaries) we tend to back off faster.
So, for as uncomfortable as men may occasionally feel in this brave new world where women are as visual, as desirous, and as vocal about it, this is how women have always felt.
Perhaps there is a happy medium to be reached somewhere in the next twenty years; but while I tend to advocate against being creepy, I am also not going to say that we should apologize for finding someone attractive. It’s what we do with it, that determines whether it’s appropriate behavior toward the person.
A pinup is a pinup these days, whether male or female. The funny thing is that women seem to be far more capable of parsing that someone’s physical appeal is not the sum total of who they are. It’d be really nice if we were given the same benefit in the eyes of the media.