When men are naked below the waist

OPINION - A particularly important touchstone has occurred seemingly with little fanfare: The acceptance of viewing men as sexual objects -- particularly from the backside...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

As the summer draws to a close, it can be fun to reflect on the many cultural milestones we, as the general public, have enjoyed. One, of course is the Olympics. Another might be watching the presidential contenders battle it out, getting ever closer to the final night of the election race. But another particularly important touchstone has occurred — and seemingly come and gone with little fanfare:

The general acceptance of viewing men as sexual objects — particularly from the backside.

It’s commonplace for male entertainers to woo female audiences with their strong chests, defined abs, and sexy waist cuts leading to you know where. From LL Cool J to 50 Cent, many ladies love a man with a fine upper body, and remain a marketing target for major media companies looking to cash in on that lust.

Lately, movie executives and magazine editors have taken it a step further, marketing popular male celebrities not only with their shirts off but also with their bottoms out.

With the success of the hit movie Magic Mike and basketball star Tyson Chandler having recently covered ESPN’s recent Body Issue, it seems like male eye candy has evolved to the next level.

Now it’s mainstream sexy to see a man’s behind.

While Magic Mike tells the story of a group of male strippers catering to female clients, the film drew crowds of more than one gender. Legions of women along with gay and bisexual men packed the theaters, excited to get a naked glimpse of the dramedy’s stars Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer. Grossing over $91 million since its release June 29th, Magic Mike was a knockout hit, spawning talks of a sequel — and even a musical spinoff.

And that movie contained a lot of mens’ bare behinds. As shocking as this would have been a decade ago, folks today have accepted this trailblazing sexualization of males in stride.

Plus, straight male homophobia has taken a surprising back seat. None of the movie’s stars have complained of being in the fantasies of gay and bisexual male viewers. Perhaps money mutes bigotry, or this is symbolic of a larger cultural shift to accepting more than just heterosexual attraction as the norm — and straight men are open to it.

Either way, these portrayals of eroticized male bodies also are reshaping pop culture definitions of straight male masculinity, and more than just movie executives are participating in the spreading phenomenon.

ESPN’s popular Body Issue launched over the summer with a sensual nude side shot of New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler on the cover. The court star has a basketball blocking his privates; however, his butt and crack are clearly visible. There was a — recent — time when a black man baring his haunches would have made him fodder for “don’t drop the soap” jokes. Yet, the cover has garnered minimal negative reaction since its release, and Chandler’s masculinity remains primarily unchallenged by the public.

The celebrity explained in the Body Issue why he risked doing the shoot:

“I think it gives the average person a good look at athletes’ bodies and why we are able to do the things we do. I think a lot of people are curious about it. I wanted to allow people to look at my body and see why I’m able to do the things I do on the court. Also, it’s a very artistic shoot, and seeing that in past issues made me want to do it.”

As baring the male booty used to carry the “stigma” of feminizing the man, it seems as if a new era has arrived in which men are free to show their backsides almost flirtatiously with little threat to their masculine reputations or questions arising about their sexual orientations. Many female viewers enjoy it. Some male audiences can’t get enough of it. And society finally seems open to accepting both.

Regardless, if the fanfare continues to produce profits, mainstream male booty baring is surely here to stay. In a culture in which men have typically sexualized women’s posteriors, it’s interesting for the roles to be reversed with an open invitation to all to ogle male cheeks.

Arielle Loren is the Editor-in-Chief of CORSET, the go-to magazine for all things sexuality. Download each issue at http://corsetmagazine.com