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Chests versus Breasts

phenoms's picture

Andrej Pejic is a young male model whose career is centered around his androgynous look, successfully modeling both male and female clothing lines. Sometimes in the same show. Last winter he was featured on the cover of New York based Dossier Journal (picture above) hair curled and shirt in the process of being removed. Barnes and Noble and Borders bookstores "bagged" the magazine - a practice usually reserved for explicitly pornographic magazines.

In our culture male chests are not viewed as pornographic. We see them all the time as a ubiquitous feature on many men's health magazine covers. Even if we hold off on the greater question of why male torsos are appropriate and female torsos obscene, why would America's two largest booksellers (at the time) force a pornographic blinder on what they knew and accepted to be a male figure? 

Their answer? No comment of course. But the center of this controversy, this confusion, is the unease generated in the general public over the merest possibility of blurring the lines between male and female bodies. But more than that, what right do Barnes and Noble and Borders have to declare and propagate the one acceptable male body form? It's hard to disentangle this particular case with sex and sexuality, because it's not simply about body types or aesthetics - it's about the deep pipelines of our aesthetics leading directly to our sense of self and sexuality. Because many men are skinny, and androgynous looking, and they are not given covers on GQ, or Vanity Fair, or Men's Fitness. Because this bodily discomfort and obsession that plagues America seems to be rooted in accentuating the male/female differences which leave most of the spectrum far from the public eye.

I'm still confused how B&N and Borders could, with full intention, stand behind so archaic a policy.


Katie Randall's picture


I also think that this particular image was censored because at a glance it looks female-- like a woman with her shirt off. Men's chests aren't censored, but women's breasts are, and this photo is ambiguous enough to be seen as pornographic.

Kim K's picture

This is so interesting. My

This is so interesting. My first paper for our class touched on issues of androgyny, and I included his picture as a reference. I think one of the most ironic things about androgyny is that the idea is supposed to create a gender ambiguous figure. However, that seems to not erase sex, but to push the question of sex right in your face. It instantly raises the "what is it?" question for the viewer. Of course, the fact that mainstream bookstores chose to hide this image is interesting and ironic, but not surprising. Our society is drenched with sexual imagery, and mostly everything we see and read is related to sex. Unfortunately, problems arise when the "sex" presented is questionable, or outside the norm in any way. I absolutely agree with you in the way that our society is "comfortable" in viewing  "typical" male and female body forms - the feminine female, the masculine man, but nothing in between.