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Sean William Scott

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Crotch-Gate '07 

So, that picture of Citizen Steel I posted the other day...there's been some discussion of it on other comic sites and blogs. Most of it, oddly, focusing on how "inappropriate" the image is. To no one's great shock, it seems to be straight men who are bothered by the image.

Don McPherson tries to put the picture into context by comparing it to gratuitously sexualized images of Catwoman and Supergirl. While his point about the depictions of women in super-hero comics is taken, I really have a tremendously hard time (no pun intended) in seeing the Justice Society of America cover as being anywhere near the same league as a statue of Catwoman with her breasts popping out or the nymphet Lolita Supergirl statue. The entire point of those statues is to present the characters portrayed as erotic objects. I have tremendous difficulty believing that Alex "gay writers are molesting Obsidian" Ross intended the same effect. The real howler of a response is Brian Cronin's description of the image as "creepy." It's such a bizarre over-reaction to the image there really isn't any way to engage it. Chris Butcher's response to the whole thing is well worth a read, especially as he's not afraid to call a small shovel used for digging a spade, and very accurately assess the revulsion straight men claim to have for the image as homophobic in nature. Cronin uses the word "creepy" or a variation of it five times. McPherson compares it to yaoi (boys love) manga, which was a nicely subtle bit of gay-baiting, I thought, to compare the image in a perjorative sense to material depicting gay relationships.

But for me, what I'm most struck by in this anxiety over whether or not Citizen Steel's manhood is threatening to the reader is the blatant insincerity of it. There seems to be a condescending undercurrent of "oh, I get it now! This depiction of an unerect penis completely covered by clothing which isn't even close to the focus of the piece has made me feel so insecure in my own masculinty and an object of sexual desire that I now understand why female bloggers were complaining about that Star Sapphire cover of Green Lantern!" to this whole affair. Which, again, is nonsense. A picture of a fully clothed man, who appears to be generously endowed, in a heroic, athletic pose is miles away from a woman in a latex bikini which barely covers her sexual organs, posed to display both ample cleavage and her ass. Perhaps if Citizen Steel's costume was a mesh-nylon thong and Ross had posed him thrusting his hips forward, his crotch in the dead center of the image, we might be able to say that the cover is sexualizing men. Even most of the examples Tim O'Neil dredges up are more crotch-tastic than Ross's image.

The real kicker, of course, is that the image really isn't much to get excited about. Yes, Ross's model appears to have been of a nice size in the pants department, but all Ross has done is use highlights and shadow to suggest that. And Ross, say what you will about him or his art (and I'm not a particular fan), is nothing if not faithful in his efforts to realistically portray his subjects. Chris Butcher made a good effort at illustrating why this image isn't really as direly sexual as people seem to think, but, what they hey, it's been awhile since I posted semi-naked men. So, to recap:

Good sized soft penis, fake:

Good sized soft penis, real:

Good sized hard penis, real:

Good sized soft penis, real, blatantly detailed and outlined by clothing:

I think it's pretty clear that the painting by Ross is, by far, the tamest of the images.

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