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Are women oppressing men with their shoulders and/or other sexy body parts? A very serious investigation

Women dominating men with their sexy shoulders

By David Futrelle

Yesterday, an older British gentleman who describes himself as a “Journalist Extraordinaire” received a light roasting on Twitter after he declared that women who “wear clothes showing a lot of flesh in the shoulder, leg and … bosom department” are somehow undermining the long struggle for gender equality through their choice of attire.

I was one of the roasters:

These sorts of complaints used to be confined to Puritanical religious fundamentalists who consider women in summer clothes to be “stumbling blocks” for lusty men. Indeed, the last person I remember yelling about the sin-inducing powers of women’s shoulders was a rather excitable priest named Kevin M. Cusick, who also enjoys ranting about the alleged evils of “sodomite homosexualists,” “so-called trans” folks, and of course Muslims.

But in the last few years this, er, argument has been taken up by assorted manospherians, from MGTOWs to incels, who rail against everything from yoga pants to the sneakily alluring powers of female arms. The manosphere-tailing intellectual charlatan Jordan Peterson has jumped in with his own complaints about the sexually hypnotizing powers of makeup and high heels.

Aas it turns out, as I’ve mentioned here before, this dumb idea has a long history among Men’s Rights Activists. In his 1993 manifesto The Myth of Male Power, Warren Farrell, the intellectual grandfather of the Men’s Rights movement, famously warned men to beware of the “cleavage power” and the “miniskirt power” that young women have over older men, even their bosses at work.

Like Mr. Duncan today, Farrell argued that women who dressed in ways he deems too sexy are effectively coming on to all men who see them — and if these clothes are worn in the workplace, they indicate that the wearer is less interested in work than in getting herself hitched to some nearby eligible man. In his mind, “indirect initiatives” like wearing short skirts are

designed to lead to marriage … So the miniskirt, perfume, and flirting unconsciously tell the man that this woman wants an end to her involvement in the workplace—or, at least, an end to her involvement by obligation. If you were a boss who had to choose between promoting someone who had the option to work versus someone with the obligation to work (e.g., to support a spouse and three children), whom would you take more seriously?

Yes, that’s right: In Farrell’s mind, if a woman wears a short skirt and/or lipstick to work, she’s signaling that she doesn’t want a promotion — she wants a proposal.

In almost all cultures throughout human history, women’s indirect initiatives were their way of signaling their desire for men to take direct initiatives. A flirtation was an invitation. In some cultures, lipstick was a woman’s way of signaling her willingness to perform fellatio.

Er, what? Farrell provides no citation for this claim, which I suspect may have emerged fully formed from his pants.

In the South Sea islands, a fresh flower in a woman’s hair signaled availability. The purpose of the flower, lipstick, or the miniskirt is to put the signal out strongly enough to stimulate every man’s interest. It is only when she has every man’s interest that she has real choice—the choice of the “best” men.

Ok, you may say to yourself, but he wrote this way back in 1993, which is practically the 1970s; didn’t everyone think like this back then? As someone who was an adult in 1993, my answer is NO, and also I’m taking these quotes from the 2014 reissue of the book.

Which, by the way, features a naked woman’s butt on the cover.

As Farrell explains in a new introduction to the book (written in 2014), this rather unexpected choice of cover art for a book about “male power” is his way of “tastefully” reminding people of “heterosexual boys’ and men’s feelings of powerlessness when our eyes behold a genetic celebrity.”

“Genetic celebrity” is Farrell’s term of art for attractive young women with, I guess, junk in the trunk

In conclusion, most heterosexual men enjoy looking at women’s asses, and cleavage, and, I guess, shoulders. Some of these men also think that these female body parts oppress them by being looked at. These men are very weird, and their arguments make no damn sense at all.

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Otherwise Blameless John
Otherwise Blameless John
1 year ago

I still remember the trauma I suffered when I saw Michelle Obama’s arms.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

I like to think I really piss these people off because my summer style is tube tops and short shorts or summer dresses .

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

Meh, it’s just Farrell being Farr… wait, new guy? Okay, so who is this… huh, apparently David switched to Farrell a third of the way through even though he’s not directly involved here and forgot all about this Duncan fellow.

Maybe I’ve gotten jaded, but this kind of thing seems almost charmingly quaint compared to the edgelord misogyny that comes from the manosphere these days. Or the nightmare that is Trump’s politics, for that matter.

Ooglyboggles
Ooglyboggles
1 year ago

Oh no the seductive power of womanly shoulders.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

When I was in high school some years ago, we had a draconian dress code and a principal who enforced it almost exclusively for girls. Part of this involved covering shoulders, so someone chose as their yearbook quote “I’m sorry to anyone who failed all their classes and had to repeat the year because they were too distracted by my shoulders.” Way better than my quote.
As for Farrell et al, maybe a lot of people have shoulder fetishes these days? I won’t speak for anyone else, but I personally have never found shoulders of either sex to be appealing in any way. Of course, even if I did, I would learn some self control rather than forcing other people to cover up.
One last question is, of course, if you like seeing shoulders, how exactly is it oppression? I thought it would only be oppression if you hated seeing shoulders or were terrified of them.

Fishy Goat
Fishy Goat
1 year ago

@Snowberry After the post about incels cheering on (and jacking off to) the murder of a young girl, I know what you mean. 🙁

@people (perhaps)new to the site, welcome! Unfortunately this deceptively ‘charmingly quaint’ attitude often leads to ‘let us therefore police women instead of teaching men and boys self-control and how to respect boundaries’.

Columbus Chick
Columbus Chick
1 year ago

If you were a boss who had to choose between promoting someone who had the option to work versus someone with the obligation to work (e.g., to support a spouse and three children), whom would you take more seriously?

This was the reason given for ages (and now) as to why men were always promoted over women. They would have a family to support someday! Ignoring that women may have one to support, oh, now.

Even in the 90’s, this was dumb. At my first real job, in 1996, all of the women in my section were supporting their husbands.

AsAboveSoBelow
AsAboveSoBelow
1 year ago

In some cultures, lipstick was a woman’s way of signaling her willingness to perform fellatio.

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Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
1 year ago

OT: So some of the stores and restaurants around here are starting to do some thing where when you try to use their public wifi it wants you to give them your facebook details.

How does one circumvent these barriers? Either for privacy’s sake (and politeness’s; one assumes their marketing department will spam everyone in your contact list or why are they trying to extort your facebook info in the first place? So you’ll be getting them all spammed if you give up your info) or because (shocker!) one does not have or use facebook?

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

I’ll repackage the response I already left on Twitter.

Why should women have to disguise the fact that we possess human body parts in order to be treated like a human? Makes no damn sense.

I wonder if Yzek is going to stop by with some more horror stories about lady shoulders in church?

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

I’d be mildly tempted to pat him on the head and be all patronizing about it, the way a lot of “benevolently sexist” men used to do. I wouldn’t really do it, not because it might be dangerous, but because that’s all kinds of wrong regardless of what direction it’s coming from.

Meanwhile last month I attended a clothing-optional dance event, and not for the first time. One open to the general public, not one of the “safe” communities. Worst I ever saw at any of these events was two drunken guys being told by the police to get back to the (outdoors that time) event location or get dressed, second worst was occasional people who were appeared to be established couples going a little too far with the crotch-grinding. It’s almost like men can behave themselves even around naked women.

(I posted something similar on a different site several years ago, and was downvoted to hell, no idea why, not like it was a conservative site or anything.)

Of course that’s not the same as being “distracted” under more ordinary circumstances, but c’mon… men aren’t wild beasts, and if being excessively horny is that much of a problem for a small but significant portion of the male population, maybe they’d be calmer and happier if they were neutered? …I’d say “just kidding, bad joke” or maybe delete it as being potentially too offensive, but maybe we could look into safer forms of temporary sex-drive reduction and cover it with free health care, just so they don’t have any excuse? (Note: I do not condone forcing anyone, just providing options.)

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
1 year ago

damn this shit gets old. Western men are socialized to regard women as inherently sexual, usually as sexual objects. This is not news. Western men also HAVE A CHOICE whether or not they actually DO regard women as sexual, or as sexual objects. This, apparently, IS news to a shitload of western men!!!

I live in a town with a large university, and consequently, a large population of 18-22 aged people… seems like every bit of HALF of them are women!!! In the summer, it’s hot here (actually right now it might even be DAMN hot), and the 18-22 aged women wear clothing which is cool (“cool” meaning temp-wise, not cultural-wise). I can objectify ’em with the BEST of misogynists, but I choose not to. … Let me qualify that:

I like to say I don’t always have control over my first thought… but I do have control over all subsequent thoughts, and if I’m viewing women like that, it’s because I choose to… and Jordan Pooperson, Warran Feral, Andrew Dumbkin, and all the rest of the MRAs are, too.

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

So some of the stores and restaurants around here are starting to do some thing where when you try to use their public wifi it wants you to give them your facebook details.

How does one circumvent these barriers?

You can’t, really. It’s their own private hotspot (likely Facebook WiFi hotspot), not public wifi, and they are allowed to make you sign if they want to.

Citizen Justin
1 year ago

Shoulders? I don’t see what’s unusual about being turned on by women’s shoulders, any more than cleavage or bum or legs. The off-the-shoulder tops some of the girls wore at sixth form college were certainly a distraction for me, not that I minded, being a teenager myself.

Women like our male shoulders too, of course. I’ve had mine bitten a few times, albeit in a good way.

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
1 year ago

In the South Sea islands, a fresh flower in a woman’s hair signaled availability.

A quick Google search tells me that it is a way for a woman to signal that she is single.

You know what oppresses me? A man’s bare naked left ring finger. No ring? He’s clearly available for fun times. And a person available for fun times shouldn’t get to vote. Obviously.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Snowberry
I agree that it would be good for society if there was a way to temporarily reduce male sex drive like you mentioned. Would probably stop a lot of the MRA/incel types from getting up to trouble. However, I’m not sure if it exists, and I’m sure many of the people it would help most would refuse it, unfortunately.

@Weird Eddie

Jordan Pooperson, Warran Feral, Andrew Dumbkin

That’s great. I’m going to have to refer to those men that way from now on.

@Citizen Justin
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with liking shoulders and I don’t mean to shame anyone for their sexual preferences. I was just relating my own experience.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

@WWTH

rather have yutz show back up then bsts. Been a while since something made me that angry.

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

@Citizen Justin
comment image

(And YIKES at your books, friendo)

Allandrel
Allandrel
1 year ago

I had a classmate in my freshman philosophy class who usually wore shoulder-baring tops, and she had lovely shoulders that were absolutely covered in freckles.

Despite being an immature, hormonal 18-year-old, I somehow managed to not get distracted and get a good grade in the class. Nor did I get feel oppressed or get mad at her for “flaunting” her beautiful shoulders.

And seriously, 18-year-old me was an idiot. That these grown-ass men can’t do what I did says a lot about them.

ThresherK
ThresherK
1 year ago

Am I the only one who (just glancing at the headline) thought this piece was about Douthat in the NYT?

Virgin Mary
Virgin Mary
1 year ago

My copy has a plastic cowboy on the cover. I’ve never read it. Why do I even have a copy of this abomination you might ask? For the same reason that I have a DVD of the ‘documentary’ ‘Finger of God’. It turned up on a secondhand stall and I wanted to stop it falling into the hands of somebody impressionable who it might influence. I do that sometimes.

Virgin Mary
Virgin Mary
1 year ago

Why aren’t guys who get their top off the moment that there is a bit of sunshine get accused of trying to seduce women? Or even other men? It’s double standards all round.

vaiyt
vaiyt
1 year ago

It feels like the manosphere is now on a perpetual game of one-upsmanship, every guy trying to bring up a more regressive take than the last to draw attention to their opinions.

I predict we’ll pass the Burqa Threshold by 2020.

Viscaria
Viscaria
1 year ago

Why do men go on about equality but then own televisions?

Why do birds go on about birdseed but then have feathers?

Why do group go on about thing but then have completely unrelated thing?

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

Heh. Anyone wonder why women are forced to cover up more than men, at least in the western world? The greatly abridged version, as I know it, started back in Edwardian England. The peasants were banned from seeing each other shirtless in public, under concerns that young women might rape men and ruin their own precious virginity. This law spread over time, not always with the same justifications… first to England’s colonies and former colonies, and later to some other parts of Europe, whose emerging middle classes often saw it fit to imitate England’s culture and attitudes. By the end of the Victorian Era, we have things like changing screens, private baths, full-body swimsuits, etc.

During the 1930s there was a major push to allow men to be shirtless, with the justification that they often worked hot, difficult labor and dehydration was a problem… but one of the first thing a lot of men did with this newfound freedom was go to the beach. Women didn’t often do that kind of work, and were busy getting the right to vote. It’s quite possible that the rise of pinup art and boobie mags during WWII, which specifically sexualized women’s breasts rather than their bodies in general, sealed the perceived difference.

So, assuming that’s accurate, we’re left with the legacy of… that.

Dreamer
Dreamer
1 year ago

Old lady here. Lots of random stuff turns me on. That’s on me – not others. Self control matters, lol!

Catalpa
Catalpa
1 year ago

If I actually took these guys at their word, then I wouldn’t understand what they’re whining about. If seeing a particular thing is pleasant, then why would you get angry at someone for having that thing be visible? For example, I love dogs, and seeing a joyful pup out on a walk always brightens my day. Most of the time I’ll want to pet the dog, but sometimes I can’t do it for a variety of reasons. (The dog is a service dog, or I don’t have the time to stop, or the dog does not want to be petted, etc.) That’s no one’s fault, and it’s certainly not any reason for me to be angry with the dog’s owner for bringing out a dog that doesn’t exist for me to pet. Just seeing dogs is a good thing! It’s nice! It would be stupid and mean and also none of my business to tell people they need to keep their dogs inside.

Do these men also whine about how the sun is oppressing them by making beautiful sunrises and sunsets?

Of course, the ‘women are harassing me by possessing sexy body parts’ argument is completely disingenuous and is only an excuse to exert control over women, exclude women, and have a way to blame women for the actions that men choose to make.

Ariblester
Ariblester
1 year ago

Naglfar wrote on
July 18, 2019 at 6:48 pm:

@Snowberry

I agree that it would be good for society if there was a way to temporarily reduce male sex drive like you mentioned. Would probably stop a lot of the MRA/incel types from getting up to trouble. However, I’m not sure if it exists, and I’m sure many of the people it would help most would refuse it, unfortunately.

Depends on how “temporary” you want it. Wanking would probably work on very short timescales.

wrv
wrv
1 year ago

I know it’s fun to joke around like “shoulders? really?” but of course it isn’t about who finds what sexy, but how to not objectify people. I do actually find some people’s shoulders sexy, and I get distracted, and that’s on me because everyone has a right to exist in peace in their own bodies

Nikki the Bluth Wannabe
Nikki the Bluth Wannabe
1 year ago

Re: Farrell

If you were a boss who had to choose between promoting someone who had the option to work versus someone with the obligation to work (e.g., to support a spouse and three children), whom would you take more seriously?

Uh, whichever one does the job better?

@Surplus
I haven’t gotten this exact thing and I don’t have Facebook, but the last time I was at Starbucks (a couple months ago-a tornado at the time had knocked out my electricity for a few days) they wanted my email address when I went to connect to the WiFi. I put it in and now they send me promotions, so I’m guessing this Facebook-details-in-exchange-for-WiFi that you’re encountering is also an advertising gambit? If it’s not an advertising thing and they’re using Facebook WiFi like Kupo said, there may be a guest option for non-Facebook users (you’d have to ask an employee if there is, though). Worst-case scenario, you could make an account on Facebook or Instagram and then only use it to connect to Facebook WiFi. None of these possibilities are great, but this is all I can think of.

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

@Ariblester: What, you mean like masturbation breakrooms set up in major businesses for their employees, and maybe some in semi-public areas just in case you’re away from home and badly need to rub one out? I mean because if it’s bad enough, some of these guys might only make it a few hours before getting all hot and *literally* bothered again. And unless you effectively made a combination high sex drive / toxic misogyny to be legally equivalent to disability, it’s not like those are the only people who would ever use them. That would be an iiiiinteresting direction for a society to take, not that it would happen.

Ariblester
Ariblester
1 year ago

Snowberry wrote on
July 19, 2019 at 1:59 am:

@Ariblester: What, you mean like masturbation breakrooms set up in major businesses for their employees, and maybe some in semi-public areas just in case you’re away from home and badly need to rub one out? I mean because if it’s bad enough, some of these guys might only make it a few hours before getting all hot and *literally* bothered again. And unless you effectively made a combination high sex drive / toxic misogyny to be legally equivalent to disability, it’s not like those are the only people who would ever use them. That would be an iiiiinteresting direction for a society to take, not that it would happen.

The joke may be going over my head, but you sound like you’re describing public toilets, which kinda already exist. So, use those, I guess.

Mostly, I just wanted to call them wankers.

(Personally, I don’t have any more reservations about people using public toilets to masturbate as I do with them using public toilets to defecate, i.e. as long as they clean up after themselves and keep the doors closed. YMMV.)

Knitting Cat Lady
Knitting Cat Lady
1 year ago

My boobs are massive. I could wear a turtle neck sweater and still show too much cleavage.

I always wear t-shirts with a high neck line. Because I’m glow in the dark pale and sun burnt cleavage sucks.

I was in Cologne recently and visited the Dom. There were dudes at the entrance handing out scarves to all the women with bare shoulders.

If any of you are familiar with juggling cloths, the scarves were from that material. Completely see through. Might as well have been cling film.

That had me very confused.

Teabug
Teabug
1 year ago

I know I’m subconsciously undermining my gender equality by wearing tank tops and shorts in 98 degree heat. And flip flops, always with the flip flops.

Big Titty Demon
Big Titty Demon
1 year ago

@Knitting Cat Lady

Mine also (surprise?) and yet despite being typically female-presenting with them, I have have been purposefully misgendered by icky fundamentalist Mormon types in Arizona, just because I had a crew cut hairstyle at the time (it was growing out from being shaved and donated). Anything out of norm and uncontrolled bothers those types. I reckon the scarves are the same: it’s the fact that women are controlled that matters, not how much shoulder can be seen.

Shadowplay
1 year ago

@Catalpa

Nicely put!

Though this:

Do these men also whine about how the sun is oppressing them by making beautiful sunrises and sunsets?

isn’t really relevant. The only time these fools look at the sun is to make sure it’s still shining out of their arse.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
1 year ago

Women have shoulders, and so do men. That sounds pretty equal to me. Inequality originates 100% in the minds of men who can’t stop seeing women as objects, and then want to blame women for that failure.

Misogynists should be discouraged from revealing their opinions in public. It’s too distracting and we can’t get our jobs done. Maybe a nice scarf to cover up the mouth area?

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Buttercup Q. Skullpants
I’d really like it if all bigots were encouraged to keep their mouths shut. Duct tape?

Nequam
Nequam
1 year ago

@Naglfar: Surgical glue.

Pyotr Pesce
Pyotr Pesce
1 year ago

FYI: as I learned it in Hawaii, the flower behind the RIGHT ear means you are single, the flower behind the LEFT ear means you are taken.

varalys the dark
1 year ago

And yet of you’re a woman who dresses like I do, in men’s cargo shorts, nerd tee, addidas trainers and a check shirt you’re accused of not being feminine enough. Which I don’t care about because that’s my whole deal but shows you just cannot win whatever you wear as a woman.

AnnaB
AnnaB
1 year ago

If these fellows are so concerned about equality they should make more of an effort to get men to stop going about in public in nothing but a pair of shorts. Some of those NAKED torsos look damned fine too. They really only have themselves to blame when they get raped.

Writch Codex
1 year ago

Sooooooo… the argument is that these guys can’t control their OWN bodies or thoughts, so women’s and their presentations should be controlled instead? By the very men who can’t control their OWN bodies?

You know, there might be a bit of a drawback to planning to appear totally helpless in order to muscle that jackboot back onto the necks of people who really DO have to fight for rights. A very contradictory and illogical drawback.

Simon
Simon
1 year ago

Off topic but if you can get onto iPlayer BBC have a documentary about incels. Soft pedals a bit but still worth a look.

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

@Writch Codex:

Sooooooo… the argument is that these guys can’t control their OWN bodies or thoughts, so women’s and their presentations should be controlled instead? By the very men who can’t control their OWN bodies?

This is such an excellent point!

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

@Simon:

Unfortunately, it looks like your link doesn’t work outside the UK.

Robert
Robert
1 year ago

One of the commonalities in this kind of sour wankery is the subtext of ‘there she is being sexually attractive *at me*, and all I’m allowed to do is look!’

As my husband would say, dry my tears.

Ariblester
Ariblester
1 year ago

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner wrote on
July 19, 2019 at 12:29 pm:

@Simon:

Unfortunately, it looks like your link doesn’t work outside the UK.

Here’s a mirror on YouTube that I found off Reddit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ5Jlx8MTp8

Currently Likes to Dislikes is 2:1, so obviously some people got riled up by it.

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

Thanks Ariblester!

epitome of incomprehensibility

I went to Italy when I was 16 (it was an optional school trip organized by the principal and a history teacher) and I remember two places having rules about women having to cover their shoulders.

Vatican City was one. I think they also had a rule banning shorts (on anybody). But it was an interesting visit because we got to see the museum where the Sistine Chapel was, with the painted ceiling by Michelangelo. I’d thought that was the sort of thing I’d only see in books.

The other time was in a historical church whose name I forget. I was wearing a sleeveless top, so someone had to lend me a cardigan before going in. I was kind of embarrassed at forgetting, plus a bit annoyed. I thought, “Okay, Pope City can do weird stuff, but this is just a random church. Stop telling me what to wear!” (an attempt to approximate my teenage interior monologue).