I remember very clearly the moment I decided to admit that I found Prince’s make-up sexy instead of eye roll-inducing. Having grown up in white, rural Quebec, Garth Brooks was a more famously common fixture of sought after masculinity than the forever funky purple one, what with his controversial esthetic choices and the occasional lock of pubic hair peeking out from his bolder speedo-inspired getups.
I was in the car with my mother, same place I was for many other memorable revelations belonging to the era of my childhood and teenagehood. En route. Prince came on the radio, and suddenly I was done holding back the comment I’d been only partially aware I was holding back. “I think Prince is sexy,” 12-year old me said to my very open minded and sex-positive mother. Focusing first on her lane-switch, she replied, “yeah, he is.” I was satisfied with this response, and felt affirmed. My attraction to his make-up, his tight outfits, and his fearlessly brazen, flamboyant confidence was a thing. It wasn’t just me. My mom saw it too.
It’s funny, considering I’m a straight woman who has very often been attracted to the “manly man” lumberjack types, that my “type” should also extend to (incidentally, straight) men so seemingly comfortable in their masculinity that they make an effort to look pretty and sexy for their admirers.
David Bowie as he appeared in Jim Henson’s renowned Labyrinth was another hinge on which the door of my burgeoning sense of attraction swung. Laugh if you will, but the goblin king’s cock rocker 80s hair, copious amounts of make-up, and shiny lavish outfit were equalled only by his profoundly arousing confidence, arrogance, and authority. Just saying. The tight spandex pants that perfectly contoured his junk for all to see? The cherry on top, of course.
And then there was the The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the original one, from 1975, which saw the inimitable Tim Curry parading around in black lacey lingerie, complete with garter belts, purposefully over-the-top make-up, dark curly, pouffy hair, and an attitude to match it all. Yet somehow, his manliness and muscle were only enhanced. At least to me. What’s that about?
Turns out that when men put themselves on display by making an effort to look pretty, it’s hot. Not just for gay men, but for straight women, and anyone else on the gender spectrum who happens to swing that way. Yet this is information an alien species might fail to glean from a gander at mainstream male fashion, which seems to call for conservative, subdued, somber tones, loose material, and unplayful styles. But why is it that playful, flirty, colourful, and fitted clothing are typically only relegated to the realm of women’s fashion? Perhaps its society’s ongoing fear of the female gaze, a worry that catering to women’s subjecthood rather than just their objecthood could be a slippery slope as far as expectations of men go? Probably, but immeasurably so.
The thing I know for sure is that cultural change is both slow and unstoppable, and that the best thing we can do is be honest about what we find attractive—fashionable gender norms aside. We can be and have many a “type.” Therein lies the intrigue.
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