A reader quotes another:
I’m a female in my late twenties, and maybe the “roid-age” look has affected me. Anything from a swimmer’s build to an Alistair Overeem turns me on. I told my boyfriend of four years at that time I was leaving if he couldn’t drop the gut. (He already had strike one against him since he is a decade older, but you can’t have everything you want. He succeeded and two years later we’re engaged.)
Can you IMAGINE if a male reader wrote in and said, “I told my girlfriend of four years that I was leaving if she didn’t improve her physical appearance in the following, specific bodily way.” Good lord. Your inbox would light up with outraged readers. That the reader in question then goes on to talk about female empowerment and being equal in all ways … geesh. Equal in all ways except for the double standard of it being socially acceptable for women to make conditional demands on their loved ones based on physical appearance, but such behavior would get a man (RIGHTLY) shouted down.
One of your female readers wrote that she “think[s] it’s more female empowerment than the media that drives men to try and look hotter.” I would argue that it’s precisely the reverse. Feminists have for decades (rightly) criticised the objectification of women. What we’re now seeing, and have been seeing for at least the past decade if not longer, is the increasing objectification of men.
In the same way that women are expected to be thin and have big breasts, men are generally expected to have a six-pack, a big chest and no visible body hair. It is entirely possible for members of both sexes to be viewed as sex objects. This should be no cause for feminist celebration, nor is it in any sense evidence for female empowerment.
I wonder what extent this trend is being driven by the increasingly mainstream place of gay culture. The male norm you’re describing is very much one taken from, as you yourself recognise, one particular gay ideal of physical attractiveness (albeit not the only one).
You can read through our entire Roid Age thread here.