Lusting Out Loud: Women, Social Media, And Desire
Women articulating their lust is amazing. We should celebrate it.
The poster and trailer for Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to Channing Tatum's greatest contribution to cinema, 2012's Magic Mike, dropped this week, and verily, there was an outpouring of lust so strong and vocal that the Earth tipped a little on its axis.
And that's A Good Thing.
Just under two years ago, I began putting together a list of things I like and posting them on Twitter. The list is called #Bims10Things and I am delighted by the number of people who are genuinely into the things I share. The formula is not set, but staples include: old Hollywood glamour, previously unseen photos of personal faves, music, videos, vintage ads, GIFs, very good-looking men and women, and always, always, a photo of my obsession, Solange. The exclamations of joy in response to the list usually take the form of retweets, perhaps with a little note at the beginning or end. People copy in their friends – "look! You'll love this kitten in a sporran" – and others drop my @-handle out completely, leaving only the hashtag as a marker of its origin. There is a loudness to their consumption of the list that marks it as a clearly public activity.
And that sharing behaviour is true of almost all the things I post, except for one category. There is a peculiar response when I post a particular kind of image: that of a handsome/attractive man, perhaps in some state of undress, or doing something which, while entirely Safe For Work, is unspeakably sexy, or erotic even. Like the GIF of a young Marlon Brando I posted once, or Mark Ruffalo shirtless, or Harrison Ford in a natty suit back in 1980. The straight women of my timeline (and beyond) may retweet these images a few times, but they will also favourite the shit out of it. For all the RTs these images inspire (and the talkback: "Christ!" and "what even?!" are popular responses), the favourite rate is a different story altogether. It's curious, almost coy.
I examined why this is, and came to a few – unscientific – conclusions:
1) Convenience. I tend to post #Bims10Things during most people's work hours. Ogling a slo-mo gif of Chris Hemsworth's rippling biceps and abs when your superiors might be observing your computer screen may not be the most prudent move. So a favourite may be all you can do at the time.
2) Faulty tech. Some version of this thought: "I'm on my phone, and the images never load on EE's stupid crap 3G. Ugh! I'll see whatever the hell this is later." *hits favourite*
3) The horn. Some version of this thought: "I like this very much. I am favouriting it so I can get a closer, more considered look later. And again, later. And maybe one more time, later," followed by a Mae West leer/Sid James chuckle.
I think the third conclusion is the one that makes me happiest of all.
Because when my interactions tab goes crazy with new favourites, I am looking at tiny pieces of desire, expressed. Women's desire – so often considered non-existent, quiet, more civilised, so complicated as to be almost sentiently cunning, etc – sitting calmly and matter-of-factly in my inbox, chillin'. Women essentially saying, "Oh. That's nice. I want it" or, slightly more coarsely: "I'd ruin that." I get several of these most Fridays, and I revel in it. It's freeing and lovely, normalising what parts of society still won't, not without certain caveats. These favourites are not quite ladette culture – which, broadly, I loved – with its "Get your knob out!" antics. But it is not demure, pearl-clutching delicacy, either. It lies somewhere in between, a quiet acknowledgement: "I find this pleasing, and I'm going to save the image so I can look at it again and again, and that's OK."
My Twitter feed on any given day is a stream of consciousness: telly I'm watching, work I'm doing, essays I'm reading, handsome dudes that my Tumblr dashboard belches up with alarming regularity, and so on. Sometimes after typing out my 140 characters, my finger hovers above the backspace button: Do I really want to publish an articulation of how a seeing a photo of Jesse Williams made me inhale sharply? The answer, most days, is "Yes". Or at least "I don't mind". Objectively speaking, Williams is a ridiculously handsome dude and my response to his beauty is, objectively speaking, fairly typical. Does the world need to know? Perhaps not. But it's OK if it does, and that realisation is the kicker. You don't have to detail exactly what Daniel Craig would gratefully receive from you (seriously, someone said that about Mr Craig, in my presence. "He'd receive it gratefully," she said. I don't think "it" was a martini), or maybe you do. The core is: acknowledging the desire? Expressing it? I'm here for that.
So if you're one of the women – and it is mostly women, about 99% of the time – whose ladyboner directs the mouse to click "favourite", here's a little wink, a tiny hat tip to you. You make my Fridays, and as long as #Bims10Things is going, you will get your hot dude photo/GIF/video.
That's a promise.