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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Yes, I think the pun still works even if you pronounce the name "Byoo-sik." So there.

Before getting into Kurt Busiek's response to my comments on this now closed BEAT thread, I'll make a general statement: I don't think that any of the complaints from McDonald or anyone else have ever been concerned with the most basic level of "sexualization," which in this essay I termed "glamor." I think the fuss is now, and has always been, about the two more extreme forms of sexualization: "titillation" and "pornification."  The NSFW photos McDonald prints on the BEAT thread fall into the third category. It's debatable as to whether the "boob windows, brokeback [position]s, boob socks and more" fall into the secondary or tertiary category.

My post is directed at McDonald's complaint of a lack of equity in terms of sexualization of males and females. I wondered how one might be accomplish the hypothetical state of total equity, since equity is what most of these critics claim that they want. I wrote:

For sake of argument, let’s say a comics company wanted to have an absolutely level playing-field, but still wanted to be able to depict its characters in a sexual manner. What would be the solution? I for one think it would be both immoral and futile to ask straight cartoonists to attempt to sexualize male characters. With rare exceptions, they simply wouldn’t have the mindset.
Could the company create a level field simply by employing 50% straight artists and 50% gay artists? But then, the gay artists chosen would have to be something along the line of P. Craig Russell, who can draw women competently but IMO generally doesn’t sexualize them as he does his male characters.

Kurt Busiek replied:

>> I for one think it would be both immoral and futile to ask straight cartoonists to attempt to sexualize male characters.>>
Straight cartoonists are all male, after all.
And it’s immoral and futile to ask Olivier Coipel to draw sexy men, but moral and effective to ask Amanda Conner to draw sexy women.
I think, perhaps, that cartoonists, both male and female, straight and gay, should be able to draw what the story needs. If the story needs a sexy guy, it shouldn’t be immoral (immoral?!) to ask for that to be drawn in a story. A sexy woman, same deal. But the idea that straight men simply can’t draw sexy men, and that it’s actually _immoral_ to ask them to do so, is a pretty weird concept.
But then, perhaps to some eyes, sexy women are just and normal and the default setting, while sexy men are weird and unpleasant and squicky. To the point that morality demands that men not have to draw such things.
This is called gender bias, though, and it’s not really a compelling argument.

First, I'll address Busiek's only valid point. A touch, a touch, I do confess it, but yes, not all "straight cartoonists" are male.  However, if one is dealing with straight female cartoonists, then there would be no issue of compulsion with respect to those hetero female cartoonists.  It would be entirely natural for them to sexualize males, even as it would be entirely natural for a gay male artist-- as per my example of P. Craig Russell-- to sexualize males.

What I find "immoral and futile," since Busiek patently misses the point, is this implied element of compulsion for the sake of equity.  Heidi McDonald may or may not really want to see more depictions of male sexual abjection; her actual sentiments are of secondary importance here. But the phrasing of her rhetorical point implies that if you have pornifed female characters in comic books, you ought to have pornified male characters-- and not just, as she says, men "with a good physique in a dynamic pose."

Now, in my scenario of a 50-50 split, I made allowance for 'rare exceptions" to the tendency wherein hetero males are generally stronger at depicting sexy women, while homosexual males would be generally stronger at depicting sexy men. (A similar distribution would of course pertain for female artists as well.) Busiek, puffed up by his desire to score a point rooted in facile sarcasm, names off Olivier Coipel and Amanda Connor as types who do not fit my schema-- happily ignoring that I have already allowed for exceptions to the rule.  He says:

I think, perhaps, that cartoonists, both male and female, straight and gay, should be able to draw what the story needs.

This is also facile thinking because the entire point of extreme forms of sexualization is that they are not "needed" in an absolute sense, unless one is producing literal pornography. With the advent of the Comics Code, comics-publishers often reprinted pre-Code works with substantial redrawing, to avoid being accused of pandering to the youth of America.  In some cases, even artists who controlled their own works sometimes ameliorated the sexier aspects. In one JOURNAL interview, underground artist Jack Jackson stated that in some editions of WHITE COMANCHE he covered up some female breasts because he wanted the story to be more available to younger readers.

Busiek propounds a bland code of the professional artist, who can supposedly draw sexy men and sexy women with equal facility. There are artists like that, as I have admitted. There are also artists like P. Craig Russell, who is not overly strong with female sexuality, and artists like John Romita Sr, who's not overly strong with male sexuality.

I for one want to see artists do what they're good at, not what someone claims that they must do to satisfy a politically correct agenda.

Busiek's final point about "gender bias" is of course predicated on a straw man that is duly torched by my advocacy of gay artists to draw whatever they want to draw.

BTW, since Heidi makes mention of J. Scott Campbell's possible limitations in the arena of sexualizing males with respect to a particular Spider-Man cover, I thought I might as well print this except from a Campbell fan-page to illustrate that maybe with Spider-Man, he wasn't really giving it his best shot.

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