Recently, actor Ranveer Singh made news for his risque photoshoot for Paper magazine. He is seen posing in minimal clothing, with one picture of him completely in the nude. In a matter of days, an FIR was lodged against him, citing public obscenity and for ‘outraging the modesty of women’ by showing off his body.
But most women on the internet had their modesty intact and were far from outraged.
I remember sharing the images with my friends on Instagram, and all we could do was send heart-eyes emojis to each other and gasp at how beautiful he looked. If comments are anything to go by – they’re often very different under pictures of women posing in minimal clothing – women seem to be appreciative of the photographs that have captured him. Some are referring to him as the Greek god, Adonis, while others are simply appreciating the aesthetic. It is also commendable how hard Singh has worked to sculpt his body the way it is.
But why are some sections of society hell-bent on telling us how to feel? The answer is simple: toxic masculinity.
Yaar, Ranveer ji ki photos don't outrage our modesty.The latest labour force survey results on women's employment does. 17.4 percent of employed women hold regular salaried jobs. Case file karein? Time for reparations?— Shrayana B (@BShrayana) July 26, 2022
Ranveer Singh and ‘soft’ masculinity
A male friend shared a tweet with me, agreeing that the photos were indeed an assault on the eyes of the audience, because they had not consented to it. In the tweet, a distraught man compared it to sending unsolicited nudes – implying that if the photos are acceptable, unsolicited dick pics should be too. What stands out is not just the lack of logic in the statement, but also a certain ignorance that exists among straight men.
Hopefully the pervert who is booked for sexual harassment for sending explicit pictures of himself to random women won’t be able to say that he’s fighting patriarchy. pic.twitter.com/LQ4rtKHxS9— Indians Amplifying Suffering(IAS) (@ravithinkz) July 24, 2022
Dick pics, clicked the way they are – in terrible lighting; with men often standing or sitting in positions that assert dominance; making it the most focused part in the entire picture, separating it from the person itself, is a big part of the problem. Consent is consent, but the culture of men sending nudes is an abomination.
For them, a nude is a badly lit picture of their genitalia, no matter how unflattering. The only thing they prefer to focus on is size.
In an informal poll conducted by a popular artist whose work revolves around sexuality and gender, she asked her audience if these photos of Ranveer Singh would prompt men to click more tasteful nudes for their partners. The answers were unsurprising:
It is not only that Ranveer Singh’s photos are aesthetically pleasing.
It is also that his expressions are pensive. That his posture isn’t threatening. That his gaze is soft and vulnerable. And this doesn’t bode well for men who don’t understand why women would prefer that in a man.
Some people argued that explicit images are harmful for young girls who navigate the internet, but we forget that children should have restricted access to it in the first place. Here’s Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy's view:
#NoSpin | "The FIR is a violation of his (Ranveer Singh's) 19(1)(a) rights, his constitutional rights": @karunanundy, advocate, Supreme Court on FIR against actor Ranveer Singh for nude photoshoot pic.twitter.com/72m9VerTpN— NDTV (@ndtv) July 26, 2022
So, what really is the point of contention? Having a man perform a demure kind of sexuality for the camera can give women the ‘wrong’ idea – that their desires are valid, that they deserve pleasure from the men they choose to pay attention to.
It isn’t so much about the photos as much as it is about what they cater to: the female gaze.
Harry Styles, Shah Rukh Khan, Pete Davidson: Why women love ‘soft’ men
If you’re one of the 10 people who haven’t heard of Pete Davidson, he is a rare male celebrity who is in the news more for his personal life than his work. Davidson, a popular comedian who got his big break at the age of 21 with the American TV show Saturday Night Live, has dated the likes of Ariana Grande, Phoebe Dynevor (of Bridgerton), and Kate Beckinsale. Interestingly, American tabloids are losing their minds trying to understand how he (an average-looking man at best) could woo some of the most beautiful women in the industry, more so after learning about his relationship with Kim Kardashian.
When this conversation was in full swing, supermodel Emily Ratajkowski was asked for her opinion on the subject. Her answer was something women have been screaming from the rooftops for years:
“I mean, he seems super charming. He’s vulnerable. He’s lovely. His fingernail polish is awesome. He looks good!”. She added that he also has a “good relationship with his mother. We love it, that’s hard to find.”
It’s hard for men to believe that these qualities are what seal the deal for most women. It’s the era of soft masculinity, and we’re here for it.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a rise in ‘soft’ masculinity – an antidote to the burly, violent, stone-like hyper-masculine imagery that has been normalised. Thanks to the internet, where we’re constantly exposed to new thoughts and ideas, we’ve begun to accept a world different from ours. Brands are selling aspirations instead of products, and these aspirations are changing the way we think, interact, and present ourselves.
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that this has also contributed to a new wave of cultural parity – where women express their desires freely and men are recipients of it. Take dating apps, for example. It’s one of those rare spaces where women are more in demand and less in supply, which has involuntarily tilted the narrative in their favour.
More men and women are thus indulging in conversations around gender equality, splitting the bill, finding open-minded partners and cracking an equation that suits both parties.
As an extension to this, women are openly talking about their needs: informal studies have shown that women prefer swiping for men with dogs in their profile pictures as it makes them come across as committed and trustworthy.
Many women in these spaces are educated, earning, and belong to privileged backgrounds – wooing them with muscle and money is not going to cut it.
From celebrating their sexuality to indulging in gender-neutral fashion, celebrities such as Harry Styles and Ranveer Singh seem confident in their masculinity and do not feel the need to exert it everywhere, which women find desirable.
Economist Shrayana Bhattacharya explores this in great detail in her recent book, Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh, which is an account of women across the length and breadth of India and how they find solace in Shah Rukh’s on-screen and off-screen personas when they feel lonely and tired of patriarchy beating down on them.
There have been several attempts to quash the idea of female desire over the years. But as is with any revolutionary movement, it’s just a matter of time till it comes up again. Women’s desires aren’t going anywhere; they’re merely taking shape in the form of Ranveer Singh, Harry Styles, and Shah Rukh Khan.
You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Community where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities.Join now.