Understanding young men’s self-objectification and self-sexualisation on social media: A study of an online recreational bodybuilding community
An international online community of thousands of young men has formed around the deceased Australian recreational bodybuilder Aziz Shavershian (known by his internet handle “Zyzz”). Zyzz displayed a bodily ideal that combines traditionally masculine and feminine components, and is a representative of what has been termed the “spornosexual” (a combination of the terms “sports”, “porn” and “metrosexual”). He displayed his body through social media, frequently presenting his body as a passive object, sexualising himself and performing an exaggerated display of vanity. Many members of Zyzz’s fandom follow his lead and display their bodies in similar ways. There have been very few studies of self-sexualisation and self-objectification among men. If, as has been noted, being an object of the gaze denotes both power and powerlessness (the “dialectic of the gaze”) how do young men who invite the gaze negotiate this conflict? Through a discussion of the results of an online ethnography of the Zyzz fandom I will briefly introduce the display of the body in the Zyzz fandom (which some of you may be familiar with from my previous presentations), and focus on new data collected from Zyzz fans about the purpose and intended audience of these displays. I then will attempt to make sense of these practices not in terms of homosocial relations (as in previous presentations) but in terms of the literature on sexualisation and objectification. The purpose of this working paper is to pilot my theorising on the body display practices of Zyzz and his fans.
About the Presenter
Dr Mair Underwood is an anthropologist and Lecturer in Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Queensland. Her research interests are in the anthropology and sociology of the body. In particular, she explores how body modifications (such as bodybuilding and tattoo) are used to create, reflect and disrupt social boundaries such as those of gender.