Sunday, March 6, 2011

It takes a real man to buy a shower gel

So I've not been posting in this blog for quite a while, although my relationship to asexuality continues, I just don't write about it. I've had various realizations along the way, and in my mind I've been composing an "all-encompassing theory of everything" gender and sex related, that makes sense at least to me, and I hope to post it here in the not too distant future. I also came across this recently created site by someone who is pursuing a degree as a sexologist, and identifies as asexual: please go here and help them out with their research to put asexuality on the map.

Anyway. While I haven't been posting here, I've been coming out more and more clearly as not-female-not-male, and investigating the implications of that. Recognizing my own conditioning around how I do certain things because I was socialized as female. So today I found myself in need of a body wash product. And I was in a large supermarket chain that shall remain nameless. Okay it was Smith's. As I habitually drifted through the voluptuously curvy pastel bottles of the feminine section, looking for my favorite shea butter based gel, I realized how half of that isle had always remained alien to me, off limits, wrongly gendered, not for me. And noted that there was in fact no good reason whatsoever for me not to open myself to the whole world of possibilities that those angular, easy-to-grip, bottle-of-engine-oil resembling packaging in serious dark hues might hold.

Sniffing along the masculine smelling (whatever that is supposed to mean) brands, I soon learned from the labels that if I buy one of those, it is likely to cause me to be the subject of unlimited and unrelenting female attention. (And that would be a feature, not a bug.) Not only that, but I will get late nights, I will be ready for all sorts of nocturnal adventures, I will smell just how she likes it, and if I use this product in every shower, she will turn into a man-eater, because this is how dirty boys get clean... I will keep her intrigued and then all I will have to do, will be to rise to the occasion - because the cleaner I am, the dirtier I get... Washing myself with this is sure to bring out the lasses. It's proven to attract, and pheromone infused - need we say more? If my grandfather hadn't worn this original product, I wouldn't exist! Axe products are the worst offenders here, with ridiculous sexual innuendos out the yin-yang. In addition to promising to increase my sexual prowess, the labels are replete with battle imagery: murdering dirt and odor, I will win, odor will lose; I'm gonna maim those pesky odor causing elements, and all that will be left after the carnage, will be the fresh smell of victory.
I was having a good time reading these and laughing out loud and taking notes... Just got me thinking how much time can you really spend in a supermarket having fun? Granted, not all masculine products are that overtly machistic. Dove strikes an interesting balance for example. I mean look at the name for a start. Dove? Really? Like, what kind of 'real' man identifies with a 'dove'?

/picture of "Dove-men" from the web/

Where do you see a group of virtually naked men standing close together and touching in a friendly way? Most of the men I know have plenty of hang-ups about touching other men, even with all their clothes on. I've been conditioned well enough by this society to know that Dove is no label for a grunting, beast-hunting, women-by-the-hair-dragging symbol of pure maleness. I mean, they created a pouf for men. Good job of trying to reconcile that with masculinity. They don't call it a pouf - they make it look serious, call it a "shower tool", reinforce it with rubber on the side - dark gray rubber at that. BTW, is it a coincidence that pouf is also a word for a homosexual man?

Dove for men focuses on lauding the moisturizing properties of the products, and urges you to save water while you shower. Seriously, as a product of the society that raised me, if I had been socialized as a man, I would be afraid to buy this because people might think I was a 'fucking faggot'. (Sorry, no offense intended.) In fact I become grateful that I was not socialized as a man, because men seem to have a lot to prove.
Conversely, women's products were all about nurturing the skin, being healthy, soft, smooth, moisturizing, replenishing, restoring the skin - in other words, descriptions referring to actual product properties, rather than outrageous claims of product suitability for mating purposes, obviously not checked by any consumer protection agency. The closest any women's product got to hinting at mating, was some vague reference to feeling irresistible.

Here's what all of this implies but nobody is saying outright: Body care is traditionally considered a feminine activity, while real men are supposed to smell dirty and sweaty from just having battled and killed an enemy. The only excuse a man can have to be clean and smell good, is to score with the chicks. Then maybe it's worth the sacrifice. Some men feel insecure and emasculated about buying body care products, so these must first be imbued with a proper aura of masculinity, which will allow for their consumption by such 'real men'. The aura of masculinity is achieved by associating such products with getting sex and victory in battle. By extension, many male-born persons unwittingly pick up the implicit assumptions in this advertising, and create an imaginary picture of what it means to be a man, and sadly believe that they should live up to that ideal.

I ended up buying Old Spice Pure Sport. I liked the smell best of all, and as an added bonus, the bottle happens to not have any gendered language or other unbearable hype on the label.


  1. Apologies if you've already seen it, but this is an awesome parody on shower products marketed towards men:

  2. You have no idea how hard I just laughed. I get so confused by toiletries. I'm not a pretty princess nor did I just ride my motorbike to a sword fight, I'd just... Like to be clean, if there is maybe a soap that is made for that?

  3. My Mom and I did this exact same thing only with bar soap like a year ago. I think the only difference between Men's and Women's soap is the color and fragrance but the marketing was totally different. The Men's soap is obviously absurd, but really so was the Women's.

    My problem with body soap is that so often there is so much advertising on the labels that I have no clue what they are talking about. I was trying to decide between what type of Dove For Men shower gel to get (because I'm gay so I get to use Dove) and the different types were like Refreshing and Cleansing. Huh?! You mean the other one wasn't cleansing? Now, I'm confused. I ended up choosing based on the color of the label.