If the symbols and signs used in the male nude only serve to give the photographed subject the predicate „masculine“ – in other words, basically to increase redundancy and reduce the density of information – then what use is the photographed body? What is it actually about? One could perhaps argue that photographing and publishing is a form of evidence. One communicates masculinity in a world where it is no longer so flawlessly identifiable. Scandals like „Me Too“ have put masculinity under the microscope under the term „Toxic Masculinity.“One gets the impression that a whole series of men on Instagram, Tiktok and other platforms now believe they have to prove that masculinity in the 21st century doesn’t necessarily have to be „toxic“ and that you can also be „hot“ and muscular without having to regularly grope women at work.
With the difference that it was a new one at the time. Today, the image of a muscular man chopping wood or working out excessively in the gym and then having sex with another man is not particularly unusual for a Generation X,Y or Z. But because it cements the narrative, it is a new image. But because it perpetuates the narrative of the „real“ man as physically strong, trained, and self-confident, the male act must unfortunately be considered a total failure in terms of communicative intent, because it merely perpetuates a traditional narrative.
What remains, then, if one leaves out the meager informative added value, which communicatively runs in the wrong direction anyway? Basically, probably just a masturbation template in the guise of social media communication.
The absurd world of signs becomes all the more obvious as soon as things are exchanged, starting with the physicality of the men depicted and ending with things like the background. It is a sign complex that only functions in dependence on each other. The absurdity of the depicted connections of signs and information is strong, but nevertheless this motif is stored as a supposed reality. Men, as a rule, do not look like that in real life. But the claim to it remains, because we see them every day, in advertising, on posters, in social media, already in the morning after getting up, in the evening lying on the sofa and browsing dating apps, in exhibitions and in films. So often until the media image becomes an expectation and the fantasy becomes a disappointment.