The Male Body:

A New Look at Men in Public and Private

Published 1999, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

​A fresh, unconventional look at the male body and contemporary notions of masculinity.

The male nude is everywhere now, from mainstream movies to magazine covers. What do we see when men take off their clothes, in public and in private? Is the male body truly exposed? In this candid cultural analysis, Susan Bordo speaks to men and women alike, scrutinizing the images and experiences of everyday life.

Drawing on personal anecdotes and insights from movies, novels, advertisements, news stories, and academic work, she inspects the assumptions that influence our perspectives on date rape, harassment, homosexuality, and pornography. She also considers recent changes in perceptions of masculinity, including a look at ad campaigns displaying the male body, the booming male beauty industry, and androgynous body ideals. Playboy, Marlon Brando, Viagra, Calvin Klein, The Full Monty, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Michael Jordan, and Philip Roth are all subjects of discussion. But whether she is examining Clarence Thomas, John Travolta, or Humbert Humbert, the butch phallus or her own grade-school experiences, Bordo rejects rigid characterizations. In exchange, she gives us a frank, tender view of her own father’s body, a refreshing look at the penis in all its incarnations, and, overall, a clear and candid vision of men as flesh-and-blood human beings. of the most incisive social critics working today--and one of the best writers, too. Whether she's dissecting Lolita, movie and book, or Marlon Brando, 50s icon and symbol of masculinity, she's never predictable and often profound.
Katha Pollitt
Her writing is lively and her arguments compelling. As she strips away the layers and bares the male body, she deftly shows the beauty--and baggage--such images convey.
Karen Houppert, Newsday
With an almost chatty style, but also possessing a subtle power, her book transforms our habitual understanding of movies, advertisements, novels, and even trends and toys...Bordo's talent for reading culture presents us with the most valuable gift: a newly configured imagination.
Susan Griffin, Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review
A grand, often hilarious Baedeker of beefcake and its discontents.
Jesse Green, The New York Times Book Review
An unqualified pleasure: thoughtful, funny, unusually engaging, with moments of almost novelistic poignancy.
Louis Bayard, The Washington Post
Equipped with wit and savvy, Bordo sets out to map the ambivalent attitudes that exist in the American imagination toward male bodies. Part memoir, part elegy, this feminist guided tour of the male body concludes with real hope for improved relations between the sexes.
Publishers Weekly, starred review
Remarkable, and not just because it is by a female scholar who has been through the gender wars. It is very tough. It is also very tender…Provocative, unexpected, and winning
Richard Eder, The New York Times