At approximately 25 seconds into “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt like a Motherf**ker,” Adam Levine drops his towel and reveals the perfect ass that many women and men have long fantasized about.
While the Maroon 5 frontman’s natural flick of the wrist as he walks out of the sauna suggests a guise of nonchalance, it was just the latest in Levine’s meticulous peacock posturing and his embrace of sexual objectification.
Levine is notorious for regularly flaunting his chiseled upper-half in any number of settings to the point that it’s almost more surprising to see him with his shirt on than off.
Until Levine goes full-frontal—and I would wager it is only a matter of time—his display of rear in “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt like a Motherf**ker” is just the final puzzle piece in the little he’s left to the imagination.
And this isn’t some blink and you miss it flash of male nudity, like Ben Affleck in Gone Girl. Levine encourages viewers to get a nice, long look at his ass. He appears to be totally enjoying the role of sex object.
In doing so, and especially in doing so as a heterosexual man, Levine has actively and mischievously made himself the focus of the female gaze. In all media channels—TV, film, photography, magazines—the focus has dramatically and disproportionately depicted women as the sexual object of men.
This carnal sexualization of heterosexual male celebrities—and, more notably, their reveling in that blatant beefcake roll—is relatively new.
For decades, People has been handing out its Sexiest Man Alive honor, but the winners are generally fully clothed and with tight shots of their face bearing steely, brooding looks.
Levine, himself a winner, was relatively tame in his cover shot for the magazine. People covers are often shot in a way where the men appear too strong to care that legions of women (and gay men) are getting off on their images. These men would never deem to actively flirt with this sexual attention.
Burt Reynolds and a handful of other male celebs posed for Cosmopolitan centerfolds in the 1970s. But, this peacocking didn’t catch on or lose its ridiculous stigma of being in some way effeminate, or unmanly.
Now posing around in next to nothing with abs of steel and arms the size of tree trunks is the regular currency of sports stars and celebrities.
The real sea change in straight male celebrities began with David Beckham. He was one of the first to proudly strut his physique. The soccer star has unabashedly courted the attention of straight women and gay men for decades and is, perhaps, the most famous metrosexual of all time.
That metrosexual aesthetic, which once singled out straight man who primmed and flaunted their physical appearance, has filtered into the mainstream. Perhaps for this reason, Levine is a current leader in a growing generation of hetero male celebs who invite sexual objectification in a way once deemed decidedly “unmanly.”
Mark Simpson, the British writer who originated the term metrosexual, has also coined “spornosexual” to describe men with bodies honed to the precision of athletes, footballers, and the such.
Actors now are absurdly buff. Zac Efron has come a long way from High School Musical wholesomeness, dropping his drawers and cheekily (pun intended) baring all but his bottom in That Awkward Moment and Dirty Grandpa.
Justin Bieber flashes his abs as frequently as he is arrested.
Beckham’s soccer peer, Cristiano Ronaldo, has almost outdone him in baring it all.
In a true inversion of the male gaze, Ronaldo posed with then-fiancee Irina Shayk on Spanish Vogue—he nude, shielded only by fully-clothed Shayk.
Of course, the more male celebs embrace the role of sex object, the flipside is an increasing pressure on men to meet physical standards.
As the recent flare-up over Dadbods shows, the more women objectify men, the more men feel the heat to diet, change, and conform their bodies.
It’s a complicated dance for heterosexual men who have long been the objectifiers and are increasingly finding themselves in the role of sex object.
Still, there is something utterly refreshing about Levine’s unabashed invitation to stare and gawk. In the grand scheme of history, women have rarely been permitted, let alone encouraged, to view men in a purely sexualized way. In turn, this invitation to gaze allows women to embrace their own “base” sexual urges.
Who knew so much could come from a pretty face—and ass?