When people complain that female comic book heroes are overly sexualized, one of the most common counterarguments is that male superheroes are also drawn with attractive, muscular bodies designed to be ogled. Andrew Wheeler over at Comics Alliance eloquently explains why that simply isn't true—male muscles aren’t equivalent to female curves because both are drawn to appeal to male readers, albeit in different ways. He writes:
Big muscles are a male fantasy. That’s not to say that women aren’t ever into them, but let’s face facts; women have never been the primary target audience for superhero comics, and male heroes are drawn with big muscles anyway. Make no mistake; women are there. But those big muscles are not there for women. They’re there for men; straight men who find male power exhilarating. If women didn’t exist, superheroes would be drawn just as buff as they are today — because as far as most superhero comics are concerned, women as consumers do not exist.
Yet I’ve seen it said more times than I can count that male heroes are objectified, sexualized, idealized, just the same as the women — because they’re big and ripped and dressed in tight costumes. It’s an idea that’s completely tied up in the narcissistic notion that androphile women are attracted to the same qualities that men find appealing.
Talk to a few women, and you’ll find that’s broadly untrue.
“Heroes tend to be drawn with tons of bulky muscles and weird proportions that I find unappealing,” said Lysandra, one of a number of women I reached out to via Twitter to find out what they want to see in superhero comics.
All of the women I spoke to seemed to echo Lysandra’s sentiments. Amy said she likes men “lean and muscular, but not bulky.” Tory noted that “too much muscle is gross, it looks like they can’t move.” Sarah said the focus on muscles “veers into the grotesque”. She noted the designs of Hulk and She-Hulk illustrate how both male and female characters are designed for a male reader; “one is a musclebound power fantasy, whereas the other is a powerlifting pinup girl.”
Read all of “Why Big Superhero Muscles Aren’t ‘The Same Thing’ As Sexy Curves” over at Comics Alliance.