In maybe the most un-shocking announcement ever, People Magazine voted David Beckham as their coveted Sexiest Man Alive. While the shallow being in me can wholeheartedly agree that Beckham surely is one of the hottest babes around, it is sometimes tough to wrap my mind around the idea of a "sexiest" person alive. How scientific was this study, exactly? I guess when it comes to these titles, we really don't need anything other than our eyes, am I right? When his title was announced, social media was ablaze about Beckham, mostly agreeing with People's choice, and this got me thinking as to how different the internet reactions are when a "Sexiest Man" title is announced versus when a "Sexiest Woman" title drops.
I remembered that early in October, Esquire named its Sexiest Woman Alive as Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke. As a big fan of Game of Thrones and Daenerys Targaryen, specifically, I was happy to see her acknowledged for being some magazine's idea of sexy so I compared the way that people reacted to her announcement via social media versus the reaction Beckham has received.
I found that as a whole, people are generally more accepting and supportive of a man receiving the Sexiest Man title than they were of a woman being called the "sexiest," which seems to be an open invitation for judgment and, in some cases, even insult.
One glaring difference was in the way they were presented in their profiles. Much of Clarke's Esquire profile lacked in-depth details about her as a person, often focusing on shallower ones, while Beckham's profile is a personal look that focused on his family life. While we must consider that each publication undoubtedly has different rubrics for profile writing, it's still worth it to offer some comparison.
What exactly was "sexy" about Clarke according to her Sexiest Woman profile? The article states that the "gorgeous balance" of Clarke is in her being "Friendly and fierce. Kid sister and killer. Movie star and girl next door." Ahhh, I see. She's the quintessential "cool girl" that Amy Dunne from Gone Girl taught us about. The woman who has to be physically good-looking while also acting like "one of the guys."
The profile writer, Vincent Price, focused on how Clarke drinks her tea and detailed descriptions about the random people on their strange "Game of Phones" scavenger hunt, though I was really hoping to read more in depth details about Clarke herself. The profile does, however, include that the writer's friend calls Clarke a "pocket rocket," meaning "she's small, sexy, lively, and lots of fun." So there's time to liken her to a vibrator, but not so much to talk about how kickass she is as a person. Not cool, bro.
Although People isn't exactly known for launching super in-depth profiles, the magazine's cover story definitely sets the mood to paint Beckham as a wholesome and humble family man. The accompanying headline on the magazine reads,"He’s a romantic husband, a devoted dad — and he vacuums!” Many of the People social media headlines highlight how "uncomfortable" he is with being called sexy and his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel definitely didn't sexualize him or feature any of his revealing photos.
The Physical Stuff
While most fans agree that both Beckham and Clarke are very attractive people, and Beckham is most certainly being celebrated for his looks and physique, Clarke weathered some more instances of blatant objectification and even criticism for posing in a "revealing" manner.
CBS News posted an article on the scientific reason as to "why" Clarke is considered hot and, shocker: the post just examined her physical features. They even went as far to write: "While 28-year-old Clarke is past 'peak hotness' by that measure, her 'baby face' and porcelain-clear skin may give her an edge." Wow, agist and objectifying.
Her decision to strike an implied nude pose for the Esquire photos also inspired some criticism from fans:
Even when receiving what should be a compliment — sexiest woman alive — Clarke fielded some not-so-nice reactions from the peanut gallery. And the absurd suggestion that a woman's sexiness is waning at age 28? That one really hurts.
Meanwhile, on the side where the grass is actually greener, Beckham is 40 years old and hardly any of his fans have questioned his ability to still be "hot" and no one is complaining when he poses for shirtless photos. Beckham's body is always discussed in a positive way, and his age is often posed as a positive attribute, rather than some obstacle he's only just managed to overcome.
Spoiler: men aren't the only ones who get better with age, OK?
One thing that is similar between the two is that women overwhelmingly are the ones thirsting over both sexy people. While many a dude's dream girl is the Mother of Dragons, ladies also l-o-v-e Clarke as much as the ladies love Beckham.
Many women seem to relate to Clarke's down-to-earth persona and mostly, to her character on Game of Thrones. Really, this shouldn't come as a surprise, considering the amazing job she's doing onscreen.
While women, too, appreciate Beckham's toned bod, they also seem to like his mind quite a bit too. Fans seemed to react very well to the representation of him as a family man who doesn't think he is good-looking. After all, who doesn't love a man with humility?
At least part of this investigation led me to a love fest, right?
All in all, based on the reactions I found, women really are still expected to be everything all at once: humble, friendly, cool, motivated, but never too sexy, revealing, or forward. Unsurprisingly, we give men more of a pass to show off their sexuality, without the risk of being judged for doing so.
While it certainly feels like we are making strides to battle sexism in pop culture, women are still fighting for the right to totally own and be wholly proud of showing their sexuality. It'll be a long fight, but I'm hoping things will change, one sexiest person alive at a time.