The Privilege of Lusting for the Village Idiot

At Role/Reboot, writing about Ryan Lochte and the rise of the “himbo:”

Lochte’s combination of washboard abs and cretinous, perhaps calculated puerility (he made headlines as much for admitting he pees in the Olympic pool as for his medal triumphs) is hardly sui generis. Rather, the athlete Ryan calls “fratty as fuck” is the latest example of what Lauren Bans calls “himbos.” Writing in GQ earlier this year, Bans defines a himbo as a “man who is more attractive than he is smart. A bimbo with nuts, to put it testicularly.” Think of the hunks of shows like Jersey Shore; think of what many people assumed about the male stripper movie, Magic Mike (though the title character turned out to be far more complex than the himbo stereotype.) Though women’s attraction to lantern-jawed simpletons is not new (think of Miss Jane Hathaway on the Beverly Hillbillies remarking about Jethro Bodine: “I like my men big and dumb”), Bans is right that we’ve arrived at the “Golden Age of Himbodom.”

On the one hand, the ascendancy of the beefcake numbskull is partly good news. If straight women can publicly acknowledge that they’re turned on by men with ripped bodies and no other redeeming qualities, we can at last put to bed the hoary old myth that “women aren’t visual.” The lie that women invariably need a satisfying emotional connection in order to be sexually aroused can finally be allowed to die a very public death. In our national conversation, we’re beginning to recognize that the kind of sexual feeling we once ascribed solely to males is simply part and parcel of being human. Women aren’t becoming more like men, in other words. We’re just getting a long-overdue reminder that women are people too.

Read the whole thing.

2 thoughts on “The Privilege of Lusting for the Village Idiot

  1. “The himbo offers a subtler version of the same message: ‘You can fuck me if you want, but don’t be surprised if I then treat you like the asshole that I am. You’ll have only yourself to blame.'”

    So, what do we about that? How can we change it? CAN we change it?

    This is why people like Susan Walsh advocate for slut shaming, believing that by restricting the “supply” of sex male behavior will improve. She scolds women that “punch above their weight class” in the dating game, women who offer cheap sex to men “out of their league.” because it lowers the “price” men need to pay for a romantic partner. Lori Gottlieb wrote about how, after a friend vented bitterly about her dating difficulties, a guy in the room informed her that she “shouldn’t be dating such attractive guys,” that she was “pricing” herself too high for what she had to offer. She lowered her standards, and tah dah! She’s happily married! Score! Well played anonymous overly picky Lori Gottlieb friend, well played.

    Is it true?

    Reading things like this leaves me emotionally raw, but I think the appeal is that it offers an easy explanation and solution (and a dose of self-loathing for someone already hurting emotionally) for the really REALLY shitty treatment people endure — both women and men — in their search for love. It isn’t enough just to state the subtext of the himbo narrative. It needs to be challenged.

  2. Hugo,

    I’ve read your article several times and it simply is not ringing true to me. I don’t think there’s anything new here. Successful men have always had sexual access to any number of willing partners who are more than willing to do the hard work. Ryan Lochte would normally have access to any number of willing female fuck-buddies. Think about the rock star with the hung-over bimbo stumbling out of his hotel room at 3 a.m., the high school quarterback banging the most beautiful girls in school (and having them fight for the privielge), the successful middle aged man shtupping the nanny or his secretary behind his wife’s back – all these have long been the rewards of male success. The successful athlete surrounded by his harem of of women and posse of dudes is hardly a modern invention. I don’t know about your college experience, but in mine I saw it all the time – the drama guy who starred in every campus production was practically fighting women off with a stick and he was a freaking troll. The really hot swim team captain who lived in my dorm one year? He had his choice of ready willing and able bedmates who didn’t care one bit if the sex was noncommittal. The idea that this is some new phenomenon just seems overblown and pompous.

    IOW, arguing that Ryan Lochte represents something new is wrong. It’s not a golden age for himbos. Access to fuckable partners (of both genders) has always been one of the ego candy reward of male success, especially athletic success. Who doesn’t want to fuck the alpha male?

    Lochte is acting like one of the muscled dudes from the Jersey Shore – because it works and it has always worked. For every woman who disdains him and his act, there is another ready to jump into his bed. He doesn’t mind being treated as disposable by his sex partners because he doesn’t want entanglements. Scores of hot babes ready to jump into his bed and do the hard work? Not a problem for anyone.

    Maybe I’m just a jaded libertine but you know if young people want to jump in and out of each other’s beds without commitment and they use contraception, I say more power to them and let’s stop the tut-tutting and pearl clutching and pretending it’s anything other than humans acting human.

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