French-born photographer Ingrid Berthon-Moine likes to look at men “the way they look at women.” She took her lens to the museum to explore the work of classical Greek sculpture, which focuses so heavily on anatomical detail and found herself drawn to to the scrotum. Berthon-Moine titled her series, which focuses entirely on the testicles of statues Marbles, cropping them to produce an effect somewhere between medical imagery and landscape portraiture.
“Ancient Greece was a highly masculinist culture. They favoured ‘small and taut’ genitals, as opposed to big sex organs, to show male self-control in matters of sexuality,” she said in an interview with the art blog, Hyperallergic. “Today, the modern uses in commerce, cinema, and advertising converted [the male organ] into a mass commodity telling us about domination and desirability, size matters and the bigger, the better.”
She noted men had more difficulty approaching her work than women.
“Exposing the most sensitive part of the male anatomy (although in rock solid marble) to the gaze, triggers a sense of vulnerability which until now was mainly reserved to the female body, an uncomfortable role reversal,” Berthon-Moine hypothesized. She referenced the book The Male Body, in which Susan Bordo notes that for men “to be passively dependent on the gaze of another person for one’s sense of self worth is incompatible with being a real man.”
Since their debut last year, Marbles continues to draw attention online. I, too, like to look at men the way they look at me, though for me it’s not a matter of reversing the roles, a sort of “nyah-nyah-nyah, who’s vulnerable now?” so much as something that I truly enjoy. I do agree that in the current construct where woman is the desired, the man can only be the one who desires — and I think that’s deeply unfortunate. I consider the human body in all gender variations to be a beautiful place. I am happy to look — provided the person I am beholding wishes to be looked at in this way.
That, I believe, is truly the trick. Perhaps there is value in showing men what it’s like to live under that constant, often demanding gaze. But in my corner of the universe, I will teach by modeling consent as often as possible.