With Kevin Bacon’s new satirical PSA about men’s nudity in Hollywood making national headlines, I’m finding that there aren’t too many critiques of his message. Perhaps because he’s a white man who is being “funny”, no one wants to say anything out of fear they’ll be called “uptight.” As someone who strongly supports men’s nudity in the media, I found his campaign to be problematic because of the meat-centric masculinity he employed to frame his message.
In an article for the FBomb, I explored the ways that the video subscribed to toxic masculinity by using a type of humor that wasn’t subversive at all. In fact, many heterosexual men don’t get naked specifically because men’s nude bodies are cast as “funny.”
What I didn’t get to explore in that article was the meat-centric masculinity Kevin used to bolster his points which I find problematic because this type of masculinity promotes violence and entitlement. [I’ve heard rumors that Kevin might be vegetarian, but that doesn’t change the overall message his PSA made].
Kevin’s phrase #freethebacon is a play on his last name, as well as a metaphor for men’s genitals. In the video, Bacon says, “…and by bacon of course I mean your wiener, your balls, and your butt.”
It’s no surprise that the consumption of meat in U.S. mainstream media culture is linked to hyper-masculinity.
Let’s take chicken for example. According to the National Chicken Council, “1.25 billion wings will be eaten during Super Bowl XLIX…to put that into perspective, if 1.25 billion wing segments were laid end to end, they would stretch back and forth from CenturyLink in Seattle to Gilette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachuseetts…almost 28 times.”
You can even look to restaurants that allow heterosexual men to consume animal bodies and women at the same time like Hooters, or basically any staple sports bar that has white women’s sexualized bodies tacked up on the wall, and animal flesh on the plate. This isn’t accidental.
The link between men’s objectification of women and non-human animals, and the subsequent violence that follows, is worthy of your consideration.
Here’s a restaurant called Heart Attack Grill where women dress in “sexy” nurse uniforms.
Bone Daddy’s House of Smoke is a barbecue restaurant for men. Here’s a screen shot of their website where they have a picture gallery where the viewer can click through images of the meat on their menu and the sexy women who work there.
I think you get my point.
Men in the U.S. are routinely told that they have the right to take and consume women’s bodies, as well as non-human animal bodies.
The issue with meat-centric masculinity is that it’s rooted in heterosexism, homophobia, violence, and entitlement which is partially why heterosexual men feel uncomfortable being naked in the media as sexual objects. Toxic Masculinity “…promotes homophobia, which makes heterosexual men feel uncomfortable viewing naked men in the media. It reproduces male entitlement and female objectification. It encourages men to consume women’s bodies at all times and makes them feel uncomfortable when this cultural norm is turned on its head.”
In fact, meat-eating is so strongly connected to masculinity that some vegan organizations like PETA, which try to get people to go vegan, use sexy women to try to convince men that eating vegetables is “manly” which is just as problematic.
Here’s an ad featuring Pamela Anderson.
There’s even a vegan strip club in Portalnd, OR called Casa Diablo. When I went on the website, a video started playing of women stripping, making out with each other in front of men, while imagery of cooked vegetables and vegan food were edited between scenes. Toxic masculinity is reproduced in order to get men interested which probably isn’t the best strategy for an ethical campaign.
In subscribing to the “dude-bro” toxic masculine trope through meat consumption, or in Bacon’s case, referring to cis-heterosexual men’s genitals as “bacon”, he is merely implying that men should be comfortable with their naked bodies because it’s “manly.”
By connecting men’s bodies to meat, he is essentially saying: real men eat meat and real men should be comfortable being naked.
PSA’s that subscribe to “real men” logic only work because men fear they will be disciplined if they fall outside of what a “real man” is supposed to do.
There is nothing subversive about the “real man” trope. Alluding to the idea that “real men” should do [fill-in-the-blank] reproduces the problem because men are only changing their behaviors to match an imagined, ideal manhood, rather than changing their behaviors for the greater good.
#FreetheBacon should be a vegan campaign to end the abuse of pigs, not a campaign for heterosexual men to feel comfortable with their bodies. Toxic masculinity will never make heterosexual men feel comfortable displaying their bodies unless they can objectify something or someone else in the process.