The Genesis of Perving [Warning: NSFW]

A anthropology student alerted me to the following tweet posted on allthingsrarmitage:

“Callipygian is a word coined by the ancient Greeks (‘kallipygos’) that means ‘having beautiful buttocks.” This picture was associated with that reference:

ultimate force arse shot

A nice example of beautiful buttocks. Courtesy

This screen capture is of course Richard Armitage in Ultimate Force.  Ancient Greeks would say he is quite callipygian.  Now this type of talk in the modern age raises protests of objectification.  My question is: why does that have to be so?

Ancient antiquity has always depicted nude image and statues of the human form.


(l) Greek male nude (r) Replica of nude male wrestlers. Both quite nude. Courtesy of Greek Museum Authority

The human form has always been considered a source of nature beauty, sculpted and painted for ages.  It’s certainly safe to say that because artists could not take actual human being and freeze them in time, they froze them through other media.  The following picture of Michelangelo’s “David,” sculpted circa 1501, is considered a masterpiece:

michelangelo david

Michelangelo's "David." Courtesy of Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence

Millions of tourists flock to see this statue.  Nobody would say (other than the must repressed prurient type) that it’s improper to admire and even study this work of art.  People would certainly say “David” is callipygian even though it’s an idealized medieval depiction of a human male.  Nobody could convincingly argue that Michelangelo objectified the human form unless they believe that all nudity is inappropriate.  Since that’s not my premise, I won’t answer that argument since it takes us down the road of morality and personal taste which I’m not discussing here.

So why do fans become uncomfortable when viewing this picture?  It caused quite a stir when first published:

RA as Lucas festooned in tatoos

Richard Armitage as Lucas festooned in tattoos. Would you say this form isn't view-worthy? Courtesy

I observe similar lines and muscles depicted in the idealized statues.  If fact, the real human form is more beautiful because it shows the real flawed form, not simply an idealization.  Does viewing his form suddenly become objectification because he’s a living man?  Is it improper to also say he’s callipygian here?  I argue no.

Sexual objectification arises when a person is viewed as an sexual object or only as one. I have yet to find any fan forum where RA’s artistry and personality isn’t also discussed in detail.  He is not seen solely as an object of lust.  However, it’s self-delusional to say that he shouldn’t be viewed as the sexy man he is.  Human beings are sexual creatures; this is how we have the drive to reproduce our species (or not, as the case may be).  We are hard-wired to perv each other. We sexually objectify each other to a degree on an instinctual level.  We view the human form as desirable and have since probably cave man times.   This form has been frankly depicted since antiquity.  The fact that the modern media makes it possible to photograph the human form in real time doesn’t change anything.

I’m always amused when women protest the loudest that men should not be objectified because it implies a hypocrisy in protesting against female objectification.  I have problems with female objectification only to the extent that it’s used for exploitation.  When that’s not the case, I have no issue if Halle Berry’s fans consider her the epitome of beauty.  Conversely I have no problem with male objectification and feel no shame and admiring male beauty. Is RA being exploited?  He is a grown man who made informed choices to appear in roles requiring undress.  I don’t believe it’s for us to question his judgment as to whether that undress was integral to the story or gratuitous.  I’m comfortable respecting his decisions as to whether he considers himself exploited or not. I can safely assume he would not take a role he deemed exploitative. Even if he did, it was still his decision.  So, I feel free to say that RA’s is callipygian in particular and gorgeous in general without any need to justify.

Here’s an absolutely callipygian screen cap:

Between the Sheets

Richard Armitage as Paul in Between the Sheets. Callipygian, no? My screen cap.

RA arse shot

Very callipygian. Yes? Richard Armitage as Lucas North. Donated artistic screen cap.


What, no? Does it really make a difference that this is a screen cap of a real man playing a fictional role in a fictional series?  What if RA decided to pose nude as himself?  I don’t think this picture is less worthy of being admired than if a sculptor made an approved marble statue of his bum or his body and placed it in a museum.  As a straight sexual female, I will admire his body no matter what form it took.

I’m amused every time the objectification issue arises.  When the above tatted picture surfaced, fans drooled but always rushed to add they also admired RA’s work and personality lest they be accused of objectification, although this was understood by everybody.  I find all this protestation unnecessary.  It’s time to drop that veil of political correctness and just be honest as fans.  We like to look up RA’s form because it’s beautiful and desirable.

Just say so.  Period. We understand the rest.



49 thoughts on “The Genesis of Perving [Warning: NSFW]

  1. David does have a great ass. And so does RA

    “We are hard-wired to perv” So true! And I agree 100% with your comments (although I may reread them later after I am more fully awake – it’s very early where I am). RA is a sexy guy, and human beings are hard wired to admire good looking people. So I don’t see any difference between thinking Halle Berry is gorgeous ,which she definitely is, and thinking RA is gorgeous.

    He has chosen a profession that is somewhat dependent on his appearance. That is not to say that all actors must be good looking, just that an actor is given work based on physical appearance as well as talent. So to comment on his appearance is totally appropriate. As you stated, we also comment on personality and talent, so our admiration really doesn’t seem to only be objectification.

    He’s a beautiful guy, and it would be a shame not to appreciate that.

    • Exactly. It’s as if some argue that we are supposed to deny the obvious because to not do so is, what, somehow degrading? I just don’t get it.

  2. Well, women are Persons* too. My immediate introduction to Mr. Armitage (Robin Hood series) was utterly based on his looks. Of course, it was a relief to find that he can act a bit, too- we do like to think we we’re Thinking Persons….
    Beautiful post, Judiang. And we can express appreciation of male beauty (clothed, semi, nude) as well as of male talent/intelligence – and if we’re lucky, some probably even have common sense. 🙂
    * The Persons Act, Canada. Five women campaigned through the 1920s to have women recognised as Persons under the British North America Act. Legal recognition was enacted in 1929, and a year later, the first woman was appointed to the Canadian Senate.

    • Thanks for that historical nuget. It seems so far fetched today that we had to fight to be recognised as “persons” under the law. It’s sad we are still fighting for equal pay over 90 years later.

      I too was introduced to RA through his looks (he was standing silent on an awards stage!). Then I discovered his talent and personality. I see nothing wrong with acknowledging and appreciating everything, including his looks.

        • I keep thinking it was BAFTAs because he had long hair and a tux. He was standing at the end of the RH line when the show won an award for something. I only saw that clip because it preceded one won by DT. I did look him up and discovered he played Guy but still didn’t watch the show right away (DT you know). Can’t recall if I watched RH or N&S first.

  3. I do think it’s time to step up and be honest, not only with ourselves but with others. I was introduced to Richard Armitage through North and South so it was first of all his acting that drew me in, as little of his body was revealed even though when the cravat and jacket were removed it was obvious there was a good physique underneath. I don’t see anything wrong in admiring male beauty and RA is a grown up intelligent man who when playing certain roles is willing to reveal quite a bit of his body yet we don’t see real life shots of him in magazines with his shirt off for example. I hope I will never be too old to appreciate beauty in all its forms and I don’t hesitate to say that RA is certainly worth looking at.

  4. I have to say that that last pic is extremely arresting. Wow! Perhaps as he appears to be either undressing or getting dressed (in this shot he was putting on the overalls) – the suggested action of ‘undressing’ in this pic is very exciting …

    Anyhow the only other thing I’ll add is that I’m glad my nickname has become Callie… – so does that mean I have a cute butt too? 😉

    • *groans* Oh no, I’m so not going there 😀

      That pic was lovingly captured by a certain person of our chat acquaintance. She felt it was a work of art and I agree. In fact her donated pic is what gave me the idea for this post.

    • That last shot is turning out to be popular. It’s a shot of him undressing and putting on the boiler suit for his ex-captor. There was an assortment from which to choose, but I thought this one more tantalizing.

  5. Oh, I love that last pic (thanks for posting it!!). Isn´t it like a piece of art? :-)) I do defenitely prefer RA to David and I´m absolutely sure touching RA feels so much more pleasurable (warmer, softer (maybe??) OMG who knows?) But I better don´t forget to mention, of course, over all I admire RA´s work and personality. Right?
    Working in a big theatre for about 30 years, I´m quite familiar with actors. It appears to me it is a (not so small) part of this job, getting somehow objectified by the audience.
    Thank you for your deeply interesting confessions…

    • That last pic seems to have gotten to a lot of people. 😀 See, the joy of your acknowledgment is you *don’t* have to put a caveat on the end. We all understand. And yes, actors cannot avoid being objectified to some extent. They know the risks. Thanks for sharing your comments. 🙂

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  7. Hi Judiang,

    Another thought provoking essay. I haven’t see BTS–except some tame clips on YouTube. So your picture of he and Julie Graham is quite arresting. At least he only had to reveal his genitals to his acting partner–where as she was full frontal to the camera. I feel sorry for the actors and know that directors could come up with a work around that was more discreet and tasteful yet still conveying the emotion they want. Sometimes, people fully clothed but kissing tenderly is very erotic. As in the train station kissing scene in N&S episode 4. I’ve worn out the “grooves” on my dvd watching that sweetly romantic scene. Thank god for laser technology.

    I was also introduced to Mr. Armitage via his N&S character of John Thornton–but not until February 2010. It was when I watched the DVD extras and there was this quite shy fellow–didn’t look at the camera and he had bad posture sitting in his chair–but who was very articulate about the role that I realized how exquisitely talented actor Mr. Armitage is. I couldn’t believe that the guy doing the interview and the guy playing Thornton were the same man–maybe his younger brother. Richard Armitage effected such a transformation of his voice and physicality portraying Thornton that he quite bowled me over. And that continued with Sparkhouse, The Impressionists, The Vicar of Dibley, then Robin Hood, and finally Spooks and Strike Back. I’ve also listened to two of his audiobooks–Venetia and The Convenient Marriage. The man is a chameleon as an actor. He is so fearless in all of the emotions for the roles he has portrayed. He will no doubt be recognized as one of the finest actors of his generation one day very soon.

    As to his beauty as a man? As I always say, Michaelangelo’s David statue has nothing on RA. As you point out as well. Mr. Armitage is more handsome than any man has a right to be. Ha! But, I alwayscome back to Mr. Armitage’s expressive face and eyes. We peer into his soul–or at least into the soul of the character he is portraying and it is mesmirizing. I am completely besotted with Mr. Armitage heart and mind and body an soul.

    And my fervent wish? Is for Mr. Armitage to find as much personal happiness as he is now enjoying professional success. He has worked so hard for so long–really since Sparkhouse in 2002 is when he started his ascent. I hope that The Hobbit will open up new opportunities form him and he can choose the projects he wants with even more selectivity with regard to his own interests–such as his hoped for Richard III project. The sky is not the limit for Mr. A. And to think, we all admired him “when”.

    Cheers! Grati ;->

    • Gratiana, I agree about tastefulness, but the explicit sex scenes were actually integral to the story: a sex therapist was having sex problems with her husband. The scenes worked.

      I’ve yet to see the N&S interview. Everybody says the same thing about the difference between his portrayal and his public persona. But he’s quite good at inhabiting a character, which is the hallmark of a good actor. I’ve always agreed that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and his are beautiful. You have to hope his soul is beautiful too. I wish him all the best too. Won’t it be cool if he makes it to superstardom and we are there, remembering the ascent? 😀

      • Hi Judiang,

        I agree. I also attribute all good, kind, honest, caring, and honorable qualities to Mr. Armitage. Do I think him perfect? Almost. Ha! But, maybe he has a flaw or two–such as using my deodorant when his runs out, forgetting to tell me that he’s drunk the last of the milk so I can buy more, or that he teasingly says “no” when I ask him if he’ll get something off a tall shelf for me and then he does it. Of course, not knowing–nor “living” with Mr. Armitage (wouldn’t that be heaven?), I’ve used my own dear hubby’s slight failings as examples.

        And yes, we–his current fans–knew him when. There is a delicious thrill for me in enjoying Mr. Armitage’s artistry as a storyteller before he “explodes” onto the world when The Hobbit films are released. That is, his publicist–if he has one–needs to ramp up his public appearances and interviews if Mr. Armitage is to explode. Ha!

        Cheers! Grati ;->

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  11. I really like your post, maybe because I agree with you.
    I love the pic of RA as Lucas with his tattoos. One of my favorites I must say. He’s amazingly beautiful…stunning.
    An actor’s body and the way he/she looks – whether beautiful or not – is part of how they create a character. As a former dancer also I’m pretty sure RA is very aware of his body and knows full well he’s being judged not only by fans, but by casting people, movie directors, producers, by how he looks as well as his considerable talent as an actor. I personally don’t feel guilty about admitting that I admire his body and love to look at him. It brings me joy.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post. Admiring him brings me joy too. The question Servetus and I are debating is from where does this joy spring? We might need a study on this! 😀

      • Yeah, in case it’s not clear from what I wrote, I also get a huge physical and emotional joy from just looking at him. However, I don’t think it’s plausible that that’s not objectification. (That’s my point.)

        • Interesting discussion – I’m enjoying reading everyone’s argument.

          Maybe I don’t worry as much whether it is objectification or why it brings me joy to look at him, it just does. There is so little joy in this world, at this stage in my life I just try to enjoy what I can, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else 🙂

          • I don’t think it harms Armitage that we enjoy looking at him. It may even help him professionally.

            I wasn’t implying in my post that anyone should do or think anything in response to what I had to say. I’m concerned that I’ve been misunderstood, so I’m repeating this: the original post says: in my opinion there’s nothing wrong with looking at pictures of him and enjoying them and not self-questioning about that reaction. I do that, too, frequently.

            • I think it does benefits him professionally. I would be surprised if he’s not fully aware of it – even if part of him may not like it. From some of his interviews it is clear I think that he wants to move beyond it, but I think his agents and PR people have made full use of his physical appearance.

              • I agree. Wonder if it’s an odd situation to be in: knowing people like your looks, yet personally believing you’re about average. Does he think anything is even a little bit above average (besides his talent)?

      • I’m really not as dumb as I may appear to you two ladies, you know ladies, I do understand the argument fully and what you are discussing. I was only giving my own thoughts on the argument and RA’s physical beauty, that’s all.

        Why are we as humans attracted to beauty? Yes, it is worthy of a study.

        • Fabo, I didn’t mean to insinuate you’re dumb at all. I was just pointing forth a question to keep the discussion going. I’m sorry to offend you.

        • I did not write that you appear dumb to me, nor do I think it. But part of discussion has to be the potential to disagree?

          My TA was saying to me last night that she wishes there were more polite disagreement in our class because it would help the students to sharpen their thinking. I thought that was what we were doing here: politely disagreeing in order to clarify our positions / reactions. I apologize if anything I said implied anything different than that.

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  13. ‎10/08/11–Accepting Our AttRAction to Richard Armitage: One Day at a Time (Post #27)
    My blog post today (see link below) is for all my fangurl friends who “struggle” with their admiration for Richard Armitage. I say embrace it! Enjoy!
    Cheers! Gratiana/Grace ;->
    P.S. I hadn’t read all of the additional posts on this topic until just now after I uploaded by blog post for today–I worked on it all night long. But, I saw the “traffic” about this perving topic continuing to grow in my email in-box earlier. So, I hope you find my blog post today to be light and fun as I intend it to be–because I really do think that it’s okay to like, love, and even lust after Richard Armitage. And I give Richard free rein to like, love, and lust after me. Ha!

    • I read your post and thought it was great. A little lightness and humor while discussing a debatable topic helps keep things calm and in perspective. Plus a little “perving” doesn’t hurt either. 😉

      • Hi Judiang,
        You tickle my funny bone with your continuing to call our fascination/admiration for Richard Armitage “perving”. I love to read your take on the topics that you post about.
        Cheers! Grati ;->

      • Hi Serv,

        I’ve had a few folks comment to me that all of the talk/analysis in discussion boards or on blogs lately about “objectification” makes them think that they are doing that to RA–and they think it’s a bad thing. I think they’re reading these other essays too literally or too narrowly, perhaps.

        Misreading a post is easy to do if an essay is long and your time is short and you only scan the essay briefly–picking out key words and phrases–and possibly not viewing them in the full context of what the author meant. I’m guilty of long essays at times–though I try to break them up with bulleted points. And I think it was BccMee who joked to me that my comments are sometimes longer than her post. Ha!

        So, I’m resolving to try to keep my posts to one printed page–like my post on Femme Fatales today. Although, I’ll be breaking that briefness pledge in a day or two when I have a guest blog post from Ana Cris. Ha!

        Cheers! Grati ;->

        • I don’t read the discussion boards for what seem to me to be increasingly good reasons, but I think they’re not reading the posts. I said in my post, repeatedly, in the second or third short paragraph, this is not an argument that no one should objectify, that readers in particular should not objectify, that readers should feel guilty if they objectify. I stressed that I objectify and I don’t feel guilty about it. I also stress all the time, and stressed in that post, and will no doubt stress again, that I am writing about what is my opinion, and not what I think anyone else should think. You know, you can only say something so many times before you start to think that people are misreading you on purpose. I honestly think that people who are afraid other people don’t have individual consciences think that I think that too. I’ve only said about ten times now that I trust people to make their own decisions about their own activities. My blog is a record of the questions that I struggle with.

          I accept that certain misunderstandings are part of communication, and I am not always perfect in expressing what I think. I also make no apologies for the length of my analyses — some topics need longer treatment — nor for my expressing my opinions. You don’t like the length, don’t read them, that’s fine. But I’m getting tired of having positions imputed to me that I am not ambiguous on, and which I explicitly say I do not hold or even argue against. Don’t criticize someone on the basis of something you assume could be in a text you haven’t read, that’s all I ask.

      • I don’t know exactly why it is, but although I hear about people disagreeing with my position, nobody (but you) has actually come to my blog to debate me on the issue. Is there word out that I bite? I don’t bite – much. 😉

        • well, there are some people who assume that all disagreement is bad. Jazz talked about this a little when I interviewed her, and I found her comments intriguing without knowing exactly what to do with them. I think the problem is that most people are not trained to disagree. Your and my professions are exceptions where people are trained early on to disagree and can thus do so in an effective way without it having to cause hurt feelings. I try to teach this to my students, but not always with lots of success.

          My issue here is disagreements with things I haven’t actually said 🙂

        • Hi Judiang,
          I can’t tell with the nested comments if you’re referring to me or Servetus. If it is me, I’m not debating your position–I’m merely engaging in your discussion. As I said, I enjoy your perspectives on issues. You don’t bite at all.
          Cheers! Grati ;->
          P.S. I went to bed early last night since I didn’t get a lick of sleep on Friday night. So, I missed going to chat. Pulling an unintentional 36 hour waking state has happened to me twice in the last month. I might have to check into that. Ha! Talk to you later on chat.

          • Hi Grati,
            Sorry about that, got lost in my own nesting comment. That was meant for Servetus. But at least I have your testimony I don’t bite. 😀

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  16. Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I am going to send this post to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a great read. Many thanks for sharing!

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