News / Calgary

Men can have body issues too: Researcher explores masculinity in the age of #MeToo

Andrea Waling will be delivering a lecture on masculinity in Calgary this week. Male body image and dick pics are just some of the subjects to be discussed.

Dr. Andrea Waling and Michael Kehler are holding a free talk about masculinity on Thursday.

Jennifer Friesen / FOR METRO

Dr. Andrea Waling and Michael Kehler are holding a free talk about masculinity on Thursday.

There's no polite way to put it so we're just going to come out and say it: Andrea Waling is interested in studying dick pics.

The researcher from La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, is in Calgary this week to deliver a lecture on masculinity in the #MeToo movement, and the relatively newfound practice of men sending photos of their genitals is just one of the subjects she'll be touching on.

"We don't have much of any research actually looking at the dick pic: why men are doing it, what people think about men doing it, and bringing that together," said Waling.

Until now, the dick pic has been framed as a way for men to harass women. Full stop. But as a researcher, Waling thinks there's more to be explored.

"What does a dick pic mean in terms of a man's body anxiety, or vulnerability, or the ways they're expressing their sexuality?" she asked.

Waling said there's very little talk about how men are perceived as sexual, and men often don't know how to talk about and express these things.

"When you look at men and boys, the ways in which they get socialized into their sexuality – it is all about the penis," she said. "They aren't given anything else around what it means to be a good sexually performing man."

Michael Kehler, research professor in masculine studies in education at the University of Calgary, is organizing the four-part lecture series, of which Waling is the first speaker.

He said the discussion of unrealistic body expectations for women has been going on for decades, but the issue exists for men as well.

The idealized male body was very much on the mind of a group of 14-year-old boys he interviewed as part of his research.

"We definitely are seeing an increased number of boys and adolescent men trying to make sense of their own bodies as emblematic of masculinity," he said.

Kehler said the masculine studies research position has been created at the University of Calgary to acknowledge that gender is a spectrum.

"As masculinity scholars – we take up the position as pro-feminists," said Kehler. "It's not either or – it's not a competition."

Waling hopes her talk challenges people to rethink their notions on male sexuality.

"We only ever talk about women or young girls in a sexualized or vulnerable way, but we never really turn our attention to boys because the ways in which boys can be potentially victimized or sexualized is actually quite different to girls," she said.

The talk is free and it's open to the public. It will be from 6:30 to 8:30 in Craigie Hall room C 119. Online registration is required.

More on