When I first read that Caitlin Stasey, one of the lead actors on the CW's Reign, had launched a, to borrow the words of E! Online, "NSFW Website Featuring Nude Photos of Men (Including Himself)," I'll admit I rolled my eyes. But then I actually looked at Himself, Stasey's masculist project that highlight's men's sexuality on their own terms and realized that—as far as celebrity web ventures go—this one was pretty damn good. (Nude images to follow.)
Stasey described Himself to Clem Bastow at Daily Life, saying:
It was really born out of hearing the incredible stories of the men around me, both socially and online. With #yesallmen and #freethenipple I was opened up to a whole world of men struggling for equality, demanding to be heard and finding empowerment through honesty and solidarity. I want to help demystify the male form, to assist in the erasure of coveting it, and to help celebrate the ever changing face of it. We consider a man's sexuality so linked to his physicality that for a man to appear naked publicly is automatically an act of sex and not for himself. There's also a very specific construct of man we are all used to seeing, and while those men are no less men, I was so desperate to see different faces, different bodies.
Each entry on Himself profiles profiles a different man, always asking similar questions like, "Can you remember any key moments in your formative years that shaped you?," "When did you become aware of your gender?," "Have you ever been embarrassed, burdened or ashamed of your sexuality? If so why?," and, "What does the word 'man' mean to you?"
The questionnaire is accompanied by portraits, all taken by a male photographer, depicting the man naked, but—ideally—free from the female gaze.
So far, the men involved in the project come from Australia, Canada, the U.S. and Brazil. They are of varying economic backgrounds, races, body types, and orientations.
"Society very cleverly and insidiously compartmentalizes and pigeonholes men, and we are so often isolated because of it," Stasey tells Bastow. "I hope more than anything that men will come to Himself.com and find themselves there, scattered throughout the stories and bodies of others."
It certainly has potential.
Images by Jennifer Toole, via Himself.com.