The Male body through the Female lenses

You might have heard of the term ‘male gaze’ to explain how women’s bodies are often objectified and over-sexualised in art. But maybe you have heard less about the feminist response to the male gaze: the female gaze.


In recent years, women in photography, including Yushi Li, Pixy Liao and Aneta Bartos, have been appropriating the aesthetic conventions of the male gaze in order to highlight its absurdity. Their work subverts expectations surrounding nudity; often placing the male body in positions we are used to seeing a female one in. In these artists' bodies of work, the male body is the observed object of desire, disrupting the stereotypical position of power.  Men are placed in vulnerable positions and women take full control of what the viewer encounters.

Yushi Li


For the series My Tinder Boys, Yushi Li photographed men she recruited (yes, you heard it right; the artist recruited men from a dating app). Then, Li requested the men to pose naked while they conducted common household tasks such as preparing food. The resulting images are somewhat comical – although they do not necessarily intend to be, The settings Li photographed her male subjects in are imbued with typically feminine soft lighting and pastel colours. But she goes against the viewer’s expectations by using men as the subject of her images, creating exposing and vulnerable portraits.

Pixy Liao


Another artist who has used photography to challenge the male gaze is Pixy Liao. Through the documentation of her relationship with her partner, Liao challenges gender role dynamics; often placing her male partner in submissive poses. Assuming a dominant role herself, she stares defiantly into the camera whilst cradling her partner and pinching his nipple.

Aneta Bartos


Polish photographer Aneta Bartos’ series ‘Family Portraits’ looks at a different relationship: that of a father and daughter. For this series, Bartos has recreated bucolic scenes from her childhood; getting a piggyback ride, eating ice cream and chasing a chicken. In the hazy toned images both herself and her veteran bodybuilder father wear minimal clothing, leaving the viewer to question the nature of the intimacy she shares with her father – and wonder, at what age does a daughter become a sexual object? Bartos makes pointed remarks on the automatic sexualisation of naked bodies, even in innocent situations.


Li, Liao and Bartos all place themselves both in front of and behind the camera; taking up the positions of the observer and observed. They shift the power dynamics to interrogate the gender hierarchies which we see everyday. The resulting images have a somewhat comical and uncomfortable effect, making us question how ingrained these gender roles and stereotypes have become. 

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