Healthy porn for women – the “cute” concept for k-pop men

Ever since I dropped the post “Healthy porn for men – deconstructing dog-whistle concepts in k-pop“, about the deliberate pornographic subtext of certain types of female k-pop visual presentation, people have been asking me to follow up with a “healthy porn for women” post, and discuss how this subtext functions when the genders are reversed.  Here it is!

Many readers may wonder why I’ve more or less ignored the male side of k-pop in my dog-whistle posts so far.  Was it just that I didn’t want to write about hot guys because I’m an evil heterosexual male?  Was it just because I’m a lazy caonima?  No, the real reason is that when it comes to hidden sexual messages in male group videos, there’s honestly just less to write about for one simple reason – the male videos don’t tend to do so much hiding.  The dog-whistle messages exist for female groups precisely because the type of overt displays of sexuality that are more commonplace with the male groups are forbidden for the girls and often clamped down upon.  The companies running girl groups are trying to get the sexual content in under the radar, not because they enjoy being “secret” about it, but because overt displays of female sexuality generally aren’t permissible.  Don’t believe me?  Just take a look at the kinds of dances that are considered too hot for TV for men vs women.

In the music industry overall, women tend to be sexualised more than men, and there’s no doubt that this has been the case since forever across the vast majority of the music industry as a whole.  However in Korean pop, the reverse is actually true – male sexualisation outstrips (literally and figuratively) female sexualisation by an extremely wide margin in all of k-pop.  From music videos to live performances to appearances on TV and more, you don’t have to go far to find plenty of content like this:

However, is there another side?  Does the “cute” concept exist for male groups too, and if it does, is it secretly just as sexual as the “sexy” bodice-ripping, abs-flashing concept?  Kpopalypse says YES!  Let’s explore some examples of “healthy porn for women”!

Monsta X’s “Newton” is a great “healthy porn for women” video example.  It features the boys going on a nice camping trip.  Do you know what teenagers and early 20-something guys actually do on camping trips?  Well here’s a list of things that they definitely don’t do:

The don’t sing songs in the back of the van and wave their arms around gaily, while hugging each other and shit… at least not while sober.

They also don’t get all excited about oversized Jenga, and then fall all over each other while trying to make a Jenga tower or whatever the fuck they’re doing here… at least not while sober.

They definitely don’t make a barbeque and forget to bring the fucking alcohol, that’s for sure.

The video directors want you to believe that Monsta X’s beverage of choice when on the road is Lipton Iced Tea (who no doubt paid a nice sum for this promo).

And a campfire with no beer or soju bottles on the ground?  In Korea?  Not even any messy party food debris?  You mean these boys are not just having good clean sober fun together but actually clean up after themselves, DURING the festivities?  Get the fuck outta here.  This scene is as far-fetched and based in pure science fiction as any Star Wars film.

This is porn for women, without a doubt.  Monsta X’s “Newton” is completely analogous to how heterosexual porn portrays women, only showing the aspects of women that fit into male fantasy, and discarding anything that does not.  “Newton” likewise shows an idealised version of men, not as they really are, but as how young fangirls would like them to be – clean clothes, clean fun, always smiling and with outgoing personalities, having a good time with their friends.  Don’t worry girls, I’m sure they don’t get up to any naughty business while on tour – how could they?  They’re too busy being the bestest of buddies.  Just look at them!  They’re staying healthy and saving themselves just for you.  Really.

SHINee’s “Hello” is another fantastic example of “healthy porn for women”, which is to be expected from SHINee who are serious idols that with SM’s help have mastered the art of selling themselves to fangirls.

This guy is so busy singing just for you that he’s able to maintain direct eye contact with the camera (i.e you) and doesn’t even look once at the girl with huge tits walking by with the bicycle, even though she strolls right in front of his field of vision.

He’s still got time to take a few seconds out of his busy idol schedule to blow bubbles with children though, because he cares.  Gosh, he’d make a great father to your child, wouldn’t he?

This other guy spends the entire video agonising over whether to knock on your door and deliver you flowers to show how much he loves you, or whether to just run away and hide.  He’s so nervous about being rejected, this is really hard for him!  Don’t be mean!

Of course in the end he bites the bullet and takes the plunge, because you’re worth it.  If you’re a SHINee fan and you’ve ever wondered why you fell so hard for SHINee in the first place, it’s because the creators of porn are not stupid – they know what works.

I could provide more examples and this post could go forever, but it’s probably more fun for you to find your own, if you can – after all, k-pop fans tend to be a bit desensitised to the presentation of their favourite idols.  However if you are having any doubts about really understanding what you are actually watching, try watching this stuff with people slightly older and who aren’t exposed to k-pop sitting right next to you.  You don’t even need me to tell you what they’ll say, you already know.  If you want a video to pick for such an exercise, try this one:

“Chewing Gum” is actually a pretty damn good song.  It’s also fucking disturbing as shit to watch, the male equivalent of April’s “Dream Candy” for sure.

The guys are dressed deliberately as “young” as possible yet have huge amounts of makeup on their faces that’s generally reserved for adult idols.

The constant theme throughout of “misbehaviour at night in the dorms” is interesting (and disturbing) too.  Sure, it’s just chewing gum, but I’m sure for some people it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine it’s something else…

Don’t get me wrong however.  There seems to be a misinterpretation of my posts on this topic that somehow I hate “cute” concepts because of all this or whatever.  Not the case!  In fact for both men and women in k-pop I’d probably rather watch them be all “nice” and shit rather than pretend to be badass or whatever, which is just as unconvincing and even more cringey.

Seriously, if this is the alternative, bring on the cute.  I’m all for it.  Just be honest with yourself about what it is, that’s all I’m saying.  I think that’s a fairly moderate position.  Kpopalypse will return with more posts soon!

12 thoughts on “Healthy porn for women – the “cute” concept for k-pop men

  1. the first time i watched Newton i thought “okay replace the tea with beer and fill the car with weed smoke and you’ve got a more accurate picture”

    i think for the younger teen girl demographic especially, who are constantly dealing with high school boys, seeing men that probably shower once a day and won’t snap girl’s bras while they walk through halls is probably a positive experience.

    i personally however, would love to watch monsta x get smashed and make poor decisions.

    also speaking of healthy porn for women, I’ve always found it interesting that the amount of fanfiction for boygroups far outgrows the number of fics for girl groups. it probably has something to do with demographics but it’s interesting nonetheless. why is it more interesting to write about bangtan with magical powers than twice?? the world may never know

  2. I have recorded my particular disagreement with you on the matter of dog-whistle sexualisation on r/kpop before but i’d like to add a bit of nuance here.

    The picture that you are painting of those who disagree with you (feel free to correct me if i’m wrong) on this matter is that of people who are either oblivious or in denial of these ‘deep-down’ premises. I don’t think that’s particularly fair. Some of us have a problem with the generalization of a whole sub-genre based of a few videos that seemingly employ dog whistle techniques. We also disagree with the main underlying assumption behind your analysis, that any form of attraction must be somewhat rooted in sex (this is an assumption of mine, feel free to correct me). Attraction has been and can always be non-sexual in nature. People seem to get this when we talk about ‘girl crush’ groups like 2ne1 and AfterSchool but seemingly ignore this when we talk about innoncent/cute groups like Gfriend. Case in point, if you watch Gfriend’s Me Gustas Tu and Rough MVs, you’d find it hard to find any dog whistles there without reaching by quite a bit. That’s because, at least imo, they were aiming to attract people to the nostalgia of innocence itself. And it actually worked, both those songs sold like mad in Korea because Koreans were attracted to the sense of nostalgia of simpler days it brought with it. In other words, Innocence was commercialised without having it sexualised.

    • Kpopalypse will probably give a much better answer than mine, but here goes anyways:

      Subconsciously, a lot of shit happens that no one really realises, and sexual attraction can show itself in different ways. Some people just happen to be sexually attracted to innocence (even though they might not be aware of it completely), and the demographic of those people is probably big enough for it to get groups like GFriend the popularity that they got. The element of ‘nostalgia’ would work better if they were kids (because we were kids back then too); but no one likes kids as much as the adults, cause it’s okay to sexualise adults, but it’s not okay to sexualise kids.

    • The whole point of dog-whistling is to multi-task–why limit yourself to the seekers of innocence or the horny bastards, when you can reach both? I mean, in the first 30 seconds of “Me Gustas Tu” you see a bunch of attractive young women in shorts and skirts that barely cover their asses–you’re arguing that no one could possibly jerk off to that, just because you don’t?

      People don’t “get” your argument because you’re the one saying that there’s only one way for ALL people to be attracted to women–a non-sexual way OR a sexual way–and that’s obviously not true. (I for one have zero sexual interest in women, but if everyone thought like I do 1. our species would die out, and 2. I’d never get laid.) 2NE1 and After School may have sold the “girl crush” concept, but they ALSO sold sex–After School had pole dance choreography, FFS. Gfriend sells cuteness and innocence, and they ALSO sell sex–that’s why its members are over the age of five.

    • I think the other people who replied get it. The whole point of the dog-whistle analogy is that it’s not FOR everyone – it’s for dogs. If you’re not a dog, it’s natural for you to not understand. Am I saying that everyone is a dog? No. However there ARE dogs. Woof.

  3. What tends to get up my nose is when the whole Fantasy of What Boys Are Like meet the whole SJW thing, so that if a boy group sings a song about liking women’s bodies (or worse yet, liking actual! sex!), there’s this whole hue and cry of Oh no! That’s Sexist!!! And it’s really not–it’s just not what their younger female fan base wants to hear, those girls want the vague & noble love song that they can easily insert themselves into.

    • Is this a fairly new concept as fair as young women not wanting to be considered an object of lust by their idols? Would they rather think that a grown man just wants to have picnics and go for bike rides? Who is feeding them this outdated idea and discouraging their own sexual desires? I don’t understand this as I’m sure from my mid-teens to my current state of old age that I want to think that a man in his 20s and beyond has a healthy interest in sex if they choose to.

      Which brings me to my personal bugbear- Got7’s Just Right MV. NCT Dream is 15-18 year olds aiming squarely at the same demographic. I have an issue with anyone older finding sexualised imagery there, but if you’re 16- go for it. But Just Right is a bunch of 20 somethings aiming their hip thrusts (in a non-sexual way of course) at a 12 year old girl- and presumably the same age market. I don’t think this alarms me because someone can be attracted to people much older/younger than themselves once they are an adult, but that the presumed sexual innocence that they’ve attributed to the men in the video makes it ok for them to telling a young girl (with no exterior post-puberty characteristics to indicate adulthood) that she is attractive to them. Am I reading too much into this one?

      • It’s nothing new–if you’re, like, 12 or 13, bicycle rides and picnics are probably about as much as you can cope with. Once things get past that, everything’s scary and gross, plus Mom and Dad start having a fit, so it’s better to keep things sweet and romantic.

        That’s what Got7 is doing in “Just Right”–providing tween-appropriate romantic affirmation. (“You’re pretty! Boys will like you! We like you! Don’t worry!”) That’s their market, and they’ll keep at it until it gets really disturbing, like Super Junior and that 14-year-old model.

  4. Omgggggg as a girl K-pop fan, that Chewing Gum music video made me throw up. I didn’t get exactly what you meant when you said Dream Candy was creepy (I mean I got it logically but I still hadn’t grasped it).By the way, in Japanese otaku culture (not sure if generally too), they call it shota.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Also, is it just me who saw gay undertones (bordering on pedophilia), between that orange hair guy and the warden/ teacher/ whoever at the beginning of the video? That would be interesting to see… dog whistle for the female homosexual community, beyond the obvious Amber. Boy groups do it a lot more explicitly anyway.

  5. All I wanted to say is I came for the critique and stayed for having my concepts torn apart. Suddenly I feel a bit less comfortable enjoying my cute concepts and a little more comfortable enjoying Cactus. Should I thank?

    Seriously though, being one of those people who isn’t generally DEEP about their entertainment and will defend their cute concepts both for girls and guys – and coming from a background of following Johnnys japanese groups before TVXQ and k-pop generally … – I feel like these years have really seen a shift in tone smh … I’ll admit I came back to k-pop after Block B’s HER and I reckon groups like Shinee have always existed, but the “candy shota porn” isn’t getting quite big lately? It’s not just NCT Dream level of exaggeration, promissing rookies like Wanna One or Pentagon in Critical Beauty (surprised you didn’t address it), and even groups that don’t necessarily scream “yea das gay” are beginning or going full-on-cutesy (aside from those mentioned there, ootmh 8 – BTS, ASTRO, m̶y̶ ̶b̶e̶l̶o̶v̶e̶d̶ Seventeen, TOPSECRET, Victon, VAV, THE BOYZ and Imfact – and actually was checking while writing this post and ACE is prolly trying HARDD following the fad) … for me who’s always rooted for the underdog in that sense I thought I was just getting bored due to my own aging, but looking closer it’s concerning. I do value the well-being of the people I listen to so it’s… a bit .. torn between happy and scared

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