From Publishers Weekly
Greer has made a career of the controversial polemic, most explosively in the 1970s with The Female Eunuch, brazenly arguing for women's sexual liberation. Decades later, the Australian-born sensualist seeks to redress another wrong: heterosexual women's insensitivity to the boy as sexual object. Considering the utter fetishization of contemporary youth culture, it's difficult to sustain the argument that nubile lads are being neglected. But the present day isn't the volume's strength; the most modern icons include Elvis, Boy George, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Robert Plant-nary a boy band member. The more compelling passages investigate shifting representations in classical art-Cupid first depicted as sly aggressor, seducing his own mother, only to be desexualized in the more restrictive 19th century, conveniently cloaked by a drape or angel wing. Except for a final chapter that glosses over the works of female artists, Greer hardly plunges into her initial aim "to advance women's reclamation of their capacity for and right to visual pleasure." What does it mean for women to sexualize dewy, girlish boys created by male artists? To swoon over Caravaggio's provocative urchins, Michelangelo's languorous Dying Slave or Eakins's supple-skinned bathers? It's not clear, but then nuance has never really interested Greer. Short on argument but long on lush reproductions of languid young men, the collection is better viewed than read. 200 color and b/w photographs and illustrations.
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The author of the feminist classic The Female Eunuch
(1970) aims (in part) "to advance women's reclamation of their capacity for and right to visual pleasure" by encouraging women to gaze with desire at naked boys, mature enough for sex but too young to shave. Such nudes abound in Western art from pre-Hellenic times onward because, among other things, they were deemed sexually safe for men in patriarchal societies to look at. As Greer demonstrates with intelligence and dash throughout this near-immaculate (if her description is correct, one image is laterally reversed) book, they reward the mind as well as the eye. Her text considers them topically and historically, arguing that while the boy was long the preferred vehicle for celebrating human beauty in art, different meanings attached to the boy in different eras and contexts. Inevitably, what Greer sees in certain pictures doesn't square with what the excellent reproductions show, but that never subverts her arguments or blunts her points. If this is radical feminist art criticism, bully for it! Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved