IT IS 7:00 in the morning. I wake up and take a 10-minute shower and brush my teeth at the same time. Then I spend the next 40 minutes grooming my hair and putting on my makeup. I am extra careful not to burn myself as I curl my hair with a hot curling iron. Next, I decide what to wear and choose a ruby-red v-neck sweater with a long, white coat. I look at the clock. It took more time than I expected to get ready, so I skipped breakfast and hurried out of the house. In front of the elevator, my neighbor smiles to me and says, “Good morning, young man. Have a nice day.” Yes, I am a man.
Broadening sphere of masculinity
The sixties and seventies can be defined as the age of machoism. Tough and strong men dominated the movie screen. Images of stars like Stallone and Schwarznegger with their muscular build and rugged looks were the icons of masculine men. These men were not famous for their well-groomed hair, translucent skin, or keen sense of fashion. However, in the 21C, machos were forced to descend from their status of the epitomy of masculinity, conceding the crown to metrosexuals. Metrosexuals say that masculinity now includes grooming themselves and looking fashionable. After metrosexuals came ubersexuals who pursued more tough yet kind-natured male images. And finally came the time of cross sexuals, those who enjoy women’s fashion code and boldly infringe upon the realms of femininity by transcending the boundaries between masculinity and femininity to create a combination of both.
Ma Gwang-soo (Prof., Dept. of Korean Lit.&Language) defined cross sexuality as “a historically natural consequence.” As we can see from animals like peacocks and lions, the desire to be beautiful is inherent in both male and female. Biologically, a male’s desire to be beautiful is as strong as or even stronger than a female’s. During the Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo era, men preferred fashions that were more feminine such as wigs, laces and ribbons. Men did not hide their desire for decorating and grooming themselves. Both men and women have inherent intense desire to be beautiful. “Originally, it was natural for both men and women to pursue beauty,” says Ma.
This tendency is also found in Korea. In the ancient three-kingdom era, there was a group called *Hualang* in Shilla. The *Hualang*s were elite groups of young men who were to take important posts in government when they grow up. Records say that the *hualang*s used to powder their face white, wear colorful clothes with accessories like golden earrings and jade necklaces. In the Chosun dynasty, there was a make-up style for men from the nobles called *Boon-sae-soo*, a special way of whitening using white powder and bean-brewed water.
Professor Ma reveals that “Ever since Korea participated in wars, men’s desire for beauty was repressed by society.” Unlike women, men were no longer allowed to pursue beauty. In 18C, the age of liberation began which lasted throughout the 19C as well. Various movements to liberate people from repressions and prejudices against race, gender and religion took place all over the world. Among these movements was cross sexuality, the liberation from the repression of men’s desire to be beautiful. Professor Ma points out, “At last, men recovered their original rights to be beautiful. It is a natural consequence.”
Exaggerated and distorted cross sexuality
This liberation of men to adonize themselves greatly affected the beauty industry. According to BBC Korea, the magnitude of men’s cosmetics market expanded by 10% compared to last year despite the global economic downturn. Most of the big department stores now sell cosmetics for men. The type of products also became more diverse. Initially, men’s cosmetics consisted of simple products such as after shave, lotion and cologne. Now, we have more than 40 types of cosmetic products for men.
The cross sexual trend not only affects men but also women. According to *Yonhap News*, *Amore Pacific*, the country’s biggest cosmetics company, utilized a special marketing strategy. A male makeup artist was placed in each of the company’s cosmetics store for women. With handsome male makeup artists at stores, the company distinguished itself from other cosmetics companies and drew attention. The female consumers were mesmerized by the cross sexual image of combined femininity and masculinity of male makeup artists. Previously, those who work in women’s cosmetics store, especially those who work as makeup artists, were often women. However, the male makeup artists were consulting female customers at female cosmetics stores. These men had a very feminine appearance, but they were still undoubtedly men. The outcome was a great success. Amore’s sales almost doubled.
However, marketings using cross sexual are creating a distorted image of cross sexuality that leads to rampant lookism in society. Cross sexuality, the word that originally started off to accept what is once recognized solely as women’s appearance as part of men’s appearance, is now being misinterpreted to emphasize: “Men’s greatest value should be beauty, too.”
If we look into advertisements and marketing schemes, the industries where cross sexuality is emphasized are mostly beauty and fashion industries. In the advertisements and posters of beauty industries, beautiful male models smile brightly at the customers as if they were saying, “You should be like me.” Cosmetic companies even give free public lectures on how to apply makeup for male customers. At the beginning of the lecture, the lecturer explains the current cosmetic trend for men, and emphasizes that it is time for them to care about their appearances as well. Furthermore, pretty boys dominate the screens now and smile at us from every media.
Compared to the past when “Appearance is competitiveness!” usually referred to women, today’s society seems to shout “Appearance is competitiveness! This applies to men as well! Be prettier!” Cross sexuality originally started as more of a bisexualized fashion style. However, in the attempt to draw the public’s attention, mass communication media and marketing distorted cross sexuality to mean “Men should be beautiful,” which signaled the beginning of lookism for men.
What is more, in the idol entertainment industry, cross sexuality is often exaggerated. Lee Dong-yeon, a culture critic and the chief of *Culture Union* in one interview mentioned that “the popularity of idol entertainment programs and pretty idols affected the male consumers greatly.” Many male idols emphasize cross sexual images to add fantastic ambience to their performances. For example, an all-male idol group *VIXX* powdered their skin white, colored their lips red, painted their nails black, and wore laced clothing to express their concept as vampires. Other male idols such as MBLAQ put smoky eye makeup and wore clothing that looked similar to skirts. These misinterpreted messages of cross sexuality as men having to be beautiful have caused the methods of making men more beautiful to become overly exaggerated.
What cross sexuality reflects
The advent of cross sexuality is much more than a change in appearance. It reflects what is happening within a society. In the 19C when masculinity was defined as macho, people lived in a dichotomous society where almost every aspect of society could be divided into two categories: masculine and feminine. The difference between men and women was thought to be inherent and unchangeable. Men were rational while women were emotional. Men appreciated friendship while women appreciated love. Men worked outside while women worked inside. Any single part of society was deemed to belong to either men or women. Fashion and beauty was on the side of women. If we looked men’s garments during the 1950s and 60s, we would see that they are very simple and monotone.
However, as women started to move into the workplace with men, the dichotomous world of men and women underwent a great change. According to Choi Ji-huai, a famous culture critic writes on his blog, “Culture and Culture Column,” the idea that women were always the counterpart to men in the past is starting to collapse. Along with the change in women’s role in society, the role of men also changed. Now, men were no longer the only member in the family with the duty to provide for the family. Thus, men were partially relieved from the responsibility to financially support their family. With their burden lightened, men began to enjoy more leisure time. They began to pay more attention to themselves and expressed their true emotions. “Liberation,” as professor Ma named it, arrived and men started to express their personality through fashion.
The advent of the information age accelerated the speed of liberation. The position of women in society was even more heightened. If the industrialized society of the 1960s, 70s and 80s was composed mostly of hardware, software became more appreciated in the information age. Industries based on content, entertainment, and knowledge began to dominate the market. Such industries required creativity and mental ability rather than physical strength. As a result, women’s participation and contribution ascended.
Along with the collapse of the traditional family, people these days tend to appreciate and understand diversity and believe that “Being different does not mean being wrong” more than before. Among them, one of the most significant changes in perspective is sexuality and gender. In the past, the LGBT were seen as unnatural beings. They were deemed to completely betray the dichotomous world of men and women. They did not belong in any category, so they were excluded from the society or criticized for their behavior. Although homophobias still take a considerable part in Korean culture, their positions changed greatly compared to the past. Sexual preferences are now viewed as a part of diversity. Numerous forums, organizations and opinions regarding protection of LGBT’s rights and correcting prejudices toward them show that the public’s attitude toward them has undergone a great change.
Nowadays, we live in a world where the dichotomy between men and women is dismantling. What was once considered as the women’s domain now accepts men as members, and vice versa. Places such as aesthetic clubs, nail shops, plastic surgery hospitals and cosmetics shops are no longer only for women. If we look at TV advertisements, products that only used female models are now using male models as well, and vice versa. For example, a famous male comedian You Jae-seok and other famous male stars like So Ji-seop, Lee Seung-ki, and You Seung-ho appeared in home appliance products advertisements that have long been the domain of the female models. Likewise, some female fashion now applies to both men and women. Colorful shirts, skirts, accessories, and long hair styles are no longer restricted to women.
The great psychoanalyst Carl Jung once said that women have anima in them and that men possess animus, meaning women have inherent masculinity while men have inherent femininity. Both men and women have bisexual characteristics in them. Although men and women had been separated and located at the two opposing ends of society, the current cross sexuality is signaling the end of such dichotomy and the beginning of a cultural wave, the unisexual era.
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Cross sexuality is a change in the appearance of men by crossing the boundaries of masculinity and femininity. Rather than an era of lookism for men, we should pay more attention to how cross sexuality erases line between men and women.