When we waxed poetic about D’Angelo‘s struggle with his image as a sex symbol, more than a few commenters argued there was a gender double standard at work. To them, it seemed unfair to sympathize with the beleaguered male artist when female celebrities are regularly reduced to their physicality and no one complains that their music is being overshadowed. Evette Dionne explored the issue for Uptown magazine, comparing two of the most talked-about sex symbols of late, Beyoncé and D’Angelo.

Dionne writes:

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, who happens to be one of my favorite women singers, prances around stage in just enough clothing to cover her most sacred parts as she belts about empowerment anthems. […] Yet, Beyoncé hasn’t complained about how salivating her image is or what men fawning over her does to her self-esteem off-stage. “I’m tired of being objectified,” has never crossed her lips, so why does D’Angelo, who sang about the importance of love while twirling naked in a video, receive a reprieve?

It’s fascinating to examine how Beyoncé seems to capitalize off the very image that D’Angelo is now working hard to abandon. She flaunts her small waist, curvy hips, abs, décolletage, and long weave so boldly it’s become a part of her brand. Yet she doesn’t complain or shy away from the spotlight because she feels she’s being undervalued as an artist. One could say the same about Mariah Carey or Janet Jackson’s careers. It’s as if female R&B singers expect to be objectified by men so they accept it, and even capitalize off it, without complaining.

Do you agree, Clutchettes? When it comes to being a sex symbol, is there a double standard?

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  • If King B didn’t dance and writhe around half naked, she’d be your typical average voiced R&B singer that opts not to do that. Her image as a sex symbol has always been part of her brand. I’m not a fan of B’s voice; I’m there for her live performances, and they would fall entirely flat if not for the image she’s built.

    For D’Angelo, skin wasn’t part of his imaging until “Voodoo”. A good portion of the fanbase now jumping ship are the ones that got hooked by that. It’s always been about his MUSIC, for me. That revamp of him imaging has clearly been to his detriment, personally and professionally.

    In the middle, let’s throw Jill Scott in the mix. Her viability has solely been about the music. It helps that she’s cute, but since she’s obviously gonna be a big(ger) girl no matter what weight class she releases an album at, nobody rides her about her sex appeal.

    • Child, Please

      Couldn’t agree more, also the mentioning of Mariah Carey was odd (but understandable) to me since she didn’t start off using sex to sell either. Also, I don’t know how many would have called her a sex symbol. She’s gorgeous, but her diva-antics may make her look a bit (or a lot) less than sexy.

    • mikey kun

      I so agree on als you madel the point

  • justme24

    i don’t think there’s a double standard, there’s a choice be a sex symbol or don’t. just like any other choice in life you have to deal with the consequences. heavenleiblu talked about Jill Scott’s career being about her voice, so was Whitney Houston’s and Chrisette Michele’s. i think D’angelo has a problem with being a sex symbol now that he no longer looks like the “untitled” video. most people have a problem with being a sex symbol when they can’t benefit from it anymore.

  • Jordyn

    Sex sells–period!!

  • It was great to go through your post. Thanks for sharing here. Keep up the good work.

  • Mademoiselle

    Double standard or not, I’ve been waiting for a LONG time for sex appeal to fade away as a main selling point for non-sex-related products. Even when a song is about sex, I find myself cringing at how raunchy music videos are, whether it be over sexualized men or women. Maybe I’m just a prude, though.