Ben Affleck Sexy?

Within minutes of People magazine's announcement that Ben Affleck is this year's "sexiest man alive," email outrage flooded my in box. These are typical:

No way. He looks like a boy, and kinda pasty. Have you ever noticed how small his teeth are? He looks like he's still got his milk teeth. How can you be sexy when you're still teething? I have it on very good authority that he wears a hairpiece. He's just riding J.Lo's coattails.

I'm sorry, People, and no disrespect to J.Lo (his fiancée, Jennifer Lopez), but Ben Affleck is not sexy. Ben Affleck is tall, buff, inoffensive, possibly charming, totally all-American. But from "Pearl Harbor," where he played Sgt. Square Jaw, to "Armageddon," where he played Capt. Cleft Chin, the guy is as far from Take Me Now as any Teflon god in recent American cinema. Is he pretty? Sure, in an "I can't remember what he looks like when he leaves the screen" kind of way. Except for the milk teeth, that is. If anything, he's That Guy, the one outsider girls want because he's so phenomenally mediocre that he may be able to transfer his normalcy to you via bodily fluids.

When was the last time you got turned on by a Ben Affleck love scene? (The one with Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting" doesn't count.) In "Armageddon," when he managed to make marching an animal cracker across Liv Tyler's naked stomach look boring? In "Bounce," where he rolled around unconvincingly with a woman he was shtupping in real life, Gwyneth Paltrow? In his first dubious shot at indie credibility, "Chasing Amy," when he somehow took the sizzle out of screwing a lesbian?

Even the folks at People seem to know there's a problem. Jennifer Garner, his costar in the upcoming "Daredevil," swoons: "He's IT. You want him to save you. I can't imagine anyone the world would rather swoop in and save the day than Ben."

Well, that's funny, "Alias" girl, because I can. How about Russell Crowe, Vin Diesel, Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, or even (yeah) Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man, who if not necessarily sexy, was at least cute and corruptible and knew how to kiss upside down. But this isn't about being saved. This is about being bent over a chair. You're supposed to want to ravish the guy, or have him ravish you.

The very next rave about Ben tells us he's "really loyal, and really honest and really smart, and really funny." That's less interesting than the fact that the source is Matt Damon, whose grounds for commenting on buddy Ben's sex appeal are either nonexistent or the hottest story of the year.

Finally, and this is at least kinky, if not sexy, our third endorsement comes from his mom. She wants us to know that she really approves of his relationship with J.Lo. We can watch that relationship chronicled ad nauseam in the new video for "Jenny From the Block," in which J.Lo writhes in 42 pounds of body makeup and croons, "Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got." The video, which happens to costar Buff Young Ben, the most recent purveyor of said rocks, stands as proof that Ben has to be sexy: He literally gets to kiss J.Lo's million-dollar ass.

Perhaps there's someone else smoldering under Affleck's sexless leading-man persona. After all, Affleck says he has an indie heart: He takes big-budget roles only so he can afford to finance his beloved small projects, like "Dogma" (good, but not sexy) or his surprisingly well-executed role as a charisma-free boor in "Shakespeare in Love." Maybe he's really a dangerous indie stud underneath his vanilla multiplex persona. (And maybe he's sleeping with J.Lo to improve his chances with Janeane Garofalo?)

But I think the big-budget roles, the ones that pay for the rocks J.Lo asks us to ignore: "Pearl Harbor," "Armageddon" and "The Sum of All Fears," are the real Affleck. There's always the jingoistic attempt at macho, but in the end he's a bland American everyman.

Maybe that's supposed to be sexy now that we're going off to war. But I'm not buying that. Give me Diesel, Crowe, Sutherland, or Denzel. Now. If Ben Affleck is sexy, then the terrorists have won.

Sheerly Avni is associate editor of Salon Life.

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