Thursday, December 6, 2007

Women as Sex Objects and The Male Gaze

More specifically, MY male gaze. This is another topic I've also thought about for a while and just did not have time to post about (or energy). Chasing a two-year-old can do that.

I've often seen the complaint voiced by some women about problems with the male gaze, or being seen as a sex object. (I've also seen some men and women complain about NOT being seen as a sex object, usually because of being unattractive in some way).

Here goes my random thoughts on this subject from my own gaze. First, I'm a male, I'm heterosexual, and so I like to look at attractive, sexy women. I have since puberty. And that is pretty normal. And liking to look is not something I would ever apologize for, nor should I or anyone. Looking is normal. And it is also harmless. And it isn't even cheating to just look. I look. My wife looks at men (and comments to me as well, sometimes negative, sometimes positive). That's all just part of the fun of being alive. And there is nothing wrong with it.

Doing something more than looking, even just making an inappropriate comment, that is something else, but I'm just talking about the gaze here, and the thoughts in my head when I do so, nothing more. (I never comment anyway - not only is it rude, but I think I'd be too shy to do so even if I wanted to).

So yes, when I gaze, I may also think about things sexual, though as I age, such things happen less and less. I guess one can't be a horny teenager forever. Now I look and appreciate, but the idea of actually even thinking about sex with someone, well, it tends not to happen because my practical mind would throw up all the reasons it couldn't and I'd never get to the sex part. So I just look and appreciate to myself and that's about it most of the time.

Something I want to get out, though, is that even where I do look at a woman as a sex object, in that I find a given woman attractive in that way, that doesn't affect how I view that woman in any other way. In other words, it is only relevant in my mind as to the question as to whether or not this is someone I'd consent to have sex with (if I were otherwise available to do so). It does not affect my judgment about anything else - for instance, if it was a professional situation, it would have nothing to do with my evaulation of the woman at doing her job. One simply is irrelevant to the other. Or to put it in reverse, just to be clear. If a woman is a kick-ass lawyer who writes the best briefs on the planet, that does not affect or translate into my view of her as sexually desireable (though I should caveat that to say that I find smart women very sexy).

What I'm getting at is the occasional gaze and accompanying appreciation of attractive women I see out in the world really is on a parallel track to how I otherwise think of women. If a woman is not attractive to me, I would not have such thoughts, and would turn down that woman for a date if such a scenario ever was possible, but that has nothing to do with my evaluation of that woman on any other axis of competence or worth. It is only relevant to that rather narrow question of "is she dating material?" which, when one is married, is really an academic question anyway, barring some sort of open marriage (which I definitely do not have).

Otherwise, I evaluate women the same way I evaluate men - based on competence and who they are. I don't quite understand why the question of whether or not I find a woman sexy should even enter into anything beyond that - maybe some men get flustered or something, or maybe they are just assholes, I don't know, but it just doesn't make any sense to me, particularly in a professional setting. Why would you screw about with your livelihood based on factors that have nothing to do with acheiving it? (Like why would you pick for a job someone you find sexy when they can't do the work over someone who will make you gobs of money but is not sexy to you? Particularly if you are married an unavailable anyway? Ok, I guess that goes back to the "asshole" theory above).

Why am I even posting about this? What is the point? To say that someone finding you sexy does not mean you won't be taken seriously and really shouldn't have any effect on anything beyond that narrow question - Does that person find you sexy? Which, usually, is nothing more than trivia, either way, unless both people are single and looking.

And thus ends another disjointed memorialization of my thoughts...


Russ said...


"That's all just part of the fun of being alive."

To internalize this is to be uplifted in so many ways. To truly grasp this as a fundamental truth about humanity instantly multiplies the joy in the world.


hedera said...

russ is right, that is part of the fun of it, and I personally get a lot of fun out of eyeballing good looking guys.

But I have to comment on your parenthetical remark: "Like why would you pick for a job someone you find sexy when they can't do the work over someone who will make you gobs of money but is not sexy to you? Particularly if you are married an unavailable anyway?"

You're a nice guy, DBB, and a faithful married man, and you just don't get the assholes. I used to work for a firm I won't name where the senior execs hit on good looking female staff regularly. Nobody ever hit on me but then I'm not an airheaded blonde. One of them (married) had regular nooners in his office with the receptionist - whom I had to fire because she was incompetent. These guys hire pretty women who can't do the job precisely so they can hit on them, using the threat of firing them as a lever. It isn't sex at all, it's a very ugly power trip.

This was all over 20 years ago and I THINK things have improved; but then I haven't worked in that industry for 20 years and I can't be sure.

DBB said...

Hedera - you are too kind - I can be an asshole sometimes, though I feel bad about it, at least.

It is not so much that I could not imagine someone hiring someone just to hit on them, it just seems rather foolish to me, even if that is your goal, because you can be hit for a lawsuit for doing so and, further, if you are married, your spouse WILL find out about it if it is with someone at the office - because in my experience, office relationships generally become known to everyone in the office. So, assholery aside, one risks losing one's job, losing a lawsuit, and losing one's marriage and family for doing something like that - which makes me wonder why anyone would do it. Maybe 20 years ago it was easier - you only had to worry about losing the family, not your job or a lawsuit for sexual harrassment issues. But it just seems like for practical reasons, even if you were inclined to cheat, you wouldn't want to do it where you could so easily be caught at it.

Still, one can't assume, I suppose, that the asshole factor, the sex factor, and the stupidity factor couldn't all come together.