Why Don’t Women Like To Be Ogled?

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS EYEING UP LONG LEGGED GIRL AS SHE WALKS PASWhy do women dress sexy so people will look at and desire them but get mad when people look at and desire them? And then they call men who look at them “creeps” or “perverts” for looking at the skin and other body parts they are showing?

A lot of men, like him, are confused. Women dress sexy, go out and strut their stuff, and then act insulted when they get a compliment?

What’s up with that? 

A lot of guys think sexy women only want attention from sexy guys — not them. That may or may not be true in some cases. But there are plenty of other reasons why women may flinch.

Constant bombardment can get old.

Or, it’s hot out so you wear shorts. And then the cat-calls come. Not really what you were going for.

Some dress up for a particular man, but then a stranger’s gaze makes them uncomfortable.

Or, turning heads gives a lot of women an ego-boost. And who doesn’t enjoy that? These ladies appreciate a glance, but staring and commenting can feel threatening. One woman asked men to “Imagine being told from childhood that men are more likely to hurt you than women are.” And that it’s your body’s fault.

She went on to say that it’s not really a compliment. Because, to paraphrase, “It’s not about me. It’s about my boobs”:

Girls get upset when guys comment on their bodies because we’re being treated like sources of pleasure, not people.

For guys who want to know, that pretty much sums it up.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Ogling: A Turn-Off
Porn: Pro and Con
Sex Objects Who Don’t Enjoy Sex

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on March 10, 2014, in body image, feminism, men, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 56 Comments.

  1. I am John. I do yoga. You could call me the “ogling yogi” and it would be true. If women do not like being ogled (by me), let them dress modestly, not all sexy, and I will keep my uninterested eyes to myself. There was a Muslima in yoga class today, the first I have seen. She wore decent clothes, long shirt and pants, and of course the traditional headscarf. I almost went over to congratulate her after class! Not that I want Western women to dress like Muslimas: far be it from me! However, it makes it so very much easier to focus on yoga when women are not waving their semi-nude bodies around in my face. Namaste’

    • The irony is that covering is what creates the eroticism. In tribal societies where women walk around nearly nude all the time no one cares.

      • So, are you saying if we all had wandered around naked since the very beginning women won’t get ogled at. We are different from tribal people and comparing us to tribal people doesn’t make sense. The things we go through or things we hear are completely different. Also how can you say the tribal men don’t feel attraction or don’t ogle. Besides women clearly know dressing a particular way gets attention and get mad if some men don’t have enough control, well they are at fault too. But what are they doing to stop that, they are clearly aware how of they are being seen and what is being seen (body over self). Yet continue to dress that way.

      • Yes, we are different from tribal people because we are socialized differently. Cross-cultural comparison points to what is human nature and what is learned. And there’s a difference between ogling and attraction. One can find others attractive without being rude to the target of their desire (or their partners who are observing the ogling). Women can be told they’re being tempting for showing their ankles, the nape of their neck, their faces, their hair, their legs, etc. because their society deems the said part so attractive that it should not be shown. That is what is ridiculous.

  2. I agree with this article. It reminds me an experience I had at a rock show. When I go to shows I go in to the mosh pit which usually has more men than women in it. One time I noticed a guy staring at me and not towards the stage. I told my boyfriend about it and he said the guy probably liked me and wanted to say something but didn’t know how. When he said that I had an ego boost for a second then became frustrated/angry. Like the article said he did not like me as a person, he liked me as a body. Just because he thought I was attractive does not justify him staring at me and making me uncomfortable. I was there for the show not to be ogled in the crowd. This ogling behavior of men makes me uncomfortable whenever I wear something that might be considered sexy. I hate that what I when I as a woman look nice men feel the need to comment or stare. It makes me less inclined to dress sexy or attractively.

  3. If women don’t like it, why don’t they stare and compliment the same way men do?

  4. Articles like these irritate the crap the crap out of me. A woman dresses for physical attention with her body on display yet complains and feels threatened when men announce their attraction. Tip: dress how you want to be treated. A woman can dress with class and be even sexier and more attractive than another woman who is showing skin. Observation: if the roles were reversed, why would most men probably feel encouraged and like cat calls from woman (assuming this is true)? Ever notice the few commercials on TV showing men on display, women loudly enjoying themselves, and no one has a problem with it; it’s all in good fun? Why the difference?

    • I’m surprised that it irritates you. Guys are often baffled by women’s reactions to ogling and are often curious as to what’s going on. The article is trying to explain it. You might be irritated by the psychology within the article, But why be annoyed at the article?

      Why the gender difference? Here’s my thought:

      In real life men don’t experience this, and from afar it can just seem fun. But cat calls aren’t really about telling someone they are attractive. They feel threatening, And are often meant to be. At best they are typically displays trying to demonstrate to other men that you are heterosexual — and therefore a real man — who feels his superiority both because he is a man (men are ranked higher than women in our culture) and as a judge. The woman is just a pawn in this game. So she either doesn’t like being a pawn, or she feels threatened. Men are unlikely to feel threatened by women doing the same thing — and it pretty much never happens in real life. And if women were commenting on him to create a sense of their superiority to him, he probably wouldn’t like it. See this article:

      When Sex = Disempowerment

      And on gender ranking, see this:

      It’s Ok To Be A Tomboy But Not A Sissy. Why?

  5. I dress the way I dress for me. On occasion I dress in a way to impress my fiancé. Other than that I don’t care what people think about how I’m dressing. I sure as hell don’t do it so that men will stop their car and ask if I want a ride. I don’t do it so that men will circle the block and stop to stare. I don’t do it to hear comments as I board the bus. I don’t do it to get followed around the grocery store.
    It’s frustrating that I can’t dress the way I want to without feeling uncomfortable with the way people are going to react.
    I wear skirts and heels because I work in an office. I wear yoga pants because I do yoga (shocking I know). I wear fitted jeans because I like the way they fit. I do none of this because I want attention.

  6. As far back as I can remember I’ve been shouted/looked/whistled at. It became something I got used to ass a teen. In my 20s it’s became more of a problem. I like to dress nice for me, I don’t see it as a right of anyone else to “enjoy” it as though it’s for them. I took to dressing down at work, so I wouldn’t have comments made – sure they’re innocent enough or meant be flattering, but I just felt it signalled an entitlement on their part which I did not consent to.
    Recently, since moving to Monaco (a place where the environment is one where rich men buying women is so normalised) my reaction to any “flattery” is anger. I don’t want to feel like a commodity to be bought, and I don’t feel like other people have the right to impose themselves on me by way of their opinion, “flattering” or otherwise.
    It annoys the crap out of me when I hear people say “She wouldn’t dress like that if she didn’t want to be looked at.”
    – Side note, I feel compelled to state or clarify how I dress because I can imagine peoples responses, but I won’t.

  7. notrudeandginger

    Great points, some women dress up for themselves, I know some people may find that hard to believe. I get asked about my hair a lot I have men tell me why don’t I color it a color they like…maybe because this is the way I like my hair. Same with clothes, yes sometimes I am getting dressed up for a certain person but sometimes I want to look nice for myself.
    I love the “it’s not a compliment” I have had guys tell me I should feel flattered they want to sleep with me. I don’t think it’s a compliment because it does get old. Maybe if you want to go on a date or like me that could be taken nicely but wanting to sleep with me or comments about my body especially if I don’t know you is not a compliment.

    • I have an issue with the “I dress for myself” viewpoint. First, let me state I have no problem with a person doing that. My first issue, however, is the expectation that other people are somehow miraculously supposed to know when you are “dressing for yourself” and when you aren’t. It’s an impossible scenario. I can’t read you mind. I have no way of knowing your intentions if I see you, a stranger, on the street. Am I supposed to walk up to you and ask, “Excuse me, what are your intentions for the day about your clothing? Are you dressing for yourself or for attention from others?” Second, clothing has a communicative aspect. What we wear sends messages to others about how we wish to be treated, which indicates 1) an element of personal responsibility in how we dress, and 2) we do not live in a void. If I wear a doctor’s white coat, I am communicating to others my profession, which indicates how I wish to be treated and my level of education, skills, etc. If I dress in a bathing suit, I am telling others I intend to enjoy a day at the pool. These instances demonstrate the effect and message our clothing has on others. If this is not the case, then why not wear a business suit to the beach and your pajamas to a night club? A person can dress to please oneself, but he/she must also consider the effect of that decision on others because we do not live in isolation. Dress how you want to be treated. At that point, if you still receive disrespect, you will know with better certainty is was not because of how you were dressed but because someone else has a problem.

      • notrudeandginger

        you sound like one of those men who think women are “asking for it” when they get raped. You go ahed and think no one thinks for themselves and does things for themselves.

  8. I completely agree with this. First of all, if it is hot, I want to be able to wear shorts and a tank top so I am not dying in the heat. But I do not want to be whistled at. It makes me uncomfortable and makes me want to cover up. Just because I am seen wearing shorts and a tank top does not mean I am going around to ‘”show off” my body. I am not a model on a runway trying to please the eyes of an audience. I am simply trying to do my own business while not trying to feel like I am going to die of the heat. And sometimes when women get all dressed up, it is not to please others, it is sometimes to please themselves and feel good in what they are wearing. When a woman gets whistled at, they can feel uncomfortable and feel like they are going to be attacked by a predator later. Sometimes the whistling and ogling can boost a woman’s self-esteem. I see this happen to myself very rarely. When it does happen, it does not last for long. Like when someone tells me I look pretty or they like my outfit, I feel pleased for about a minute or so and then go back to feeling insecure. I think it all comes down to the woman’s mindset and what she is after when dressing for the day/night.

  9. Ogling can definitely be interpreted as a compliment or an insult, I never know which way to take it!! Thought-provoking post as ever, it’s interesting reading the other comments too 🙂 x

  10. its true that some girls get insulted by the way guys look at them. the problem is that most girls these days take it as a compliment more than an insult. at the end of the day it depends on how women approach it. they can either see it in a positive or negative perspective.But don’t get me wrong there are guys who just purposely act like a creep or pervert.

  11. I totally agree with the ideas in this article. As a woman, I also experienced being ogle by some strangers. It feels awful and uncomfortable because it makes me feel like even though they are not seeing me naked, they will imagine that I am naked and it makes me very uncomfortable and was offended. As what had mentioned in the article, I sometimes wear sometimes wear shorts or something else is just because the weather is hot and I want to wear something that can keep me cool. I am not wearing I because I want people to stare at me and look at me as a sex object.

  12. Women choose to appear “sexy”, mostly for themselves. Rape culture encourages the idea that if women didn’t want to be “ogled”, they wouldn’t choose to dress “sexy”. Our society makes men entitled to women and their bodies, and in a sense., they feel entitled to control us. Our bodies are for ourselves to control, and men in this society have been deeply obsessed with owning that part of us.

    Contrary to this common belief, I feel that this idea was perpetuated by the patriarchy in order to alleviate their deep seated fear of the truth. The truth is that women are the ones who hold more power over men. Although they provide the sperm, we bore their children. Without us, they would end, but we could still live happily ever after in the solidarity of sisterhood. (and it has been scientifically proven that it is now possible to biologically modify our eggs with other eggs that become “fertilized”, so we definitely don’t need men)

    • By saying you think women have more power than men, I assume you mean because women biologically give birth (as you say) as opposed to the political world we live in, that gives more power to men.

  13. I think men are born to be like that, like to talk about women’s body. However, they should know why women hate hearing comment about their body from men. No one wants to talk about their body in public even they are men. What do you think if women talking about your body like that in front of you? You may happy if they say you have a nice body with 6 packs, but you also may appraise them by complimenting a guy’s body (unattractive woman maybe). Therefore, don’t blame women why they don’t like to be ogled. It is just because you look at them with an indecent thought that would make you say out what in your mind. No one says that men can’t talk about or can’t look at women’s body , however, it is much better to talk privately as how women do.

  14. Mei Yan Anson Lui

    Women are told to be pretty, beautiful, sexy, attractive etc to attract men since they were small. However, does it mean that is their responsibilities to be attractive? I do not think. Unfortunately, the fact right now is showing that women who are not dress up well, made up, slim, skinny will be count as ugly or grotesque. I believe it is not their responsibilities, instead, a right to choose what they want to be look like. Besides, men usually judge women by their boobs or butts which is disrespecting women. Personally, I hate such perception and it explained why there is a trend of plastic surgeries. Women would like to own a “perfect” body shapes in order to fulfil men’s perceptions. It is stupid and unworthy.

  15. First of all, who doesn’t desire to look sexy! Well i do welcome compliments but not in odd or cunning ways. Everyone has a right to wear what they want or feel comfortable in.! I don’t wear sexy clothes to take compliments from people but I do it just because I am comfortable in those clothes. A little compliment will just make me glow but not from strangers !

  16. I believe some women, even girls, these days think that they want the attention from dressing provocatively. It’s only when that attention comes from the “wrong” type of men that they get offended. They think they are attracting one guy and end up attraction all, usually mostly creepy ones. Hence the reason my husband and I have a “No Hoochie” rule for our daughter. No low cut or short shirts, no short too short or jeans too tight. We don’t want her dressing provocatively or scantily for her age and attracting boys, or men, that are too old for her. She has some friends that dress and act older than what they are then wonder why they get into situations they can’t handle.

    I do think women should be able to dress in a way that makes them feel sexy but only if they can emotionally handle the reaction from men. Some women just need to realize that dressing sexy doesn’t always mean dressing slutty. Most men like it when you leave some things to the imagination!

  17. My outfit is usually very casual. I don’t show my skin. I wear long sleeves most of the time. I don’t like to wear something body-conscious cloths. It is because I am not confident about my body. When I see girls wearing nice dress, like “sexy dress”, I feel I want to try it sometimes. It is because they look confident who they are. They seem they own that look. At the same time, I hear boys commenting about the outfit. They judge the girls according to the outfit. It always bothers me. Some of my guy friends tell me I should try something more sexy cloths. I really don’t get why they tell me that. I wonder if the sexy dress means showing a lot of skin. If so, do they just want to see my skin? If so, I feel my friends are perverts! I even feel they maybe are voyeurs want to peep my body. Then, I always think my “sexy dress” day will not come any time soon.

  18. I feel like it’s fine if men want to see myself as attractive, but when they treat me or behave in a way that makes it seem like that is their only focus with me, that’s what I have an issue with.

  19. I feel like there is a very clear distinction to flattery and disrespect. I personally am a summer bug-I love wearing dresses and shorts during summer simply because I love the feeling of the sun and not feeling constricted in clothing. Does this mean I want unsolicited, demeaning attention? Most definitely not. Especially not from men, trust me. Anyways, clothing for me is just another way to express myself and be comfortable. If I think a girl looks nice in a certain outfit, appreciating her beauty will never surpass disrespect, nor would I ever objectify her. I feel the issue with (especially heteronormative) individuals is that women feel the need to expose themselves for the wrong reasons. If I’m going out with some friends, I’ve been told by (mostly straight) girls to look “sexier” or show more skin so guys would approach me. I’m not about that. If I want to wear shorts, I will when it’s hot, not for attention. It’s all about the intention.

  20. When a woman dresses sexily as she feels great about herself that’s fine and it’s also fine for men who see her too 😀
    I posted a similar confrontation I had with a woman 18 months ago. xox

  21. I think it is a bit creepy. Recently I rode my bike past a group of guys and one says loudly and clearly so I could hear, “she has good boobs!” It’s just rude.
    I don’t think wearing a dress that shows some cleavage or a short skirt means its open invitation for people to comment on parts of your body.
    We all notice attractive people, I have whispered to a girlfriend, “Oh god check him out” but I keep it subtle, I’m not like, “Hey you, nice six-pack you have there!”
    Though, and I feel a bit wrong saying this, the guy that said I had nice boobs, 90% pissed me off but a tiny part was flattered.
    I think it also depends on the comment, I remember once walking past a guy and he winked and said, “G’Day gorgeous” that didn’t offend me, but commenting on specific body parts is where it starts to get creepy I think.

  22. I’ve grown up learning to look at faces when you talk to people, I also do so when I compliment them.

  23. I do not understand why some women “act insulted when they get a compliment”. For me, it is empowering to be complimented. Any compliment is empowering for me, especially if it is related to my personality or my physique. I believe that most women try to impress men by dressing very sexy and walking in a sexy way, so why do some women get mad when complimented? I do not get that. However, I do not like to be ogled. For me, being ogled is disempowering. It seems like the man who is ogling you looks down on you thinking “she thinks she is beautiful, but she is not”. I have a lot of boy friends, so I hang out with boys a lot, and there were few times when some girls will just pass us trying to get attention from my friends through many ways, but they end up being ignored or ogled. This is funny because as these girls walk toward us, they are like “wow, this girl is cute”, but as soon as she gets closer to us, they are like “OMG, she is fake and ugly”. Sometimes, they say bad things to them such as “go away, you have nothing special” etc.

    • Yeah. Ogling does not equal compliment.

      And like you I see it as the opposite. Being ogled makes it feel like you exist for someone else’s pleasure and aren’t seen as having value in and of yourself. It’s different from feeling like someone who appreciates all of you also finds you attractive.

  24. The golden rule applies here. It is simply rude to stare, and women tend to be pretty good about not staring. Some men are good about not staring, others are not. As usual, it’s a boundary issue, and a guy checking you out is not really the same thing as a guy staring at or talking to your breasts.

  25. Like I said, I think it’s natural to like someone you find attactive looking at you though vs someone not so much. As a man I don’t wear clothes to show off myself, but I do like when I notice a cute, pretty girl looking at me or checkng me out vs one not so cute. I’m not bothered and can still find it flattering even if I’m not attracted to the one looking at me, but I do like it more naturally when it’s from girls I find, cute, hot, pretty or attractive. So I think it’s just a natural human tendency to obviously like one who is appealing to your eye looking at you vs one’s who aren’t/

    • Thanks for pointing out that even for women who might prefer attention from attractive men that it’s not just a one-sided thing experienced by only one gender.

      Of course, I would hope that we would be more charitable towards one another.

  26. I think it’s the leering and staring and obviously commenting that bothers women. And I can’t blame themm as it can feel threatening and be creepy coming from a guy they don’t know. I don;t think it’s looking its the guy’s who just stare like I said. I think many women don’t mind glances and probably are aware that they’ll get looks especially if wearing something showing her boobs or legs, etc. It sounds bad, but I think it can matter on the man who is looking too, Not bragging but I’ve never had an issue when glancing at a girl’s body and I try to be discreete, but I know there are some who notice my glances or have caught them, yet aren’t bothed. Some have actually smiled or position there bodies to show more of their body which I thought was amusing. I mean seriously though, don’t stare guys, that’s what creepss them out. You can control yourself, and don’t make comments to her or catcall. Be respectful and no d bags.

  27. I think the word itself says it all- “ogled”- to be stared at lecherously. That doesn’t feel good even if a woman does like being found attractive. And I agree- it can be confusing for guys, especially if they aren’t aware of the difference, of which there is a big one.

  28. When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I like to think I look good. If I wear something that shows off my curves and hourglass shape, I feel like I look pretty. So, I walk out the door wearing something that makes me happy. That is, 99% of the time, I wear what I wear for me and no one else. Which isn’t to say I never dressed looking for a man’s attention. I think when women do that, they are just looking for a man to acknowledge they look good and strike up a conversation. They don’t expect to be reduced to nothing more than boobs and a butt.

    • And there is kind of a double bind. Women are expected to look good. If they don’t people start giving them advice on how to look better, tell them they will never attract a man looking like that, accuse them of not taking care of themselves, accuse them of being lesbians (not that there’s anything wrong with that but since lesbianism can still be stigmatized it’s not meant as a compliment).

      And then when women to try to look attractive they are accused of teasing men.

  29. A girlfriend told me that when she walked into a pub and men turned to look at her, it was the reaction of the annoyed wives or girlfriends that she liked.

    • I surveyed my students on how they felt when men who were with other women ogled them. I have yet to write up the Survey, but my memory was that most women didn’t like it. But about 10% of them got an ego-boost from it and liked it.

  30. I’ve often wondered this as well…and I *get* catcalls and wolf whistles sometimes!

    Perhaps it’s because of my dysphoria/male type mind, but I don’t really get upset by it. Only once, when the guy actually started to follow me and started to get belligerent and mean because I wouldn’t stop to talk to him was it a bad experience. I guess it’s just that I already have to deal with women constantly giving me “beauty tips”, or commenting about my clear skin, hairstyle, lack of makeup, etc that having men give “comments” about my body also just seems like how it is.

    They don’t realize it, but the women who take it upon themselves to make small talk about feminine things with me activate my gender dissonance just as much, if not more, than guys who whistle do. At least the men aren’t talking to me…they’re simply expressing the fact they find my body attractive, and there’s no miscommunication that they’re thinking about my personality. But when women at parties/in line at grocery stores/as customers/etc are actually in conversation with me attempting to get me to change my looks…and then criticizing or laughing at my personality when I politely make it clear I don’t really care about their “tips”? Well, now that is even worse, because they are negatively passing judgment on *both* my body and me as a person.

    I don’t really expect many people to understand this, and it probably doesn’t affect women who are happy to be women, but maybe it will help other dysphoric people to know this happens to me.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with your gender dissonance.

      I’ll have to say that beauty tips can come across as insulting: you don’t look as attractive as you could, you don’t look as attractive as me, I know better than you what would make you look attractive. It’s kind of an insult disguised as “Being helpful” and quite likely said to make the advisor feel superior. I don’t experience gender dissonance and I don’t like it either.

  31. Well To Me It Does Not Matter If In A Short Skirt Or Dress,In Short Or In Jeans Men Will Whistle, Say Something Or Look But Yes More To The Showing Skin N Boobs.

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