Anyone Crave The Male Gaze?

oglerOgle: to gaze with sexual desire.

When it comes to feelings about this sort of gaze, women aren’t all of a kind.

I surveyed 44 of my women students for their thoughts.

Some love it. Some like it sometimes. Others… not so much.

Women who love it

Just over a quarter of the women I surveyed really enjoy the male gaze.

Most of these ladies think men are hardwired to do it and can’t help themselves.

And these gals like it regardless of circumstance. Doesn’t matter whether they have purposely dressed to look sexy, or who is looking at them. It’s all good in their minds.

Women’s self-esteem in our culture is often based on looks and this gaze probably makes them feel high status.

But do they feel any discomfort if a guy ogles in front of his partner? Half of this group didn’t mind one bit. Usually, they simply weren’t thinking about his significant other. Others relished a feeling of superiority over his lady.

But about a third of these women thought that any guy who would do that in front of his wife or girlfriend is kind of a jerk.

Sometimes I like it. It depends.

Just under 1/5 said the male gaze can lift their self-esteem and make them feel good.

But it depends.

Like, is she trying to dress sexy?

If not, the attention makes her feel self-conscious, like an object, and it feels like an invasion of privacy.

The attitude behind the gaze is crucial. A respectful, appreciating glance (not stare) can be a complement. Anything disrespectful is not.

But most importantly, is the man someone she’s interested in? If so, the attention is most definitely wanted.

The women in this group all feel like any guy who would ogle her in front of his partner is a jerk.

Do I like ogling? Not so much

More than half — 55% — don’t like it at all.

Ogling doesn’t make these women feel good about themselves; instead, stares from strangers make them feel uncomfortable. Like objects. And it makes them feel like the men feel entitled to their bodies.

But there’s an exception. If the male gaze is coming from someone she’s interested in, she likes his attention very much.

And these women just hate it when a man ogles her in front of his partner, which they find rude and disrespectful to all involved. Many worry that the wife or girlfriend will be upset with her, as well.

This group does not think that men are hardwired to behave that way, either.

So there you have it

Three different groups of women with three different attitudes toward men’s ogling. Maybe the variety of experience helps explain why some guys find it all so confusing.

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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 20, 2017, in women. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Jessica Valenti: 6/3/2014: “The end of hisses, whistles and stares: we need to walk the streets without fear”

    Jessica Valenti 7/20/2015: “Men rarely catcall me any more. I hate that out culture makes me miss it”.

    Even women don’t know what they want, as illustrated by the complete contradiction above. Jessica claims she doesn’t want it, but culture makes her miss it. My interpretation is that she really does want it, but feminism has taught her that’s it’s naughty to want it.
    (She has subsequently changed the name of the article, presumably because someone pointed out her self contradiction)

    • She is completely aware of contradiction. And she’s addressing it.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if many women feel that contradiction. Regardless, the women in my classes were all over the place in terms and how they experience the male gaze.

      For some it raises their self-esteem. Others find it threatening. Which seems to be the more common response. Didn’t your mother tell you that staring is impolite? Most people experience staring as threatening on some level. Maybe that comes from evolution when staring meant you were prey to some predator. Which is most often how it feels.

      That said, as Ms. Valenti points out where the gaze is desired, it comes from a culture that values women based on how sexy they seem to men. Which isn’t the healthiest way to get your self-esteem. In the very best case scenario a woman’s self-esteem will only be strong if she is considered attractive, and even then, only for about two decades.

      It’s superficial on all sides. Dustin Hoffman talks about how his self-esteem was affected by not being a beautiful woman when he played Tootsie. And realizing that he/she was an interesting, engaging person and that any men would never get to know that about “her.”

      Men seem to suffer a similar problem in getting their self-esteem via the number of women they have sex with. Men have complained about that on my blog.

      Really, we would all be better off if we got our self-esteem from something more substantive. And fortunately, many of us do.

      • “She is completely aware of contradiction. And she’s addressing it.”

        She seems to be saying she likes it provided it isn’t too crass. But who knows, she is extremely vague and self doubting.

        “The women in my class were all over the place”

        They might have been all over the place, not just between each other, but in their own minds too.

        “Others find it threatening”

        Psychologically speaking, you get over uncomfortable feelings by exposing yourself to it. If you are socially awkward therapists will advise you to go to parties and look into people’s eyes.

        “Didn’t your mother tell you that staring is impolite?”

        Not that I remember. But staring isn’t considered a big deal in many cultures, like China and India.

        “Maybe it comes from evolution”

        Or maybe it’s social dysfunction from living outside of small tribes like we evolved to do.

        “A culture that values women based on how sexy they are to men.. which isn’t healthy”.

        It’s not healthy for men to value sexy women? I think you’re out of luck if you want to change that. You may as well hope for the earth to stop spinning.

        “A woman’s self esteem will only be strong if she is considered attractive”.

        Why do you assume because that someone is valued for reason A that there can’t be other reasons? If a man is valued for being handsome, he can’t be valued for other reasons? What a very odd notion you have there. In any case, aren’t you setting yourself up for trouble if your self esteem comes from caring what other people think? Right there you are on the road to ruin.

      • I checked on the staring in India and China and it was explained this way: we stare at everything unusual and weird.

        That isn’t exactly a compliment.

        There’s nothing wrong with appreciating people who are sexy. There’s a problem when we have narrow notions of what is sexy and when that is the only thing we are valued for.

  2. Women certainly recognize it happens so there’s a little window where you’re allowed to “snap out of it” and regain control.
    In the wild, predators stare.
    It is the natural instinct of a creature who feels less empowered to fear it. It is the natural instinct of a creature who feels more powerful to challenge it.

    It depends on the situation and how he’s staring.
    If I turn my head and catch a guy staring, and he looks away quickly and looks embarrassed, I feel nothing, really. A little amusement, a little sympathy, and yes, possibly, if he is appealing to me, a little interest. I certainly would not think a guy creepy in this instance, no matter how unattractive he was. And for the record, if a stranger came up and felt the fabric of my shirt, no matter how attractive (s)he was, I would find it creepy.
    However, if I catch a guy creepily staring, I will feel uncomfortable and scared—even if he is good looking. I define creepy staring as:
    The guy is very close (within a couple feet) and obviously NOT looking at my face;
    The guy doesn’t look away when I look at him, or keeps looking back (i.e. I catch him looking at me several times).
    The guy is, in addition to looking at me, doing other things (licking his lips, massaging himself, etc.).
    For that matter, passing a strange man in a deserted street at night/in a bad neighborhood makes me nervous regardless. But if he starts staring at me or doing anything else that shows he is taking particular notice of me I’m going to start to panic.

  3. theburningheart

    Very complicated issue, most of us included men, we crave attention, unless you have given up totally, and almost everybody, not to say we all like to be looked by a person, you may feel special, these be men, or women alike, because it boost our ego, and our confidence, unwanted attention it’s when we don’t like the looks, or intentions of the person giving us the ogling!

    To be fair we have to accept it, or wear a burka, since other than get yourself annoyed, there is little than you can do if the person ogling you wasn’t rude, verbally, or physically aggressive.

    Hey, some people have manners, and are educated, others are not.

  4. theburningheart

    I don’t see how my comment suggest your response, I do not approve of ogling, specially if you are with your best half, that it’s rude and impolite.

    And I am all for progressive issues,, and for more empowerment to women.

    When I said it’s a very complicated issue, I am talking about many things, that are not addressed in your piece, you provide a definition of ogling, but to apply that definition to all men who look at a woman it’s tricky, and there is a lot of room to talk about it.

    Just for the fact you look at a beautiful woman, or a woman look to a handsome man, doesn’t mean, there has to be desire to engage sexually with that person, as human we are all attracted to our particular definition of beauty, that may change culturally, according to the people, and individual who is appreciating the beauty.

    There is a fine line into liking the looks of someone, and being disrespectful to your better half, in case you have a better half, I don’t, and so many other single men, most men with a woman know better, but they are those who don’t. And that’s a fact of life, nothing to do of how I do not approve of that conduct period.

    • Sexual desire isn’t bad. Appreciating an attractive person isn’t either. Ogling — staring — makes most women uncomfortable.

      Miscommunication, I guess. Sorry about that.

  5. You know the interesting thing about this, is that yeah it’s creepy or rude for guys to stare, ogle or gawk at women. It’s not nice to look or talk about a woman or her body infront of your girlfriend either. I don’t think guys would like hearing their girlfriend look at a better looking guy and say how hot he is in front of their boyfriend, so it’s good to be respectful and mindful of your partner. But what I’ve experience and like you’ve written about how it’s split with women as far liking glances or looks and depending on who it’s from. There are two times that I thought were funny because it makes me realize women can play the “oh I’m doing this unintentionally, when it’s on purpose”. Kind of how like guys if shirtless at the beach or see a hot girl sometimes suck their gut in lol or like if a man is lifting something or pushing a mower, he might try to act like it’s part of his movement or act, but is kind of flexing his arms or tensing or tightening his chest, but making it look like it’s not on purpose when it is. Two examples one involving me directly and one someone else, but I was there to witness. At a previous job I worked at, I had two supervisors.

    One guy who I like and he still works there. A nice guy and a woman, who I guess neutral about. Anyway, word got out, and many people knew she had the hots for the guy supervisor. I don’t know she must’ve thought she was subtle, but I knew it, others knew it and the guy knew it too ha. Her actions and mannerisms gave things away, but for some reason she must not have known he knew or others. But there was one time when in the break room. She usually didn’t wear revealing clothes, but that day she had a top on, like low cut where I good amount of cleavage. I was eating lunch at the table kind of on one end, and it was just the guy there at the time. No one else, so many empty spots or seats at the table. She comes, and I guess made it seem coincident or something, but she sits right across him on the other side of table. But the amusing thing is when talking to him. She just so happens to hunch forward. You know what that does when women have a cleavage baring top…it really shows their boobs off even more ha, But the amusing thing was her trying to make it look incidental. When it was so obvious to me and I’m sure him it was anything but that. She would then just find a reason to yawn or stretch, which well, when women do that, it pushes their breasts out. I remember just looking down at my food and not looking over as I didn’t want her to see me holding in a smile, because I thought it was funny, because it was so blatant to me, but she was trying to play it off like it’s her natural mannerism when talking to him.

  6. Very interesting topic. I do have my own feelings about this too. I don’t mind just getting glanced at it does feel like a nice gesture especially when I am feeling insecure that day or a little down in my confidence. But I don’t like being stared at for awhile and it does make me feel uncomfortable as well as a guy doing it with his significant other by them. I wouldn’t want my significant other doing it just because it would make myself esteem go down and if Im standing right there just doesn’t seem fair to do in front of me. But another part of me makes me think that they can’t help it. They see a pretty girl and immediately they have to look and just can’t help it rather they are with their significant other or not. I feel like it is most definitely mixed feelings and I am curious do we let the men stare and look and not get upset about it or is it not fair?

    • Generally people are taught that it’s not polite to stare. And men risk having their partners grow less sexually interested in them when they stare at other women. I did a survey and the more you’re partner stares the less interested women were in their partners. So guys might have to make a choice between staring and a relationship. A few of the women didn’t seem to care though, but they were unusual.

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