Let’s say I see a woman and she looks really pretty and really clean and sexy and she’s giving off very feminine, sexy vibes. I think, wow I would love to make love to her, but I know she’s not interested. It’s a tease. A lot of times a woman knows that she’s looking really good and she’ll use that and flaunt it and it makes me feel like she’s laughing at me and I feel degraded…
If I were actually desperate enough to rape somebody it would be from wanting that person, but also it would be a very spiteful thing, just being able to say ‘I have power over you and I can do anything I want with you’ because really I feel that they have power over me just by their presence. Just the fact that they can come up to me and just melt me makes me feel like a dummy, makes me want revenge.
When talking to men about women, Michael Kimmel, one of the nation’s leading researchers on men and masculinity, found that many men’s reactions became surprisingly aggressive. He cites a Men’s Health survey which found that one third of men believed women should be reported for sexual-harassment for their provocative dress. Or, a college chaplain claimed, “The way young women dress in the spring constitutes a sexual assault upon every male within eyesight of them.”
Kimmel says the anger comes from men feeling entitled to women’s bodies. And he says that’s not so surprising given all the “come-on” scantily clad images that surround them, whether in mainstream media or porn. According to Kimmel:
Guys believe that they are entitled to women’s bodies, entitled to sex. Unfortunately for them, a significant number of women don’t see it that way. And when entitlement is thwarted guys seek revenge.
Curiously, while psychologists, feminists and the legal system see male aggression as the initiation of violence, guys describe it not as initiation but as retaliation. What are they retaliating against? The power that women have over them.
All this came as a shock to me. I had known that many men love seeing sexy women on the street, in a bar, at work… I hadn’t known that others found the same visions torturous, as they craved what they couldn’t have. And resented the “rejection.” Maybe some men feel both ways, pleasure and resentment all at once.
The opposing perspectives are striking. Men who enjoy sexy women often feel powerful, believing the women choose to dress alluringly for their pleasure, to please men. Some even think women dress provocatively to feel sexual pleasure in feeling desired. Men who feel this way are turned on, and not angry.
Whether experienced as pleasure or pain, an awful lot of men take women’s appearance personally, thinking it’s about them.
Yet most women dress for their own self-esteem, leading to a double-bind when it comes to dressing sexy: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Women feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful because society rewards them. Their self-worth often depends on it. But then women can end up objectified — being seen as all about sex and little else, or (now we know) leaving some men angry at them.
What’s a girl to do? What’s a guy to do?
Here are some thoughts. Maybe you have some ideas, too.
Some men learn that they should have power over women so that when it’s the other way around, they may feel angry and resentful. See women as your equals — neither less-than nor better-than — and respect them.
Some men come to feel entitled to women’s bodies. Know that we are all entitled to our own bodies, first and foremost.
To those who think that women flaunt their beauty as they laugh and degrade you, know that that’s not what’s happening. Women are simply trying to do what society tells them to do: look beautiful.
Many women and men unfortunately learn to see women in one-dimensional ways that are based on narrow notions of “beauty.” How about expanded vision? Why not enjoy beauty in its many forms and see women as people rather than sexy objects. And instead of being angry at women who aren’t interested in you, see the beauty of those who are.
A commentor calling himself Ocelot wrote an interesting reaction to this that I published, with permission, as a blog post. “Seeing Women as Magic and Evil” offers help for men struggling with this issue.
Over the years I’ve dated men who’ve ogled other women. Actually, only four men behaved that way, most weren’t so rude. When I told them their behavior bothered me, it had no effect. One responded, “Someday you’ll have a breakthrough and get over it.”
Instead of breakthroughs, I broke up with each of them. They were all shocked.
Sometimes the surprise happens differently, as when men “hear” me say that I like what I don’t.
When I was in college at BYU some of the students believed that although Mormons no longer practice polygamy (only “Mormon Fundamentalists” do) polygamy was the way of Heaven. (A religious instructor said this wasn’t the case. I haven’t been to church in years and don’t know what the common view is now.)
Still, I heard men say they couldn’t wait to have many wives up in Heaven. Put off, I asked men how they felt about polygamy. I told one man that it pissed me off. But projecting his own interest onto me, he was certain that I was as intrigued by the idea of heavenly threesomes as he was. Perhaps he got his sex ed from porn? I was mystified. He was surprised when I broke off our relationship.
Breakups can be harder on men than on women. Partly because men are more likely to be surprised.
Why are they so often surprised?
The male role seems to be in play. Men are less likely to monitor their relationships and they often learn that they’re not supposed to listen to women. Plus, taught to constrain their emotions, men are less able to read the emotions of others.
Women are commonly objectified, too. When men see women as objects, sex toys that exist for their pleasure, men lack empathy and can’t feel women’s pain.
Additionally, men often have more power in society and in relationships. How could this hurt them?
The Wall Street Journal reported studies showing that power decreases empathy.
People moving up the ladder of success are typically considerate, outgoing, agreeable and extroverted. Nice “guys” do finish first.
But once in power, things change.
One researcher compared the effect to brain damage, saying that people who hold a lot of authority can behave like neurological patients with damaged orbitofrontal lobes, an area of the brain that’s crucial for empathy.
I’m not saying all men behave this way, but it’s an interesting observation and something to consider since men typically have more power in relationships, and in society, generally.
So it’s interesting that even limited experiments, like asking people to describe a time when they felt powerful, could make them more egocentric.
Power keeps people from hearing points of view that differ from their own. So when a woman says she’s unhappy, and her partner feels she shouldn’t be, he may not sense her suffering even as she tells him about it.
Power diminishes empathy. Lacking empathy, some misread their partner’s feelings.
Then its surprise! Bye, bye baby.
Women, if you’re having issues, perhaps this will help you to understand what’s going on. Maybe you can have a conversation (if he’ll make an effort to listen to you.)
Men, if you want to keep your relationships strong, recognize women as full partners. Be attuned and listen to them. And be empathetic and alert to your partner’s emotions.
Men get much of their sex ed from porn, which has little to do with pleasing actual women (porn stars are acting ecstatic, after all, and the focus is often on pleasing the man). So WebMD asked reputed sex educators, Tristan Taormino and Lou Paget, to talk
about some common sex mistakes men make. Go here to see the full text. We’ll also look at research from Cindy Meston and David Buss, who researched and wrote, Why Women Have Sex.
Men imagine that women feel something parallel to what they feel, says Paget, leaving a “huge disconnect” about what feels good to women:
When a man has intercourse with a woman, and his penis goes into her body, that sensation is so off the charts for most men, they cannot imagine that it isn’t feeling the same way for her. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
The vagina is actually less sensitive than the clitoris and the surrounding parts for most women.
And a vibrator can help. So don’t be insulted, thinking something is wrong if that’s what she needs, say the authors. “Some women can’t have an orgasm with less than 3,000 rpm, so think of a vibrator as your assistant, not your substitute.”
But many men continue to believe that women should be able to reach orgasm from vaginal penetration. Taormino says:
I still get letters from people who say things like, my wife can’t [orgasm] from intercourse unless she has clitoral stimulation — please help. I want to write back and say, ‘OK, what’s the problem?’
And then there’s the myth that bigger is better. It all depends. Length is great for women who enjoy having their cervix stimulated, say Meston and Buss. But the same stimulation can be painful for other women. And if the penis is too long, “it feels like you’re getting punched in the stomach,” Paget explains. “It makes you feel nauseous.” Still others feel neither pleasure nor pain—and often not much of anything.
Generally speaking, width is more important than length. But depending on the woman, some prefer larger and some smaller.
And men should not assume they know what a woman wants based upon what other women have wanted. Taormino points out that:
You develop a repertoire as you mature sexually, but you should never assume that what worked for the last person is going to work for this person.
So open the lines of communication. But consider: If you constantly ask her if she’s coming, do you really think she will? The badgering can move her from erotic to just feeling pressured. So don’t overdo it.
We often ask our lovers why they love us.
When people become analytical – making lists of pros and cons, what they like and don’t – they can end up misleading themselves.
Social psychologists, Tim Wilson and his colleagues, found that analyzing our feelings can actually make matters worse.
Unfortunately, we don’t always know why we feel the way we do. So we might latch onto reasons that are easily identifiable, and easier to verbalize, than what’s really in our hearts. Our reasons sound reasonable, but they aren’t necessarily correct.
Now comes the bigger problem: After looking at our list, we may change the way we feel, at least temporarily, to match what we wrote. Maybe the list doesn’t seem too spectacular and we reassess our feelings.
Wilson gives a couple of examples. Suppose you enjoy dating someone, and you wonder why: What is it about this person? As you think about it, you start to notice that you and your partner don’t have much in common. With so little in common, you can’t have much of a future! So you change your mind about the relationship.
Then there’s that episode from Friends when Ross makes a list to sort out his feelings toward Rachel and Julie. He loves Rachel but can’t figure out why, so he writes down whatever comes to mind: “She’s just a waitress… She’s a little ditzy.” In real life, Ross may have concluded that he did not love Rachel as much as he thought, because all he could think of were negative traits. (But when he thought about Julie, all he could think was, “She’s not Rachel, she’s not Rachel.” Perhaps fiction is more forgiving.)
If you ever do choose to list the reasons why you love your lover, consider that you may not know, or may not be able to articulate, your real reasons.
Fortunately, the effects of “reasons-generated attitude change” are temporary. So at least don’t do anything rash based on your new perspective.
I once asked my husband why he loved me. He said he didn’t know. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t push the matter.
“Boys will be boys,” suggested one third of the women who answered my survey on ogling, which asked why some men stare at women’s body parts. Most of these women said their partner’s lingering eyes bothered them at least a little. But if men are “just that way,” maybe they’re less annoyed?
Is it true? Does the male sex drive include an imperative to stare at breasts and bottoms?
Maybe not. Only half of the women I surveyed had dated these distracted lovers. Others said they would be offended if their significant other behaved that way. I never experienced an ogling boyfriend, myself, until my last semester in college.
No. They don’t all do it.
I’m not saying non-oglers never notice feminine charms. Just not in the staring mode that so many of us find rude.
In one, Florida State University men were asked to assemble a puzzle of Lego blocks. A 21-year-old woman was asked to assist. She wore jeans, a T-shirt, a ponytail and no makeup. Flirting was off limits and she kept eye contact and conversation to a minimum.
Later, the men rated her attractiveness. Single men found her most attractive at the fertile stage of her menstrual cycle, a finding replicated in other studies. Lap dancers, for
instance, get higher tips that time of the month.
But men in relationships found her least attractive while ovulating. Why?
They were relationship guarding. It seems they unconsciously saw the young assistant as more threatening to their relationships when she was most attractive. To resist temptation, they told themselves, “She’s not that hot.”
Another Florida State study found a similar phenomenon. After words like “lust” or “kiss” were quickly flashed, men and women were shown a sequence of photographs and images. Singles gazed longer at attractive pictures of the opposite sex, and they lingered when asked to look at new images.
But those in relationships behaved differently. They looked more quickly away from attractive faces, using subtle mechanisms to rein in a wandering eye. As if to say, “Tempt me not!”
On the other hand, when University of Kentucky researchers made it difficult to focus on good-looking faces, people tried harder to see the forbidden fruit. And afterward, they felt less satisfied with their partners and found cheating more appealing.
Or as Dr. Maner, the lead researcher put it, “We shouldn’t want our partner to be looking at lots of other people, because that’s bad for the relationship. At the same time,” he continued, “preventing them from looking doesn’t help either, and can backfire.”
Self-policing works. Policing your mate may not.
Ogling is not simply a “boys will be boys” phenomenon. Many men are more centered on relationship-guarding than eyeballing the curves that pass by.