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A blogger named Holly once wrote, in a comment about this very subject, that there should be “no objectification without due subjectification.” That’s jargon, but the idea is a simple and useful one: it’s OK to stare at someone else’s body (and even long for it) as long as you don’t ever forget that you’re looking at a person.
And just as you have a right to lust, that person has a right not to be made forcibly aware of your desire. Even if you and your wife (or girlfriend) have agreed that it’s OK to check out other people, doing it in an obvious way in front of her is hurtful. A buddy of mine was in his car, stopped at a stoplight, staring at a hot woman walking through the crosswalk. “Then I looked over at the car next to me, and this girl, maybe 10 years old, was in the passenger seat, watching me. I felt like shit.”We live in a world that is deeply suspicious of male desire. The number of men who rape, who cheat, who act out in countless other sexually compulsive and destructive ways is depressingly high.
When I got to college and took women’s studies courses, I heard for the first time about the problematic power of the male gaze.
I listened to my classmates tell painful stories of the first time they noticed men ogling their bodies.
She turned away in disgust and anger; I cringed and flushed with embarrassment. Those questions haunted me for a long time afterward.
On the other hand, there are some who aren’t sure men should look at a woman (other than their wives.) If you believe that gazing with lust is always a sin (as some religious traditionalists do), then there can’t possibly be a “right” way to check out attractive strangers.
The question I wrestled with then was one I now often get asked by other men: These guys aren’t asking for feedback on their appearance; they’re asking for clear guidelines for how to check out women in ways that aren’t going to make those women (or others) uncomfortable.
It’s a question we should be asking.♦◊♦The jerks who genuinely don’t care how their stares make other people feel aren’t likely to be reading this, and if they do, they’ll ridicule it.
Breasts don’t walk by themselves; they belong to human beings.
It isn’t erasing a woman’s humanity to notice her body (or particular body parts).