I am hoping to make this topic a series of posts that draws on the voices of women as well as psychology. I want to begin with a simple definition of the male gaze that I found at Wikipedia:
“In feminist theory, the male gaze is the act of depicting women and the world, in the visual arts and in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the heterosexual male viewer.“
There is no question that the modern world, a world controlled by men, celebrates the male gaze. Go to any sporting event and you will find women scantily clothed cheering on the athletes. Their dance routines serve the same purpose as their clothing, to satisfy the men and perhaps a few women, who are at the sporting event. Sexual fantasies that are contained at a safe distance.
Strip clubs have women perform to stimulate and satisfy the male gaze. Again, distance and safety are typically enforced. Though women are safe and are artists, the men are focused in their gaze. For most, the artistry is never seen. The visually proffered delights are rewarded with money. Lost is the fact that there is an intelligent human in the woman’s body that elicits fantasy.
Yet there is more about this male gaze that needs to be understood. First off, it isn’t just about costumed artists performing for men. It seems to be hard-wired into most men. Men whistle, make comments, or simply just stare are women that catch their attention. Follow their gaze and it is obvious that it is the female body that has caught their attention and not who the person is. Women are reduced to an “it” status, a container for their sexual fantasies.
Now, you would think that in a naturist resort or nude beach or any other clothing-free safe place, the problem wouldn’t exist. Well, in my experience, that is an untruth. My wife wasted no time in showing me the truth. Women crossing legs, judiciously placing a towel when seated, opting for a wrap when the locale was clothing-optional, or staying in the water when engaging with men in conversation are just some of the strategies used to have a man’s eyes shift from their bodies to reach their eyes. Only then does real dialogue happen. Face-to-face, eye-to-eye where gender doesn’t become the central focus of the male in the conversation.
Now, this is just a beginning. I hope over the next while, to bring you women’s voices. I don’t want to mansplain. My voice is a man’s voice. My eyes are a man’s eyes. And, I have to admit, I am sometimes a part of the problem.