The female gaze


I wanted to write some quick thoughts on male and female sexuality. It needs a long considered post, but these are some themes that have been going trough my mind for a long time. Thoughts now rekindled in particular since I have started to use Pinterest.

For example – The photo attached to this post I found on Pinterest. It came with the following caption.

Distinguished sociologist Erving Goffman noted that women in photographs are often portrayed in compromising or submissive situations such as having the head turned upwards to expose the neck or in a contorted stances often with light self-touching. Such poses invite the gaze of the viewer and make the subject of the photograph seem vulnerable and exposed to sexualization.

I have been creating a board, The Wildebees Gaze. A catalogue of images I could quickly find that I found sexy. A caveat is in order. Undoubtedly the fact that Pinterest is public has affected what I have Pinned. I do seek approval. The images are therefor influenced partly by what I think the broader public and the people I care about would not frown upon. So it’s not wholly a personal or pure sexual preference. But I think that downside actually makes a wider point I will try to make (later) rather well.

One of the often cited criticisms one hears of male sexuality is that it objectifies women.

I stand guilty as charged. I find women endlessly beautiful, as do I several parts of their anatomy. Talk about not seeing the whole person and the personality! Punish me.

No seriously. What I find fascinating, is that even in the female dominated world of Pinterest (apparently over 80% of US users are female), there are so few sexualised images of men on there. Actually I am incorrect. There are plenty of boards of hot sexy men, but they show men being broody, moodish, arrogant, and almost always clothed. When the men are naked, and cock their heads slightly a-la Goffman, invariably the boards are created by gay men.

Straight women are apparently turned on by these pictures. Why don’t women objectify men in a similar fashion? And is that a good thing?

On the other hand, there is allot of pictures of women on Pinterest, women looking gorgeous, dominant, submissive, wanton, reclining, straddling, naked. Even the racy ones have women more as the subject than men. And most of them have been created by women themselves. My bet is that these are straight women.

This brings me to something else I have noticed on social media sites. First on Flickr and now on sites like Instagram: Women objectifying themselves via sexy pictures. In other words, gilrs taking semi-naked sexualised pics of themselves. What does this say about the male and female gaze in Western countries?

No related posts.

3 Responses

  1. Max says:

    It says that women are just as socialized as men into sexualizing the female form. Men don’t objectify women, society does.

  2. Hannelie says:

    Ek’s mal oor jou kiekies Kameraad! Sal graag behoorlik met jou hieroor wil chat. Ek stem grotendeels saam met bostaande relaas. Maar ek dink dis nuttig om te verstaan dat die male gaze ‘n laaaaang historiese aanloop het. Dis maar baie onlangs wat ons die (Westerse) visuele tradisie & kodes krities begin ondersoek en onsself hierdie vrae begin vra. En populere kultuur perpetuate tot ‘n groot mate die male gaze en omdat mans steeds die meeste ekonomiese mag het (en advertising types dikwels bly kleef aan geykte stereotipes) gaan dit nie oornag verander nie. Die hoer/maagd dichotomy is ook nog very much alive & well. (Wat predik dat net slegte vroue regtig van seks – en dus van mans se lywe – hou.)
    Ek het geen bewyse nie, maar ek glo mans en vroue se gaze is eintlik baie dieselfde. As dit sosiaal aanvaarbaar was vir meisies om van jongsaf na erotika en porn te kyk (soos dit vir seuns is) sal hulle ook leer om die manlike lyf op dieselfde manier te geniet en te objektifiseer. In dié verband het my broer se berg gay porn (asook my belangstelling in kunsgeskiedenis) ‘n groot rol gespeel in my eie genieting van die manlike vorm. Iets wat my puzzle is dat so baie straight vroue dink ‘n penis is lelik. Miskien is dit as gevolg van kondisionering en omdat dit steeds so ‘n taboe is om ‘n penis te wys. Dit verklaar oor die onlangse histerie rondom die Zuma-painting.