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Forgive my male gaze Men are no longer trusted to admire beauty

Forgive me, for I have sinned. (Orlando/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Forgive me, for I have sinned. (Orlando/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


August 24, 2023   5 mins

Lost in thought again, I pace the humming street with my eyes down. They get into less trouble that way. If the pavements weren’t so cluttered with abandoned rented bicycles and e-scooters, I’d try walking backwards.

I am brooding over words I wrote several weeks ago when describing that species of social embarrassment called not knowing where to look when you pass a school playground of children. “It takes me a moment to remember,” I wrote, “that a man wandering on his own must no longer pause to look at children running races in their mirth.” I did not, I now think, adequately register the sadness of that loss. Scurry from a playground for fear of appearing sinister and we might as well be scurrying from the vitality of life itself.

The worst part of being told you’re sinister for no other reason than that you’re a man out wandering on his own is that, eventually, you begin to fear you might be. But sinister how? What’s the dread clutching at society’s heart? And why is it now clutching at mine?

I hear the children laughing and scuttle past. Here’s the tragedy of it: I am severed from the time when I laughed in a playground myself. The wistful music of continuity is stopped.

How many things are we no longer trusted to look at and admire? I dare not freely name them because that too can be a species of offence. So, I pace the streets with my eyes down, in order not to be surprised by beauty I must not let myself appreciate. The long, brown legs of high-stepping city women in their summer dresses? Eugh! The billowing of someone’s national dress, a fantastical headdress; a lovely child skipping in its self-absorption? Eugh, eugh!

The street’s forbidden fruits, waiting to ambush us the minute we lift our faces. Who are you looking at, mister? Wanna photograph?

Look up, then, if looking ahead is so fraught. There’s a sculpture on the BBC building by Eric Gill. Prospero and Ariel. Old and Young. Eugh! Or quit the street, on which we all once promenaded, sometimes flagrantly if the night was hot, and seek refuge in a cinema or art gallery. They’re showing an old Woody Allen here. Oh, God — it’s Manhattan. Eugh! And here — we’re in luck — is a Gauguin exhibition, the great painter and his young Tahitian bride. Young! How young? Eugh! Eugh! Eugh!

First the streets are denied us, then art. But take the risk out of art and what’s left but decoration? Do we not look to art to probe the borders of the acceptable? Risk is what explains art’s fearful symmetry. Tiger, tiger, burning bright…

I don’t pretend that there’s nothing on those walls to fear. It makes perfect sense to keep a tiger at arm’s length. Art is dangerous and we are right to stand in trembling awe of it. But what we fear is also, much of the time, what we love. We police the borderland, losing in adventure what we gain in safety. Will we one day have to ban beauty itself, shamed by the desires it will unloose, outraged by the liberties that have already been taken to produce it? Am I — one halting, harmless, rheumy, apologetic, mature man — really that inflammable?

Better I stay indoors. Close the windows against sounds that are not mine to hear and draw the curtains against sights that are not mine to see. That way I cause no one discomfort by appearing to take too avid an interest in what they look like, what they’re wearing, how old they are, or where they come from. Walk on, my children, unmolested by my declining sight.

I am not asking for pity. I have lived my life and looked my full. I won’t say no to looking a bit more before my eyes close altogether, but it’s not only on my own behalf that I lament our visual timorousness — there are those who come after who must also be granted the right to stare and be stirred.

There is, I grant you, nothing new about being told to look away. Or suppressing art, come to that. The Puritans tried to close the theatres in the 16th century, blamed the plague on the lasciviousness of theatre-goers, and finally got their way in 1642. But is there not a specific problem with the idea of men looking — as though the eyes of men are configured differently from women’s — that probably dates to the Seventies when John Berger’s Ways of Seeing was published and the conceit of the “male gaze” elaborated? It was after Berger, anyway, that men began to be perceived as gazing suspiciously, and after the film theorist Laura Mulvey’s analysis of looking as an act of male oppression, that their gaze was pronounced out-and-out exploitative. Where the likes of Francis Drake had circled the globe looking for worlds to conquer, men had now only to lift a paintbrush or wander in off the street to look at a painting to be charged with ravishment and pillage.

Ok, ok, cheap shot. Nothing any of us do is wholly innocent. We are all culture-laden whether we know we are or not. The scrutinising eye can be possessive or pornographic — what man can say he has never looked possessively or pornographically? — and it does make sense to talk of some sorts of representation as invasion. Only consider the shape of the paintbrush or the pen. “The paradox of phallocentrism in all its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world,” wrote Laura Mulvey. Oof, yes. Or, at least, oof maybe.

Had I been a woman worn out with being prodded by those instruments of male possessiveness, I’d have bought willingly into that. Call a man phallocentric and you had him every time. The more he shouted and bullied that he wasn’t, the more he was. I remember it well. I was there, denying it loudly myself. Of course, there were some — the Andrew Tates of the age — who pumped their muscles and wore phallocentricity as a badge of pride. But the rest of us knew we were on borrowed time. All right, all right, we said, hanging our heads, but how will we ever again let our senses off the rein? When will the fun return? It won’t, Mulvey told us. Fun had done damage enough. Fun had run its course. Thus was Puritanism revived in another guise.

With nothing that was fun or safe to look upon at home, a number of us did what the beaten have done for centuries, kicked the dust of Europe from our feet and travelled to exotic places. But, in the rush to delegitimise, that pastime, too, lost favour. The very word “exotic” marked us as imperialists. Orientalism, the critic Edward Said called it. Colonising what was foreign by finding it picturesque. Byron and Matisse, Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Bell, Leonardo and Stendhal, the entire fourth form at my school — all guilty. Old and young, men and women — Orientalists the lot of us.

There are accusations of Orientalism and its implicit privileging of whiteness all over the walls of the Rossetti exhibition currently showing at Tate Britain. I am in two minds about notes on the walls of exhibitions. Because I am a word obsessive, I read them conscientiously to the degree that I sometimes forget to look at the paintings they describe. Good wall notes can be engrossing and informative. Bad ones — which might be bad for a variety of reasons but are always bad if they conspicuously promote the pieties and prohibitions of the hour — can spoil the show. The notes accompanying the Rossettis swarm around the works like flies, letting nothing alone that might be construed as ideologically outmoded. Rossetti’s painting “The Beloved” is accused of “misimagining” North Africa, while another painting is guilty of “dehumanising” a North African. Just a question, but as these are value judgements: shouldn’t they be up to us to decide?

Remember Pip in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, so hectored and harried by his elders at a family dinner that he might have been an “unfortunate little bull in a Spanish arena… [he was] so smartingly touched up by these moral goads”. Exactly how I felt after two hours of curatorial finger-pointing at Tate Britain.

And so we walk the street of pitfalls and perils, eyes averted, shrinking from the finger. But I guess it’s fair enough: what goes around comes around. Now I know how generations of women felt being touched up by the eyes of men. I get it. Mea culpa. Forgive me, for I have sinned. I have mis-gazed.

This essay was first published on Streetwalking with Howard Jacobson.


Howard Jacobson is a Booker Prize-winning novelist.


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David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

The experience the author describes is very similar to that of someone in a toxic relationship. The hyper vigilance, the feeling of treading on egg shells, or walking through a minefield. The sense that one false move will trigger an attack, blatant and open, or passive aggressive. That any defence, or excuse, will only make things worse. Whatever you do will be wrong.

And here’s the crux, Some of us, and in particular the dreaded middle class white male (though it changes with context), are living in such a toxic relationship with society. We’re not beaten or bashed, but bullied nontheless. Made to think that anything we might do or think is potentially suspect. Anything that feels natural to us might be a sign that there is indeed something wrong with us.

And the answer is the same. It’s not a relationship we can realistically leave, but we need to recognise who is doing the bullying, who has the problem, who is the one who needs therapy. And clearly that’s the toxic masculinity merchants, the male gaze peddlers, the patriarchy fanatics and the rest. Stand up, be yourself, don’t be bullied into crawling around guiltily in a world you have as much right as anybody to inhabit.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Good point. We men are in an abusive relationship with the bullying woke class as a whole. What should we do? I suggest we do what the woke have done and be a bit more strident in our demands that they cease their bullying and demeaning tactics. Try to reinstitute adult to adult conversation that accepts we have different points of view and we should seek to rub along together. Bullying needs to be opposed.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Spot on.

Bullying needs to be called out for what it is. And if we attempt to have an adult conversation, only to face silencing treatment (poor men, mens tears, mansplaining and the rest) or blame shifting and gaslighting (that’s because men are victims of patriarchy too) – we should call that out too.

Use wit and satire and good argument. Draw them out, let them show themselves. Remember we are not trying to convert the bullies into nice people – that rarely happens – we are trying to show the nice people who the real bullies are.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

If you’ve actually experienced verbally abusive behavior, that’s completely unacceptable, and I hope you call it out. The thing is, guessing what others are thinking based on what you read online and what you project to be their internal thoughts as you walk down the street, is not a reliable source of evidence.

But if someone falsely accuses you of predatory behavior, please call it out–everyone might learn something. I’ve never known a feminist who wouldn’t appreciate a discussion w/ an informed male about ways to improve interpersonal interactions between the sexes so that they’re more respectful. You might be surprised.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

Yes, leculdesac, let’s call it out. But let’s not be naive. I have indeed met feminists who welcome nothing less than taking men seriously except as representatives of an oppressor class. But never mind that. The main problem here is not what this or that ideologue actually says or even thinks but the cultural climate in everyday life that we all internalize. How could it be otherwise after decades of the systemic degradation of men by both elite culture (academic, legal, political) and popular culture (journalism, entertainment)? This, not direct physical assault but indirect psychological assault, is the ultimate strategy of every current ideology. And now, thanks to wokism, we have a name for it: gaslighting.

J Dunne
J Dunne
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

‘But let’s not be naive. I have indeed met feminists who welcome nothing less than taking men seriously except as representatives of an oppressor class.’

This was my reaction. Feminists detest any notion of male victimhood, because it undermines their theory that society is one big patriarchal campaign with the primary purpose of oppressing women. Their usual reaction to a sensible counter-argument is to call the interlocutor a misogynist.

J Dunne
J Dunne
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

‘But let’s not be naive. I have indeed met feminists who welcome nothing less than taking men seriously except as representatives of an oppressor class.’

This was my reaction. Feminists detest any notion of male victimhood, because it undermines their theory that society is one big patriarchal campaign with the primary purpose of oppressing women. Their usual reaction to a sensible counter-argument is to call the interlocutor a misogynist.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

Yes, leculdesac, let’s call it out. But let’s not be naive. I have indeed met feminists who welcome nothing less than taking men seriously except as representatives of an oppressor class. But never mind that. The main problem here is not what this or that ideologue actually says or even thinks but the cultural climate in everyday life that we all internalize. How could it be otherwise after decades of the systemic degradation of men by both elite culture (academic, legal, political) and popular culture (journalism, entertainment)? This, not direct physical assault but indirect psychological assault, is the ultimate strategy of every current ideology. And now, thanks to wokism, we have a name for it: gaslighting.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Spot on.

Bullying needs to be called out for what it is. And if we attempt to have an adult conversation, only to face silencing treatment (poor men, mens tears, mansplaining and the rest) or blame shifting and gaslighting (that’s because men are victims of patriarchy too) – we should call that out too.

Use wit and satire and good argument. Draw them out, let them show themselves. Remember we are not trying to convert the bullies into nice people – that rarely happens – we are trying to show the nice people who the real bullies are.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

If you’ve actually experienced verbally abusive behavior, that’s completely unacceptable, and I hope you call it out. The thing is, guessing what others are thinking based on what you read online and what you project to be their internal thoughts as you walk down the street, is not a reliable source of evidence.

But if someone falsely accuses you of predatory behavior, please call it out–everyone might learn something. I’ve never known a feminist who wouldn’t appreciate a discussion w/ an informed male about ways to improve interpersonal interactions between the sexes so that they’re more respectful. You might be surprised.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

“…in a world you have as much right as anybody to inhabit.” Amen.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

That doesn’t sound very comfortable. It also sounds very familiar. As a female who was stalked & harassed from age 11 to my mid 40s (and depending on glasses/mask am occasionally accosted when my age isn’t apparent), I know all about walking with your eyes down, trying not to catch any man’s eye. They seem to be waiting to catch it–just anything to get a chance to invade your space, your day, your head. You couldn’t just walk into a restaurant, coffee shop, library, park, without some man deciding that sitting there by yourself actually was an invitation for him to come over and start his process of “getting in.” And then you have to be polite, right? You try to be, at first. But then it’s taken as a signal to proceed. So you let firm limits. Then you’re a “b***h.” In my day it was also “lesbian” and “crazy” and a “tease.” “Cold.” Smile more. “You’re into yourself.” You’re angry” (for reading a book on my own while sipping iced tea). You’re stuck up. You think you’re better than everyone. You’ve asked for it. Why are you attracting so much attention to yourself? Why can’t you be more friendly?

I’m a much more interesting and self-reflective person in my MILF years than I ever was in my babe years, and yet all of those humans who insisted that I was a b***h because I didn’t want to strike up conversations w/ every stranger suddenly don’t even see me. At least I can be more polite to male employees without fear they’ll “take it the wrong way.” But most men have this way of looking at you, as a woman, as either “fuckable” or “invisible” – meaning, they’re gay, or they think you’re too old, ugly, or fat to merit any acknowledgement whatsoever.

Dude, you’re blaming women for a world created by men. Get angry at the guys going around harassing females (and girls)–don’t say it’s “puritanism.” Puritanism was very male dominant and even more interested in controlling women’s behavior than men’s.

Maybe just look at the world as a human–not a predator or instrumentalist to whom female humans only matter insofar as they excite some genital arousal–and see what happens. If you’re heart’s in the right place, the truth will out.

Don’t stop seeing. Learn to see more broadly. Learn to see other humans first, not their value to your p***s.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago

Fascinating comment.
What you describe is a world foreign to most men, meaning most men have never ever lived in a world in which — if they’re sitting in a cafe, sipping an iced tea while reading a book — multiple women approach them and try to strike-up a conversation (with the hope of either an ‘encounter’ or a relationship). It simply does not happen. Zillions of us wish it did — but that wish, for probably half the human race, is fantasy (and distinctly fantasy not nightmare)
There was a study conducted some years ago on campus somewhere in which a moderately attractive young woman approached male college students at random, and asked them if they’d like to go back to the dorm and have sex with them. Something like 70% of all males enthusiastically agreed: ‘Sure, absolutely’. ZERO % of all women responded affirmatively when the same question was asked, in the same context, by a moderately attractive young male.
We live in different worlds; we see different things; we react in different ways; we bear different risks. We’re different.
And because the sexual dynamic is most typically male initiation/female response, the presence of a single, attractive woman in a cafe, reading a book is very easily seen as invitation. And if not invitation, opportunity. And men, being the traditional ‘initator’ are always looking for opportunity (especially in our young & single years). Thus the approach. It is entirely predictable.
Men approach women in cafes, in bookstores, on sidewalks, on dance floors, at parties, and sitting next to them in class. It’s what we do. If we waited until we were, ourselves, approached — God, we’d still be waiting, lonely, and clueless.
[Now I know this is not 100% true, 100% of the time, in 100% of all cases….but it does, indeed, represent the bulk of all experiences]
This initiating approach is not predation (though there are undoubtedly some predators out there); nor is it inhuman. Rather it is extraordinarily human and completely reflective of the biological fact that men and women are attracted to each other. It’s what makes the world go round.
But you’re right. There is a difference between an approach and a proposition….a difference between an initiating conversational question and harassment….a difference between a comment and an insult. And the problem, of course…the challenge: we see things differently. We inhabit the ‘Rashomon’ world of human sexual interaction in which the exact same thing, can be seen in two entirely different ways by the two entirely different people who were the players in any given drama.
If our heart’s in the right place, the truth will out!

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
9 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Tell that to Harvey Weinstein et al.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Excellent comment and an accurate description of a reality that’s often ignored, obscured or denied.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
9 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Tell that to Harvey Weinstein et al.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Excellent comment and an accurate description of a reality that’s often ignored, obscured or denied.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago

“You couldn’t just walk into a restaurant, coffee shop, library, park, without some man deciding that sitting there by yourself actually was an invitation for him to come over and start his process of “getting in.” ”

The fascinating thing about this sort of statements is, that if ask any of my female friends or relatives how many times they were sitting in a restaurant, coffee shop etc, and were approached by a random stranger trying to “get in”, you will receive a weird stare.
It happens. But rarely, and usually it’s someone who is a mental case or socially deviant. I find this kind of statement highly suspicious because most men actually would find such behaviour obnoxious, and these statements are actually intended to gaslight and bully those men.

The other aspect is that men do of course have to take the responsibility of make the first move. And of course, face the risk of humiliation and the social anxiety that comes with it.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

The fascinating thing about this sort of statements is, that if ask any of my female friends or relatives how many times they were sitting in a restaurant, coffee shop etc, and were approached by a random stranger trying to “get in”, you will receive a weird stare.

Like you I’ve done similar checks with female friends and relatives, with similar results. Clearly there are pests (and worse) out there, and I’ve even had to intervene a couple of times, but the picture the commenter paints does not ring true with any of the women I’ve spoken with.

I want to be completely fair and honest: some of them have encountered problems when out running: men slowing down and gawping; I’ve also seen a man exposing himself to multiple women in a pub (reported to security, suggested they called the police). So this stuff does happen. When it does, please always report it.

But this is not the paranoid picture the commenter paints of walking down the street in mortal fear lest a man tries to catch her eye:

They seem to be waiting to catch it–just anything to get a chance to invade your space, your day, your head. 

ï»ż

J Dunne
J Dunne
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

As you say, the men who do these things are extreme cases, quite often with mental health issues. The vast majority of men simply don’t have enough confidence to approach women, which is why their ability to do so increases significantly in a night club – due to good old drunken courage.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

The fascinating thing about this sort of statements is, that if ask any of my female friends or relatives how many times they were sitting in a restaurant, coffee shop etc, and were approached by a random stranger trying to “get in”, you will receive a weird stare.

Like you I’ve done similar checks with female friends and relatives, with similar results. Clearly there are pests (and worse) out there, and I’ve even had to intervene a couple of times, but the picture the commenter paints does not ring true with any of the women I’ve spoken with.

I want to be completely fair and honest: some of them have encountered problems when out running: men slowing down and gawping; I’ve also seen a man exposing himself to multiple women in a pub (reported to security, suggested they called the police). So this stuff does happen. When it does, please always report it.

But this is not the paranoid picture the commenter paints of walking down the street in mortal fear lest a man tries to catch her eye:

They seem to be waiting to catch it–just anything to get a chance to invade your space, your day, your head. 

ï»ż

J Dunne
J Dunne
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

As you say, the men who do these things are extreme cases, quite often with mental health issues. The vast majority of men simply don’t have enough confidence to approach women, which is why their ability to do so increases significantly in a night club – due to good old drunken courage.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago

Amen! You echo the voices of millions of women.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago

Fascinating comment.
What you describe is a world foreign to most men, meaning most men have never ever lived in a world in which — if they’re sitting in a cafe, sipping an iced tea while reading a book — multiple women approach them and try to strike-up a conversation (with the hope of either an ‘encounter’ or a relationship). It simply does not happen. Zillions of us wish it did — but that wish, for probably half the human race, is fantasy (and distinctly fantasy not nightmare)
There was a study conducted some years ago on campus somewhere in which a moderately attractive young woman approached male college students at random, and asked them if they’d like to go back to the dorm and have sex with them. Something like 70% of all males enthusiastically agreed: ‘Sure, absolutely’. ZERO % of all women responded affirmatively when the same question was asked, in the same context, by a moderately attractive young male.
We live in different worlds; we see different things; we react in different ways; we bear different risks. We’re different.
And because the sexual dynamic is most typically male initiation/female response, the presence of a single, attractive woman in a cafe, reading a book is very easily seen as invitation. And if not invitation, opportunity. And men, being the traditional ‘initator’ are always looking for opportunity (especially in our young & single years). Thus the approach. It is entirely predictable.
Men approach women in cafes, in bookstores, on sidewalks, on dance floors, at parties, and sitting next to them in class. It’s what we do. If we waited until we were, ourselves, approached — God, we’d still be waiting, lonely, and clueless.
[Now I know this is not 100% true, 100% of the time, in 100% of all cases….but it does, indeed, represent the bulk of all experiences]
This initiating approach is not predation (though there are undoubtedly some predators out there); nor is it inhuman. Rather it is extraordinarily human and completely reflective of the biological fact that men and women are attracted to each other. It’s what makes the world go round.
But you’re right. There is a difference between an approach and a proposition….a difference between an initiating conversational question and harassment….a difference between a comment and an insult. And the problem, of course…the challenge: we see things differently. We inhabit the ‘Rashomon’ world of human sexual interaction in which the exact same thing, can be seen in two entirely different ways by the two entirely different people who were the players in any given drama.
If our heart’s in the right place, the truth will out!

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago

“You couldn’t just walk into a restaurant, coffee shop, library, park, without some man deciding that sitting there by yourself actually was an invitation for him to come over and start his process of “getting in.” ”

The fascinating thing about this sort of statements is, that if ask any of my female friends or relatives how many times they were sitting in a restaurant, coffee shop etc, and were approached by a random stranger trying to “get in”, you will receive a weird stare.
It happens. But rarely, and usually it’s someone who is a mental case or socially deviant. I find this kind of statement highly suspicious because most men actually would find such behaviour obnoxious, and these statements are actually intended to gaslight and bully those men.

The other aspect is that men do of course have to take the responsibility of make the first move. And of course, face the risk of humiliation and the social anxiety that comes with it.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago

Amen! You echo the voices of millions of women.

Rob deKok
Rob deKok
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Thank you. THIS is the most extraordinary comment – the most accurate lens / summary / analogous analysis of where we men are now. Been it, being it, felt it, know it’s wrong, unfair (and unnatural) but not had it presented so neatly before – in the words and world of today. God help us all.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Middle class white males are victims?

Last edited 9 months ago by Clare Knight
Geoff Langan
Geoff Langan
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I think the point Howard Jacobson is making is that men who gaze at ‘the wrong subject’ are likely to be judged more harshly, and the penalties are much more extreme than for women. A mere allegation is enough to destroy a man’s career.
It reminds me of something I learned at University, although I don’t remember the author.
During a film, a woman stands up and slaps the man next to her in the face and walks out of the cinema. The feminist who sees the incident thinks, ‘Good for you, girl! Don’t let him grope you’. Another person, seeing the same event, is deeply saddened as it reminds them of their violent childhood. Yet another person, on seeing the slap, is reminded of how their own marriage recently split up.
Who knows why she slapped him, but each person will see what they want to see.

Rob deKok
Rob deKok
9 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Langan

… and then be told in no uncertain terms exactly what they actually saw and exactly what to think about it. Hermoso kiss, anyone?

Rob deKok
Rob deKok
9 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Langan

… and then be told in no uncertain terms exactly what they actually saw and exactly what to think about it. Hermoso kiss, anyone?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Anyone can be a victim regardless of their class, ethnicity or sex.

Geoff Langan
Geoff Langan
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I think the point Howard Jacobson is making is that men who gaze at ‘the wrong subject’ are likely to be judged more harshly, and the penalties are much more extreme than for women. A mere allegation is enough to destroy a man’s career.
It reminds me of something I learned at University, although I don’t remember the author.
During a film, a woman stands up and slaps the man next to her in the face and walks out of the cinema. The feminist who sees the incident thinks, ‘Good for you, girl! Don’t let him grope you’. Another person, seeing the same event, is deeply saddened as it reminds them of their violent childhood. Yet another person, on seeing the slap, is reminded of how their own marriage recently split up.
Who knows why she slapped him, but each person will see what they want to see.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Anyone can be a victim regardless of their class, ethnicity or sex.

William Shaw
William Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

The male gaze is not allowed but online there are a multitude of 40’something women posting videos bemoaning the fact that they have become invisible to men. Younger women seek attention either to boost their egos or to provide an opportunity to insult and shame men.
It’s a funny state of affairs and best avoided wherever possible.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Quite so. Feminism’s ‘male gaze’ along with toilet seats being left up and other petty matters are designed to divide men and women. And to furnish scientific evidence for scientific socialism.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Good point. We men are in an abusive relationship with the bullying woke class as a whole. What should we do? I suggest we do what the woke have done and be a bit more strident in our demands that they cease their bullying and demeaning tactics. Try to reinstitute adult to adult conversation that accepts we have different points of view and we should seek to rub along together. Bullying needs to be opposed.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

“…in a world you have as much right as anybody to inhabit.” Amen.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

That doesn’t sound very comfortable. It also sounds very familiar. As a female who was stalked & harassed from age 11 to my mid 40s (and depending on glasses/mask am occasionally accosted when my age isn’t apparent), I know all about walking with your eyes down, trying not to catch any man’s eye. They seem to be waiting to catch it–just anything to get a chance to invade your space, your day, your head. You couldn’t just walk into a restaurant, coffee shop, library, park, without some man deciding that sitting there by yourself actually was an invitation for him to come over and start his process of “getting in.” And then you have to be polite, right? You try to be, at first. But then it’s taken as a signal to proceed. So you let firm limits. Then you’re a “b***h.” In my day it was also “lesbian” and “crazy” and a “tease.” “Cold.” Smile more. “You’re into yourself.” You’re angry” (for reading a book on my own while sipping iced tea). You’re stuck up. You think you’re better than everyone. You’ve asked for it. Why are you attracting so much attention to yourself? Why can’t you be more friendly?

I’m a much more interesting and self-reflective person in my MILF years than I ever was in my babe years, and yet all of those humans who insisted that I was a b***h because I didn’t want to strike up conversations w/ every stranger suddenly don’t even see me. At least I can be more polite to male employees without fear they’ll “take it the wrong way.” But most men have this way of looking at you, as a woman, as either “fuckable” or “invisible” – meaning, they’re gay, or they think you’re too old, ugly, or fat to merit any acknowledgement whatsoever.

Dude, you’re blaming women for a world created by men. Get angry at the guys going around harassing females (and girls)–don’t say it’s “puritanism.” Puritanism was very male dominant and even more interested in controlling women’s behavior than men’s.

Maybe just look at the world as a human–not a predator or instrumentalist to whom female humans only matter insofar as they excite some genital arousal–and see what happens. If you’re heart’s in the right place, the truth will out.

Don’t stop seeing. Learn to see more broadly. Learn to see other humans first, not their value to your p***s.

Rob deKok
Rob deKok
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Thank you. THIS is the most extraordinary comment – the most accurate lens / summary / analogous analysis of where we men are now. Been it, being it, felt it, know it’s wrong, unfair (and unnatural) but not had it presented so neatly before – in the words and world of today. God help us all.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Middle class white males are victims?

Last edited 9 months ago by Clare Knight
William Shaw
William Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

The male gaze is not allowed but online there are a multitude of 40’something women posting videos bemoaning the fact that they have become invisible to men. Younger women seek attention either to boost their egos or to provide an opportunity to insult and shame men.
It’s a funny state of affairs and best avoided wherever possible.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Quite so. Feminism’s ‘male gaze’ along with toilet seats being left up and other petty matters are designed to divide men and women. And to furnish scientific evidence for scientific socialism.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

The experience the author describes is very similar to that of someone in a toxic relationship. The hyper vigilance, the feeling of treading on egg shells, or walking through a minefield. The sense that one false move will trigger an attack, blatant and open, or passive aggressive. That any defence, or excuse, will only make things worse. Whatever you do will be wrong.

And here’s the crux, Some of us, and in particular the dreaded middle class white male (though it changes with context), are living in such a toxic relationship with society. We’re not beaten or bashed, but bullied nontheless. Made to think that anything we might do or think is potentially suspect. Anything that feels natural to us might be a sign that there is indeed something wrong with us.

And the answer is the same. It’s not a relationship we can realistically leave, but we need to recognise who is doing the bullying, who has the problem, who is the one who needs therapy. And clearly that’s the toxic masculinity merchants, the male gaze peddlers, the patriarchy fanatics and the rest. Stand up, be yourself, don’t be bullied into crawling around guiltily in a world you have as much right as anybody to inhabit.

Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
9 months ago

As most of the commentators here have been men, let me add my woman’s point of view. This is a great essay – and profoundly saddening. It reads like a lament for lost times. I would contend that most of us understand very well the distinction between admiring and lusting, between flirting and harassing, between offense and unease, between words and deeds. Yet our judgment is no longer trusted. Men who pay compliments are scolded, art is analyzed as if it were government policy and the healthy disquiet that everyone feels on hearing their views challenged is reminted as offense so as to regain the moral high ground.
Yet we continue to think our own thoughts nonetheless – which is why little girls have to be disabused of their dreams of Prince Charming and why museum visitors’ appreciation of awe-inspiring artifacts has to be poisoned with anachronistic politicizing.
The pen we are being herded into is dark and cheerless. And it is becoming ever narrower, diminishing us all.

Simon
Simon
9 months ago

Thank you.

Chipoko
Chipoko
9 months ago

Well articulated!

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
9 months ago

Good points. Though when you say “everyone understands very well the distinction…” it depends on if the advances are desired or not, so no objective measure. This is what young men (with objectively less experience) have not been able to learn as they are told at every step do not go too far, stay in the safe zone or you will be labelled a predator. I feel very sorry for them and don’t see a way back as it is such a minefield.

Simon
Simon
9 months ago

Thank you.

Chipoko
Chipoko
9 months ago

Well articulated!

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
9 months ago

Good points. Though when you say “everyone understands very well the distinction…” it depends on if the advances are desired or not, so no objective measure. This is what young men (with objectively less experience) have not been able to learn as they are told at every step do not go too far, stay in the safe zone or you will be labelled a predator. I feel very sorry for them and don’t see a way back as it is such a minefield.

Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
9 months ago

As most of the commentators here have been men, let me add my woman’s point of view. This is a great essay – and profoundly saddening. It reads like a lament for lost times. I would contend that most of us understand very well the distinction between admiring and lusting, between flirting and harassing, between offense and unease, between words and deeds. Yet our judgment is no longer trusted. Men who pay compliments are scolded, art is analyzed as if it were government policy and the healthy disquiet that everyone feels on hearing their views challenged is reminted as offense so as to regain the moral high ground.
Yet we continue to think our own thoughts nonetheless – which is why little girls have to be disabused of their dreams of Prince Charming and why museum visitors’ appreciation of awe-inspiring artifacts has to be poisoned with anachronistic politicizing.
The pen we are being herded into is dark and cheerless. And it is becoming ever narrower, diminishing us all.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago

I am rereading 1984 at the moment. This piece could have been written by Winston Smith. In constant mortal terror of the thought police, confused by the tension between his nature and the warped morality imposed on him, downcast by the forced removal of all beauty and gaiety from his life.

All that it lacks is the spark of resistance that starts to take hold in Winston.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Quite. I also missed that spark of resistance. There seemed to be a sorrowful acceptance of the abysmal condition of things, especially of these crazy accusations of “gaze” and “pornography” – as if they had any purchase – as if they were not paranoid; as if they were not, in and of themselves, oppressive.
Consider the sheer variety and fluidity of experience – of infinite, delicate transaction – involved in living, in being alive. A man looks at a woman; she smirks, he raises his eyebrow, she sighs, they turn away – “gaze”? “Pornography”? Or the natural processes of youthful flirtation?
I suspect the author is very subtly trying to goad us, precisely by assuming the air of weariness, of defeat; in demonstrating, with his own sloping shoulders and furrowed brow, the sort of condition to which the new puritans are reducing us.

Oliver Ellwood
Oliver Ellwood
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

A wonderful article. We have become very afraid in the modern world. Many fear to start a conversation with a stranger for fear that they may be seen as ‘creepy’. But I make a point of pushing back against this fear. I quite often engage a stranger in conversation if I can drop in a light comment which relates to the position or environment in which we both find ourselves in that moment. In my experience the vast majority of people respond in a friendly way and appear almost relieved that the ice has been broken. I have had many fascinating encounters by behaving in this way and have hardly ever come across any hostility. Casual, polite, interested interaction is the social glue that has held us all together for millennia and which now seems to be disappearing into a fearful loneliness. I teach my children to be curious, interested and confident in the world around them. If we aren’t interested in other people what hope is there for us?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Oliver Ellwood

But are these strangers you engage in conversation men ore women and where are you at the time?

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

That’s an interesting question.
Speaking for myself — yes, sometimes they are women. And the conversations could be anywhere.
But — and perhaps this was your point — conversations between men and women are almost always ‘freighted’ with a certain potential significance that same-sex conversations typically do not carry.
“It’s still”, as they say, “the same old story”. The fact of our biological binary creates an ‘imperative’ which always, even at the slightest, most microscopic level, is an inevitable part of male/female interaction.
I can have the exact same conversation with Bill as I had with Sally (word for word, let’s say, and let’s say the conversation is about the price of eggs), but if I find Sally attractive in some way, shape, or form (even in the smallest of ways), I’ll enjoy the conversation with Sally more. How could I not?
‘These fundamental things apply…as time goes by!”

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Well said. It’s universal and timeless. Just part of our evolutionary baggage.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Well said. It’s universal and timeless. Just part of our evolutionary baggage.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

That’s an interesting question.
Speaking for myself — yes, sometimes they are women. And the conversations could be anywhere.
But — and perhaps this was your point — conversations between men and women are almost always ‘freighted’ with a certain potential significance that same-sex conversations typically do not carry.
“It’s still”, as they say, “the same old story”. The fact of our biological binary creates an ‘imperative’ which always, even at the slightest, most microscopic level, is an inevitable part of male/female interaction.
I can have the exact same conversation with Bill as I had with Sally (word for word, let’s say, and let’s say the conversation is about the price of eggs), but if I find Sally attractive in some way, shape, or form (even in the smallest of ways), I’ll enjoy the conversation with Sally more. How could I not?
‘These fundamental things apply…as time goes by!”

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Oliver Ellwood

But are these strangers you engage in conversation men ore women and where are you at the time?

Oliver Ellwood
Oliver Ellwood
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

A wonderful article. We have become very afraid in the modern world. Many fear to start a conversation with a stranger for fear that they may be seen as ‘creepy’. But I make a point of pushing back against this fear. I quite often engage a stranger in conversation if I can drop in a light comment which relates to the position or environment in which we both find ourselves in that moment. In my experience the vast majority of people respond in a friendly way and appear almost relieved that the ice has been broken. I have had many fascinating encounters by behaving in this way and have hardly ever come across any hostility. Casual, polite, interested interaction is the social glue that has held us all together for millennia and which now seems to be disappearing into a fearful loneliness. I teach my children to be curious, interested and confident in the world around them. If we aren’t interested in other people what hope is there for us?

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Yes – it almost ends on an apology. Ironic, or an apology to the bully in the hope of avoiding reprisals.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Ironic, I think. Otherwise, the essay would make no sense.

Mike Keohane
Mike Keohane
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Yes it is ironic: Howard Jacobson does not surrender to bullies.

Mike Keohane
Mike Keohane
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Yes it is ironic: Howard Jacobson does not surrender to bullies.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Ironic, I think. Otherwise, the essay would make no sense.

Oliver Ellwood
Oliver Ellwood
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Exactly my thoughts

Philip Tisdall
Philip Tisdall
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I read it every 10 years and always find something new. I think that 1984 should be followed immediately by Brave New World. Huxley’s fear, by comparison, is that servitude would come from our surrender to distractions.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip Tisdall

Trapped between the woke thought police and the never ending distractions of our phones, it seems we are rapidly approaching the worst of all possible future worlds.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip Tisdall

Trapped between the woke thought police and the never ending distractions of our phones, it seems we are rapidly approaching the worst of all possible future worlds.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Quite. I also missed that spark of resistance. There seemed to be a sorrowful acceptance of the abysmal condition of things, especially of these crazy accusations of “gaze” and “pornography” – as if they had any purchase – as if they were not paranoid; as if they were not, in and of themselves, oppressive.
Consider the sheer variety and fluidity of experience – of infinite, delicate transaction – involved in living, in being alive. A man looks at a woman; she smirks, he raises his eyebrow, she sighs, they turn away – “gaze”? “Pornography”? Or the natural processes of youthful flirtation?
I suspect the author is very subtly trying to goad us, precisely by assuming the air of weariness, of defeat; in demonstrating, with his own sloping shoulders and furrowed brow, the sort of condition to which the new puritans are reducing us.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Yes – it almost ends on an apology. Ironic, or an apology to the bully in the hope of avoiding reprisals.

Oliver Ellwood
Oliver Ellwood
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Exactly my thoughts

Philip Tisdall
Philip Tisdall
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I read it every 10 years and always find something new. I think that 1984 should be followed immediately by Brave New World. Huxley’s fear, by comparison, is that servitude would come from our surrender to distractions.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago

I am rereading 1984 at the moment. This piece could have been written by Winston Smith. In constant mortal terror of the thought police, confused by the tension between his nature and the warped morality imposed on him, downcast by the forced removal of all beauty and gaiety from his life.

All that it lacks is the spark of resistance that starts to take hold in Winston.

polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago

As I grow older I find young children ever more attractive. I am not motivated by dark pornographic longings, or phallowotevers lurking in my psyche. They possess a lust for life that I have lost and can never regain.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Look on the bright side, it only gets worse!

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I’m particularly fond of the sound of them running around in the playground. Our world is getting more tightly controlled all the time. The anarchy of the playground is music to my ears.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

The look of wonderment in a toddlers face! Like everywhere they look is new and their brain is exploding with excitement. Priceless!

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
9 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

We were twinned lands that did frisk in the sun
And bleat the one at th’other: what we changed
Was innocence for innocence; we knew not
The doctrine of ill doing, nor dreamed
That any did. Had we pursued that life,
And our weaker spirits ne’er been higher reared
With stronger blood, we should have answered heaven
Boldly, ‘not guilty’, imposition cleared
Hereditary ours.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
9 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

We were twinned lands that did frisk in the sun
And bleat the one at th’other: what we changed
Was innocence for innocence; we knew not
The doctrine of ill doing, nor dreamed
That any did. Had we pursued that life,
And our weaker spirits ne’er been higher reared
With stronger blood, we should have answered heaven
Boldly, ‘not guilty’, imposition cleared
Hereditary ours.

Andrew Daws
Andrew Daws
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

part of that is remembering what it was like to be that energetic and full of wonder.

Stephen Barnard
Stephen Barnard
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

When my own children were of kindergarten age I considered a change of career to become a kindergarten teacher. As a male. That consideration lasted less than a second…

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Look on the bright side, it only gets worse!

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I’m particularly fond of the sound of them running around in the playground. Our world is getting more tightly controlled all the time. The anarchy of the playground is music to my ears.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

The look of wonderment in a toddlers face! Like everywhere they look is new and their brain is exploding with excitement. Priceless!

Andrew Daws
Andrew Daws
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

part of that is remembering what it was like to be that energetic and full of wonder.

Stephen Barnard
Stephen Barnard
9 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

When my own children were of kindergarten age I considered a change of career to become a kindergarten teacher. As a male. That consideration lasted less than a second…

polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago

As I grow older I find young children ever more attractive. I am not motivated by dark pornographic longings, or phallowotevers lurking in my psyche. They possess a lust for life that I have lost and can never regain.

Andrew D
Andrew D
9 months ago

So true about the finger-wagging notes on the gallery wall, the recently-rehung National Portrait Gallery is another prime example. Even slavery abolitionists get it in the neck – a large canvas showing one of their meetings is accompanied by a disapproving note pointing out that that women were not properly included – bloody phallocentric Wilberforce couldn’t get it right, could he?

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew D
Andrew D
Andrew D
9 months ago

So true about the finger-wagging notes on the gallery wall, the recently-rehung National Portrait Gallery is another prime example. Even slavery abolitionists get it in the neck – a large canvas showing one of their meetings is accompanied by a disapproving note pointing out that that women were not properly included – bloody phallocentric Wilberforce couldn’t get it right, could he?

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew D
J Bryant
J Bryant
9 months ago

Brilliant essay.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
9 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Agreed. Utterly superb. H.J. has a near-perfect touch, knowing exactly how far to press a point. I loved this line:

Byron and Matisse, Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Bell, Leonardo and Stendhal, the entire fourth form at my school — all guilty.

Some things just set you up for the day!

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
9 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Agreed. Utterly superb. H.J. has a near-perfect touch, knowing exactly how far to press a point. I loved this line:

Byron and Matisse, Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Bell, Leonardo and Stendhal, the entire fourth form at my school — all guilty.

Some things just set you up for the day!

J Bryant
J Bryant
9 months ago

Brilliant essay.

AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago

It used to be simple. You only feared the ‘nutter’ who might sit next to you on the bus or train and make you feel uncomfortable. (Nutter is almost certainly a hate word nowadays).
Now many women fear men as rapists. Many men fear women as false accusers. Ordinary people fear being accused of ‘wrongthink’ by any number of ‘activists’.
Is the world a better place for all the concern?

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Aah, the nutter on the bus. Good old Jasper Carrott.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Aah, the nutter on the bus. Good old Jasper Carrott.

AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago

It used to be simple. You only feared the ‘nutter’ who might sit next to you on the bus or train and make you feel uncomfortable. (Nutter is almost certainly a hate word nowadays).
Now many women fear men as rapists. Many men fear women as false accusers. Ordinary people fear being accused of ‘wrongthink’ by any number of ‘activists’.
Is the world a better place for all the concern?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago

Fortunately I live a life free from the inanities of Berger, Mulvey and Said et al. My gaze wanders where it will and my mind is untrammelled by such pseudo-philosophers. Most men are.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago

Fortunately I live a life free from the inanities of Berger, Mulvey and Said et al. My gaze wanders where it will and my mind is untrammelled by such pseudo-philosophers. Most men are.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

As a male, here I gaze; I can do no other.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
9 months ago

To women everywhere I say kindly, we are looking (usually just looking) because you have either been born beautiful (lucky you) or have gone to considerable trouble, time and expense to make the best of your appearance (lots of us are doing that these days too) and we’re appreciating that for a very short moment. Sincere apologies if it overstays it’s welcome occasionally, nearly all of us mean no harm.

As for the suggestion that male lust is only scurrilous and grubby but female lust is some kind of academic pursuit without any kind of base desire involved I’m afraid this is nonsense. We all have female friends these days and we talk to them.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

If you have female friends, and you talk to them, you’ll also know not only that they ogle men, but that they seek out places to do so. And they do so with a lightheartedness and lack of any guilt that most men can only dream of. They seem unconcerned even with large age gaps and are happy to use expressions such as “would you, I would”.

Women in their 50s will talk salaciously about men in their late teens and twenties, the more sophisticated using terms like “Adonis”, the rest cruder terms.

Why on earth is the author, and other men, skulking around like a character from a Kafka novel, wracked with guilt over nothing.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

And these women are creepy. Just like men who do the same. I had 50 something women ‘ogle’, make suggestive comments, and try it on with me when I was in my teens and 20’s and thought they were disgusting. Nobody should be ‘ogling’ anyone. We are not zoo animals.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

Middle aged women in groups in clubs should have a hazard warning. It’s not just looking – they can’t keep their hands to themselves, and think it’s enormous fun. Yuk!

I remember a guy in the local gym recruiting very young guys to act as “waiters” in a place that specialised in “girls” nights out. He made it clear they would be topless and had to expect to be groped by women old enough to be their mother or grandmother! But the money was good. Yuk!

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
9 months ago

On holiday in Chile in my mid 30’s I was buying ice cream and someone pinched my arse. I turned round and 5 women maybe in their 60’s were laughing, they made fun of my accent then left, apparently I say London weirdly! 5 mins later they drove past beeping. It was fun. It still makes me laugh now.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

“Nobody should be ‘ogling’ anyone. We are not zoo animals.”
I don’t understand your comment, John. I see nothing inherently wrong or “disgusting” with ogling (although, like many other behaviors, it requires subtlety and attention to context). The word “ogling” is a negative reference to heterosexual attraction per se. If there’s something inherently sick or wrong with that, then there’s something inherently sick or wrong with human nature.
And this is surely what underlies at least some ideological scolding about the specifically male “gaze.” (Women, I learned from feminists, are more spiritual beings than men and therefore above such a grossly physiological need.) What better way to destroy (male) “heteronormativity,” after all, than to classify it as either sick or evil?
The same thing is true about homosexual attraction, of course, but no one says so for fear of offending gay people, even gay men. Being gay myself, I learned something about the “gaze” from a somewhat different angle. I had to avoid looking with obvious joy at men who might be straight, because they were not available to me and might respond with distress. I complied with convention for purely practical reasons, not because I felt the slightest guilt for having a male body. But I had in addition to find a way of looking at other men with obvious joy, because they might be gay and respond cheerfully or gratefully.
How ironic that I find myself, a gay man, having to defend the natural inclination not only of men in general but also of straight men in particular. Go figure.
By the way, the same principle applies to “objectification.” That’s just a sophisticated word for “ogling.” Its use rests, not surprisingly, on an academic theory. The idea is that interactions should focus on the full humanity of each person, not on anything as unedifying as physical attraction or as oppressive as employment. In theory, everyone is at all times a subject, never a mere object. Trouble is, we could have no society at all if everyone experienced everyone else that way at all times (the ideal established by Martin Buber as an “I-Thou” relationship). We certainly couldn’t do business with each other or relate to each other professionally. Of more importance here, though, is that the very act of sexual intercourse itself requires the temporary objectification of bodies.

Last edited 9 months ago by Paul Nathanson
David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

But what better way, deliberate or not, to demoralise a group of people than to pathologise their normal behaviour.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Nicely said!
And you’re absolutely right: objectification is life. As much as I might believe you to be your own, independent, thinking, feeling ‘subject’…. as much as I know that we are, indeed, two separate and independent beings, each with our lives, thoughts, dreams, etc…. I can NOT ‘subjectify’ you. It’s impossible. We each remain, always & forever, ‘objects’ in the Other’s story.
Even when the Other is an object of lifelong Love & Devotion — even then — it’s still ‘my play’ within which they appear (walking in from Stage Left…exiting Stage Right).
The idea that somehow ‘objectification’ (the male gaze!) is a no good, bad, terrible, horrible thing is simply ludicrous.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Looking with joy? Joy! Don’t you mean lust – or at least desire?

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
8 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Warrior

I don’t make that distinction, Betsy. Sexual desire is joyful (unless neurosis or psychosis contaminate and distort it).

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
8 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Warrior

I don’t make that distinction, Betsy. Sexual desire is joyful (unless neurosis or psychosis contaminate and distort it).

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

But what better way, deliberate or not, to demoralise a group of people than to pathologise their normal behaviour.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Nicely said!
And you’re absolutely right: objectification is life. As much as I might believe you to be your own, independent, thinking, feeling ‘subject’…. as much as I know that we are, indeed, two separate and independent beings, each with our lives, thoughts, dreams, etc…. I can NOT ‘subjectify’ you. It’s impossible. We each remain, always & forever, ‘objects’ in the Other’s story.
Even when the Other is an object of lifelong Love & Devotion — even then — it’s still ‘my play’ within which they appear (walking in from Stage Left…exiting Stage Right).
The idea that somehow ‘objectification’ (the male gaze!) is a no good, bad, terrible, horrible thing is simply ludicrous.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Looking with joy? Joy! Don’t you mean lust – or at least desire?

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago

Of course we’re animals, none other. We live; we die; we sweat; we bleed; we make messes and occasionally bray. We wander about, grazing, and occupy ourselves with what we believe is important or interesting or fun or necessary — it makes little difference. And in the meantime, in-between times: ain’t we got fun?
Ogling (a wonderful word, that) is a perfectly fine, entirely reasonable thing to do (inside or outside the zoo). Of course there are varieties and subsets and techniques and all kinds of way to ogle which are more or less acceptable…more or less obvious…more or less effective. There is the leer, followed by the crude comment…the passing glance…the inviting smile…the crinkle of they eye…the wink (does anyone wink anymore??).
How on earth did we ever get the idea that the recognition of beauty (in whatever form…and thank goodness we all have different tastes) is somehow objectionable, or unworthy, or inhuman?
We are our embodied selves, not intangible clouds of consciousness drifting hither & yon (thinking abstract things): of course we ogle. It’s what we do.
Well, she looked at me
And I, I could see
That before too long
I’d fall in love with her
She wouldn’t dance with another
Ooh, when I saw her standing there
Well, my heart went “boom”
When I crossed that room
And I held her hand in mine
Oh we danced through the night
And we held each other tight
And before too long
I fell in love with her
Now I’ll never dance with another
Ooh, since I saw her standing there

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

Middle aged women in groups in clubs should have a hazard warning. It’s not just looking – they can’t keep their hands to themselves, and think it’s enormous fun. Yuk!

I remember a guy in the local gym recruiting very young guys to act as “waiters” in a place that specialised in “girls” nights out. He made it clear they would be topless and had to expect to be groped by women old enough to be their mother or grandmother! But the money was good. Yuk!

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
9 months ago

On holiday in Chile in my mid 30’s I was buying ice cream and someone pinched my arse. I turned round and 5 women maybe in their 60’s were laughing, they made fun of my accent then left, apparently I say London weirdly! 5 mins later they drove past beeping. It was fun. It still makes me laugh now.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

“Nobody should be ‘ogling’ anyone. We are not zoo animals.”
I don’t understand your comment, John. I see nothing inherently wrong or “disgusting” with ogling (although, like many other behaviors, it requires subtlety and attention to context). The word “ogling” is a negative reference to heterosexual attraction per se. If there’s something inherently sick or wrong with that, then there’s something inherently sick or wrong with human nature.
And this is surely what underlies at least some ideological scolding about the specifically male “gaze.” (Women, I learned from feminists, are more spiritual beings than men and therefore above such a grossly physiological need.) What better way to destroy (male) “heteronormativity,” after all, than to classify it as either sick or evil?
The same thing is true about homosexual attraction, of course, but no one says so for fear of offending gay people, even gay men. Being gay myself, I learned something about the “gaze” from a somewhat different angle. I had to avoid looking with obvious joy at men who might be straight, because they were not available to me and might respond with distress. I complied with convention for purely practical reasons, not because I felt the slightest guilt for having a male body. But I had in addition to find a way of looking at other men with obvious joy, because they might be gay and respond cheerfully or gratefully.
How ironic that I find myself, a gay man, having to defend the natural inclination not only of men in general but also of straight men in particular. Go figure.
By the way, the same principle applies to “objectification.” That’s just a sophisticated word for “ogling.” Its use rests, not surprisingly, on an academic theory. The idea is that interactions should focus on the full humanity of each person, not on anything as unedifying as physical attraction or as oppressive as employment. In theory, everyone is at all times a subject, never a mere object. Trouble is, we could have no society at all if everyone experienced everyone else that way at all times (the ideal established by Martin Buber as an “I-Thou” relationship). We certainly couldn’t do business with each other or relate to each other professionally. Of more importance here, though, is that the very act of sexual intercourse itself requires the temporary objectification of bodies.

Last edited 9 months ago by Paul Nathanson
B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago

Of course we’re animals, none other. We live; we die; we sweat; we bleed; we make messes and occasionally bray. We wander about, grazing, and occupy ourselves with what we believe is important or interesting or fun or necessary — it makes little difference. And in the meantime, in-between times: ain’t we got fun?
Ogling (a wonderful word, that) is a perfectly fine, entirely reasonable thing to do (inside or outside the zoo). Of course there are varieties and subsets and techniques and all kinds of way to ogle which are more or less acceptable…more or less obvious…more or less effective. There is the leer, followed by the crude comment…the passing glance…the inviting smile…the crinkle of they eye…the wink (does anyone wink anymore??).
How on earth did we ever get the idea that the recognition of beauty (in whatever form…and thank goodness we all have different tastes) is somehow objectionable, or unworthy, or inhuman?
We are our embodied selves, not intangible clouds of consciousness drifting hither & yon (thinking abstract things): of course we ogle. It’s what we do.
Well, she looked at me
And I, I could see
That before too long
I’d fall in love with her
She wouldn’t dance with another
Ooh, when I saw her standing there
Well, my heart went “boom”
When I crossed that room
And I held her hand in mine
Oh we danced through the night
And we held each other tight
And before too long
I fell in love with her
Now I’ll never dance with another
Ooh, since I saw her standing there

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I don’t think that he really thinks that way. It’s to make a point about society, not to register his feelings.

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

“ Why on earth is the author, and other men, skulking around like
”. I think you have missed the sarcasm and irony of the piece.

Last edited 9 months ago by Rick Lawrence
John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

And these women are creepy. Just like men who do the same. I had 50 something women ‘ogle’, make suggestive comments, and try it on with me when I was in my teens and 20’s and thought they were disgusting. Nobody should be ‘ogling’ anyone. We are not zoo animals.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I don’t think that he really thinks that way. It’s to make a point about society, not to register his feelings.

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

“ Why on earth is the author, and other men, skulking around like
”. I think you have missed the sarcasm and irony of the piece.

Last edited 9 months ago by Rick Lawrence
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Thank you. I turn 65 next week and still enjoy the lingering glances I am fortunate to receive – even when my husband and I are out together. No, especially then! (Husband gets a fair share of his own from the ladies).

Last edited 9 months ago by Allison Barrows
David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

If you have female friends, and you talk to them, you’ll also know not only that they ogle men, but that they seek out places to do so. And they do so with a lightheartedness and lack of any guilt that most men can only dream of. They seem unconcerned even with large age gaps and are happy to use expressions such as “would you, I would”.

Women in their 50s will talk salaciously about men in their late teens and twenties, the more sophisticated using terms like “Adonis”, the rest cruder terms.

Why on earth is the author, and other men, skulking around like a character from a Kafka novel, wracked with guilt over nothing.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Thank you. I turn 65 next week and still enjoy the lingering glances I am fortunate to receive – even when my husband and I are out together. No, especially then! (Husband gets a fair share of his own from the ladies).

Last edited 9 months ago by Allison Barrows
Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
9 months ago

To women everywhere I say kindly, we are looking (usually just looking) because you have either been born beautiful (lucky you) or have gone to considerable trouble, time and expense to make the best of your appearance (lots of us are doing that these days too) and we’re appreciating that for a very short moment. Sincere apologies if it overstays it’s welcome occasionally, nearly all of us mean no harm.

As for the suggestion that male lust is only scurrilous and grubby but female lust is some kind of academic pursuit without any kind of base desire involved I’m afraid this is nonsense. We all have female friends these days and we talk to them.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

As a male, here I gaze; I can do no other.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

A good friend of mine is not sure which was worse – being cat-called by a builder, whom she shouted back at; and the flattening effect of being told, ‘not you love, her’, pointing to a younger model behind her. Who was it that remarked, the only thing worse than being looked at, is not being looked at?

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Wilde.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Wilde.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

A good friend of mine is not sure which was worse – being cat-called by a builder, whom she shouted back at; and the flattening effect of being told, ‘not you love, her’, pointing to a younger model behind her. Who was it that remarked, the only thing worse than being looked at, is not being looked at?

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago

Even as a Dad at the local park with two young children I early on learned that the mothers there treated me with suspicion and that I should not try engage with them or other children. Such is life. As to the general hostility to men in society I think it is clear that many young men – about 25% apparently – are simply checking out of life’s obligations. No girlfriends, no job aspirations, no worries. Certainly if you look at the dynamics of divorce – 80% started by women who then get custody of the kids and paid to do so – this may be rational behaviour. The interesting thing is that studies of these men show they are just as happy as their counterparts who are still playing. As we move into the full blown matriarchy it is going to be interesting times.

Benjamin Jones
Benjamin Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Yes, I was treated the same at the play park I regularly frequented with my young daughter after school by a group of mothers until they realised my true value..that I was prepared to include their kids in the games I had made up to amuse my daughter and they could continue to sit on their arses talking amongst themselves.

Last edited 9 months ago by Benjamin Jones
Benjamin Jones
Benjamin Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Yes, I was treated the same at the play park I regularly frequented with my young daughter after school by a group of mothers until they realised my true value..that I was prepared to include their kids in the games I had made up to amuse my daughter and they could continue to sit on their arses talking amongst themselves.

Last edited 9 months ago by Benjamin Jones
Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago

Even as a Dad at the local park with two young children I early on learned that the mothers there treated me with suspicion and that I should not try engage with them or other children. Such is life. As to the general hostility to men in society I think it is clear that many young men – about 25% apparently – are simply checking out of life’s obligations. No girlfriends, no job aspirations, no worries. Certainly if you look at the dynamics of divorce – 80% started by women who then get custody of the kids and paid to do so – this may be rational behaviour. The interesting thing is that studies of these men show they are just as happy as their counterparts who are still playing. As we move into the full blown matriarchy it is going to be interesting times.

Bob Downing
Bob Downing
9 months ago

A few years ago I passed a couple of young girls plating in the street. “You’ve got a lot of hair for an old man!” said one. I muttered a hurried “Thank you” and carried on, not daring to stop and converse, lest a humourless adult accost and accuse me of perversion. Oh, well, it’s safer to interact via something electronic, anyway, isn’t it?

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago
Reply to  Bob Downing

You ought to correct that typo.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago

Funny, yeah really!!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago

Funny, yeah really!!

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago
Reply to  Bob Downing

You ought to correct that typo.

Bob Downing
Bob Downing
9 months ago

A few years ago I passed a couple of young girls plating in the street. “You’ve got a lot of hair for an old man!” said one. I muttered a hurried “Thank you” and carried on, not daring to stop and converse, lest a humourless adult accost and accuse me of perversion. Oh, well, it’s safer to interact via something electronic, anyway, isn’t it?

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
9 months ago

Women gaze too, I am told by my female friends, it’s just that they don’t gawp, unless they’re pissed and on a “hen-do”, when normal rules don’t apply.
If I wear my sunglasses when walking around the street then I see women looking at me when they think I’m not looking at them; it’s a real eye-opener (if you’ll pardon the pun).

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

Of course they do. And the idea that their gaze isn’t sexual or objectifying is to ignore the comments they themselves make.

Does anybody really think that all those middle aged women went to see Top Gun Maverick because they’d suddenly developed in interest in fighter aircraft?

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

And if women don’t objectify their men as bodies, they can still objectify them as wallets or trophies.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

And if women don’t objectify their men as bodies, they can still objectify them as wallets or trophies.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

Of course they do. And the idea that their gaze isn’t sexual or objectifying is to ignore the comments they themselves make.

Does anybody really think that all those middle aged women went to see Top Gun Maverick because they’d suddenly developed in interest in fighter aircraft?

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
9 months ago

Women gaze too, I am told by my female friends, it’s just that they don’t gawp, unless they’re pissed and on a “hen-do”, when normal rules don’t apply.
If I wear my sunglasses when walking around the street then I see women looking at me when they think I’m not looking at them; it’s a real eye-opener (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago

I gaze, therefore i am.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago

I gaze, therefore i am.

polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago

“Of course, there were some — the Andrew Tates of the age — who pumped their muscles and wore phallocentricity as a badge of pride.”
He might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.

polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago

“Of course, there were some — the Andrew Tates of the age — who pumped their muscles and wore phallocentricity as a badge of pride.”
He might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
9 months ago

The notes accompanying the Rossettis swarm around the works like flies.
Glorious simile! I must read some of his novels.

Christopher Elletson
Christopher Elletson
9 months ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Yes, I read and reread his travel book on Australia, while travelling around the country. Very good.

Nigel Rodgers
Nigel Rodgers
9 months ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

You certainly should!

Christopher Elletson
Christopher Elletson
9 months ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Yes, I read and reread his travel book on Australia, while travelling around the country. Very good.

Nigel Rodgers
Nigel Rodgers
9 months ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

You certainly should!

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
9 months ago

The notes accompanying the Rossettis swarm around the works like flies.
Glorious simile! I must read some of his novels.

Andrew Daws
Andrew Daws
9 months ago

Do you remember the song in the George Formby film of 1937 Feather your nest, called ‘Leaning on a lamp post watching all the girls go by’?
Apparently the churches of the time was up in arms about all those men looking at girls with lust in their hearts.
Nothing new here.
I miss my grandchildren in New Zealand terribly, but was rather surprised when I stopped to look at a school playground that I was considered to be the local paedo. Someone has a filthy mind and it’s not me.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew Daws
Andrew Daws
Andrew Daws
9 months ago

Do you remember the song in the George Formby film of 1937 Feather your nest, called ‘Leaning on a lamp post watching all the girls go by’?
Apparently the churches of the time was up in arms about all those men looking at girls with lust in their hearts.
Nothing new here.
I miss my grandchildren in New Zealand terribly, but was rather surprised when I stopped to look at a school playground that I was considered to be the local paedo. Someone has a filthy mind and it’s not me.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew Daws
B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago

Oh, please.
“Nothing any of us do is wholly innocent. We are all culture-laden whether we know we are or not.”
Who among us wishes for the wholly innocent? Which of us craves the utterly unsullied act, seeks the empty & unweighted gaze, the clueless & chaste consideration, absent of meaning or intent?
Are we children? Or not even children, toddlers, newborns staring at the moving shapes and colors, noting the sounds, occasionally cooing, occasionally grunting. What life is that?
Not even the gaze of my dog is ‘wholly innocent’, he of the yearning biscuit whimper.
No. Of course we are not innocent. Of course we are culture-laden. We wouldn’t have it any other way; nor could we. Nor, in fact, should we. To hell with those who think otherwise. They are not human.
“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?” (Kundera)
We are, indeed, our embodied, weighted selves. Our hearts beat; our blood surges; beauty & passion drives us. Yes, we covet, we lust, we envy, we appreciate. Yes we dream. Yes we fly.
“Your heart sweats, your body shakes…Another kiss is what it takes.”
So yes, lift your eyes. Smile. Grin. Join the endless dance. And join it knowing that our understanding and appreciation of each dancing step is bone-deep, and anchored by centuries of others’ dreaming, others’ songs, and the lingering of scent of might-have-beens and just-might-be’s.
Are we then “granted the right to stare and be stirred”? No! Indeed, it is a given. We breathe it in & out; it fills us, our touch crackles with it, our eyes flash. It surrounds us. God not only gives us that right; he makes it our sacred obligation.
“To see the beauty of the world is to put your hands on lines that run uninterrupted through life and through death. Touching them is an act of hope, for perhaps someone on the other side, if there is another side, is touching them, too.”  (Helprin)
Truth & Beauty — what else is there?

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago

Oh, please.
“Nothing any of us do is wholly innocent. We are all culture-laden whether we know we are or not.”
Who among us wishes for the wholly innocent? Which of us craves the utterly unsullied act, seeks the empty & unweighted gaze, the clueless & chaste consideration, absent of meaning or intent?
Are we children? Or not even children, toddlers, newborns staring at the moving shapes and colors, noting the sounds, occasionally cooing, occasionally grunting. What life is that?
Not even the gaze of my dog is ‘wholly innocent’, he of the yearning biscuit whimper.
No. Of course we are not innocent. Of course we are culture-laden. We wouldn’t have it any other way; nor could we. Nor, in fact, should we. To hell with those who think otherwise. They are not human.
“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?” (Kundera)
We are, indeed, our embodied, weighted selves. Our hearts beat; our blood surges; beauty & passion drives us. Yes, we covet, we lust, we envy, we appreciate. Yes we dream. Yes we fly.
“Your heart sweats, your body shakes…Another kiss is what it takes.”
So yes, lift your eyes. Smile. Grin. Join the endless dance. And join it knowing that our understanding and appreciation of each dancing step is bone-deep, and anchored by centuries of others’ dreaming, others’ songs, and the lingering of scent of might-have-beens and just-might-be’s.
Are we then “granted the right to stare and be stirred”? No! Indeed, it is a given. We breathe it in & out; it fills us, our touch crackles with it, our eyes flash. It surrounds us. God not only gives us that right; he makes it our sacred obligation.
“To see the beauty of the world is to put your hands on lines that run uninterrupted through life and through death. Touching them is an act of hope, for perhaps someone on the other side, if there is another side, is touching them, too.”  (Helprin)
Truth & Beauty — what else is there?

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

The issue could be overstated – I’m still noticing a quiet appreciation of my quiet appreciation.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Some truth in that. Most women look at attractive men, and they understand that men look at attractive women. Nobody likes it if people are creepy. Most people like appreciation.

But the piece is not so much about most people’s attitudes: it is about how men have been guilt tripped by, frankly, a group of people suffering from a collective neurosis.

In a way, it is mens job to fix their own feelings. Refuse to be bullied. Don’t be a victim. Educate your children out of the guilt and shame business. Stop worrying, be yourself, deal assertively with the nut jobs, don’t be a creep and everything will be fine.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Yup – to the men who ogle too much, don’t be a creep; and to the women who doth protest too much – the abundance of virtually ‘sprayed on clothes’ (thanks LuLuLemon!) are ample evidence that many do like the male gaze.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

LuLuLemon? What about Gymshark?

We do live in a strange and contradictory world. Women sexualise themselves more than they ever have done – online and in real life – and we’re more down on men for noticing than we ever have been.

Walter Schimeck
Walter Schimeck
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Women don’t dress that way to be ogled by men, (well, maybe some do) they dress provocatively to intimidate other women. As the competition for interested and available men increases, you’ll undoubtedly see more of this.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

Some truth in that – it does seem to be about female competition. But it’s still a sexual display, as opposed to say a pure status display.

And of course whatever they wear, women will insist they do it solely for themselves.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

How do you know that women dress to intimidate women, not to attract men? Even if that were true, it would still be an extremely ambiguous message to men. Clothing is a visual language and therefore a medium of communication, not some entirely private form of self-expression. Women need to be accountable for their intended or unintended sartorial messages to men, therefore, just as men need to be accountable for reacting inappropriately or brutally.

Last edited 9 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Hopkins Stanley
Hopkins Stanley
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I must say I agree with Paul, particularly in response to Clare Knight below. It’s as if Women want it both ways
as a queer man, I would think this is extremely confusing for the poor hetero male
we all need to be responsible


Hopkins Stanley
Hopkins Stanley
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I must say I agree with Paul, particularly in response to Clare Knight below. It’s as if Women want it both ways
as a queer man, I would think this is extremely confusing for the poor hetero male
we all need to be responsible


David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

Some truth in that – it does seem to be about female competition. But it’s still a sexual display, as opposed to say a pure status display.

And of course whatever they wear, women will insist they do it solely for themselves.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

How do you know that women dress to intimidate women, not to attract men? Even if that were true, it would still be an extremely ambiguous message to men. Clothing is a visual language and therefore a medium of communication, not some entirely private form of self-expression. Women need to be accountable for their intended or unintended sartorial messages to men, therefore, just as men need to be accountable for reacting inappropriately or brutally.

Last edited 9 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Walter Schimeck
Walter Schimeck
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Women don’t dress that way to be ogled by men, (well, maybe some do) they dress provocatively to intimidate other women. As the competition for interested and available men increases, you’ll undoubtedly see more of this.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

LuLuLemon? What about Gymshark?

We do live in a strange and contradictory world. Women sexualise themselves more than they ever have done – online and in real life – and we’re more down on men for noticing than we ever have been.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

It depends on what the man looks like who’s looking, and how he’s looking.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Yup – to the men who ogle too much, don’t be a creep; and to the women who doth protest too much – the abundance of virtually ‘sprayed on clothes’ (thanks LuLuLemon!) are ample evidence that many do like the male gaze.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

It depends on what the man looks like who’s looking, and how he’s looking.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Some truth in that. Most women look at attractive men, and they understand that men look at attractive women. Nobody likes it if people are creepy. Most people like appreciation.

But the piece is not so much about most people’s attitudes: it is about how men have been guilt tripped by, frankly, a group of people suffering from a collective neurosis.

In a way, it is mens job to fix their own feelings. Refuse to be bullied. Don’t be a victim. Educate your children out of the guilt and shame business. Stop worrying, be yourself, deal assertively with the nut jobs, don’t be a creep and everything will be fine.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

The issue could be overstated – I’m still noticing a quiet appreciation of my quiet appreciation.

Bill Mische
Bill Mische
9 months ago

I think the issue with Eric Gill’s Prospero and Ariel is more to do with Eric Gill than the sculpture itself.

Andrew D
Andrew D
9 months ago
Reply to  Bill Mische

Correct. But it’s still a beautiful piece of sculpture. We have to separate the creator from his creation, otherwise the work of many (most?) artists will have to be cast into outer darkness. I’d rather be on Gill’s side of the barricades than Dowsing’s or the Taliban’s.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew D
Andrew D
Andrew D
9 months ago
Reply to  Bill Mische

Correct. But it’s still a beautiful piece of sculpture. We have to separate the creator from his creation, otherwise the work of many (most?) artists will have to be cast into outer darkness. I’d rather be on Gill’s side of the barricades than Dowsing’s or the Taliban’s.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew D
Bill Mische
Bill Mische
9 months ago

I think the issue with Eric Gill’s Prospero and Ariel is more to do with Eric Gill than the sculpture itself.

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
9 months ago

About 25 years ago I was doing a job that involved walking the streets of a London borough, going from door to door. One day, I stopped for a rest, stood at some park railings and was just daydreaming, really, whilst some kids were knocking a football about. I suppose I was watching them, but not really. They were part of the scene of the park.

One of them shouted out, “Get lost you paedo, stop watching us.” I was mildly traumatised, and ever since, have adopted the author’s approach, and scuttle past schools and kids generally, eyes averted, with a sense of dread.

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
9 months ago

About 25 years ago I was doing a job that involved walking the streets of a London borough, going from door to door. One day, I stopped for a rest, stood at some park railings and was just daydreaming, really, whilst some kids were knocking a football about. I suppose I was watching them, but not really. They were part of the scene of the park.

One of them shouted out, “Get lost you paedo, stop watching us.” I was mildly traumatised, and ever since, have adopted the author’s approach, and scuttle past schools and kids generally, eyes averted, with a sense of dread.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 months ago

The author hits the nail on the head when he likens modern wokeism to puritanism, because though the logic and dogmas of the two may be radically different, they end up in much the same place, a tut-tutting, finger wagging, privilege checking, microaggression avoiding, judgement passing, community of witches and witch hunters, or bigots and social justice warriors if you prefer the modern terminology. Communities filled with suspicion because the devil, (or bigotry, or racism, or w/e other word you want to use) is everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether or not you intended to do the devil’s work, because he can work his evil through you without your even knowing. It doesn’t matter that you don’t actually think black people are inferior, because institutional racism is everywhere. Your intentions are meaningless. Your stated opinions don’t matter. You are privileged whether you know it or not, whether you want it or not, and there’s nothing you can do to escape the stain of privilege. We’re all damned because of original sin and nothing you can do will change it. Oh yes, there’s more than a dollop of Jonathan Edwards in the doctrines of modern wokery, though I’m sure it would give them conniptions if they knew it. It’s perhaps not coincidental that wokeism, like puritanism, is an inherently American phenomenon. America has an ongoing cycle of period religious ‘awakenings’ dating back to the actual Puritans who were among the earliest American. These were usually followed by long periods of everybody mind your own damn business, these longer periods usually triggered by the extreme zealotry, intolerance, and slavish devotion to dogma displayed by the adherents of whatever flavor of puritanism was ascendant at the time.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 months ago

The author hits the nail on the head when he likens modern wokeism to puritanism, because though the logic and dogmas of the two may be radically different, they end up in much the same place, a tut-tutting, finger wagging, privilege checking, microaggression avoiding, judgement passing, community of witches and witch hunters, or bigots and social justice warriors if you prefer the modern terminology. Communities filled with suspicion because the devil, (or bigotry, or racism, or w/e other word you want to use) is everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether or not you intended to do the devil’s work, because he can work his evil through you without your even knowing. It doesn’t matter that you don’t actually think black people are inferior, because institutional racism is everywhere. Your intentions are meaningless. Your stated opinions don’t matter. You are privileged whether you know it or not, whether you want it or not, and there’s nothing you can do to escape the stain of privilege. We’re all damned because of original sin and nothing you can do will change it. Oh yes, there’s more than a dollop of Jonathan Edwards in the doctrines of modern wokery, though I’m sure it would give them conniptions if they knew it. It’s perhaps not coincidental that wokeism, like puritanism, is an inherently American phenomenon. America has an ongoing cycle of period religious ‘awakenings’ dating back to the actual Puritans who were among the earliest American. These were usually followed by long periods of everybody mind your own damn business, these longer periods usually triggered by the extreme zealotry, intolerance, and slavish devotion to dogma displayed by the adherents of whatever flavor of puritanism was ascendant at the time.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
9 months ago

First, I must make it clear that, like the Fat Controller in the Thomas Tank Engine books, my doctor has forbidden me to read museum wall text.
Other than that I interpret all the the agenda of our lefty friends as issuing from the fact that everything they have advocated has failed, and Made Things Worse.
Including the absurd notion that women can live like men, out in the public square without protection from the male gaze. Indeed First Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft proved that with two disastrous relationships before meeting up with good guy William Godwin. But then she died in childbirth. Unfortunately her daughter Mary went on to suffer under the male gaze — and more — of poets Lord Byron and Percy Shelley.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
9 months ago

First, I must make it clear that, like the Fat Controller in the Thomas Tank Engine books, my doctor has forbidden me to read museum wall text.
Other than that I interpret all the the agenda of our lefty friends as issuing from the fact that everything they have advocated has failed, and Made Things Worse.
Including the absurd notion that women can live like men, out in the public square without protection from the male gaze. Indeed First Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft proved that with two disastrous relationships before meeting up with good guy William Godwin. But then she died in childbirth. Unfortunately her daughter Mary went on to suffer under the male gaze — and more — of poets Lord Byron and Percy Shelley.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
9 months ago

The only gaze that counts today is upon the screen. And that is the gaze that enables reception of the new aesthetics of Spirit – gender and its necessary transformation. Only through these new channels of desire can we continue to move History towards Progress and Unity.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
9 months ago

The only gaze that counts today is upon the screen. And that is the gaze that enables reception of the new aesthetics of Spirit – gender and its necessary transformation. Only through these new channels of desire can we continue to move History towards Progress and Unity.

Lewis Lorton
Lewis Lorton
9 months ago

This essay came to mind last evening when my partner and I were having a light supper at a sidewalk cafe in Menlo Park, CA. The ‘hostess’ was a young-ish female barely wearing a dress that covered only the absolute essentials.
I steadfastly remained looking at her at eye brow level while I gave my name. She led us to our table; leaning over to place the menus displayed virtually everything that had been suggested before. |
My lovely partner smiled; there was nothing to say.

Last edited 9 months ago by Lewis Lorton
Lewis Lorton
Lewis Lorton
9 months ago

This essay came to mind last evening when my partner and I were having a light supper at a sidewalk cafe in Menlo Park, CA. The ‘hostess’ was a young-ish female barely wearing a dress that covered only the absolute essentials.
I steadfastly remained looking at her at eye brow level while I gave my name. She led us to our table; leaning over to place the menus displayed virtually everything that had been suggested before. |
My lovely partner smiled; there was nothing to say.

Last edited 9 months ago by Lewis Lorton
Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
9 months ago

Very good writing.

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
9 months ago

Very good writing.

Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
9 months ago

All I can say is I’m glad I don’t live where Mr. Jacobson does, or share his concern that I’m being offensive or exploitive for walking around with my eyes open. Here in Toronto if you pass an adult walking beside an obviously happy child, and you smile and say, “Someone’s clearly having too much fun,” you’ll invariably get a smile, a laugh, or a “For sure!” in return. A world where we have to avert our eyes from children to make things right? Life wouldn’t be worth living.

Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
9 months ago

All I can say is I’m glad I don’t live where Mr. Jacobson does, or share his concern that I’m being offensive or exploitive for walking around with my eyes open. Here in Toronto if you pass an adult walking beside an obviously happy child, and you smile and say, “Someone’s clearly having too much fun,” you’ll invariably get a smile, a laugh, or a “For sure!” in return. A world where we have to avert our eyes from children to make things right? Life wouldn’t be worth living.

Katharine W
Katharine W
9 months ago

“Had I been a woman worn out with being prodded by those instruments of male possessiveness, I’d have bought willingly into that…” No, you wouldn’t have, Howard. You’re far too smart for that, as many of us women are too. Thank you for a beautiful, wise piece, as ever. You carry on looking as long as you want.

Katharine W
Katharine W
9 months ago

“Had I been a woman worn out with being prodded by those instruments of male possessiveness, I’d have bought willingly into that…” No, you wouldn’t have, Howard. You’re far too smart for that, as many of us women are too. Thank you for a beautiful, wise piece, as ever. You carry on looking as long as you want.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
8 months ago

All these feminist cliches, these tropes, are designed toward one end: to create divisions between men and women. They appeal to flaws and weaknesses, and like all political beliefs, channel personal neuroses. The latest among our friends and acquaintances to refer deprecatingly to the “male gaze” is an accomplished female artist, one who unabashedly admires beauty in men. And who while quite wonderfully attractive to me as a person is not at all physically beautiful. To the latter I had given no thought at all, until sadly this conversation, drawing attention to the eternal fact the political is always personal, not vice-versa. And drawing attention not to her appearance, but an unattractive side of an otherwise beautiful personality.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
9 months ago

Man up, you will feel better! Hell with the BS “cancellers”, you are the only one who can actually cancel yourself.

Tom K
Tom K
9 months ago

You ought to get out a bit more Howard. I’m 62 and don’t feel any of this. I can’t help smiling when I see mothers out with kids, or looking over the wall at kids enjoying themselves, recalling my own time with small kids – I’m not a grandad yet but I live in hope.
I suspect this depressing headspace you are in is at least partly a London thing. Awful place, does terrible things to the psyche.

David Haddad
David Haddad
9 months ago

Hm. Another power game, yes? As a man, I have the power to look at a woman, a child, even another man. How they register and interpret that look is entirely up to them and always has been. What are the chances they accurately discern my thoughts and intentions? Nil. No one of us can enter the mind of another. Of course, it is rude to stare. But to look, to glance, even to gaze, these are natural actions against which there is no law. As a phenomenologist, I assure you others do not and cannot know my mind unless I share it.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago

Ah, if only there weren’t so many Bobby Joe Longs, Zion Teasleys, Douglas Perrys, Samuel Littles, Arial Castros, Jesse Mathews and Aaron Glees. And if only there weren’t so many people who don’t speak out against them. It does justifibaly put the fear into women, which is not always unfounded. That said I’m well aware that men can also be victims of all kinds of travail no matter their ethnicity or class: whether from poverty, abuse, violence, or illness. Men who suffer such circumstances certainly have my sympathy. Although generalities serve a necessary and useful purpose stereotypes can only go so far without becoming misrepresentations.

Last edited 8 months ago by Betsy Warrior
Don Lightband
Don Lightband
3 months ago

“Orientalists the lot of us”

And to think, modenity’s perhaps most famous ‘Orientalist’ of all, a Mr G Glitter by name, renains a caged human being to this day, he being virtually buried (and constantly re-buried) in fact on every conceivable cultural front one cares to name. Does one dare to even write his name here, for the great fear and insecurity it generates among males instantly?

Along with the encagement of Julian Assange, Britain has sooo very much to he ashamed of.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago

The more I learn about the Tate brothers — the brilliant Tucker Carlson interviews are a good start — the more I think they have been maligned by the obedient sheep of the media.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago

The more I learn about the Tate brothers — the brilliant Tucker Carlson interviews are a good start — the more I think they have been maligned by the obedient sheep of the media.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
9 months ago

The problem with gazing.
Because in a social setting it is perceived as a prelude to sex.
Why were and are women adjured to hide their bodies ? – “The way she was dressed, she was asking for it”
I would contend that with this sort of thinking there is an argument for more exposure not less so that the male gaze can become habituated to viewing the female form as an aesthetic object not just something to screw.
If the male gaze was irrelevant then there would be no discussion about it. Why is it relevant in current society ? Why does it apparently carry more weight in current discourse than the female gaze ?
Great essay, incidentally.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

here is an argument for more exposure not less so that the male gaze can become habituated to viewing the female form as an aesthetic object not just something to screw
Just so – and the stats confirm this – the more repressive/conservative the country, the more abuse of women there is There are wrinkles in this, but it is a very robust and reliable finding.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago

When you have exhausted Angkor Wat you should head for The Khajuraho Temples in Madhya Pradesh, if you haven’t already been.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

Well, Elaine, “gazing” really is, at least in theory, a prelude to sex. That’s a fact of life, a requirement of heterosexuality (or homosexuality).
And no one would say that fashion is “irrelevant” either in this society or in any other. Every society has conventions for public attire, no matter how minimal, that try to contain sexual responses. Otherwise, how could it carry on with the business of daily life? These conventions, or styles, vary considerably from one time or place to another. (In Elizabethan England, men ran around wearing grotesque codpieces.) I’m not recommending that women cover themselves from head to foot in burqas, which would mean borrowing from an alien culture. But surely women are capable of taking into account the likely responses of men, here and now, by dressing in ways that are neither obviously provocative nor implicitly manipulative. Apart from anything else, after all, clothing in public is a matter of common courtesy, for both sexes, not merely of personal whimsy or sartorial ideology.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

So who determines what is common courtesy, dress wise ?
As soon as you mention “personal whimsy” I think of Grayson Perry in one of his more extravagant moods.
Personally I am all for a bit more whimsy, to brighten up the day.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

Good question, Elaine. I don’t think that we should rely on rules, because rules tend to become rigid and ends in themselves. I do think, however, that most people can intuit what, in their own social context, is likely to be discourteous.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Older article, so excuse my late comment, but I broadly agree. However, I do think there ought to be dress codes in workplaces and schools.
The problem usually arises because men often stick to non-sexualized clothing in these places, whereas a proportion of women do not. I don’t think I have ever seen a man going into work or school with his shirt exposing half his chest, unnecessarily tight clothing, hot shorts etc. On the other hand, you see girls and women (not all) turning up to work and school looking like they off to a nightclub or working the streets. As a woman, I am not supposed to anything about this as it apparently makes me either a prude and/or jealous. Men aren’t supposed to say anything either as it makes them sexist or they are accused of sexualizing the woman in question. Bizarre.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales