Caring About Staring

At the risk of having my Friday posts sound like pleas for others to drop some of their well-thought-out opinions on me, I’ve recently been struggling with yet another issue.

I’m going to introduce it by letting you watch the video below [you don’t have to see the whole thing], which I shared on the blog’s Facebook page almost exactly a month ago:

The question I posed to fans of the page was what the actual point of it was. I mean, yes, it’s pretty funny witnessing how flustered guys got, but why exactly? Is the humour in that they were caught staring, or in that their expectations were subverted? If it’s the latter then the discussion becomes one of whether or not their collective gaze was not only normal, but logical.

I came across the following meme yesterday, which ties directly into this whole thing:

And the common consensus in the comments section was that, yeah, essentially this “Unpopular Opinion Puffin” was spot-on. Look to your heart’s content, but know where the line [touching, inappropriate comments] is and don’t cross it. Hundreds of imgur users ignored the horrific misspelling and agreed with the northern seabird, often prefacing their comments with “as a girl-“.

April 3rd also featured a fairly lengthy discussion with a close friend of mine about this entire thing. We both agreed that making people [regardless of gender] feel uncomfortable was decidedly a bad thing, and I know for a fact he’s not someone who wants to disrespect women on any level. After a good amount of very civil back-and-forth he posited that:

“this really is one of those situations where what a person doesn’t know really cannot hurt them in any way shape or form”

I think it’s fair to say that “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” is patently false in most scenarios, but is this a context in which it rings true? Is checking out a person’s body not only a victimless crime, but no crime at all?

This is an issue that I am presenting free of any kind of religious bias, and I’ve purposefully refrained from using terms such as “lust” and “sin” prior to right now to avoid alienating any readers. I want to pose this to as many people as possible-

mirinI’m not anti-sex by any means, my own personal choices about physical intimacy aside. Sex and human bodies et al. don’t at all deserve the level of taboo they’ve garnered over the years. Really, keeping up this sense of  embarrassment [to put it mildly] in regards to what is the most natural aspect of ourselves [our physical bodies] gets more ridiculous the more you think about it.

That being said, what is the line between admiring and leering? I don’t think the average person is capable of suddenly ceasing to notice when other people are attractive, but when does it become more than aesthetic appreciation. On top of that, is it possible to go “too far”?

I suppose the sensible cutoff would be once a person begins viewing others in a dehumanizing manner, but that in and of itself faces problems. Is there any unanimity when it comes to what does and doesn’t make women [though this is by no means exclusive to them] feel like they’re being treated like less than people? Does staring ever fall under this hypothetical umbrella?

Maybe, and I have brought this up, it has to do with the body parts being looked at? We definitely have a sense of what is and isn’t appropriate, but I guess that all boils back down to doing so without anyone noticing. What’s the possible harm in it?

Believe me, I realize how this is more a barrage of questions than anything else, but I’ve yet to come to any kind of conclusion about any of this. Let me know what you think about this whole deal please. Help me Culture War Reporters readers, you’re my only hope.

6 responses to “Caring About Staring

  1. Evan, I wish we could sit down and have a long conversation about this, and maybe I’ll send you a message when I have more time, but here are my quick thoughts.

    I absolutely disagree with your friend who said, “what a person doesn’t know really cannot hurt them in any shape or form.” I also don’t think there are any specific lines or guidelines you can draw, because this specific issue is mostly psychological rather than physical. Staring and leering at women still hurts them and still violates them because you steal from them their right over their own body. You are taking their body and using it for your own pleasure, even if just in your mind, and the woman has no ability to consent or not consent over how you use her body.

    • I’m kind of troubled by this idea. To assert that person A’s thought life could actually tangibly infringe upon the rights of Person B seems a bit… off. Now, leering is pretty rude, because it’s communicating (through body language) a level of disrespect for the person being leered at. But I think that’s entirely separate from what goes on between the ears, so to speak. A mental representation of a person (or anything, for that matter), is just that: it’s a representation. A representation of a representation, really, because ultimately it’s a translation of a message received through light that bounced off of the actual person. It’s not his/her body. So how could this in any way take a cut out of that person’s right to his/her own body? He/she choose what to wear and how much it exposes, because this is in his/her power, and this is his/her right. Any attempt to get beyond that tangible barrier is clearly a bad thing. But short of that? Not only can you not police what people think about, there’s really no reason to. The power you appear to be attaching to this is entirely decided upon by the “wronged” party. He/she chooses whether or not to give others power over his/her body, and nobody else. A lengthy glance or even a leer can do nothing to change that.

      • I’m definitely not saying this is something that we can or should police or control, but I do think it is wrong. A representation of someone’s body is still a representation of someone. Photos could also be called a representation of someone’s body as opposed to their actual body, but photos up skirts and down shirts are still violating. To take someone’s image and use it for your own purposes, even if it’s in your mind, is still dehumanizing and violating. I don’t think it’s something anyone can or should control, but that doesn’t stop it from being wrong.

  2. I think people underestimate how transparent they are- especially with their desires. It’s not hard to make the cognitive leap when someone is making eye contact south of my chin and has a vague nonpersonal smile. What is difficult is policing that space- it makes me feel like a product (especially when there’s NO relationship promoting a give and take conversation or a chance to recognize me as both person and pretty awesome looking woman. haha).

  3. People notice other people. They notice their shoes, their dresses, their expressions, etc. People like to be noticed as well. They like to have someone look at them and notice a new hair cut, or ‘cute shoes’. They even like to be noticed if they have been exercising lately and are having visible results. “Wow Sally you’re looking really healthy, have you been running?” “Actually I have been, thanks for noticing” — That type of conversation would/should be encouraging to most people. So the question is how much someone wants to be noticed. This article seems to read that people don’t want to be noticed as just a ‘piece of meat’. I agree that everyone is more than that. I agree its disrespectful to stare at certain body for too long. But I believe, that as in most situations, you can chose how to respond to other peoples reactions. As long as others are just looking, the looked upon can chose to feel violated, annoyed and flustered, or they can chose to disregard it and go about their day. You have the choice on how things affect you. You shouldn’t feel trapped to respond certain ways.

  4. Pingback: 2 Music Videos That Flipped The Sexual Script [And Failed] | Culture War Reporters

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