Why my body doesn't exist for your viewing pleasure: An open letter to Ian Brown and friends

On Friday, The Globe and Mail published an article so offensive, so backwards, and so nauseating that the only reaction I could muster over the last 48 hours was fuming, spitting, red-faced anger.

They smartly (if intelligence is calculated based on page views and the ability to get pervy dudes on-side, which clearly The Globe and Mail believes is the case) titled the piece:  Why men can’t – and shouldn’t – stop staring at women. Criticism of the article could almost begin and end with the title.

One of the things we’ve learned from feminism is that, while men have long enjoyed arguing that biology accounts for misogyny, having used scientific arguments to “prove” that, for example, male dominance, rape, male violence and of course, the objectified, sexualized female body is “natural”, things are not quite so clear cut. Similar arguments have been used by white men to justify racism and slavery. As such, it seems reasonable to assume that those doing the “science” and those communicating to society what is and is not “natural” based on said science have some level of control over what we come to believe, as a society, is true, factual and, of course, “natural.”

Now back to the overwhelming stupidity of this particular article.

I’m gonna go ahead and make some assumptions about the series of events which led Brown to write such a thoughtless and offensive article in the first place:

1) Brown leaves house

2) Brown stares at 20 year old ass

3) Brown sexualizes 20 year old ass

4) Because Brown is turned on and, as we’ve learned many times over, anything that provides erections is GOOD and TRUE and NATURAL and JUSTIFIED he is led to not only defend and justify his pervy behaviour but also find other men and women to argue that, in fact, he is doing women a favour by staring at and sexualizing 20 year old ass.

5) The Globe and Mail is run by like minded dudes and still believes that white men should have the space to write 1500 words on why 58 year old dudes have the right and obligation to stare at 20 year old ass and, one would assume, have few to no feminist minded women on their staff (or, at least, in any positions of power on their staff) to say: “Hey guys! This article is gross!” And it goes to print. Easy peasy.


Much of the piece is dedicated to pornified descriptions of female bodies. That, in and of itself, could and should have (in my humble opinion) led the editors to question the usefulness and/or necessity of publishing the piece. The lack of thought, research, and analysis which fills in the empty spaces in between descriptions of Brown’s favorite 20 year old body parts should have been the second clue.

It’s not that Brown wasn’t able to find folks who agree with his thesis, which I summarize as such: “It is not only biologically natural for me to objectify much younger women, but they actually like it.” He does find men and even women to help ease the little guilt, shame, and uncertainty he may have around his fetishization of the female body. His male friends are, unsurprisingly, just like him. They support his hopeful thesis that says: “this is not only right and natural, but good.”

For example:

[Y] holds up his BlackBerry. “I don’t see what’s wrong with it. In a world where, thanks to this thing, I am only two clicks away from double penetration and other forms of pornographic nastiness, the act of merely looking at a girl who is naturally pretty – I mean, we should celebrate that.”

Another friend takes it further. Acting as though the objectification is a compliment:

“Beautiful women are like flowers,” W interjects. “They turn to the sun. But if they don’t receive a certain amount of attention, they wither.”

Oh dude. You are so right. If you don’t stare at my ass I will actually die.

As if the flower analogy wasn’t enough to signal red flags with “Women are not human beings, they are pretty things that exist for me to look at” written all over them, the idea that women will wither and die if old dudes stop objectifying them really solidifies the deep misogyny of these kinds of arguments and beliefs.

Sadly, Brown finds one women to back him up:

[K] just turned 50, and is still attractive. But she admits looks from men are rarer. “Leering hasn’t happened in years,” she adds wistfully. Visiting Italy 20 years ago with friends, “we were furious that the Italian men pinched your bum. When we went back, in our early 40s, we were furious that no one was pinching our bums.” This makes me as sad as it seems to make her.

Oh you guys! He feels sorry for her! Sensitive.

At this point I am seething with rage. Has he asked one young woman how she feels about his 58 year old eyes fetishizing her legs, her breasts, and her backside? Does he even care? From what I can tell, no. The argument he makes has little to do with how his eyes and how his sexualization of these women’s bodies might impact actual women. Would anyone like to take a gander as to why that is? Because the women he is sexualizing aren’t human beings. They are delicate flowers! Also they are tits. They are legs. They are asses. Why would a disembodied ass care what a man was doing to it?

Though Brown claims that the intent of his article is to “investigat[e] the famous male gaze,” he has zero understanding of it. The male gaze is a concept which was explored initially within feminist film theory and has since extended into an explanation and analysis of the objectifying, disempowering male gaze. So when a 58 year old man decides that a 20 year old woman is a beautiful flower which exists in order for him to look at, he dehumanizes her. And, as many of us know already, dehumanizing a human being is a dangerous thing. It means we no longer need to treat said human being with respect. A body part is just a body part, not a whole, complex being with thoughts and feelings.

One of the most minor consequences of the male gaze is that, and I will speak from personal experience here, a lifetime of being looked at makes you feel as though your self-worth is largely dependent on your ability to be desired by men. This is not a good thing. It is something many women fight at every turn. Yet we still internalize that male gaze. This means that many women see themselves through male eyes. We also believe, to a certain extent, that we exist for your viewing pleasure. Should women really have to fight to believe that their value exists outside your desire?

I won’t speak for any other woman aside from myself at this point, but “Hi, Ian Brown! I am a woman and I don’t want you to look at my ass. It doesn’t feel flattering, it feels creepy. It makes me feel self-conscious and it makes me not want to leave my house. I may be too old for you at 32 (gross!), but many old men stare at me regardless. I hate it. It makes me want to punch them. So stop. Please. I guarantee your penis will survive.”

The fact that men believe women exist for their viewing pleasure IS A PROBLEM. It doesn’t matter how much men like it. I should be able to leave my house without feeling watched.

This isn’t to say that there is something wrong with finding other people attractive. Every once in a while I, myself, find other people attractive. Being heterosexual, often those human beings I am feeling attracted to are men. Strangely, I don’t find myself ogling 20 year old man-ass or lusting after young man calves pedaling a bike. Has it ever occurred to you that there is a reason young female bodies are, in particular, sexualized and fetishized by older men? Is there any reason that 58 year old women aren’t commonly writing 1500 word articles about how much they enjoy watching 20 year old men walk down the street? I find (some) male bodies attractive. And yet, the men I am interested in are my own age. And often, when I am attracted to a man, I will look at his face and talk to him as though he is human. I don’t tend to see them as things which exist simply for me to look at.

I’d like to be able to go to the beach without feeling as though I am on display, being judged, being sized up. I’d like to walk down the street in a dress without feeling like some 60 year old dude is fucking me with his eyes. It’s gross, not flattering. I don’t need the gaze of a 60 year old man to validate my existence. All that gaze does is make me hate 60 year old men.

I am not your right. No woman is. No matter how beautiful she is. You have no right to her. She is more than just body parts. Allow me to confirm what I assume was the fear which led you to write this piece, Ian Brown, you are a perv. Stop staring at us. We have the ability to exist without your eyes on our asses.


Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com/ Boner Killer

    These men are deluded if they actually think their objectification should be celebrated and is GOOD and NATURAL – it’s not. I can not count how many times i have been with a group of female friends in public and men have very obviously and sometimes even obnoxiously tilted their heads to look at our asses or parrot talk they heard in porno. We all felt uncomfortable; our space had been violated – this isn’t “GOOD” — why don’t men revisit their notions of what is “normal” and “natural” and actually LISTEN to women. Why not, for a change, EMPATHISE with other humans instead of assuming anything that gives them a boner should be celebrated by all, particularly those who are being objectified for said boner. I am so sick of the normalization of this mentality – pat on the back bro-fests at the expense of women who they compartmentalize and fetishize and it’s in a freakin’ popular newspaper!

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com/ Boner Killer

    “Beautiful women are like flowers,” W interjects. “They turn to the sun. But if they don’t receive a certain amount of attention, they wither.”

    Good thing to know that we “wither” if men do not confirm our value based on our physical appearance – that’s not blatantly sexist or anything…naaah.

  • http://femmanism.wordpress.com/ Emma

    Thank You! That was so refreshing after reading the original article (ew).

    I think it’s really important to acknowledge that women have internalized the male gaze, so asking one young woman if she minds the creepy staring isn’t really getting at the issue. We’re socialized to think that our worth comes from being wanted, so, do we mind being wanted? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. (Also, what do you say when the creepy guy who is staring at you asks if you mind him staring? We’re socialized to be polite too.)

  • No Sugarcoating

    Wow, this REALLY made me angry and grossed out. Old men are gross. So. Gross.

    • Julia

      They are. We should just get rid of them.

  • Komal

    I’m surprised that obvious things like this need to be stated. What a messed up world where we even have to remind pervy men of these facts.

  • Colin Wright

    Meghan, thank you for this. I hope you submitted a copy to the G&M. The backlash against women seems to be intensifying, even as women make tremendous gains (or because of that). These battles were fought 40 years ago (happy birhday, Gloria Steinem). That the G&M would print their piece is shameful. Your writing is potent, mixing personal, political and theoretical. Thanks again for all you do.

    • Becci

      I’d like to second this–have you considered sending this blog post to the Globe and Mail as a response?

      Ugh. Being a woman is so fucking depressing sometimes.

  • Marcus

    This is a pathetic, juvenile response to a very well-written article that very cogently points out the futility of reining in sight. Whether you are mature enough to admit it or not, that 58 year old man has about 15 times the amount of our primary sex hormone coursing through his body as you do. This is despite the fact it has been in steady decline since his 20s. He will die with several times more testosterone in his bloodstream than you will have at your absolute peak of this hormone’s expression. He can’t just shut that off because some petulant 20 something feminist decided that she has the right to wander through public space and every male she meets has to obsequiously and deferentially avert their eyes.

    You need to go talk to some middle aged women and ask how they like having their libido vanish into the ether once they hit menopause. Doctors help these women rescue their libido and their marriages (in some cases) by giving them supplemental testosterone. The tiny little dose they give can often mean massive changes in sexual behaviour in the home. When you’ve had that chat with some of these women, and hear how appreciative they are of the change, maybe you’ll appreciate how having FIFTEEN TIMES THAT MUCH coursing through your veins every single day might just having you looking at pretty women that wander by.

    Hopefully, you’ll be wise enough at some point in your growth to realize that objectifying these men that are looking at you as “pervs”, when you have absolutely no clue as to their thoughts and their motives, is the same error of generalization that you accuse these men of. You accuse them of reducing you to body parts, but you’ve essentially reduced them to a penis.

    • RoseVerbena

      Oh, geesh. That’s what this thread needed — a dude to manspain the wonder and value of the almighty T to us.

      Marcus, go stare into a corner somewhere and mediate on this: WOMEN DO NOT WANT YOU TO STARE AT US. We don’t like it. It gives us the creeps. You can control this urge if you choose. Look at trees, flowers, the sky, buildings, passing cars, ants, dogs, squirrels, whatever and STOP STARING AT WOMEN’S BODIES. The T doesn’t “make” you stare. It’s utter disrespect for women that makes you stare. You know we don’t like it and you do it anyway because you have zero respect for us.

      • Michael

        Rose, what if I catch myself in a glance or exchanging a smile with a woman of any age? I’m not provoking here, I’m trying to understand. Is that okay? Or what if I see an attractive woman and accidentally admire her attractiveness without staring, then what? How should I feel about this? Should I try to stop this from happening? What about my friend Amanda, who is a lesbian, who sometimes leers at women more than I’m
        comfortable with? Is her gaze exempt from your contempt? Pardon the rhyme.I’m just trying to understand it, but without the anger. Also, why is men’s sexuality considered hostile while women’s sexuality is celebrated?

        • Meghan Murphy

          Male sexuality is not inherently “hostile”. Sexism and objectification are not “natural” – it is socialized in people. You are missing the entire point of the piece.

          • Michael

            Meghan, thanks for the reply. Could you address the rest of the questions in my last post? I
            quite admired your article and the spirit in which it was written, but what about the rest of my
            questions? We can both agree that catcalls are absolutely unacceptable,and a leer is bad. What
            about an accidental glance at somebody’s legs or a nice smile?

            If I’m missing the point of the piece it’s not deliberate, I promise you. But look at what I posted above and please try to clarify these points for me.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Hi Michael,

            Apologies, I simply don’t have time to respond to everyone’s questions and comments. I wish I did. I moderate / respond where I see it is necessary/when I am able.


        • Anna

          “What if I catch myself in a glance or exchanging a smile with a woman of any age?” What about it?

          Exchanging a smile with another person is completely different than staring at their ass. I’m not sure why it should be necessary to explain that. Not to mention, “accidentally” admiring her attractiveness – again, an accident is an accident, COMPLETELY different than intentionally ogling someone like the author was advocating. And why would you think your friend was exempt? Did I miss some footnote that said “except lesbians?” We’re talking about basic human decency, not some far-fetched sociological theory.

        • Ashley


          I think the two points most of us feminist-y minded women are trying to stress here are:

          -the inappropriateness of staring (as opposed to looking or admiring)
          -the damaging effect of fetishizing parts of women’s bodies (as opposed to admiring the whole person)

          There is nothing wrong with taking a glance at someone you find attractive. However, when a 58 year old dude is staring at a young woman’s ass (our double problem here being the prolonged stare and the entire concentration on just one physical part of her) or describes the unbelievable cleavage of the waitresses where he is having lunch (even suggesting they should be on the menu) we have entered into unhealthy sexual gaze territory.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yes, Ashley! Good clarifications. Thanks.

        • Julie

          Well, it’s like this Michael. It depends. No, really it does. Have you asked yourself is your looking is making the woman uncomfortable? Have you asked yourself if it is *desired*. Have you asked yourself if -rather than simply admiring someone’s beauty, you may be in fact perpetuating the male gaze and the patriarchal model? If you think any of these questions could be answered in the affirmative then you need to stop and back off. Ponder where the wrong notion that a woman’s body is there only for a man’s viewing pleasure and ask yourself if you don’t have a part of responsibility in it. None of this: “I’m really just trying to understand honest to God.” stuff. No. Take. A. Good. Long. Look. Look deep inside and perhaps you will find the answer.

          The fact is woman doe not simply exist for your viewing pleasure. Also realize that women can appreciate’s men’s physical beauty too and realize that almost all women will be grossed out by these older men. And it is not up to you to judge what women should or should not find attractive. If a women say she is grossed or creeped out by a men then *LISTEN* and BACK OFF. Women are not mere object for you to consume. They have their own desire and needs. It is not up to you to set the terms of the contract so to speak. Women exist on *their won terms* without your approval. Also please realize that women are free to choose who they go for.

        • ChrisC

          Determining whether or not your gaze is objectifying is very simple.
          when you see someone that society tells you is attractive–do you reflect on those social cues and assess those attributes…shapes, grooming, environment, etc….or do you engage that individual as a whole person? Is the first thing in your mind “she’s pretty” or “I wonder if she has a degree in physics?”.

          The way that we safeguard against objectification and fetishizing a person is to ruthlessly practice a level of self-awareness that demands we ALWAYS engage the whole person, no matter who they are, no matter how they dress or speak, no matter the company they keep. We must exercise a kind of self-vigilance that is adamant and uncompromising. The reason is not because we are bad people, but because we have thousands of years of social conditioning to overcome. This will not be done with nit-picking our encounters. It will only be done by overhauling ALL of them.

      • Julia

        Speaking for all women: I wholeheartedly agree.

    • DS


      blah blah blah who cares how uncomfortable owmen feel if men are leering and objectyfing you! MEn have testestrone!!! They NEEEEEEEEED to treat women like they are the sex class!!! Also how dare you think men are pigs! They can’t control their urges to sexually harrass and leer!

      And people call feminist man haters…geez

    • Uh huh…


      Someone missed the ENTIRE point of this article. She just spent the past 1600 words explaining why men need to stop justifying their misogynistic thoughts/actions with BS excuses about hormones, and here you are doing it again. Good job.

      And even though I don’t agree with objectifying either sex, if we have to reduce one gender to body parts, then why not the one that seems only to think with one specific part of the body? You guys seem to take pride in it anyway.

      • Fabio

        As a male-bodied individual, it upsets me to read the second part of your response. I mean, of course it upsets me that this article is necessary in the first place too. I know this is a topic that is very personal and infuriating to a lot of people, especially women, but the sort of dialogue you’ve encouraged is hurtful too. You made me feel like a major douchebag for having a penis. Respectfully, I am posting this response in resistance to the direction in which this sort of language could lead.

        Otherwise I agree with your response to Marcus’ comment.

        • Uh huh…


          I’m sorry. I don’t hate men and I don’t want you to feel bad for being one. But did you miss the part where I said “I don’t agree with objectifying either sex”? I really meant it.

          The point I was trying to make though, is that women shouldn’t be treated like a pair of boobs just because men like Ian Brown are behaving like dicks.

    • marv wheale

      Marcus I haven’t read such nonsense in months. I (as a hetero male) believe you are the one committing the “error of generalization” when you drastically overstate the role of sex hormones “coursing” through men’s bodies. Your claims are based on biological fundamentalism and fake science. You seem more fixated on self-justification and reasserting male power that on grasping social reality for what it is. Male sexual desire is mostly a product of social conditioning through pornography, heterosexual dominance and other forms of male supremacy. There is no essence of what it means to be a woman or a man in nature or culture. Our attitudes, beliefs and behaviours have the potentail of being shaped in myriad ways depending on the social context in which we live. We dwell however in a patriarchal milieu which relegates more power to men than to women and fabricates a sexuality as we know it. Heterosexuality under this regime is imposed on women (and men) through the social practices of sociey which disempowers women and emotionally stunts men among other things. Sexual stirrings and attraction are innate to some extent but they are deeply moulded by the patriarchal social structures and culture around us. If desire is formed by power disparities between men and women it cannot be said to be liberating to satisfy that desire. Therefore it is ridiculous to label impulses shaped under socially oppressive conditions as natural ones. They are manifestations of conforming to social expectations of what it means to be male. Naturalizing them glosses over the power imbalances between the sexes and the sexual abuse of women by men. Reducing relationships to pre-political, yet overdetermined identities is a practice inimical to being human.

      Nonetheless, even if our sexual propensities are more influenced by “biogical destiny” than I would concede, that would still be no excuse for male leering. Men have used this rationalization for centuries for rape, prostitution, street sexual harassment (which male staring is one form), colonization and war. So the “nature made me do it” line is bogus. It displays an unconscionable lack of self control and humanity.

      It takes a great deal of courage and honesty to admit that you have been unconsciously and consciously participating in patterns of ignorance and injustice. It means confessing that the male gaze is a belief and behaviour shrouded in a smoke sscreen of delusion, denial and dubious thinking. The fiction must be faced in order to free women’s bodies from harmful male ideological mentalities and practices and to emancipate the male mind. This work of decolonizing our minds results in seeing women as human beings as Meghan alluded to, not sexualized fantasies. Are you human enough to accept the truth?

      • Marcus

        “Your claims are based on biological fundamentalism and fake science.”

        No, they are based on science. Hundreds upon hundreds of studies have been done on the effect of hormones in all the various stages of attraction. Everything from your pupil dilation to your capillary expansion in the dermal layer to your pheromone production to your sweat production all hinge on hormonal reactions that you largely don’t even know are happening. Testosterone is positively correlated with virtually every measurable sexual response humans have. I can show you graphs of sexual ideation rates that rise and fall with men’s slight “cycle” for testosterone production, roughly every three months. As I’ve said three times already in here, it doesn’t RULE your reaction, but it definitely IMPELS it.

        You’re the one who’s overstating the case and leaping from my “we can’t ignore the role hormones play” to some imagined belief you think I have about biological determinism. When you start lumping in the ordinary hormonal stages of basic attraction to past rhetorical uses of testosterone to justify rape and sexual harassment you are well out on your own, bud. I never even remotely went that far. Claiming that I have is dishonest in the extreme.

        “So the “nature made me do it” line is bogus.”

        But … that wasn’t my argument. That what you THINK is my argument, because you’ve leapt right past what I actually said and moved onto a primed and prepared rote response. I’m talking about the normal attraction response everyone has when they see someone they find attractive. We all, men or women, tend to look longer at the people we find attractive. We ALL tend to try and make eye contact. We ALL tend to see our heart rate raise. We ALL tend to get dry mouth. Those responses are largely governed by our sexual hormones and we can’t simply lump ALL looking into the category of “leering”, because most of these responses I’ve listed are autonomic and people are unaware of them.

        Those don’t shut off at 40 or 50 or 60 or 70. I can go to senior’s lodges right now and measure those responses in people who find each other attractive. Those types of responses are going to happen, whether women or men find them acceptable or not. Shy of a wholesale evolution away from hormonally driven attraction responses, we’re stuck with them.

        “Leering” is not this response. Leering is a vastly more intentional look with a goal of shaming or making someone uncomfortable. Go read the article for yourself and tell me at what point did ANY of the vignettes listed show leering. In almost every case, the woman involved was totally unaware the guy was even looking.

        • ChrisC

          “Hundreds upon hundreds of studies”
          Name 10 peer-reviewed, academic, biological studies. Too many? That’s a very small fraction of your allegation of “hundreds upon hundreds”.

          Women have testosterone, too. In fact, all humans have ALL of the hormones. What you are describing is a cultural phallacy that uses a few cherry-picked tidbits from scientific papers and journals to justify cherished behaviors that society has already deemed unacceptable.

          Let’s hear that again: society has already deemed ogling unacceptable. This isn’t news! It isn’t even ground-breaking. It is part of being a respectable, decent human being. You’re trying to justify bad behavior by claiming some biological imperative.

          But let’s look at biological imperatives. What about the claim that all men have a right to procreate because this is what their hormones tell them to do? Does that mean that women don’t have a say in the matter? Some african and middle eastern countries believe that’s true, and they have any number of justifications and rationalizations for this belief. Many of them think raping a child is okay once she starts menstruating and families sell their female children into marriage. Is this “biological”? You betcha! Female children can indeed become pregnant. Does that mean that men should impregnate them? Hell no.

          How about some other biological imperatives, like the so-called “selfish gene” that drives some people to do really harmful things? Should we just stop putting them in jail for stealing or murder, or do we maintain the social contract that allows human beings to live together in relative harmony and provide the necessary structure to maintain our way of life?

          See, thing is, when it comes to women, suddenly “biological imperative” becomes the most often touted rallying cry of men like you. But if I justify stealing your stuff because, well, it’s my biological imperative as a woman to “nest”, then suddenly that’s not okay.

          In shorter words….fuck you. This was way more intelligence and respect than you deserve in this context. And shame on you for being insistent that your membership in the asshole guild is more important than the safety and sanity of women, and women’s very lives. Fuck you.

    • Andrew

      So much vitriol. Don’t you see it’s pointless for someone with your position to debate a writer on a site called feminisms.org? There is so much distance between you two that it’s impossible to find common ground. You’ve simply responded with the gut instinct and arguments formed after reading just the headline.

      Bottom line: the fact that you get the creeps from someone looking at you is not an argument for them to stop. The way it affects your life has no bearing on anyone else. People have every right to look — they’re not saying anything, whistling, calling names. Simply looking. They are autonomous beings with their own will. It’s a public space. They can do what they want. You have no control over that.

      Is your solution, in all honesty, for them to not look? Consider that for a moment — you’re suggesting that men should be looking at trees, flowers, the sky, buildings, cars, ants, dogs, squirrels, but not a woman’s body?

      We should be preaching tolerance and respect. Not extremisms. That only makes progress harder.

      I don’t gawk at women, I would never catcall (much too shy to even say hi!), I’ve taken gender studies and masculinity courses, I’m a friendly hipster doofus. I notice a pretty girl on the street. I am not a criminal. I don’t want to feel ashamed for noticing someone. A look is not a criminal act. It is not fuelled by disrepect. There is no justification needed; there is no problem.

      • Anna

        Andrew, your argument is completely self-centered. Allow me to explain why. Firstly, you make a distinction between “simply looking” and “saying anything, whistling, and calling names.” Apparently, the former is acceptable and the latter isn’t, but you don’t explain why. I assume that it is because the latter is currently, in our culture, considered unacceptable, and the former is what’s now being debated. Acceptable or not? You say it is acceptable, the author of this piece says it’s not.

        Her argument boils down to “It makes everyone uncomfortable, just as catcalling makes people uncomfortable, therefore it should be included with catcalling in the list of things not socially acceptable.” Your argument boils down to “I don’t want to feel guilty about doing it, but I’m going to do it anyway, thus it should be okay!”

        Then you throw out some completely irrelevant bullshit about free will, as if it was being suggested that oglers be thrown in prison. Guess what? Catcalling is frowned upon by feminists, but no one is asking to criminalize THAT either. Half your post is completely irrelevant to the discussion. One thing I wish the government COULD mandate – everyone must first take a debate class before being allowed to post on the internet.

      • ned

        With the kinds of responses the male trolls have been posting here, if one didn’t know any better one might actually think that men are in general innately psychopathic and incapable of empathy. You people have no moral center at all, do you?

    • Panic

      “some petulant 20 something feminist” She’s 32. She said so.

    • AQ

      You clearly didn’t read this article. Being looked at and being stared at for long uncomfortable amounts of time, are two entirely different things. It’s the blatant objectification of women that “some petulant 20 something feminist” is fighting against. Looking is fine. We all look. Oggling IS fucking creepy. And if you don’t see that, well then, go jerk off or something. hahaha

  • Kelsey

    Thank you for posting this. When I read stuff like this: “The problem for us as men is that we’re in the wrong culture, and we’re men at the wrong time,” my brain goes on fire and I don’t know what to do with the rage. Your sarcasm and fierceness in the face of this effed-up shit are always very very appreciated! I live in the city where the Slutwalk was born and yet it is the same city where this passes for journalism in the relationship section.

  • Marcus

    While it is convenient to universally pan “old pervs” for looking at younger women, it belies the clear facts on the ground that some of the women in this peer group are not only appreciative of the attention, but return it, flirt around it, ultimately return the interest, and have sexual liaisons or relationships with men in their middle age. I have several 40+ friends currently in relationships with 20 something women. It happens.

    Objectifying “old pervs” as a category is every bit as odious as objectifying “women” as a category and ultimately stems from the same generalization error.

    Am I right to assume that in the ideal world we should all be able to look past the physical to all the niceties and subtleties of a person, and make our judgments on that? Then what is to preclude a 20 something man from looking past the physical “flaws” of a 40 something woman and enter into a sexual liaison or relationship with her? What is to stop the 20 something woman from doing the same?

    Being blind to the body inevitably means you are also blind to age … but judging from the commentary in here, it’s perfectly fine to objectify someone as long as they are old.

    • DS

      why are you hear? I mean seriously a lot of women HATE being stared it and cat called…in fact I would say this is the majority…women have the right to talk about how this makes them feel uncomfortable without hearing the oh so common manspaling about T…which is bullshit by the way…there are many men out there that are perfectly able to be respectful of women.

      BTW My 40 your old Brother in law is dating a 25 year old and he is one of the nicest and most respectful men I kow and he HATES strip clubs as does my husband. He hates porn too….so exlain these men….are they T-defecient? No far from it!

      • Marcus

        Yes, many women hate being stared at and cat-called, but if you had even been bothered to read the original article Meghan was railing against, you’d notice right away that the author clearly differentiated leering, which had the intent of sexualizing the person in question, from a simple, respectful appreciation of someone’s beauty. Meghan cherry picked her quotes for effect, ignoring the fact that 1500 words on a topic introduces quite a bit of subtlety, but only if you read the whole thing and not just the parts that piss you off.

        Nowhere in that article do they cover strip clubs, but here you are railing against them as if they are pertinent to a critique of the article. The same goes for porn. If you re-read the quote about porn, you can clearly see that the man making the quote is differentiating a simple appreciation of someone’s beauty FROM porn. He’s not equating it to it, he’s splitting it off from it.

        Ultimately, the fact remains that your 40 something brother in law had to make his attraction to your sister known in some capacity. As part of that interplay between the two of them, I guarantee you that they looked at each other and at some level appreciated what they saw. They liked more than just the physical, clearly, but they also liked that physical appearance.

        And I’m here because Meghan came into the G&M and dropped her vitriol like a grenade and put a link to this blog post. If she didn’t want intelligent commentary from a PhD in Psychology who, gasp, happens to be middle aged and, gasp, happens to be male and, gasp, happens to look at women he finds attractive, then she probably shouldn’t have put the link up.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Hey crazy pants,
          I didn’t “drop my vitriol” or a link to my blog post anywhere. I have no idea why it is at G & M or who put it there. I call bullshit on your PhD and am warning you to stop spamming the comments. You need not leave 15 where you could leave one, thoughtful comment.

          • Andrew

            That’s unfair. He’s not spamming comments, he’s responding to your article and other’s comments. Calling him “crazy pants” and questioning his credentials does nothing to refute his points. Why not focus on those?

            Good opinion pieces invite responses – which you’ve done here, so congrats – but not all readers will agree with your points. For a blog that seems to trade in critical thinking, I’m shocked to see you snubbing someone else’s opinion so haphazardly.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Aside from the comments you see here, I deleted 10 more. He is spamming the comments, just as you are. Men turn up in these threads, leave 20 comments, derail, try to steer the conversation in the direction that they want, and make other people so frustrated that they simply leave the conversation. I don’t have a comments section so that men can take over, as they do everywhere else in the world, and talk about what kind of porn they like to watch (which is what inevitably happens). If you, and other men, don’t have the common sense or understanding of what it means to take up space in this world and try to flood the comment section with your voice, I will moderate for the sake of others in this thread. They are tired of responding to the same old cliched arguments over and over again. This isn’t about simply deleting comments I don’t agree with. Feel free to disagree. But also try to be aware of the space you are taking up, stay on topic, and be respectful of the fact that most people here have rolled their eyes at commenters like Marcus many times over and it is why people don’t read or engage with the comment section at the Globe and Mail, for example.

          • Andrew

            I understand your passion for the topic, but judging from most of the responses, this isn’t a venue conducive to debate. It “inevitably” leads to porn?

            Generalizations are dangerous. Lumping groups of people — men, women, blacks, whites, gay people, straight people — together makes for a poor platform for any argument. Stereotypes are by nature untrue and require repetition or they crumble away. Generalizations are the tools of your oppressors. Villainization and degradation are the tools of your oppressors. Why repurpose them for your own ends? Progress lies in elevating the discussion beyond hyperbole, beyond hate — avoid succumbing to its lure. There is room for reasoned discourse on this subject. But not here, not now, I don’t think. Too much anger for progress.

            These arguments only further the distance between opponents and your points. Your goal might be rallying support around your cause, in which case debating with opponents would be low priority. But if your goal is to convince detractors, this is not the path.

            Take some time to consider how this kind of discourse often reverses the caustic, counter-productive rhetoric that’s persisted for hundreds of years to oppress women. When I read these comments, the tenor of the conversation does not read like equality. Indeed, it reads like oppression: reducing a gender to a stereotype that can be applied to the guilty and the innocent.

            I think the solution lies in communicating, in finding common ground for mutual understanding — progress in arms!

            It’s hard to make the case here, and I suspect I won’t be believed no matter what I say, but I’m an ally. I’m interested in gender politics, eager to listen, ready to debate, open to new perspectives, willing to concede to the stronger arguments. Why bully me away?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Goodbye, mansplainer. You may no longer comment here :(

          • Matthew

            Did you consider that men turn up here not to “derail” but simply to provide the other point of view? You say “feel free to disagree”…well, that’s what you’re getting: disagreement. If you can’t answer that disagreement with well-formed, logical arguments then why should anyone listen to you in the first place?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I find my arguments to be extremely well-formed and logical.

        • DS

          Ok sorry I kind of went off tangent there…I am just tired of men who act like women”s main virtue is their looks and sexiness and that women should be forever grateful at whatever attention men give them…it is seriosly one of the reasons I am a feminist.
          heh the reason they get along so well together is because she is into motercycles and the outdoors as much as he is….not all men that date younger women do it because OMG women over 30 are yucky! Thats more what I was talking about with old pervs..

      • Andrew

        Leaps, leaps, leaps. We’re talking about looking here. But you say “women HATE being stared at… and cat called.” Who said anything about cat calls? Looking, folks. Leering is rude. Looking is a fact of life. Staring is rude, but not criminal. People do lots of rude things in public.

        Testosterone might help explain the underlying reasons why men “look” in ways that (as the writer demonstrates) women don’t always relate to. (“Strangely, I don’t find myself ogling 20 year old man-ass or lusting after young man calves pedaling a bike.” Not so strangely: you’re not a man.) No one said anything about strip clubs. Where did that come from? Porn? What?

        Leaping from looks to porn, yikes. Do you think your brother and your husband never looked at a woman? Psha!

        • Meghan Murphy

          Andrew – the “leap from looks to porn” is everything. That IS what the male gaze is about – objectification – and objectification IS the problem (or one of the problems, I should say) with pornography. If you didn’t get that you missed the whole point of this article, which is that the male gaze DOES hurt women.

          • Andrew

            I can see that in the academic sense. Male gaze, Mulvey, so on. But I don’t understand how you practically apply that to everyday life. I don’t believe it’s a realistic solution to suggestion men not look at women (or vice versa). Surely people have the ability to look at other people, even admire them, without trespassing on the things you’re describing. If there’s no room, even for that, then I resign, because I can’t debate these extremes.

          • http://www.onespiritjewelry.com Vivek – The evolved brother

            Andrew – the problem with your reasoning is that it ignores the state of the world as it is today.
            If we lived in a world where everyone was equal and power shared.
            if we lived in a world where womyn were treated with respect instead of abused and raped and burned and sold.
            If we lived in a world where sexuality was a means of communion and an expression of love
            rather than a game of power and control

            if we lived in this world then maybe men could look at womyn and it not hurt.
            I say maybe because in that world men would not be objectifying womyn.

            But in the world we live in now this is not the case.

            Everywhere in our society womyn have to face extreme sexism.
            in every poster, every tv show, every magazine, every news cast
            in every mall, every workplace.

            you may not see it because, being a man you have to actually LOOK to see it
            for you are not the victim!

            In this world, any caring, intelligent and responsible male needs to accept that a deep change in necessary. There is no such thing as just a look.

            if you look at an ass, you’re objectifying.

            and of course it’s unrealistic to think this will stop
            not because it shouldn’t stop, but because men aren’t willing to accept the responsibility for change. It takes great courage to give up and share power and I just don’t think most men have that kind of courage.

          • joy

            Power is not a zero-sum game. It is, however, a hierarchy. Where New Agey guys tend to get mixed up is when they start talking about “men and women sharing power.” Maybe it’s because men socialized under patriarchy (read, all men in our current society) are taught to think only in terms of power. But radical feminists don’t want to ‘share power’, we want to dismantle the entire hierarchy. We don’t want “equality”, we want *liberation.*

            Maybe that’s old-school. A lot of liberal antiporn feminists are still riding the “equality” train, so they still speak the power language. They are also a lot more likely to get along well with men, because they aren’t quite as scary and threatening to male sense of privilege. That’s neither here nor there.

            Also, life after patriarchy (and hierarchy) would look completely different. Since this is all a thought experiment, why not push it a little further beyond “uh … men and women are now equal?” Because what would that even mean?

            For one thing, we would have no reason to look at one another the way we do now. Men would not look at women the same way they do now. There would be no reason to look at asses (or breasts, or legs, or whatever body part you fetishize) — humans would look at one another the way we now look at, say, a good friend to whom we are not sexually attracted. Moments of aesthetic appreciation would not be sexualized: imagine thinking, “oh, I’ve never noticed how symmetrical you are!” or “I just realized that your hands look like a French duke’s.”

            Which isn’t to say that “omg, no one would have sex!” (Famous strawman.) It’s to say that we would not think of sex or sexual attraction the way we do now. It just wouldn’t be as big of a deal. And we certainly wouldn’t feel entitled to it. We would not automatically think of other humans on sexual terms.

            So, yes, dudes, if you stare at an ass, you’re ogling. Try looking at women’s faces and see how they react. Look at other men’s faces too. If you wouldn’t look at another man in a certain way, don’t look at a woman that way. See if you have enough humanity left to look at another person’s face (which is where their personality is, by the way; I know my face is way more interesting than my ass) instead of their body and still not feel shortchanged.

          • http://www.onespiritjewelry.com Vivek

            Thank you for your well written and considered response.
            In the continuing of my feminist journey I am always looking to learn more and deepen my understanding.
            You have shared with me some ideas I didn’t have before.

            “radical feminists don’t want to ‘share power’, we want to dismantle the entire hierarchy. We don’t want “equality”, we want *liberation.*”

            Excellent! I love this.
            In saying “share power” I was looking at liberation through the lens of patriarchy.
            Meaning I was imagining liberation as men and womyn being equal in the present system.
            Rather than seeing that the present system can never achieve true liberation for it is based on an entirely male power dynamic.
            A new system is needed.
            One that is based on feminine qualities.
            One in which male qualities evolve beyond the animalistic level they are at present so we can relate to and respect womyn as humans rather than sexual objects to be controlled.

            “humans would look at one another the way we now look at, say, a good friend to whom we are not sexually attracted.”

            I’ve been thinking about this the for the last day or so.
            I think few men would understand the inner peace that would come from such a state.
            I can see a higher and more authentic relationships between men and womyn than are possible at present.
            What a sense of freedom and opportunity lay in this idea.

            “It’s to say that we would not think of sex or sexual attraction the way we do now. It just wouldn’t be as big of a deal.”

            I can see that perhaps sexual energy would be focused on the one we love, or with those who freely choose to be together.
            Instead of it being spread all over the place, squandered and diluted.

            Thank you for sharing this vision of the future with me.
            Just by writing this it seems to imply that you believe that men at least have the capacity
            (however deeply buried!!) to achieve such a state
            a human state!!

            This gives me great hope.

            I look forward to any comments you have about my response.


    • http://lolliguncula.wordpress.com ibleedpurple

      I have several 40+ friends currently in relationships with 20 something women. It happens.

      Men get a hard-on for status. Status = young woman I can schlepp around on my arm to show everyone else what a stud I am. This is also why there aren’t that many 40+ women who have 20-something male lovers. Older woman as a lover = status loss of male. This case is not the same as the reverse.

      • EastVanHalen

        Yup. I am a 45-year-old woman. My male lover is 26. Men of his age group, no matter how polite they are trying to be, are clearly disturbed by the fact that he would subject himself to status loss in this way. It’s not easy to deal with.

  • 20-something feminist

    No, Marcus, by explaining Brown’s behaviour and patriarchal reasoning away as the result of testosterone, YOU are the one who has reduced him to a penis. Megan Murphy has provided a thoughtful, critical response that highlights the dangers in explaining misogynist behaviour away as natural. You, on the other hand, have resorted to the simplistic view that objectifying and dehumanizing women is merely natural – the result of testosterone. Are we to believe that men have no control over their bodies? No reason? No intellect? That they are irrational? Ruled by their emotions and desires, by their hormones? This is the view that you seem to put forth. Us 20-something feminists do not ask that men avert their eyes when we’re in public. We merely ask that they utilize their supposed ‘natural’ capacity for reason to treat us as human beings, not objects for their sexual pleasure.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com/ Boner Killer

    One would imagine that Marcus’ argument makes men look pretty bad…i mean, making the sweeping claim that hormones dictate male behaviour is just as bad as the men who claim that if men aren’t given pornography and gawking at women at every chance they get they will go out and rape women.

    • DS

      Agreed. It honestly really annoys me when people act like men are these uncontrollable beasts that just can’t help dumping their wives for young women, cat calling, going to strip clubs, ect ect ect. While it is true that Testostrone WILL raise your libido, it doesn’t make you an immature frat boy that is obseesed with sex. There are many wonderful men out there that actually respect women for who they are and not how they look or how much sex they wil give them….sadly I do think these men are rare.

      Also sorry to say this…but men that can’t date women there own age and feel entitled to 20 year olds even though they are 50 ARE emotionally stunted.

      • Marcus

        The main vignette of the original article is a girl the author happened to find himself behind on a street. He liked how she looked, and for the space of a block or two, he appreciated her beauty, before she made her turn and went on her merry way.

        There was no leering, no jeering, no cat-calls, no strip clubs, no dumping of spouses for younger women. Every last act in your list is nowhere to be found. She didn’t even know he was doing it, and had she turned around and caught him, he would have likely looked away as a social gesture, like most people do.

        We ALL look longer at people we find attractive. That is a human truth. His look was discreet, as we should be. That’s not leering.

        • Andrew

          I definitely agree with your points about being disrepectful. But I don’t think looking, in and of itself, is disrespectful.

          I’d also caution, as Marcus has done eloquently already, about painting men in such broad strokes. Just because we’re disagreeing doesn’t mean we’re advocating anything you’ve suggested, and it doesn’t make us “immature frat boy [sic] that is obseesed [sic] with sex.” Google ad hominem arguments.

          • DS

            First of all I never called men immature fratboys…ever
            I sad Testostreone does not make men sex obsessed frat boys, in fact I know many men especially trans men who are offended by this trope that men are just natural sex obssessed hornballs. I actually happen to like men as long as they treat people respecfully, and don’t act like women are just put on earth to be aesthetcally pleasing. I do think this article was mysoginistic becaue the guy acts like women should be eternally greatful of men prasing their looks…

          • http://twitter.com/cynocephale BDNf

            “Google ad hominem arguments.”

            If you did, you’d realize it doesn’t mean anything close to what DS wrote.

          • Andrew

            I was thinking about this all night. I think it’s a problem of definitions. I’m thinking of looking in the sense Ian first describes: he sees a pretty girl, looks at her, she moves along, so does he. I notice people on the street, I look at them. What I think you’re thinking of is something more tawdry, like leering, and even catcalls or other impolite things. I’m trying to defend a human being’s right to look at someone else in public. I hope there’s some common ground there.

            Leaps, leaps. I don’t think looking the way I’ve described means I’m treating women like they’re “just put on earth to be aesthetically pleasing.” I saw another comment that said, “I want a man to look at my for my personality and emotion not for my body.” And yes, that’s great, in a theoretical way. But in a very practical, brass tacks way, we’re talking about passing glances on a street. There must be room for this behaviour. There must.

        • http://twitter.com/cynocephale BDNf

          “She didn’t even know he was doing it,”

          Oh! Then I guess it’s all good! 9_9

        • binarypillbug

          sure, she didn’t know he was doing it

          but now quite a damn few other people know exactly what he was doing, and his ridiculous justification of it

        • Uh huh…

          @ Marcus

          Once again, I don’t think you even read the entire article. It wasn’t just the one girl on the bicycle whose “beauty he was appreciating”. Listen to the list below, which I pulled directly from the worthless G&M article:

          “Details that catch my attention: lively calves, French blue puff skirts with white polka dots, red shoes, dark skin, olive skin, pale skin, lips (various shapes), curly hair (to my surprise). A pretty girl with too much bottom squeezed into her yoga pants – and, mysteriously, twice as sexy for the effort.”

          You make it sound like he’s just innocently admiring someone from afar. However, he’s not even admiring them as a whole person, just as “lively calves” or squeezed bottoms. As if that isn’t bad enough, he’s actually judging these women as well. He seems almost disgusted by the women who don’t do it for him, and compares the rollerblader as “the sexual equivalent of shopping at Wal-Mart”. And at one point in the article, the author questions whether “The busty brunette in her 20s” would be a sloppy mate because of her choice in clothing. So while he may not be dumping his wife for a younger woman, he does apparently like to imagine himself with some.

          • Patrick

            Uh huh…

            You’ve clinched it for me. I am one of those “old men” i.e. past 60. (Interestingly, our problem is
            that we become ‘invisible’). While I went back and forth a bit as I read the comments your last
            paragraph succinctly sums up where the writer was coming from. “the sexual equivalent of shopping
            at Walmart” is so smugly demeaning that it gives away his true stance. It is one of class and gender
            superiority, deeply ingrained.

  • katie

    i read this article in the globe and mail as well and seethed with anger. thank you for your thoughtful, justified piece. i hope you send it to the editor at the globe and mail. you have inspired me to write to them.

  • Sammy

    I don’t think this guy even read the article… When he calls the writer 20 something, when specified her age is not the only dead giveaway. What an absolute idiot.. Maybe that imbalanced male hormone is what needs some adjustment. Get some help, see a doctor instead of defending middle aged pervs.

  • Rachael

    If high testosterone explains men’s “need” to sexually objectify women, why do women sometimes have higher sex drives than their male partners? Why are all men not incredibly preoccupied with sex? Sexual objectification is a particular, dysfunctional expression of sexuality twisted by power – it is not inevitable.

    Great article, Meghan.

    • http://www.onespiritjewelry.com Vivek – The evolved brother

      We all have urges of one kind or another.
      Having an urge and acting on it are two different things.

      When we are able to rise above our urges and choose our behaviour based on what we know to be
      and, well Not Evil!!

      Then we are embracing our true potential.

      Testosterone is not an excuse for misogynistic behaviour or attitudes.

      • Hari

        Vivek–“Testosterone is not an excuse for misogynistic behaviour or attitudes.”

        Exactly. What if–what if, whatever you deemed your natural ‘tendencies’ stemming from your sex-type hormones, your foundation thoughts were about serving your community, and life–not just your personal desires? Testosterone and estrogen do impact behavior and thoughts in specific life-serving/survival-oriented ways (for self and species). Of course, our sex-type hormones are not the only biochemicals impacting our attitudes and behavior–but for now, I’m isolating them for the purpose of this comment.

        Without claiming to be an expert, acknowledging that I’m a cultural outsider, and generalizing greatly– I think here of my studies of various indigenous peoples, especially those where womyn shared power equally with the men in social life. The sense I’ve gotten is that ‘being a man’ (or womyn) in these cultures is all about knowing one’s individuality while still firmly rooted in belonging to one’s group and to life on the whole. Knowing and utilizing one’s gifts was all about serving one’s community and life along with one’s own survival and thriving–one couldn’t think in terms of self-promotion apart from interconnection with community survival/thriving. So, men were taught to value the gifts of testosterone (‘manliness’), without having any sense of permission to impose themselves on anyone else, or use the gifts of sex-type for selfish purposes (the same being true for womyn). Respect for self and for all others in family, community and life were paramount values from which decisions and actions sprang. The sense I get is that in some of those cultures, the men would laugh uproariously–or be horribly insulted–or both–to hear men describe themselves so strictly in terms of sex-drive, and to posit that they essentially have a) no control over their sex drive, no capacity to channel that drive through personal will and b) also have permission to objectify womyn and impose their sex-thoughts on womyn, willy-nilly and without respect for the womyn at the receiving end of that attention.

        When I read stuff like Brown’s and some of his proponents, all I can think is that such men have a very little view of themselves….don’t just feel themselves to be at the mercy of their testosterone, but elevate being-at-the-mercy to an exalted place. We are men! We have testosterone! It makes all of our decisions for us–and that makes us SO GRAND! What a puny, powerless, self-belittling self-image to carry around.

        Testosterone (not that we are anywhere near fully understanding it, and not that it’s the only thing impacting behavior) is a gift like any other of life’s gifts–it has it’s uses and it’s pitfalls. And like any other gift its value lies in how it’s used by the bearer. No, it’s not an excuse for anything. I’d love to see men reclaim their self-respect and personal power enough to get that, instead of elevating their powerless, all important ‘potency’ to the nth degree and continuing to insist that we womyn just have to get over ourselves already, and just learn to deal with men’s enslavement to their all-important T.

  • Bear

    Are you sure the writer is 58 and not 16?? The justifications he gives are rather juvenile, and as well argued as a poor high school essay.

    What does it say about men’s attitudes to the women in their lives if they are looking and fantasizing at random women in the street? That they want to cheat on their wives/girlfriends? Given the opportunity they would cheat? This seems to be obvious implication of the article.

    Also these men do not consider that in higher primates including humans, gaze and staring are very important social communicators. In many cases they are precursors to aggression, so staring is in fact a hostile act. One just has to see two young men staring each other down before fighting.

    I would challenge the Ian Brown to stare at healthy, dangerous men in the same way he perved at these women and see how he finds the experience. Then he might reconsider the joys of staring down women.

  • kelsey


    just because monkeys stare doesn’t mean staring is a naturally hostile act. people are not monkeys. one just has to see two lovers (of any age or gender) that gaze into each others’ eyes to know that.

    your challenge to Ian Brown assumes healthy, dangerous men are heterosexual and not into being looked at. it borders on homophobic. sometimes people i’m not attracted to check me out, that doesn’t mean i’m going to attack them. (deep breaths).

    • http://lolliguncula.wordpress.com ibleedpurple

      Will you people ever get that it’s not about being LOOKED at but being STARED at? Staring is absolutely not comparable to the deep gazes lovers give each other. Staring really is a sign of aggression, it is supposed to unsettle.

    • joy

      The “staring lovers” thing is still hostile. It’s an unconscious game of chicken — trying to see which party breaks first and looks away, implying vulnerability.

      Also, a lot of women *do* seem to wish they could attack assholes who “check them out.” Maybe if we did, someday the assholes would stop staring.

    • Bear

      There is a world of difference between a lover’s gaze and staring.

      If a man goes to a bar and looks at men in the bar the way that men on the street look at women, he would soon experience a lot of aggression and probably violence.

      If you want to start a fight in a bar, the fastest way is to stare down other men. This is because staring is hostile, and men will react. Some will be submissive (and turn away), some will become aggressive.

      However, if a women asserts herself, even in a non-aggressive way, and objects to being perved at, then she is called all sorts of nasty names, such as “ball breaker” or “dyke”. So women put up with being stared and perved at.

      • joy

        To clarify, I don’t support the leering males. I’m one of the ball busters who would like to attack them when they do — whether they do it “naturally” or not, they shouldn’t do it.

        I’m just not a fan of what society thinks is “romance”, either. Especially not het-modeled romance, which (from experience and observation) seems to consist of many men manipulating, often intimidating through outright threatening behaviors we are supposed to regard as “sweet” or “loving”, women into staying in line.

  • http://lolliguncula.wordpress.com ibleedpurple

    “Beautiful women are like flowers,” W interjects. “They turn to the sun. But if they don’t receive a certain amount of attention, they wither.”

    Wasn’t there actually a study which concluded that informing women that men are looking at their bodies decreases their self-esteem or capabilities (dang, can’t remember!)?

    • http://twitter.com/cynocephale BDNf

      I don’t know which comment policy rule I transgressed so I’m going to try once more, hoping it gets through.

      It may not be the study to which you are referring, but one showed that women who thought they were observed not only found it aversive but tended to diminish their social interactions, especially with men (Saguy et al., 2010). Also, women caught in highly objectifying conditions have a higher cognitive load which translates into less resources available for the task at hand (Gay and Castano, 2010; Quinn et al., 2006a).

      Those high objectification contexts can also decrease motivation, leading to worst performance (Gapinski et al., 2003).

      These effects persist long after women are not in the context responsible for their self-objectification anymore (Quinn et al., 2006b).


      Gapinski et al., 2003 : Body Objectification and “Fat Talk”: Effects on Emotion, Motivation, and Cognitive Performance, Sex Roles, Volume 48, Numbers 9-10, 377-388.

      Gay and Castano, 2010 : My body or my mind: The impact of state and trait objectification on women’s cognitive resources, European Journal of Social Psychology, Volume 40, Issue 5, pages 695–703.

      Quinn et al., 2006a : The Disruptive Effect of Self-Objectification on Performance, Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol.30, no.1, 59-64.

      Quinn et al., 2006b : Body on My Mind: The Lingering Effect of State Self-objectification, Sex Roles,
      Volume 55, Numbers 11-12, 869-874.

      Saguy et al., 2010 : Interacting Like a Body : Objectification Can Lead Women to Narrow Their Presence in Social Interactions, Psychological Science, vol 21, no.2, 178-182.

      • http://lolliguncula.wordpress.com ibleedpurple

        Thank you. So there are multiple negative effects. Guess staring makes a flower wilt, not bloom, eh, guys?

        • joy

          It’s sad that we even have to say, “WE’RE NOT F*ING FLOWERS (OR PLANTS, OR NONHUMAN ANIMALS), YOU FOOLS, WE ARE PEOPLE! HUMANS!”

          They would probably chuckle and infer that we are too stupid to understand their metaphor. What with us being inhuman decorative objects and all.

  • ACbis

    Post feminist guilt? It’s a power game played only by the brain washed. Grown up men and women aren’t present. Most eventually do grow their own egos, even if it may take the better part of a lifetime for some.

    I’m only half surprised this mature columnist plays it, as I suspect it may help pass the bitter pill. Both for those who believed they were empowered by tugging on that leash, and their obedient pups.

  • Hari

    Marcus: clearly you are unaware of the fact that our hormones (our entire biochemistry, including all hormones, not just sex-hormones, and other neurotransmitters) are highly subject to social conditioning over the long run as well as subject to specific situations. If men do indeed, as you claim, have so much T running in their veins, this is in huge part due to men’s social conditioning throughout their lives. That is, testosterone only becomes *so* dominant in some, due to what they are taught, and expected to believe and to do. We humans are incredibly plastic in our manifestation of self, right down to our biology. And I speak this as one who is sometimes considered a ‘biological essentialist’, because I happen to believe (based on science) that there are indeed some natural differences between womyn and men.

    However, I also know enough hard science and social/anthropological science to understand that the sex-based differences first, arise very much along a continuum, with most of falling more toward the middle. And 2nd, that culture and specific circumstances do play a huge role in the ways our hormones/biochemicals actually manifest in us. Did you know, for instance, that men who spend time holding babies, or their lovers (in non-sexual ways), or otherwise give themselves to nurturing behavior, will actually more oxytocin and less testosterone? Oxytocin is the ‘love hormone’ which prompts behaviors of bonding, nurturing, caring in people (it has various functions, but this is a big one). Does it occur to you that men are specially taught to avoid engaging in purely loving/nurturing behavior specifically so as to prevent them from becoming fully human in all possible ways–keeping men too pumped on testosterone (UNnaturally–by cultural edict), and thus too engaged with aggression/domination and unable to bond with others as deeply as they might?

    Did you know– In some cultures, it would be considered intensely UNmanly–purely childish and utterly disrespectful of self and others–to assert the male gaze upon any womyn EXCEPT one who was wearing particular adornment meant to signal her sexual availability/desire on a particular occasion. Which does not mean men didn’t notice the attractiveness/beauty of womyn generally (if he was hetero), only that he was taught to view womyn as people, not sexual property–and to develop respect for all beings in accordance with harmony. Instead, that is, of developing his sense that the world and everything in it was for his use–and his sense that all womyn are there to be seen and interacted-with as potential sexual conquests.

    Meghan, I much appreciate your anger and analysis here. I wish you had not harped quite so much on the man’s age, though. On one hand, I do expect older men to have developed more maturity and humanity than this guy demonstrates–so it seems somehow worse to receive the leer of one his age or older. Yet his age is not the reason that his behavior and thoughts are what they are toward womyn and the ‘naturalness’ of the male gaze. Patriarchy teaches this to all men from youngest of ages, and it is just as objectionable (for all the same reasons) in boys/men of any age. You probably didn’t intend to, but by focusing so much on his age–and not mentioning how his attitude is pukey at any age–you made it seem that the problem was highly linked to his age instead of to his male privilege and misogyny shared by men of all ages. Know what I mean? Still, thanks for this–as ever I love your upfront and to the point statement of truth in this matter.

  • http://molvray.com/acid-test/ quixote

    Grant everything the creeps say about how helpless they are under the power of testosterone. That still does not explain why anyone else has to notice their problems.

    The fact that it’s so important to the creeps to be noticed leering tells you everything you need to know. It’s a power trip, pure and simple.

    Men are quite aware of that. They have a decidedly aggressive reaction if they notice a “sizing up” stare from a woman. (And I don’t mean a flirtatious one. There’s a big difference.) It almost never happens because the bad reaction against it is so strong, but it’s easy enough to try, if you’re female. Be sure you’re in a defensible situation. They don’t have to suppress the rage any human feels at being turned into parts.

  • MissFit

    Men often justify their dehumanizing and sexual objectification of young women as being solely due to their hormones, thus natural, normal and unchangeable. Some people have come to belive that men, of all ages, are hardwired (I hate that expression) to be sexually obsessed with a constant need to ‘spread their genes’ by impregnating young fertile women (the survival of the human species depend on it!!).

    It happens that women hold half of the human genes, so they have this need to spread them too, for the survival of the species, right? They should thus look for physically attractive men (as this is a sign of health, so they say) and young, so their sperm count is higher. But no, ‘science’ tells us that what women want is ‘security’! The fact that women were prevented by patriarchy from being economically independent and having men possess women and children through the institution of marriage is not the main reason why women would look for men for their (mainly financial) security; no, it is just their ‘nature’.

    We could live in a society where women would join other women in the sake of raising children; we would thus have communities of females and children living together while men would be living on their own, fighting amongst themselves to be the one to impregnate the next fertile woman. The winner would have proven that he is the strongest, thus healthiest, and old men would not stand a chance, so wont even bother. Men, of course, would not attack the females and children because you know…. the survival of the species depends on them!!! The concept of paternity as it is known today (the father helping his female mate to raise their children) would be non-existent and we would considered all this as being the normal, natural way of living as humans.

    This rather long comment only wants to demonstrate that what we like to call the ‘natural’ way of being is in fact mostly based on culture and social construct. The 60 year old man who already has a female partner and children of his own may not feel the need to sexually long women his daughter’s age,instead associating sex with his wife and being able to appreciate beauty in other people, be there children, men or 20 something women, without sexualizing the latter. This could also be seen just as natural with a rational explanation as to why it is that way . But no, in the comments of this article, men who were saying that they were attracted to women their age were ridiculed and called desilusional.

    The thing is that our modern society equals beauty with youth, beauty with sex, sex with life, life with youth. Women are oversexualized and men sexually overstimulated. We are bombarded with images of sexualized young women and even though we could explain some of this through reproduction biology, it has taken a very ‘unnatural’ turn and it completely leaves out the female POV. Could the fact that men in the article expressed feelings of guilt and shame, even though this sexualization of youth and objectification of women has been ‘nomalized’ in our culture, be telling that if it is not feeling all so right, it may be because it is not so right after all?

  • Panic

    Here’s my problem with the Ian Brown piece: I never thought looking was a problem before, but having committed so many words to justifying it, all of a sudden I realise that it can’t be as innocent as it seemed. Why would you need to defend it, so vociferously, if you didn’t feel the need. If you, Ian Brown, didn’t realise somewhere deep down, you were being a creeper? Brown’s piece had the exact opposite effect on me, turning something I thought was not a problem suddenly into a Problem. Stupid.

    • MissFit

      Exactly! The need to justify his behavior and the way he comments on women’s body parts, it reads as though the title could have been ‘Why men can’t – and shouldn’t – stop staring at women… their daughter’s age with porn-inspired thoughts (because there is no problem with that, right? Right??)’.

    • No Sugarcoating


    • http://www.onespiritjewelry.com Vivek – The evolved brother

      That’s quite excellent Panic.

      more men need to have a feminist awakening.

  • Ramona

    From early childhood onward, girls and women are shown ever-increasing amounts of propaganda (i.e., films and advertising) that socialize us to base our self-worth mostly on being looked at and desired. Despite all of our reservations, we come to objectify ourselves in our own minds, and in practice in the world. As a result, beneath our somewhat polished-looking exteriors, we feel immeasurable anxiety, stress and heartache.
    Men such as Ian Brown hold up this groomed self-objectification as evidence that men should continue to regard women as sex objects. It is very easy to do so. To me, this speaks of profound intellectual laziness and an inability to think critically about what is presented. Ian Brown: reality is not some kind of buffet or stage show that exists for your benefit, in which women constitute many different dishes or character actors.
    Look around. Our streets are lined with lingerie stores, “beauty spas,” camouflaged brothels and “adult” stores, not to mention a bazillion clothing stores catering primarily to women.These places thrive on women’s internalized objectification. We must see all of this for what it is.

  • SadToLiveInThisWorld

    Meghan Murphy, I found your article on rabble.ca and the only comment I saw posted there made me very sad:

    “Ms.Murphy’s article is only slightly less stupid than the G and M article she criticizes.
    Is it OK for my 40 year old, extremely handsome eyes to look at a 20 year old ass?
    Feminism is not a serious theory- and neither is this mind-numbingly stupid article. Please, Rabble, let’s focus on issues that matter, thank you very much..”

    I would’ve thought that anyone with a shred of intelligence could’ve seen how worthless and disgusting Ian Brown’s article is. I guess this is why misogyny has existed for so long (and why Brown’s article was even published in the first place). The majority of men don’t understand WHY misogyny is problem and it’s extremely evident in the type of comments that are left on this article and G&M’s article. Apparently people don’t care about how wrong something is unless it affects them directly.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Indeed, this article seems to be bringing out all the trolls!

  • Tina

    The only kind of woman they were going to let speak in that article was the type that did: that she loves her ass pinched; cries when they don’t pinch any more.

    Well, I got mine pinched back in the day; didn’t like it; glad it’s over.

    Male attention like that is scarier than it is welcome

  • http://lifeinthepatriarchalmatrix.wordpress.com/ Bedelia Bloodyknuckle

    Thank you for this article! I am so fucking sick and tired of these pervy old men leering at women and using their status as old people as an excuse! FUCK!

  • Mona

    This is a wonderful article, and articulates so perfectly the experience of being female in this world. Unfortunately, I know even good, gentle, decent men who are unaware of the effect of their “gaze” on us until they are told. Guys like “Panic”, above, who really didn’t think it was a problem. It is our right and responsibility as women to make it clear (when it feels safe) that this behaviour is unacceptable. Thank you for your rage, Sister!!

  • strangrthanfiction

    Thank you for writing this article, and for putting, so succinctly, why Ian Brown’s article is not only disgusting and sexist, but ridiculous, also. I gave myself a damn headache rolling my eyes at that stupid Globe article.

  • Alex

    “just turned 50, and is still attractive. But she admits looks from men are rarer. “Leering hasn’t happened in years,” she adds wistfully. Visiting Italy 20 years ago with friends, “we were furious that the Italian men pinched your bum. When we went back, in our early 40s, we were furious that no one was pinching our bums.” This makes me as sad as it seems to make her.

    Oh you guys! He feels sorry for her! Sensitive.”

    Basically that woman says men are always wrong. If they pay attention they are disgusting pervs (the woman is revelling in her power of choice), and when they ignore her they are used as scapegoats because she has had an access of emotion related to her fear of mortality.

    Now let’s move on. “Has he asked one young woman how she feels about his 58 year old eyes fetishizing her legs, her breasts, and her backside?”

    Here you have been hypocritical. By mentioning his age, you are suggesting that if he was younger it would be OK, as has everyone in the comments who has called him an old perv. There is no difference between the sexualities of a 58-year-old man and a 25-year-old man. Therefore there is no basis for limiting the older man’s agency simply because the woman would be much more likely to choose/welcoming of the gaze of the 25-year-old. You are committing the sin you so often ascribe to men: valuing them according to what women want out of them.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It is young women, in particular, who are fetishized and sexualized by our culture and by men so actually the age of the women is very relevant.

      • Alex

        You seem to have misread, I was talking about the age of the man.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I didn’t misread. My point is that it is a problem that older men fetishize young women.

          • Alex

            Why is it particularly problematic that *older* men fetishise them? What makes that more wrong than a man of their age doing so?

          • MissFit

            Let me try a quick explanation here. The 25 year-old women will usually interact with 25 year-old men on many levels in their daily life (50 year old men in their life are most likely to be their father, uncles and/or boss – men they do not want to look at them in a sexual way). The 25 year-old women and 25 year-old men went to school together, they party together, share the same culture, interests, they go to the same places. During these interactions, there will be flirting, sex will happen, sex is a part of life. But sex is not the only thing that bring these people together, they have many other things in common. The old married man usually do not have these kind of interactions with 20 something women. His interest has more to do with sexual objectification and the fetishization of youth than anything else. That is why it bothers us.

          • DS

            Agreed..LEt it be know I also think 40-50 year old women going after 20 year olds is equally as creepy…A May-December relationship where the two just happen to meet and have lots in common ok..especially if the younger person is more around 27 and older fine…but men and women that just HAVE to flirt or date people that are barely colleged age is extremely problematic…Grow up!

          • Julie

            Fuckin’ *consents*…how do they work?

            Hmm, because the 25yo do not *want* to be looked at in that way by a creepy old man? Because YOU don’t get to dictate who SHE prefers? Because in the case of the hypothetical example of the 25 yo it is *consented* while in the case of the creepy old 50 something it is NOT consented?

            Do we even *have* to explain the concept of RECIPROCATED attraction? Which is ABSENT in the case of the old perv? I’m starting to think most men lack basic empathy and logical reasoning…

    • MissFit

      ‘There is no difference between the sexualities of a 58-year-old man and a 25-year-old man.’

      Yes there is. The same goes for women.

      • Alex

        Do you feel any of the differences are relevant? Men get less horny as they get older because of less testosterone (or maybe because they’ve just seen it all before).

        Is it the flouting of this biological norm that provokes such disgust? Certainly it seems to be the same kind of disgust as with other overcompensations of the mid-life crisis, insofar as it exists as a social reality.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Dude. It isn’t biological. What is it you aren’t getting about that?

          • Alex

            Like everything else, it is an interplay of biology, psychology and sociology. Nobody has been forthcoming with information about what differences they believe are relevant, regardless of whether they’re biologicla or psychological or sociological.

            If you have an alternative for what might provoke the disgust, please contribute. I am not seeking to argue a point, just proposing a possible explanation (hence my concession “or maybe just because they’ve seen it all before”, i.e. psychosocial explanation. I am genuinely interested to know what differences there are which may validate a more scathing reaction to the gaze of the older man.

          • Colin Wright

            Alex, you’re wasting your time and our time and consequently disrupting this blog. What part of “creepy old man” don’t you understand?

  • pisaquari

    Oooohhh the *NuANceS*: look?stare?leer?watch?glance? Poor boys just don’t what to do with themselves!

    Well, HERE’s an idea:
    ****NO More Male Eyes on the Female Body Anywhere Except *Her Consenting Eyes* Until The End of Patriarchy****

    Not your friend, cousin, girlfriend, mom, wife, sister, aunt, cyber gf, naked woman bathing in lake, stranger on bike whom you *presume to be* 20 (probs a minor), not one of them!
    Do I understand the implications of this? Oh yes, yes I do. You’re welcome.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com/ Boner Killer

    I will add though, not that it is entirely important, but i personally am more uncomfortable when men in their twenties (my age group) “gaze” at me because i know most of them grew up on porn. Most 60 year old dudes didn’t learn their sexuality from hardcore pornography – so i think age is important but definitely wouldn’t say the younger men are concerned with our “wholeness” necessarily.

    • Alex

      I watch pornography that is much more extreme or fetishistic than anything I would consider doing in real life. This is the case for the majority. Porn is best viewed as a film genre with certain tropes. The association with orgasm is behaviouristic and limited to the specific environment.

      In general, it is accepted that recorded music, TV, video games or whatever is the latest media scapegoat does not cause a breakdown in the distinction between fantasy and reality. You may be aware of such a distinction at work from your own sexual fantasies.

      Porn is an addiction, because it’s an artificial way to satisfy a basic drive. For any addiction, the kick is to push the boundary and hope for a huge pay-off. Hence the prevalence of “extreme” (whatever that means) porn. Compare this to non-addictive drive satisfaction such as eating, sleeping or basic sex, which need not escalate.

      • Meghan Murphy

        “In general, it is accepted that recorded music, TV, video games or whatever is the latest media scapegoat does not cause a breakdown in the distinction between fantasy and reality.”
        Bullshit. The opposite is “accepted”. How do you think advertising works? Body image? Invented flaws in order to sell cosmetics, etc? The mainstreaming of pornography?

        • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com/ Boner Killer

          bullshit, indeed. the mainsplaining in here is causing my lobes to disintegrate

        • Alex

          Good point. I concede with respect to porn (as well as body image), as the message is the same across the board.

          In all likelihood, there are individual differences with people’s response to this.

          We must remember that both sexes could do more to overturn sexual power differentials. I often have a terrible time trying to get my girlfriend to communicate her desires in the bedroom.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Alex – this is a good example of comments that may not get published.

            “We must remember that both sexes could do more to overturn sexual power differentials.”
            This isn’t a feminism 101 blog. This means that we are not interested in explaining, over and over again, why issues of sexism are not the responsibility of both sexes, equally.

            We are also not interested, in any way, in what you or “your girlfriend” are doing or not doing in the bedroom.

            Other comments that often don’t get published are those that try to derail threads into discussions of porn when it is not necessary, as one of your previous (deleted) comments did.

            Please watch the amount of comments you are leaving as well. We are not interested in male/anti-feminist opinions taking over every single thread. It isn’t useful and, as I’ve already mentioned, we are not here to argue about the basic ideas which found feminist thought and discourse.


      • Ramona

        A few things, Alex.

        – Explain to me why a consumer product, an “extreme….fetishistic….film genre with certain tropes,” replete with script, airbrushing and phony expressions of female sexual pleasure, is taken for granted as necessary for the sexual fulfillment of privileged people. (And yes, if you have access to porn, congratulations, you are privileged.)

        – Explain to me why ANY film genre can and should have such an intimate influence on my life, or any of our lives.

        – We accept the reality of the effectiveness of propaganda films of the past. And yet, today we apparently believe ourselves to be exempt from influence by the media, as you say, able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. What of the reality that many women are injured physically and psychologically in the making of porn? Is it not also a reality that women are now uniformly expected to wax their pubic area? That uncomfortable sex acts found in porn are now expected of young women? That derogatory language used in porn is now supposedly considered “empowering” language for women to use in reference to ourselves? That imagery clearly inspired by porn increasingly dominates advertising aimed at women? That porn takes away any control that everyday women have of the way they will be perceived sexually?

        – You are defending an addiction, and you are also defending your precious “media scapegoat.” You forget that it’s impossible to “scapegoat” something which is clearly to blame for a real circumstances in which women are actually disempowered.

        – In a comment above, BDNF has outlined some of the negative effects of objectification on women’s psychology. In light of this, how can you think that porn does not negatively affect the psychology of average women?

        – When did you last pay for access to porn? If you can answer that question, can you then tell us when the last time was that you donated any time or money to improve the lot of girls and women outside of porn?

        • Alex

          My considered response was regrettably censored.

          Your comment contains a lot of questions which I would like the opportunity to answer.

          • Ramona

            Sorry Alex, I’ve realized I’ve broken the blog rule of starting an unnecessary conversation (about porn) in this thread, where the article is clearly not about porn. Perhaps this is a discussion for another article. It makes sense that the conversation is not being permitted to continue. I won’t post anything further about it.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Hey Ramona,

            I know that porn often comes up in discussions around the male gaze, so I don’t mean to say that it should not ever come up. I am just wary of men, in particular, turning threads into conversations about pornography because it happens so often and tends to become very unproductive.

            Thanks for your comments.

      • No Sugarcoating

        Okay, so we definitely don’t want you staring at us Alex, whether or not you’re a creepy old man. But definitely even more if you’re a creepy old man…

  • Mona

    This thread rocks!!

  • Adanna

    Ahh yes….the denial that they are not sexually objectifying women. What I find ironic is that men love to pick and choose women based on looks but they give no thought to how high their attractiveness level is. I tell you..everytime I tell a guy his looks don’t do it for me he goes on the defensive ‘oh…looks are not everything they should’nt matter…’ but when I start pointing to other women in my age group that I know for a fact he does not definitely find attractive he makes excuses ‘well…she looks too such and such ‘ and makes all these character assessments based on her looks only..so I ask ‘how do you know? You don’t know her personally just like how you don’t know ME either’ They NEVER like to admit that they of themselves can be superficial but when you turn the cards on them they can’t deal with it. They set these double standards that they just expect you to accept. Its asinine for them to think that they could choose me based on looks but I must not choose them in the same way. Admiring a woman’s beauty is one thing but we can’t be in denial that it causes sexual arousal in most men.

    How many of these men that are looking for flat stomachs or well shaped butts even have those attributes? I remember a man at 55 insulted his wife by saying ‘go along with your old self’ she was in her 40’s btw. So I asked him ‘aren’t you older than her’ he replied ‘yes’. I asked ‘shouldnt she be the one telling you that you are old?’ No answer..a clearing of the throat. Then I said ‘you are aware that if she’s in her 40’s and she’s old then you are too right?’ No answer. Look at the incident where the 44 year old doctor killed his 22 year old ex girlfriend after a brief relationships because said on FB she was dating a new guy. I could not help but wonder if she were 44 herself if he would have done the same thing?

  • Hari

    I am honestly quite confused about why it is worse for a 58yrs old man to fetishize womyn’s bodies than younger men doing it. What troubles me about Brown’s words: 1. I do think at his age he ought to have gained more maturity and perspective, regardless of his testosterone quantity–more respect and compassion for all people, including womyn. and 2. Regardless of his age, he is doing, and supporting, male-privileged and misogynist behavior that is done by men of all ages and even by boys. And with this, he is using his media position to encourage his pervy attitude in all men and to silence all womyn who object to being sexualized/fetishized.

    Can anyone explain to me why it is so particularly awful that he is an older guy exercising male gaze, what makes him worse than a boy, young adult or man at any age doing it?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I do think age matters. While I don’t want anyone staring at my ass, our culture sexualizes young women in particular. The reason I want to date men my own age is because I don’t want to date morons. When I was 20 and equally as moronic as a 20 year old man, it made sense. Now, it doesn’t. Men who are interested in much younger women are a) interested in power and b) sexualizing young women in a way that I think is creepy. I don’t mean to excuse the objectifying male gaze at any age, but I do think it is particularly gross when men who are old enough to be the fathers of the women they are ogling. It’s a power thing.

      • Hari

        thanks for your response, Meghan. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this point, because I think the sexualization/fetishization of womyn’s bodies is “a power thing” at any age. A man much older than his womyn might have greater career success/financial stability than she does, more developed sense of confidence and more social status, it is true–thus in some material ways creating a greater power differential between a man and a much younger womyn. Yet because 1. no womyn in patriarchy is granted fully human status or rights, individually or collectively; 2. all men are granted fully human status/rights,as individuals; 3. men have all the political power, collectively, then *all* relationships between men and womyn are characterized by an unequal power relations (with rare exception).

        This is not always easily recognized by us, when we are age-peers with a man–partly due to feeling ourselves to be equal, based on age and other superficial similarities such as educational or income level. I think many womyn initially fail to see that power differential between them and men they partner with who are their age-peers because we have tended to internalize misogyny and relationship expectations to such a degree that a lot of power-laden shit goes by beneath our notice..we are complicit without realizing it. At least, so I have discovered for myself, and have heard many womyn speak of, in retrospecting on relationships. Also, often one does not get fully confronted with the realities of the unequal power dynamics until such things occur as divorce/custody matters arise…or maybe when a womyn decides to stop performing some of her previously accepted femininity-dictates, such as the choice to stop wearing makeup, stop bearing the greater share of responsibility for household chores, childcare and relationship maintenance, or tries to assert her opinion about whether or not to have a child. When these things occur, the inherent power differential between men and womyn tends to become a lot more obvious.

        In my own life, the man who did the deepest most enduring damage was 12yrs younger than me–which he could only accomplish because of being a man: having the fully human status denied to me and my kids, with given rights and power greater than me. I would certainly not be the first womyn ever to be abused and ripped off by a younger man…and just don’t see that age has much at all to do with men’s power over womyn, when it comes right down to it.

        • Hari

          apologies for typos!

        • Meghan Murphy

          I agree that it is a “power thing” at any age. I think objectification and the sexualization of female body parts is sexist no matter the age of the man doing it – but do you not think it is problematic that older men lust after very young women? It strikes me as particularly creepy. Not only that but the older man, in our culture, does have significantly more power, status, financial and otherwise, than young women and are in a particular position to abuse, disempower, manipulate, etc.

          It isn’t as though I think older men should be objectifying older women, but I do think that there is a reason why older women are relatively invisible in our culture, vs the over-sexualized young woman.

          • Hari

            Well, honestly, I’m 55 (next week) and I still enjoy the sight of young bucks (and womyn/men of various ages)…is a person supposed to outgrow the capacity for physical attraction? I’m not defending the WAY Brown does it, which is proprietary and objectifying, and he pretends that it’s nothing but natural…but I think it there’s *something* natural about physical attraction. Something that does not disappear with age, and I can’t think of a good reason why it should. Of course, while I enjoy the sight of some young men, I am NOT staring at them as if they are hunks of meat I might purchase. And I’m not interested in acting on a little rush of physical attraction, even though I enjoy that rush as something unto itself. Actually having sex with or dating a man much younger than me does not appeal at all. Heck, I found that out the hard way by being with the guy only 12 yrs younger than me! The differences in life-experiences, maturity, expectations–never mind the power dynamics–it’s too huge.

            I detest objectification by any man toward any womyn, regardless of their respective ages. The average older guy, IMO, just doesn’t have so much more power than the average younger man. Younger men have plenty of capacity to abuse, overpower, manipulate womyn in their own ways. Unless an older man has a lot more money than his younger womyn, and perhaps high status work, he’s not really in a much greater position than a younger man to do harm to womyn. Men use whatever physical means and socio-psychological dynamics are available, to deploy power over womyn, whatever their age/stage in life.

    • No Sugarcoating

      It’s a bigger power disparity when it’s an older man doing the objectifying.

      • Alex

        That is the sort of engaged response I would have appreciated to my comments. Thank you for your input.

        Assuming (as I am obliged to) that men wield power over women, I agree with your analysis.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com/ Boner Killer


    So men have a “right” and a “free-choice” to stare at us, because it’s a public space, so therefore we should not object to such staring?

    “I don’t gawk at women, I would never catcall (much too shy to even say hi!), I’ve taken gender studies and masculinity courses, I’m a friendly hipster doofus.”

    Taking courses on dudes and gender doesn’t make you understand women’s oppression, you actually mansplained to Megan about how men have a “right” to look at women in public and their feelings are irrelevant, as you said, “The way it affects your life has no bearing on anyone else” which basically says a lot – i am so tired of men who think that taking a women’s studies course gives them the qualifications to mansplain to women about their personal safety.

  • http://kmlgl.wordpress.com Komal

    This thread is very long because the number one rule of the internet was broken: do not feed the trolls. Although I do understand the temptation…

    • Meghan Murphy

      Believe me, I delete most of them. I let some go through if they seem relatively reasonable and in order to avoid accusations of CENSORSHIP! This particular post has attracted an inordinate number of trolls though, it’s true :)

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com/ Boner Killer

    Hey i was called a fascist on my blog for not letting this same troll comment because although he disagrees, he does so maliciously and in a way that doesn’t provide any “back-up” other than, “YOU JUST WANT TO POLICE MAH SEX LYFE” – Men need to remember that our blogs are our spaces and unlike public spaces, we have a right to decide on blog rules.

    • Meghan Murphy

      That and if no one one moderates, we end up with comments sections like those at The National Post or G & M – which are more depressing than productive. I try to be pretty liberal with my comment section, but when comments are just repetitive, useless, trolly or if someone if posting 10 times more comments than others (and if those folks are dudes), I gotta curb it. Anyway, comment sections should be at the discretion of the author / moderator imo.

    • Ramona

      Policing his sex life. That’s pretty rich, considering the extent to which female sexuality is policed, en masse, from the get-go, by porn and other forms of objectification.

  • ned

    All the male trolls on this post have demonstrated a near inability to engage in moral reasoning. It’s been a fairly spectacular display of amorality, narcissism, and general egoistic selfishness. These trolls have been engaging in the naturalistic fallacy ad infinitum and have displayed virtually no awareness of male privilege or the systemic power differential between men and women, and absolutely no empathy for women’s perspectives or women’s desire to stop being fetishized, objectified and sexualized. It is quite shocking.

  • marv wheale

    Meghan I think you have been remarkably fair to the male provocateurs on this blog, much more than they deserve, which is little more than nothing. I hope you and the other feminists are not too exasperated after such an ordeal. And you have little opportunity to recharge as male supremacy nevers stops raging on. The more male liberals believe something the more they lay down pathways in the brain that fortify those beliefs and guarantee their immutability. As a result they listen only to those voices who confirm their views: a form of male fortification inbreeding. Short of brain surgery they will likely take their ignorance to the grave someday. One might hope that would be sooner rather than later. It makes me fantasize about a military solution: Feminist Counter Sexual Terrorism Assault Teams (FCSAT), sort of like SWAT. I’m a crackpot, I know. Much esteem and applause to all combative feminists.

    • joy

      If envisioning a Feminist Counter Sexual Terrorism Assault Team makes you a crackpot, then what about the man who envisioned SWAT teams (or police departments, or government police departments like the FBI) are all crackpots as well.

      Seeing the way these other entities have been dealing with female-specific harm (eg, brushing it under the rug, ignoring it, minimizing it, even enabling, supporting, and directly perpetrating it), a FCSAT team would be the least crackpot of them all.

      • marv wheale

        Your thoughts and feelings are completely sound Joy. You feminists are true human beings. Thank you for lighting the way.

  • WhiteTiger

    Although I appreciate her underlying point, the entire article is full of hate and exaggeration.
    The fact is that if you go around the world trying to find a culture where men are NOT turned on by visual cues, you’d be going around forever.

    If I were to read her article as a prescription (which thankfully I don’t), I’d have to spend the rest of my life WITH A BLINDFOLD AROUND MY EYES whenever I’m out of my house. And here’s why, it IS biological for men to be turned on by visual cues more than women.
    Now when I say cues I don’t mean actions, I mean any sort of stimulus perceived by the observer, and yes looks is one of them.

    I think the major issue is that Murphy’s main assumption seems to be that men are some sort of “broken women” that need to be fixed (no pun intended). Her final arguments amount to “I, and many other women, appreciate men so and so, and as a result, that is the RIGHT way of doing things.” How this line of thought is different than the one she claims to criticize (although most of what she criticizes are straw-man arguments drawn from Brown’s poor writing).

    This isn’t about right and wrong, b/c no gender has objective access to what is right and wrong. The issue here is sovereignty. Murphy claims that Brown’s arguments lead to the notion that women have no sovereignty over their bodies. While in my opinion, it is actually the other way around.

    I’m not saying that it isn’t sometimes unpleasant to women when men look at them (although from Murphy’s article one could think that that feeling is universal). I don’t like people talking about me behind my back, especially negatively, and we all should work to prevent that. But we can’t command people what to talk about.

    Bottom line, as unethical as it is to tell women what to wear b/c it might offend certain men (and it is unethical), it’s unethical to tell people (which includes men) where, at whom, or at what they are allowed to look.
    Offensive? sometimes, wrong? not really violating sovereignty? definitely not

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yeah, you’re right. Anytime a woman tells you that you are being sexist and oppressive she is imposing on your freedom to be oppressive and sexist.

    • Ramona

      WhiteTiger, it’s not “looking” to which Meghan is objecting, as she has already stated. It’s staring, judging, objectifying, and generally mistaking a woman’s appearance for her essence.

      • WhiteTiger

        @Ramona “…objectifying, and generally mistaking a woman’s appearance for her essence”

        And I agree that this is wrong, as I’ve stated. Why I don’t agree with is the notion that Brown suggests these ideas in his article. His main idea is the male instinctive appreciation of female beauty is nothing for men to be ashamed of, as the media would have us believe. As long as I, as a man, understand that my perception of a woman’s looks is (a) subjective, and (b) limited to an appreciation of only one of her attributes, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with it.

        Moreover, I would like to make the following point clear; Romance is, in my opinion, exempt from political correctness. It might be the only thing that should be exempt from it, but it should be. From that assumption, men judging women as potential MATES, or partners, solely based on looks, is perfectly acceptable. Not nice, probably not smart long term either, but it’s not wrong by any standard, and that is another thing I think is missed here. In general, Brown’s article has to be taken at a certain context, and that is the context of romantic relationships.

        All in all, I agree with Meghan’s point, I just don’t agree with her reasoning or her attack on Brown’s article.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Dude. This isn’t about “political correctness”. This is about sexism. It isn’t ok to be racist in “romance” nor it is ok to be sexist. Objectification is not romance. This is a cultural construction – i.e. the idea that sexism is sexy, that domination is sexy, that objectification is sexy. Hence, porn. Men can look women in the eye and be respectful if they are actually interested in a “potential mate”. Objectifying and sexualizing women’s body parts makes women uncomfortable. It isn’t your god-given right to make women feel uncomfortable. You are unbelievably entitled and seem unable to grasp the very basic concepts addressed within this conversation. Please don’t bother us anymore. This is silly.

          • marv wheale

            Yes. This guy is living in another galaxy. We should only communicate with terrestrials who understand our patriarchal context.

        • http://www.onespiritjewelry.com Vivek

          1) In one breath you talk about Romance
          then you talk about basing a mate solely on looks.

          Romance is about two people touching each others hearts.

          If it’s only about looks it’s just fucking (excuse the language)

          2) if you think romance is exempt from PC then you don’t understand PC
          PC means treating people with respect.
          It should be called Human Correctness.

          You yourself said choosing by looks is “not nice”
          If it is not nice then how can it not be wrong?

          3) You make the point about seeking a mate, but looking at a womyns ass or down her blouse is not seeking a mate. it’s just using her as a visual object for your pleasure.

          If you are really seeking a mate and you are deciding to ask someone on a date, then it makes sense to choose someone to whom you are attracted. It also makes sense to choose someone with whom you have a connection. For if you are thinking of spending many years together it would be nice if you got along.

          4) Appreciation of beauty is not well demonstrated by following a womyn around staring at her butt.
          If you appreciate someone and make them feel uncomfortable and unsafe it’s not much of an appreciation.

          it seems to me that you just want to keep doing what you want to do regardless of whether it’s the right thing or not. That the consequences of your actions are irrelevant as long as they bring you pleasure.

          I hope that we as men can evolve beyond that very low minded way of thinking and being.
          I invite you to have the courage to join me in changing an accepted (by men) male behaviour that is harmful and choosing another path.

        • Ramona

          “Men judging women as potential MATES, or partners, solely based on looks, is perfectly acceptable.”
          Wow. Just…. wow. Unbelievable.

          • Hari

            Clearly White Tiger does not understand that one cannot be ‘partners’ with someone chosen for their looks. He does not see that making a choice based on looks is not an act of seeking partnership, but of seeking an ornament to adorn one’s ego with–an object of display and personal gratification. He also does not understand that this is not about the wishes of individual men towards individual womyn, but a topic concerning humans as a collective–what kind of culture we might create together. Like too many others, he seems to view society as a simple quantity of individuals doing their own thing, with no sense of unity and mutual concern–not just for profit and amusement, but for the joy and love possible. Possible only if people will seek to create it collectively as a goal greater than mere self.

          • Ramona

            Indeed. If I had adopted White Tiger’s mate-finding strategy, I would have missed out on some wonderful partnerships (with men) that I’ve had.

            Also, if great numbers of men “judged women as potential mates… solely based on looks…,” we’d end up with a society where women felt valued primarily for their looks, were largely insecure, and spent an inordinate amount of time preoccupied with our appearance. Oh, wait……

  • Kayla


    Thank-you profusely for this thorough analysis of EVERYTHING wrong with the original article. What saddens me is that the mansplaining in these comments probably isn’t from a bunch of ignorant Rick Santorums. My guess is that these are pretty thoughtful, “decent” guys, probably having accessed a decent amount of education. The simple reality that so few among us really get these concepts, male or female, is deeply saddening. We have such a long way to go, and I wish there were more that I could do to increase awareness of these issues and better yet, prevent my son (and future daughters/sons) avoid internalizing these detrimental messages we are force fed from birth.

  • WhiteTiger

    Wow, we seem to have a different notion of mates and you all are not getting what I’m saying one bit, so perhaps we should try and establish some common ground (vocabulary) to actually make sure we talk about the same thing.

    I see a lot of attack on my use of the words “mate” and “partner”. So let’s be clear that when I say “mate” I mean a sexual mate, i.e. someone to mate with, to have sex with. Someone to spend “many years with” is a boyfriend/girlfriend, or a husband/wife.
    So when I say “men judging women as potential MATES, or partners, solely based on looks, is perfectly acceptable.” I mean as potential sexual partners.

    Moreover, @Ramona, “Indeed. If I had adopted White Tiger’s mate-finding strategy, I would have missed out on some wonderful partnerships (with men) that I’ve had.” I didn’t say it’s a wise strategy for long-term partner selection (boyfriend/husband). As you point out, it isn’t. BUT it’s not morally wrong.

    @Meghan, “It isn’t ok to be racist in “romance” nor it is ok to be sexist.” Actually, yes, and yes. It is okay to be racist and/or sexist in romance (although I don’t get how one can be sexist in romance since sexism is the notion that one sex is better than the other… so the only way not to be sexist in romance is to be bisexual. I think you mean “shallow”). Otherwise you’re forcing people to settle and are forcing unhappiness on them. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to romance and they should be given full right to discriminate based on those preferences. Just like all of you seem to discriminate by age, and or by glaring, I think I have the right to discriminate based on looks (and/or ethnicity, and/or religion, etc’) when it comes to romantic partners (sexual and long term like gf/wife).

    @Vivek, “2) if you think romance is exempt from PC then you don’t understand PC
    PC means treating people with respect”. No, that’s more than that. Political correctness means basically you do not deny a person their basic rights based on race/political views/looks/gender/sexual orientation/etc’. Mutual respect IS a basic right. I don’t think anyone on this planet would argue that allowing people to have sex and/or a relationship with them is a basic right.

    Just to make sure I’m getting what you’re saying, if a woman which I don’t find physically attractive, comes up to me and asks me out, and I politely decline BECAUSE I don’t find her physically attractive (of course I don’t say that, but that IS the reason), am I doing something morally wrong?
    if no, then we seem to be on the same page,
    if yes, you all HAVE to go out with the next man that asks you out, I DARE YOU

    Now you seem to get from my ideas that I say that being physically attractive is the only thing men should go by. So no, I don’t. I don’t speak for all men and I don’t say even I should go only based on that. BUT those men who do find physical attractiveness important in short-term and long-term relationships (which includes me) IN ADDITION to other attributes, I don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, from your arguments it almost sounds like physical attractiveness and good personality are mutually exclusive, which they are not. So if I have a choice between a great woman that looks like Megan Fox and an equally great woman that looks like Shrek, why should I not chose the first one?

    As a final note, between the 5 responses following to my post, no one has yet to answer my original question: “How is your proposed prescription [men ceasing to ‘check out’ women] different than me writing about how women should dress “modestly” as to not offend certain men (and women)?”

    • Meghan Murphy

      Holy derail, Batman! No one is responding to you, WhiteTiger, because your comments are irrelevant to the post and are ridiculous. Please take your teenage ramblings / mansplaining back to The Globe and Mail. I won’t be publishing any more of this crap.

      • http://www.onespiritjewelry.com Vivek

        Reading his response was a waste of 3 minutes of my life that I will never get back.

  • Kayla


    (you are mansplaining, dear sir….)

    What IS the difference, you ask?

    The difference is that we’re in a patriarchal society that tells women, repeatedly, perpetually, unconsciously, consciously, threateningly, and at the cost of our mental and physical health to be literal physical manifestations of beauty in the prescribed sense that society defined beauty for that period of time.

    As many of the considerate, non mansplaining men have attempted to explain, the mature, non-defensive, and evolved way of conceptualizing these issues as a man is to realize that you are accumulating more power than you are owed due to privilege afforded to you by our society, and these influences impact all of our biases and decisions, regardless of how aware we are of feminism, multiculuralism, etc.

    The difference is (re: your question) that men, in order to support women in our growth and quest for equality, should understand that two actions (one being a man looking at a woman, the other being a woman dressing “immodestly”) have vastly different systemic CONSEQUENCES, despite the behavior themselves being arguably similar.

    Those systemic consequences are what matter. We don’t want our children to grow up with the bullshit we have dealt with. When we live in a world where we are equal, then your look can be on the same level as my tube top. But that’s not the case. If you re-read this thread, you’ll see that many have explained this. This isn’t about good vs. evil, this is about human nature, and we all have to be aware of our biases and the detrimental ways in which our biases interact with our environment & upbringing to produce prejudice. It’s within ALL of us, not just you, it’s in me, too, but I don’t get defensive acknowledging it.

    Case in point, I will get real here: Despite the obstacles I face as a woman, there are multiple parts of my identity which have afforded me a good deal of privilege and power: I’m white, I grew up in a heterosexual, two-parent home, went to college, am currently working on a PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology (no bullshitting! I really am! Georgia State University!), I’m straight and married, enjoy owning my own home, I can hardly claim to be oppressed, right? The sequence of events that landed me where I am today have quite a lot to do with the demographics listed above. I try VERY hard to increase multicultural competence and awareness, so that I can fight my unconscious behaviors and attitudes, make them conscious, and redistribute appropriated power. Despite my efforts, I am continually reminded of my biases (does their implicit activation make them valid? NO! It’s NOT biological, it’s NOT okay, and the fact that it’s an automatic process does not mean that I cannot become aware of it and prevent it). For example, a recent article (you can google it) on the Hunger Games movie highlighted the overtly racist attitudes of individuals who were SHOCKED a main character was cast by an African American actor. It clearly states in the text of the book that this character had dark skin and hair, but because she was described repeatedly as being innocent and angelic, people literally assumed that this character was blonde and light-skinned. That was deeply saddening for me, because guess what – I made this cognitive error! I also assumed that character was blonde and light skinned when I read the book,completely overlooking the actual literal description, and it’s a terrible consequence of awful systemic racism. It may seem subtle and harmless to make that error (like one glance at a young woman), but if we label the behavior as harmless, we end up accepting that the belief is harmless too (cognitive dissonance theory requires that we combine the belief with the behavior), as a society, and it becomes a terrible cycle, which turns into the current state of affairs. We all know that wife-beating and titty-grabbing young girls on sidewalks is sexist and wrong. What we easily overlook are the cumulative effects of these “harmless” behaviors, like making the cognitive error that a character is white vs. black due to an attitude about innocence, OR, looking at a pretty girl because you think it’s biologically natural, despite dense evidence suggesting that it contributes to the objectification of women. You must let go of some of your power, there’s no other way.

    I hope you can read this with an open mind and heart, and know that it is coming from a place of compassion. These beliefs are struggles we ALL grapple with and must learn to tackle.

    • http://www.onespiritjewelry.com Vivek

      “if we label the behavior as harmless, we end up accepting that the belief is harmless too”

      I love this line, it describes such an important concept in a very succinct way.

      My family is from India and I’ve experienced racism throughout my life.
      Especially when I was younger.

      When I made the connection between those experiences of racism and the experiences of sexism that womyn go through it was a big moment of realization for me.

      I think one advantage I have is being in an oppressed group and an oppressor group at the same time.
      much as you described.

      Being aware of this has helped me to admit and face the power and privilege that I have as a man
      and work at not taking advantage of it.
      It’s a continual process of increasing my awareness.

      White, non-poor males will have the hardest time recognizing power and privilege because they are in all the oppressor categories!! It’s harder, but not impossible. It will just require them to be stronger, more honest and more compassionate.

      we have to get in touch with that part of us that wants true harmony on our planet.
      From there we can muster the strength and courage to face the world as it is
      and work at making it how we want it to be.

  • Ramona

    @WhiteTiger….. You think we are not getting it, but the truth is, we are all just a little exhausted at this point. But allow me.

    Nobody here is denying existence and relevance of attraction. Meghan stated this very clearly in her original article when she said, “This isn’t to say that there is something wrong with finding other people attractive. Every once in a while I, myself, find other people attractive. Being heterosexual, often those human beings I am feeling attracted to are men.”

    Nobody here is advocating forcing any man to date a woman he finds unattractive. And, by extension, no woman should feel obligated to date a man she is not attracted to in some way. So I think we agree on that point. There’s nothing “morally wrong” with having a preference. We are not being “sexist” or “racist” when we choose our partners according to preference, I’m not sure it’s very helpful to use those words to describe having preferences.

    What we ARE saying is that, in daily life, we should all do our best to consider others as human beings before we think of them as potential “mates.” Ultimately, none of us choose our bodies. In women’s experience, WhiteTiger, we are human beings first and foremost, our physicality being an often awkward appendage to our mind and spirit. So, when we feel that we are always being viewed primarily through the lens of “is she a potential mate?” we become uncomfortable. Because in our minds, we are not “potential mates,” we are people. I don’t think this is unreasonable.

    What feminists do take issue with is the manufacture of “attractiveness” on a grand scale, and the incredibly inflated importance that it has taken on in our lives as a result. Our bodies are marketed and advertised by the mass media in every conceivable way, and this is completely and utterly beyond our control. Women are also extremely poorly represented in films, both mainstream and independent, in ways that you probably do not understand. Any attempt to throw a wrench into this callous media machine is met with cries of “censorship!!” There is a wide gulf between what the media say about women, and what women actually are like. Put simply, the media tell lies about women. These lies can influence the way we are treated in our lives, and every woman I have known has been on the receiving end of this in some way.

    “Sexual partner” and “mate” do have different connotations. I don’t think our interpretation was a stretch. To be fair, you DID make the statement “Men judging women as potential MATES, or partners, solely based on looks, is perfectly acceptable.” Being unclear on your definition of “mate,” do you see where we might “get from [your] ideas that [you] say that being physically attractive is the only thing men should go by?” I can say that for me personally, sexual attraction (and not just “relationship” attraction) does include the visual aspect, but only in proportion to many, other facets of the person and how they work together. Thus, for example, someone could be physically attractive to me, but a bad attitude could completely negate this attractiveness. This is why some of us would find your statement odd and overly simplistic.

    BTW, I for one don’t “discriminate by age,” for example my current partner is 8 years my senior and I have dated a fellow who was 30 years my senior. What I do “discriminate” by is most certainly attitude.

    Perhaps it would be helpful to think about Meghan’s response this way: Can you even imagine an article similar to Brown’s, authored by an older woman?
    Let me change the protagonist in the following example to a woman, and just tell me if you can imagine it playing out this way. “[Y] holds up [her] BlackBerry. “I don’t see what’s wrong with it. In a world where, thanks to this thing, I am only two clicks away from double [anal] penetration [of men] and other forms of pornographic nastiness, the act of merely looking at a [young man] who is naturally pretty – I mean, we should celebrate that.” The power imbalance between men and women really cannot adequately be addressed by this example, but really, WhiteTiger, how would you feel about this? I can’t imagine this scenario happening. And it’s because women are taught to recognize the personhood of young boys and men, and in general we would not consider it our right, or a useful pastime, to fetishize them.

    Here is what that original example sounds like to me… “Women, if you don’t like being endlessly watched and fetishized in real life, keep in mind that we men can always watch films featuring women being tortured. So you really have no choice.” I don’t think Meghan’s questioning of the appropriateness of these sentiments is out of line. We have a very serious problem here, WhiteTiger, if a major media outlet such as the G&M is encouraging this type of statement.

    In reference to your question, “How is your proposed prescription [men ceasing to ‘check out’ women] different than me writing about how women should dress “modestly” as to not offend certain men (and women)?”
    Firstly I think you misunderstand what is being prescribed here. It is not a cessation of “checking out,” but to be aware that we need to place our feelings of physical attraction to someone in the context of respecting that person. Hence, I can look briefly at a man, find him attractive, but not really give him a second look, because I know that: a) I don’t actually know him, and don’t have any access to him. and b) It really doesn’t matter, there are better things that can be done with my time, and there are many things more important than my point of view. Such as, another human being’s feelings of personal safety. Certainly I don’t feel the need to “celebrate” my attraction to random strangers.

    I can’t speak for anyone but myself on the clothing issue, but I tend to take a balanced approach. For example, I dress in a way that you would probably call “modest.” Honestly, really, I do this out of politeness, and out of an understanding that I’d rather people pay attention to my face. I’m not saying that anyone else needs to do this. (And under NO circumstances should a woman’s state of dress be used as an excuse for mistreatment!! This cannot be overstated.) I do think this is just practical reality for many women, almost too obvious to be discussed much. I do understand why it’s currently really controversial to discuss covering the body, given that it’s very difficult to do so without suggesting that a woman is somehow responsible for the way she is treated. But suggesting that a woman “dress modestly” does have a kind of religious connotation that is problematic.

    • http://www.onespiritjewelry.com Vivek


      Your patience for explaining all this to WT is admirable.
      Even if he doesn’t learn anything from it,
      and given his track record here, he’d have to have a real epiphany to let any of that in,
      I certainly did and i appreciate it.

      I found the following two paragraphs particularly well written

      “What we ARE saying is that, in daily life, we should all do our best to consider others as human beings before we think of them as potential “mates.” Ultimately, none of us choose our bodies. In women’s experience, WhiteTiger, we are human beings first and foremost, our physicality being an often awkward appendage to our mind and spirit. So, when we feel that we are always being viewed primarily through the lens of “is she a potential mate?” we become uncomfortable. Because in our minds, we are not “potential mates,” we are people. I don’t think this is unreasonable.

      What feminists do take issue with is the manufacture of “attractiveness” on a grand scale, and the incredibly inflated importance that it has taken on in our lives as a result. Our bodies are marketed and advertised by the mass media in every conceivable way, and this is completely and utterly beyond our control. Women are also extremely poorly represented in films, both mainstream and independent, in ways that you probably do not understand. Any attempt to throw a wrench into this callous media machine is met with cries of “censorship!!” There is a wide gulf between what the media say about women, and what women actually are like. Put simply, the media tell lies about women. These lies can influence the way we are treated in our lives, and every woman I have known has been on the receiving end of this in some way.”

      Human beings first.
      This shouldn’t be a novel idea!!
      And yet it takes a while for men to recognize that we’re not doing so.
      And oh how defensive we get when the necessity for change is indicated!!

      • Ramona

        Thank you Vivek! Your thoughtful responses are very much appreciated. I’ve seen the type of defensiveness you describe far and wide, and it’s extremely disheartening and sad that such a basic concept as “respect for women” is so difficult for these guys to grasp.

        • Ramona

          P.S. I’d like to suggest something to the mansplainers on this thread (not you, Vivek!). If you don’t like dealing with women’s reality, with women’s actual feelings, then perhaps you should find a hobby that does not involve staring at women.

  • Mona

    Well put, Ramona. Very well put. Now I’d like to encourage ALL of us to get on with our day and stop arguing/refining points with “Tiger” here… He doesn’t get it, and he doesn’t want to. We need to do the right thing here and “Boycott Bullshit”. IMHO.

    • Meghan Murphy

      What you don’t like listening to 20 year old dudes explain to feminists how sexism works? Don’t you WANT to know HOW SCIENCE WORKS? If WhiteTiger weren’t here to keep us all in check, oh boy would we be lost!

  • Andrea

    I just wanted to say that I read the original article and I actually enjoyed it. I belive your response is a bit of an overreaction. Yes, I am completely agaisnt men objectifying women, and yes, I absolutely hate being stared at, but the article clearly outlined the difference between creepy old men staring you down and a lighthearted glance. People look at other people all the time as they walk by each other. I enjoy admiring other people’s beauty. As long as you are not being rude and disgusting about it, a glance has never hurt anyone.

    • Quinn

      I read the original article, too, and I did not enjoy it. I did not get lighthearted glances from it, except for one section in which the pleasure seemed to come from the mutuality of a shared glance. What I got for the most part was “Me kid. Women candy.” Of course, the candy gets staler as it gets older whereas Brown never stops seeing himself as a kid. The argument that 26 year old women are the most attractive goes unchallenged although it is more akin to data from actuarial tables than biology. Meanwhile, the notion that women would feel natural aversion towards old men is shot down as illogical even though there’s plentiful evidence of incest avoidance instincts among female primates. So women’s biological instincts = wrong, men’s not-really-biological instincts = good. Plus, we’re made to understand that, in looking, men are wondering “Would I sleep with her?” and/or “Would she sleep with me?” That’s not admiring other people’s beauty; that’s window shopping. And the body policing at the very beginning of the article? Brown ponders why a woman would wear a miniskirt while riding a bicycle. Just sets the whole tone of “women are sexual objects”.

  • N

    Go Meghan!
    And Ramona, Vivek, Kayla, Hari – and everyone else making sense in the comments section. Keep at it!

  • MM

    Unfortunately, it is this topic that has lead certain parts of the world to insist that women “cover up”, and has lead many women into embracing things such as burqa, because, you know, men can’t help it.

  • Mick

    Sorry, you want to police where people look in a public space? Just how?

    Now, if this involves anything more than looking it’s different. Unrequested touch, except in cases like rescue, is not appropriate. Neither are disrespectful words.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Where did I suggest policing where people look?

  • simple

    I have been catcalled from cars and buses by groups sitting a tables in cafes – there are a those types of men around where I live, but it doesn’t bother me.
    I have been bald faced propositioned in the most graphic manner in bars, even when exiting restrooms – there are those types of men where I sometimes go for a drink, but it doesn’t bother me.
    My workouts have been interrupted by ridiculous flirting when I just want to train and I know the mirrors only make it easier for me to be ‘checked out’ – there are those types of men at my gym, but it doesn’t bother me.

    It may happen a lot more than I notice. The times I didn’t notice had no affect so why should the time I notice. I live in a city that has those types of men.

    I am athletic, well groomed. I have been told that I look like a certain stereotype so I should expect these things to happen by some of my friends – friends who actually are those types of men, but I don’t mind. I know some of my friends are those types of men because they have mentioned that I am physically attractive to them, but I don’t mind.

    I’m sure of who I am, so it doesn’t bother me. I am empowered in the KNOWING that I am not the views, opinions or desires, cultures, or limitations of others.
    I won’t let those types of men dictate how I dress, where I socialise, or where I train, or where I live.

    Why waste energy on getting angry or reacting to those types of men?
    Just smile, nod my disinterest and don’t allow my experiences with those types of men to interfere with the empowerment of being the thinker behind my thoughts. Ultimately my thoughts create the world as I see it. I am a hetrosexual man.

    • Aims

      Simple, you have no idea. Getting cracked on to by gay guys occasionally does not equip you to understand what it’s like to be a woman in this world where, from about age 12, every time you step out of the house you are stared at, commented on, assessed, harassed, often yelled at and honked at, by men who physically intimidate you and who, in the back of your mind, you wonder are going to follow you and hurt you. Think about it.

      • Grackle

        “I’m sure of who I am, so it doesn’t bother me. I am empowered in the KNOWING that I am not the views, opinions or desires, cultures, or limitations of others.
        I won’t let those types of men dictate how I dress, where I socialise, or where I train, or where I live.

        Why waste energy on getting angry or reacting to those types of men?
        Just smile, nod my disinterest and don’t allow my experiences with those types of men to interfere with the empowerment of being the thinker behind my thoughts. Ultimately my thoughts create the world as I see it.”

        Cheer up, ladies! I’m an incredibly privileged heterosexual male, and I’m here to tell you that if you were more sure of yourselves and found ogling to be EMPOWERING, you could be just like me! Stop worrying about how you dress and where you go or live or how you respond to men who are propositioning you; the threat of rape and physical violence has never been a problem for me, a heterosexual male, so clearly you’re overreacting. It would also help if you’d been born with a dick, which would allow for you to have been raised and treated differently for the entirety of your childhood and adult life, but I’m going to pretend that isn’t an issue at all. Stop being such weaklings, pull yourselves up by your bootstraps, and live like I do!

        Jesus what a moron. At least his username is accurate.

  • Elan Spitzberg

    Funny I came across this 2 months after any other posts. Looks like I’ve read the entirety of the battle.
    Well I have to say after reading Brown’s article, it doesn’t sound even remotely as bad you made it out to be.
    I think what he is trying to argue is that a casual gaze and appreciation is not wrong. Someone else made this comment above. He cites the feeling of ‘longing’, which in my opinion has a different connotation than ‘lust’, something more similar to that pain a person feels when they LIKE someone.

    Meghan’s argument is valuable – we need to be reminded that objectifying is a vice. BUT, I think that it would be as unsophisticated to say that biology does not play any role in looking at people. Likely the actual pathology is different than a linear see>>think>>do kind of pathway. More likely, it is an ego-related issue, as another writer above pointed out: men like younger women because of their trophy status. Yet, I am 24 and have normally been with women 2 years older than myself. But in all of my experiences, when I think about it, girls younger than myself blew me away the most. And I’m a person who normally launches into too-fast love of a person. So ultimately this bio-psychology. Still, I can’t deny that feeling.

    Especially as society gets older, there is an idea that youth can be extended. Remember, in pre-modern societies people died at 30-60. So currently with our projected 80-90 year expectation of life, 50 year olds are likely right at the age when they still feel they can hold on to youth. The idea that a man would not be attracted to a young woman — come on. That he must be attracted to his wife who, though beautiful and lovely in her way, is also just old: now that is socialized.

    Feminist articles like this like to use social arguments, but then fall into other traps, like suggesting that we all must stay within our age range. I think Brown’s article is actually rather touching, because he is speaking about his aging – about feelings which – let’s be honest- most adolescent men use dirtier, more disrespectful language to express. And nowhere does he indicate that he will try to have sex with any of these women: merely appreciate them.

    What Meghan is talking about is the feeling of being stared at: so I ask, is it the discomfort that women feel that is the problem, or the staring the 1st place? What if a man was subtle and not noticed? IS THAT OK?

    Yes/No. The problem, as with most science, is its conclusion: Men shouldn’t stop staring at women. It would have been much better for Brown to leave out a proscription from his article, and instead make it – as it was intended to be – a personal piece. On that grounds, as far as recommending more unthoughtful staring, I agree with Meghan: it’s not okay.

    • Aims

      What a worthless, meandering mansplaination. Please try harder. For example, try putting yourself in the position of the staree rather than the starer. It might be enlightening.

      • river

        On and on and on and on. Yup. It’s mansplaining.

  • Markus

    I don’t see what wrong with fantasizing about undressing you or fantasizing about pleasuring you as long as you don’t know that I’m doing it. In any case, its beyond your control. If you must ask, the fact is, YES, I find you very attractive and I mentally undress you everytime I see you walking down the street.

    And here’s the other thing. Even if you do find out what’s going on in my mind, its still not a threat, because I’m not interested in non-consensual sex. The turn on about sex is being the object of attraction, and unless I can make a woman WANT ME, there is no arousal. That is what is so potent about masturabotory fantasy and porn: the illusion of female desire towards the male.

    • Aims

      Yep because it’s all about you Markus. And we do know you’re doing it.

    • Lela

      This is what porn does to men’s minds. Listen, Markus, porn is a put-on, it is ACTING at best and a documentation of sexual torture at worst, it has NO relationship to women’s reality. It is a *consumer product,* made by men, in order to sell women’s bodies to other men (i.e. you) for the express purpose of making a profit. It does NOT represent women’s sexuality, but a distorted, male-determined version thereof. And here you are, using it as a lens through which to view real women, in real time. This is exactly what this post is about.

      • Lela

        Just a clarification; this wasn’t meant to suggest that women in porn are somehow not “real.” I suppose I should have simply said “women,” as the harms of porn are carried out primarily on prostituted women involved in the films, and secondarily on women as a class.

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  • http://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com ptittle

    coming to this late — i’m going through your archives! — if there’s anyone else out there doing the same thing…one thing i find remarkable is no one’s mentioned that the woman was wearing a tight mini-skirt to ride a bicycle. I think that matters. No, it doesn’t mean she’s inviting rape, but surely she’s saying she doesn’t mind if someone looks at her ass? why else would she draw such attention to it, make it into a sexy package??

    • C.K. Egbert

      First of all, you have to understand that she’s being “groomed” from day one to being a sexual object for men. I don’t think that women objectify themselves necessarily as a conscious act, but merely as a matter of wearing “women’s clothes.” In fact, it is often difficult–unless you are a larger size or wear men’s clothes–to find clothes that aren’t tight or revealing. If you look at girl’s clothes, they are in fact very “sexy”. Toddlers are wearing bikinis and five year olds wear miniskirts. Really, mini skirts are just “normal” attire.

      Second, I don’t think a woman wearing anything means she is inviting old men to objectify and stare at her. Women may–and do–get social validation through being found attractive to men. Of course, it doesn’t mean they are really being valued, but merely being given the semblance of value; as an object for use. And of course the other side of this “validation” is sexual violence.

      Third, I don’t see her as inviting ANY form of street harassment. While rape is certainly horrific, she’s also not “inviting” people to touch her, yell lewd things, etc. (common experiences of women). I think that this type of street harassment is just another part of rape culture, because it reinforces the idea that women are objects to be consumed.

      I’ll end with an anecdote. I was sitting on my mother’s lawn one summer wearing (not baggy but certainly not tight) jeans and (not low cut or tight) T-shirt and a man slowed down in his vehicle, leaned out the window…and just stared at me while going by. It’s a problem with how men look at women, and not with what women are wearing (what exactly, besides a full burqa, am I supposed to wear so I don’t get looked at?).

  • http://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com ptittle

    I do understand about the conditioning. But we have agency; we can resist and refuse our conditioning to some extent. Certainly to the extent of wearing different clothes. Men too have been conditioned, to leer at anything female. We hold them accountable, we insist they refuse that conditioning, so why don’t we hold ourselves similarly accountable? Maybe they aren’t conscious as objectifying themselves; they should be. Women should be more conscious. (Apparently all that consciousness-raising we did in the 60s didn’t get passed down from mother to daughter. Why the hell not??)

    I have never had any trouble getting loose-fitting clothes (and yes sometimes that means I shop in the men’s department).

    Some women sometimes want men to look. I think it’s not too much to ask that men not generalize, that they figure out which ones when want the looks. (Never the harrassment, never the violence.) There is body language; we do send messages with our appearance. So if a woman wears stillettos, miniskirts, fishnets, she’s inviting looks. (And can’t be choosing about the ages or appearances of those who look.)

    I too have had the experience you describe; standing outside a store in jeans, jacket, knapsack and a guy came up and asked how much I charge for a blowjob. To my expecting them not to generalize point. (And I’m fortunate to live where an exposed ankle or plain leg in shorts or face is not sexualized, so we don’t have to wear burkas to present as not-sexualized.)

    • huha

      Ughh some men are so disgusting. I agree. Women, especially young women objectify ourselves because that’s how we’re socialized and that’s how we see women represented everywhere, even female politicians. There’s the discrimination factor of women who do not perform femininity in the workplace, for example. Women are already discriminated against and rejecting femininity (like dresses and heels) disadvantages women economically even more under capitalism.

      Gail Dines points out that a lot of the conformity and self-objectification is about being visible/invisible. Most people want social lives, but that goal is hard to achieve if you’re invisible, so you have to look fuckable.

      Women should definitely be more critical and aware and for that we need more feminism and more education.

      As for sexual harassment and solicitation… ugghhhh some men are disgusting pigs. I was first solicited in a public place when I was 14. The fact that I was a foreigner (just a tourist) and didn’t understand what he had asked me somehow was interpreted as an invitation to grab my arm and start pulling me towards him while I was in shock and wondering what was going on. He was def over 30. That’s what happens when prostitution is legal and accepted. Men have solicited me several times in public places with children around when I was still under 18. Once a pervert asked me for a blowjob when I was on a train coming back home from school. I was reading a 10th grade History textbook at that moment. Just ew. ew ew ew ew ew ew

  • http://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com ptittle

    Surely women who don’t look fuckable are not invisible to other similarly unfuckable-looking women! (to your point about wanting social lives)

    Do you know of any studies re discrimination for not performing femininity in the workplace? I find it hard to believe. Like Hari, I was part of the first generation of high school girls NOT to have to wear dresses. I have since been reprimanded for wearing jeans (when I was a teacher), but I have never experienced discrimination for not wearing a dress. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate with which workplaces I’ve been in? (education, social service, deejay, maintenance, but also office temping…)