General Question

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Can men who frequently check out women's faces and figures avoid objectifying women?

Asked by Dr_Lawrence (19716points) May 25th, 2013

I believe that the majority of men truely enjoy looking at and admiring women whom they find sexually attractive, even when they are not seeking a relationship with the objects of their admiration. I admit that I too have often done this. At the same time, I actively support efforts to creat a safe, comfortable and respectful environment for women including equal pay for work of equal value and I try to fight against the objectification of women and a culture in which women are treated as objects to satisfy men’s sexual desires. I try to promote an environment when people are valued for their character, skills and contributions rather than their appearance and attractiveness.

Do men have to stop admiring women as beautiful and desireable if they truely want to combat sexism and promote a safe and egalitarian society in which women feel valued for who they are and what they contribute. Are the two sets of male behaviours necessarily incompatible?

I don’t know if women check out men in a similar way and still promote and fight for the respect and rights that women have so long been denied? Would women prefer that men never pay attention to their attractiveness except in the context of seeking a partner. Please can we treat this social question seriously rather than as a platform for sexist humour?

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26 Answers

flo's avatar

There is looking descretely, and there is ogling, staring. There is saying inappropriate things, and there is keeping the admiration to oneself.

zenvelo's avatar

My last girlfriend admired me as a feminist, and we occasionally discussed the difference between checking out someone who is attractive and objectifying them. It’s different when yo appreciate someone who is healthy and taking care of themselves as opposed to only noticing if they are well endowed.

It wasn’t until I was much older (40s) that I learned how much women check out men, they are just more discreet about it. But quite a few women check out a man’s package as best they can.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think that as long as women sell themselves as “sex workers” and in any other fashion in which they turn themselves into sex objects and receptacles, it will be difficult to convince all men that women are human beings of equal value and not just a collection of anatomical parts created for their use.

bookish1's avatar

@rooeytoo : Do you think that sexism is the fault of women, therefore?

flo's avatar

@bookish1 I believe that what @rooeytoo means is that it is unhelpful to shoot oneself in the foot.

Unbroken's avatar

I think there is an intent that comes into play and becomes apparent.

By all means be discreet. But beyond that recognize her or him as a person, hopefully with something of value to say.

The intent creates a subtle shift that another person can discern. But it comes through in micro expressions in words and so forth. Not something that can be formulaicly broken down.

To shift to this mindset takes work. It desn’t happen overnight. But it is achievable. So yes I believe we can all appeciate and recognize beauty without being sexist.

Thanks for the great question.

rooeytoo's avatar

@bookish1 – I will tell you a story, I have a friend whose daughter is in the military, she wants to make a career of it. However across the street from every base where has been stationed, there is a row of strip joint, etc. The daughter finds it difficult to be taken seriously, as an equal and something more than a couple of anatomical pieces designed for male enjoyment when the women across the street are advertising themselves as exactly that.

So there isn’t a simple yes or no answer, but in many cases, yes, women invite sexist responses.

Thank you @flo.

flo's avatar

We’re on the same page on this @rooeytoo.

CWOTUS's avatar

Probably not, to some extent. The problem is when that is all that someone does with another is recognize “the body” (appearance in general, including scent, sound and touch) to the exclusion of all else that makes up a person: thought, emotion, intelligence, humor and other invisible attributes.

We seem to be genetically programmed to objectify at some times and at some levels. But is that all that we do? Not most of us, I think.

flo's avatar

-The ones who are “genetically programmed” to objectify are the ones who haven’t decided not to objectify.

-“The problem is when that is all that someone does with another is recognize “the body””
Even if that is not all one does, it is wrong to objectify a person.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Not look at women? You really have to be kidding me.

CWOTUS's avatar

Better than I tried to say the same thing, @Espiritus_Corvus. Way better.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Why is it that some women do so much to be noticed and admired—careful skincare, nice hairdos, pretty makeup, attractive clothing, and just the right jewelry and accessories—and then get annoyed when men notice and admire them?

Unbroken's avatar

Ridiculous. Our brains are built to see identify analyze and organize objects and distinguish differences about them.

I agree with @Espiritus_Corvus and @CWOTUS. It would be a waste not to appreciate and notice beauty around us.

@rooeytoo It is my opinion that people are intelligent enough to distinguish a sex worker and their profession from society at large. It is like saying a lot of women are teachers so they must all be teachers.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Every culture has its own standards of what’s attractive and desirable, and people attach all sorts of values to physical beauty.

In the U.S., the luckiest men are tall and well-built, complete with a strong jawline, a good head of dark hair, and a dashing smile. If Mr. Handsome and a short, pudgy guy, each with excellent credentials, are interviewing for the same job, guess who’ll be hired.

Anybody watch “Survivor”? A few seasons ago, each tribe had to elect a leader before the game could begin. The people were strangers and had been prevented from communicating; they had to base their decisions on first impressions (i.e. looks and physical presence). Each tribe chose a tall, attractive, physically-fit man. Big surprise.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I love everything about women physically, but to really interest me they have to be able to interact with me on the mental and spiritual level. The body draws my eye, the heart and soul draws me in totally.

Bellatrix's avatar

I truly hope that men do not have to stop admiring and looking at women in order for them to also support our right to equality and fair and decent treatment. That would be too sad. I really don’t think the two ideas are exclusive of each other.

It’s human nature to look at and appreciate those who are sexually appealing to us. I certainly notice men other than my husband and can admire those I think are attractive. There’s nothing wrong with that.

However, when I notice an attractive man he doesn’t just become a potential sex object to me. I don’t then see him only as a penis, or a nice bum. I can look and acknowledge his attractiveness and still respect his mind, his right to fair pay, to be able to follow the career path of his choice, to work without being sexually harassed and to deserve respectful treatment.

I really hope men have evolved sufficiently to be able to look at a woman, appreciate her beauty but still see her an equal and intelligent human being.

Pandora's avatar

@Bellatrix Well said. I was thinking the same thing. I appreciate physical beauty in men and women the same way I appreciate a beautiful day. I have actually seen some women who are so beautiful that I have actually found myself staring and then apologizing when caught staring. Then I will usually tell them that I am sorry for staring but their beauty is rarely seen. Just for the record I am straight, but my point is that there is no sexual intent. I am simply admiring God or nature’s handiwork. I do the same to handsome men.

Luckily, I never have to apologize to flowers for staring. I also stare at babies, pets, pretty cars and so on. I appreciate beauty. I can do that and not think the person is somehow less valuable. I’ve even stared at older individuals that may not have a classic beauty but have a sophisticated air, or a natural joyous nature that makes them appear a different kind of beauty
Now if they open their mouth and they talk like they belong on Jerry Springer, then I may see their worth as a human being, somewhat diminished. So I don’t see why men could not be able to appreciate beauty in all its forms without it meaning anything more than just that.

bossob's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul I’ve wondered that too. I’ve been told that the correct answer to your question is that those women only get annoyed when the wrong man looks at them ie. the man for whom they have no interest. Mr. Right could stare at her breasts and have drool on his chin, and it would be OK.

Unbroken's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul In my opinion American culture dictates that everyone care for their appearance. It is a sign of confidence, can actually promote feelings of confidence and can demonstrate taste or success.

Is it negative to focus on appearance to make yourself a demonstration of your art. ( I have friends that call putting on make up nail art etc as their daily work of art, their painting) I have no doubt it can be negative. Yet like ogling and admiration there is a line and benefits as well.

Just my opinion.

augustlan's avatar

What @Bellatrix said sums it up pretty well. Appreciating beauty isn’t objectifying. Leering, catcalling, inappropriate touching or remarks, dismissing the mind of the beauty we’re admiring…that is objectifying. I think we can all admire beauty without objectifying the source of it.

dabbler's avatar

Lust/attraction is similar to other emotions in this respect, they are innocent, but what you do with your feelings makes all the difference.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

There are rules. Every guy should have learned them during his awkward stage. The stage is awkward because most guys have to learn this stuff on their own through trial and error.

You don’t gawk, you don’t stare, you don’t leer, you don’t intimidate. That means if she doesn’t respond, you don’t linger. You look; it’s natural. You don’t notice other women when you are with one if you know what is good for you. Be a gentleman. And never apologize for being a man. It’s pretty damn simple.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

^^^ And try not to look like a 5 year-old on his first visit to Disney World.

venusPdiaz's avatar

I think that we all appreciate beauty and I also believe that we all have different ideals. There is no getting away from sexuality – that is the beauty of life but some women enjoy dressing for the opposite sex with the objection of feeling desireable whereas some women like to present themselves at their best for other women in a competitive way, ie, latest fashion, expensive accessories etc. I think that the sophisticated and intelligent approach of treating the sexes equally and with respect has got to be right but we cannot deny our instincts as human beings to admire the opposite sex and indeed the same sex – it is just part of the richness of being human but we are blessed with intelligence and therefore are able to act appropriately at all times.

Smitha's avatar

I am a married woman and I do look at attractive guys, but generally, not in terms of sexual objectification. Likewise, my husband looks at other women, sometimes I even point those women out to him. It doesn’t mean we want to sleep with these people, it just means we can appreciate beauty when we see it.
As long as there is attractive women men will stare but they need to realize that just because a woman turns him on it doesn’t mean that she’s an object. She’s still a person with thoughts and feelings. There is no harm to find someone sexually attractive and arousing, but just keep in mind that, that’s not their purpose or place.

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