Sunday, July 29, 2012

The male gaze

This isn't that profound an item politically, but I thought it an unusually open account of the female experience.

An older Canadian woman has written a newspaper column in which she admits that she misses the male gaze:
Men don’t look at me the way they used to. In general, they don’t look at me at all. This is what happens when a woman turns 40 (50, 60 etc.). It’s a fact of life.

In theory, this is supposed to be an exhilarating passage in the life of a woman. At last we’re liberated from the tyranny of the male gaze! We don’t have to care what men think of us any more. We’re free to be our true, authentic self. We can wear a red hat.

In reality, it sucks. I’d give a lot for men to look at me like that again.

She reminisces of her youth:
...on the whole, being gazed on was not at all demeaning. It was empowering. I was the one in charge, because the choice of how to handle any given male’s response was entirely mine. No matter how sexist or unfair it seems, no one in the world has more erotic power than a 20-year-old girl.

It's not just erotic power but a kind of sexual power. A woman's sexual power is at its peak in her 20s; men's tends to rise as they hit their 30s.

It matters a lot, both for women and for society in general, how women choose to use this power. The preferred traditionalist option is for women to leverage this power when it's at its height in order to get the best husband she can.

That's good for society because it leads to timely family formation and gives young men a reason to make adult commitments. It's good for individual women because it means that they don't have to settle in a rush when conditions aren't as good and because it means that women can then build up ties of loyalty and love with a man that will hopefully see them through to their later life - so that they don't have to feel the invisibility that the Canadian writer is experiencing.

Another thought: the system of monogamous marriage that feminists and liberals are so busy demolishing keeps a woman's sexual power operative for much longer than it might otherwise do in a state of nature.

If men believe that monogamous marriage is good for society and themselves, and agree to abide by it, then they can only look to their wives to provide the kinds of things that are so important to men's sense of well-being in life: not only the physical relationship but the larger romantic and emotional relationship with a woman.

So whereas feminists claim that women are closing off their sexual power if they marry young, in most cases such women are extending it into middle-age and beyond.

(Final thought: it's a pity to have to discuss relationships in terms of power - that's me capitulating a bit to liberal thought patterns. It ought to be the case that young men and women seek love and find the highest expression of this love in a faithful relationship.)

27 comments:

  1. I guess power doesn't mean sexual drive as every thing I have ever read says that a man hits his peak in his late teens, and a woman in her early forties.

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  2. Ditto what kman said, I've read that one before as well.

    There's a feminist writer and philosopher in the UK by the name of Jane Clare Jones. She wrote about, amongst other things, the killings in Norway last year. I thought that her work was some of the most awful far-left bile I've ever read, up there with the work of Robert Jensen. You should really check some of her writings out.

    http://mindingandmattering.blogspot.co.uk/
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/jane-clare-jones

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  3. It's worth pointing out though, that fortunately the women that I talk to in real life are quite pleasant to talk to. They tend not to be too interested in political or academic subjects at all, and given the state of mainstream politics and academia, that's a blessing.

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  4. With respect to the two preceding comments, we must distinguish sexual drive from sexual attraction. I personally believe that the reported peak of female sex drive in the early forties is a myth promulgated by women in their late thirties, both to give themselves hope and to convince men that they are hot in a whole new way. It makes no sense biologically and I've never heard a husband report this Indian Summer of Eros.

    It is possible that, in the time before general contraception, women in their early forties were more receptive to sexual intercourse because fertility and the risk of another child were relatively low.

    With respect to the post, I don't think you should feel any reluctance to use the word power, Mark. It's only liberals and leftists, who see power as a defect in the world, who have made power a pejorative term. A world without power would be inert, and the morality of power depends entirely on how it is used. Families are formed by a young woman's power of sexual attraction (along with her and the young man's sexual desire). Since we conservatives believe that family formation is the telos of most young men and women, this exercise of power is consistent with the freedom (properly understood) of these men and women.

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  5. "every thing I have ever read says that a man hits his peak in his late teens, and a woman in her early forties."

    That is complete nonsense invented by feminists.

    From the standpoint of common sense, why would women reach their peak when they are menopausal? Biologically women should reach their peak when they are most fertile -- in other words, when they are in their late teens, at the same time as men.

    "it's a pity to have to discuss relationships in terms of power - that's me capitulating a bit to liberal thought patterns."

    Perhaps a better way to phrase it is "market value".

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  6. By sexual power I meant something like "having something that gives you leverage with the opposite sex".

    But it's better to explain it by being specific. In her 20s, a reasonably attractive woman will get a lot of male attention. There will seem to be a steady supply of men who want to be with her. She has the luxury of choice.

    Why is she in this position? Because she is young, beautiful and fertile and she is sought after not only by young men but possibly older ones as well. The men in her peer group are propelled by their strong drive not only for sex but for a combined physical/emotional relationship. It touches on a man's sense of himself to have a woman say yes to him as a man. It's felt instinctively as an aspect of masculine well-being and fulfilment.

    As I tried to explain in the post, in a culture of monogamy a woman gets to stay in this position of strength throughout her life as she is the one woman a man can turn to for these things.

    But if a woman stays single she will eventually experience a shift in the balance of power. As men age they accumulate resources, confidence and authority. The number of unmarried highly eligible men will dwindle. And many of those men still left will be looking to younger women or will, perhaps, have accepted a bachelor lifestyle.

    The eligible men remaining might now find that they are the ones with the luxury of choice, whilst the single women ask where all the good men have gone.

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  7. Despite Feh's "From the standpoint of common sense"
    According to British Daily Mail.
    "Never mind lithe young women in their 20s, it's those who are twice their age who are having all the fun. According to a survey by Health Plus magazine, it's women in their 40s who are having the best sex of their lives.
    So is it true and, if so, is it down to experience, hormones, renewed self-confidence or extra-marital affairs
    Dr.Louise Foxcroft.Historian ... "according to The New Hite Report (2000), older women are more likely to enjoy more multiple orgasms than younger women, and the confusion between reproductive activity and sexual pleasure is playing havoc with our lives. "

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1136003/Better-age-Does-womans-sex-life-really-begin-forty.html#ixzz223INSvjf

    "Most women are uncomfortable with themselves - their bodies, what they want in bed, how they act during sex... as they age, that becomes less and less. Being comfortable in your own skin is positively correlated to the pleasure you experience.".

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  8. I can't believe I'm saying this but older feminist women are deluding themselves with their hamsterization. They're single, they have no family and because of their life situation they just have to spin more and more hamsters.

    Of course the truth is there are men who agree with them and think that older women are at the peak of a woman's sexual life but these men are not the types that are husband material and that older feminist women long for.

    No. They're either feminist men, bad boys, players, unsuitable, horrible or whatnot. It's a sad spectacle.

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  9. There are two different camps of older sexy women: the MILFs (sexy mothers) or the cougars (sexy singles).

    Are these feminists talking about sexy old mothers or sexy old single women?

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  10. @kman,

    Hate to break it to you, but The Daily Mail and aging, strident feminist Louise Foxcroft are making it up.

    She is another example of Steve Sailer's Law of Female Journalism: "The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking."

    @Mark,

    You are describing market value.

    In her 20s, a reasonably attractive woman will get a lot of male attention -- because she has a high market value.

    But if a woman stays single she will eventually experience a shift in the balance of power -- because her market value declines.

    Charlatans like Louise Foxcroft are doing young women a real disservice by trying to convince them that their market value increases with age, when in fact it declines precipitously. Gee, what could be the motive for a dried up old hag to sabotage attractive young women?

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  11. What? So now you want to be objectified?

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  12. Of course your logic and reason are ideas of the patriarchy and are thus deemed inappropriate by the ladies themselves and then their counter-argument will become this...

    http://whoneedsfeminism.tumblr.com/

    Modern women are hopeless. They stew in their own pile of horse poop. Try arguing reason with an emotionally charged women who thinks she has the right to do what she pleases.

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  13. 1) The term "the male gaze" does not refer to the fact that men admire the way certain women look. The term "the male gaze" refers to the fact that cinema and other visual arts historically have taken the point of view of a heterosexual male -- setting up the male as the person gazing and the the female as the person gazed at (subject-and-object). In reality, women have a gaze too and often admire men as much as they admire us, but the female gaze is not the default point of view in our culture.

    2) There is nothing inherently objectifying in being admired for one's looks. It becomes objectifying only when we focus on someone's looks at the expense of recognizing their humanity. What that means in practice varies depending on the circumstances. An obvious example would be that if a scientist or other expert is giving a speech and you start wolf-whistling because you think she's hot, you are objectifying her because you are treating as if her looks matter more than other aspects of her humanity, such as her intellect and achievement. That kind of thing is the problem, not mere admiration of a member of the opposite sex.

    3) So women like being admired for their looks. In other news, grass is green and sky is blue. Incidentally, men like to be thought good-looking also but because of the "male gaze" (see above), we tend to assume that women are the more attractive sex. In reality, women are more attractive to MEN and, as a culture, we tend to adopt that point of view.

    4) Being admired is fun and having lots of men want to date or marry you is a pleasure, but I wouldn't call it "power," especially in traditionalist culture. Traditionally, women HAD to get married in order to escape poverty or social pity. And women traditionally were not to take the initiative. So this great social power really meant sitting around passively and desperately hoping to be noticed so that you could secure your future by becoming the dependent of a man with some kind of prospects or financial stability. If men found you attractive because you had a pretty face or a cute figure, that was really a matter of luck, not power.

    5) Real power means being able to pay your own way and chart your own future without regard to your looks. Marrying today is not the matter of desperation it once was for women, because women are now able to earn their own income and secure their own retirement.

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  14. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Georgina Charlotte is Doomed Harlot with another name... or worse an old hag.

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  15. I am Doomed Harlot! Not trying to pull a fast one. I was commenting on this site under this handle long before I started commenting on Dalrock's.

    I was using "Doomed Harlot" on the Free Jinger site because that handle kind of relates to the theme of the site. Then there was a conversation at one point between the folks at Dalrock and the folks at Free Jinger, so I started commenting at Dalrock's place under my Free jinger handle, without realizing there was an overlap between these two sites.

    I can just turn myself into Georgina Harlot if you like!

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  16. Georgina Charlotte, at your fifth point. I don't know whether to pity you because you think that most people are able to retire in this day and age, or belittle what women like you have done.

    I don't want power, and from what I know and witness everyday, few women do. Most women want to stay at home with their families and most careers are of no benefit to everyday lives.

    They serve the false god of the free market and materialistically enslave people to a quite communistic society. (The ultimate lie people live in their liberal delusions) But I guess material possessions and status give you a sense of power.

    You do realize when you die, and whatever you believe in- nothing can be taken with you? Including your career.

    And marriage is a desperate and cherished goal. To further illustrate it, a masculine husband I can follow and have a family with. Who does not play with pretty pink 'My Little Ponies'. Thanks to your generation of feminists, this is a real threat.

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  17. Being admired is fun and having lots of men want to date or marry you is a pleasure, but I wouldn't call it "power," especially in traditionalist culture.

    Georgina, that's a case of you as a woman taking way too much for granted.

    Getting a man to dedicate his life to providing for you and your children is definitely a kind of power. And in traditionalist societies 90% of women were able to exercise it.

    Real power means being able to pay your own way and chart your own future without regard to your looks. Marrying today is not the matter of desperation it once was for women, because women are now able to earn their own income and secure their own retirement.

    Most jobs bring very little power. You work for a boss, you spend much of your life in a cubicle, with little to show for it financially at the end of a working life.

    It can make sense for men to commit to this, as in doing so they free up the time of their wives to care for their children and as it fulfils the provider instinct of men.

    Georgina, you present a very negative view of traditional marriage, one in which women only marry men because they have to, and in which women would rather rely on a boss or on state welfare rather than a husband.

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  18. Most women don't want to stay at home. A lot of women don't even want a husband or a family. They want a life of achievement in the public sphere like a lot of men do. From what I can glean of women with families is a lot of thankless self-sacrifice for a husband that continuously is lusting after something younger and better and treats you like a slave. Even if you work, he expects you to do the lionshare of housework and childcare while he indulges his past times. Then, once you have a few wrinkles, he leaves you for his secretary. LOL.

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  19. Anon, I'm not sure whether your comment is meant to be taken seriously or not.

    They want a life of achievement in the public sphere like a lot of men do.

    Maybe women in their 20s do. But then they start to ask "Is this all there really is to life?"

    And then they either ramp up the travel/casual relationships thing or else they take motherhood and marriage more seriously.

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  20. Points 1 and 3 in GC's post assume that we believe that the female form is especially lovely to look upon because of our "culture," and that the "male gaze" is a learned behavior transmitted from generation to generation through the visual arts. This is, at best, only partly true. A preference for gazing at females is found in every culture, and in both sexes. It has not escaped our notice, ladies, that every single woman's magazine is filled with photos of pretty WOMEN, many of them half naked.

    It is always hard to know just what a writer has in mind when she speaks of "traditional society" (GC point 2), but before the 19th century the marriage prospects of the vast majority of women had relatively little to do with their looks. It was the pretty girl with no dowry who was headed for the nunnery (or, perhaps, the brothel). The "cinderella story" was a fantasy invented in a society where pretty servant girls had no chance of attracting a prince, and little chance of attracting anyone else.

    We should not follow the feminist in their misuse of the word "objectify" (GC point 2). To objectify does not mean to focus exclusively on the physical properties of a being, even a human being. It means to view the properties of a being dispassionately and without prejudice. I can objectify a woman's intellect as easily as I can objectify her body. I would be objectifying a woman, for instance, if I said that she is a loathsome menace to society, but she has a fine mind. I can just as easily view her body in a way that is not at all objective, that is, for instance, colored by lust and sexual fantasies. If we use words correctly, it seems to me that feminists would like us to objectify women, since the "male gaze," as they define it, is a deeply subjective stance.

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  21. Georgina Charlotte/Doomed HarlotTuesday, 31 July 2012 at 23:45:00 GMT+10

    A SAYS: "I don't want power, and from what I know and witness everyday, few women do. Most women want to stay at home with their families and most careers are of no benefit to everyday lives."

    I SAY: I'm pretty sure most human beings want some sense of control over their own destiny, yes, even women who desire to stay home with their families instead of engaging in income-producing work away from home. Now, of course, no one has complete control, but the ability to choose another way of earning one's bread than marriage is a measure of some degree of control.

    Oh, and I don't necessarily accept your contention as to what all women want. It may depend on your demographic.

    A SAYS: "They serve the false god of the free market and materialistically enslave people to a quite communistic society. (The ultimate lie people live in their liberal delusions) But I guess material possessions and status give you a sense of power."

    The free market and communism are essentially opposite things but I think what you are getting at is that materialism. I don't think material possessions are everything in life (far from it), but having one's material needs met is an important basic. You can't do much of anything else in life if you are worried about where your next crust of bread is coming from. So the ability to provide for oneself is important. Often those who turn up their nose at filthy luchre are those who have never had to actually struggle.

    A SAYS: "You do realize when you die, and whatever you believe in- nothing can be taken with you? Including your career."

    That is true! But you realize that you can play that game with any life course. No matter what you choose in life, even being a stay-at-home-mother there is always the question of whether it matters in the end. We don't know what happens after death (although some religious adherents claim to know), but we do know that we can improve the lives of people here and now, including women. Most jobs provide to things: (1) some value to one's own life (an income, and the control and independence an income can provide); and (2) value to society.

    I am saddened by the negative view of the value of honest labor often expressed in these discussions. Work exists for a reason and that's because it provides value in some way. Sure, there are some jobs that you can say are destructive to society depending on your point of view. But most of us work at jobs that are valuable in some way. You can pooh pooh certain jobs as soooo mundane but the reality is that even the paper-pushing bureaucrat is providing some service that allows his or her company to function profitably and in turn provide some kind of service to the larger society.

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  22. Georgina Charlotte/ Doomed HarlotWednesday, 1 August 2012 at 00:12:00 GMT+10

    MARK SAYS: "Getting a man to dedicate his life to providing for you and your children is definitely a kind of power. And in traditionalist societies 90% of women were able to exercise it."

    You make it sound like the traditional division of labor was primarily for women's benefit. In fact, these children were produced by and belonged to the men too.

    Most women in such societies were ultimately chosen by a man, but this isn't exactly the same as exercising power over one's destiny.

    MARK SAYS: "Most jobs bring very little power. You work for a boss, you spend much of your life in a cubicle, with little to show for it financially at the end of a working life.

    It can make sense for men to commit to this, as in doing so they free up the time of their wives to care for their children and as it fulfils the provider instinct of men."

    Yes, power is certainly a relative term. The guy in the cubicle does not have the same degree of power as a CEO or a senator. But he earns his own money and needn't rely on another for his bread. If he loses his job, or doesn't like it, he can look around for other opportunities that make him happier or that put more money in his pocket. And there is always the opportunity to at least try to move up the ladder for those who have the drive and the ability.

    MARK SAYS: "Georgina, you present a very negative view of traditional marriage, one in which women only marry men because they have to, and in which women would rather rely on a boss or on state welfare rather than a husband."

    I think this is a really important point. The traditional structure meant that women had to rely (in general) on a husband for support.
    This idea of a husband as a provider does create a view of men as pocketbooks, and marriage as a business arrangement. Men, in turn, would view relationships with women as an investment. You see marriage discussed in these terms all the time in the so-called "man-o-sphere" and that's a direct result of the traditionalist quid-pro-quo view of marriage.

    Can love and romance exist within marriage in a traditionalist society? I suppose so, but I'd wager it exists despite the traditionalist structure of such a society, not because of it.

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  23. Can love and romance exist within marriage in a traditionalist society? I suppose so, but I'd wager it exists despite the traditionalist structure of such a society, not because of it.

    That's an inversion of reality. There's no guarantee of a happy marriage under any kind of social arrangement. But traditionalist society placed more emphasis on both marriage and romance. It's modernist society which has come up with a hook-up culture, falling marriage rates, rising divorce rates, cynicism about long-term marriage, a sense of men and women as being competitors or enemies, men going their own way, feminist separatism etc.

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  24. But he earns his own money

    By the time he's paid the mortgage, the utitilities, the shopping, the insurance etc he'll have very little over in terms of his own discretionary spending.

    He's earning money to support his family. That's the only way what he is doing makes sense. It makes no sense for a man to spend so much time working because supposedly it confers power.

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  25. Georgina Charlotte/Doomed HarlotWednesday, 1 August 2012 at 07:28:00 GMT+10

    I think you are misunderstanding the idea of power. Feeding yourself is a form of power -- as opposed to being fed by someone else.

    Also, it's quite true that many working people are just getting by in jobs that confer little voice in the community. But there are plenty of working people who have power independent of just feeding themselves. Working people -- business owners (small and large), government officials, lawyers, doctors, media people, academics, decisionmakers in organizations large and small -- shape the public sector of the society we live in.

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  26. GC/DH's comments make me laugh. There is very little in her comments that reminds me of the true joys of life: Family, connection, loving sex, companionship, laughter, romance, knowing someone as they know you and loving him/her no matter what.

    I married relatively young (23) and now 15 years later, my husband and I have grown into one another. I am dependent on him as he is on me. We are a unit, exemplified by our sons, who would just not exist without us. There is an intimacy and joy and comfort to be had in such love.

    I just wish more young women would allow themselves to feel this full range of emotions and therefore live without reference to 'power', 'control', autonomy' or 'market value'. I think so many young women today are trained to look down on all those very attributes that make them female and desirable.

    Luzu

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  27. Anon (above), that's a great comment, thanks.

    Georgina,

    I don't think your last argument works. Nobody entirely provides for themselves in a modern economy. We all rely on a division of labour - someone else bakes our bread or grows our food or builds our house or car.

    In a traditional family arrangement there is a division of labour. The man fulfils some tasks, the woman another set of tasks. The aim is for the family as a whole to be able function well.

    As for shaping the public sector, hardly anybody has real control over this. Perhaps a handful of newspaper editors and academics, or a few key public servants.

    Again, I just don't think men go out to work for this reason - it would be unreasonable and illogical for them to do so.

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