Do I have the male gaze?

Short answer: yes.

We’ll get into some sexy fantasies right after these definitions.


male

Someone or something that is male is of the biological sex that doesn’t lay eggs or give birth to babies.

gaze

A long, steady look.

(the) male gaze

The male gaze is not (as it may first appear to be) anything seen through the eyes of any male, but a term that describes a specific way of seeing and depicting women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the heterosexual, male viewer. There is nothing inherently “wrong” with the male gaze itself—there’s a time and a place for objectification—but, thanks to heterosexual men having written most of the books and produced most of the visual material over the past few centuries, the male gaze is fully embedded in our culture as the norm.

It annoys people (women, usually) because it often results in female characters that are entirely devoid of any personality trait other than sexy (the same is rarely true for men). Which, in society, translates to women being seen as less intelligent (even by other women) and puts pressure on women to be sexy above all else.

There is no specific visual for the male gaze. Today it is probably best represented by the Kardashianesque bum and tiny waist, but in past times it has included small tits and a bloated belly (think Renaissance nudes) and a so-thin-bones-might-snap kinda vibe.


The crux of it is this: I want to be considered an intelligent woman on equal terms with man but I also want to be a wobbly plate of jelly to be pushed around and penetrated, by men.

My fantasies involve lifeguards (male ones) plucking me out of the water and fucking me, gangbangs on street corners where I pretend not to like it but really I do, being tied to a tree in a public park and fucked in turn, and men in the gym passing me around, using me instead of weights. Penis training.

When I picture these scenes, I don’t picture how it’ll feel for me or what it will look like from my perspective; I picture my own body, my bum cheeks bouncing around, a pair of big male hands around my waist. I am watching my body, not the men. Except it’s not even my body, but some glorified fantasy version of it and it’s not me watching my body, it’s me watching men watching my body.

When I was writing I've got all the hair, I've got all the hair, I did a deep dive of the Facebook comments responding an article about female body hair. Someone had commented that men are naturally visual and women are naturally social and therefore people who want to attract men try to be visually appealing (nude, shaved, made-up) and people who want to attract women try hard to be socially appealing (charming, funny, clever). An interesting theory.

I watch porn and think about it. Porn is a visual place. All the ads next to the video are pictures of women in my local area who are ready for me. They’re targeted at heterosexual men, but that doesn’t make me immune to them. I get turned on at the thought of women, of myself, in your local area, sexy and juicy and ready for you.

When feminists talk about porn, they usually point out that mainstream porn is so male gaze and the women all look like they’re in pain and they probably are because they’re being strangled and slapped and wait a second, what about the clitoris? Did anyone see a clitoris? And I hear their points and I’m like yeah, right on, that makes sense, let’s revolutionise porn! Then I watch the woman in pain and the man (or men) going at her and listen to her screams and I come. Oops.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Various studies have shown that 62% of women engage in rape (or “being forced into it”) fantasies. The number is probably higher, given the shame and secrecy that surrounds fantasy.

Also, I find women sexy, whether they’re in pain or in ecstasy. Especially the ones with perfect hip-to-waist ratios, pulling their swimsuits halfway up their bum and wiggling it about. I kind of agree with Miley Cyrus, who recently said “Girls are way hotter. We know this.” What we don’t know is if women are hotter because the female body is fundamentally more pleasing to the eye or because of the way the male gaze has programmed us to worship the female body.

The problem with the prevalent male gaze is that it leaves little room for us to explore other gazes. We’ve all been spoon fed the same stuff and it shapes how we see the world and how we create new images of it. I don’t just mean porn, but literature, art, music, social media, films, TV, ads, the stories we tell ourselves, etc. These days, a diverse bunch of writers, artists and filmmakers are beginning to get a look in but it’s almost impossible for them to create work that isn’t also in some way affected by the norms established over the 6000-or-so years of heterosexual men being in charge.

In another fantasy of mine, the most powerful men in the world sit around a big boardroom table. They are all old and fat and white. I sit on the table, masturbating, and none of them can focus on the important work of running the world, so distracted they are by my sexy presence.

This is probably because I want power and the easiest way to get power as a woman is (in my fantasy brain) to distract powerful men—something I touched on in A body that reeks of fertile, young woman. It also miiiiiight be part of the reason men excluded women from the running of the world in the first place. Too much distraction. Damn! If only women weren’t so sexy and men weren’t so easily distracted, we might never have ended up in this gender inequality mess.

Anyway, in vague conclusion, I have a wish for more gazes, so that the male gaze ceases to be the gaze. I think that’s happening already, let’s hurry it along. And although I think we’re getting better at admitting that women have brains, it would be nice if we stopped stereotyping women as sexy objects or sexless nerds with dusty hair and hunched backs. They can be, and usually are, both and much much more. But I’m sure you know that already.

Go on, help yourself to toppings.


Optional toppings

🎥 I May Destroy You for those of you lived under a rock during 2020 (fair enough), it’s about time you caught up on the greatest series of the year

🌊 The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch is probably the best book I’ve ever read and that’s all I’ll say

⚖️ Porn & Order on The Sarah Silverman podcast

🐙 “Homo Sapiens Sapiens” is a kaleidoscopic film installation by Pipilotti Rist that I was lucky enough to see in Berlin two years ago (of which this video excerpt doesn’t at all do justice—see it IRL if you ever get the chance) and it is the most beautiful representation of non-male-gaze sexuality I’ve seen, including lots of fruit squishing and rolling around in mud

🍊 Juice, that song by Lizzo

🤏 @stephanie_sarley, queen of fruit fingering, on Instagram

A post shared by Stephanie Sarley (@stephanie_sarley)

May your fruits be wild and your fantasies juicy.

— H. E.