When is it okay to look?

My last post about Cami Secret and cleavage led to some discussion with male friends about the question: “When is it okay to look?” And I think it’s a valid question. To a certain extent, we all look. (There’s a reason I work out in the co-ed section at my gym.) But where is the line between looking and leering? What separates the pervs and creeps from the rest of us? And what about those times you have trouble looking away?

The thesaurus has PLENTY of words to describe different sorts of “looking.” There’s “behold,” “admire,” “contemplate,” “observe,” “regard,” “view,” and “notice.” There’s also “gaze,” “gawk,” “leer,” “ogle,” “peep,” “stare,” and “watch.” Clearly, there are lots of different ways to look at someone. Some are kosher, and some not so much. It should be pretty obvious which kinds are cool and which are not. It goes right back the manners you learned as a kid – staring is rude, peeping is pervy, and watching is, well, scary because it sounds a lot like stalking. Leering and ogling? That’s sexual harassment.

“So what if a girl walks by wearing a low-cut shirt with a supa-short mini skirt? Is it okay to look?”

It’s only natural that you might glance at someone who’s outfit catches your attention, but you can still make a conscious effort not to look in any of the disrespectful or creepy ways listed above. No matter how a woman chooses to dress, she deserves to be treated respectfully. No, really. Suck it up.

“What if I can’t help but be turned on by someone?”

Okay, it’s true. Sometimes we can’t help be be attracted to someone, and when that’s the case, we might want to look. But think about the way you look at sexy people you know and respect. Is it different from how you look at those you don’t know and/or don’t respect? When you like and respect someone you’re attracted to, you find ways of looking that are appropriate and respectful. So maybe you might try treating everyone that way – as if you respect them. (Aka as if they were human beings and not objects.)

“But what about when women wear crazy cleavage shirts at the office and it’s distracting?”

I agree that in certain situations, certain kinds of dress can be distracting. There is such a thing as dressing inappropriately, but even when people do dress inappropriately it doesn’t give you license to treat them disrespectfully. No really. Suck it up.

“But what if I can’t look away?”

There may be situations where it’s hard to look away. Like, wardrobe malfunctions. If someone is about to fall out of their clothes, that’s hard not to look at. It’s like rubbernecking at a car accident. But this isn’t just a boob thing. Men’s gym shorts? HELLO THERE I CAN SEE YOUR PENIS. It’s not even always a sexual thing. How hard is it not to look when someone’s fly is down or they have a big stain on their shirt? Again, just pretend the person is someone you like and respect. Treat them the way you would treat someone you care about in the same situation. Not knowing someone does not give you license to look in one of those pervy or disrespectful ways. Try to avert your eyes, or better yet, let them know what’s going on and spare them some future embarrassment.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all “look” to some degree, but there are different ways and degrees of looking. Some are respectful and some are not. When in doubt, ask yourself, “Would I look at my friend this way?” Treat everyone the way you treat those you respect and you’ll be okay.

Remember that no one has the right to be leered, ogled, or stared at just because of what they’re wearing. You never have the right to lean over a woman’s desk (like in the Cami Secret ad) to look down her shirt. You never have the right to use a mirror to see up someone’s skirt, or look in their windows while they change. You do not have the right to cat-call or stand there with your mouth open and drool. No one is entitled to anyone else’s body. This goes for everyone, and there is no loophole allowing you to leer or stare at people of the gender you’re not attracted to either. And for god’s sake, you absolutely do NOT have the right to touch someone, or touch yourself while looking at someone, just because they turn you on.

Participating in society is about practicing self control. We are not animals. No really. Suck it up.

One Comment

  1. A few things:
    1. You do not have the right to go out in public, wear anything you like, and not be noticed, or be noticed by only your type of girl or guy.
    2. If you really want to help guys and girls notice “respectfully” – and what is “respectful” varies by individual – you could at least attempt to define your terms. For instance, what is the difference between a “leer” and an “ogle”?
    3. What and choose to wear, says something about you. Whilst I give everyone basic respect – I’ve never cat-called and I wouldn’t dream of touching someone against their will- I don’t feel it’s my duty to make you feel comfortable if you walk around half naked. So in short, if you don’t want me admiring the goods, don’t act as if you do.


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