Thus Spake Zuska

A reader named Paul Murray left this comment on a older blog post of mine:

The comments on tit-staring make me wish the women could occupy a man’s body for a day. Ignoring tits in your visual field is as easy as it is for a woman to simply ignore a cute baby in the vicinity.

I was flabbergasted, to say the least. What to be more annoyed at? The suggestion that women are somehow programmed – biologically, of course, I am sure – with some sort of infant-adoration module? Or Mr. Murray’s casual insult to his fellow men, that they are simply incapable of behaving decently? That’s quite some theory Mr. Murray’s proposing – that because women have tits, and because they are visible, men must stare at them. It’s the women’s fault, you see. If only they didn’t have the tits. Or hey, maybe if they covered them up! With a hijab! Then they wouldn’t provoke indecent male behavior!

Yeah. Bitch PhD has something to say about that in a post with the apt title It’s More Than Just Your Eyes, Dickwad. Clearly it’s not the visual presence of women’s tits that is responsible for harassment and other shameful male behavior. She notes:

Because the fact is, there is no rhyme or reason as to who gets harassed and who doesn’t, and what kind of behavior/clothing/location/makeup/companionship you have when you get harassed is totally not determinative.

I’ll leave you with one more fabulous quote from her, but you really need to read the whole post.

…[T]he daily drumbeat of the world treating you like you’re a piece of meat every time you step out of the house takes a toll on your psyche that nothing can erase.

Dudes, I totally believe you are able to look away from the magic tits. Do the world a big favor and start acting like adults who are in control of their behavior and able to make choices about their actions. Sheesh. Feminists get accused of whining and playing victim, but I’ve never seen such whining acolytes of victimhood as the poor menz whose bodies rule their minds.

Comments

  1. #1 greg laden
    August 19, 2008

    As the primary caretaker for a very cute baby for large portions of time, I believe that men and women have stereotypically different and fairly consistent reactions to babies (in the culture in which I was in … east coast US) Men seemed to be either indifferent or mildly interested in the goo goo ga ga sense. Women seemed to give vibes of either intentions of infanticide or kidnapping the baby because it was so cute.

    I’m speaking here of strangers on the street, of course. and that was 12/13 years ago … these things do change, despite the appearance of “innateness” (which is a red herring in and of itself).

  2. #2 Becca
    August 19, 2008

    So if I have trouble not making ga-ga faces at babies and breasts (as somewhat seperate things, although I honestly find breastfeeding pretty facinating), am I just terminally immature and incapable of acting as an adult?

  3. #3 greg laden
    August 19, 2008

    I think if you are going “goo goo ga ga” and making bendy bendy motions with your finger when you see women’s breasts then you should reconsider your approach.

  4. #4 Karen
    August 19, 2008

    My husband, too, insists that guys can’t help looking at tits. He also insists that one can do it without being obvious. He’s demonstrated it a few times when we’re out together. (He also married me even though I’m somewhat short in that department; we’ve been married for 28 years. I don’t mind at all that he looks, but I’d be really annoyed if he leered.)

    So maybe growing up doesn’t mean tit-fanciers stop looking, just that they learn to do it without leering or refusing to look the bearer in the eye.

  5. #5 Keith B
    August 19, 2008

    I’m male, and my mates and I are capable of avoiding ogling every pair of breasts that come along. But, honestly, there are just some women that some heterosexual men find it near impossible not to get some sort of gander at. It’s really all in how you do it. We feel that if we make it obvious in any way whatsoever, chances are we’re running the risk of being offensive on some level to someone. So, we work to find just the right opportunity (that doesn’t appear intentional) to quickly shift our field of vision across the woman’s chest or the rest of her body and onto some other object, making it appear as if we were intending to look at only that object all along and not her breasts or the rest of her body. I’d like to think this makes it a relatively harmless act. But, hey, I suppose the final verdict of that would have to come from the particular females being observed.

  6. #6 Brian
    August 19, 2008

    How about we try to use science instead of petty name-calling and anecdotes? There is a VERY large literature on automatic stimulus-driven capture of attention in the human visual system, and there’s no particular reason to believe that executive functioning is capable of overriding involuntary shifts of attention in all circumstances.

    I honestly could care less about whether it’s boob or baby-driven. I’m just eager for people to remember that we ARE animals and that at some basic level, there must be some processes in the brain that cannot simply be over-ruled by intention. You can’t force a neuron not to fire.

    Sentences like “poor menz whose bodies rule their minds” smack of a misunderstanding of where behavior comes from. Penises don’t make brains act differently. Brains make penises act differently.

    Sheesh.

  7. #7 bioephemera
    August 19, 2008

    My informal survey of male friends indicates they spend between 50 and 100 percent of their idle time in public gazing at either breasts or buttocks. I used to be shocked, but I’ve given up. In the meantime, I don’t even find babies cute, much less enjoy gazing at them. It’s totally unfair.

  8. #8 Larry
    August 19, 2008

    You’re absolutely right, the next time I see a young fit co-ed running with a pair of those shorts that has “JUICY” printed on the backside in large neon type, I’m definitely not going to look!

    Well, unless I’m driving at night and they’re reflective — it could save her life!

  9. #9 tincture
    August 19, 2008

    Somewhere between where it was written on the screen and where you understood it in your brain, tits are to men as yarn is to kittens, transformed into, it’s women’s fault men like breasts and women should all cover up in the most extreme religious garb you can think of. One that also happens to symbolize terrible and systematic abuse of women, something that wasn’t in the offending post at all.

    Feminists get accused of whining and playing victim, but I’ve never seen such whining acolytes of victimhood as the poor menz whose bodies rule their minds.

    Did Paul Murray say that? No. Why put words in Paul Murray’s mouth when his own words are right there for themselves. I don’t read any whining or cries of being a victim from Paul Murray’s post.

    Bitch PhD’s post is not even about anything like what Paul Murray said. You’re using Bitch PhD’s post about actual sexual harassment suffered by women in Egypt to try and score points against somebody who simply said men find it difficult to ignore breasts and you’re belittling the real suffering of countless women in the world in the process.

  10. #10 Matt Springer
    August 20, 2008

    Staring and ogling and generally being a creep are things men can and should avoid. There’s no excuse for leering and making people uncomfortable by appraising a body like it were on display at a butcher’s.

    On the other hand, noticing an attractive woman is just not something a heterosexual man can avoid. It’s biologically hardwired. Murray’s phrasing might not have been the best, but not automatically noticing is on the same order of difficulty as sneezing with your eyes open.

  11. #11 Paul Murray
    August 20, 2008

    “Because the fact is, there is no rhyme or reason as to who gets harassed and who doesn’t, and what kind of behavior/clothing/location/makeup/companionship you have when you get harassed is totally not determinative.”

    I saw something like this on the “Dr Feelgood” show a while back. Dr Feelgood (a woman) attempted to show that men are visually driven by putting a pair of twins in different outfits (“slutty” vs “sedate”) and getting the men in the live audience to vote. To her obvious constrnation, the male audience was split pretty evenly.

    Duh.

    Only a woman could think that *clothing* makes a hell of a lot of difference, because that’s what they see when they look at men. As far as men are concerned, the twins were twins – same age, same body shape, equally hawt. Clothing and makeup is ephemera (although yes, it does have some effect).

    Making a similar mistake, this comment above states that “behavior/clothing/location/makeup/companionship” doesn’t matter and takes that as some sort of proof that the staring is all deliberate. Double duh. Duh because its an utter non-sequitur: how earth does that demonstrate that “Clearly it’s not the visual presence of women’s tits”? And duh because the lack of variation in the behaviour has a far simpler explanation. The things that matter are youth, prettiness, and breast size … perhaps race, height etc depending on the man. Physical attributes, in other words. *Of course* a given female individual will notice no variation in male behaviour towards her – except as she ages.

    As for the claim that there can just be no possible biological basis for all this, that women don’t go go-go over babies except as culturally dictated: get some facts. You can jump up and down about how unfair it is to your PhD’s heart’s content. If is true that there is a biological basis for staring, then all you’re doing is the old fingers-jammed-in-the-ears yelling “Is not is not is not!” trick.

    It’s also hypocritical to insist that men are not biologicaly disposed to tit-staring, and yet at the same time to insist that women can’t help but feel victimised and threatened by it. Look – do we physically react to other’s appearance, presence, and actions as part of our DNA or not? Do – *can* – our hormones – be they sex, fear, anger or maternal – perk in response to what we *see*, or not? Or do you want to play “my feelings are ok but yours are not”? You talk about men not behaving like adults, then insist that your bad feelings at being started at be fixed by *someone else*. Adults. Men.

    There was another study done recently on how men and women rect to being started directly at by a presenter. Women were very greatly affected (they found the presentation far more persuasive), and men far less so. IOW: we don’t realise we are doing it, and we honestly don’t understand what the fuss is about because we are not affected staring like you are. It’s like being colour blind, and hearing all the women complain about all the chartreuse.

    And finally – since when were adults “in control” of their behaviour?

  12. #12 Sabine
    August 20, 2008

    Brian #6

    Sentences like “I honestly could care less about whether it’s boob or baby-driven.” smack of a misunderstanding of the English language. I believe what you meant to say is COULDN’T CARE LESS. Before you try to get on your high horse, proofread.

  13. #13 Maria
    August 20, 2008

    we work to find just the right opportunity (that doesn’t appear intentional) to quickly shift our field of vision across the woman’s chest or the rest of her body and onto some other object, making it appear as if we were intending to look at only that object all along and not her breasts or the rest of her body.

    Dear men: We can see you doing this. Regards, the be-titted.

  14. #14 zayzayem
    August 20, 2008

    My chauvanistic streak gets the better of me.

    I’ll agree with Murray. But I won’t just limit the cute-baby response to women.

    I like boobs. Boobs are nice to look at. If there are boobs within my field of view, my vision is going to be naturally attracted to them.

    Just as much as they are likely to be attracted to a cute baby, a TV screen, or a nice car.

    I don’t expect every woman to be happy that guys look at there breasts. But I would also be unimpressed if women were so shallow as to think any guy who might occassion a glance at something interesting in their field of view immediately jump to the conclusion they are a some kind pervert or doing something wrong.

    Murray doesn’t mention staring. He says “not ignoring”. I do not think “not ignoring” really constitutes harassment.

  15. #15 zayzayem
    August 20, 2008

    O BTW

    < a href = "http://punditkitchen.com/2008/07/29/political-pictures-barack-obama-cleavage-badge/">B OFFENDED BY TEH LOLS

  16. #16 student_b
    August 20, 2008

    Shorter Paul Murray: I don’t understand your problem and I don’t give a shit.

  17. #17 MissPrism
    August 20, 2008

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. Blatant tit-staring, like any other kind of harassment, isn’t something we get irrationally het up about that the poor helpless menz can’t stop themselves doing. It’s an ugly display of power and it’s meant to be threatening. It’s intended to remind us that we’re Different and Don’t Belong. That’s why tit-stares are more frequent, and more obvious, the more powerful the starer and the more powerless the staree.

    In fact, many men – even senior ones – are perfectly capable of treating women with respect in a professional setting. I’ve seen it happen, even with my tits on!

  18. #18 Dunc
    August 20, 2008

    Hasn’t this been fairly well dealt with in eye-tracking studies? IIRC, Both women and men look at the sexual characteristics of the opposite sex, it’s just that women are more subtle about it.

    But yeah, blatant staring is a completely different matter, and entirely down to privilege.

  19. #19 Rev Matt
    August 20, 2008

    And of course the fact that the breast obsession is largely a northwestern european obsession tends to give lie to the claim that men are incapable of not staring. I will also note that as a man who knows a lot of men I can tell you we are entirely capable of not ogling if we choose to not ogle. Just because Mr. Murray lacks tact and/or class gives him no right to impugn all men.

  20. #20 Azkyroth
    August 20, 2008

    Hasn’t this been fairly well dealt with in eye-tracking studies? IIRC, Both women and men look at the sexual characteristics of the opposite sex, it’s just that women are more subtle about it.

    Are they actually more subtle about it, or do people not notice as much because women supposedly aren’t as visually/physically attracted, and therefore they aren’t expecting to see women noticing as much?

    As for my perspective, while I certainly understand that blatant ogling makes people (in this context, women, but people in general) uncomfortable and should be avoided, I also agree with the observation that this post seems to wad a number of different social phenomena up under a narrow label, in a fashion that’s vaguely reminiscent of the concerns that have been raised about the “harm” done to children by “violence” in the media, where none of the relevant terms are defined or specified.

    To establish a baseline, what degree of looking would you (plural) consider acceptable?

  21. #21 GAC
    August 20, 2008

    “Sentences like “I honestly could care less about whether it’s boob or baby-driven.” smack of a misunderstanding of the English language. I believe what you meant to say is COULDN’T CARE LESS. Before you try to get on your high horse, proofread.”

    It’s an idiom — and you obviously didn’t misunderstand the meaning. Undernegation here is also quite common. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=290
    _________

    On topic: As a man I can say that yes, I look at women’s bodies. I’d hope I don’t do it too much or too overbearingly. (I’m guessing I don’t, as I seem to be able to keep a number of good female friends, many of whom are very attractive.) As for the hard-wired vs free will bit — nothing about human behavior is as simple as that. It’s a gray area that shades in many different directions: biological “programming”, culture, environmental pressure on development, random brain malfunctions. I’m not on either side with that last point — just want to point out that it’s very complicated and some actual data could be useful.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    August 20, 2008

    Dear men: We can see you doing this. Regards, the be-titted.

    yes … and, so can we other men. Everybody can see what everyone else is doing, and many/most sighted people do something with their eyes when they are interacting with those around them. We humans are so good at observing each other’s eyes that you can tell when someone in the room with you is starting to look (trying to not be noticed) for a clock, and you can tel when they find it, and you can tell what person/body part an individualis looking at/for even if all the action is going on way down the street.

    Although I appreciate the idea that some guys get together and decide “we’re going to do this subtly so no one notices it” … I appreciate that because I’m willing to assume this is an effort to be good in some way … it really is not a lot different to say “I’m going to ogle subtly” vs “I’m going to ogle period” or to not even think about it.

    There are cultural variations across space and time, gender differences (not just male/female), age, class, and other differences in how this all works, it is all quite complex and dynamic, but we all look at all aspects of each other and this looking is part of our interaction. Everybody looks at everybody like everybody talks to everybody in ways that reflect our attitudes, our thinking about individuals and the specific nature of our relationship. I’m not talking about men looking at specific female body parts, I’m talking about the simple fact that most of our communication involves our eyes in important ways. This should be obvious.

    A blanket statement about a sex is uninformative, not very useful and in some cases is not only sexist but is also racist/classist. Men ogle, therefore men are bad. But really, this means that white highly educated males are usually OK (because they hardly ever ogle) but Mexican worker are usually bad (because it is fairly normal to set one’s eyes on a passing female and just watch as though she was a TV with legs). There are so many slippery slopes here I don’t even know where to start.

    But I do think that for those guys who are part of US western society (for example) who have not thought about this, do heed Maria’s words. Who you look at and in what manner is utterly obvious to everyone.

    So the answer is simple: Don’t look what you wouldn’t say, and please speak respectfully where respect is due, which includes of course the instance where you do not know someone. And if you don’t have anything nice to say, do consider not saying it, etc. etc.

  23. #23 wazza
    August 20, 2008

    I found, going into puberty, that suddenly it was hard to avoid looking at certain parts of a woman’s anatomy. Eventually you learn to control it, but there is definitely a biological basis for it.

    Look, if a young teenager, not far into puberty, is in a lift, everyone’s packing in and an attractive young woman, by the movement of the crowd, just happens to be pressed against him, and a he gets an erection, whose fault is it? Is he being perverted?

    FWIW, in that situation, just about every guy I know would be thinking of arctic wastes and praying that their blood pressure will drop far enough to prevent a reaction. It’s embarrassing to have your body – like the muscles that scan your central vision around the area in front of you to examine things of interest – suddenly doing things you can’t control and you know other people will find offensive. Luckily, the eye thing is at least somewhat under our control. But there is an element of biological imperative about it too. The same way you can’t prevent yourself from jumping at sudden noises, males cannot prevent themselves from constantly examining those around them for desirable secondary sexual characteristics.

    From an evolutionary psychology viewpoint, it makes sense. There’s a balance here. It’s involuntary that the eye is drawn towards that which is desirable, but we also have enough control to hide it so that we have a reasonable chance of getting that which is desirable, whether it be a beautiful member of the opposite sex* we have to charm or a banana that no one else in the tribe has noticed yet.

    *note the gender-neutral language in this sentence; I know my female friends can’t keep their eyes off an attractive male either, and I think one of the other commenters cites studies showing that both sexes examine secondary sexual characteristics on the opposite sex (if heterosexual).

  24. #24 JaneDoh
    August 20, 2008

    Give me a break! A professional situation is not the beach. When I am at the beach, I expect a little eye wandering from both men and women (NOT staring, leering or oggling–that is always inappropriate behavior designed to make the leer-ee feel like an object).

    In a professional situation, I generally keep my eyes on people’s faces and expect the same courtesy given to me. My colleagues have no problems addressing me, not my tits (or any other sexualized body part of interest–not all men are tit obsessed). In my workplace, I don’t find that my women-oriented colleagues look at my tits at all. I don’t know if they have extra-bonus self-control or what, but I am not buying Paul Murray’s argument that he can’t help it. Do you also stare at handicapped people?

  25. #25 Larry
    August 20, 2008

    @maria: Dear men: We can see you doing this. Regards, the be-titted.

    Indeed, this is what smacks of the complete disingenuity of the initial post’s “shock”. Of course you notice that we notice — it’s a integral part of your process of mating selection (i.e. you get to control whose glance you “accidentally” CATCH.. embarrass.. SMILE.. initiate.. etc.).

    I’m not excusing bad male behavior and certainly not abuse (we all have a right to our bodies, space and privacy), but everything else is simply a very complicated game called “human mating behavior”. And yes, I agree with some of the posts above that there is strong evidence this is hard-wired to some degree, hence, intuitive and unconscious in many cases.

    While women aren’t wired to compulsively look, I am beginning to suspect that women are wired to compulsively “test” potential mates repeatedly. From one perspective the tests appear to be as illogical as possible (attempts to use logic will, by definition fail)– however there is a certain reproductive logic to this: find a mate who will not be swayed by locally incoherent situations — this is a stability metric in disguise.

    And yes, we can notice you testing us as well.

  26. #26 Sobex
    August 20, 2008

    It’s all about empathy. People have it, or they don’t. I may not know what it’s like to be female, but I can sure empathize with how creepy it would be to have people stare at parts of my body all the time, the creepy part being the thoughts running through the lookers’ minds.

    Bottom line, do you give a shit about your effect on other people or not? Not that other people’s opinions define what I do, but if I didn’t care one bit about others’ opinions, I’d become the Survivorman and live on my own in the forest. Fact is, 99.9% of us can’t and we are dependent on each other for the goods & services we consume. Since we depend on each other, how about we treat each other with respect?

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    August 20, 2008

    From an evolutionary psychology viewpoint, it makes sense. There’s a balance here. It’s involuntary that the eye is drawn towards that which is desirable, but we also have enough control to hide it so that we have a reasonable chance of getting that which is desirable, whether it be a beautiful member of the opposite sex* we have to charm or a banana that no one else in the tribe has noticed yet.

    Well, FWIW (WMNBM) the EvoPsych view is somewhat different. Yes, men should be selected to observe certain things and women should be selected to observe certain things, and certain visceral reactions need to happen for reproduction to occur, etc. etc. But it is not the case that the evolved psychology produces ogling and boners in elevators and we then control it despite that psychology.

    The actual research on this (again, FWIW) shows that women are generally more often interested in men who are a) indifferent in their gaze and b) spend a fair amount of time self grooming.

    So if the young man in the elevator wants to have sex with the girl who randomly wanders into the elevator (sorry, lift) the EvolPsy literature (and theory, actually) suggest that he should ignore her and start picking off lint.

    But remember these two things … very important … the lint should be on him, NOT on her. Not yet. And, the lint should not be real. Do not cover yourself with lint. Just pretend the lint is there.

  28. #28 The izz
    August 20, 2008

    I have to agree that men are biologically disposed to look at breasts. No problem with that. But as many men on this thread have said, they can control if they look seriptiously or if they leer and drool. And that is the difference. You can notice my tits but don’t treat me like one enormous walking tit here for your viewing pleasure.

    I’ll tell you why Zuska had such a negative reaction to the comment. The comment was intended to insult and was expressing anger at women. Men don’t always get that women are much more vulnerable than they are, if only b/c on average a women has less body strength than a man. As a women who lives in the city, I don’t know if that guy leering at me on the bus will just leer and then go on his way or if he will approach and harass me. And that is why obvious starring is threatening. In the back of my mind I always know that if a man chose to attack me I probably wouldn’t be able to fight him off. That is the subtext when a random guy openly treats a women as no more than her sexual organs. I don’t begrudge men their biology, but I am insulted by the manner of Paul Murray’s comment. He seems to be to saying that women don’t have a right to expect men to try not to openly ogle us in a way that is intrinsically threatening.

  29. #29 Jim
    August 20, 2008

    Agree (female) tits are fun to look at.
    Agree women should not be treated in a way which threatens them.
    Wonder: if having tits noticed is a problem why is so much of fashion geared toward enhancing and displaying said tits?
    Seems like a large fraction of folks in this country try to get noticed based on appearance.

  30. #30 Mecha
    August 20, 2008

    A lot of the people in this comment thread sorta miss the point. Okay, very miss the point.

    The original post was about _staring at breasts_. The commenter said, in response to such a post, that men (or, rather, any man, since just putting a woman in a man’s body would do it) couldn’t help looking (or, rather, staring, since he was responding to staring if he wanted to be on point. If he wasn’t on point, he was just wasting time to troll) at breasts, and put it at purely biological terms. This means that the commenter’s ‘argument/complaint’, if he were on topic, is that if you have a man, he will look (nay, stare) at breasts, and not just some breasts, but all breasts that are in any way visible, and how dare Zuska be annoyed or offended in any way about that natural inevitable action by any man, ever. (Just like women will, of course, coo over babies.) So, by assuming that the respondent was being honest, Zuska ends up with a solid point to make.

    This is an absolute stereotypical joke of an argument, and false on its face, as there are a number of men who do not just go around staring at breasts, in this comment thread and even in the real world (gasp.) All the people reaching for various ‘justifications’ for why men might want to _look_ at breasts in a ‘mate judging’ scenario (as opposed to staring) miss the original point, the commenter’s actual stated point, and Zuska’s response.

    Furthermore, it is incredibly insulting, as someone who’s got the genes to be a ‘man’, to be told, ‘If you see some tits, by god, you’re gonna be staring’ or, reversed, ‘If you don’t stare at those tits, you’re not a man.’ Wow. There’s no problem with saying that, is there? Not in the slightest. No exclusion, no trying to set up a standard by which masculinity is judged by how much you ‘can’t avoid’ staring at woman (especially if other guys are around)… yeah.

    Perhaps the people dragging out random ‘but but but’ should drag out ‘reading and analysis’ instead, along with thinking about _just how insulting it is to be told that men can’t possibly do anything but stare at women_, which Zuska ACTUALLY BROUGHT UP before people got spun into a tizzy over trying to read the guy’s statement in the most favorable light. Because that’s not the only thing men are supposedly unable to keep themselves from doing. (And congratulations, by the way, for saying that adults aren’t in control of their behavior, Paul. I assume you will rail against the completely unfair justice system for treating people as responsible for their behavior shortly, and can therefore leave this blog behind. Oy.)

    And if the guy wasn’t saying what Zuska thought he said… then his reply was off topic/bad faith/trolling, and the people defending his viewpoint should take that into mind too.

    -Mecha

  31. #31 Becca
    August 20, 2008

    @wazza- the attempt at gender-neutrality is laudable, the hetero-centricity means you need a little more work. Although, it is harder to think about power-imbalances in same-gender relationships in any categorical way.

    I think the “erection in the lift” example is an interesting one. Sometimes you do have bodily responses you are not able to get under fully under control. I think the embarrassment serves a function here- it’s probably mostly about “breaking social taboo” but if you have a solid dose of “oh no! Am I making that person uncomfortable?” type empathy-embarrassment, that’s probably a pretty healthy sign.
    Men (people, really) should be embarrassed when women (people, really) are made uncomfortable by their looking. I understand the urge to look is there- it’s not limited to men (that was kind of my point with the first tounge-in-cheek post). However, men (especially) need to remember that it is not reasonable to expect the object of their attentions to be able to read their minds. Certain looks are associated with harrassment often enough that some women are justifiably cautious.

  32. #32 paceetrate
    August 20, 2008

    I think what we have here is a false dichotomy. It seems like what’s being said is “When men look at women, they always stare obnoxiously, and so they shouldn’t look at all.” Men -don’t- always stare obnoxiously, and I think it’s the (more or less) innocent glance that Paul Murray was talking about. You can’t help glancing at something that attracts your attention, WHATEVER it is. Heck, I’m a straight female, and I can’t help glancing at some women walking down the street. (Usually the ones in skimpy tank tops and shorts so short their butts are hanging out. Although it usually winds up turning into disgust rather than admiration.)

    I lived in the city for years too, and I dealt with my fair share of horny idiots. I’ve also learned not to be over sensitive, and how to either get away from, or incapacitate someone if they get too nasty. If a half-second glance is enough to make you feel threatened, the problem is your’s. Go take a self defense class and get some freakin’ confidence.

  33. #33 the izz
    August 20, 2008

    Jim has a very valid point that women (and men) dress to display their bodies. It is the delicate push and pull between wanting attract a mate and not wanting to attract the wrong mate.
    Perhaps a metaphor would is in order. People who buy beautiful and expensive cars want them to be noticed and appreciated. But they would be nervous if someone stood with their nose an inch from windshield to get a better look, angry if someone scratched it, and devastated if someone stole it.

  34. #34 Keith B
    August 20, 2008

    we work to find just the right opportunity (that doesn’t appear intentional) to quickly shift our field of vision across the woman’s chest or the rest of her body and onto some other object, making it appear as if we were intending to look at only that object all along and not her breasts or the rest of her body.

    Dear men: We can see you doing this. Regards, the be-titted.

    Here, The izz has taken the words out of my brain:

    …as many men on this thread have said, they can control if they look seriptiously or if they leer and drool. And that is the difference. You can notice my tits but don’t treat me like one enormous walking tit here for your viewing pleasure.

    I got stared at by a female in Wal-Mart today. She was young, probably twenty or so, most likely a college student, and she eyed me from face to crotch to face while she was walking towards and past me. I’ve got to admit, I felt kind of uncomfortable knowing that she just eyed what she could see of my genitalia, simply for the fact that she did it too long and made it so obvious. That’s the whole point I was trying to make: which do you really find offensive and worthy of being upset about: the guys who try to make it inconspicuous and quick, thereby trying to offering you some respect over something it’s almost impossible to control, or the guys who spend about a fortnight drooling over your anatomy right in front of you?

  35. #35 Keith B
    August 20, 2008

    (Haven’t had coffee yet. Typo: trying to offer you some respect*.)

  36. #36 Bing
    August 20, 2008

    I would say that it is practically if not actually impossible for a guy to notice chesticles that are on display. It’s no slight, it’s not a sign of disrespect, it’s a morally neutral inevitability. Now, you don’t have to call friends over to stare into the yummy goodness, pinch botty or bark like a dawg. That’s almost never appropriate.

    And I do think that a lot of blokes feel bad when they are caught sneaking a peak. If it really bothers the woman, she should tell the guy. I think that the overt reinforcement of that social code will keep his eyes where they belong. NO NOT ON HER BUTT YOU MORONS! Sigh.

    HJ

  37. #37 Michael
    August 20, 2008

    Semi-random thoughts.

    I once spent a weekend at a nude resort. I witnessed far less ogling of breasts or genitalia at this resort than college bars I used to frequent. At the resort there was a noticible increase in people looking each other in the eyes to talk. At first it is difficult to not notice that people are naked, and some have rather nice bodies to appreciate…but soon you adopt an attitude that its just skin. No white collar, no blue collar, just bags of bones.

    To carry on the comparison with college bars…At college bars, on any given night, it is not uncommon to witness sexual assaults on women…”accidental” breast or butt touching, blatant ass grabbing, unwanted kissing, public exposure, etc. At the nude resort this simply did not happen. I know that one example is not proof of a trend, but it would be interesting to see if there are any studies out there detailing sexual behavior at a nude resort.

    I’ve dated women who loved it when men obviously noticed them. I’ve dated women who loathed the visual attention men show them. I’ve been in groups where if you did not notice and comment on a female figure you would be harassed for being homosexual. And I’ve been in groups where such noticing was grounds for swift reprisal. My point is that society sends mixed messages to men on how to behave in some situations. I think that most men tend to do okay without going overboard.

    Is it worth rationally discussing that sometimes women are to blame for the attention they receive? I’ve never understood how single women out for a night of fun can spend three hours getting ready to go out, making sure her makeup is perfect, hair perfect, thong shows enough to be “sexual but not slutty,” etc. then gets mad when guys stare at them.

    If men are not directly threatening women with physical harm, then maybe looking isn’t that bad. If you fear physical attacks, take a karate class. I work in a dangerous area, and when my wife visits I do have some concerns for her. But we don’t hang up signs reminding the gangs to please be nice to the locals, and we don’t post blogs about how the gangs should change. We take precautions in our behavior to minimize the potential of violence.

    What can we do for pro-active change that does not pigeonhole every male who notices breasts?

  38. #38 JaneDoh
    August 20, 2008

    paceetrate: I think it is pretty clear that Paul was defending staring, both from the context of his initial comment and from his followup on this thread, where he says

    If is true that there is a biological basis for staring, then all you’re doing is the old fingers-jammed-in-the-ears yelling “Is not is not is not!” trick.

    That seems to be pretty clear that he thinks he can’t help staring at tits due to his innate biology.

    I am really tired of people attributing all sorts of cultural/stereotypical stuff to biology. It seems like an attempt to remove personal responsibility from individual behavior. I mean, if I am really hungry and I pass an outdoor cafe, biology says “take it and eat it”, but I highly doubt any respectful person would just grab some food off of someone’s plate. Biological urges are not uncontrollable. Not every culture views tits as stare-worthy sex objects, so how can it be a biological imperative to stare at them?

  39. #39 Maria
    August 20, 2008

    So, my college dorm had a clothing-optional hot tub, and even though the rest of the campus was not what you’d call fighting the good fight for women in science (woo, tech school!)… the hot tub was. In it, I saw lots of men go through a process of desperately staring at a fixed point in space, and then eventually figuring out how to relax and hold a normal conversation with a normal amount of eye contact. It is obvious to me that this is a learned behavior.

    I tend to be sympathetic when a guy is clearly trying to practice good social skills, even if he hasn’t quite learned them perfectly. It’s still awkward and uncomfortable, and it is depressing that so many men make it past adolescence without learning better, but at least he’s shouldering his fair share of the embarrassment. But some dude who thinks that my body is his for the ogling as long as he is “subtle” is not actually practicing good social skills. Remember, we’re talking about a workplace, not a singles bar.

    And Keith, you were talking about “subtle” “spontaneous” ogling that occurs as part of a multi-step process with careful strategizing and forethought, not truly momentary distractions of “ooh tits! oh wait shit face”. I don’t see why I should consider it respectful for someone to be planning their next glance at my chest when they are supposed to be listening to what I am saying.

  40. #40 Greg Ladeng
    August 20, 2008

    I got stared at by a female in Wal-Mart today. She was young, probably twenty or so, most likely a college student, and she eyed me from face to crotch to face while she was walking towards and past me.

    That happens to me all the time. I’ve learned that it usually means something. Like my shirt is on inside out or backwards (or both).

    Maria: Good story about the hot tub. Personally, I’m not into hot tubs, but I did live in a shirt-optional society for a few years. And yes, appropriate behavior is all about learning.

  41. #41 Science Avenger
    August 20, 2008

    Men, we can’t conceive of what it is like to be a woman and have a man stare at us. Perhaps if we all spent a summer on an island populated with nothing but gay bodybuilders, we’d start to understand. Just how often do you fear getting raped on a first date? That’s what their life is like. So don’t overtly stare, what seems innocent to us can seem threatening to them. Get some of your female friends to tell you their worst drunken-idiot-in-the-bar stories for some perspective.

    And women, please, if you’ve got beautiful natural C’s and you wear a low cut blouse (God I love this summer’s fashion trends), men are going to stare, period. If you don’t want your beautiful parts stared at, cover them up. That’s what I do.

  42. #42 Stephanie Z
    August 20, 2008

    Just as the same behavior isn’t appropriate across all situations, it’s also important to remember that the same behavior in two different people doesn’t always mean the same thing.

    A friend was telling me recently about how hard he has to work to not get in trouble for staring. It’s difficult to do because he isn’t actually staring at breasts. He’s just introverted enough that he has trouble thinking about what to say when he’s looking someone in the face. In order to remove the distraction, his eyes drop a bit. He’s not a breast man, so he doesn’t always register what he’s looking at. On the other hand, if I ever catch him talking to my butt or my legs, I know he’s staring.

    So it is a bit unsafe to assume, in the absence of other information, a hostile, power-reinforcing intent to staring. Human interaction is just weird, complicated stuff.

  43. #43 Greg Laden
    August 20, 2008

    Stephanie: Or, your friend has concocted a BRILLIANT excuse!

  44. #44 Zuska
    August 20, 2008

    For those of you who weren’t able to make the connection: Bitch Phd’s post talks about how sexual harassment actually increases when a supermajority of women are coerced into wearing the hajib. The unwanted attention and harassment in that case clearly has nothing to do with the ready visibility of sexy female body parts, because they are all covered up. The whole point of the hajib is supposed to be to “help” women be modest so that men can control their uncontrollable sexual natures but clearly that doesn’t work, since the harassment increases. Now, if you are arguing that sexual harassment is mating behavior, then I guess you are going to stick with your biological argument no matter what. But it’s really about power and control enacted through sexual domination. Bitch PhD goes on to make the connection between the failed functioning of the hajib and the intimidation women as a class are subject to via harassment. Ogling is one aspect of that widespread harassing behavior we are constantly subjected to.

    So. Telling me men “can’t help” ogling visible breasts doesn’t cut it with me, because clearly covering them up doesn’t stop harassing behavior either. Either men choose to learn how to see women as humans worthy of respect, and learn how to treat them just like they’d treat any other person they consider to be a human. Or they choose to see women as sex objects who exist on earth for their ogling and groping pleasure.

    It’s refreshing to see that at least some commenters remarked on how the harassment of women is one way men perform, define, defend their masculinity to one another. As such, it has less to do with their biological urge to procreate and more with their cultural constituted need to prove they aren’t gay.

  45. #45 Bing McGhandi
    August 20, 2008

    I’m not surprised that the hajib is associated with increased harassment–they are both part of a system designed with the intent of forcing male will onto women and their bodies.

    Is it possible to say that men can see women as people they respect with whom they would like to have sex? How about as “sexual beings, too.” I mean, I dont think that it is an either/or thing. There are lots of women who I have deeply respected who, at the same time, I would have been delighted to service sexually if they showed any interest. And I mean really respect them. It’s certainly possible in affianced couples to desire and respect one another simultaneously, as well as in other relationships, and I’d have a hard time, uh, having a hard time for a female I didn’t respect…

    HJ

  46. #46 PhysioProf
    August 20, 2008

    Motherfuckers need to grow the fuck up and learn to be respectful of other people’s bodily autonomy. It’s not difficult to appreciate another human being’s appearance and yet not be a drooling leering troglodyte who makes people uncomfortable or fearful.

    You can appreciate a woman’s breasts–even if they are purposefully displayed in clothing desinged to accentuate their appearance–without leering into her cleavage and trying to get a fucking nipple peek.

    This shit has nothing to do with biology, genetics, evolutionary psyfuckingchology, or any other ridiculous happy horseshit. It is not that fucking complicated to be polite.

  47. #47 Zuska
    August 20, 2008

    Is it possible to say that men can see women as people they respect with whom they would like to have sex? How about as “sexual beings, too.” I mean, I dont think that it is an either/or thing.

    This is not the either/or I was talking about. I didn’t say either you can be respectful of women or you can have sex with them. I said either you can be respectful and treat them like humans or you can see women as sex objects who exist on earth for your ogling and groping pleasure. Now, if you equate having a mutually respectful sexual relationship with “seeing women as sex objects who exist on earth for your ogling and groping pleasure” then you are so messed up I cannot help you.

    Why the fuck is it that when you ask men not to behave in obnoxious harassing ways, somebody comes along and says “but why don’t you want men and women to have teh sex???”

    SEX and SEXUAL HARASSMENT are NOT the same thing!!!!!!!!! Seeing (all) women as sex objects is not the same thing as seeing women as equal human beings, some of whom at some point you might possibly engage in a mutually satisfying sexual relationship. Why, why, why is this so difficult to comprehend???

  48. #48 Stephanie Z
    August 20, 2008

    Zuska, I think it’s hard to keep in mind for the same reasons it’s hard to have discussions about sexist behavior without some people saying, “But I do these things that I don’t think are wrong.”

    This is behavior where some things are clearly okay, some are clearly not, but most of it is somewhere in the middle based on the people involved. Every eggregious example that is clearly bad has small echoes that reach deep into that middle. Nobody wants to be one of the baddies, so they need to spend time figuring out where in the middle they are relative to your examples.

    It isn’t that they don’t accept that bad is bad. It’s just that if they were also clearly bad, they’d be unlikely (aside from a few trolls) to be reading this in the first place.

  49. #49 Azkyroth
    August 20, 2008

    It’s all about empathy. People have it, or they don’t. I may not know what it’s like to be female, but I can sure empathize with how creepy it would be to have people stare at parts of my body all the time, the creepy part being the thoughts running through the lookers’ minds.

    Bottom line, do you give a shit about your effect on other people or not? Not that other people’s opinions define what I do, but if I didn’t care one bit about others’ opinions, I’d become the Survivorman and live on my own in the forest. Fact is, 99.9% of us can’t and we are dependent on each other for the goods & services we consume. Since we depend on each other, how about we treat each other with respect?

    Sure. Produce a definition of “respectful treatment” that everyone agrees on and we’ll go from there.

    So. Telling me men “can’t help” ogling visible breasts doesn’t cut it with me, because clearly covering them up doesn’t stop harassing behavior either. Either men choose to learn how to see women as humans worthy of respect, and learn how to treat them just like they’d treat any other person they consider to be a human. Or they choose to see women as sex objects who exist on earth for their ogling and groping pleasure.

    A minor note: some of us actually aren’t able to pick up this stuff on our own, so it would help if we received a straight answer when we asked about what’s acceptable, as opposed to being treated as if we’re morally and/or mentally defective for not already holding the same opinion as the person on the other end of the conversation. And I’m not aiming that at any specific commenter, but it seems like most people could benefit from being (metaphorically) clubbed with this advice a few dozen times.

  50. #50 Stephanie Z
    August 20, 2008

    Oh, and Greg, he lives half a country away. He’s never had the opportunity to need an excuse. We were talking about a third party at the time.

  51. #51 Thomas M.
    August 20, 2008

    “SEX and SEXUAL HARASSMENT are NOT the same thing!!!!!!!!!”

    The problem here is that despite this statement, your argument seems to entail that looking at a woman’s breast and sexual harassment are the same thing. Will you PLEASE at least take the time to define when exactly a stare turns into sexual harassment, and why it crosses that line. To my knowledge, sexual harassment at the very least involves physical force of some kind (whether it’s grabbing someone or a higher crime all the way up to rape), not a fucking thought crime. I have some very serious doubt that you actually believe that one person staring at another should constitute ‘sexual assault’ and the following legal troubles that come from that, but that is what you seem to be saying.

    For that matter, you have failed to identify any difference between people who make an attempt at controlling their biological imperative to notice such things by being subtle about it if they do look and those who leer like an idiot. Is there even a line between the two, or is all the same to you? At least clarify this.

    One last thing, since everyone seems to be talking past each other in this discussion – people keep referencing that we’re speaking of a work environment, not a college bar – are we? Based on the posts I’ve seen arguing for how hard it is to avoid at least glancing at someone’s breasts seem to be talking about general scenarios out in public, whereas the people arguing against them seem to be insisting that we’re talking about a work environment – this was only very indirectly implied during the first post so I don’t think it’s fair to argue against them on that ground. Let’s at least establish which environment we’re discussing and go on from there.

  52. #52 Keith B
    August 20, 2008

    Either men choose to learn how to see women as humans worthy of respect, and learn how to treat them just like they’d treat any other person they consider to be a human. Or they choose to see women as sex objects who exist on earth for their ogling and groping pleasure.

    I’ll call false dichotomy on that. I see women both as humans worthy of respect (unless they prove themselves unworthy) and as having physical bodies worth contemplating sexually. The problem is how you define “respect.” If a male or a female colleague finds another male or female colleague attractive physically, how do you feel they should observe them? Maintaining eye contact is a given, unless they have a lazy eye or are terribly shy, but should the male or female colleagues at no time examine the other’s body?

  53. #53 Siamang
    August 20, 2008

    “So. Telling me men “can’t help” ogling visible breasts doesn’t cut it with me, because clearly covering them up doesn’t stop harassing behavior either. ”

    You’re big on the “either/or” here Zuska.

    Why can’t it be:

    In our society, men can’t help ogling visible breasts, WHILE
    In this other society, women are subjugated in a different manner and there is ALSO harassing behavior which is unrelated to visible breasts.

    See, in your phrasing, you’re assuming that men who claim a natural attraction to looking at breasts pin ALL harassment on ogling behavior, and they’re somehow claiming that all harassment would stop if teh boobis was covered.

    Can’t it be that these are unrelated things? In one country there’s ogling. In another country there’s severe subjugation, but one is not necessarily the cause or the cure of the other?

    You wrote: “The unwanted attention and harassment in that case clearly has nothing to do with the ready visibility of sexy female body parts, because they are all covered up. The whole point of the hajib is supposed to be to “help” women be modest so that men can control their uncontrollable sexual natures but clearly that doesn’t work, since the harassment increases.”

    The harassment behavior could have a different cause, or multiple causes in these societies than in ours. These are very different social expressions, and you are lumping them together as if they are merely the same expression along a single axis of intensity. I am not convinced that they are, and you bring no data to support that notion.

    In these other societies, we’re talking about a concerted effort to deny women rights and equality… only one small facet of which is to anonymize them in public. Of COURSE there’s still harassment. Of COURSE the hajib is not a cure for harassment, what cure there is for harassment (not perfect of course) is liberation, equality and empowerment.

    But you seem to be presuming for the sake of argument that if American hetero men are indeed powerless to look away from a teat, then the Burka should eliminate harassment in Saudi Arabia *without even having to control for other cultural differences*. And since the Burka has NOT eliminated harassment in Saudi Arabia for example, then American men CAN ignore the teat.

    I’m checking at this point if I’m still on ScienceBlogs, because that ‘s a pretty broad social science assertion without citing supporting work. I think the sloppiness of your argumentation here is trying to clue us in to the fact that you are attempting to make a political argument and not a scientific one.

    Incidentally, you also seem to be reacting with a tone and a temperment beyond what commenters here are using. Put a piece of tape across your exclamation point key, and try adding the word “some” in front of the word “men” when you’re making broad statements. Trust me, it’ll help you be understood.

  54. #54 Caliban
    August 20, 2008

    I think the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior are pretty established and most people, most of the time abide by them.

    A man who would stare at someone and not care weather or not that someone notices is obviously being a super creepy freak.

    But there is also a big difference between “noticing” an attractive person for a moment, and being a weird creep about it.

    Clearly, women do not “see” men in the same way that men “see” women. Apparently, it has something to do with men having a hundred times the testosterone than women do.

    Personally, I’ve gotten far more “lingering gazes” from gay men than i ever have from women. And for the overwhelming majority of those instances, i felt flattered and had my self confidence given a boost.

    These discussions usually get tangled up because men don’t know what it feels like being women and women don’t know what it feels like being men.

  55. #55 Thomas M.
    August 20, 2008

    On a similar note, since all these anecdotes about cultures where breasts are being completely ignored are being brought up to ‘prove’ that there is no biological imperative to notice a woman’s breasts, I’d like a citation of a paper on this subject, or at least a name so I can do a fucking Wiki search. I have never seen a single one of these cultures mentioned by name, or for that matter, mentioned in any context excluding a conversation like this, though I have heard of cultures that prefer smaller breasts to larger and find the latter ‘ugly’. To be fair, my experience in this area of study is limited to two undergraduate courses on anthropology, so I will happily eat my words if someone can provide some evidence of this; I’m just not comfortable accepting this as a divine truth without good reason to do so.

  56. #56 Azkyroth
    August 20, 2008

    I think the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior are pretty established and most people, most of the time abide by them.

    Apparently not, to both.

  57. #57 Zuska
    August 20, 2008

    So, I was revisiting this post, and it’s amusing to see versions of numbers 5, 6, 7, 9, 26, 27, 31, 32, and 33 turning up in various spots in this thread. I may have missed others.

    Good to know that the same old same old keeps coming back.

  58. #58 Caliban
    August 20, 2008

    Well, the consequences for unacceptable behavior are pretty good deterrents. If you act inappropriately at work, you can get fired. If you act inappropriately in a social setting, people will not want to be around you. Those who don’t “get” these professional and social “rules” pay a price for it.

  59. #59 Siamang
    August 20, 2008

    Feel free to address any of my points, Zuska.

  60. #60 Brian
    August 20, 2008

    So, I was revisiting this post, and it’s amusing to see versions of numbers 5, 6, 7, 9, 26, 27, 31, 32, and 33 turning up in various spots in this thread. I may have missed others.

    Good to know that the same old same old keeps coming back.

    Wow. Just wow. This is such a petulant response to what amount to – generally – relatively respectful, level-headed criticisms of your post.

    I don’t recall anyone even implying that “You must not be a scientist”, nor that “You must not be a very good scientist”. What has been said is that your argument is not very scientific, and I agree; it reads more ideological to me. And you do make assertions about biology, so I’m not entirely sure why you’re so miffed that people have responded to them.
    Nor has anyone really said “You won’t convert anyone with this kind of talk”, either. In fact, the vast majority of posts have conceded the point that overt, sustained tit-ogling is offensive, and that there is no excuse, biological or otherwise, for doing so!
    “Alas, sexism is evolutionarily predetermined” is also a mischaracterization of what’s been said here. Arguing that there may or may not be a biological cause for looking at breasts is not the same thing as arguing that there may or may not be a biological cause for sexism, unless you assume, as you seem to do, that looking at breasts is de facto sexism.
    And for what it’s worth, boys and girls are different. I’m not entirely sure why this is surprising or upsetting to you.
    And as to the last three: Look, the original comment that spawned this post made what essentially boils down to a biological claim, i.e., “It is either true or false that males are ‘hard-wired’ to look at breasts.” But rather than address that, which I think would have actually made a pretty good, informative post, you ignore the biology altogether and make the as-yet unfounded assertion that looking at breasts is yet another example of subjugation of women.

  61. #61 Azkyroth
    August 20, 2008

    Well, the consequences for unacceptable behavior are pretty good deterrents. If you act inappropriately at work, you can get fired. If you act inappropriately in a social setting, people will not want to be around you. Those who don’t “get” these professional and social “rules” pay a price for it.

    In addition to ignoring the fact that this entire post is about people behaving inappropriately and NOT paying a price, your tone implies that you are either a total fucking sociopath or that you think Pervasive Developmental Disorders are a matter of personal choice. Either way, I’m not impressed.

  62. #62 Brian
    August 20, 2008

    Oh, yeah, and the idea that humans (honestly not sure if it breaks along gender lines) are biologically geared to respond to “cute” cues is not entirely without merit. Just FYI.

  63. #63 Siamang
    August 20, 2008

    Azkyroth wrote:

    “your tone implies that you are either a total fucking sociopath”…

    Okay that’s a needless escalation in tone.

    Someone peed in this comment thread’s cornflakes this morning.

  64. #64 Caliban
    August 20, 2008

    Azkyroth,

    I honestly don’t know what you are talking about. My “tone” has thus far been nothing but calm and casual. Am i supposed to be more hysterical?

    As for people not paying a price for inappropriate behavior; i guess I’ll just have to take your word for it that they don’t.

    I have said nothing regarding “Pervasive Developmental Disorders” so i don’t know why you brought it up. However, if you have one, I’m sorry. I meant no offense.

    I also have absolutely zero interest in impressing you so if my posts fail to do so please feel free to ignore them.

  65. #65 retired urologist
    August 20, 2008

    According to these statistics, 329,000 women underwent augmentation mammoplasty last year. This procedure is not covered by any type of health insurance, and it has no indication from a health standpoint. The average cost is $7100. Seems like a lot to pay, not to mention the risks, just to see whether men are civilized enough not to look at them. If I were that woman, and men didn’t look, I’d ask for a refund.

  66. #66 Thomas M.
    August 20, 2008

    “So, I was revisiting this post, and it’s amusing to see versions of numbers 5, 6, 7, 9, 26, 27, 31, 32, and 33 turning up in various spots in this thread. I may have missed others.

    Good to know that the same old same old keeps coming back.”

    Never mind the sheer hypocrisy of thinking it’s okay to use anecdotes to prove your point and then denying that any male that disagrees with you should get the same benefit of the doubt that you expect to get with your anecdotes – yes, thinking a male should listen when a female says that being leered at is a problem and makes them feel threatened and then saying that we’re lying if we say that glancing at a female’s body IS something that comes to us through biology because you don’t like the idea is hypocrisy – and never mind how ridiculous it is to claim that looking at an attractive person of the opposite sex is ‘sexist’. Never mind that you’re now making straw men of things that people didn’t even come close to saying here, such as claiming that you’re not a good scientist. You know what? Why even BOTHER with a list of the above? Why not just shorten it and say ‘If you disagree with me in an angry manner, you are a misogynistic troll. If you disagree with me in a calm, respectful manner, you are a dishonest misogynistic concern troll.’ That is clearly what you really mean. If that isn’t what you mean, then please quit behaving as if everyone who disagrees with you is a troll no matter how valid their arguments may be.

    Tell me, did that previous paragaph reek of over-statements and straw men? If so, take a good, hard look in the mirror. You just saw a reflection of what your style of posting looks like to anyone who is not already pre-disposed to agreeing with everything you say.

    And before you or someone else brings up this straw man, no, I am not someone who just happened to find this blog post and decide to rant – I’ve been reading your blog since April, although I’m beginning to wonder why. Every. Fucking. Post. has been like what I described above.

  67. #67 Joshua Zelinsky
    August 20, 2008

    Human heterosexual male here. Sometimes the tit-glance thing is involuntary. But I also can’t ignore cute babies in my vicinity either. So what does that say?

  68. #68 cashmoney
    August 20, 2008

    I’ve been reading your blog since April, although I’m beginning to wonder why.

    Staring at Zuska’s blogs is a biological imperative, yo! That’s why you can’t look away. ‘sokay, lots’a men have this problem..

  69. #69 PhysioProf
    August 20, 2008

    Two points:

    (1) This is Zuska’s motherfucking blog, and she’ll do whatever the fuck she wants here, regardless of all the whiny-ass whining about how she’s doing it wrong.

    (2) Like I already said, this shit is not fucking complicated: adults can appreciate someone else’s appearance without being leering scumbags.

  70. #70 Brian
    August 20, 2008

    Buzz off, Prof.
    (1) No one’s debating whether Zuska can run her blog the way she likes. But having comments active on a blog means that one should probably get comfortable with the idea that often, commenters will disagree. To imply, as you have done here, that those who disagree with her are “whiny-ass whining”, is to imply that commenting on a given post is laudable only if it jibes with the viewpoint of the original post. Otherwise, it’s just whining.
    (2) Part of the problem is that there is no clear indication of what it is that Zuska views as poor behavior. She seems at turns to be saying that looking at boobs at all is de facto sexism, but when this is called into question, she and other posters start referring to some vague behavioral standard that was really the subject all along, and oh why can’t we get that through our thick, stupid, male heads?!

    If you care to add to the conversation, that’s one thing, but so far I haven’t seen all that much in the way of meaningful, productive contribution from your end.

  71. #71 PhysioProf
    August 20, 2008

    If you care to add to the conversation, that’s one thing, but so far I haven’t seen all that much in the way of meaningful, productive contribution from your end.

    What you see or don’t see doesn’t mean diddly. I think you may be confused about whether Zuska’s purposes include educating you or anyone else about how not to behave like a pig.

  72. #72 Brian
    August 20, 2008

    Well answered.

    And while I admit that education was a component of Zuska’s original post, she nevertheless made assertions about biological phenomena that are subject to discussion. No one said she was doing it wrong, they just said she was wrong about some of the details. Perhaps you were confused about that?

  73. #73 Becca
    August 20, 2008

    Joshua- maybe you and I are the normal ones!

    Ok, let me ‘splain the thread… no, there is too much. Let me sum-up:
    Looking at breasts? Normal
    Being creeped out by having your breast leered at? Normal

    Are there a complicated balance of social rules required to navigate this, and is self-restraint required to keep looks from becoming leers? You bet.
    However, in a workplace it’s fairly simple. Please look in my eyes. Or at my nose, if you’re East Asian. But not my breasts. If you inadvertantly leer, look at *your* shoes.

    Does that help, Azkyroth?

    If we didn’t have such a generally screwed up culture with respect to men and women and power and sex then it would probably never come up.

  74. #74 Brian
    August 20, 2008

    As contrary as I may have been thusfar, I can get behind your recap, Becca. In fact, that summary is something with which I wholeheartedly agree.

  75. #75 wazza
    August 20, 2008

    Becca: I was just pointing out that you’re only looking at the opposite sex if the opposite sex is what you want to look at. Obviously homosexuals are going to be looking at the same sex and bi people are going to be looking everywhere.

  76. #76 Joshua Zelinsky
    August 20, 2008

    Becca, completely reasonable. I was more commenting on the original remark that Zuska was critizing which said that men looked at boobs and women looked at babies.

  77. #77 Azkyroth
    August 21, 2008

    Azkyroth,

    I honestly don’t know what you are talking about. My “tone” has thus far been nothing but calm and casual. Am i supposed to be more hysterical?

    As for people not paying a price for inappropriate behavior; i guess I’ll just have to take your word for it that they don’t.

    I have said nothing regarding “Pervasive Developmental Disorders” so i don’t know why you brought it up. However, if you have one, I’m sorry. I meant no offense.

    I also have absolutely zero interest in impressing you so if my posts fail to do so please feel free to ignore them.

    Perhaps I was overly harsh, but the cavalier dismissal of “people who ‘don’t get’” what’s appropriate grates on my nerves, as does the implicit equation of them with people who genuinely don’t care. I apologize for snapping like that, though. :/

  78. #78 Azkyroth
    August 21, 2008

    Are there a complicated balance of social rules required to navigate this, and is self-restraint required to keep looks from becoming leers? You bet.
    However, in a workplace it’s fairly simple. Please look in my eyes. Or at my nose, if you’re East Asian. But not my breasts. If you inadvertantly leer, look at *your* shoes.

    Does that help, Azkyroth?

    Since it doesn’t touch on any points of confusion for me, no.

    What you see or don’t see doesn’t mean diddly. I think you may be confused about whether Zuska’s purposes include educating you or anyone else about how not to behave like a pig.

    PhysioProf, I was under the impression that Zuska was a grown woman capable of defending herself. Your attack-dog routine is a little bit vicariously embarrassing.

    As it happens, I agree with both Brian and Becca.

  79. #79 Maria
    August 21, 2008

    Let’s at least establish which environment we’re discussing and go on from there.

    OK, but let’s first establish why it matters. If a man can control his eyeballs at work, presumably he can control them while at a bar, right? It’s just that we can imagine scenarios at bars where he might not be required to exercise that control, while at work, we are all definitely supposed to do anything in our power to keep our colleagues from being discomfited by our attentions.

    I don’t want to get stuck in a discussion about whether a bit of light ogling is or is not an appropriate part of straight people’s mating rituals. I don’t care what you crazy heteronormative kids get up to, so long as you keep it offa my lawn and outta my workplace.

    Speaking of which, Keith? should the male or female colleagues at no time examine the other’s body? Get the hell offa my lawn! No, you should not ogle or “observe” your colleagues (if you can help it, which you mostly can). Not even if they are hot – their comfort, and the comfort of other colleagues who may notice your “examination”, is more important than your ability to gratify a passing sexual impulse. Seriously, why would you think that you ought to be able to do this?

  80. #80 student_b
    August 21, 2008

    Seriously, why would you think that you ought to be able to do this?

    Because they’re male and they themselves don’t feel disturbed by it?

    You know, good old privilege.

  81. #81 Stephanie Z
    August 21, 2008

    Really? We should pretend to ourselves that we are completely sexless creatures while we’re at work?

    To take this out of the realm of male privilege (while keeping it heteronormative), I’m perfectly well aware which of my male coworkers are in good shape, which of them dress in ways that accentuate that, which of them have bits and pieces that suit my particular tastes. I know because I’ve looked.

    I know it like I know which ones of them are left-handed and which ones get just a little twitchy talking to another human being they don’t know very well. We’re social critters. We observe each other. It’s what we do, and frankly, most of it never gets noticed because it’s so pervasive.

    So really, there is a difference between telling someone to work at not making others uncomfortable and telling them they can’t ever think of a purple elephant. The first is doable and applicable across a wide range of situations.

  82. #82 PhysioProf
    August 21, 2008

    PhysioProf, I was under the impression that Zuska was a grown woman capable of defending herself. Your attack-dog routine is a little bit vicariously embarrassing.

    Last I checked, Zuska was a grown woman capable of telling me to shut the fuck up if she wants me to. Your defense-dog routine is a little bit vicariously embarrassing.

  83. #83 David Marjanovi?
    August 21, 2008

    Personally, I’ve gotten far more “lingering gazes” from gay men than i ever have from women. And for the overwhelming majority of those instances, i felt flattered and had my self[-]confidence given a boost.

    Strange. Would have made me quite uncomfortable. (Assuming, obviously, that I’d have noticed — I’m close enough to somewhere around the PDD spectrum that I’m not sure I necessarily would have.) Perhaps that’s because I’m generally introverted and (like all nerds) was made fun of for years at school. — Getting such a reaction from men would make me more uncomfortable than from women because I’d count that as a misunderstanding, and I have a phobia of misunderstandings in general…

    Oh, yeah, and the idea that humans (honestly not sure if it breaks along gender lines) are biologically geared to respond to “cute” cues is not entirely without merit.

    I personally would be very surprised if it broke along gender lines.

    BTW, hijab.

  84. #84 David Marjanovi?
    August 21, 2008

    Just to return to the topic, I agree with comment 80.

  85. #85 Becca
    August 21, 2008

    People capable of vicarioius embarrassment should probably not read PP posts.
    Alternatively, you can try to learn to turn it off selectively.

  86. #86 Phoenix Woman
    August 21, 2008

    Here’s some more from the Bitch PhD link that some of the more excitable boys (h/t Warren Zevon) have been studiously ignoring — and which was the cornerstone of Zuska’s post, if you will remember:

    Remember that study showing that something like 80% of Egyptian women reported having been sexually harassed? The Washington Post has something of an update to the story. Apparently, some anonymous group has been sending emails telling women that they should wear the veil, because “A veil to protect, or eyes will molest.” I’m sure the slogan is much catchier in Arabic–I’d wager it probably rhymes. But either way, it’s full of bullshit. The WaPo article talks to some women who say they actually experienced more harassment when they were wearing hijab, and though I can’t speak from personal experience, I wouldn’t doubt at all that that could be true.

    I can’t say whether any individual woman would suffer more harassment from one day to the next if she were wearing the veil, although if I lived there, I’d try it as an experiment. But I think this theory is spot-on:

    Mona Eltahawy, a 41-year-old Egyptian social commentator who now lives, unveiled, in the United States, said that as a Muslim woman who wore hijab for nine years and was harassed “countless times” in Egypt, she has concluded that the increase in veiling has somehow contributed to the increase in harassment.

    “The more women veil the less men learn to behave as decent and civilized members of society,”

    This puts the blame for harassement squarely on social conventions, rather than on individual women. Because the fact is, there is no rhyme or reason as to who gets harassed and who doesn’t, and what kind of behavior/clothing/location/makeup/companionship you have when you get harassed is totally not determinative. And this doesn’t just apply to Egypt, either–it applies everywhere.

    I’m on record acknowledging the complexity of the hijab issue, and I would never dream of judging any individual woman’s decision to take up the hijab. But I’d be failing if I didn’t acknowledge that the aggregate effect of hijab-wearing being the norm is negative.

    I also suggest looking at Mormon Fundamentalist treatment of women, which follows similar lines: You don’t see Mormon Fundy women running around in bikinis and short-shorts. You do see prepubescent girls becoming the unwilling plural wives of men old enough to be their grandfathers.

    Now, we learn the following from this:

    1) Persons interested in controlling women claim that women, not men, are responsible for men’s sexual responses, and so insist that women dress modestly.

    2) Dressing for modesty doesn’t stop mistreatment of women — in fact, the evidence is that it escalates it, as it gives men a reason not to see women as fellow humans deserving of treatment as humans. (Also, there is evidence that a submission response both triggers and rewards dominance impulses in the aggressor.)

    3) Men, contrary to what is often believed, can and do rein in crass behavior: They are not the helpless prisoners of their genitals.

    Granted, what is crass and what isn’t is, to a large degree, fuzzy at times. Here’s a good rule to use to determine what you should do: How would you feel if somebody was directing the behavior at you?

    See, it’s really not that difficult.

  87. #87 Brian
    August 21, 2008

    Last I checked, Zuska was a grown woman capable of telling me to shut the fuck up if she wants me to. Your defense-dog routine is a little bit vicariously embarrassing.

    This is getting pretty absurd. Most of the time, I find you insightful (even if not particularly subtle), and funny as hell. Here, though, your posts thusfar are really little more than the equivalent of “You’re not the boss of Zuska! And you’re stupid poopy-heads!”

    I swear it’s as if the social capital and credibility you earn in your other online endeavors are burning a hole in your pocket, so to speak.

  88. #88 PhysioProf
    August 21, 2008

    I swear it’s as if the social capital and credibility you earn in your other online endeavors are burning a hole in your pocket, so to speak.

    Are you really this oblivious, or is it some kind of obscure act?

  89. #89 Brian
    August 21, 2008

    Are you really this oblivious, or is it some kind of obscure act?

    It may be obliviousness on my part. I’m perfectly willing to accept that as a possibility. This being the case, what exactly are you getting at?

  90. #90 A different Brian
    August 21, 2008

    Given all the name calling, maybe it makes sense to start each post with a “what I believe, don’t take me out of context” manifest. No more full sentences for me.

    1) Sexism = bad
    2) Sexism = exists
    3) Sexism = a problem everywhere
    4) STARING = bad w/o permission
    5) NOTICING = unavoidable, but easily corrected
    6) STRATEGIC GLANCING = less likely to be caught, but not much better than #4
    7) Square = Rectangle as Staring = Sexism

    Returning to some language for a sec, some men (and women) react harshly to the staring = sexism threads, because they immediately assume staring = noticing. Perhaps that’s the kind of thing that should be cleared up sooner.

  91. #91 Samia
    August 21, 2008

    I’m a bisexual woman (who also happens to luv ze cute babies– PARADOX!!!11). I admire many women in the course of a day, mostly because the guys on my campus don’t actually resemble grown men (though this semester seems off to a fruitful start). There is a way to do appreciate a beautiful body without being all creepy and stare-y.

    I would be happy if “staring” was all I had to put up from men on a day-to-day basis. Most creeps don’t stop at looking. Women have to think about getting raped. We have to think about it a lot, because it happens a lot. So the staring/noticing/leering lines get blurred a bit. There are guys out there who start out staring, then quickly move to invading personal space and trying shit, all while their friends look on in glee. I know some of the Good Male Oglers don’t want to consider this, but none of this heterosexual male “appreciation” occurs in a vacuum. Every woman is different. Many of us have been assaulted, many of us are traumatized. Just keep that in mind.

    In any case, I don’t have a problem keeping my eyes off a woman’s incredible rack when she’s speaking to me. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman too, I dunno. Arguing about boob-ogling being hardwired into the male brain is pointless so long as women are portrayed in Western culture as intellectually inferior sex objects designed to eventually pop out babies (once we get old and “middle-aged” and ugly, of course).

    Hey Larry, I kinda want some booty shorts with “Go Kill Yourself” on them. In pretty, glittery pink cursive. :)

  92. #92 Brian
    August 21, 2008

    @Samia,
    I would also like a pair of those.

    @A different Brian,
    I agree that a large problem exists in the conflation of “noticing” and “staring”. Unfortunately, Zuska has done little to clarify or address that discrepancy, and in fact seems to be tacitly saying that they are, in fact, one and the same. She’s certainly done nothing to disabuse anyone of that notion.
    She then further goes on to make some pretty broad, sweeping assertions about behavior without much – if anything – in the way of support, and whines when she is called on it.

    Incidentally, I think we can all agree that no one here thinks that sexism is okay, and going from there, I think this is not inconsistent with an interest in discussing where certain behaviors originate.

  93. #93 Zuska
    August 21, 2008

    Phoenix Woman’s comment (#86 above) got hung up in moderation because of the links. You wouldn’t want to miss it. Sorry it took so long to get it out.

  94. #94 Brian
    August 21, 2008

    And yet hoenix Woman’s comment doesn’t do much to clarify. No one here (that I recall) actually said or implied that the onus is on the women to do something and/or cover up to prevent harassment. One could conceivably make the argument, I will concede, that an interpretation of the original comment along those lines isn’t completely out of the question, but I don’t think that it’s the most obvious and honest interpretation, either.

    In the comments to this post, the idea that women are responsible for men’s ogling has been pretty soundly rejected by most people here already. Certainly it’s clear that we’ve all accepted that there exists a line beyond which behavior is unacceptable, sexist, and, in several cases, a threatening gesture. I think we are all taking for granted here that people, regardless of gender, are responsible for their own behavior. No issue there.

    What is at issue, AFAICT, is whether noticing breasts at all is a form of sexism and/or harassment. You have yet to indicate where you fall on this matter, Zuska. I hate beating a dead horse, especially when there’s no need to beat a horse at all, so if you don’t equate noticing/looking at breasts with sexism, then there’s no disagreement. If you do, then it’s worth discussing the source of the impulse to look.

    Is it just mutual reaffirmation of straightness, or is there actually a biological component specifically motivating males to notice breasts? It’s certainly a question worth discussing, for if there is a biological imperative to notice, then it’s disingenuous to say that doing so is somehow an aggressive, overtly sexist gesture. Staring and ogling, however, are different beasts, entirely, and the question of where we draw the line, when and if we determine that the impulse to look is biologically rooted, becomes a separate question, equally (if not more so) worth considering.

  95. #95 Brian
    August 21, 2008

    “Staring and ogling, however, are different beasts, entirely”

    By which I mean as opposed to noticing, not one another.

  96. #96 PhysioProf
    August 21, 2008

    And yet hoenix Woman’s comment doesn’t do much to clarify. No one here (that I recall) actually said or implied that the onus is on the women to do something and/or cover up to prevent harassment. One could conceivably make the argument, I will concede, that an interpretation of the original comment along those lines isn’t completely out of the question, but I don’t think that it’s the most obvious and honest interpretation, either.

    Head. Desk. BAM!

  97. #97 Brian
    August 21, 2008

    @PhysioProf

    I think it’s obvious that I’m not fucking stupid. As happens with folks sometimes, I occasionally fail epically to see what others are driving at. Hey, it happens. I’m doing my best not to be disrespectful, I’m trying to be as clear as I can about what I’m saying, and I think I’ve made it apparent that I’m not afraid to be shown that I’m wrong.

    So please, since I am aware how much you love spreading the seed of knowledge with your med students (and that’s not sarcasm), fucking enlighten me and help me understand what it is that you seem to think is so obvious that I’m missing. Conceding that the argument can be made it’s a possible interpretation does not automatically render the original post clearer or somehow more “correct”.

    I think I’ve been pretty consistent in saying that I get the impression that Zuska is conflating noticing/looking at all with the sort of sexism she describes and links to. I don’t personally agree, and I think her response vis a vis her “noticing” the appearance of “reasons she shouldn’t blog” was pretty petulant and underhanded. And in all honesty, that’s what inspired me to de-lurk and comment here in the first place.

    But I even made room in my last post for the fact that maybe I mischaracterized her position. The response, thus far? Nothing.

    And that’s fine, because as you so charitably pointed out, it is her blog, and I respect her right to answer, or not, as she pleases. She is, of course, under no obligation to me, and I get that my comments here deserve no special consideration.

    So tell me, oh Profane One: Where have I gone astray? I’m not too fucking stupid to grasp the answer, but neither am I too proud to admit that I don’t see it.

  98. #98 SKM
    August 21, 2008

    No one here (that I recall) actually said or implied that the onus is on the women to do something and/or cover up to prevent harassment. (#94)

    In the comments to this post, the idea that women are responsible for men’s ogling has been pretty soundly rejected by most people here already (#94)

    You missed these:
    . If you don’t want your beautiful parts stared at, cover them up. That’s what I do.(#41)

    Is it worth rationally discussing that sometimes women are to blame for the attention they receive?(#37)

    If you fear physical attacks, take a karate class (#37)

    Also, Brian, I think you misread the original post–the only person who conflates staring with noticing is the original quoted commenter, Mr. Murray (who presents a false dichotomy between “tit-staring” and “ignoring tits”). The only way a reader could get a conflation between ogling and “noticing” breasts from Zuska’s OP is if you read her “I totally believe you are able to look away from the magic tits” as implying “…and never look at them again, at all”, which is a stretch. “Looking away” means breaking a stare here, not ignoring tits altogether.

    so, this: What is at issue, AFAICT, is whether noticing breasts at all is a form of sexism and/or harassment. (#94). was never at issue at all.

    As a straight woman who “notices” men all the time, I was also disturbed by the recurring references in comments here likening people’s bodies to toys (“tits are to men as yarn is to kittens”), TVs, and cars. As I said, I “notice” men, but it would never occur to me to refer to them in this way–as parts of the scenery, or objects for amusement. Creepy.

  99. #99 Zuska
    August 21, 2008

    Sweet jesus, thank you SKM. Took many of the words right out of my mouth.

    Folks, I have lots to say in response to y’all but I’ve had a migraine every day this week. Also I will be out of town and without internet for the next three days. So hopefully next Monday I will post something in response at length, lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise and all that. Feel free to keep discussing in my absence.

  100. #100 Becca
    August 21, 2008
  101. #101 Brian
    August 21, 2008

    You missed these:

    As I said, as far as I recall. But thank you for taking the trouble to show me. Sifting through the sheer volume of comments can be rather tedious, so I admit I was operating primarily on my memory of the comment thread thusfar.

    I do think that the fact that you were able to find only two separate comments that expressed those sentiments is testament to the spirit of my statement, though, which was that this comment thread has been largely accepting of the idea that the onus is NOT on women to control for the behavior of men. Personally, I think that’s a pretty encouraging sign, and AFAICT, indicative that at least dissenting opinion is not coming from an overtly sexist viewpoint. Perhaps you disagree, and I’m happy to consider your take.

    Also, Brian, I think you misread the original post

    Taking the OP separately, I fear you may be correct. My first comment came after Zuska’s post, “Good to know that the same old same old keeps coming back.” I thought it was a cop-out, and so I responded thus. I still do, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the OP itself is irrational.

    I’m fairly interested in the idea that there is a genetic component in breast noticing, though, and I admit I was probably too quick to view her post as dismissing the entire idea out of hand, and further conflating the desire to look at all with culturally normalized sexism. I can’t agree with that at present, until I’ve had a chance to learn more about it, so I’ve been largely supportive of the idea that it’s worth discussing, pending any sources that point either way. I wonder whether it’s possible that I took the direction of the comment thread as part and parcel of the OP, and therefore lumped it in unfairly. Either way, a misread on my part, and I apologize for that.

    As to your being disturbed by some of the “colorful” phrases that have been used here, it’s funny, because I was thinking about this earlier. I’ve disagreed with Zuska before, and largely for me it was an issue of the tone of the post relative to the relative importance, to my perception, of the issue under discussion. But I will admit that I am at times surprised to find how certain notions that are seemingly innocuous and very acceptable, culturally, are, when you break them down to their most essential parts, actually pretty sexist. I didn’t even think of them that way at all, but if one is willing to do the work to look critically, it’s right there.

    At any rate, it would appear that I did, indeed, misconstrue what Zuska was saying; sorry about that, especially to Zuska (also sorry to hear about your migraine). My bad.

    Becca, those shorts rock, and I may actually buy a pair.

    Oh, and PhysioProf, you’re still a fucking douchepuppet.

  102. #102 Michael, #37
    August 21, 2008

    @SKM

    So you deny, as #37 asserts, that women who exert great effort to be noticed as sexually desirable do not bear any onus to prevent unwanted attention? Do you likewise deny that same women are not at least partly responsible for the ogling they receive?

    If I left $1000 in cash in the front seat of my car overnight with my windows rolled down, I�m practically begging the local kids to rob me. If I work a haz-mat spill without wearing the proper protective gear, I�m at least partially to blame for injury I receive. If I�m grinding an edge on my lawnmower blade and end up with metal shavings in my eyes because I didn�t wear safety glasses, I�m partially to blame. Is it sexist, or irrational, to claim that just as some men are sexist asses and at fault for ogling, some women are partially to blame for engaging in known risky behavior that elicits unwanted attention?

    I’ll still hold to the karate endorsement. If more people got a swift kick in the ass for unethical behavior the world would be a better place, IMHO. Especially if they persist in harming others.

  103. #103 GAC
    August 21, 2008

    @Michael:

    Your post begs the question: Is it “known risky behavior” to dress in a way that accentuates one’s sexuality? Sure, low-cut tops, miniskirts, and other “sexy” clothing attract my attention — but I notice women that aren’t being so overtly sexual, and I guarantee that women who aren’t accentuating their sexuality to slutty proportions still get stared at.

    Several people have already mentioned that cultures that put the onus on women to “cover up” their sexuality end up with more misogynistic behavior. Just hypothesizing (I don’t have any data in front of me) I would guess that the hajib thing basically shows that when it’s on women to cover up, those that do cover up are showing themselves to be more submissive, and the men feel they can get away with harassment.

    The point is that sexual harassment is usually about power — not sex. When someone is paying someone sexual attention that is clearly not wanted or appropriate, they’re asserting their will over someone else’s.

  104. #104 SKM
    August 22, 2008

    So you deny, as #37 asserts, that women who exert great effort to be noticed as sexually desirable do not bear any onus to prevent unwanted attention? Do you likewise deny that same women are not at least partly responsible for the ogling they receive?

    I believe that the aggressor–the starer, the leerer, the ogler, the groper, the rapist–is solely responsible for his behavior.

    However, the question is a derail*, because the point of the OP was that societies hold women responsible for men’s actions towards them no matter how they’re dressed. And further, more covering up may even lead to more aggression.

    I agree with GAC just above me that sexual harassment is about power and imposing one’s will. It is not about how we’re dressed, or (as many in this thread have assumed) how large our breasts are or how much they’re covered. Just about all of us get harassed, and from an early age ( I first recall sexually-tinged bullying at about age 4). It’s not about the tits, gentleman.

    Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with karate–it’s great! The problem is proposing women’s karate as a solution to men’s violence. Again–that’s holding women responsible for controlling men’s behavior.
    ——
    *and so I won’t address it further out of respect for the original topic.

  105. #105 SKM
    August 22, 2008

    I do think that the fact that you were able to find only two separate comments that expressed those sentiments is testament to the spirit of my statement

    Oh, I was working just from memory too, Brian! I didn’t sift through nearly 100 comments either. I’m glad you are optimistic. I am less so (perhaps because I am faced personally with being held responsible for men’s behavior towards me).

    I wonder whether it’s possible that I took the direction of the comment thread as part and parcel of the OP, and therefore lumped it in unfairly

    Yup. I think the comments rapidly altered the subject, and you drifted along because you honestly find the new question interesting*. My perception is that the comments swiftly turned the subject from something that makes many readers uncomfortable (systematic harassment of women by a minority of ordinary men) to something that we can all pretty much agree on (“noticing” people we find attractive is normal and OK, no matter your sex and sexual orientation). See how that works? Your mileage may vary of course.

    I didn’t even think of them that way at all, but if one is willing to do the work to look critically, it’s right there.

    Thanks for this. And now you can add another one from this thread to your collection: women’s bodies are money lying out in the open just begging to be stolen.

    As for the booty shorts, I’m not a pink glittery cursive type, but I’d totally go for some electric blue ones with FOAD across the back in big block letters! I sew too, so maybe I’ll get on that!
    ____
    *OT, but FWIW I think the sexualization and tight regulation of breasts (the ZOMG BOOBIES! factor) in many societies complicates the “genetic looking” question. I’m a straight female American, and I find my eyes drawn towards large or braless bosoms myself. After some time in places where bras are less compulsory (Paris for instance) that urge fades because the novelty wears off.

  106. #106 Stephanie Z
    August 22, 2008

    Michael, for the record, it’s at least as silly to assume you know why someone is dressed the way she is as it is to assume you know why someone’s gaze is resting where it is just at the moment. The only thing you know from how she’s dressed is what clothes she’s wearing.

    Ditto for posture, makeup, and gestures. Until you actually interact with this person, you know nothing about her. Even then, you know only what she chooses to share in one brief moment in time. Any generalizations or assumptions you make from there are entirely your own. She still has every right to be as mercurial and complex as you–or more so.

  107. #107 Becca
    August 22, 2008

    Michael- look, I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and I’m currently training in mixed martial arts. I know at least 6 ways to kill you with my bare hands. That doesn’t make me safe from rape.
    Karate is great. But any self-defense instructor worth their salt will tell you that it’s not a magical cloak of protection that prevents all harm from coming to you.

    It is unjust (and not something I would classify as “proactive change”) to focus on telling women to protect themselves *without* telling people that learning when behavior crosses the harrassment line is an important skill that must be developed.
    Moreover, it is *unwise* to focus on telling people they needn’t worry about physical attacks if they take karate. It simply isn’t true.

  108. #108 Stephanie Z
    August 22, 2008

    SKM, Samia and Becca, while I like the idea of the shorts (or the t-shirt with the arrow that says “I’m up here”), I’m a little uncomfortable with them too. I’m a compulsive reader, which means text draws my attention to something I might not see otherwise. So for me, personally, they have a message of, “Made you look, but you’re a jerk for looking.” They’re just not situation-specific enough for me.

  109. #109 SKM
    August 22, 2008

    Stephanie Z–Oh! I wasn’t thinking about wearing those shorts on the street with nothing over them. For me it was more of a superhero-under-my-skirt or workout thing. Just speaking for myself. I get what you are saying– though others may well see it differently.

    That’s how foreign the idea of walking down the street in booty shorts is to me, lol!

  110. #110 SKM
    August 22, 2008

    I’ll just add that talking about wearing FOAD shorts under my skirt is not even that far OT for this post considering that the Oklahoma courts, at least, feel that a woman has no reasonable expectation of privacy when she wears a skirt in a public place, like Target. So a man taking a photo up my skirt is well within his rights, according to them.. Yes, this is just one case, and one where the law has not caught up with the technology, but it is nonetheless part of “…[T]he daily drumbeat of the world treating you like you’re a piece of meat every time you step out of the house”, as M. LeBlanc says in the Bitch PhD post quoted by Zuska.

    OK, /minor derail

  111. #111 Stephanie Z
    August 22, 2008

    Whereas I was thinking of them as comfy gardening shorts, reinforcing the idea that you never know why someone is wearing what they’re wearing. :)

    Love the superhero idea. Hate the OK courts. Do we need up-robe shots before they get the idea?

  112. #112 Brian
    August 22, 2008

    As for me, I’d just wear them as ironic pajamas. Personally, I don’t care too much for the explosion of booty-message shorts in popular culture (it disturbs me to see pre-teens wearing clothing that specifically draws attention to their butt and/or chest – a trend that I imagine, though I have no proof, of course, might have some serious downstream consequences regarding gender relations and female self-image).

    SKM, not to carry this thread further OT, but that case to which you refer has already laid the groundwork for another similar case, successfully defended. Worth noting, however, is that in reading the actual decision, I get the impression that this was actually the correct ruling, and that the Oklahoma legislature is to blame in this particular case. Prolly not accurate to say that “Oklahoma courts … feel that a woman has no reasonable expectation of privacy”, but rather that Oklahoma law is woefully behind the times in addressing privacy issues. Either way, I don’t disagree with your quote (“…daily drumbeat…”), so far as it goes.

    Shit, I just furthered your derail. I’ll stop now.

  113. #113 Brian
    August 22, 2008

    Psyche. Here’s the actual decision.

  114. #114 SKM
    August 22, 2008

    Brian, that’s why I said this is a case where the law has not caught up with the technology. Whether it’s the court or the legislature, the men at target and elsewhere with the cell-phone cameras get the message that the law as it stands provides no remedy if they should choose to take up-skirt photos. Now, I’ll stop too!

  115. #115 penguindreams
    August 22, 2008

    Oh my. I’ll pick up with SKM’s observation in #105, about how, in spite of the fact being a straight woman, she does notice large or braless breasts in here (America), but, when elsewhere (France) where braless is more common, doesn’t notice it there.

    In the realm of looking/noticing, then, irrespective of gender or orientation, we humans look at/ notice:
    Things that are shiny
    Things that are brightly colored
    High contrasts in color
    Moving
    Our own written language (if we’re literate)
    Things that are ‘out of place’ or different from the norm (or, conversely, don’t notice much what is the norm)
    Our eyes are also directed easily by arrows

    So, put a woman in a v-neck blouse (arrow) of bright red (bright color, strongly contrasting with skin color), wearing a shiny necklace dangling into her cleavage, walking through a group of men, and the men will indeed notice. So would a room of straight women dressed in running gear, or slacks and t-shirts.

    The nude beach anecdotes are a bit afield, not least because even there, there’s a warm up period (as described; I have no firsthand knowledge). More common is summer running races. Women usually aren’t wearing much then. Nor are the guys. Both groups are also usually in good shape (so if the mate-browsing idea were much good, this would be prime time). Both groups are typically wearing rather colorful clothing. In this context, it becomes like the nude beach stories. Probably the most noticed (by men/women, straight/not) are the men not wearing shirts as that’s uncommon. I’ve no doubt that I’ve missed some ogling and leering that happens, but I’ve been to quite a few races by now and even thought to look for it sometimes. Take one of those men or women, dressed exactly the same, and put them up presenting at a scientific conference, and a lot of attention will fall on their mode of dress and exposed or lightly covered anatomy. Different context, different response. Now if scientific conference wear normally resembled the start of a 10k race, that would go away.

    So, Becca, for the redesign of your shorts:
    Go for broader letters — they’re narrow enough now that the bright color inside doesn’t stand off from the glitter.
    Use a strongly contrasting darker color for the main part of the shorts, black satin-ish or velvety seems the most popular but a blue or green would probably work.
    Put arrows pointing to the lettering (also glittered)
    Hang a locket (more shiny) off the waist band on a chain, such that when the wearer walked, it would be bouncing (more motion).

    I’ve actually seen a pair, in the wild, that did all these things plus, probably, some more that I’ve succeeded in blotting from memory.

    Speaking of memory, remember the 70s anyone? and the men with their unbuttoned shirts (arrow) and gold chains? Did you never notice, or did the arrow and shiny stuff in motion (as they walked) get your attention?

  116. #116 SKM
    August 22, 2008

    Penguindreams, you are picking up on the one thing that I put an “OT” and asterisk next to, put in a footnote, and only mentioned because Brian was interested and here in good faith. He also recognized it as OT. My bad. I’ll reiterate: “noticing” “objects” or “features” in one’s visual field is NOT the point of the original post.

    Sorry again for my part in encouraging the derail.

  117. #117 Samia
    August 22, 2008

    Becca, you rock.

    @SKM:
    I walk around in short shorts all the time, and the point of wearing a pair with “Go Kill Yourself” on them is really just for my own enjoyment (I admit I enjoy being offensive), not to guilt passersby. The kind of thing I’d check the mail or do my groceries in. :) I’m used to guys taking a look at my behind, being one of the relatively few women on my campus who doesn’t suffer from an eating disorder. Doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, people look. I do my fair share of boy booty investigation as well. I used to cover myself up because I thought I was ugly and fat and all of those things perfectly beautiful women are trained to think about themselves, then I realized I’m lucky not to spend most of my time throwing up and compulsively working out, as so many women at my school do. So wearing shorts again is kinda liberating for me because I spent so long covering myself up and sweating my ass off in the summertime in premium darkwash denim for no good reason (plus, in this town, every lady of every size walks around in a pair when it’s 110 degrees out). I enjoy being comfortable in hot weather and sometimes getting noticed by cuties (so long as it doesn’t cross into leering).

    @Michael:
    There is a freakin’ difference between noticing and staring, and most men I know understand it. Every guy who’s ever stared at me in a threatening way KNEW he was making me uncomfortable, and he enjoyed that. If his dude friends were around, all the better. It wasn’t about me, it was about “Hey, look what I can do to this nameless, unimportant bitch and she can’t do anything about it because I’m a MAN.” Didn’t matter what I was wearing, what “signals” I was giving off, how tightly my arms and legs were crossed or whatever. The fact that I was a lone woman, unaccompanied by a significant other (man=guard dog??) is a signal itself to some sick people. Even the little things like dudes on the street telling us to smile (presumably because we’re prettier when we look happy)…a lot of otherwise “decent” men feel way too comfortable getting up in women’s biz.

    All this WELL YOU SHOULD HAVE COVERED UP THEN, HUSSY is pissing me off.

    @Brian:
    I don’t think anyone here thinks ten-year-olds need to run around with cheerleading shorts that say “SEXY.”

  118. #118 penguindreams
    August 22, 2008

    SKM, I didn’t emphasize it, but I wasn’t talking about the original post. After 100+ comments, most not about the original post, I think a discussion can be taken to have gone to a life of its own. As it still seems open whether Zuska (and others) equates looking/noticing (most of the commentary, and what I took up) with opression (the original point) I may not even be off topic.

    Either way, however, I’ve pointed to things which could be an interesting scientific study (perhaps already completed, if so I’ll welcome pointers) as to where people look, how much, etc., as functions of things other than breast presence and size. And maybe the study shows that opressive leering is a lot more common than guys tend to think.

    Your comment about good faith is awfully easy to read as a presumption that I’m not here in good faith. Yes, I’m new — attracted by Wilkins’ recent listing of the Feminist Theory of Science article. And yes, I’m male. If either of those grants presumption of not-(good faith) in this space, let me know and I’ll move along.

  119. #119 SKM
    August 22, 2008

    Your comment about good faith is awfully easy to read as a presumption that I’m not here in good faith.

    That was not my intent at all. I just meant that I wouldn’t chime in on someone’s OT idea if I didn’t think s/he was here in good faith. That’s all. The other interpretation never crossed my mind; sorry.

    As for long threads taking on lives of their own, you’re right of course. As you mention, though, most of the comments have been off topic. I think the plot was lost right away for reasons I spelled out above. Zuska is not here this weekend to clarify, and I didn’t want to be part of the movement away from a discussion that’s important to have–the one about harassment. Hence my apology.

    And, I’m new here myself : )

  120. #120 Brian
    August 22, 2008

    Good faith?

    Shit, I was just warming you guys up to try and sell you some pointers on starting your own online business.

  121. #121 Samia
    August 22, 2008

    Brian, I just want you to know that the phrase “ironic pajamas” has brought me much joy today. Thank you.

  122. #122 Lora
    August 22, 2008

    “Really? We should pretend to ourselves that we are completely sexless creatures while we’re at work?”

    On behalf of personnel managers and HR departments everywhere: Yes, yes, please, for the love of FSM, please imagine while you are at work that you are sexless monks and nuns.

    90% of managing people is dealing with their horrible personalities. Seriously, that is what most managers spend their time doing, dealing with personality conflicts, many of which go, “S/he did (something)! I am angry/offended/upset!” and the other employee responding, “Nuh-unh! S/he started it/misunderstood!” This is why we ask all those goofy seemingly non-work-related and open-ended questions in interviews, to try and suss out who is going to cause our little happy family the fewest personality issues.

    This is all much simpler if people simply make a concerted effort to be respectful of each other. However, as others have noted, some people get offended at some things that don’t bother others. Safest bet is to assume that you’re dealing with someone who WILL be offended if they notice your staring. So don’t look. Make my life easier and keep the EEOC complaint off your HR file. Please.

    Most of us understand that the odd glance happens, in the same way that inadvertent boogers, farting, and the occasional armpit stain happen: it’s biological, you do your best to keep it from happening but sometimes it happens anyway. The graceful thing to do is to look sheepishly embarrassed or say “excuse me” while you wipe your nose. But some dweebs do not bother to ever blow their noses properly, eat ten burritos for lunch thereby setting off the fire alarms, and shower once a week. These offenses are all biological in nature, however miraculously almost all adult American men and women manage to control themselves. Staring at bodies falls under the “dweeb” heading. A mere glance on occasion is still oogy, it’s just less oogy as long as it’s not a constant thing.

    The misery of academia is that the staring, ogling, boogery armpit people never do get disciplined or told to clean up their act, nor are they ever canned for perving on folks. I’m not saying other areas of employment are perfect, I’m saying it’s a lot easier to send an employee to Sensitivity Training and tell them if they do it just one more time they’re canned, if they aren’t actually tenured. And yes, I have seen pervs terminated on the spot for asking their colleagues out on a date in an unwelcome manner in the wonderful world of industry and gov’t work.

    Good heavens, if you want to get a good long social look at your co-workers, do it on your own time at the coffee shop or bar or whatever. I ain’t payin’ you to lollygag!

  123. #123 penguindreams
    August 23, 2008

    Thanks SKM. Different venues, different standards. One of mine is often (in fact most of the interesting stuff) off topic. Sometimes on-topic is extremely important. I made my guess and and sorry if any offense was reasonably taken. Social arrangements are difficult.

    The harassment being bad, and that staring/leering/ogling (much less assault) are harassment, I’m in complete agreement about. So much so, that it’s hard to see any realm for comment on the topic. Zuska posts, the rest here nod in agreement, and we look for her next post. Then again, at work we had a sexual harassment education thing. I was initially mystified as to how this was supposed to take 3 hours. 1 minute of ‘don’t’, expanded to ‘don’t, you idiots’, seemed to be enough. Then we hit the 3 hours, and it actually was educational. See also Lora’s note #122.

    Different thing, lest I be misunderstood. No criticism of Zuska not having posted/responded/… while weathering a migraine. I’ve had a few in my life, and the difference between them and just a really bad headache (which I’ve had many of) is outrageous. Really bad headache is hide in a dark room, wince at the ants tromping, not liking the thought of food. Migraine is over at do the above, while hoping for a meteor to obliterate the ants and thoughts of food and probably your head.

  124. #124 Paul Murray
    August 23, 2008

    @MissPrism: “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Blatant tit-staring, like any other kind of harassment, isn’t something we get irrationally het up about that the poor helpless menz can’t stop themselves doing. It’s an ugly display of power and it’s meant to be threatening. It’s intended to remind us that we’re Different and Don’t Belong.”

    Well! My first reaction is “that’s a damn lie”, but hey, for all I know maybe that does happen. Maybe some guys do in fact do this, and I don’t know about it because, well, because I’m not one.

    My second reaction is to notice the thread of guilt and shame in the female replies on this topic. Note:

    @Zuska: “It’s the women’s fault, you see. If only they didn’t have the tits. Or hey, maybe if they covered them up! With a hijab! Then they wouldn’t provoke indecent male behavior!”

    I find this reaction … weird. But once again, if it’s true, then I’m not in a position to know about it.

    Do women feel that they are made to feel, or expected to feel, shame and guilt just for being female? Is that because society really does that? What part of society? Maybe these posters are directing blame against the wrong people: the group most likely to feel threatened but a woman’s hotness, after all, are other women. Gaggles of women will shun hot women who are not alpha females. Or is it all just freudian? Is it really mum who makes daughter feel ashamed, as a means of keeping daughter under control?

    Mind you, there is certainly a legitimate gripe (if that word is strong enough) here. It’s only a while ago that they were burning women for being witches. Some of those were women too old to be useful any more. But a lot of ‘em were young and pretty, and were indeed blamed by the men for leading them astray: succubi who would get into a man’s dreams and cause him to lose his precious bodily fluids.

    Beats me what that’s got to do with here and now, though.

    @rev Matt: “And of course the fact that the breast obsession is largely a northwestern european obsession tends to give lie to the claim that men are incapable of not staring.”

    Well, certainly sexual response is culturally conditioned. The actual things that men respond to are not hard wired. For instance: fetishism. You also get fetishism in the female “mothering” response, by the way: women whose apartments are full to bursting of (for instance) pigs. Porcelain pigs, stuffed pigs, pictures of pigs, all of them fat and happy and it all just goes a little too far. You can’t help getting the “ewww!” feeling. Or baby booties – that’s another one that women are prone to fetishize.

    The things that provoke the sexual response (a squirt of testosterone in the male, progesterone in the female) are conditioned, but the response is physical and is triggered visually. This doesn’t bother me, as I am not a big fan of that silly old cartesian dualism.

    @wazza: Look, if a young teenager, not far into puberty, is in a lift, everyone’s packing in and an attractive young woman, by the movement of the crowd, just happens to be pressed against him, and a he gets an erection, whose fault is it? Is he being perverted?

    I can hear the bristling responses already: “how dare you imply that it’s the woman’s fault!”. How about it being nobody’s fault? Why the need for all this *blame*?

    @Mecha: The original post was about _staring at breasts_.

    Hmm. Maybe you’re right. Maybe this is all a big misunderstanding about what behaviour we are talking about. In which case, the bristling responses from the men are interesting, including my own. Shame and guilt again: do men really feel judged and made to feel wrong about every little thing they do that’s sexual? So much so that when a woman comments on a gross, overt behaviour which we can all agree is wrong: aggressive prolonged leering, all them men think it’s talking about their own little responses (glancing at, simply noticing the tits) that – in fact – the women aren’t talking about at all?

    @Zuska: Telling me men “can’t help” ogling visible breasts doesn’t cut it with me, because clearly covering them up doesn’t stop harassing behavior either.

    Sure. We have to go one degree more subtle than simply “tits=staring”. The looking-at response is triggered by whatever the male views as “the feminine”, or sexually desirable, and that’s conditioned. The hajib (with it’s little woven window) makes it worse because a guy can’t be nonverbally told to “quit it” with a return look. Mind you, the word “ogling” muddies the waters: are we talking about prolonged staring, or are we talking about the occasional look?

    @Zuska: t’s refreshing to see that at least some commenters remarked on how the harassment of women is one way men perform, define, defend their masculinity to one another. As such, it has less to do with their biological urge to procreate and more with their cultural constituted need to prove they aren’t gay.

    Yes, this happens. No point claiming that it doesn’t. And in some cases, the woman’s flustered response is part of the thrill of the whole power trip. Yes, there are assholes in the wold, and I ain’t defending them. If that’s what you though I was talking about in my reply to your previous blog entry, well, it wasn’t.

    @Bing McGhangi: Is it possible to say that men can see women as people they respect with whom they would like to have sex?
    PhysioProf: Motherfuckers need to grow the fuck up and learn to be respectful of other people’s bodily autonomy.

    I’m not sure what “respect” is. maybe it’s because I program computers, who aren’t preoccupied with what you think of them.

    @Zuska: I didn’t say either you can be respectful of women or you can have sex with them. I said either you can be respectful and treat them like humans or you can see women as sex objects who exist on earth for your ogling and groping pleasure.

    Well, there’s one of the swiftest self-contradictions I ever saw. Is there a dichotomy, or not? And again with the “respect”. Maybe it’s an american thing. Also – as eveyone knows, no matter how vociferously the politically-motivated denials vociferate, nice guys don’t get laid. That’s why “when you ask men not to behave in obnoxious harassing ways, somebody comes along and says “but why don’t you want men and women to have teh sex???””. Because in order for a man to get some, he must step over the line at some point. Always has been, always will be, until the Xists return and force-evolve us into beings of pure energy. Most men believe “respect”=”sucking up and being nice”=”no sex for you”, and have got grounds to believe it. That’s why they misunderstand what you are saying.

    @Thomas M: “since all these anecdotes about cultures where breasts are being completely ignored are being brought up to ‘prove’ that there is no biological imperative to notice a woman’s breasts, I’d like a citation of a paper on this subject, or at least a name so I can do a fucking Wiki search.”

    Come on! Everyone knows that the Japanese were way too subtle and polite to be breast-fixated until our nasty ole western Coke and McBurgers and T-shirts corrupted their culture. Up till then, the japanese men used to stare at the back of the ladies’ necks. It’s a well-known fact.

    @PhysioProf:

    1. This is Zuska’s motherfucking blog, and she’ll do whatever the fuck she wants here, regardless of all the whiny-ass whining about how she’s doing it wrong.
    2. Like I already said, this shit is not fucking complicated: adults can appreciate someone else’s appearance without being leering scumbags.
    1. Bloody hell! So just disagreeing with someone is a major crime? Or pointing out their inconsistencies? If someone doesn’t want their inconsistencies and hypocrisies pointed out to them. they should close their blog for comments. What is it with this “if you publicly disagree with me, you have violated my rights” business? The only other place I’ve seen it was coming from fundamentalist christians.
    2. Sure, but that’s not what Zuska appears to be saying. And there’s a lot of gray in the definition of “leering scumbag”. I rather suspect that a person’s judgment on what constitutes acting like a scumbag varies according to the scumbag’s appearance and whether she (the staree) is ovulating at the time, and that’s no way to jo about formulating a system of ethics or law.

    @PhysioProf: I think you may be confused about whether Zuska’s purposes include educating you or anyone else about how not to behave like a pig.

    Oh. I get it. PhysioProf …. I think you may be confusing us with somebody else. Take a chill pill, and buy one of those voodo dolls.

    @student_b: Because they’re male and they themselves don’t feel disturbed by it? You know, good old privilege.

    You object to the hajib, but would like the power to make all the men wear blinkers. Your objection to privilege is not that it’s wrong, but that you don’t have it.

    @Brian: This is getting pretty absurd. Most of the time, I find you insightful … your posts thusfar are really little more than the equivalent of “You’re not the boss of Zuska! And you’re stupid poopy-heads!”

    My, isn’t there a lit of meta on this blog!

    @A different Brian: Sexism = bad

    Sure. The problem is when members of oppressed groups use claims of oppression to gain advantage (privilege) for themselves – to control others. Sexism = bad = paul goes to prison if he looks at the wrong thing. I think perhaps some of the women here don’t appreciate the grave consequences (to men) of being accused of sexual misconduct. yes, we most certainly will fight attempts to impose rules that mean that any person, be she a woman, can have us ejected from our jobs and homes just because she happens to be in a shitty mood.

    @Samia: Women have to think about getting raped. We have to think about it a lot, because it happens a lot. So the staring/noticing/leering lines get blurred a bit.

    Does it really happen a lot? This argument has been done many times: the rape statistics depend on what you define as “rape”. And it’s easy for me to say “meh” because it ain’t going to happen to me. But yeah, maybe the guys would be less defensive with an assurance that “this isn’t necessarily about you”. Unfortunately, some of the stuff Zuska is saying applies to damn near everyone with testicles.


    @SKM: Also, Brian, I think you misread the original post–the only person who conflates staring with noticing is the original quoted commenter, Mr. Murray (who presents a false dichotomy between “tit-staring” and “ignoring tits”).

    Hmm. Maybe you’re right. lets see: The original blog post was about a female science professor being overlooked because she was a woman. A fair example of straight-up sexism. The fist mention of “tits” was by Zuska:

    @@Zuska: If you find yourself in a similar situation in the future, and Distinguished Schmuck can’t keep his eyeballs off your tits”
    Now, *there’s* a change of subject – from workplace sexism to overt sexual behaviour. Who brought that up?
    @@Jane: This might be a tangential question … We had a “Distinguished” Visitor a year or so ago whose behavior made me extremely uncomfortable (spending more time talking to parts of my body other than my face, when he bothered to talk to me at all).

    Bingo. And that’s where the topic changed.

    Then the rot set in:

    @@Lab Cat: Being short, I find tit-watchers particularly aggravating. There was a study, it might just be an urban myth, that was going around when I was a grad student, It showed that apparently only half the men questioned could recognise the faces of their female colleagues.

    So LabCat cites an urban legend, and one lacking three of the four data points that you need to establish correlation. Classy.

    I don’t know which particular post I responded to, though.


    @SKM: Brian, that’s why I said this is a case where the law has not caught up with the technology.

    This is not a case where the law has failed to catch up with technology. Is a case of a badly written law that needs to be rephrased. Persons in public, generally, do not have a right to privacy. However, an exception is what’s under your skirt (or kilt, if you are scottish). The technology is beside the point: the law as written does not outlaw peeking up people’s skirts in general if it’s done in a public place, and it should. The person should contact their elected representative and have the law changed: something along the lines of body parts or items that a person has a reasonable expectation of being concealed from view by clothing being private. This includes – by the way – what’s under a woman’s hajib, if she wears one. It won’t be retrospective, of course, but there you go.

  125. #125 Brian
    August 23, 2008
    It’s an ugly display of power and it’s meant to be threatening. It’s intended to remind us that we’re Different and Don’t Belong.”

    Well! My first reaction is “that’s a damn lie”, but hey, for all I know maybe that does happen.

    I wouldn’t say it’s a “damn lie”, but neither would I say I agree, either. Being personally ignorant of the science (or lack thereof) and evolutionary history of the human breast, I cannot say for certain whether my or any man’s impulse to just…. sneak… a peek is biologically or culturally imposed, or some combination thereof. What I can say for certain is that either way, there’s usually a sexual component to it.

    I can confidently say, however, that neither I, nor any other man I’ve met, looks at a woman’s breasts to convey power or threats, or to draw into sharper relief who doesn’t belong. Again, though, I’m not much of an ogler, so it may very well be that the very reason my behavior hasn’t passed into leering/ogling is that such behavior is meant to convey those things, which I just said I’m not (consciously, at least) motivated by.

    I think it’s perfectly plausible that there is a point, beyond noticing/admiring a woman’s body as a component of a woman as a whole, where the staring is a deliberate act meant to marginalize and, essentially, threaten. After all, I have to imagine there are different manifestations of “sexual assault” behavior, all of which are rooted in power issues. I’d be interested to find whether that’s what MissPrism is getting at.

    Well, there’s one of the swiftest self-contradictions I ever saw. Is there a dichotomy, or not? And again with the “respect”. Maybe it’s an american thing.

    Actually, if you parse what Zuska’s saying, she referring specifically to the leering/ogling behavior. She never said there wasn’t a dichotomy. She was specifying which one. The idea of being “respectful” toward women doesn’t preclude finding her attractive or noticing her body. Seeing someone as “sexy” is different than viewing him/her as a “sex object”.

    Also – as eveyone knows, no matter how vociferously the politically-motivated denials vociferate, nice guys don’t get laid. That’s why “when you ask men not to behave in obnoxious harassing ways, somebody comes along and says “but why don’t you want men and women to have teh sex???””. Because in order for a man to get some, he must step over the line at some point. Always has been, always will be, until the Xists return and force-evolve us into beings of pure energy. Most men believe “respect”=”sucking up and being nice”=”no sex for you”, and have got grounds to believe it. That’s why they misunderstand what you are saying.

    This is pretty poor reasoning, Paul. Being a man myself, I can relate to the perception that “nice guys don’t get laid”. But it doesn’t immediately follow that the way a man circumvents striking out with a woman is by being disrespectful and leering. If you honestly think that it does, I’d be interested to find out how that’s worked for you. In my experience, people evaluate one another for “power” – which is certainly a criterion for selecting a mate – via things like demonstrations of higher value, “social proof”, etc., not by how readily one makes and sustains eye contact with their naughty bits.

    One major “reason” why “nice guys don’t get laid” (not actually true, by the way), incidentally, is because they come across as too invested in the interaction, too quickly, which is a demonstration of lower value.

    I rather suspect that a person’s judgment on what constitutes acting like a scumbag varies according to the scumbag’s appearance and whether she (the staree) is ovulating at the time

    You’d be surprised. In my experience (YMMV), scumbags are scumbags, period, and while they will occasionally meet with success, this is not sufficient reason to conclude that being a scumbag can, on the whole, be a successful approach. It’s usually not (although the vague definition of “scumbag” means that this is a pretty flexible judgement call).
    Furthermore, in the event that a so-called “scumbag” is consistently successful, it does not follow naturally that his “scumbaggery” is what makes him so. Perhaps he is successful in spite of his “scumbaggedness”.

    Lastly, Paul, when people have been talking about the original post in this comment thread, they’ve generally been referring to the post at the top of this comment thread. Not the post that generated your comment, which in turn inspired the Original Post here.

  126. #126 Samia
    August 23, 2008

    Does it [rape] really happen a lot? This argument has been done many times: the rape statistics depend on what you define as “rape”.

    *facepalm*

  127. #127 SKM
    August 23, 2008

    I can confidently say, however, that neither I, nor any other man I’ve met, looks at a woman’s breasts to convey power or threats, or to draw into sharper relief who doesn’t belong.

    Thing is, Brian, you don’t know what every other man you’ve met does when you are not around. Women are in fact being harassed (and yes, by men of all colors and socioeconomic classes, in spite of what Greg Laden says in comment #22). Somebody is doing it. It may be that nobody you know does it in front of you.

    That said, I agree with your response to PM, though you do seem reluctant to accept that leering-as-power-display does happen. I wonder what would count as convincing evidence to you.

    And as for PM’s long catalogue of tired cliches and unfounded stereotypes in #124, it’s a propping up of the status quo passing as Original Thought. When did regurgitating old canards (nice guys don’t get any, a man has to “cross the line” to “get” a woman, rape is like totally exaggerated, but meh wev) become bold truth telling? I’ve been seeing this approach a lot lately in many fields (American journalism, for instance, is almost completely lost to it at the moment). Sad, really…

  128. #128 Mickle
    August 23, 2008

    First:

    Mecha, I love you.

    Second:

    “I’ve never understood how single women out for a night of fun can spend three hours getting ready to go out, making sure her makeup is perfect, hair perfect, thong shows enough to be “sexual but not slutty,” etc. then gets mad when guys stare at them.”

    Because it’s not for you.

    Sometimes it’s not even for any guy.

    Sometimes it’s not even for anyone but themselves.

    After four years of “hiding” my DD’s under oversized t-shirts in high school, re-learning that dressing up is fun at (my all women’s) college, and several more years of maturity, I’ve come to the not so startling conclusion that sometimes I like dressing up just because I like pretty stuff.

    It’s shocking, I know, but I like the cute panties that no one but me will ever see for the same reason that my paper clips are multi-colored.

    I mean, seriously. I care about whether or not my toilet brush holder is excessively ugly or a little bit stylish. Do you really think my default mode is to wear nondescript clothes?

    Yes, I most definitely adjust what I wear because of how other people will perceive me. And yes, what I think is cute, pretty, sexy, etc., is very much influenced by culture. That doesn’t make the assumption that any adjusting I do for others is to make myself look sexier – rather than the other way around – any less dumb or false.

    “If I left $1000 in cash in the front seat of my car overnight with my windows rolled down, I�m practically begging the local kids to rob me. ”

    To quote a smarter woman that I:

    “Relying on the “guy getting mugged” comparison tells us two things, however. One: It shows how deeply ingrained the notion of women’s bodies as property is. Comparing a woman’s genitals to a $100 bill visibly dangling out of a man’s pocket is laughable in both practical and intrinsic ways, and yet the association was cited with not a hint of awareness at its patent absurdity. Two: It illustrates how far removed you are from the real threat of rape. Invoking a mugging is evidently the closest thing you can imagine to being forcibly subjected to an assault on one’s sex organs. That must be a lovely world in which to live.”

    She went on to elaborate, if I remember right, regarding the idiocy of equating walking around with breasts with walking around with money.

  129. #129 SKM
    August 23, 2008

    And while I disagree with Paul Murray that men are so delicate that they need to be reassured by women that we are not talking about every one of them personally (#124: “maybe the guys would be less defensive with an assurance that “this isn’t necessarily about you”.) I will edit my second paragraph in #127 to reiterate what I’ve said before: “…by a small minority of men of all colors…..”

  130. #130 Brian
    August 23, 2008

    Brian, you don’t know what every other man you’ve met does when you are not around. Women are in fact being harassed (and yes, by men of all colors and socioeconomic classes, in spite of what Greg Laden says in comment #22). Somebody is doing it. It may be that nobody you know does it in front of you.

    True, and I should have specified. Thanks.

    though you do seem reluctant to accept that leering-as-power-display does happen. I wonder what would count as convincing evidence to you.

    Not at all. Rather, it is so foreign to my personal experience with women (because hey, if I see an attractive woman, I will sometimes glance at her breasts/butt/what have you. What I do not do is go out of my way to make her uncomfortable by staring at her “magic tits” as a power grab) that I don’t have a frame of reference. I believe it does happen, and I believe if I knew exactly how often it does, I’d be horrified.

    Oh, and Mickle, doesn’t it depend on how we define rape?

  131. #131 SKM
    August 23, 2008

    OK Brian I see what you’re saying–thanks.

    But your question to Mickle could use some clarification. Yeah, I don’t think you are suggesting that there’s a “definition” of sexual assault that makes the stolen-money analogy appropriate, but it’s not too clear what you do mean.

    My wild guess is that you are referring to the sentence Mickle quotes: “It [the mugging analogy] illustrates how far removed you are from the real threat of rape”. If that’s so, I’d point out that the “you” in that sentence *only* applies to a person who feels that rape is just like getting some money stolen. Not to men in general, some of whom are regrettably not removed from the threat of rape, by any definition.

    And now, I’m off–it’s my Mama’s birthday! w00t!

  132. #132 Brian
    August 23, 2008

    Happy birthday to your Mama, SKM.

    I forgot to close my sarcasm tag on the “definition of rape” statement. I was actually referring to Paul Murray’s quote:

    This argument has been done many times: the rape statistics depend on what you define as “rape”.

    Me? I pretty much define rape as any coercive sexual gesture that goes against the will of the person in question.

  133. #133 SKM
    August 23, 2008

    I forgot to close my sarcasm tag

    Of course. ~wince~

    Dear SKM,

    Duh!

    Sincerely,
    SKM

    Sorry, Brian–I’ll get my irony meter checked. *tap tap tap* is this thing on?

  134. #134 Paul Murray
    August 23, 2008

    Me? I pretty much define rape as any coercive sexual gesture that goes against the will of the person in question.

    Well, that explains the rape statistics. I think the courts use a finer grading than the academics, distinguishing between sexual assault and rape. I have heard that people who actually have been raped tend also to make the distinction.

    Not that it matters a great deal for the present discussion – sexual assault is still an indictable offense.

    But it doesn’t immediately follow that the way a man circumvents striking out with a woman is by being disrespectful and leering.

    True, but that is not what I said.

    Anyway. I think this topic has run out of steam. 134 posts is not too bad for a science blog.

  135. #135 Mickle
    August 24, 2008

    “Oh, and Mickle, doesn’t it depend on how we define rape?”

    I think it more depends on how we define “it.”

    In other words: “huh?”

  136. #136 Stephanie Z
    August 24, 2008

    Lora, I’m all for pretending to others while at work. In fact, I agree with basically your entire comment. It’s pretending to myself that I think is bad, mostly because if I’m not aware of it, I’m much more likely to forget to manage it and catch myself doing something stupid while most of my mind is on something else. It does stray to work occasionally. ;)

  137. #137 Kyle Finchsigmate
    August 25, 2008

    Of course you get accused of whining and acting like a victim. It’s because you’re constantly doing it. You’ve even created a blog dedicated to bitching about being a victim of circumstances that are obviously so innocuous that you’re empowered by your own bitching.

    It’s really rather fucking pathetic, if you stop to think about it.

    Seriously, looking at tits? Maybe it’s because they’re repulsed by your face? I dunno… just tossin’ it out there.

  138. #138 PhysioProf
    August 25, 2008

    Maybe it’s because they’re repulsed by your face?

    Speaking of pathetic, how about “feeblest troll ever”?

  139. #139 LJG
    August 25, 2008

    A little late to the discussion but,
    Has anybody watched Juno? Remember the scene where she is staring at the very gold running shorts and her comments about the way objects inside bounce? Anyone? Boys, does that make you uncomfortable at all?
    No?
    How about this one then – has a very voluptuous black woman ever told you that you can tell who has what when men where jeans on casual Friday? Does that make you uncomfortable at all?
    If so, welcome to the everyday ogling women experience just being. Thanks for playing!

  140. #140 Zuska
    August 25, 2008

    Kyle Finchsigmate: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! It’s so cute when the misogynists come out to play and think that their Whiney McWhinerson routine is interesting enough to be worth the time it takes to type it in the comment box!

    And Paul Murray! You are a hoot! Here I thought you were just sort of a clueless nutbag, but you are actually a Grand Master Douchey McDoucherson Grade A Old School Misogynist! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! You guys totally crack me up! Like nobody’s ever heard your tired old whiney cliche-laden asshattery a thousand times before.

    Lora in #122 is talkin’ sense folks. LISTEN UP!

    I know I promised you more in the way of a response today but mom is in the hospital and I am distracted with worry and phone calls back and forth with siblings. Maybe tomorrow.

  141. #141 Suzanne
    August 25, 2008

    My name is also Suzanne and I also go by Zuska, and I can be angry, but I’m glad I’m not as angry as you. Whew! It must be so draining to be that mad all the time.

  142. #142 Ace
    August 26, 2008

    Paul Murray, this is RE: your comments about rape. You are a worrisome human being. I don’t think you understand much about human social interaction and am not sure whether you just need to get your head out of your ass or whether you have a disorder that hinders your understanding of such things.

    You are rather clueless if you really think rape can never happen to you. I hope it doesn’t take it to happen to you for you to try and understand women and men (and children!) get raped or assaulted. This is an experience that can traumatize people for much of their lives and your treatment of such a serious issue is just to run your mouth… NO! We’re not discussing pink jogging shorts, we’re talking about fuckin’ rape. Get serious!!

    Just like people can learn to not fart in public, not stare at breasts, etc, they can and should learn when to keep your mouth shut about sensitive and important topics like violence and rape.

  143. #143 PhysioProf
    August 26, 2008

    Paul Murray is a delusional right-wing fuckwit who has also been leaving gibberish comments at other ScienceBlogs. I wouldn’t concern yourself with his deranged babbling.

  144. #144 Zuska
    August 26, 2008

    My name is also Suzanne and I also go by Zuska, and I can be angry, but I’m glad I’m not as angry as you. Whew! It must be so draining to be that mad all the time.

    Zuska is righteously angry, not mad. It isn’t the righteous anger that’s draining – righteous anger is invigorating, and much better than withdrawal, suppression, and depression. Or, in other words, “sucking it up” or “taking it like a man.”

    No, what’s draining is having to divert so much creative energy that could otherwise be spent on a myriad of other useful pursuits, to instead parsing the workings of the web of institutionalized sexism and dealing with the moronic asshats who blithely contribute to upholding its tenets. If you put a pricetag on the loss to the world because of creativity sidelined in this way, for women everywhere having to expend energy dealing with this crap, the total would be an astonishingly high number.

  145. #145 Larry
    August 26, 2008

    I think the reason this debate is so heated is that at least two types of behavior are being confused as one.

    1) the original target of the blog talking about natural male impulse to look — autonomic or subconscious glances — this is in the realm of “you have to look before you know what you’re looking at in order to be offended or enticed”. It’s natural. It’s like doing the “hair thing” when you’re around a guy you want to notice you. It’s like blushing after someone you like catches you daydreaming about them. It’s innocent.

    2) the full-on leering stare, done completely consciously and voluntarily with intent to harm or inflict mental distress. This is more like some kind of a power-ritual than any kind of legitimate courtship behavior. And yes, I 100% believe all the negative experiences and hurt caused by this type of abuse mentioned here. If this is condoned by the institution you work at, then yes, it’s “institutional sexism” at it’s worst and should be fought. This behavior is completely indefensible.

    I don’t think many of the women (or the men) posting here would easily mistake #1 for #2.

  146. #146 Militant Agnostic
    August 27, 2008

    Abstruse Goose has this to say on the topic (sort of) http://abstrusegoose.com/44

  147. #147 Greg Laden
    August 27, 2008

    SKM (127) You understand (no, seemingly not) that I was calling out those who were making hidden class based arguments (Zuska included). In other words, the basic feminist argument is sometimes, I’m sure quite unintentionally, racist.

  148. #148 CC
    August 27, 2008

    How about this one then – has a very voluptuous black woman ever told you that you can tell who has what when men where …?

    You somehow left out “why”.

  149. #149 SKM
    August 27, 2008

    You understand (no, seemingly not) that I was calling out those who were making hidden class based arguments (Zuska included). In other words, the basic feminist argument is sometimes, I’m sure quite unintentionally, racist.

    I apologize, Greg; my comment was unclear. I understood that you were calling it out, but that was not evident in my wording. I should have said something like “in spite of the construct that G.L. laid out in #22″ or some such, because I agree with you about the frequent classism in discussions of sexual harassment. I should be more careful when introducing complex ideas in parenthetical statements.

    What you call out is this view:

    white highly educated males are usually OK (because they hardly ever ogle) but Mexican worker are usually bad (because it is fairly normal to set one’s eyes on a passing female and just watch as though she was a TV with legs).

    I agree with you that this is a prevalent classist myth, but I disagree that it is “the basic feminist argument”, unless you are arguing that most people in our culture feel this way, including feminists. Also, I have not seen Zuska imply that educated white men hardly ever ogle, etc. so I’m not sure why you include her. Perhaps I missed it and you can provide a link.

  150. #150 SKM
    August 27, 2008

    One more thing, Greg: re-reading your comment #22, I notice part of the construct you call out includes “Men ogle, therefore men are bad“. In #147 you refer to the construct in #22 as “the basic feminist argument”. I don’t think it was your intention, but it’s not hard to read that as reinforcing the common myth that feminists basically think men are bad. So since I agreed with the rest of your point, I’ll clarify for those reading along at home that I don’t see acknowledging the ogling problem as saying that men are bad. Nor do most feminists hold this view in my experience.

  151. #151 Patness
    August 27, 2008

    MissPrism #17

    Ma’am, are you suggesting you can detach your tits at will?

    THAT is something I would stare at. For hours. It would burn into my mind.

  152. #152 CK
    August 27, 2008

    Sorry but you are wrong about breasts:
    Human female breasts in the current form developed as a result of the change from front to back to front to front copulation in humans. Breasts in modern human females are significantly larger than required for milk production and this increase in size occured at the same time.

    For animals that engage in front to back copulation, a female bottom is a visual sign to a male for copulation (since that is what he sees when he has sex with her).
    When humans changed from front to back to front to front copulation, that visual signal was removed. The reason for the change to front to front copulation is that it is less anonymous allowing the partners to look into each others eyes, kiss, look at each other etc. which helps pair bonding. Pair bonding in humans is important as human children take a relatively long time to reach maturity and require both parents generally to raise them.

    Human female breasts developed to mimic a human female bottom and carry out a similar function of “advertising” the fertility of the female.

    (Note human male penises are also larger than required for function)

    To sum up, certain unconscious ogling of female breasts by males is unavoidable.

  153. #153 Greg Laden
    August 27, 2008

    SKM: Right.

    The feminist argument is that ogling is a form of S.H. and that this is bad, etc. but not that all men are doing this.

    However, let’s keep track of the biological argument as well. All else being equal, as a society develops on its own, the men are going to be bad unless society makes something else happen. No society ever produced a preponderance of not-bad men without trying very hard to do so, and that is still not working so well.

  154. #154 Brian
    August 27, 2008

    @CK,

    Anything other than Desmond Morris to back that up? I ask because, while plausible, I haven’t found much more than The Naked Ape to support an idea that you seem pretty sure about. Granted, I haven’t looked that hard, but it would be nice to know that you’re citing something post-1967.

  155. #155 Zuska
    August 27, 2008

    People, life just keeps falling apart around me here. Mom is still in the hospital, information is sketchy, looks like I may be making a trip home soon to care for mom when she gets out of the hospital, roofers are tearing off my roof and hammering in a new one over my head, cats are freaking out, and I seem to be coming down with a headcold. On the plus side, I usually don’t get migraines when I have a headcold. I am so not getting any blogging done right now. I am very sorry. I am trying. It is hard to concentrate right now. I swear to you there will be a substantive response from me at some point.

  156. #156 speedwell
    August 27, 2008

    I’m a woman, and I like to be admired. I don’t seek it out for its own sake, I’m just pleased when it happens. I don’t dress provocatively or spend any more time on my appearance than it takes for me to look neat, presentable, and modestly attractive (I hope). A man staring at my bust doesn’t intimidate me, nor do I automatically assume he’s a rapist. I simply assume he’s distracted for the moment. Most of my co-workers have better manners.

    Harassment? Well, maybe I’m jaded; in college in Georgia there was this somewhat, um, damaged young man who used to drop his drawers in front of me on occasion. In public. In front of my male friends, who would halfheartedly beat the poor harmless sad thing up for his lack of decorum. After two semesters of putting up with that, having my tits surreptitiously ogled, or seeing that I may or may not have provoked the odd erection, feels like a compliment. Sorry.

    It’s a lot better than being glared at for being fat, isn’t it.

  157. #157 PhysioProf
    August 27, 2008

    Human female breasts developed to mimic a human female bottom and carry out a similar function of “advertising” the fertility of the female.

    How the fucking fuck did you come up with this wackaloonery!? Psychology Today?

  158. #158 Becca
    August 27, 2008

    CK, breasts are certainly an interesting visual cue for identifying women, and I don’t see anything really wrong with your socio-biology (even if I also don’t see any evidence for it).
    However:
    1) Noticing breasts *consciously* *during* pair-bonding front-to-front mating may be advantageous; however this does not necessarily imply that it is unavoidable to *unconsciously* notice them at other times
    2) Unconsciously noticing breasts isn’t necessarily the problematic behavior here anyway (so your point is interesting, but tangential)

  159. #159 SKM
    August 27, 2008

    How the fucking fuck did you come up with this wackaloonery!? Psychology Today?

    Close, PhysioProf: like Brian said, it’s Desmond Morris’ The Naked Ape. Yawn. Apparently ‘Man’s’ forebears were too dumb to tell boobs from butts. Or something. (and yes CK, I realize that’s a facile summary, and yes I’ve read the book).

    Zuska–all the best to you and your Mama. Take care.

  160. #160 Becca
    August 28, 2008

    I can’t help it… must post link…
    http://abstrusegoose.com/44

  161. #161 Grammar RWA
    August 28, 2008

    I’m a woman, and I like to be admired. I don’t seek it out for its own sake, I’m just pleased when it happens. I don’t dress provocatively or spend any more time on my appearance than it takes for me to look neat, presentable, and modestly attractive (I hope). A man staring at my bust doesn’t intimidate me, nor do I automatically assume he’s a rapist. I simply assume he’s distracted for the moment. Most of my co-workers have better manners.

    Harassment? Well, maybe I’m jaded; in college in Georgia there was this somewhat, um, damaged young man who used to drop his drawers in front of me on occasion. In public. In front of my male friends, who would halfheartedly beat the poor harmless sad thing up for his lack of decorum. After two semesters of putting up with that, having my tits surreptitiously ogled, or seeing that I may or may not have provoked the odd erection, feels like a compliment. Sorry.

    It’s a lot better than being glared at for being fat, isn’t it.

    Guess what, speedwell. Just because you don’t mind being judged on the basis of physical attractiveness doesn’t mean that other women should have to put up with it.

    As for your invitation for everyone to agree with you, “it’s a lot better than being glared at for being fat, isn’t it,” no. For some people it’s no better, and no different. You get your approving ogles for the exact same reason others get disapproving stares: because some self-absorbed asshole thinks it’s acceptable to judge people’s worth based on body shapes.

  162. #162 Grammar RWA
    August 28, 2008

    However, let’s keep track of the biological argument as well. All else being equal, as a society develops on its own, the men are going to be bad unless society makes something else happen. No society ever produced a preponderance of not-bad men without trying very hard to do so, and that is still not working so well.

    Shorter Greg Laden:

    Patriarchy is just natural, baby. It’s racist and classist to ask for anything else.

  163. #163 speedwell
    August 28, 2008

    …because some self-absorbed asshole thinks it’s acceptable to judge people’s worth based on body shapes.

    Really now? I didn’t get the impression that “thinking” was all that involved. And who isn’t self-absorbed?

    I like men as people, even if some of them have petty weaknesses. I was taught that it’s rude to notice other people’s rudeness. You apparently dislike men, or else you have a chip on your shoulder, or you think rudeness is a oneupmanship game.

    Oh, and having been obese, I much prefer approving stares to disapproving ones. If you disagree, I’m sorry, but your thought processes are… different. But don’t worry, the real world will still be here when you get back from your flight of fancy. Have a nice trip.

  164. #164 Greg Laden
    August 28, 2008

    Grammar: I do very much hope you are joking. (Not that the Naturalistic Fallacy is really something to joke about.)

  165. #165 mythago
    August 28, 2008

    I think the courts use a finer grading than the academics, distinguishing between sexual assault and rape.

    You do? What do you think this distinction is that “the courts” (all of them! everywhere!) make?

  166. #166 Science Avenger
    August 31, 2008

    Sort of OT, but check out the last comment on this thread over at Bora’s place, particularly this comment:

    “While neither of my daughters are academic they embody all that is beautiful about the modern Americna [sic] woman.”

    Am I the only one that translates that as “brains aren’t part of what makes modern women beautiful”?

  167. #167 Ross
    May 20, 2009

    Hello Zuska
    I am a man-and I do think women have the right to wear what they want at the workplace, agree with you -I do believe in equality between the sexes, women have fought hard for it-but some women do use their sexuality to their advantage at work. some women deliberately dress sexy to distract men at work – they enjoy using that power they have and now that men are even afraid to stare or make any comment about it because of sexual harrassment laws women nowadays are free to wear whatever they want in the office and that is why much more women now are showing more cleavage, tight blouses, push up bras – they are flaunting it – - what am I supposed to do when all around me are flashing cleavages, bouncing breasts, skimpy tops, I get horny, I cant help it, it arouses sexual thoughts in me and it distracts me from my work. I try hard not to stare because I know women wouldn’t like that but its hard,- Ladies is this fair what you are doing to men? Tell me what you think- Id like to get a ladys opinion

    Ross

  168. #168 annoyed
    November 7, 2009

    No, seriously, I happened on this blog because I typed “cant stop staring at women’s tits” into google. Anyone who feels that its a simple matter of choosing to look someone in the face when they are talking to you ask yourselves this: why would I want to alienate myself from every woman I talk to, regardless of attractiveness, age differential, volume of cleavage etc etc? Its a serious problem for me, to the extent that I cant even hold a normal conversation due to constantly concentrating as hard as possible on looking the girl in the eyes.

    Fully in agreement with the guy who says you need to spend a day in my shoes.

  169. #169 Ross
    January 6, 2010

    I am a man-and I do think women have the right to wear what they want at the workplace, I do believe in equality between the sexes, but some women do use their sexuality to their advantage at work. some women deliberately dress sexy to distract men at work – they enjoy using that power they have over them and now that men are even afraid to stare or make any comment about it because of harsh sexual harrassment laws women nowadays are free to wear whatever they want in the office and theres nothing men can do about it and that is why much more women now are showing more cleavage, breasts enhancers, tight blouses, push up bras – they are flaunting it – - what am I supposed to do when all around me are flashing cleavages, bouncing breasts, skimpy tops, I get horny, I cant help it, it arouses sexual thoughts in me and it distracts me from my work. I try hard not to stare because I know women wouldn抰 like that but its hard,- Ladies is this fair what you are doing to men? Tell me what you think- Id like to get a ladys opinion
    Ross

  170. #170 Aisha
    January 25, 2010

    Ross,

    I agree with your opinion. I think that women have gone from dressing like a ‘normal human being’ to ‘flaunting for attention’. I also think that there are two sides to the story, as well as a solution to the problem.

    Obviously, you have one side of the story- men who are naturally attracted to women. However, the other side is that many women, subconsciously or consciously, dress the way they do because of 1)media, 2)culture, 3)experience with men, 4)perceived expectations of clothing. Media is self-explanatory; the media pushes certain images of men and women, as well as how they should act, dress, etc. Just look at any make-up ad. Now, remind why we are required to wear makeup, again? For our health? Does it make us more intelligent?

    Culture tells us that women are the temptress, the seductive sexual being. Ironically, some religions/cultures do the opposite- sexualize the male (Romans…) Or, in my case, as a Muslim, Islam does neither and both at the same time. Eve did not temp Adam, they were BOTH tempted, and women are not blamed for the fall of man. Arab women cover their bodies and are subject to multiple verses in the Quran (our holy book) which talk about respect, modesty, and equality. I’m by NO means bashing any other religions, I’m merely stating that there are ancient cultural perceptions that are carried over and have evolved into modern ‘cultural norms’.

    Expectations of men… Tricky. Some women DO dress provocatively because of certain experiences they have had in the past. If you consistently wear a mini skirt to work and receive a promotion, one might assume that clothing can lead to promotions. Same with relationships. However, the opposite can be the reason. Some women were abused, mistreated, or harassed in the past by men, and feel that if they dress ‘prettier’ or more sexual, then they will receive more positive attention and that the clothing will protect them from the same experience. Don’t ask how our minds work, this is what you get :)

    Finally, perceived expectations of the clothing is a combination of 2 & 3. Women think that certain clothes produce certain outcomes (this includes makeup, hair, shoes, etc). Some think that more provocative clothing equals better treatment and positive attention, while some, like myself, think that it incites a negative and counter-productive environment. I choose to cover my body as an act of feminism- not religion- so that men aren’t even tempted to look at me as a sexual being. Of course, we all are, but I would rather conduct a conversation with a coworker who was listening to what I had to say, rather than staring at my breasts. You all do it. Don’t deny it. But it’s okay if you try not to. I’m just doing my part to help.

    A

  171. #171 Ross Campbell
    February 10, 2010

    Hello Aisha
    Thanks for your reply – its nice to get a ladies opinion-it was interesting what you said- you agree with me – women do like the attention they get from their male co workers when they are sexy dressed in the office. but i dont think its just the media or men – surely many educated women make up their own minds in the matter- someone said that they may be looking for a partner in the workplace and therefore want to attract a mate. after all dressing sexy is nothing new I was watching a film on Napoleon and all the women at that time displayed ample cleavage -low cut dresses were the norm. Aisha My email is ros1_@hotmail.com if you wish to discuss it further
    kind regards
    Ross

  172. #172 Ross Campbell
    February 18, 2010

    I have a question for the ladies out there
    According to Elisabeth The Boob lady womens breasts are getting bigger while tops are getting skimpier .
    Does that mean that generally women look sexier in the workplace than they did in the past. I would imagine therefore that their male colleagues now would be more distracted by this than in the past- what do you think ladies

    Ross

  173. #173 peter c
    April 10, 2010

    Women will go ‘under the kniwe’ to enlarge their BREASTS,use more sillicon than Silicon Valley at the boom years of high teck,not to mention plastic surgery’s,even GM would blush with their plastic bumpers,and yet they say “oh men are so crule looking at our tits” common ladies we are not blind neither so stupid like you percieve us:)) Long live BIG TITS!

  174. #174 Luna_the_cat
    April 11, 2010

    Illiterate stereotyping troll is illiterate.

    neither so stupid like you percieve us
    Couldn’t prove that by you.

  175. #175 CJ
    April 11, 2010

    Ignoring tits in your visual field is as easy as it is for a woman to simply ignore a cute baby in the vicinity

    Eh… the female equivalent would be staring at cock-bulges, not drooly babies. Duh. And I do look at those. While wearing sunglasses. :)

    As for the whole boobwatch thing, I wouldn’t know anything about that, as mine aren’t made of plastic (and it seems that American men prefer fake over natural, after all). The obsession with McBreasts is demonstrative of these men’s passion for all things processed and scientifically altered. Men don’t love boobs… they love technology. And they love to destroy women with that technology.

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