The World as Will and Misrepresentation » The Real Story Of Ocular Harassment

The Real Story Of Ocular Harassment

On the one hand, sympathy is due to the woman who is irritated by a man’s staring at her breasts at the expense of looking her in the eye, especially when they are supposed to be holding a conversation. On the other hand, it is hard to legislate against men looking at women’s figures, in the sense of both defining the limits of offensive ogling and enforcing the prohibition. Moreover, in the interests of equality ought we not to forbid women from their approximate asset-checking equivalent – that is, from noticing how tall the man is, or how fashionably dressed?

On the gripping hand, much female clothing is deliberately designed to display and accentuate the breasts, and the same goes for the butt, the legs, and any other erogenous zone you care to mention, or admire. Some cocktail dresses and Oscar gowns render the breasts almost as visible as the nose; it is hard then to credit the claim that the wearer does not want them to be noticed. What, then, is actually going on when a woman deliberately wears sexy clothes to present her figure to best advantage, but then complains about male eyeballing?

One possibility is that “undesired attention” actually refers to calibration. A woman’s strategy is about raising her price; the come-on of the revealing clothes is balanced by the verbal barrier of mock-modesty, so that the final message is that she is “available but expensive”. It is obvious that such calibration is going to have the side-effect of attracting bidders offering an inadequate price, hence their attention is indeed “undesired”.

A related explanation is that a woman’s social status is measured partly by the men she attracts, which means that attention from inferior men is compromising. Inferior men must therefore be driven off before they can call her status into question, and one way of doing this is pressing their Demeaning Mother buttons with moralistic rebukes. Some women, however, genuinely imagine that they can wear extremely revealing clothes and attract the attention only of men they themselves fancy. Because for such women unattractive men do not really exist, they keep forgetting to take their reactions into account, and are therefore surprised and aggrieved when the otherwise invisible peasantry cops itself an ogle.

Finally, there is entrapment; putting others in the wrong is fun, and what easier way to have that fun than showing off your tits and then being offended when they are looked at?

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  1. Written by urban
    on September 23, 2011 at 19:17
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    I’ve only seen it once, but there is a t-shirt out there that says “Stop Staring at My Tits!”, right across the nipples. The text is part of a design and the type is small enough that you need to get pretty close to read it, but big enough to pique curiosity about what it might say from seven or eight feet away.

    I couldn’t tell whether it was intended as an ironic joke made by someone who doesn’t mind at all being checked out, (indeed she was strutting her stuff), or was better understood as self-righteous entrapment. “How dare you objectify me with your male gaze!”

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