How objectification silences women – the male glance as a psychological muzzle

By Ed Yong | January 12, 2010 9:30 am

For something intangible, a glance can be a powerful thing. It can carry the weight of culture and history, it can cause psychological harm, and it can act as a muzzle. Consider the relatively simple act of a man staring at a woman’s body. This is such a common part of modern society that most of us rarely stop to think of its consequences, much less investigate it with a scientific lens.

Tamar Saguy is different. Leading a team of Israeli and US psychologists, she has shown that women become more silent if they think that men are focusing on their bodies. They showed that women who were asked to introduce themselves to an anonymous male partner spent far less time talking about themselves if they believed that their bodies were being checked out. Men had no such problem. Nor, for that matter, did women if they thought they were being inspected by another woman.

Saguy’s study is one of the first to provide evidence of the social harms of sexual objectification – the act of treating people as “de-personalised objects of desire instead of as individuals with complex personalities”. It targets women more often than men. It’s apparent in magazine covers showing a woman in a sexually enticing pose, in inappropriate comments about a colleague’s appearance, and in unsolicited looks at body parts. These looks were what Saguy focused on.

She recruited 207 students, 114 of whom were women, on the pretence of studying how people communicate using expressions, gestures and vocal cues. Each one sat alone in a room with a recorder and video camera. They had two minutes to introduce themselves to a male or female partner, using a list of topics such as “plans for the future” or “four things you like doing the most”. The partner was supposedly sat in the next room and either watching the speaker from the neck up, watching from the neck down, or just listening on audio. The camera was tilted or blocked accordingly.

Saguy found that women talked about themselves for less time than men, but only if they thought they were being visually inspected by a man, and particularly if they thought their bodies were being checked out. They used the full two minutes if they were describing themselves to another woman (no matter where the camera was pointing) or if they were speaking to a man who could hear but not see them. But if their partner was a man watching their bodies, they spoke for just under one-and-a-half minutes. You can see these differences in the graph below (although note that the y-axis starts at 60, a practice I don’t particularly like).

Men had no such qualms. They used the full two minutes regardless of whether they were being watched or listened to, and no matter the gender of their partner. The fact that men didn’t react in the same way is important. For a start, it shows that it’s a man’s gaze and not just any downward glance that affects a woman’s behaviour. It also puts paid to the false equivalence arguments that are often put forward when discussing gender issues (i.e. “women look at male bodies too”). 

When the students answered a questionnaire after the experiment, both men and women “felt more like a body than as a real person” if the camera focused on them from the neck down. But only the women were really put off by it. Around 61% of them disliked the body-pointed camera, compared to just 32% who disliked the face-pointing one or 7% who disliked the audio. For the men, 36% disliked the body camera, 42% disliked the face one and 22% disliked the audio. 

As Saguy explains, “When a woman believes that a man is focusing on her body, she narrows her presence… by spending less time talking.” There are a few possible reasons for this. Saguy suspects that objectification prompts women to align their behaviour with what’s expected of them – silent things devoid of other interesting traits. Treat someone like an object, and they’ll behave like one. Alternatively, worries about their appearance might simply distract them from the task at hand.

Obviously, this experiment used a fairly artificial scenario. In the real world, social interactions are more complicated and objectification can take place more subtly, with a quick glance rather than a blatantly angled camera.

Even so, these behaviours don’t go unnoticed. They could be major problems if the same detrimental silencing effect in Saguy’s study applies in real-world situations where being vocal is important for success – job interviews, work meetings, networking sessions, classrooms and more. There will always be hardened lechers among us but often, objectification happens without us thinking about it or becoming aware of it. It’s time, perhaps, that more of us did.

Reference: Saguy et al. 2010. Interacting Like a Body: Objectification Can Lead Women to Narrow Their Presence in Social Interactions. Psychological Science http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797609357751

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Comments (139)

Links to this Post

  1. male gaze « generation justice | December 2, 2010
  1. dreg

    Wait a minute … this is a strange title for the paper. There was no objectification going on at all. This study is not about what effects men have on women but about what women think about men and suggests that women are sexist. This could, of course, be their response to their real-life experience with men, but the study has nothing to say about that.

  2. I think there’s a false dichotomy between treating someone as a “depersonalized object of desire” and treating them as “an individual with a complex personality.” Is not it possible to treat someone as a sexually desirable individual with a complex personality? From where comes the assumption that finding someone’s body desirable depersonalizes them? Last I checked, most people want to have sex with people, not with objects. Sexual desire and desirability, being part of “the human experience,” ought to make us feel like more of a person, not less, or so it seems to me. This is something that has always bugged me about this subject area.

  3. steve

    ‘dreg’ pretty much called this out.
    The objectification is just assumed.
    As I get older and less likely to be motivated by sexual drive, I wonder if my ‘looks’ are objectification, habit, or just a natural part of being human.
    As I get older, more secure, and less likely to disclaim looking at BOTH sexes, I note that men tend to look at everyone. Would that naturally mean we objectify guys, too?
    This study leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but does correctly note that women are more likely to assume intent from a look, whether they do so correctly is not clear.
    As always, Mr. Yong, a well written blog.

  4. Mike P

    Steve, I think you’re absofuckinglutely missing the point. Whether it’s a natural part of being human or not, and whether there is “intent” or not, does nothing to detract from the fact that there are real negative effects on one half of the human species. I’m not going to address the naturalistic fallacy, but I will address the question of intent.
    If a man glances over a woman’s body, he’s sizing it up. He may very well do the same thing to men’s bodies. The different intents may be similar or different; they could be sexual in nature or just taking stock of physical characteristics or whatever. There are as many different shades of intent as there are people. All of these are objectifying, in the sense that they are, in that moment, viewing the person as an object to be examined. What this study suggests is that this type of de facto objectification has a negative impact on women, regardless of intent.
    And choruses cry out, “Well what are we supposed to do then, just not look at anybody, for chrissakes??” No. As Ed pointed out, the real world is subtle. And women are not stupid or fragile. They can recognize the difference between a taking-stock-of-the-situation look and a gaze that lingers. Ed’s final point is that we should be aware of this. Simply being aware of it (and respectful enough of women to not want to cause them psychological discomfort even if — and this is important — we don’t intend to do so!) may be enough to keep men’s eyes focused on the business at hand, as it were.

  5. If we’re evolutionarily programmed to want good mates (in the genetic partner sense, not as friends), then maybe women subconsciously feel that they don’t have to say anything once a man has started checking out her body. She’s already got him interested.
    OK, I’m the bad guy.

  6. Ed Yong

    Mike P gets it.
    I’d recommend the others to click on the link I made to a feminist blog, from the words “sexual objectification”. That should answer Chuck’s question about the difference between objectification and attraction, and a lot of the other issues about this topic. Which have come up many times before. Also consider the fact that the study was well-controlled and think about what that means. In particular, the fact that only one combination of factors – men looking at women’s bodies – led to the silencing effect. Not general looks from men. Not looking at men’s bodies.
    Kathy – your argument falls down when you consider that the women actively disliked the experience.

  7. Brian

    Um… might this not just as easily demonstrate a difference in self-image and body-comfort between men & women, especially when being regarded by the opposite sex?

  8. My real question comes from a different angle.
    The article seems to point an accusatory finger at men’s behavior and suggest that men should change the way they look at women because it causes women to shut down.
    But is this truly empowering to women?
    I think it encourages women to remain victims and blame their failures in life on men’s objectification of them. I also think it undermines any chance of true equality we have.
    I feel articles like this encourage women to be whiny and creates resentment in men. Is that what we want for America?
    Successful people learn to work with and adapt to the world as it is, not sit around crying about how they failed because someone stared at their boobs.
    I think we should study how to teach women to overcome obstacles rather than teaching them to be victims.

  9. Brian

    Or, I suppose, I could say this:
    Sexual objectification may have produced the results you report, but the objectification in question is not the perceived act of a male looking at the tape of a woman’s body, but rather the societal and experiential phenomenon of female sexual objectification, which ultimately produced the response.
    Does this make sense?

  10. scottknick

    Two observations:
    1) According to the data, women are less comfortable speaking to men even just by audio than they are speaking to women who are actively staring at their bodies. This does bespeak a gender bias that does not seem to be factored into the analysis.
    2) Isn’t there a third valid interpretation of the women’s behavior — that they speak less to men who are ogling them because they don’t want to encourage the behavior?

  11. SC

    Brian, precisely, and it’s the ‘societal and experiential phenomenon’ that women experience, day to day. Hence this is the thing which affects their self-image and behaviour.
    And Rebecca, I’ve no idea what *you* want for America, but what does your ‘we’ there have to do with an article on a British blog about Israeli research? Do you think you might be just a teeny little bit self-centred and forget sometimes that not everyone in the world is in the same position as you? Now let’s try applying that insight to your argument of ‘let us ignore trying to understand the way women may be affected by gender issues and just tell them all that it’s their fault for whining.’

  12. Valkyrie607

    “I think there’s a false dichotomy between treating someone as a “depersonalized object of desire” and treating them as “an individual with a complex personality.”” –Chuck
    No Chuck, the dichotomy is not false. Key words: DEPERSONALIZED OBJECT. You can desire a person, or you can desire an object. But you can’t do both at the same time. You either view women as people, or you don’t.

  13. Paul W.

    I’m curious how often men actually check out women’s bodies in various contexts, and how often women do, in various real-life scenarios.
    I’m pretty sure my wife checks out people’s bodies (both sexes) far more than I do. (Faces, too.) I trained myself not to, long ago, because I don’t want to get caught looking and make somebody uncomfortable. (Especially women.)
    Often this comes up when she comments on something somebody was wearing, if only to identify them; I generally have no clear recollection, because I habitually don’t pay much attention to clothes because—it might seem like paying attention to the bodies they’re wrapped around.
    My wife consistently “gets away with it”—nobody finds her threatening or creepy. I don’t think I would, but I don’t know how much that’s about our respective sexes vs. other aspects of our appearance and demeanor. (She’s also good at listening to smalltalk. People open up and gabble away endlessly at her.)
    By the way, none of the above should be construed as implying that the problem is all in women’s heads. I’m familiar with other research that makes it clear women are judged about their looks more than men.
    (For example, not only are men judged less about their own looks, but a man’s attractiveness and apparent status depends on the physical attractiveness of a woman he’s with far more than vice versa. That’s pathetic.)

  14. Crystal

    A thought: if you wanted to find out if the female participant’s discomfort resulted from her beleif/impression that she was being sexually objectified by her partner, and was NOT the result of her partner’s gender, repeat the experiment and tell the female participant that her female partner (i.e. the listener/watcher) is gay. Presumably, if the issue is objectification, this scenario would elicit a similar response, i.e., the female participant would feel uncomfortable being watched but fine with an audio-only interaction.

  15. Brian

    SC, exactly what I was getting at.
    I think (though admittedly I don’t know) that the everyday experiences of women is, more or less, a cumulative depersonalization via portrayals on television, magazine covers, etc., and in social interactions, such that the societal and experiential message many women receive tells them that their looks and sexual attractiveness are the currency upon which their value is, at least in part, based.
    This research, to me, didn’t support the notion that when a man looks at a woman’s body, it’s somehow an overt act of depersonalization (although I suppose it could be) that is wholly different from a woman looking at a man’s body. Granted, I didn’t read the paper, but based upon what I read in Ed’s post, it seems as though the different reactions depending upon who’s watching speak more to the systematic depersonalization of women than to the effects of any one instance of a male looking at a woman’s body.
    Or, shorter version: I’m guessing the response noted in the research was due to problems with body image and value. The problems with body image and value, on the other hand, are due to systematic sexual depersonalization of women in general.
    Not being a woman, however, I’ll leave my contribution at that, and eagerly await the responses of others.

  16. R. Turner

    Women are self-conscious. Men are not. The flaw is with the women. Kudos to men for being confident and mature.

  17. Kim

    Thank you for blogging about this study, Ed. I wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise.

  18. g

    This is such bullshit… women have been sexual booty for aeons. They know it. And they know they don’t need to talk to get the guy. It is only very recently, perhaps, that more egalitarian societies exist, that try to socialize both men and women into the roles of the other. It works, but only to a certain extent.
    Sexism is a real issue, but nobody calls women sexists when they look for men with high social status, which is precisely the equivalent of “objectifying” women when men look for signs of reproductive health (hotness).
    This is just feminist politically correct bullshit.

  19. becca

    d00ds who think this doesn’t prove objectification- you’re right. It doesn’t. You’re still an idiot if you think you should look at womens bodies. Look, I’ll try to be sensitive and not threaten you by too much staring-type eye contact (my best explanation for why men don’t respond so well to face-gazing; if you’ve got another, please enlighten me). You keep your eyes on my face. We’ll all be happy.
    “might this not just as easily demonstrate a difference in self-image and body-comfort between men & women, especially when being regarded by the opposite sex?”
    Fair question. I will say that consciously, at least, my self-image and body-comfort issues are triggered more by women looking at me than by men.
    If you don’t grok that, go to a ballet audition with teenage girls.
    On the other hand, I’m somewhat nonheterormative, and that may be a confounder.
    As an aside- as Crystal mentions, I’m inclined to think they should have checked specifically in groups of women attracted to women, and men attracted to men.
    Rebecca B- Can you know, with certainty, that you wouldn’t have been influenced like the women in this study (at least to some degree)?
    It’s easy to say it’s just a matter of overcoming this stuff, but a lot of the time I don’t think people *know* they are doing things like this.
    It’s a bit like the studies that show the effects of advertising. We all like to think “advertising doesn’t influence me, I’m smarter than that”, but, statistically, we’re wrong (at least some of the time).
    Which is a good argument in favor of doing more studies like this; you probably can overcome this obstacle if you know about it.
    One caveat that hasn’t been mentioned- we’re all assuming talking less is a bad thing. We’re also all people who comment on blogs, and thus probably think we’ve got something to say. I, for one, don’t like the idea of being muzzled.
    I’d like to redo this experiment, videotaping the people’s responses from an angle that didn’t reveal where the obvious camera was (i.e. use a second, hidden camera that didn’t show directly where people thought others could see them) and then used *that* video to show to people and have those viewers rate the people for various traits like “likability” “trustworthiness” and, importantly, “would you hire this person?”. If you could show that women who were aware of the video from the neck down were presenting themselves in a way that was perceived less favorably, THEN you’d be showing not only that the objectification silences women, but that it MATTERS. Oh well. Future directions for the researchers, I suppose.
    “Isn’t there a third valid interpretation of the women’s behavior — that they speak less to men who are ogling them because they don’t want to encourage the behavior?”
    This might depend on whether the subjects were told the other party controlled the camera angle. But since men and women both felt objectified, this interpretation is definitely possible. Of course, it’s not mutually-exclusive to other interpretations.

  20. dreg

    It is interesting that the discussion is about men’s behavior and attitudes. The study says nothing about that. Don’t let your stereotypes mislead you. What the study shows is a strong sexist attitude of women concerning people of whom they know nothing but their gender. If the researchers wanted to draw conclusions about the cause of this sexist attitude in terms of women’s experience with men, they should have, for example, compared similar responses of women living in macho cultures vs. less macho environments. Without this, the study is completely irrelevant in judging men’s behavior (not that I would want to defend them).

  21. taerog

    “I’m guessing the response noted in the research was due to problems with body image and value. The problems with body image and value, on the other hand, are due to systematic sexual depersonalization of women in general.”
    I agree, All of the Women I know that do not have a self value and body image problem also tend to “enjoy” being “checked out” and talk about it and have fun with it.
    But the vast majority are body self conscious to the extreme (even obsessed) and any attention to there body at all freaks them out.
    So it is the society and self image that needs to be fixed not the looking.
    Another level of equality . . if Men can handle it why can’t Woman? a gender weakness? no a learned societal weakness.

  22. R. Turner

    I, for one, will NOT be going out of my way to avoid looking at women’s bodies. As a man I do not ask people to avoid looking at me.
    If they are so self-conscious they should exercise. If men didn’t evaluate women’s bodies the gene pool and quality of children would deteriorate because we would procreate with unhealthy, poorly kept women. If dating is not the issue then it should be of no concern.
    As a man I will NOT be demonized to accommodate female insecurity. The REAL problem is with men who bash other men for “brownie points” in their own feeble attempts to be seen in a higher, more noble light… all of which is a subconscious attempt to secure their OWN sexual privileges.
    I would rather the author research the lack of accountability women have for their own psychological state. This sense of entitlement to remain immature is the REAL cause of this phenomenon, not the NATURAL male inclination to observer their entire environment.
    I dismiss the notion that men are generally fantasizing and staring blankly at women’s covered breasts and/or other body parts.
    Women habitually glance at a man’s “bulge”, not to mention his arms, back, and general build. Men have accepted this as a normal primal female instinct and have risen above it without allowing it to hinder our self expression.
    This can be interpreted as a measure of a type of female inferiority in relation to men.

  23. Male

    The only way that heterosexual Western men can engage in physical beauty is by leering at women. We are not permitted to feel beautiful for beauty’s sake. It would be considered cruel and dehumanizing to force a woman into a drab uniform her whole life, but this is imposed upon half of our society.

  24. Louisa

    I write as a woman who has never felt objectified or invaded by a man in any situation. I feel it is up to the woman to learn how to feel confidence within – and to not feel objectified. We can never blame another person for our actions, be it man or woman. – whether the action is to remain silent, or something else. If a woman remains silent because she feels examined or affected by a man’s glance, then it is up to her to find the strength and confidence within to look past that and express herself as SHE feels fit to. Physical attraction and investigation is done by both genders – and men should not be scrutinized just because they more often have the strength to look past the observer (man or woman) and focus on their own objectives. Women should possess this ability too. Thank you for listening – this is coming from an elderly, well educated and worldly woman who during her life worked in a social/medical context with diverse people from all walks of life, in many different parts of the world.

  25. Matt

    My theory on this would be that this result is seen because women enter into a tense state under male observation. The basis for this would be that prolonged male attention is historically (within the species history) often a sign of intention to rape (or other forced sexual or violent contact that they’re ill equipped to deal with). That tension/fear is not something that encourages openness and in women it tends more frequently to cause a flight rather than fight response.
    Put another way, its not that women gazing at women doesn’t involve any examination as an object, but that that examination as an object has no consequences. Men don’t care so much if they’re being seen as an object, either by women or men, because there isn’t any consequence to being treated as an object for them (or at least, none that isn’t dealt with by fight rather than flight and that that encourages less openness). Likewise for women on women.
    One way to test this would be to look for a self assessed measure of desire to please other people or a measure that assesses how important it is that other people engage with you only as a person. If this shows correlations then that would be evidence against the idea I outlined above.
    As an aside it’s also got to be the case that when you look at someone else, you don’t see them as an object “instead” but rather see them as an object “as well” (in way, you have a more “complete” sense of them). Otherwise men would have ceased talking (as there isn’t anyone listening) when their bodies were under focus, unless they had a bad theory of mind (I don’t think men are *that* bad at theory of other minds).
    I also think the idea that people want to be considered as people rather than objects, although okay as a general rule, is a bit misguided as an overall theory. I’d guess that people want to be treated as people when it serves their ends and they don’t when they it doesn’t. I’m skeptical being seen as a person is of any inherent value to anyone. If you think that you’re a really terrible person (which you may be), would you really want the focus to be on you as a person rather than as an object (if you’re a good quality object), or would you rather play to your strengths and smooth over unflattering comparisons that result from looking at you as a person?

  26. Lynne

    This comment thread is weird. It seems to be mostly men saying it’s okay to stare at women’s bodies.
    “Women are self-conscious. Men are not. The flaw is with the women.”
    “women have been sexual booty for aeons. They know it. And they know they don’t need to talk to get the guy.”
    “Women habitually glance at a man’s “bulge”,” (really?? eww)
    I guess these things hold up okay if you’re talking about men and women at a club, or on the beach, or at a party. But the issue that Ed brought up was, what about when these attitudes are applied to ” job interviews, work meetings, networking sessions, classrooms and more.”?
    I will only talk about my own experiences. If I am talking to a man about science, and he is staring at my breasts, I can only assume that he isn’t paying very much attention to what I am saying. I will probably stop talking to him. Not because I am self conscious, or feel that I have closed the deal and we should go jump into bed together. Because I think he is a creep. If said creep might have great insights into the science I was trying to discuss with him, I have just lost out on something professionally, that a man in my position would not have missed out on.
    I would NEVER stare at a man’s body during a conversation. Is it really that hard to just not look?

  27. dreg

    Lynne: the question is why you (or the women in the study) don’t think that SHE is a creep if she is staring at your breasts.

  28. ray

    I believe that NOT looking at the breasts of a woman who displays as much as the law allows, is insensitive and impolite.

  29. It’d be nice to see some error bars on the graphs, but oh well.
    One hypothesis for why men tended to dislike the “face camera” condition is that eye contact between males can be threatening. (A lot of bar fights have started with the phrase, “What the f**k are you looking at?”)
    An interesting followup, too, would be to examine the content of the descriptions under the various conditions. Are certain topics played up or avoided?

  30. R. Turner

    “I would NEVER stare at a man’s body during a conversation. Is it really that hard to just not look?”
    No, it isn’t hard unless the woman is exposing herself. If a man was in your office in a tank-top and speedo I’m sure you would look. These “creeps” are a SMALL MINORITY of men, rarely present in professional settings, and hardly worth anyone’s attention.

  31. Lynne

    re: dreg: I have never experienced a woman staring at my breasts while I was trying to talk to her.

  32. dreg

    Re: Lynne: But the women in the study did – or at least they should have assumed women’s staring as much as they assumed men’s staring. This is about women’s assumptions and not about men’s behaviors.

  33. Lynne

    Re: R. Turner: I don’t know that they are a “SMALL MINORITY” of men. I think that’s what this whole post is about. And if a man was in my office in a speedo, I would probably be more grossed out than anything else.

  34. Hi Ed, great post. Just to let you know that your link in the post to the Feminism 101 Blog’s FAQ on objectification is to the old site rather than the new site – the discussion is fresher at the new site! (The FAQs are also much easier to navigate at the new site)

  35. Yes, thank you Lynne, that’s pretty much what I was coming to say. It’s not “political correctness” to treat women as fellow human beings in workplace situations.
    From my experience:
    – There is a difference between looking at a woman and staring or ogling. I can tell the difference, and most other women can tell the difference.
    – While ogling can be appropriate in a social situation, it’s inappropriate in a business situation. It does make me uncomfortable and self-conscious when it seems as if the man I’m talking to only can focus on my breasts. Look me in the eye, please.
    – The majority of men, in my experience, don’t do this. It’s the small percentage that do that can make for an uncomfortable work environment, particularly with the ogler is your boss or is otherwise in a position of power. This is not a matter of “men” not being able to control themselves, it’s a small number of men who have chosen not to behave appropriately.
    And from experience, it’s often those same staring men who treat their female coworkers or employees as if they are inherently unable to perform their job. The problem isn’t the staring, it’s the inability to see women as fellow humans that’s the problem.

  36. Tracy

    R. Turner, I suspect the only “bulge” you have that gets habitual glances is your blockhead. As a woman, I can very safely say I do not habitually, nor even occasionally, check out anyone’s “bulge”. Your conclusion that women are inferior to men is so moronic I hardly know where to begin, and I doubt you’d understand why you’re so wrong anyway.
    Although I won’t profess to know exactly why women finishd their statements to men in significantly shorter time when the camera pointed neck down, I doubt it’s as simple as “they should exercise”. No one said the study participants were all chubby women who should be ashamed. I would guess many of the students were quite nice looking (these were students remember, most likely very young women). The fact that they spoke less to men even when the camera was directed as their face (see graph) shows that it’s not just body image, although the effect was exacerbated with body vs. face.
    I would guess that it results from the distraction that comes when you know you’re being checked out. If women were as visual and picky about body parts as men, men would probably act the same (speak less).
    It might be interesting to see an experiment that requires men to discuss something in their introduction that they believe women/potential mates would likely judge them on, such as their car, job or earnings. I bet we could find a way to show similar “insecurities” in men. Not that I want anyone to be insecure. I’m fairly attractive and have no shortage for words, but I bet I would have clammed up if I had a camera pointed on my body too. It just overtly says “I don’t care what you’re saying. I’m watching, not listening”.
    People have a general aversion to being recorded. Knowing a potential mate is on the other end of it just adds a little stress. I think the variables that would stress men more just weren’t included here. Interesting paper though, thanks Ed!

  37. Lynne

    dreg, I think my point was that it is not something one would encounter in the real world. If a woman was staring at my body, I would probably assume there was something on my shirt. (Come to think of it, I did experience this once! When I was nursing my daughter…) So you are probably right, that women’s assumptions about the men affected the outcome of the study. But where do those assumptions come from? Some people posted earlier about how the objectification of women across our whole society affected this study, and I think that is probably true.
    My point is: of the women in the study had never experienced men staring at their bodies in a “creepy* way while they were trying to have a conversation, there probably would have been no difference between the two conditions (man staring versus woman staring). But most of us have experienced this.
    So thanks for the post, Ed, and the sentiment, “There will always be hardened lechers among us but often, objectification happens without us thinking about it or becoming aware of it. It’s time, perhaps, that more of us did.”

  38. DrugMonkey

    sorry for the off-topic Ed but this from the younguns
    Future directions for the researchers, I suppose.
    makes me very happy. Now just drop the “I suppose” and add “absolutely essential research for the saving of all that is Right and Good” and becca will be ready to be a PI…

  39. Katharine

    “Women are self-conscious. Men are not. The flaw is with the women. Kudos to men for being confident and mature.”
    Oh fuck, you are wrong on so many levels. Ever heard of what’s popularly called ‘manorexia’?

  40. Katharine

    R. Turner, it appears you 1) know nothing about history and 2) know nothing about sociological research and 3) know nothing about women.
    Part of the issue with women being a bit self-conscious is that there is an element of FEAR. We are physically smaller than most men. When we are leered at by, say, a big hulking dude on the street, especially if we’re alone and it’s dark, we’re going to think ‘Oh fuck, is he going to try to rape me?’.
    What entitlement to remain immature? We are responsible for our own emotional state. I manage to maintain, for what it’s worth, a sense of simply ignoring the sexist shitheads around me if they can’t affect my life. However, sexism CAN and DOES affect women’s lives in ways that are more pervasive than some snot-nosed little asshole making a misogynist comment in a neutral situation. You ignore millennia of institutionalized sexism.
    How’s about this? You are more likely to be evaluated extremely poorly by other women and you’d probably only be evaluated positively by insecure women because of your apparently shit intelligence – it is a well-known fact that more intelligent men are more fertile.
    Until you educate yourself a bit, please haul your sexist ass off this blog.

  41. Anon

    I am not responsible for “millennia of institutionalized sexism”. I am not responsible for the actions, thoughts, or anything done by anybody that is not myself. It is incredibly offensive to tell me that I am responsible for the actions of people that I’ve never communicated with in any manner. By blaming me for the actions of people I cannot control you accomplish nothing but to drive off a person who would otherwise support your goals.

  42. Helen

    Wow, am I in a parallel universe where the 60’s didn’t happen..? Some of these comments are just disturbing (to the point where I really hope you have nothing better to do and are just trolling). If these are your real opinions, well I hope I never have the misfortune to meet any of you in real life. You sound like the online versions of the van drivers who think it’s acceptable to shout and honk their horn at me while I’m minding my own business walking to the shops. And I will point out here that I keep myself well covered up (not that that should matter) even in the summer as I sun burn very easily. Have you ever though us women feel so uncomfortable about men staring at us because we have a good idea of what you have on your mind? http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/feb/16/sex-object-photograph

  43. Lynne

    Re: anon @ 4:47: Don’t stare at my breasts when I’m talking to you, and I won’t assume anything about you. But if you do, you are absolutely contributing to “institutionalized sexism.”

  44. Katharine

    “I am not responsible for “millennia of institutionalized sexism”. I am not responsible for the actions, thoughts, or anything done by anybody that is not myself. It is incredibly offensive to tell me that I am responsible for the actions of people that I’ve never communicated with in any manner. By blaming me for the actions of people I cannot control you accomplish nothing but to drive off a person who would otherwise support your goals.”
    I never said you were responsible for it, I said some idiot and plenty of other sexists have FORGOTTEN it. Your reading comprehension sucks.

  45. anon

    @43 Define staring. I see constant complaints about ogling without a single definition of what ogling is. And this must be a quantitative, objective definition or else it is utterly worthless.
    I see women look at me every single day, but because I’m not socially conditioned to find the idea of sex degrading I don’t care.

  46. Mackenzie

    dreg:
    I’m not sure why it’d make sense to assume the women were staring at boobs though. They have their own! They don’t need to look at another woman to see boobs, and the likelihood that the woman watching the screen is a lesbian or bi is pretty low anyway. Though really, if I look at another woman’s boobs, it’s usually “oh my god, she really needs to go get fitted for a better fitting bra!” not “wow, hot tits!” I think a more common way of women looking at each other is “I wish I had her boobs/butt/hair/whatever” which isn’t the same as “I wish I was feeling her boobs/butt/hair/whatever.”
    My experience with lesbians and bi women is that they know exactly how women don’t want to be hit on, and so they don’t make the same mistakes guys do as regards creepiness.

  47. anon

    @45 I haven’t forgotten it. I ignore it as it is utterly irrelevant when discussing social interactions between equals in the present. You are as bad as those who claim that since men currently have more power than women in general in society, that the male gaze takes inherently power from women, and always will even in relationships where both parties are equals. I bet you go so far as to claim that the female gaze can never take power from men, don’t you.

  48. Raging Bee

    Saguy’s study is one of the first to provide evidence of the social harms of sexual objectification – the act of treating people as “de-personalised objects of desire instead of as individuals with complex personalities”.
    Here’s where the study starts to fail: it uses a vague word, “objectification,” and uses it to include everything from looking at a woman’s breasts all the way down to rape and forcible enslavement. Sorry, they’re not the same, and lumping them together under one word only makes the word meaningless. (And since people look at each other’s physical features almost all the time anyway, regardless of their feelings toward each other, when does this standard automatic behavior become “objectification?”)
    As Saguy explains, “When a woman believes that a man is focusing on her body, she narrows her presence… by spending less time talking.” There are a few possible reasons for this. Saguy suspects that objectification prompts women to align their behaviour with what’s expected of them – silent things devoid of other interesting traits.
    Here’s another possible explanation: the downward glance prompted the women to suspect that the guy wasn’t listening, so they chose to spend less time and energy talking; just as his staring out the window, or changing the subject, or interrupting her, or getting distracted with small unrelated actions, would prompt the same response. Does this study fail to acknowledge a difference between “objectification” and “not paying attention?” If “not paying attention” is being lumped into the same category as all other forms of “objectification,” than that makes the word, and the study, all the more meaningless.
    The fact that men didn’t react in the same way is important. For a start, it shows that it’s a man’s gaze and not just any downward glance that affects a woman’s behaviour.
    Or it could show that the women’s different response was due to different conditioning. If men are conditioned to aggressively speak their piece in the face of less-than-100%-respectful attention, and to be less sensitive to downward glances and the like, then that would account for the different responses, without having to blather about “objectification.”
    This study tries to use “objectification” to explain things that could just as easily be explained by different social conditioning between males and females. At best, it shows that women are more likely to PERCEIVE “objectification” than men; but it doesn’t prove the “objectification” is real.

  49. Lynne

    Re: anon #45: I don’t think it’s that hard to figure out when it’s appropriate to look at a woman and when it is not. As I said in an earlier post: at a club, or at the beach, it’s okay. I can certainly appreciate an admiring glance in those situations. But I am talking about PROFESSIONAL situations. If you are having a direct conversation with a woman about something professional, you shouldn’t be looking at her any differently than you would be looking at a man.

  50. Katharine

    No, anon. I am not. Because frankly, I don’t think that all men are sociopaths like some gender separatists do.
    It is not irrelevant, because it is a huge influence on things that happen today, and it is a huge influence on certain people, misogynists and misandrists alike. (There’s a lot of weird sexist attitudes about men in society too. I equally disapprove of these attitudes.) Modern society did not form in a vacuum. Social interactions do not take place in a vacuum. They take place between two or more individuals who all have separate histories.
    I don’t think the male gaze INHERENTLY takes power from women or even realistically takes it away at all – it’s merely a gaze. A woman might PERCEIVE that it is trying to if she is insecure, or it might be an accurate perception that it is trying to if she knows the man staring at her is a sexist.
    I, for one, feel perfectly fine around dudes. My best friend is male. He is most assuredly not sexist. His expression of his sexuality, I am sure, does not require making women feel like they’re going to get raped if I or another woman and he are alone or making women feel as if they are only objects in his eyes, at all.
    And I don’t even necessarily assume some dude I don’t even know on the street, if I just talk to them briefly in some sort of hey-I-need-directions-to-this-place or where’s-the-nearest-metro-stop sort of way, thinks I’m some object instead of a person.
    But if I encounter a dude on the street who gives a clearly rather creepy sort of look and not-so-secretly STARES at my breasts and doesn’t look at me in the eye very much if we’re having a conversation, that’s a clear sign he’s not acknowledging the fact that I’m a person (because eye contact is rather important in this, or do you know nothing about psychology?), and I am going to wonder if the dude would probably try to assault me. There’s an element of fear in that part there – and there’s always an element of uncertainty in human interaction.
    Really, I don’t think you know just how complex and weird this issue is.

  51. Helen

    This study tries to use “objectification” to explain things that could just as easily be explained by different social conditioning between males and females. At best, it shows that women are more likely to PERCEIVE “objectification” than men; but it doesn’t prove the “objectification” is real.
    If someone’s behaviour is making someone else feel uncomfortable then that behaviour is inappropriate. Their ignorance of the impact of their actions is no excuse. There was no feeling objectified without the offending gawping behaviour! You’re argument just sounds as silly as this; If I punch you in the face you may PERCEIVE pain but it doesn’t mean that pain is real.

  52. Katharine

    Also, sometimes I wonder if misogynists ever consider that no, women do not necessarily want to have sex with just any dude, and no, we are not necessarily interested in sex if we are talking to you. Especially if you’re physically and/or mentally repugnant.

  53. SC,
    I think you missed my point. As for being ethno-centric, I speak quite a few languages and have spent significant time (5 years) abroad, so let’s not go there over a slip, all right? I’m just used to it being Americans who attack that particular issue from that particular angle.
    My point is simply this: Is it helpful or damaging that most studies focus on problems rather than solutions? I don’t see a lot of studies on effective techniques for remaining poised when someone is obviously ogling you, but I do see a lot of finger-pointing.
    Nor do I see a lot that would encourage women to higher a self-esteem that remains unflustered by looks.

  54. Raging Bee

    If someone’s behaviour is making someone else feel uncomfortable then that behaviour is inappropriate.
    I don’t deny that — but that has nothing to do with my point, which was that this study appears not to have made any attempt to account for “inappropriate” vs. “objectifying” behaviors, or for differences in social conditioning. Unless, of course, you’re willing to just treat all “inappropriate” behavior as “objectification” — which would be totally ridiculous and unhelpful to anyone.

  55. Raging Bee

    You’re argument just sounds as silly as this; If I punch you in the face you may PERCEIVE pain but it doesn’t mean that pain is real.
    That analogy only makes sense if you consider an inappropriate glance to be the same as a physical assault.

  56. Katharine

    Raging Bee, I think what Rebecca means is people shouldn’t do things that are assholish because it’s not nice.

  57. Helen

    That analogy only makes sense if you consider an inappropriate glance to be the same as a physical assault.
    It perfectly demonstrates the point that someone else’s behaviour can evoke feelings in another that are perfectly valid, despite the ignorance of that feeling in the offender. I’ve been gawped at before, and it makes you feel horrible. I have often felt violated and intimidated.
    I find your explanation of social conditioning considerably less convincing than the explanation offered by the authors. Also you try to critique their definition of objectification as being too vague, but they clearly aren’t talking about rape, otherwise they would have mentioned rape. They are talking about an attitude. I think they make that pretty clear.

  58. Vince Whirlwind

    Prudish, sexually repressed america.
    In Europe, admiration of well-formed bodies isn’t seen as something to be ashamed about or to rebel against.
    Perhaps this explains why European women take so much better care of their appearance and are so much less likely to be fat and badly-dressed.

  59. I have a theory that mankind’s defining characteristic is the ability to justify pretty much any bad behaviour with convoluted, ad-hoc arguments.
    My proof? About 90% of the comments on this post.

  60. Robin

    Lynne@26: “If I am talking to a man about science, and he is staring at my breasts, I can only assume that he isn’t paying very much attention to what I am saying. I will probably stop talking to him. Not because I am self conscious, or feel that I have closed the deal and we should go jump into bed together. Because I think he is a creep. If said creep might have great insights into the science I was trying to discuss with him, I have just lost out on something professionally, that a man in my position would not have missed out on.”
    OMFG! This is just so extremely wrong! I will grant you that staring at a woman’s breasts isn’t exactly good social etiquette (just like for instance picking your nose) and I wouldn’t blame you for thinking slightly less of him because of it. Your first big mistake is that you make the assumption that he is not listening to you. It may be correct, but it may very well not be. YOU choose to assume this. Next, I presume that the big problem is that you are feeling judged or threatened or something. Your reaction to this is to immediately judge the guy as a creep who has lost all of your respect and is completely rejected by you. And finally, you are blaming him when you make the stupid decision of ending the conversation (stupid because he had valuable insights). He isn’t forcing you to judge/reject him, he isn’t forcing you to end the conversation. Those are your decisions and they are based your assumptions, stereotypes and intolerance.
    The right thing to do would have been to simply direct his attention back to you by saying something about this. Just like a man might do when he suspects his conversation partner is not paying attention.
    Helen@51: “If someone’s behaviour is making someone else feel uncomfortable then that behaviour is inappropriate. Their ignorance of the impact of their actions is no excuse.”
    No, no, NO! In some cases you might be right, but as a general rule this is extremely wrong. If I want to give my opinion of, let’s say, Christianity/foreigners/Mohammed/hobo’s I have every right to do so and I should not have to take into account that some people may or may not be offended by that.
    —————————
    Anyway, they way I see it the study raises an interesting point: “when women are being watched by men (especially from the waist down) they talk less and maybe feel less comfortable”. I’m not entirely sure if the “talking less” is necessarily a bad thing, but the discomfort obviously is. Now, there are a couple of ways that this can be fixed:
    1) Men can stop looking at women
    2) Women can learn to not let this affect them so much
    3) Society needs to cut down on “objectifying” (whatever that may be) women so much
    Now, 1 probably seems like the easiest solution (especially to women), but I don’t think it’s the best one. First of all, it might not be as easy as it sounds because for a lot of men it is second nature to “check out” other people (especially women). Second, it still leaves women vulnerable to men who still look (and men could potentially use it as a “weapon” in situations where it might suit them). A more practical issue might be that it requires effort from the people who are not directly reaping the benefits.
    So 2 is a better solution, although it might be hard to learn not to let (perceived) ‘ogling’ affect a woman so much, because the effect is probably largely unconscious (although the same could probably be said for the automatic checking out that most men do). However, learning to overcome this issue would empower women and not leave them at the mercy of men like 1 would. Also, women have a bigger incentive to attempt this.
    However, I think the study’s result is primarily about the assumptions that the women make about the guys watching them. Since they cannot see the men watching them, they don’t know if he really is ogling or staring at them. They just assume that he does. So in this case not ogling the women would not have helped at all, because they would just assume that you did anyway. These assumptions are likely grounded in the objectifying culture/society, so fixing that may be the best long-term solution. Either that, or people should stop letting their stereotypes guide their actions.
    I think it’s interesting to see how every study into differences between the sexes is followed by a discussion of how men are idiots/assholes and women are victims. This study made me think of another one I read some time ago that concluded that men’s performance on some test would suffer significantly if they first talked to an attractive woman. The reactions here were mainly that men are weak. I can’t suppress the feeling that had the results of this study pointed out that men were being “muzzled” by women’s gazes, the reactions would have been just like that…
    Damn, this post has gotten so long that noone is probably going to read it… :(

  61. Austin

    I have to agree with dreg here – the study doesn’t necessarily say what most people here seem to think it does.
    No one else was present in the room; the nature of the theoretical “observer” was relayed through a third party. The intent, therefore, of the observer is entire assumed by the person in the room from nothing more than the stated sex of the observer and the angle of the camera.
    All the behavior exhibited by the participants is therefore based on assumptions of behavior/mindset of the theoretical observer. To whit, if women believe they’re being objectified in this study, it is entirely due to preconceptions: they assume that, when the camera is aimed at their bodies and a man is theoretically on the other end, that he is objectifying them.
    Women made no such assumption about other women, and men made none at all (if we decide that the dislike at being watched at “body level” corresponds to an interpretation of objectification).
    Interestingly, the average talk time for women speaking to men even in the best situation (audio only) was still lower than any other condition of women to women or men to either sex.
    This study probably tells us more about what society teachs women about men than what men actually do; e.g., women are taught that, if he’s looking at your body, you’re being objectified. That learned assumption probably does as much to hurt male/female relations as the behaviors that likely led to its origination in the first place.
    To make it perhaps clearer: this study shows that women are stereotyping men. The stereotype may be based on legitimate experience or taught, but it’s a stereotype nonetheless.

  62. AnnoyedFeminist

    As a lifelong feminist, I’d love to see more parity in terms of the way women are portrayed in our media, e.g. more focus on the intellectual and professional achievements of women and less on their looks. But it’s disturbing to me that women are raised to be so sex-negative that they are dumbstruck by moderate displays of sexual interest on the part of men, as the quoted study allegedly suggests. It seems to me that the last thing that will productively change society for the better is to simply paint men as evil because they have sexual appetites (as women do also) and have benefitted from an unconscious double-standard for acceptable behavior that rewards aggression in men and passivity/receptivity in females.
    It’s not particularly “nice” or appropriate for men to smarmily ogle women, but as a women I can’t help but think that one important half of the solution to this apparent problem would be to empower women sexually rather than painting them as helpless victims of the sexuality of males. I know I learned much better how to handle encounters with oglers when I stopped buying into the Dworkinite, firstwave lie that sex and sexuality are inherently degrading to women–that women can’t be sexual subjects and desired by men for their physical traits at the same time.
    When I finally realized that there was nothing wrong with me expressing my own sexuality, and exploring it as I saw fit, it was almost like magic– the predatory losers who used to revel in making me feel uncomfortable stepped off because they knew I wasn’t some wilting flower unable to handle the idea that someone might fantasize about having sex with me. My self-sufficiency and sexual confidence scares them off, for the most part.

  63. Janus

    I fail to see what’s wrong with objectification, as defined in this post. In most situations, most human beings couldn’t care less about the “complex personalities” of the people they interact with. We don’t care about the cashier’s complex personality when he or she hands us our change, or about the complex personality of the taxi driver when he or she drives us to our destination. We usually only see them as service providers, and except for a little extra politeness, our thoughts and behavior wouldn’t change if they were mindless robots. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. So why would there be something wrong with looking at a woman and only caring that she has a nice rack?
    _Other_ behavior that may be vaguely related to ‘objectification’ might be morally reprehensible, such as not paying attention to what the woman is saying because you’re staring at her breasts, but in that case, what is bad is the failure of attention, not the objectification itself.

  64. anonymous

    I get stared at by men pretty much every time I leave the house, and, yes, it does make me uncomfortable. Most men are “nice”. They catch my eye, smile, and say ‘hello’. However, even these rather bland encounters make me nervous due to the fact that I have had more aggressive sorts follow me, interrogate me, make insanely lewd comments, or actually grab and grope me. And I never know if the next guy who stares at me is going to be one of *those* guys. So, generally, unless I am in an environment that I feel is safe, I avoid all unnecessary interaction with strange men. I avoid eye contact, speak tersely, and walk fast. This is not the way I want to be, but it’s apparent that some men will take almost any interaction as encouragement for sexual advances.

  65. Katharine

    One thing I want to point out:
    I didn’t want to have to read this article. The reason why doesn’t actually specifically pertain to this article, but pertains more to dealing with potential threats of harm.
    I’m sick of the fact that part of me wonders if someone will beat me up or kill me because of the things I think if I say them aloud and if they will specifically target me because I am not seen as a physical threat for sexual or racial or other reasons, even though I say them aloud. I dearly hope that it’s not actually true that I’d need, say, a gun or something to really feel safe.

  66. Katharine

    anonymous, a little confidence helps to scare the flying shit out of the creepy ones.

  67. Katharine

    “This study probably tells us more about what society teachs women about men than what men actually do; e.g., women are taught that, if he’s looking at your body, you’re being objectified. That learned assumption probably does as much to hurt male/female relations as the behaviors that likely led to its origination in the first place.
    To make it perhaps clearer: this study shows that women are stereotyping men. The stereotype may be based on legitimate experience or taught, but it’s a stereotype nonetheless.”
    This, I think, is important.
    What do we know about objectification attitudes among a representative sample of men in the United States? Is there any data?
    If it runs counter to the stereotype, I’m gonna go verbally bash in some media-asshole heads.

  68. Christa

    When I was in my early teens and just finishing my awkward stage I actually welcomed male attention. However, since I’ve entered college men who’ve ogled me have gone a few steps further. At parties men have groped me, grabbed me, and even pinned me to them against my will in order to “dance”.
    I’m not ashamed of my body or afraid of sex. When I wear low-cut tops I’m not offended when a man’s gaze drifts downwards once in a while. But if a man indiscreetly stares at my chest or legs for a prolonged period of time, I no longer have reason to believe that he wouldn’t sexually harass or assault me if he had the chance.

  69. Gah.
    (Not at the article.)
    I think the best way to see if men feel objectified is to repeat the study with the camera aimed directly at men’s crotches. With a tracking mechanism, so the focus stays there and a display, so the guys can *see* what the other person is seeing. Make the person at the other end supposedly gay. I’d just like to see the results for that study.
    As for “freeing yourself” from the objectification by “accepting your sexuality”…It ain’t the sexuality, per se, that is problematic, it is, as anonymous says, that some men will take “almost any interaction as encouragement for sexual advances”. I have been felt up by faceless men on buses and in bars without me having done a single goddamned thing; at this point I am 50 years old and more than ready to slap the feeler or to say, very very loudly “Get your fucking hands off me, you pervert!” but it *still* makes me feel creepy and (yes!) objectified if the dude I am talking to stares at my breasts fixedly.
    As for “American prudery”–I am rolling my eyes. It isn’t the sex, dammit!

  70. sally

    First of all, what does “gaze” mean? Does a gaze at a woman’s chest equal a gaze at a man’s chest? Or did they equal it out with a crotch gaze.
    Second of all, what if the “male” gaze were from a gay guy to man?

  71. I think the study is incomplete, and misinterprets the data.
    When a guy ignores the lady to check out the body, he is showing he is uninterested in her as a person – he objectifies her, he relates only to his own sexual fantasy.
    I think a lady’s reaction to stop talking (not distract him) is appropriate. He isn’t willing to be a social partner, a conversation partner, he isn’t willing to express any respect for her. She should shut him down. He should be shunned as being maliciously derogatory.
    The problem is that women aren’t being sufficiently encouraged to hold out for a man with some self-respect, that is more interested in whether she smiles than whether her attire or features stimulate his sexual fantasy.
    Intimate partners should be chosen for their aptitude to be mate and co-parent. Using sex signals, or perceived or fantasized signals, to select a partner only fits affluent (decadent) nomadic cultures. It lacks respect for the person.

  72. Russell C.

    R Turner.
    I am a man, and I am horrified at how you are attempting presenting me by acting as the spokesperson for all men.
    Have you ever considered that some men can physically overpower women. So sometimes a woman is going to feel vulnerable when a male is sizing her up depending on how he makes her feel. Most men are mature enough to respect a woman, and not force anything upon them. But when you are a woman, you have to be aware of the negative possibilities that are out there. Perhaps they are being quiet because they are calculating THEIR options.
    Also, perhaps it’s growing up around men who say the same things as you that MAKES them insecure. Implying that your point of view is FACT. By the way…. you do not sound mature at all. You come off as misogynistic.

  73. mass

    It’s about respect and disrespect, not sex. Being found attractive is a compliment, but having a man project his sexual fantasies onto you with a leer is an act of disrespect. Trust women to know the difference.
    When in the company of someone I feel is disrespecting me I withdraw and want to stop talking with them. I have lived on this planet long enough to have picked up how men talk about (and alarmingly, treat) women they have sexualized, and it’s not flattering or respectful. Our vocabulary wouldn’t be so shockingly rich with slurs for sexualized women if this weren’t the truth.

  74. R. Turner

    “But when you are a woman, you have to be aware of the negative possibilities that are out there. Perhaps they are being quiet because they are calculating THEIR options.”
    This moron claims to be a man but now he’s telling me how it feels to be a woman.

  75. Russell C.

    I’m a moron because I can empathize? Or is it because I’m not neanderthal who shares your narrow minded view?

  76. Not only did the study not control for essential stuff, like having a large leatherbound gay man stare at a hetero guy, but it ignores years of study of the complexity of sexuality. Now, from a purely “walking the streets of New York all alone” perspective, I really get how some women are learn to feel a little suspicious of all men, but that’s really just one environment, and not entirely representative. Finally, consider for just a sec where the excitement in meeting someone new comes from. Just how different is excitement from fear?

  77. Anya

    I’m just going to say that yes – despite some of these commenters assertions I’m a generally confident woman who is unnerved and creeped out by boldfaced unblinking staring in conversation or on the street.
    It makes you uncomfortable because you don’t know how quickly you can react if boldfaced leering steps up to creepy commentary or something more dangerous. It makes you uncomfortable if the person leering is a higher up – what will people think, will they try to take advantage of their position, how is this supposed to help me overcome stereotypes of women in my field? Gentlemen – you can look and not leer. We do it all the time (or at least I do)
    To classify this as a ‘dysfunction/shortcoming’ of females ignores the massive problem of men assuming a right to look and leer as obviously as they please because of the retinue of stupid reasons commenters have attempted to cite.
    Men have no evolutionary ‘right’ or true tendency to stare at and ‘size up’ at womens bodies blatantly during conversation (we all know what the full body scan looks/feels like) – whether that is nurture or ‘nature’ is undeterminable at this point. But what it is…is a BAD IDEA and it will make you look like a creeper.
    No one is telling you not to look like a person with manners – but this does seem to suggest that staring like you can’t blink straight into somebodys boobs is NOT A GOOD IDEA.
    My advice to men? Eyes on the face – her boobs aren’t going to tell you whether or not she’s got murder on her mind and you’ll learn a lot more watching her expressions than her hips. Also talking helps. Try that.

  78. Men are responsible for women’s behavior? No. Women should be responsible for women’s behavior.

  79. becca

    R. Turner- I would like to do you a favor. Since you’ve figured out that men are sensitive to women to enhance their own reproductive success, and you clearly feel no need to be sensitive to women, I can conclude you do not value your own reproductive success. Since keeping your testicles just gives you one more target for cancer, and you obviously have no reproductive use for them, I would be happy to remove them for you. Although it seems my only instrument is a rusty spork. Oh well, I’m sure it’ll be fine.
    Ray Ingles- What I don’t quite understand is why men don’t like eye contact from women.
    DM- duly noted

  80. Naomi

    Oh please. I’d like to see all these self-righteous male commentators spend a few days in the shoes of a woman. We get stared at, followed, and groped, which makes us feel objectified and violated. Maybe then you’d stop with these ridiculous justifications to your creepy behavior.

  81. Rorschach

    We get stared at, followed, and groped, which makes us feel objectified and violated. Maybe then you’d stop with these ridiculous justifications to your creepy behavior.

    All the millions of women that spend hours in clothes stores and in front of the mirror to look their best mustn’t have gotten the memo that the only reason they are doing this is to be objectified,stared at and violated.
    What a nonsense.
    And by the way, amazingly sexist to suggest that men might not feel the stare of a woman on them and respond with “going quite”, or feeling uncomfortable being seized up like that.
    JP Sartre had the effects of a stranger’s look figured out 50 years ago, and it’s not exclusive to women.
    I agree with the poster at 2, this is indeed a false dichotomy between either treating someone as an object or a person.And maybe someone can explain to me the difference, physically and physiologically, between a look that sees someone as a person, and one that sees someone as an object.
    And if there is no such difference, then this “difference” becomes a subjective one and one of perception only, and as such would be dependent on a person’s self-consciousness, body image et cetera, not on their gender.
    A lot of people here seem to be deducing points from this “study” based on a preexistent ideological position.

  82. Fog

    The women who participated in the study may not even have been aware that they were speaking for less time under the male gaze toward their bodies than in any other situation. If they did know they had spoken less, they might not have even known why. Many commenters assume the women at some point thought “I’m being objectified, I need to be quiet now.”
    I wish we know women’s perceptions of how long they had spoken, and if they thought there were differences in speaking time in different scenarios, how they would explain that difference. I’d also enjoy seeing the results this experiment carried out in other cultures and age groups. The comments above make it evident that the limited data available can be interpreted in support of many familiar arguments.

  83. rbma

    Since keeping your testicles just gives you one more target for cancer, and you obviously have no reproductive use for them, I would be happy to remove them for you. Although it seems my only instrument is a rusty spork. Oh well, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

    Wow. Can you imagine if a man made a comment about scooping out a woman’s uterus with a rusty melon baller? Well done, becca, for highlighting how society downplays violence against men and treats it as a subject of humour.

  84. JPop

    Hey, a lot of people on this thread seem really emotionally invested in disproving the conclusions of this research.
    Maybe they could go away and look for papers that support their viewpoint, rather than using their feelings as a source of truthiness. I’m sure there are some cool studies on eye contact or context-appropriate behaviours that could feed in here.
    Also, I’ve heard of anecdotal data, but a lot of you “women like being stared at/need better self esteem/etc” positers aren’t even using anecdotes. You are just stating how you feel. At least come up with something like: I talked to a women about this once, and she says it doesnt bother her. It’s not statistically-backed evidence, but at least it’s evidence. You will note that most anecdata on this thread are from people who undergo this gaze behaviour in a non-experimental context and do not like it.

  85. [another] steve

    The title of the article (is that the study’s title as well?) is actually pretty offensive. “Psychological muzzle” is pretty powerful wording, and seems to imply that men use this tactic as a means of control. The study itself is based on horribly bad science…you don’t begin an experiment like this with a mind to prove something, or your data will eventually bear it up no matter the variables. It’s plain that this whole thing is part of the rad-fem line of thought that asserts that all men are natural-born abusers and simply can’t help it.
    Did the study consider whether or not the subjects who became objects had a perception of themselves as physically attractive? 31% of the women in the study didn’t mind having the camera on their bodies. Why? Were any of them ovulating at the time? We know from other (better) studies that in phases of fertility women tend to talk less and draw more attention to their physical appearance…did this have an impact on the results? Did the men change their stature? Men tend to sit/stand with better posture and lower the pitch of their voices when they think they’re being “checked out.” Did that happen? We don’t know. All she focused on was how much the participants spoke.
    The general “on the body” doesn’t work either. If someone is looking at my face, it’s quite different than if they’re looking me in the eye…or HOW they’re doing it. Eye contact can be attentive or threatening. It can be a furtive glance or a leer. I know she was trying to remove these variables by using a camera, but I still think the science is incredibly weak. Notice that the women spoke most when they didn’t think a man was looking at them at all (first chart). That’s not mentioned in the article. So what we don’t know is if the perceived male presence caused them to talk less because they were afraid or because that’s just how women react biologically (a la Desmond Morris). It’s just too dangerous a notion that men “muzzle” women by looking at them.

  86. becca – In terms of “length of description”, there was no discernible difference -for men – between being looked in the face by men or women.
    But men tended to dislike the ‘face’ condition noticeably more than women; indeed, more disliked the ‘face’ than the ‘body’ condition, a reversal of the female tendency. (Though they didn’t dislike the ‘face’ condition nearly as much as women disliked the ‘body’ condition.)
    It’s not clear that men disliked eye-contact from women. If the data on “who disliked what” were broken down more, it might turn out that men who felt “stared in the face” by other men dominated the “disliked face” respondents. Or my hypothesis could be complete bunk.
    Another question for follow-up studies, I guess.

  87. anonymous

    Some of the responses to this article are pathologically sexist. Let me sum up– Women who feel threatened by leers are ugly! They should slap on some makeup and go to the gym more! Then, they will gracefully accept ogling and ass-grabbing. Goddamn feminists!
    Look, I am an attractive woman by any standard. And confidence in my own beauty does not make me feel any less threatened by sexually aggressive men. That’s just not how it works. Since my early teens, there have been men who have gone out of their way to intimidate and humiliate me. Despite the fact that I was always tastefully dressed, strange men would walk up to me on the street and ask if I was a virgin. They would tell me they wanted to f— me. And so on. Worse, I have been followed. I have been grabbed. I have had a drunk man try to pull my dress off. I’ve had men stop their cars and try to convince me to get in. So when some guy I don’t know starts staring at me, I get nervous. It’s a conditioned response. And I’ve learned to that one way to dispel attention is to pretend to be oblivious to it. So when men start staring at my breasts or my legs or even my face, I often feign haziness and pretend I don’t notice them at all. That’s because to acknowledge that they were staring at my legs or my breasts is encouraging. And I don’t need that.
    I know that there are a proportion of men that are never going to believe that this is my experience. They’ll say I must look encouraging or that I should be flattered or that I am uncomfortable with my sexuality. But I would hope that men who are not consumed with resentment for women would perhaps realize that any woman with a long history of being followed, groped, and catcalled is going to be wary of any hint of unwanted sexual aggression.

  88. Tom

    Hi Steve:
    Your title and first sentence misquotes the study. The male glance is not the problem. Its the stare.

  89. JPop

    Hi, another Steve @85.
    Firstly, don’t use feminist as an insult, please. I can vote and get equal pay for equal work because feminism exists.
    Secondly,
    Thirdly, no-one is saying that a) all men are abusers or b) that they can’t help it. In fact, the latter is something most often said by misogynists in self-justification.
    to take your criticisms individually:
    ‘Did the study consider whether or not the subjects who became objects had a perception of themselves as physically attractive?’ – Presumably the male cohort would have similar variance in this feature.
    In regard to the subject reponses measured – The amount that one speaks is more significant in, say, a job interview than one’s posture.
    Also, there was a clear difference between male presence alone and male gaze on the body. You are falsely conflating the two.
    Yes, ‘on the body’ is fairly crude, but what experimental design could you use to simulate ‘leering’ or ‘threatening’ without introducing further confounders through the leerer? It is an effective if broad compromise.
    The article is more along the lines of: This is the effect that an action taken by men affects the way women act in a statistically significant way. Reciprocal effect was not observed.
    My take on it is: If one as a man would like to not have this negative effect on women, one has the means at one’s disposal to make eye contact more.

  90. Male

    And if a man was in my office in a speedo, I would probably be more grossed out than anything else.

    This is why men’s only access to beauty is through looking at women. We are considered rough tools of production without any redeeming aesthetic quality.

  91. L Marrick

    I too find most of these comments disturbing. They all seem to take the issue to personal levels when it is not personal at all. What I mean is, this is not men’s fault. This is not women’s fault. This is the result (note: result not fault) of our society, which stands on the shoulders of thousands of years of cultural and psychological subordination and objectification of women. Including the belittlement of women’s thoughts, opinions, desires and rights – again, not only by men but by women, too, since it is an institutional problem and we are all part of the institution – and again, not only because of our society, but because of all those that came before us. It permeates our whole society and our lives, but it is most glaringly evident in our media.
    I am a reasonably attractive woman who has never been attacked, raped, assaulted or molested in any overt way. I used to try to avoid making comments like this for fear of being judged a man-hating feminist – mostly by the men around me – and because I would be confronted with a barrage of what Chris Rowan theorized was “mankind’s defining characteristic is the ability to justify pretty much any bad behaviour with convoluted, ad-hoc arguments.”
    But sexism exists. It is an institution which we are slowly breaking down, but it is not gone yet. Opening our eyes and really seeing it, not pointing fingers at one another, is the first step to breaking it down.

  92. Jeremy

    My biggest problem with the study is that the fixed camera removes perceived intent from the part of the viewer. The subject only knows that their BODY IS ON DISPLAY or NOT. Given that is the simplest division point of the experiment, (As opposed to objectification/oggling or not) it is more reasonable to assume that women are more laconic when their bodies are on display to men. I do appreciate the good control however.
    I’d love to have gotten more data-points in post event survey though, such as “how attractive female feels they are” to see any correlations there. Also sexual preference… do gay women react similarly to men as straight women? Do they transfer the reaction to other women?

  93. Male

    If gaze bothered women more than men, why wouldn’t women appear in public in drab nondescript clothing, and men wear eye-catching, expressive styles? It is very hard to find any true significance to these results besides political propaganda.

  94. Levo

    I believe women talk is another way to draw attention. Teenager girls talk louder, I believe, simply to draw attention with the sounds not with the content. (I will second Kathy Orlinsky.)
    Well there’s no proof that women categorically dislike being looked at (body or elsewhere) (re: Ed Young). I will argue that they will dislike the looks of a man they don’t find attractive.
    This is a mating game whether played at the beach or during a scientific discussion (re: Lynne). Whether a woman likes the man or not talking less is a better strategy: If he does not like the guy, she cuts him off verbally and physically; if he likes the guy, I’d bet she’ll play a more physical game or have the guy answer some questions. Either way it is less talk.
    If the man does not get the cue and starts harassing her (beyond the rules of the game) then you can argue the woman is objectified and even victimized.
    I don’t think liking was (and can easily be) factored in an experiment’s setting.

  95. becca

    *“Can you imagine if a man made a comment about scooping out a woman’s uterus with a rusty melon baller?”
    Point taken (although, keep in mind that the analogous structure to the testicles is the ovaries, not the uterus). Still, the visual makes me giggle…and you don’t even want to know what I’d do with a lemon zester! However, I am widely-agreed to be one sick puppy.
    How about I stick with this critique?
    ‘Women are aware of others. Men are not. The flaw is with the men. Kudos to women for being sensitive and mature.’
    *Ray- I didn’t mean men specifically disliked eyecontact from women. But let’s say men dislike eyecontact from other men out of a psychological echo of dominance concerns. If so, it’s not clear to me why they *also* dislike eye contact from women, since male-female interactions aren’t so pertinent to male social hirearchy. I also wonder about this because it’s personally relevant to me. I almost *never* think about eyecontact with women- it just feels natural. However, with men I’ve been criticized for too much eyecontact.
    Something else no one has noted- men dislike the audio alone much more than women. Do men simply dislike being recorded more? Are they made more uncomfortable by not knowing what the person on the other end looks like?
    *“We are considered rough tools of production without any redeeming aesthetic quality.”
    Michelangelo’s David.
    *Men who hear “you shouldn’t ogle women” and take this as some kind of attack, like “men are all abusers and can’t help themselves” should get psychological assistance. Above and beyond whether you *think* you should be able to ogle women, you now know that it will have this kind of effect. Ergo, if you want a woman to open up, talk about herself, or possibly give you a second thought in terms of consideration for any chance in hell at mating with her, you should not do this. Being a decent and respectful person is sometimes about treating others based on how they want to be treated, not how you think everyone ought to be. Why is that so complicated for some of the commenters here?

  96. Val

    I wonder if the male evo-psychos here know how much they sound like porn-addled rapists looking for a ‘scientific’ excuse to indulge their rabid misogyny.

  97. Joe

    Most of you missed the point of this wonderful study.
    Women’s brains notice when a man is checking them out physically and narrows what she says, so as to be less objectionable. It makes perfect sense.
    Think in the animalistic sense: If he likes my body, why foul it with possibly putting my foot in my mouth?
    Of course, this probably has very limited front lobe interaction, so it’s just one of those subconscious things. I think most people are drawing FAR too much from it to satisfy their own personal little theories.

  98. Lynne

    Re: Robin#60
    I totally disagree with you. (obviously) Staring at a woman’s breasts while she is speaking to you is nothing like picking your nose. True, it would be MY assumption that he is not listening to me. But come on, give me a break! I don’t feel like looking for them but I am pretty sure there are studies showing that men suck at focusing on more than one thing at once. Are you seriously telling me that a man staring at a woman’s body is listening to her just as intently as he would be listening to a man? I say no way. It also has nothing to do with me feeling judged or threatened. It is disrespectful and insulting not to listen to someone when they are talking to you. (What if someone you were talking to was looking at the ceiling or reading something on the wall behind you? What I am talking about is similar, but with the added creepiness of sexual overtones.) So yes, it would be my choice to miss out on his valuable insights (provided he was actually listening enough to even provide any), but I don’t think I should have to be subjected to insult and disrespect to further my career.
    I would also like to point out, that I don’t think this overt example happens very often. A scary possibility you could take away from this paper is that when the “stare” is more subtle, women may subconsciously talk less. The reason they do this is not the point. The point is that because some men apparently can’t control themselves (???), or don’t even notice that they occasionally glance in an inappropriate way, women may, without even realizing it, be stifling themselves. This is obviously beyond the scope of the paper, I am just saying, I think this could reasonably be true.
    I think the solution is two-pronged: 1) Guys, seriously, pay attention to where you’re looking. 2) If women are aware of this tendency to be quiet when looked at, even subtly, maybe we can notice it and try not to do it. (This is different than when a guy is STARING. I still defend my right to turn around and walk away in that case).

  99. SKM

    Women’s brains notice when a man is checking them out physically and narrows what she says, so as to be less objectionable. It makes perfect sense.
    That only makes sense if one assumes that physical attractiveness is the most important characteristic for women; that their speaking is more likely to be a detriment than an advantage, because a woman’s personality does not have as much value as her body.
    Which is in fact how society views women by and large, so I guess some women and men feel that way. But saying that it’s a natural frontal-lobe thing is bunkum.
    Also, to those who are so disturbed because the study does not address the intent of the male gazers: intent is irrelevant here.
    Saying that women as a class are oppressed in male-dominated systems is totally different from saying that individual men intend to intimidate or discriminate against individual women.This is some very basic sociology.
    Many of the commenters here are taking this way too personally–it sure looks like a defense of the status quo to me.

  100. John Brims

    Let’s play the “colorization” game. You just take the comments from above, and replace “women” with “white people” and “man” with “black people.” Let’s have some fun, we can do it now:
    Quoting:
    “I get stared at by black people pretty much every time I leave the house, and, yes, it does make me uncomfortable. Most black people are “nice”. They catch my eye, smile, and say ‘hello’. However, even these rather bland encounters make me nervous due to the fact that I have had more aggressive sorts follow me, interrogate me, make insanely lewd comments, or actually grab and grope me. And I never know if the next black person who stares at me is going to be one of *those* guys. So, generally, unless I am in an environment that I feel is safe, I avoid all unnecessary interaction with strange black people. I avoid eye contact, speak tersely, and walk fast. This is not the way I want to be, but it’s apparent that some black people will take almost any interaction as encouragement for sexual advances.”
    You can play this game at home or online…

  101. Anonymous

    Hmm.. it’s a bit sad. Reading the article, and the comments here, the assumption seems to be that men objectify women. Period. End.
    If I, as a man, check out a person I’m speaking to, how does that deny the possibility of viewing them as a person? I’m not talking about a multiple minute eyes firmly focused on the boobs/crotch thing here, just the head-to-toe checkout that most men give pretty much everyone they interact with.
    FWIW on the men’s responses; I feel extremely uncomfortable when women I don’t know stare at me for too long, no matter where they look.

  102. I was going to argue on this post, but then I realized it effectively got everyone else to argue quite well. I guess that was the point of the contentious topic. Best wishes.

  103. Male

    Lynne, you neglect to consider why there may be an element of unconscious resentful defiance in many men who have not consciously realized how the gender disparity marginalizes them. They feel it, but it is never expressed in words, and studiously avoided by feminists. You can read it here, between the lines of these responses, but only if you take a moment and pay attention.

  104. Freya

    When men leer at me it gives me the creeps and I consequently want nothing to do with those men. I’m not sure how this helps propgate the species.

  105. c.s.

    One thing I hate, as a man, is the accidental look at breasts. I’m not talking about ogling, but rather when my eyes, seemingly unconciously to me, stop on the breasts for a split second before getting to the eyes. Do you women notice that and does it bother you or is it just when men stare?
    I honestly feel like it’s instinctual and unconsious, even though I try not to do it.

  106. chris

    ‘oh look the douchebag is checking out my boobies’ – no way im telling him where i live

  107. Dan

    > No Chuck, the dichotomy is not false. Key words: DEPERSONALIZED OBJECT. You can desire a person, or you can desire an object. But you can’t do both at the same time. You either view women as people, or you don’t.
    What kind of sick fuck can’t desire a person? And moreover, where’s this mystic separation of “person” and “body”? Personality, intelligence, appearance are all attributes of the whole.
    Not as many men as you think want to rape you; your likelihood of being raped by a stranger or coworker is minuscule. And your appearance really doesn’t matter, at least as much as ours doesn’t to you. I’m thinking of the anti-speedo folks above. Dress work appropriate and you won’t have a noticeable issue.
    And hold on; when did it become appropriate to jest grotesque physical violence against male genitalia as a retort to views you find displeasurable?
    In fact, when did male abuse become acceptable? Is anyone else alarmed by the rising tide of physical violence against male spouses, and the complete lack of discussion of the long-existing emotional abuse?

  108. As Ray Ingles said, it would be really nice to have error bars for these things, particularly since there’s also an effect (it seems) of having men looking at women’s faces while they’re talking. It’s certainly not as big of an effect as having men look at women’s bodies, but having an idea of the spread of the data would be useful for gauging whether that’s a significant decrease or experimental error.

  109. “Men are responsible for women’s behavior? No. Women should be responsible for women’s behavior.”
    Hmmm and where are these over-zealous MALE commenters when the subject of rape comes up i wonder??
    Men are very quick to defend the status-quo whichever way possible lest they be responsible for anything.
    Staring at boobs is creepy when she is talking to your face.
    PERIOD. GET IT?? GET IT?
    Imagine you were giving a lecture and the women/gay men in the audience would be disapprovingly staring at your crotch while you try to make a professional point?
    ( maybe the solution would be for men to do it in a more subtle way)

  110. Hey Ed, is this how you expected the comments to go? Rebecca B, it’s not about teaching women to be victims, it’s about teaching the person doing something offensive to stop doing it. I still don’t know why we tell women to avoid walking alone at night, and not to get drunk in a skirt, when the best way to stop rape is to teach men not to be rapists. After all, we tell kids not to shoplift, we don’t tell the shopkeepers not to have things in their shop. The point of this study is that there is a negative consequence from something some men do. Why is that so hard to understand?

  111. linda

    “This can be interpreted as a measure of a type of female inferiority in relation to men.” R. Turner.
    Wow. why are people on here still arguing with this guy? You can’t argue with a person if they truly believe some bull like that. Just leave him be. Hopefully he’ll creep enough women out to never reproduce.

  112. david karapetyan

    I don’t get it.

  113. Very interesting read. Normal Males need to be aware of their impact on women, both positive and negative, if we are to redefine Normal Male and appropriate behavior.
    Dr. Rod
    http://thenormalmale.wordpress.com
    drrod@thenormalmale.com
    Rod Berger PsyD The Normal Male

  114. Arakiba

    It’s nice to see someone who isn’t a woman actually admitting that this phenomenon exists.

  115. fannie

    “Not as many men as you think want to rape you” -Dan
    But enough of them do to ruin things for all of the Nice Guys. Until all of you Nice Guys realize that, you will never understand or care why ogling (not briefly glancing) is fucking creepy to many women.
    Being wary of ogly men is a female self-preservation mechanism, Dan. So with all due respect to your so very helpful rape info, I will stick with erring on the side of caution lest I let down my guard and find myself “asking for it.”
    Go ahead, fellas. Leer, stare, and ogle all you want as is your right. But don’t expect women to be sympathetic when you turn around and cry that it’s “sexist” and wrong for women to not like being objectified.

  116. Anonsters

    The most interesting feature of the comments thread has been that the comments for the most part sort of just (ok, utterly) ignore the study itself, and just tackle gender and sex issues phenomenologically.
    The study doesn’t seem to be all that well-designed, and the conclusions don’t follow from the data with any real rigor. I’m surprised this study was given the play it was.
    As a personal, political, social, cultural (or whatever) matter, I don’t disagree with the conclusions.
    I just don’t think it was particularly good science.

  117. WOW

    I cannot believe some of the comments here.
    #16 WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP. Men are humans too, and surprise YES THEY ARE SELF CONSCIOUS (otherwise many of them wouldn’t have to constantly prove their masculinity), the difference is society avoids the topic of male self-conciousness because it’s seen as a “femme” thing as you have portrayed, when in reality it’s a HUMAN trait.
    #18 The reason why women look for men with high social status is simple, they’ve been told their whole lives that they are a zero who need to find that ultimate protector to provide everything for them. They’re just displaying the horrid flaws of the patriarchal system, the system you’ve installed! And yes women can be sexist against men, but it is absolutely IGNORANT to think it’s even close to the same level of sexism that goes against women. Male privilege is still alive and healthy.
    I cannot believe how threatened some of you are of the gender you supposedly love, being equal to you. I never want to know how it feels to be that weak and selfish.

  118. Is it possible to explain this result as being consistent with the idea that men need to talk more to impress women and women need to talk less? It’s certainly a “accepted truth” among some people, and the data does fit (though men only talked marginally more).

  119. Chris M.

    Interesting study, and guaranteed contentious comments thread. Definitely interesting running through almost all of it, although by a certain point I was skimming a few of the commenters, since they’d already made their argument a couple of times.
    Someone up there commented that men don’t like eye contact from women. That strikes me as somewhat incorrect. Constant eye contact during conversation, however, is definitely uncomfortable.
    Anyway, this is an extremely profitable potential field of research, but I would like a much better control for direction of gaze. For example, mimed videoconferencing, which could be fairly well done by this point, with flexible video editing for carefully targeted eye movements. That will give you vastly more relevant results, although I do appreciate the simplicity of this study’s design.

  120. LaRae Meadows

    I’m missing something here. It’s interesting but it really doesn’t demonstrate a harm. It isn’t even objectificiation. I assume the men don’t see the women as objects but as potential mates. That’s a very human thing.

  121. SKM

    I never want to know how it feels to be that weak and selfish.
    Hear hear.

  122. “When men leer at me it gives me the creeps and I consequently want nothing to do with those men. I’m not sure how this helps propogate the species.”
    That is a valid refutation to all the evo-psyche baloney. When so many women have clearly stated that the ogling creates a hostile environment for them, then men need to actually accept that. Instead, some men insist that they alone know how all women feel, and for some magic reason only their version of how all women feel must be used as the social narrative. Hello, that is some serious entitlement there, jerkwad. Check it at the door because it doesn’t belong here anymore.
    Thank you Ed Long for writing about this, it’s a great contribution. The more people talk about these issues the more our society can grow in understanding. I truly appreciate and thank all the wonderful men who responded here, and ask YOU to take a good hard look at the comments spewed by the jerks. That’s what they’re willing to say in public, anonymously. What do YOU think they would do in a private “he said/she said” situation?
    I’m not “afraid of my sexuality”. I feel “empowered”. I “feel confident”. And yet none of those things would prevent men who would dehumanize me, from dehumanizing me, no matter how ultra fabulous I feel. Because it’s not about me at all, it’s about special snowflake men who feel entitled to women’s time and attention.
    And any woman who sits here and whines about how empowerful she is, needs a frickin’ clue. It’s not about you, honey bun. It’s about some asshole who decides he has the right to do whatever he wants to you. The vast majority of rapists, or, men who would deny a promotion based on nothing more than gender justifications, look exactly like NORMAL men. They do not have horns and a tail.
    Which means women can’t distinguish between the nice guys and the jerks until after the jerks have done something disgusting. But there’s clues. Rapists ogle, nice guys don’t ogle. Usually. Rapists disrepect the need for safety, nice guys respect the need for safety. Usually. Unfortunately, the predators are getting really good at repeating the magic phrases and initial behavior which women have always relied upon for distinguishing the nice guys from the jerks. These predators are now describing rape victims as the perpetrator’s “partner” and equating “not getting their way” as “domestic abuse”. They are disguising themselves as genuinely nice guys, but smart folks should know by now that predators always use whatever camouflage is in season.
    Ed Yong, I love you!

  123. Valtiel632

    I’m not going to comment on the study itself, because many people have already made comments for and against it, and they’re far more well stated than anything I could ever come up with. However, I would like to address some of the comments. This is my first time posting here, so I don’t mean to offend anyone, and I hope this isn’t too off-topic. If it is, give me a warning, moderators, and I’ll gladly switch back to the study only.
    I do think about the issue of “objectification” a lot, being a 24 year old guy who’s obviously interested in girls.
    I do wonder about the various responses, and why women don’t want men to think they’re sexually attractive (except when they’re ‘allowed’ to). The stranger thing is obvious, because it’s just common sense, so I’m more concerned with one-on-one situations and what women find demeaning in that scenario (if it’s someone they’re close to). I know I’m determined not to find women sexually attractive sometimes, because I don’t want to offend them. And even when I only find them sexually attractive momentarily, I feel like perhaps I’m a worthless shell of a person for only looking at a person’s physical appearance, even though that person means nothing to me and I will never encounter them again. One of the reasons I don’t date – I would do fine with the companionship aspect and being a friend part, but when it came to the actual intimacy, I don’t think I’d be able to perform up to the ‘standards’ women expect. Women demand someone who can find them sexually attractive, even if it’s only for those rare few minutes, and I’m not sure how well I would do that, switching off the sexual aspect of myself that views women as appealing for most of the day, and then being expected to switch it on full blaze for those several moments, only to switch it off again after it’s done. Don’t get me wrong, I find it rather easy to keep quiet and treat everyone professionally during the day; it’s not a challenge at all, even when I’m on a train and don’t have to *talk* to anyone. I just wonder how boring it would be for for me to have a girlfriend and for her not to get a sexual response from me, because I’d think I’m ‘objectifying’ her by viewing certain parts of her with more attention than the others. I know someone’s going to point it out, but I’m not gay either, or an asexual. >_> It’s kind of like the Virgin/Whore dichotomy, except I don’t oppose women exploring their sexuality. I just think it’s easier for me not to show women any signs that I find them sexually attractive, and thus avoid any unpleasant misunderstandings.
    So, I do wonder what would happen if suddenly guys NEVER found women sexually attractive, and whether that would solve everything about this issue.
    ON THE OTHER HAND, it is a reality that women don’t like being leered at, and it is wrong to objectify someone in an inappropriate setting. There’s a time and place for that, and it’s not the workplace. Hell, it’s not even the outside world! >_> I don’t spend time leering at women I don’t know, salivating over their breasts and acting like that wolf in the old Hanna Barbera Droopy cartoons, and I sure look them in the eyes when I talk to them (unless I’m staring down at the computer, to actually reference the information). I think if you’re going to objectify someone, the only place to do it is in your bedroom, or in the privacy of your own home. After all, I think it’s hard not to objectify someone when you have your head buried in their breasts, or if it’s a girl, if she’s giving attention to her boyfriend’s anatomy in any form. We’re only human, after all. I may think certain things and I may glance briefly for a moment, but that’s it. I don’t leer at women, I generally go back to what I was doing, and I generally try not to find them attractive human beings, merely other individuals I don’t want any interaction with. I know full well they’re not interested in me leering at them, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want them leering at me either. Not that I’m much to look at. This article also deals with ‘strange’ people leering at you. Like I said, I would be confused as to how to deal with a girlfriend, but the daily part of not staring at women is easy; there’s really no challenge to it if you keep your mind focused on just directing your attention anywhere that’s not her.
    “Intimate partners should be chosen for their aptitude to be mate and co-parent.”
    Actually, that’s a horrible criteria for judging a potential partner, if you don’t want kids. A better standard is judging people for how well they will do as a COMPANION, not as a ‘mate’. ‘Co-parent’ implies you’re going to have kids, and not everyone wants that ‘traditional’ vision of a family in their lives. Some people just want to be happy with someone they share companionship with and love for the rest of their life.
    However, you have to remember how important sexual attraction is. If you “mate” with a person you’re not physically attracted to, you’re not going to have a wonderful relationship, you’re going to have a nightmare of a situation that’s going to affect everyone negatively. , women do want someone who finds them sexually attractive, because NOBODY wants to be with a person who finds them hideous. Just look at all the reports online of husbands who no longer find their wives sexually attractive, while the wives are begging to have an intimate relationship again. If you’re not attracted to the person, you’re not going to be able to do anything with them, unless you’re really, really drunk, or just an asshole rapist.
    “I wonder if the male evo-psychos here know how much they sound like porn-addled rapists looking for a ‘scientific’ excuse to indulge their rabid misogyny.”
    Actually, from what I’ve read, it’s the guys who don’t watch porn that have the most twisted views on women. They have no outlet for the sexual desires and don’t have adequate social skills to develop healthy bonds with women, so they devolve into psychologically disturbed beasts who do abuse women and don’t have a normal view of sexuality. The extreme porn may supplement that, but usually the disturbed mindset comes first – sometimes from religion, other times from pure shyness that develops into neurosis, and other times from abusive parents that lead the kid to fall deep into a repeating pattern of abuse. But porn is not the cause. Porn is the symptom, and it is only a symptom when the person is psychologically incapable of functioning as a human being when they’re not watching it. If you only watch porn for 15 minutes, get off quickly to that, and then forget about it for the rest of the day, I don’t think it’s going to affect you much. You’d be hard pressed to find a young, virile straight guy who hasn’t watched porn sometime in his life.
    “I cannot believe how threatened some of you are of the gender you supposedly love, being equal to you.”
    Actually, some men don’t claim to love women, at all. Although I know that’s obvious, just look at the Men’s Rights movement that contains some nice men and LOADS of others are complete douches who despise women and the subject of equality. Some men raise genuine concerns about child custody and court fairness, and economical concerns (for both sexes), but then certain men come and they hijack the organizations with ideas of oppressing women and returning to the 1950’s “Leave it to Beaver” style of relationships. And other men let them because, of course, they don’t want to ‘go up against the boys’. >_> Some even claim that women have NEVER loved men, simply because they’re bitter over an ex or a lost custody battle. They let one experience destroy them and descend into a place where they hate all women for what one psychologically unbalanced women did. ON THE OTHER HAND, they still find the female gender hot and want sexbots to mimic the outer facade of women (which only plays into the ‘objectification’ claim of women that is driving studies like this). So they still find women sexually attractive, but they just want a body to f**k, with an empty personality and mindset. Those guys definitely don’t love women, and you’d be wrong to assume they do. It’s not even about just relieving stress and then going about your business (which would be respectable, since some people are too caught up in business to ever have a successful relationship), it’s just that they want a shell of a woman to f**k without having to worry about any potential problems. Not every guy is a misguided gazer, some guys really are misogynistic about women as some women are hateful about men. For the sake of the discussion know, I know you’re referring to regular guys.
    I think part of the issue is the difference in the way women and men see beauty. Women say you can find something beautiful without it being sexually exciting, but for guys, it’s a lot more difficult when it comes to people. We can acknowledge art in an intellectual way, we can critique detailed graphics in games and natural wonders without adulteration, but it’s a lot more difficult to find a woman beautiful unless you also find her sexually attractive (unless it’s our daughters, because of the genetic factor involved and sociological repercussions). That may seem shallow, but remember that guys operate on a much more ‘primitive’, instinctual level of sexuality, with women being more refined in a sexual sense and having deeper layers of meaning to them. That doesn’t mean that women aren’t capable of lust, but that guys are much more prone to it than girls. And there’s yet another issue to think about. Notice the women here who say they are proud of their attractiveness, they just don’t want to be ogled. Women like to think of themselves as sex, but they’re not doing this for the benefit of the men. What I’ve learned is that women are mainly doing this for themselves, and any guys who stare at them and are rightfully amazed are misguiding themselves into thinking it’s for them. Sexiness is something that comes from the inside, and so you can find yourself sexy without having to have it be verified by anyone else, woman or man. Men don’t understand that, and they think that women are dressing sexily because they want attention from them. Because men perceive almost anything a woman wears as sexy (short of the most hideous or boring clothing), that causes yet another problem. Overall, the problems *seems* to come from the philosophical differences between men and women, and the misunderstandings that results it. Take note however, that’s only my opinion.

  124. Oh, I forgot to mention that I’m uncomfortable with the term psychological muzzle being used in the article title. I don’t think a leering gaze should stop anyone from voicing their mind, nor do I want it to. >_> I fully expect any woman who’s being leered at by some man who won’t stop to slap him, or at least bring it up in an open way, and seek help from management and/or bystanders to aid her in disciplining the asshole. Other men should bring it up as well, of course. Both sexes should do their best to ensure that there’s a fair environment at workplaces, and that people aren’t unnecessarily uncomfortable in public. I know we have to think about our jobs and so forth, but if we let things like these go, we’re never going to improve anything! Someone has to speak up about this, and men should definitely speak up more for women if the women are too intimidated to do it themselves. It’s only common courtesy.
    The whole “psychological muzzle” term brings to mind torture chambers where people are muzzled like dogs, and men in leather are abusing them with whips or something. The worst of oppressive regimes, in other words, not an office environment or a public setting like a train car, where most of the persistent sexism takes place. I know it’s made for effect, but I have to wonder if the writer of the article went too far, and he could have found a better way to phrase what he read about the findings of the study.

  125. If someone is looking at me below the neck as I’m talking to them (I’m female BTW), I assume that they aren’t really interested in what I’m saying. If they were, they’d be looking at my face, particularly at my eyes and mouth.
    So I’m not going to waste my time thinking of things to say, and therefore won’t say much.
    Since men don’t show much of a difference regardless of where the observer is looking, perhaps this study shows that, in general, women pay more attention to their audience than men.

  126. kt

    Unfortunately, the comments on this thread seem to strongly support the idea that a significant proportion of men are self-absorbed assholes. On the one hand, this is a shame: this was a really interesting and well-written article about an intriguing study that mirrors my real-world experience (I stop talking when men are checking me out because it implies they are not listening, and that they are creeps whom I should avoid). On the other hand, I guess it helps to know what I’m up against — a number of hostile people who really don’t give a shit about what I think or feel.

  127. MLF

    I actually feel REALLY uncomfortable when I can tell women are looking at me as an object as well (and it doesn’t have to be a lesbian either). Also – when other women tell me I should wear make-up or dress differently – I feel silenced too. I never get into the reasons I avoid beauty products altogether. Mostly because I get the hunch that they really don’t care about my opinion, otherwise they would have minded their own business. Which might be similar to why women feel silenced when they are being ogled at by men. It’s almost like you can sense that the men don’t care if you have an opinion – like not liking to be stared at.
    I didn’t bring this up because I wanted to blame women for this, someone mentioned that women don’t get uncomfortable when women stare but I think that is a false assumption. It just happens to be that men tend to be more intrusive, more often. And A LOT of guys I’ve dated had ogling problems. I think women are more likely to look but do it discretely because we know how being put on the spotlight like that can feel a bit like a human auction.
    An example like this happened to me the other night. I was walking my dog on campus and this guy musta been waiting for a ride or something, he was staring at me. I felt really uncomfortable. I guess for me, it almost feels like I’m being video taped or something. I think if a man is uncomfortable with something like that – he’s more likely to speak up because men are socialized to be more extraverted (not saying all men). All I know is that my dog even got annoyed with that guy’s staring and actually started to growl at him (which I thought was totally precious).

  128. R Turner wrote: “Women are self-conscious. Men are not. The flaw is with the women. Kudos to men for being confident and mature.”
    The problem with this theory is that is assumes that the entirity of women being objectified is a passive look when the reality is that objectifying looks are too often followed by sexual harassment or worse. Men who sexually harass or sexually assault women may use women’s non-sexual talk as evidence that the harassment or the sexual contact is wanted. The impact of these experiences can impact how women feel and how they react even when they are in a controlled environment.

  129. Hooray for the soft sciences.

  130. PatrickM

    Kind of interesting how many MRA trolls come out to either shame women or defend threatening male behavior. Kind of makes it obvious why women don’t react well to objectification. The context that makes that behavior silencing is right here in the comments. O.K. MRA trolls, go ahead and cry about this too. Just pile the evidence on Mt. Obvious.

  131. Male

    There you go, Patrick. 10 White Knight points for you!

  132. sammy

    fist off, thanks patrick. i really hope you believe this, and whomever you’re with is a lucky woman.
    the whole “it’s natural and normal and therefore my god’s given right” argument is tired. Lots of men use it to justify just about any behaviour, sadly though, women dont get to use the same argument that often:
    it’s also also natural and normal for women to have leg and armpit hair, yet they are required to shave lest men shame them for not doing so.
    It’s natural and normal for women to fart and burp, yet they are required not to in public.
    it’s natural and normal for a man to desire sex with any woman he sees on the street, yet jumping on her would be an assault.
    it’s also ABSOLUTELY natural and normal for a woman to feel threatened by a sexual gaze, comment and grab at/with innapropriate time/place/person. it’s just how women are because there are biological reasons behind it. It’s threatening. deal with it.

  133. Doctor Slack

    To RTurner: What the study is measuring is not the effects of “objectification” so much as the effects of different socialization. “Kudos to men” doesn’t apply when We the Male Gender are as deeply implicated in the socialization of women (from the way daughters are raised to the whole social field that women confront on a day-to-day basis) as we are. The fact remains that women on the whole face a much different set of risks from the opposite sex on a daily basis than men do; it’s women who constitute eight- or nine-tenths of the victims of rape and sexual assault, not men. Of course, therefore, they have different reactions, since they’d be stupid not to.
    Take the subtle “shrinking” response demonstrated in the study, for example. Socially speaking, it’s a very practical response, probably not unlike what most women would have to men sexually sizing them up in a normal conversation. It’s practical because of the likelihood that a man crass enough to be that obvious about things will respond better to a more demure conversational partner. (Not to mention his getting defensive if directly confronted by the obvious, as demonstrated by this thread.)

  134. Anukool

    Wait, women don’t like random men staring at their bodies in a professional context? Really?

    Men displaying sexual interest in a woman is threatening in a way that women displaying sexual interest in a man is not. Now, the environment in which this study was conducted made it clear that there was no actual immediate threat, but there was the communication of a threat nonetheless. This obviously made the women feel threatened to some degree, and since people can’t do two things at once, they became less focused in their responses. There’s also the question of why one should bother being friendly and outgoing to an interrogator when his behavior is threatening you.

    Now, I don’t really see the need for the concepts of objectification or privilege or even gaze here, or am I missing something? (And, if you hadn’t guessed, I can’t seem to understand any of those concepts. No matter how much I talk to feminist friends or read wikipedia, for the record. Rest of this comment notwithstanding, do chime in if there’s a particularly intuitive definition for any of those.)

    All the men on this thread who are not convinced, I’d like you to honestly do a thought experiment: Imagine that women are stronger than men, on average. Now imagine that women are much less sexually discriminatory, so that if they could have a fuck or three with people they fancy (and they fancy almost everyone) before lunch then that would be a good day. Now imagine that a lot of them don’t exercise, shave, or brush their teeth.

    Now imagine that they could get you hard by kicking you repeatedly in the balls.

    Of course, kicking men in the balls and then mounting them is illegal, and women get sentenced to 2 to 7 years all the time for it, but a lot of these women say that they just couldn’t help themselves, and the incidences of ball-kicking are not going down at a reassuring rate.

    Geddit, yet? You’d be wary of being alone in a room with a woman you didn’t know even if you wanted her, because you could never tell when she’d just start kicking you in the balls so she could do things her way and ignore what you wanted to do. And god forbid you’re stuck on some dark lonely corner with an ugly woman you don’t know, waiting for your bus to arrive.

    And if you were sitting in a room and interviewing with a woman, and she kept distractedly looking at your crotch every now and then, I think you’d talk less too. (Yes, this would hold even for a camera through which a woman was looking.)

    [Just occurred to me that this thread is dead. Wasted 20 minutes, damn.]

  135. ~K~

    I think this ought to be retested with straight men being told they are being looked at by gay men. I’m betting that if straight men think their body is being stared at by somebody that might hit on them when they don’t want to be hit on, they might have a lot less to say to that person, too. I know from personal experience that when straight men find out I’m gay, they suddenly have nothing to say to me and discover pressing business that takes them elsewhere.

    But hey, why should I change? I don’t have any problem ogling men. Straight men ought to take responsibility for their immaturity and poor body image. Other men are confident about their bodies and enjoy being looked at, so if some guy feels bad about being looked at, it must be because he’s out of shape and has been taught to be a victim. It’s his problem if he doesn’t like being objectified and we ought to focus on teaching him how to get fit and overcome his insecurity and get a better attitude.

  136. Elizabeth

    I think it is absurd how some of you believe that it is about women being sexist! If it is not obvious in your every day life, that men CONSTANTLY stare at women (in an unwanted way) you must not get out. Although it is sad to say, there are so many young women and girls in this world today that dress or behave in a manner that attracts just that. What is truly unfair is women who do not want that, who get uncomfortable, and remain quiet have to do this on a daily basis. I am not saying it is all because of men, but due to all the sexual advertisements, barely dressed women….etc. What shocks me is a woman saying this article is basically giving women a ‘Free Pass’ to cower down and be the victim…. are you serious? Do you think any women (in her right mind) would want that? That’s outrageous, most women are strong, yes even the “Victims” it isn’t strength or fear, it’s pure discomfort. If you can tell me there is nothing in this world that makes you uncomfortable then you have the right to assume women want a FREE PASS to be a coward. I agree that there should have been homosexuals in the study as well as other undisclosed cameras, but there is a lot in the comments I find utterly and completely disturbing. Keep up the research, it is fascinating!

  137. Sexism is sad

    I think the women acting like men/kicking them in the balls and mounting them, scenario, is a good illustration.

    @137–No, I disagree that women dress in a manner that “attracts just that”. Because a woman, or any person, should be able to walk outside naked and face no threat of sexual harassment. It all depends on how we are socialized. In Victorian times, showing only your legs was considered scandalous/a come-on. Now, many many people feel comfortable going outside in shorts, and expect to face no threat of sexual harassment.

    Women do nothing at all to “attract” harassment, this is VICTIM BLAMING, pure and simple. Think of an abused child, that an adult claims was “asking for it”. Abuse is completely unacceptable.

    As for men that give me personally The Stare, I want to yell at each and every one of them “GO F YOURSELF, GET THE F AWAY FROM ME!!”, but I cannot, because to do so would risk physical violence from this man/men. Notice, however, that men feel comfortable yelling and cursing at women on the street/from a car/etc all the time. They know there will be no consequence for their actions. This is because of the way our sexist society is structured.

    If violence goes down the hierarchy (men yell at women, men rape women, etc) there are often no consequences. Everyone sees it as “normal”, or, depressingly, “unavoidable”.

    Of COURSE it is avoidable! Rape is a crime, a hate crime at that, and it can be avoided by teaching men feminism, and by punishing rapists for their crimes (not letting them off the hook so much, as our justice system does).

    We must teach men feminism. That is how we will change this system.

  138. William

    It’s amazing how repetitive and defensive most of the male comments here are. It is truly a very interesting article. Please try to listen a wee bit more and go on a misinformed rampage a little less. The whining and wholesale slander of half the population doesn’t help either.

    Listen a bit, instead of taking offense because *you* yourselves do not recognize yourselves in the image of these ogling monsters. That is not what this is about. Read up on this or truly listen to the sane voices in this commentary. Then come back and deliver something that is at least based on some personal pondering and insight instead of on cut and paste and banter, because even if I still would not agree with you after that – at least it would be possible to discuss the subject matter, which would be far more interesting then your self-sufficient monologues.

    And closing, remember that the best way to avoid rape, is to not rape anyone. This is not a flippant remark, I really mean it. Keep it in your pants and control those grabby hands of yours. And yes, I mean all of you.

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