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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Female Gaze

The Beatles, Elvis, One Direction, The Rolling Stones and Justin Bieber have all thrived on one commonality - a hoard of shrieking female fans. One Direction are not terribly talented, but they are one of the most successful modern boy bands. Why is that? They lack the musical prowess of The Beatles, yet they are able to appeal to the female gaze.

What is 'the female gaze'? The male gaze in feminist theory is presenting women in media as objects of heterosexual male pleasure. Men are visually stimulated much more than women; this is apparent considering men consume porn and attend strip clubs far more frequently than women. One can argue that because women have been socially conditioned to not express our sexuality its lead to repressing our urges. But while women are sexual creatures and do have a strong sexuality because all pro-creating creatures do, its not the same as men.
Girls screaming at a Beatles concert.
Its evident that women take much joy in viewing male celebrities as objects of female pleasure. Magic Mike is a movie that depicts this; what straight woman doesn't enjoy looking at hot shirtless men with great bodies? In Sex and the City, there is an episode where the girls discuss their 'fireman fantasy'; the fantasy of a woman being rescued by a sexy fireman.

Women are sexually stimulated in ways that are more complex and different to men. Women want to be swept away by a strong dude and taken care of and made passionate love to. (Obviously this is a generalization). Women love the images of James Bond and Jack Reacher because he represents power, security and stability.

Its interesting now how the so-called notion of 'toxic masculinity' contradicts what women actually find biologically desirable. I agree that it isn't right for men to be expected to hold in their emotions and not cry. I think guys are emotionally starved; when it comes to relationships I believe guys don't pursue them 'just for sex' - you don't need a girlfriend if all you want is sex. I think guys crave an emotional connection that they don't get with each other in the same way girls do frequent with other girls. Girls are much more emotionally expressive and affectionate with each other in a way that guys tend not to be with other guys. Hence having a nice girlfriend to cuddle with fills that emotional void.

But while being sensitive and emotionally vulnerable is perfectly natural and healthy and preferable to some women (certainly me), most women are still attracted to an image of a man as a protector and provider. And this is the heart of the female gaze. For men, the 'male gaze' is purely based on finding women physically attractive. I'm a straight woman and I believe women are more attractive than men; I even get aroused by women and check women out on the street way more, even though I've never slept with or had feelings for a woman.

But for women, the female gaze is based around a man's physical attractiveness, but also his power status. This is why male celebrities - like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones - are desirable. They represent power, money and status. They're up on a stage, brimming with charisma and charm, and appeal to the woman's fantasy of being swept away by some handsome wealthy dude.

Is it fair? Its not about being fair or unfair. I don't even know if anything I've just said is right or not; please feel free to disagree with me in the comments or highlight where I may be wrong. The social sciences get written off as 'pseudosciences', but I don't think that is fair; studying humans is much more complex than studying rocks. The natural sciences have definitive answers, but the social sciences offer various perspectives because there are so many ways of interpreting human emotion and psychology.


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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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