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Seeing Our Bodies Through Men's Eyes

 
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The diet industry makes a fortune every year based on the premise that women view their bodies, and, by necessity, their sexuality, through men's eyes. During the era of the 1970's when women strived to discover their own perspective on the female form, to develop self-acceptance, and to attain a certain degree of control, comfort and love of themselves, some of these images of proportional perfection went on the wane.

As women took their birth control pills, completed their educations, went to work and attempted to slough off archaic notions of femininity and oppression, leaving the roles assigned to them, creating careers, divorcing their husbands and so forth, there was an upheaval in the notion that women's bodies are the narcissistic echo of the male ego and, as such, should reflect well upon man.

This endless loop of narcissism was broken for about a nanosecond in terms of cultural time. As of the last time I checked the television, radio programming, internet sites, teenage girls and all of my female friends, that sloughing off seems like a distant, if not hallucinatory, memory. We are, at this very moment, bombarded with more recklessness, more haste in the choices we are making about our values and our sexuality than ever before in history. What is available to young people, for free, makes the pin-up girls of the 1950's seem like quaint older ladies you'd ask to tea.

In the hopes that balance is quietly waiting in the wings to make its entrance, we may be suffering from some sort of societal backlash as a result of the extremes that seemed necessary to make real changes. The reasons are complex, myriad, and possibly beyond the scope of our collective comprehension until ten years from now when the analysis of the time is synthesized and broadcasted as I hope they will be.

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Men see women, women see men differently. Nature has coupled them with mostly opposite opinions/views. Men are by nature aggressive and in sex matters not concerned with after effects, on the other hand women cannot afford to be like that. porn is one aspect where men derive satisfaction, that does not mean women are not into porn. In fact it is widely supported industry in the world. Conservatives keep remarking against it but of not much consequence. It is better to wink at it and forget.

May 13, 2011 - 7:59pm

As a 63-YO hetero male, married almost 43 years, I have a viewpoint. First, so much of female commentary on male instincts is based on their self-doubts about attractiveness. There are too many hangups about perfection, which doesn't exist in men, either!
Men's visual instincts on sex are so basic that research has noted the prime physical aspect starting involuntariuly before the guy is even aware that he is looking at a woman. Up to a point, it is a simple matter of thousands of generations of genetic programing. We, men, are engineered to be automatically attracted to what you, women, are genetically engineered to have and be attractive.
The main points of male interest are fat deposits on chest, thighs, rear, etc. Research shows that when women's body fat goes under 19% by weight, the menses and reproduction shut down. This is seen in many runners and atheletes, and in anorexics. In other words, this system developed to keep men directed towards good rough indicators of fertility.

The problem of age mismatch is also base on instinctual fertility signs.
But for thousands of generations, up to the 1920s, the big surplus was older men, as so very many women died in childbirth complications. Today, women outlive men on the average, in a giant contrast.

Too many women worry too much! That extra pound of fat around the upper thighs or rear very much enhances the shape men were made to love. That's my opinion.

March 30, 2011 - 7:51pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

As I am now near 60 years old, I remember the lingering hopes of feminism and freedom, how women struggled with identifying with feminism and their old roles. Back then, we made a mistake. We, as young females, believed that by opening ourselves up to physical experiences with males, that we would free ourselves from our out-dated notions, especially once the pill became available. Somewhere we lost control and handed it to men, who, with their new freedom to have whatever they wanted, began to demand that we meet certain standards of beauty to be "worthy" of them. By the time the eighties came around we all began aerobics to Jane Fonda videos, etc.. As men demanded more and more from their wives with full-time jobs and child care and home responsibilities, men found that a new generation of female had come of age--the "material girl." When I recently went to check out the personals site Seniorfriends.com, all the the females there were young girls looking for older men--"sugar-daddies." Now I hear there is another site called something like "special arrangements.com," which is geared only to older men wanting to meet young girls and pay them to see the men. As Gordon Gekko said, "greed is good." And, like him, young girls came to see that they could sell themselves and it would not make a difference in the long run....or does it? I left the website stunned that at my age there are strict limits on who is available to date me, but men my age and much older, have their choice from 17 year olds to 70 year olds. The word "backlash" reminds me of a book written in the eighties by a feminist who saw the changes that were coming on. Most women and men pooh-poohed her for not being real. But, I think that there, at least, has been a backlash--against better-educated, intelligent, sexual women by men who do not know or care to know what women are about. It has been a long time for me, but our huge mistake was not fighting with more vigor for the Equal Rights Amendment passage through Congress. Without that, we were doomed to the reactions from Reagan to Bush. We have been injured on all fronts. But we must keep our heads high, and fight on, for our freedom really is about how we truly feel about ourselves and not about others opinions, male or female. Carry on my young friends, you, unfortunately, must make it happen for yourselves. The movement is still young. Fight with all your might. But, get a Supreme Court decision or a change to the constitution. Don't settle for the politicians in office at the time. All boat rise with the water. That is what happened to us. When the tide went out, there we were, trying to figure out what to do to make ourselves feel valued. Good luck. Kate 1218

April 17, 2009 - 6:25pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

As I am now near 60 years old, I remember the lingering hopes of feminism and freedom, how women struggled with identifying with feminism and their old roles. Back then, we made a mistake. We, as young females, believed that by opening ourselves up to physical experiences with males, that we would free ourselves from our out-dated notions, especially once the pill became available. Somewhere we lost control and handed it to men, who, with their new freedom to have whatever they wanted, began to demand that we meet certain standards of beauty to be "worthy" of them. By the time the eighties came around we all began aerobics to Jane Fonda videos, etc.. As men demanded more and more from their wives with full-time jobs and child care and home responsibilities, men found that a new generation of female had come of age--the "material girl." When I recently went to check out the personals site Seniorfriends.com, all the the females there were young girls looking for older men--"sugar-daddies." Now I hear there is another site called something like "special arrangements.com," which is geared only to older men wanting to meet young girls and pay them to see the men. As Gordon Gekko said, "greed is good." And, like him, young girls came to see that they could sell themselves and it would not make a difference in the long run....or does it? I left the website stunned that at my age there are strict limits on who is available to date me, but men my age and much older, have their choice from 17 year olds to 70 year olds. The word "backlash" reminds me of a book written in the eighties by a feminist who saw the changes that were coming on. Most women and men pooh-poohed her for not being real. But, I think that there, at least, has been a backlash--against better-educated, intelligent, sexual women by men who do not know or care to know what women are about. It has been a long time for me, but our huge mistake was not fighting with more vigor for the Equal Rights Amendment passage through Congress. Without that, we were doomed to the reactions from Reagan to Bush. We have been injured on all fronts. But we must keep our heads high, and fight on, for our freedom really is about how we truly feel about ourselves and not about others opinions, male or female. Carry on my young friends, you, unfortunately, must make it happen for yourselves. The movement is still young. Fight with all your might. But, get a Supreme Court decision or a change to the constitution. Don't settle for the politicians in office at the time. All boat rise with the water. That is what happened to us. When the tide went out, there we were, trying to figure out what to do to make ourselves feel valued. Good luck. Kate 1218

April 17, 2009 - 6:11pm

Kristin,
Thanks so much for your insight, commentary and link to this incredible article. I agree that this is absolutely an identity issue, a self-esteem issue, and a cultural issue. I feel very strongly that as women we have the ability and the responsibility - to ourselves, our children, our families and, truly, our society, to find a way into our own sexuality and self-esteem without it looking quite the way it does inso many of the shallow-minded portrayals in the media...
I also have faith in men; as I've mentioned, I know many of them who genuinely respect and care for women. They want to love and be loved just as women do; they want "real" relationships. They too, as young boys (and I have two young sons who are being swept up in their own way) are vulnerable to the airbrushing and surgically enhanced female forms; are forming their notions of beauty, sexuality and relationships as a result of much of this type of imagery.
Without their self-esteem in tact, a woman feels horribly inadequate compared with the images she sees in magazines and on television and her computer screen. We need to continue to value the positive attributes of sexuality including: creating a relationship, bonding, maturing, pleasuring ourselves and our partner, relaxing, connecting, committing and exploring. By taking these intrinsic aspects of sexuality away and reducing it to bodies and body parts, we all end up missing out on so many precious moments and settle for far less than we really need and desire.

April 16, 2009 - 1:22pm

I was just reading an article on The Huffington Post by Jennifer Donahue where she mentions how the nude pics posted from Allure magazine have already received 353,000 page views and 530 comments. (I scrolled through some of the 530 comments, and the most recent one posted was this one: "Wow. More airbrushed images of female humans. You guys are easily amused." That about sums up how I feel about the pics myself.)

Donahue writes about the perils of promoting the "perfect" female body and how sickeningly prevalent it is.

I love how Donahue closed her article: "My message is this: millions of young people are watching. They are forming their personal and professional identities, based in part on what they see around them. The images they see now have lasting effects on their self-image, their views of how they should behave in relationships and in their work. So what should we tell them about those things?"

Exactly. How can we keep putting out crazy-fake, surgically-enhanced, heavily airbrushed images of women and expect our young girls (or their mothers for that matter) to have a healthy self esteem? Or any self esteem at all??

Here's a link to the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-donahue/nude-allure-is-pornograph_b_186636.html

April 16, 2009 - 12:22pm

I really appreciate not only your words but just the fact that you are entering into this discussion. I especially love that you wrote: "Men's eyes may be vulgar. Their hearts are not." This is a very profound statement whether you realize it or not. I'm not sure we need to use labels such as "feminist" or "anti-feminist" because I think we all get trapped by these labels and there is little to no breathing room for diversity there. I suppose my point is more that women have begun devaluing themselves as people again and have placed a higher emphasis on their physical attributes than ever before. I am not laying blame at men's feet and I agree with you that women spend more money and effort as consumers. This is why I choose to address this issue in a women's forum - because WOMEN need to acknowledge and deal with their own self image... while men may have a certain taste for things, we are the ones who choose to have that control our presentation of ourselves to them (you).
I know many wonderful men, including my husband, who freely admit and embrace a tendency toward intense visual stimulation; they also happen to be loving, supportive, funny, talented and gentle people.
I think I am concerned with our cultural values as a whole, and men are victims or products of this media bombardment just as women are.

Thanks for your thoughts, I sincerely appreciate hearing your comments.
Good luck with the work situation, and, by the way - staying home with the kids??!!! You Go for it!!!! Completely wonderful; your fiancee is a lucky woman.

April 16, 2009 - 4:57am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

As a man this is an interesting thing to stumbleupon. I am twenty five and engaged. I love my fiancee dearly and would consider myself a feminist. But, as a man in his twenties, one has to beg the question, what is a feminist? Is it someone who pursues womens' liberty? Their right to be happy? The more esoteric goal of equality?

I would rather stay home and take care of our children than go to work and make money. Is that feminist?

Men view more pornography than women but women are the primary consumer in general. So, who contributes more to the image of women?

---

It is late and I am tired. Neither of us can find work. Both are college educated.

It is true that mens' eyes may be vulgar. Their hearts are not. They may not know how to love or how to be loved but they want it. While there are so many things wrong with the world why ask this question?

April 16, 2009 - 1:52am

Thanks for this fascinating post! I am so sick of the pornification of our culture, where people like Larry Flynt are admired and ten year old girls imitate strippers. I'm also tired of people viewing it as a conservative versus liberal issue. It is a human issue and more particularly, a female issue. I am super liberal politically and am annoyed at so many liberals who take a pro strip club and pro pornography stance. Utah (a very conseravtive state ) uses more on line pornography per capita than any other state.
So many women nowadays call themselves feminists while they are happy for their husbands to oogle other women through pornography, demeaning themselves and their relationship. This way, the balance is kept with the male. Our bodies are objectified and we are deep down not respected.
With the easy availibility of more and more shocking on line pornography, young boys and girls are learning that women are there to be used and treated as sub humans.
I too am confused as to where feminism went. Why do some women feel it's bad to be called a feminist? The 60's and 70's meant nothing in the end for the women's movement, if all we can do is sit back while our bodies are used for male gratification only?

April 15, 2009 - 5:15pm
(reply to rlyons)

Thanks so much for your beautifully eloquent response. It is something that I marvel at on a daily basis - there was so much change, it seems, and it's as if it has mostly evaporated or that things have actually gotten much, much worse.

It's wonderful to connect with thoughtful people like yourself. The most healing thing we can do for ourselves and others is to at least acknowledge the issues and think about them without fear or defensiveness.

Ongoing dialogues promote meaningful thought and that's just about the most important human commodity we need to salvage!

April 15, 2009 - 5:43pm
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