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Anyone else got the sense from reading Dan's stuff that it makes you feel sleazy and technical about the most intimate part of your life thus ruining the magic?
Posted by Falcor on January 26, 2013 at 10:59 AM · Report this
I understand intellectually that we can't control what goes on in other people's minds when they look at us, and that he is not actually DOING anything assaultive. However, if I were the girlfriend, I would be way less inclined to be jealous, and way more inclined to worry about what kind of guy I'd gotten involved with who would spend his evenings creeping on unsuspecting women at the pool.
Posted by lulubelle on January 26, 2013 at 11:00 AM · Report this
@3 Oh jesus, yes because only creeps check out other people at the pool. I mean, why on earth would a normal person check out people they find attractive in a place where everyone is walking around wet and half naked?
Posted by Friendstastegood on January 26, 2013 at 11:21 AM · Report this
@4--but he's not just checking people out at the pool. He's deliberately going to the pool constantly after work to get his swim cap fix. It's the difference between a foot fetishist really enjoying the view those times when he has to go shoe-shopping, and a foot fetishist lurking around shoe stores just to watch.
Posted by lulubelle on January 26, 2013 at 11:30 AM · Report this
@4 There's a difference between going to the pool for a swim and happening to enjoy the sight of people there and purposefully going to the pool for the express reason of watching people who don't realize they're there for your sexual gratification. Can you spot the difference?
Posted by Zuulabelle on January 26, 2013 at 11:32 AM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 7
I know this is from several years ago, but it is almost impossible to hide the fact that you go swimming several times a week. Pretty much all public pools have pretty high levels of chlorine, and most people can smell the chlorine on your skin and in your hair afterward, even if you shower. Anyone who has ever been on a swim team knows this. So the GGG girlfriend probably already knew he was going swimming. Just not why.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on January 26, 2013 at 11:49 AM · Report this
fannerz 8
@3: If I found out a guy was checking me out at the pool because of the nylon on my head and not, say, my ridiculously exposed body in a swimsuit, I'd find it charming!
Posted by fannerz on January 26, 2013 at 11:50 AM · Report this
Ophian 9
@2, no.

@3, If he were jerkin' it in the locker room, stealing underwear, taking photos, &c. it would be creepy. Otherwise he is just a normative male who has eyeballs and goes to a location where he can see what he finds attractive. For guys who don't have a particular fetish the park/supermarket/office/cafe/bus/library/sidewalk are sufficient. If this bothers you, you might find a burka convenient...except for those burka fetishists.

@5 & @6, you related?
Posted by Ophian on January 26, 2013 at 11:58 AM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 11
Hmmm. I wonder why he doesn't ask his gf to go swimming with him, wearing a swimcap. That way she'd be reinforcing the attraction that she personally holds for him, rather than just random unknown women.
Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on January 26, 2013 at 11:58 AM · Report this
@8 I suppose it's a refreshing change in the nature of the objectification, but I feel like it's worse in spirit--he's not just "checking out," it sounds like he's prowling.
Posted by lulubelle on January 26, 2013 at 12:06 PM · Report this
Ophian 13
Helenka @11, yeah why would a guy not invite his girlfriend to join him while he scoped out random unknown women?
Posted by Ophian on January 26, 2013 at 12:08 PM · Report this
Ophian 14
@12 "prowling"? Again I think that you are pathologizing having a Y chromosome.
Posted by Ophian on January 26, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
seandr 15
@3: creeping on unsuspecting women

This may come as a shock to you, but men are constantly "creeping on unsuspecting women", whether it's because they are wearing a swim cap, a swim suit, funky shoes, black nylons, low cut shirts, high cut skirts, knee high socks, nice breasts, or a hot ass.
Posted by seandr on January 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM · Report this
Ernie1 16

Posted by Ernie1 on January 26, 2013 at 1:09 PM · Report this
@3,5,6 creeping on unsuspecting women / objectification

I know it's different for a lot of women because of sexual violence, but speaking as a guy, it's great to be on the receiving end and to be stared at like a piece of meat by other guys, even if they aren't hot (as long as the trolls keep their distance).

It creeped me out when I was a teenager, but by the time I hit 20 I loved it no matter who was doing the creeping. The only bad thing is the attention has gotten less frequent by my mid-40s.

I suspect I've gotten to enjoy it longer than most get to...
Posted by delta35 on January 26, 2013 at 1:25 PM · Report this
Oh for fuck's sake. This is exactly why I have come to seriously resent having straight men in group exercise classes, at the pool, and at the gym. Male gaze is tiresome as hell. Stay out of my yoga class if you're only there to check out my ass or reduce me to a body part you can stick your dick into. You poison everything and it seriously makes it hard not to kind of hate men.
Posted by bellelaide on January 26, 2013 at 2:02 PM · Report this
@17. Right on. I've always envied gay guys the experience of being creeped/objectified/whatever. It must feel awesome. Here on the het side of the fence the bar seems to be set pretty high: you have to be George Clooney-esque with a ripped bod to be gawked at, and even then women are pretty damned discreet about it.

I understand the feeling is not mutual though. See @18.
Posted by LateBloomer on January 26, 2013 at 2:08 PM · Report this
nocutename 20
My two cents as a woman who used to get viewed by the male gaze a lot more 15 years ago: unless someone is *acting* obnoxiously toward me, I don't mind being the object of an appreciative glance or three; I take is as a compliment, and it can indeed, feel pretty awesome. If I don't want to engage with a man in a flirtatious way (say, I am in a yoga class), I can simply ignore him.
Rarely does it feel as though I'm being "creeped on." And the times it does, it's because the man is creepy in other ways. A subtle or flirtatious checking out is fine.

@18 et al: you may discover, as age renders you increasingly invisible, that you miss the irritating male gaze.
Posted by nocutename on January 26, 2013 at 2:25 PM · Report this
@18: 2/3 of your posts in the past year have been on the same point:

Today: Stay out of my yoga class if you're only there to check out my ass.
Mar 8, 2012 "This is why I hate having straight dudes in yoga class. . ."

This must really be ruining your life - all these guys checking out your stunning butt. Not enough to change the class or the butt, just enough to complain about.

And are you sure they're straight? Dan's admitted to occasionally fixating on a pleasingly masculine body part only to realize that weren't any Y chromosomes involved.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on January 26, 2013 at 2:33 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 22
Maybe I'm just dumb, but I fail to see how male gaze harms women in any way. Sure, I can see it would be obnoxious if a guy was hitting on you in a yoga class or whatever. Unwanted advances are never fun. But simply looking? Looking, in and of itself?

I got news for you. Straight guys look at women all the time. Every waking minute. Some are more discreet than others, but they are always looking. The only way to prevent it is to never leave the house. Looking is hardwired into our caveman brain, so there's no use blaming misogyny for it.

It seems to me that you can chastise a guy for unwanted actions or advances, but you can't really chastise a guy for looking. That's like chastising a guy for breathing.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on January 26, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 23
I find it hard to believe he would go to all effort and time to put himself at the pool, either swimming or just hanging around, and get nothing but discrete, innocuous appearing glances. What's the payoff?

He's doing something creepy. Jerking off somewhere. Taking photos. Something. Not just harmlessly looking. Otherwise he'd be at home with a collection of cap porn he found in any number of swimming and athletic magazines, or swimwear catalogs. Or paying a pro.

It would certainly explain why he's so guilty and keeping it a secret, and fears that he is cheating. Because come on -- he's afraid his girlfriend will find out he's been swimming behind her back? Is he fucking retarded?

Of course not. He's been doing something more than just swimming and looking around.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on January 26, 2013 at 2:54 PM · Report this
It really depends on how he is doing it. If he goes to the pool and swims or does some other pool related activity while also enjoying the swimcapped laddies no problem, if he is hanging out in the corner in a trench coat with his hands in his pockets that's something different.

There is nothing wrong with checking people out. There is something wrong with being creepy about it.
Posted by giffy on January 26, 2013 at 2:55 PM · Report this
Megaera 25
Reverse Polarity: It really depends on the way the guy is looking at you (for me, anyway). An admiring glance is a great ego-boost. On the other hand, a guy who looks at you as though he's assessing whether you are fit-for-purpose, or as though he's perving on you, feels absolutely vile and objectifying.
Posted by Megaera on January 26, 2013 at 2:56 PM · Report this
seandr 26
@delta35: speaking as a guy, it's great to be on the receiving end

Yes, the first time I really experienced/noticed the male gaze was walking into the Eagle back in the 90's with a couple gay friends with maybe a dozen guys perched in various locations staring hard. That was when I first realized I'd probably be happier had I been born gay.

Most women can't relate to the gazer's point of view, and sometimes you don't want that kind of attention, so I get that it can be annoying (men can be annoying in a lot of ways).

But labeling the male gaze as "objectification" is fundamentally hostile to male sexuality, and when considered carefully, it's essentially meaningless. People "objectify" other people all the time, whether it's for sex, a paycheck, help with lifting something heavy, etc. How many women go out of their way to make sure the bus driver doesn't feel like he's being treated as a mere bus driving object, only to be abandoned and forgotten as soon as he has served his purpose?

Feminists who lecture about male sexuality sometimes sound about as credible as conservative politicians who lecture about female sexuality.
Posted by seandr on January 26, 2013 at 3:30 PM · Report this
Speaking from my female viewpoint, it's creepy if it's creepy, and not if it's not. If a guy's eyeing you makes you feel like maybe you better not walk home from the gym alone, that's not good.

I love nice normal guys - even if they are not all that attractive themselves - checking me out, and I dislike nasty furtive guys checking me out. So, my best advice about not being thought creepy is to not be a creep. A het guy who likes women, has women in his life, enjoys relationships with women, can check women out without seeming slimy, while a het guy who hates women and resents the erotic power they have over him can't, no matter what the circumstances.
Posted by agony on January 26, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 28
Ophian @13

You're not getting what I'm suggesting (though I thought I was writing it plainly). It's not that she'd be there to watch him gazing at OTHER women; it's that SHE would be there for him to gaze mostly at her wearing HER own swimcap. Even traveling to and from the pool could be a source/form of foreplay and might result in some hot sex when they're back home. I'm sure his anxiety and guilt would decrease if she were to indulge him more often in this rather harmless kink.
Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on January 26, 2013 at 4:36 PM · Report this
@22: Maybe you ARE dumb. Read the comments about the difference between creepy and non-creepy looking again, think about them reeeeally hard, and see if you can imagine how someone staring at you with a lascivious look on their face while you are trying to do everyday activities would not be welcome. Then we'll see.
Posted by chi_type on January 26, 2013 at 5:12 PM · Report this
In terms of getting checked out in public, cultural standards are very different in different places. In the US, it's acceptable for a guy to look as long as he seems like he's TRYING not to get caught. In practice, this means that he looks, and if she catches him, he looks away. Whether he looks back has to do with what her face looks like when she catches him.

It is creepy if a guy is looking at me and I give him a "stop staring at me" look and he doesn't stop staring or (even worse) finds my increasingly dirty looks to be encouraging. If I find myself in that situation, I just ignore him thereafter, but I still know that I'm being stared at and it makes me nervous. And the reason it makes me nervous is because the guy hasn't given me the normal, socially-aware response which respects the fact that I am not mere decoration for his viewing pleasure.

As to this guy's particular issue, I find it a little weird that he has to go several times a week to satisfy his urge to see women in swim caps. He might want to tamp down on that a little.
Posted by alguna_rubia on January 26, 2013 at 6:08 PM · Report this
@23: Or maybe he's afraid that his girlfriend, knowing his fetish for swim caps, will assume that he's going there, ogling in the worst possible way and annoying/frightening the women there, taking photos, then going and jacking off in the bathroom, even though all he is doing is going and looking.

Just like you did there.

Seriously, paying a pro? How many hundreds of dollars to model swim caps for him, when he can pay two bucks to get into the pool and see a whole crowd of women in them? Your penchant for exaggeration just got the better of you.
Posted by avast2006 on January 26, 2013 at 6:37 PM · Report this
By the way, I'm wondering what the swim cap equivalent of a downblouse or upskirt photo would be? He would be taking pictures of their _heads_, not jamming his camera in their crotches. That alone means he would have to be trying a LOT harder to be squicky than a guy trying for either of the former types. Not that I think a public pool would allow him for one second to take photos of the women (the pool's working assumption being that anyone with a camera in a swimsuit setting is going after genital shots). But if he is taking pictures in a way that is undetectable (thus the swimmers are never made uncomfortable) AND the end result is pictures of their heads, you have to work pretty hard to blow that up into the same sort of personal invasion that you get with upskirts. At least in Western culture, a head is not something that you ordinarily expect to keep private or be embarrassed by showing it. Unless he posts those photos to there is no way to tell what the intent of that portrait is, short of crawling inside his brain, which is invasive in its own way.

Personally, I hope he isn't taking photos. (Personally, I doubt he is taking photos, or he wouldn't need to go back multiple times per week.) But I think some of the outrage expressed here is apples-and-oranges comparisons.
Posted by avast2006 on January 26, 2013 at 7:03 PM · Report this


I can't explain it much better, but when man looks at you like he's /taking/ something from you, as opposed to appreciating what he sees, like say, a pretty flower (which can still be problematic), it is scary. And because we live in a world where the answer to sexual violence is that women are constantly told to police their looks and actions, rather than to tell (mostly) men to STOP BEING VIOLENT towards women, well, we're waaay closer to Schrodinger's rapist that I like to be. Yes, over a look.
Posted by bu on January 26, 2013 at 7:08 PM · Report this
There's another aspect of this I find puzzling.

I go to the pool five times a week, been doing that for years. And I honestly can't tell you the last time I saw someone in a swim cap. And this includes midafternoon aqua-aerobics, where at 55 I'm one of the youngest women there. Where is he finding all these swim caps?
Posted by agony on January 26, 2013 at 8:00 PM · Report this
harmonyak 36
The way I see it, if guys I don't know are checking me out and thinking naughty thoughts (whether there's a fetish involved or not), it would be creepy as all hell if I knew about it, and not at all if I don't know. Ignorance is bliss in this case. As long as the women don't know what he's doing, I really don't see them as victims.

Posted by harmonyak on January 26, 2013 at 8:06 PM · Report this
nocutename 37
@36: Why is it creepy if you know that guys are checking you out and "thinking naughty thoughts" as long as they are acting respectfully? Is it really so awful to be the object of unstated and un-acted-upon lust?
Posted by nocutename on January 26, 2013 at 9:04 PM · Report this
@35 I always wear a swimcap. I find loose hair horribly annoying when swimming laps, even in a pony tail. Protects the hair from chlorine too. Maybe it depends on the area of the country?
Posted by wingedkat on January 26, 2013 at 10:25 PM · Report this
@36 As a fit, confident and attractive 35 year old women swimming in a pool full of fit and attractive 20 year old college kids... well, I'm just relieved when I can tell the guy looking at me is having "naughty" thoughts.

It is much better than the "what the f are you doing here, lady" look, which I assure you is much more insulting.

Mostly I don't pay attention, because I'm there to swim.
Posted by wingedkat on January 26, 2013 at 10:33 PM · Report this
milemarker 42
@2 - Doesn't look like it.
Posted by milemarker on January 26, 2013 at 10:56 PM · Report this
sirkowski 44
It's called Eye Rape, people. He's raping them with his eyes. It's a hate crime.
Posted by sirkowski on January 26, 2013 at 11:34 PM · Report this
I am wondering what in the world it is about a woman wearing a swim cap that turns him on. It makes her head smooth, round and hairless... hmmm, can it be that it makes it look like... a dick?

Just a thought.
Posted by KCFrance on January 27, 2013 at 2:16 AM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 46
I know from conversations with women that sometimes the creep factor is also about how attractive the person is. A person they're attracted to can creep hard, but if they're not attractive, the guy gets labeled a creep. I've seen it happen, and talked with women about it.

Which, in my twisted homo male privileged thought process, lessens the bitching about the creep factor. "Don't look at me unless I think you're hot" is not a valid point of view.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 27, 2013 at 3:12 AM · Report this
This made me think of a link I came across from Violet Blue's blog:…

This bit in particular:
1) Learn how to manage your sexual energy. If you feel attracted to someone or if you feel turned on, that’s yours to deal with. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility, any more than your feelings of hunger are someone else’s responsibility. Yes, I get that it’s not entirely under your control any more than you can completely control hunger when you see something you’d like to eat. And just as you’re responsible for your responses when you see a hamburger, no matter how hungry you are, you’re responsible for your sexual energy, no matter how hot someone is.

I appreciate being admired, but the creep factor is definitely more about actions and attitudes and speech. When you are talking to your buddies and I can hear you assessing my hottness (or lack thereof, I overheard "pancake ass" once) that's really fucking obnoxious and depending on someones sensitivities, can be devastating. I tried really hard for "pancake ass" not to ruin my day, but goddamnit motherfucker got to me
Posted by Zbot on January 27, 2013 at 6:07 AM · Report this
To be sure, I don't think that's what the LW is about. He is probably being very careful and discrete, so as not to screw up his access to swim caps. If no one is complaining about him, he's probably doing it right.
Posted by Zbot on January 27, 2013 at 6:18 AM · Report this
@9 Ladies, you are asking for it!

@everyone else: Ladies, just take it as a compliment! I'd be flattered if it happened to me!
Posted by oskomena on January 27, 2013 at 6:59 AM · Report this
As long as this man can keep from acting like a twelve-year old boy, by which I mean as long as he can keep his fantasies in his head, his hands to himself, his genitals in his pants, and his drool in his mouth—at least until he's in private—then it's his private business.

Going to the pool every day in swim attire, swimming laps like every other person there, not breathing heavily in any way that couldn't be mistaken for the exercise itself and enjoying the view while he's at it? Fine. Nobody's problem. Nobody's beeswax.

Going to the pool every day to sit there and stare at people or to make a token effort at swimming and stare at people? Call security because this guy's a perv.

The difference between swimsuits at the beach and swimsuits at a pool is anyone who's wearing a bathing suit to show off her appearance isn't going to go anyplace that requires swim caps (they damage the hair). Yes, women (and men) want to be desirable, but if a person's being gross while you're just trying to go about your business, then it's not a compliment!
Posted by DRF on January 27, 2013 at 8:42 AM · Report this
June Cleaver wearing a swim cap, greeting Ward at the end of a busy day.
Posted by lhbbcp on January 27, 2013 at 9:42 AM · Report this
Just Blue 52
@46, could it be that the guys giving unwanted attention didn't shut it down after clear signals of discomfort? Then it would be less about the attractiveness of the man and more about his refusal to stop after it's clear the woman's not interested. I've never minded attention from guys in itself, but pushiness bothers me. Too often it has escalated from staring to asking me out to threatening me for turning him down (even if I politely state it's because I'm a lesbian). So a guy that continuously stares even after I'm clearly not interested makes me nervous. It's not that every guy who does that becomes threatening, but it has happened enough times that unresponsiveness to cues of discomfort raises a red flag for me.
Posted by Just Blue on January 27, 2013 at 9:51 AM · Report this
@46: alguna_rubia @31 explains it well. A socially appropriate man knows he can look, "and if she catches him, he looks away. Whether he looks back has to do with what her face looks like when she catches him."

The initial checking-out isn't creepy, it's how you respond to her body language after she catches you. If she gives you a pleasant expression, then looking again isn't creepy. (Hence your belief that attractive men aren't seen as creeps.) But if a guy, no matter how attractive, ignores my dirty look and keeps staring at me, not even pretending to be discreet, then he's creepy for ignoring the social convention. If he's attractive, then I might call him an entitled asshole, but basically he's still a creep.

@47: Best to assume any negative comments you hear are either misheard or weren't about you. Remind yourself that it's only your vanity that places you at the center of the universe, and you'll realize that they could just as easily have been talking about someone else. (At least, that works for me.)
Posted by EricaP on January 27, 2013 at 10:02 AM · Report this
@53, my "vanity" isn't the issue, it's the openly discussing of someone's physical attributes in a sexual context, clearly not giving a shit if the person in question can hear you (and the possibility that it was intended to be overhead adds another layer of creepiness). Weather or not they were discussing me (they were, I'm not being vain, it was just that obvious) it was meant as an example of creepiness, assholery, what have you, not the honest noticing, liking what you see, and perhaps letting it show (a double-take, or even a whistle). It seems like there is confusion, reading some of these comments, as to whether women should just thank god a man finds them worth remarking on, even when "nice tits" is followed by "yeah, but pancake ass" chortle chortle
Posted by Zbot on January 27, 2013 at 10:40 AM · Report this
Speaking as a woman: Its not the looking per se, its that its constant, unending, and always about the same thing, over and over. It raises a rebellious streak in me...why do you get to set my agenda every minute of the day? From the male side (I imagine), its not easy because men are genetically programmed to have self confidence, overcome objections and frankly be clueless a lot of the a successful strategy. Moreover, most people aren't thinking of themselves as a "creeps" for doing what comes naturally.

There is still work to be done to reach some kind of happy medium. The Creator sure played a dirty trick on us.
Posted by BlueSparrow on January 27, 2013 at 10:54 AM · Report this
@36: "it would be creepy as all hell if I knew about it, and not at all if I don't know."

Perhaps this is splitting hairs, but I think it would be more accurate to say, "creepy as all hell if he is making me aware of it and not at all if he isn't." The reason I say that is that it is a very safe bet that just walking down the street, there's going to be at least one guy checking you out and thinking naughty thoughts, and surely you know that.

(BTW, I have heard enough comments from women that indicate they routinely check out the goods too, so no high horses about daring to look and like. Only about being overt and offensive about it, which I will concede that more men tend to do than women do.)

@37: If you read "if I know about it" as meaning "if I'm being made aware of him" then no, actually, his actions aren't nearly respectful enough. Naughty thoughts from a stranger that are overt enough to show on the outside usually come across as a leer, not a smile.
Posted by avast2006 on January 27, 2013 at 11:21 AM · Report this
@35: Do you live somewhere warm? In aqua aerobics your head is out of the water and you wouldn't need a cap. If you have long hair and stop to do laps on the way home from work, then a cap saves drying your piles of hair before heading out into the 20° weather.

31 does a good summary of the social norms around creepy and non-creepy just-looking, including female signaling of how threatening this is coming across. When the "please stop staring" signal is met by a nonverbal "oh yeah baby I'm loving it; just waiting until you head somewhere less crowded" then yes, it is creepy. And it is not analogous between the sexes, because men have very little fear that an unknown larger, stronger female will stalk and overpower them, claiming that the way they swam gave clear consent.
Posted by IPJ on January 27, 2013 at 12:42 PM · Report this
24 year old woman here. Look if I feel sexy and want to be admired, I dress for admiration. If I feel shy, I dress to be invisible. I send conscious messages to those around me about how I want to be seen via my clothing choices. It works, and I get hit on when I dress nicely/wear makeup, and I'm ignored in my day to day scientist/grad school attire.

But, gym clothes (particularly swim clothes) are constricted by the necessary functionality. So if you see me in the YMCA, dont stare, because to some extent I don't have the ability to hide from your gaze. Don't take advantage of that-- it's rude.
Posted by wxPDX on January 27, 2013 at 12:52 PM · Report this
seandr 61
@BlueSparrow: From the male side (I imagine), its not easy because men are genetically programmed to have self confidence, overcome objections and frankly be clueless a lot of the a successful strategy

I'd agree that straight men are genetically programmed to find the female form incredibly compelling to behold. But self-confidence? No, that can be found equally in men and women.

For many (most?) men, myself included, approaching women is difficult to pull off, even after we've played the eye contact game and received an unambiguous invitation to do so. I've lost count of how many times I've let possibilities drop because I didn't feel like stepping into the "male lead" role - approach her, drive the conversation, say charming and witty things, project authority and confidence, and the rest of the pick up game that women say they hate but in reality expect, even require of the man if things are to develop further (at least among strangers at a club or party - expectations can be different in other circumstances).

There are definitely women out there who will pursue, especially on the dance floor - girls dance up on you, back their ass into you, they'll reach behind and pull your head into the back of their neck (awesome move), some will even walk right up and stick their tongue down your throat, or give up waiting for you to approach and actually push you over to their girlfriend (another awesome move) who proceeds directly to second base with you. To those women, I say thank you and god bless you, each and every one.

But most women will not do that. They expect the guy to pursue, and if he doesn't, they lose interest. And (ignoring the true creeps who ignore negative feedback) the men who pursue are rewarded for it.
Posted by seandr on January 27, 2013 at 1:32 PM · Report this
People are going to look at other people they find attractive. This will happen no matter how many earnest statements made and gender studies PhDs earned asserting otherwise.

It's amazing how many people, in admiring the lookee of their choice, forget Wheaton's Law.
They key for the looker is to not be an asshole, (which involves social cueing that some people just can't do*, and means be alive to courtesy, context and messaging) and the lookee to not be a smarmy hypocrite, (i.e. don't wear a plunging neckline and bitch that people stare at your cleavage, don't be okay with Handsome Dan starting at you and not with Ordinary Artie and pretend at the same time you're applying an objective standard as to how you're viewed).

* - So the rule is either learn how to control yourself or don't do it.
Posted by seeker6079 on January 27, 2013 at 1:56 PM · Report this
"Sexual Harassment and You: A handy guide to workplace etiquette"…
Posted by seeker6079 on January 27, 2013 at 2:03 PM · Report this
@64: My comment wasn't speaking against a woman's right to choose between Handsome Dan and Ordinary Artie, to deem one to be unwelcome attention and the other welcome. That's every lookie's right, and nobody can say, "no, sit there and take the attention, beeyatch". No, my comment was that in doing so please don't pretend that you are applying an objective, ascertainable, pre-knowable standard: that attention is in and of itself welcome or unwelcome, or that attention in this context or that. Every single woman, and women as a class, have the rights to have standards and choices (to the despair of "nice guys" everywhere, no doubt) but it's when those subjective standards are called objective rules that men start to get a little twitchy.

And, frankly, I'm with seandr @61. North American straight women, as a class of hundreds of millions, will simply have far more credibility on the issue of setting the proprieties of how and when they're approached when eight out of ten of them don't leave all the work to the men which is, sadly, still the rule today. (And god bless all you Twos out of Tens out there.) If you don't like how men drive, get behind the fucking wheel and steer the car yourself.
Posted by seeker6079 on January 27, 2013 at 2:37 PM · Report this
@56: I didn't literally mean to call you vain...I was describing a technique which works for me. Apologies for misspeaking.
Posted by EricaP on January 27, 2013 at 3:44 PM · Report this
nocutename 67
On creeps, leers, and feeling threatened:

For me, this is a big tangle. On one hand, I subscribe to the "what's it to you/no skin off your teeth, even if you're not interested" school of thought. I don't even think it is a problem if I am able to discern someone's sexual interest, so long as he behaves respectfully, by which I mean, not that he doesn't make his lust apparent, but that he doesn't act on that lust: he doesn't harass me or try to hit on me repeatedly, or make obnoxious comments. To get bent out of shape because someone I don't find attractive is ogling me seems awfully sensitive and a bit absurd.
But on the other hand, there are creeps in the world, and sometimes you know one when you see one, and even more so when you are being stared at by one.

Often, however, the issue is when to get alarmed and what form that alarm should take.

One of the sexiest moments I've ever replayed in my head was when a man walking down the street in the company of another man and two women (presumably their wives) gave me a long up-and-down appraisal as we passed each other. He stared longer than was polite--leered, really-- yet said nothing, and kept walking. It was clear he wasn't going to hit on my repeatedly, refusing to take no for an answer, and it felt equally clear that he wasn't going to be lying in wait for me later in a dark alley.

I didn't find him attractive; he didn't hide his attraction. Not only was it not harmful to me, but I found it somewhat erotic. Even if I hadn't, it did me no harm, just as it does me no harm if someone I am uninterested in stares at my ass if he's behind me in an exercise class and I'm wearing spandex-enhanced clothing. As long as I don't get a feeling that he's going to do me actual harm, what do I care if he looks at me (are his eyes capable of burning me like acid?) or if I am pretty sure that he will be thinking of me when he jerks off later? How am I harmed?

That's leering, but I don't consider it creepy. Creepy is different. Creepy means something has set off the warning bells in my mind that something violent may occur. This may or may not coincide with a salacious look.

Years ago, a young man started working for the business that was run out of the house next door. He stared at me in a way that was a leer with a creepy edge to it, but he never interacted with me. I told my boyfriend that he was creepy in the way that he stared, and bf said something along the lines of "oh, he just thinks you're hot." I told him that while that might have been all that it was, he made me uncomfortable--and I could pin down exactly why that was: it was because he never smiled, never replied to my "hi" when I offered it in an effort to be neighborly. He just stared, and his stare was kind of cold.

Now, although I called him a creep, I didn't think he was actually dangerous. But his staring felt wrong; it felt different than simply the leer of a man I was uninterested in. 5 years later, as my daughters and I slept in our home, he broke in through my teenage daughter's window, choked and violently raped her.

When I called my by then ex-boyfriend to tell him, he said, "wasn't that the guy who always stared at you and creeped you out?"

So I don't know what to do with this. What could/should I have done? Staring at someone and not responding to a friendly hello is not a criminal offense. But part of me could tell that something was off.

The thing is that not every stare from a man I am not attracted to leads to violent crime--most do not.

And for every leering guy who turns out to be perfectly safe to be around, there is a polite, chivarlrous-seeming Ted Bundy, too.
Posted by nocutename on January 27, 2013 at 4:18 PM · Report this
@BlueSparrow--seandr beat me to it, but "men are genetically programmed to have self confidence, overcome objections and frankly be clueless a lot of the time"?? What planet do you live on? Where do these assumptions come from? This does not describe me or most of the guys I know. Either I and they are genetically flawed, or else this is something that has to be learned. Speaking personally, it takes everything I've got to muster the confidence to hit on someone, even after those "clear signals" I'm supposed to act on, which are often pretty damned discreet and ambiguous.

@nocutename, that's awful. My condolences, and I hope it's something you and your daughter have been able to work through.
Posted by LateBloomer on January 27, 2013 at 4:55 PM · Report this
@ 56: I understand; it shouldn't have affected me, the opinions of people that would act in that manner should not concern me in the least.

The point I was trying to make, admittedly an example far outside what the LW indicated,
there are the realities of sexual attraction (you like what you like, when you see what you like it can be difficult to pretend that it is any thing otherwise) and then being a decent human being. Either the distinction is lost on some, or they simply can't be bothered.

And how men hit on women isn't really what the discussion is about, it's how they indicate attraction in instances when there is no intention of approach, such as the LW who gets off on women in swim caps but has a girlfriend at home. The difference between "noticing" and "leering" really isn't all that hard to make. When I check out dudes (as a married woman who has no intention of hitting on men I might find attractive on the street or in the gym) I try to be pretty damn discrete about it, if for no other reason than to avoid misunderstanding.

Posted by Zbot on January 27, 2013 at 5:18 PM · Report this
@66 I mean. I just bristled at the idea that I might consider my self the center of the universe - usually I prefer to hang out closer to Jupiter ;)

Posted by Zbot on January 27, 2013 at 5:30 PM · Report this
@70 :-)
Posted by EricaP on January 27, 2013 at 7:49 PM · Report this
Alice Bradley had a great post about this on her blog, about being grateful for being middle aged and letting her hair go grey and her relief from the unwanted attention:…
Posted by citrine on January 27, 2013 at 7:49 PM · Report this
seandr 73
@citrine: Interesting read but left me feeling like I needed a shower to rinse off all the anger.

A couple of comments:
1) Women aren't the only targets of harassment on public transportation. I've been robbed, punched, spat on, had a knife pulled on me, and one time, upon standing up to confront some mouthy little shit, suddenly found myself surrounded by teens all pushing and hitting me and yelling horseshit in my face. I'd happily trade in those experiences for the pathetic masturbators she's had to endure on the subway. Google "Joseph Skillings" - his story captures the different things that men and women have to fear from the assholes in this world.

2) One needn't choose between being attractive and being respected. Women can and do have both.
Posted by seandr on January 27, 2013 at 11:18 PM · Report this
sissoucat 74
So, in the US swimming pools, men check women out , but women don't check men out ? How odd.
I thought that was one of the few places where you go to exercise, to look at and to be looked at. Nothing wrong in people admiring your shape...
Posted by sissoucat on January 28, 2013 at 12:56 AM · Report this
Woah Nocutename@67, your story took an turn I didn't expect. I'm so sorry you and your family had to go through all that.
Posted by 5ht on January 28, 2013 at 2:24 AM · Report this
@sissoucat You're from France right? My impression of French men when I was there was that they are, in general, a lot more open about checking women out (although it may just be confirmation bias, I admit I was told to expect it).

On the other hand, it was just as easy to differentiate between creepy and non-creepy attention as it is anywhere else in the world. Thankfully, I didn't get a lot of the former.
Posted by 5ht on January 28, 2013 at 2:37 AM · Report this
sissoucat 77
@76 I wouldn't know about French men checking women out in a more open way than American men ; last time I was in the US, I was a minor.

In French swimming pools, females do check males out as much as males check females out. It's only noticeable when the onlookers are a pair of teenagers : much giggling ensues. But everyone either swims, or checks out others while getting a rest.

Why not ? It's harmless fun - and it never goes further than looking and smiling. Except among teenagers, who are pretty horny beasts (girls and boys alike) - they might go to the daring length of attempting to start a conversation. Swimming pools can be a nice place to meet others, for teenagers.
Posted by sissoucat on January 28, 2013 at 3:25 AM · Report this
nocutename 79
@72 (citrine), and 73 (seandr):
I wonder why some people seem to be magnets for certain types of behavior and others for other types of behavior?
I have a friend who seems to attract every angry person in the state. She is the recipient of so much out-of-the-blue hostility it's hard to believe. I used to think she was doing something to encourage it or that she was somehow the instigator, but I've been with her and seen it happen: arbitrary and bizarre.
Alice Bradley obviously has a magnet that draws creeps to her who are creepily sexual. But it's not just her youth. I polled my friends last night after reading her blog, and while all of us middle-aged women have an experience here or there commensurate with hers, none of the dozen or so (I know: not a large sample, but still) had had so many,no matter how young and not-gray our hair was.
I myself seem to have a magnet for attracting old, lonely, generally foreign people, who come up to me and begin to talk. I have a difficult time extricating myself from them, which I realize is my own fault/problem/solicitousness, but they couldn't know that before they start, yet for some reason they seem drawn to me.

I wonder what kind of subliminal, subconscious, unintentional signals we are all sending out, and if we can change them by force of will.
Posted by nocutename on January 28, 2013 at 7:31 AM · Report this
@61 (seandr): Heh, I admit that I didn't really become a 2/10 person until I realized that the nerdy people I prefer are nearly always petrified by the idea of hitting on me so if I'm going to get one, I better do the asking myself. But my God, it's so easy, really.
Posted by alguna_rubia on January 28, 2013 at 9:19 AM · Report this
seandr 81
Interesting question (so weird about your friend). All of my incidents happened in my teens through early 20s when I rode the bus all the time, including late at night. I just figured "that's life in the big city", but maybe it was my vibe, or that my vibe that had particular meaning to black kids, because it was black kids that fucked with me in every case.

Once when I was about 17, a black kid sat down next to me, told me I looked like I was tough, and tried to convince me (in a weirdly friendly way) to fight him. I declined, and he didn't force the issue. Maybe there's some insight there.

As I've grown older, I've become much more aware of my body language when encountering people who seem like they might mean me harm. Neutral eye contract, awareness of them and the situation (i.e. you won't take me by surprise), keep walking and ignore any questions/comments, shoulders back. Also, since having kids, I'm no longer frightened of these encounters - it's no longer about me, it's about my kids, which changes the mental calculus in a way that makes things matter-of-fact and takes the pressure off-- do what you need to do, fight or flight, to avoid or get out of this. Since my younger days, I've managed to deescalate a couple of situations and (I think) avoid numerous others.
Posted by seandr on January 28, 2013 at 10:03 AM · Report this
@74 Sissoucat, it depends on the kind of pool. If the pool is in a gym, Y or health club, then people just go there to exercise and swim labs. It's all business.

If the pool is in a community complex, where it's open to the sky, then some people go there to swim laps and exercise but other people go there to read in the sun and relax and other people go there to be looked at.

Basic, doesn't-always-work rule of thumb: If the pool requires swim caps, then it's probably not a go-there-to-be-looked-at pool. Swim caps make most people look like giant thumbs. The LW is there for the swim caps, and he keeps mentioning exercise, so this is probably a gym and not a community pool.
Posted by DRF on January 28, 2013 at 10:42 AM · Report this
nocutename 83
I think you've got a good point. I think we all get better at using body language to avoid having unpleasant interactions with strangers as we get older. Gray hair in itself is unnecessary; it's the change in posture, attitude, confidence, understanding of what is worth a confrontation (of whatever nature) over. I further think that based on our maybe unconsciously arrived at looks, we draw different kinds of unwelcome interactions.
Posted by nocutename on January 28, 2013 at 2:25 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 84
@82: Pshah to your rules. I used to do laps regularly. I checked out women who were there doing laps -- all accomplished as I turned my head to breathe. No staring. No egg drop soup in the pool. I know women who do laps -- my wife is one -- and they check out guys (and other women), too.
Posted by aureolaborealis on January 29, 2013 at 11:18 AM · Report this
aureolaborealis 86
@85: Agreed. It seems that some in this thread would not agree, though, and would conclude that any Male Gaze™, no matter how discreet, is inherently oppressive and damaging.
Posted by aureolaborealis on January 29, 2013 at 3:59 PM · Report this
I'm can't tell for sure whether #44 is being sarcastic. But the way that argument goes -- and I've heard it proposed in all seriousness -- that when sexual gratification is being had, and one of the parties has not explicitly consented to participate (that is to say, the person unknowingly being looked at), then rape is occurring.

This means that a shoe fetishist who experiences twinges of arousal at the sight of all the feet in shoes on the commuter train is literally raping all of them. Even if he isn't leering, drooling, whipping it out, or being noticeable in any way, what makes it rape or not is entirely dependent on what is going on inside the perpetrator's head.

1984 just called. They want their thoughtcrime back.
Posted by avast2006 on January 29, 2013 at 4:26 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 88
@87: I think in that scenario it's rape if someone thinks you're thinking it.
Posted by aureolaborealis on January 29, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 90
@89: You should register. For most of us, your comments are being relegated to the hatey anger-bear ghetto, which is to say hidden unless clicked upon.
Posted by aureolaborealis on January 30, 2013 at 12:16 PM · Report this

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