Thursday, November 3, 2011


I was talking with a friend about the idea that men are always going to ogle women, that it's a fact of nature. She was upset about that idea, and maintained it was a societal construct, and therefore something that could be changed. She also said it was demeaning to women, and led to things such as higher physical expectations as well as depression among them.

My position has always been, I can appreciate human beauty the same as I can appreciate other forms of beauty, and by looking, I'm not demeaning anyone. I'd be complimented if a woman thought I was handsome enough to look at. However, just because I'd feel complimented doesn't mean others would.

I think it's a question of how do you define harm. Punching someone in the face is definitely harm. Verbal attacks are less definitive. Among children, it's considered a form of bullying. But among adults, it's normally something you just ignore and move on from. And looking at someone has even less of an impact than speaking speaking to them. For ogling someone to really be considered morally wrong, it has to harm them. Where is the harm?

Well my friend observed that in our culture, women are expected to look good. That means that they have to wear makeup, heels; spend lots of time on looking good. And she pointed out, there are numerous cases of suicides as well as eating disorders that could be linked to this expectation, which is linked to mens' desire to look at pretty women.

I feel like this falls apart pretty quickly though. A, women aren't the only ones who spend time trying to look attractive, men do as well. Maybe not as much time, but still quite a bit. B, no one forces women to spend that time. They are choosing to spend it, men don't make them. In fact the ones they are competing with are other women, not men. C, women who have eating disorders have a problem, it's true, but it's no one's fault. Psychological disorders are problems with brain chemistry. Environments might help to bring out the symptoms, but they don't cause the underlying problem.

She did ask me, what about men who are in a relationship. I'd say that that depends on the relationship, because in that case, the moral wrong rises from violation of a contract/commitment. If someone is in a closed relationship, then looking at another person could be violating that, and that would be wrong. But it's wrong because of the prior commitment, not that looking itself.

I don't think that looking at a woman is morally wrong. If a woman takes offense, that's her problem, not mine, because I'm not hurting her by looking.

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