Ah, the work for an aesthetician is never ever finished.
So the other night, I finished reading a great big chunk of a story a friend is working on. The story is kind of about this guy who, because of childhood experiences, develops a kind of obsession with retro pornography that was popular during his youth. The climactic scene (pun unintended) is when his girlfriend walks in on him masturbating with some of this retro-porn on playing on his computer screen right in front of him.
This might sound like bizarre, nasty fiction, but actually, I find it to be quite honest, and it’s extremely funny in parts. While it’s never happened to me (as far as I know), it has happened to people I know, this kind of situation. Men do this sort of thing a lot, and it’s no surprise they sometimes get walked in on doing it.
Well, I’m going to go neither here nor there about the complex mesh of feelings that are involved when a woman beholds her man’s lustful gaze directed at some porno chick on a computer screen; nor am I going to go into the indignation and frustration a man feels when a woman complains about his gazing at other women that way, because, of course, he can’t really understand why she can’t understand that this is something separate from real life, and doesn’t in the least (to his mind) infringe on his love for, or attraction to, her. All of that is complicated enough that not even a short story is potentially big enough to work through all the complex nuances and effects of mens’ and womens’ minds being so radically differently wired.
But I will go to a much milder scenario, to illustrate a point I think women don’t quite understand. That is, that a perfectly balanced, decent, devoted, and loving man is probably also somewhat of an ogler, though he is also likely to do it less, or at least more subtly, when his girl friend, or other female friends, are around.
People use nature as an excuse far far too often in this life. Far be it from me to fall into the same trap… I refuse to do that. However, I will tell you womenand the men who feel sheepish about thisone thing: we’re wired to ogle. We’re wired to be continually on the lookout for potential mates. Some men are sometimes more monogamous than others, and plenty of us are adult enough not to cheat on the woman we love; but few (or probably none) of us would ever commit to never looking at another woman. It’s something we just do, we find ourselves doing it, and it’s not a bad thing.
In fact, a balanced man who is somewhat in touch with his own mind is someone who can note that he is, instinctually, attracted to someone. It’s something that presents a complicated problem for aestheticists, I suppose: it’s a kind of beauty that men can appreciate in other women which women perhaps cannot appreciate in women. (Though they have their equivalent in relation to men, I am sure. I also suspect the parallel is not an exact translatable one, but I don’t know for sure… I do know, though, that it seems a lot of womens’ attraction can be couched in all kinds of other conditions and facts, while mens’ seems more ephemeral, more visceral, more directly related to the eye.)
A man who is in control of his life does not chase every skirt that appears in front of him; that much is certain. If he does that, he is doomed to a total mess of a life. He doesn’t even necessarily pursue every avenue open to him. But, he also is in a wonderful position to appreciate life, to appreciate beauty all around him, of the kind that he’s absolutely designed to enjoy. His gaze takes him through a veritable landscape of attractions, and the tug inside him toward so many beautiful women can remind him of that deeper tug towards life, towards happiness. That is how sexuality is a gift: like in the title track of the Belle&Sebastian album, Storytelling:
I’m in love with every girl I meet…
which so many people think is absentminded blabber; it’s not. It’s a way of being in love with the world.
Does this mean that every man must objectify and sexualize women? No, it means that on some level, men are wired to see women as sexual objects. They also see themselves as sexual objects in relation to women. If men never did this, women and men would probably never get together. And of course, a man who lets this tendency determine his relationships with all women is an idiot, a mess. But the in-between is something women often don’t understand, and don’t want to come to terms with: a man who looks at other women, enjoys that “beauty” that is more than just passive appreciation of something “pretty” like a painting or statue, is not really doing anything wrong. It’s much better than being the man whose attraction to other women is experienced as the nexus of guilt, or sadness, or even pain. The healthy man, who ogles without being a jerk or a letch, is likelier to have a joyful relation to the world, and to the one woman with whom he is “with” at the time. After all, the tendency to look about is simply there. It’s best we’re all adult about it, come to terms with it, and find the best way to make it work. And that’s good for everyone.
Of course, I could be wrong. What do you think?
Some thoughts crossed my mind after having written the above. One of the points occurred to me as I walked about the campus, being that too many women actually worry about their attractiveness to men. Of course, men and women should be a little concerned about this; it’s a nice feeling when people are visibly attracted to you, but it doesn’t make your life complete. The makeup and fashion industries cash in on this misperception, and women do all kinds of things to themselves because of it. Western women seem to go in for breast implants, but I know a Korean girl who listed off to me a shocking list of modifications she wanted a plastic surgeon to give to her, including double-eyelid surgery, breast reduction, and more. It was sad, because the girl is actually quite pretty. But it seems it’s never enough. The ridiculous standards that women impose on themselves are something men seem to accept and follow, but note what I saidI think it is often women imposing it on themselves, in the hope that men will find them more attractive. Our real-life standards aren’t anything like what you might think, ladies. No matter what we like on the screen, in pictures, in bars where we ogle incessantly, in real life, chances are you yourself fit whatever bill we’re thinking about when we look at you. You’re probably more than beautiful enough for us. So cool off and enjoy our company, and quit it with the makeup and fancy clothes and plastic surgery. Most of you really just don’t need it.