I cannot, on my life, determine what my fragmented culture wants me to think. I am to desire sex all the time, like an animal. I am to freely joke about and share my arousal with others in order to demonstrate my proper idolization of Sex. But at the moment of action I am to suddenly become a rational agent and seek legal consent. -Brad Fruhauff, Rules for the Male Gaze
Men spend billions of dollars every year to look at naked or scantily-clad women. By comparison, women spend very little to see unclothed men. What does this mean, and why?
Some argue that the reason men desire to see women naked is because they are socialized to view women as sex objects, and this is reflected in how much money men spend on pornography and related media. On the other hand, women are not socialized to view men as sex objects, which is why they spend so little on seeing unclothed men.
While there is some truth to these claims, they don’t fully address some questions, such as why gay men spend money and time to find images of unclothed men. If the issue is merely about socialization, gay men shouldn’t have much reason to seek out unclothed men, because women are the ones primarily being objectified for their bodies’ money-making, sexually-appealing abilities, not men. When it comes to socialization, there is a clear bias: women are often made into sex objects.
Nature Plays an Important Role
Socialization is important, but it’s not the biggest piece of the puzzle. Men are intrinsically attracted to visual stimuli in a way that women are not. This is not to say that straight women don’t like the sight of a handsome man or that gay women don’t like the sight of a beautiful woman. It is to say that there’s a difference in how men’s and women’s brains react to and process what they see when it comes to visual attraction.
Men only have to see a woman who looks good to them to get aroused – on TV, the internet, billboards and advertisements, or just passing an attractive woman on the street. In general, more is involved for women to become sexually aroused than mere appearance. Though male strip shows for women exist, they are not as popular as female strip shows for men, and the events typically have different social functions. This itself is evidence that something different is going on.
Advertising as Evidence
If nothing else, advertising evidences many of Dennis Prager’s claims in this video. Advertisements frequently feature images of attractive young women – or just parts of their bodies! – to pander every product from food and alcohol to cars. One does not need to search long to find businesses and advertising agencies taking advantage of the fact that men pay attention to beautiful women. You may not sell your product, but you’ll at least gain male attention by putting an attractive woman in your advertisement. It’s because men are visually stimulated in ways women aren’t.
Advice for Women
If you’re a woman, it’s important to know that men have a different experience than you when it comes to what they see. You’ve probably noticed men and boys looking at you for most of your life. Males are instinctively interested in the visual, and it takes a lot of work for a man to train himself not to gawk at women. Even then, his success is limited.
Understand how advertisers and businesses seek to use your femininity as a money-making tool. As the quote from Brad Fruhauff above indicates, culture sends mixed messages to men about how they should approach and interact with women.
Advice for Men
If you’re a man, it’s important to be aware of things that affect you and why. Because men are easily stimulated by the visual, pay attention to how advertisers and businesses want to motivate you with imagery of good-looking women.
Pay attention also to how you behave toward women, not merely with how you speak to them or behave around them, but the sorts of thoughts you have about them. You may not be able to control your innate interest when you look up to see a beautiful woman pass your restaurant table, but you can choose to direct your thoughts and energies in other directions. Especially if you’re married or in a relationship, be aware of the thoughts you allow to slip into your mind.
You can’t always control what you see, but you can control the things your mind dwells upon. As Dennis Prager says, being aroused by the visual is not an excuse for inappropriate or illegal behavior. Women are human beings with thoughts, feelings, goals, dreams, and value. Despite culture’s competing messages, women are not sex objects.
“Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”
As the old saying goes, “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” The phrase basically means that men and women have some big differences in how they live life and view the world around them. These differences don’t make one sex better or worse than the other, but they do affect the experiences of being male or being female.
Understand how your social experience as well as your biology affect your thoughts and behavior, and let this knowledge move you toward positive change.
Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What role do you think socialization plays in how men and women view one another? Explain.
- In your experience, does the behavior of businesses and advertising back up or discredit the claims in this video? Explain.
- Dennis Prager says that it’s impossible for a woman to truly understand how men react to visual stimulation. Explain why you agree or disagree.
- What are some ways women have different experiences from men as it relates to this topic?
- Read Matthew 5:27-30. How should we put Jesus’s teachings into action in our lives on this issue?
- Biblically, why do you think men struggle so much with “lusts of the eyes?”
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.