Oogling 101: A Serious Manly Discussion of the Male Gaze

beautiful blond woman in striped dress

Do you ever find yourself staring at a beautiful woman and wondering if you have crossed the line? A little oogling is OK, but how much is too much? And who makes the decision on how much oogling is allowed? Where’s the line between admiration and inappropriate gawking?

Let’s start this discussion on twenty-third street in lower Manhattan, a corridor through a manufacturing district with dark, aging buildings teeming with garment workers, loading docks bustling, the street loud and unapologetic. This is where men and women sweat out a living, one way or another. Some of the woman lay on their backs to make a buck. Some of my co-workers back then were their customers. They had wives at home, but a little extramarital romp was OK once in a while.

The street scene was impossible to hide. With the buildings hot and crowded, men would take smoke breaks standing or sitting on the thick window sills of their building, trying to catch a breeze and hungry for distraction. Invariably, through this male-bedecked gauntlet, a, young woman with a suggestive stride in high heels and a tight dress would pass through, and the wolves would begin to howl.

“Hey, baby, where ya going?” “Hey, sweetheart, slowdown.” “My wife’s outa town, babe. What’s your phone number?”

The whistling and catcalls bounced off the walls. With little in the way of good choices, the women never altered their pace. They couldn’t run. They couldn’t hide. They couldn’t help being young and attractive. And the men were caught in a behavioral trap of their own. It wouldn’t do to be seen as sexually uncertain, so they howled. They jeered and taunted. They whistled. They rained sexual innuendos down on the women loud and clear.

This is oogling and then some. But I write this to make a point. Oogling is cultural, is it not? In Rome, men pinch women who happen by – did I get that right? In Amsterdam, the sex workers lounge in shop windows. In Islamic countries, oogle and loose a limb or go to jail. On 23rd Street, the men behave like jackals. Different strokes for different folks.

But I left Manhattan 30 years ago. I don’t live in Rome, Amsterdam or Kuwait. I live in upstate, New York. How much can I oogle? How loud can I whistle, if at all?

Let’s count the strikes against us. There’s Internet pornography, suggestive advertising, Victoria’s Secret, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, cheerleaders, hot pants, miniskirts, slit dresses; they do dress sexually, do they not? And there’s countless other assaults on our sense of propriety. There’s movies, bikinis and wet T-shirt contests. We are sorely tested. Women do like to be admired, but there’s a time and a place for everything. And, unfortunately, they are scared and annoyed much of the time.

They are scared of us. Think on that for a moment. Women are scared of strange men and even the ones they trust let them down at least once or twice in their lives. And you want to oogle? Really?

Aren’t you contributing to moral decay, adding to your own psychological baggage and proving to the very women we love that they are right: We are sex-motivated misogynists who can’t be trusted.

Are we all just sex addicts? The answer is no. Some men promote the three-second rule. You can stare for three seconds, then move on. If you don’t, you’ve crossed the line. You deserve the scorn, the distrust, the labels. Are you a pervert, a chauvinist, a typical male, or just a pig? This goes from lascivious daydreaming to lurid nightmare pretty quickly. What kind of society do you want to live in? What kind of man do you want to be?

Let’s make up some rules with full understanding that I’m looking for a starting point, not an end-point to the discussion.

The three-second rule

You can oogle for three seconds and not a nanosecond longer. You can also never go back. You can’t take a 10 minute breather and then stare for three seconds at the same woman a second time.

Three seconds applies to either angle

No – you cannot stare for 10 seconds at her backside just because she can’t see you. If you do, you’re just developing a habit of rude behavior.

No visual aids

That’s right – no telephoto lenses, binoculars or telescopes at the beach. If you are doing this, then you’re plotting and planning how to peak and that puts you in another category.

Oogling includes pornography

Oogling includes pornography by some people’s definition, but there might need to be an escape clause here. How much pornography is healthy can be defined by how much is unhealthy. If it is altering your behavior, draining your bank account or becoming a preoccupation, you might want to seek sex addiction counseling for men. The definition of addiction is the inability to stop doing something that is harmful and the consumption of pornography is not exempt from this, especially if it is damaging your life and the lives of others.


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