Where and When to Look at the Female Body: Some Guidance for Men from Women


How should a man admire a woman with his gaze? When do you look, where do you look, how long do you look, at whom do you look? Should you look at all? I have done an unscientific survey by asking advice of several women. They ranged in age from the late 20s to the upper 60s.

The question: “What do you expect a man to do with his eyes when you wear revealing clothing?”

I received unanimous though not precise guidelines. Should your opinion differ, I’d be interested. Here goes:

1. You are expected to look. The gaze of a man is welcome. It affirms one’s attractiveness.

2. You are not supposed to stare. You are not supposed to drool. You are not supposed to exclaim, proclaim, yell, scream, holler or whistle. A personal disclosure: my father almost always was demonstrative as we watched the Miss America competition. This had a pronounced and deforming impact on my little psyche! As an especially curvaceous contestant sashayed across the stage in her swimsuit, dad would blurt out, “Holy Criminy, hung to the gills!” in a half-humorous hoot that never occurred at any other time. I gathered he wasn’t referring to fishing.

You don’t hear that reference to a woman’s bosom these days. Perhaps dad invented the comment, as he was an avid angler. On the street or in a crowd, however, I never saw my father even look at another woman. He was crazy about my mom.

3. In the company of a lady, no matter your relationship with her, you should not admire other women. Verboten is a twist of the neck or movement of the eyes unless required to avoid oncoming traffic. This rule applies whether you are with your mother, grandmother, significant other, aunt, cousin, sister, daughter, professor, boss, co-worker, senator, or any other female.

4. A psychologically mature woman dresses fashionably. She intends that which is revealed as an enticement, not a spectacle. She wants appreciation, not a proposition.

A few thoughts connected to the title question before I list more guidelines. I offer these considerations so you recognize with whom you are dealing. Think again about the early deformation of my personality as you read this!

In the home of my childhood, only occasional allusions were made to things suggestive of throbbing physical attraction.

Fifth grade brought my eyes in contact with a girl’s legs. Figuratively speaking. One girl in particular. “What is this about?” I asked myself. I found it illogical. Those female underpinnings no longer seemed a simple necessity designed to maintain locomotion and height. The newly acquired attention to a distaff body part was involuntary, not to say alarming. This was the first sign my body was taking possession of my brain. Adult women understand this masculine flaw, but as a kid I had no idea.

The point here is that men have an innate predilection to “look.” Women do it as well, if perhaps less obviously. Nonetheless, revealing display is done with the knowledge of men’s tendencies and how to manage them.

A young man’s attempt at sexual subtlety is undermined (the key focus here being “under”) by the involuntary arousal of a certain body part that makes his interest obvious. There are, however, alternative uses of the same anatomical attachment. An 18-year-old male probably could raise a tent if he lay on his back, hands behind his head, while occupied with salacious thoughts. Alternatively, he might substitute for the English Pointer, a dog breed used in bird hunting. British slang, in fact, refers to young women as birds. The hunt for a mate, the pointy thing … well, you get the idea.

None of this suggests leering is proper or excusable. The mating game, however, does need two players.

Back to guidance, particularly on a date:

5. Do not fondle your smartphone or find its ravishing screen irresistible. No self-respecting woman wishes to compete with inanimate objects.

6. Do gaze into your date’s eyes. This tells her you are paying attention to her speech and her person, not just her equipment. She knows you know there is more to see lower down, but the two of you have an unspoken agreement, at least at first, to pretend otherwise. Besides, the eyes tell you much, including whether life resides inside — a brain, a sparkle, a twinkle, a heart, a laugh, and someone you can love. She will tell as much about you — and in just the same way.

7. Another unspoken truth has to do with whether, when not in this woman’s presence, you spend any amount of time looking at other beauties. Of course you do! Your heart is beating, isn’t it? Never, however, should a wandering eye be admitted, lest you want one blackened. As the very old song says, “I Only Have Eyes For You.”

8. Time changes both form and physiognomy, but your mind’s eye will recall the youthful bloom of your lover. Be hungry in love, first to last. Once out of the public square and past the “first dance,” devour your lover with your eyes. All of her. Beauty is fleeting. She was made to be seen and remembered.

The photo is an untitled creative wallpaper design from http://www.zastavki.com/ The video segment of the 1934 film, Dames, is quite remarkable for the elaborately choreographed scene above, characteristic of the work of Busby Berkeley. The song, I Only Have Eyes for You, was written for this movie by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. The couple in love are Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.


16 thoughts on “Where and When to Look at the Female Body: Some Guidance for Men from Women

  1. The endearment continues…I only want to add that not all of us are offended by a man’s wandering gaze. I can admire a beautiful woman. I enjoy it even, but I’m probably in the minority.


  2. Good advice, but there is also another side to the argument. Women should recognize that most men are slaves to the throbbing body part in question and, unless she wants that kind of attention, in public she should dress and behave more modestly. This is not a macho statement but a recognition of the inherent weakness or inability of men to resist temptation.


    • “Slaves”? I guess that depends on what you mean by “that kind of attention.” If I wear a short skirt or a fitting dress, I’m not surprised or ruffled when a man looks, but to be heckled or to have a man continue pursuit after I say, “I’m married” and other such gentle rejections, in those ways a man is not a slave to a physical urge. Ultimately he’s not a dog who can’t help but hump everything that moves but is an intelligent creature with the ability to reason and make choices that don’t simply follow every caveman impulse. It’s called civilized behavior, and there are lots of men who manage it. Please don’t make excuses that perpetuate a significant problem.


      • This issue was one I intentionally tried to steer clear of in writing this post. The line, over which either men or women invite a leering gaze, is beyond my ability to define. I’m sure “A” does not cross it (based on her writing). Nor do I suspect that Misha wished to condone boorish behavior, although he is free to clarify his words.


      • My remarks were intended as a way to minimize boorish male behavior by suggesting that women dress and conduct themselves more modestly in public. It’s a simple equation based on reality: if you don’t want to get harassed, or worse, don’t encourage it by wearing your clothes provocatively. Obviously few “civilized” men are going to bother you, but there are lots of other types out there who are unable to control their impulses and will. I hear a lot of debate over this issue. “It’s none of your business what I wear, we should all be free to wear what we want.” I agree, but that doesn’t take into account that many men are weak and unable to resist temptation. Wear what you want in private, I say, but cover up in public. It’s something to do with collective responsibility.


      • Plenty of street harassment is directed at women wearing pretty normal clothing – jeans, t-shirts, shorts in summer time – and men persist despite clear signals that the affection is unwelcome. Don’t blame the victim as if we should all walk around wearing the burka because men are so helpless against the whims of the penis. It’s a ridiculous cop-out to claim that men are somehow incapable of controlling themselves. All men are making a choice when they behave that way, and a conversation that would be more fruitful than this one (which echoes the stupidity of frat houses circa 1953) would be some serious examination of what we teach boys. To be clear – we should not teach them to “minimize” and rationalize their transgressions if they deem a girl’s attire not adequately “modest.” Sorry, but 21st-century men will just have to do better than that.


  3. I felt a bit objectified by this article; as if women are purely there for the gratification of men. Just ‘things’ to look at. I’m no prude, but the whole thing made me feel very uncomfortable somehow. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.


    • First, thank you for being direct. Secondly, I apologize. While it was not my intention to write anything causing discomfort, this essay clearly did. Re: the general question of objectification, I do think men objectify women. I also think, as “A” has suggested, such hard wiring needn’t be translated into offensive behavior and is not an excuse to do so, as I had hoped was clear from the words I used. Once again, I regret that I made you uncomfortable.


      • Thank you for your apology. Although I was uncomfortable with the article in general I don’t think we should shy away from discussing uncomfortable things. I guess that it was my own issues that made me uncomfortable. I wanted to point out how I felt however; almost as another viewpoint. I was uncomfortable but not necessarily offended if that’s possible. I think I just wanted to make people aware of how it might make some people feel. Thank you for your reply.


  4. Let us never say that women are uninterested in sex. “She wants appreciation, not a proposition” … unless of course she DOES want a proposition. And clothing is used to signal, amongst many things, whether this is the case or not. I would amend the guideline to say “Or it may not be YOU she wants a proposition from. Always remember that”.


    • Any interesting perspective, Mike; one I had not considered. Nor did any of the women in my small sample indicate this was their intent. I will be curious to see if others care to comment.


  5. Interesting topic, Dr. Stein. I would suspect that there are as many different responses as there are women.

    I appreciate a fleeting admiring glance. Lewd remarks are demeaning and threatening.


    • With respect to your first point, the differences among the responses thus far suggest you are right, Rosaliene. Thanks for your remarks.


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