Monday, October 13, 2008

Hey Are You Looking at Me?

This weekend I went to a roundtable at the Philoctetes Center on "From Looking to Voyeurism." Given how disappointed I was about the Shakespeare roundtable, I was kind of nervous about this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. Dany Nobus, the moderator, kept the discussion going and it was quite lively. He started off reading a bit of Freud, which always gets my hackles up, given my feelings about the father of psychoanalysis, and then the discussion went off.

I was particularly struck however by a comment by one of the panelists that women do not like looking at naked men. Really? What women do you know? Perhaps it is a generational thing but I know that I and my friends have no qualms about admirining the male body. We may not be as vocal about it as men are, but we do just as much looking let me tell you. I remember being twelve years old and sneaking copies of Playgirl underneath my Seventeen magazine at the newsagent (I had no idea at the time that more gay men read Playgirl than heterosexual women!). Despite my being underage, I never had a problem buying it and my friends and I would pore over the pictures of the men in the magazine. Perhaps it was the fact that it was kind of forbidden that made it so exciting. Maybe that's why women aren't as vocal about our appreciation of the male form. There is still something forbidden about a woman admiring the male form unless it is the contexxt of an art class or in a painting or sculpture. My friends and I discussed yesterday the parts of the male nude body that we liked, particularly that arrow of hair that points directly to....Given the amount of money that Chippendales made and now Hunkmania, I can safely say that Dr. Nersessian has no idea what he is talking about!

And women do go to strip clubs. Perhaps not as often as men do. We certainly don't say to each other "Hey, instead of going to that movie/bar/lecture, let's go to a strip club" the men do, but we go. However it is more of an event, like a bachelorette party or a girl's night out, not an ordinary or average event. Again, it's that whole forbidden connotation. For a women to go to a male strip club, we are seeking a way to blow off steam, to be a little naughty away from our husbands or boyfriends. Which is probably why women are insane when they go to these places, screaming and ramming five dollar bills in their g-strings.

I was struck by what one of the panelists, Katherine Frank said, about how men in strip clubs use the women as sort of a confessional, telling them about how their wives/girlfriends/male friends don't understand them etc. It's like the modern equivalent of going to a priest, particularly if you are not religious or Catholic. Whereas the male strippers that I encountered the one time that I went to strip club, spent most of the time talking about themselves. They were totally not interested in us, which I thought was strange since the point was to entice us to buy a lap dance. Maybe it is because women are used to be listeners, and men aren't.

The thing I remember the most was when a group of us turned our chairs around to watch a lap dance, just out of curiousity, because we couldn't fathom how that worked with a guy performing one. When it got to the questions from the audience, Adam Ludwig brought up a point that I was thinking of, which was the opposite of voyeurism, exhibitionism. People who like to be watched, who get off having sex in public places because they know there is a possiblity that they might be seen or caught.

The same woman who brought up where to find men in New York at an earlier roundtable (a constant refrain of my friends and I), now wanted to know if men who went to stripclubs were inherently narcissistic, which was kind of strange because why would a narcissist go to a strip club? He might think that every stripper in the club would of course fall over themselves to give him a lap dance, but I don't think he sees himself reflected in these women.

So question, are there other women out there who enjoy looking at naked men or was Dr. Nersessian right?


Hope Tarr said...

Okay, I'll confess it. I'm a...looker. I'm a doer, too, assuming the appropriate opportunity enters my orbit--and then continues to orbit long enough for me to get to know him...I mean it. ;)

Suffice it to say that the sight of an attractive, real live man (so much perkier than the alternative) stripped down to his skivvies, or even sans scivvies, is not likely to send me shrieking from the room.

There, I've admitted. Whew...I feel better.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Welcome home! I think that most women, if asked, are lookers. We just aren't as open about it as men. Witness construction workers or men on the street who feel free to comment on a woman as she walks past. Women tend to look either alone or they talk about with their friends, or post pictures of hot guys on their blogs. It reminds of the critics who said that women didn't talk about sex like the women in Sex & the City, but most of them were male! And weren't around when women do talk like that.

Hope Tarr said...

I agree, Elizabeth. And it really annoyed me when yes, those male critics panned the "Sex and the City" movie (and before that the TV series) because apparently women don't have conversations like that. Not in front of men we don't, at least not usually, but how men can claim to know what we talk about with each other is incredible to me.

I think those critics should be made to read THE RED TENT. I loved that book for multiple reasons but what I adored most was how the women had this incredibly rich, incredibly pagan parallel culture about which the men had no clue.

Apparently some still don't.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

It's funny the doctor on the panel said that his female patients didn't talk to him about looking at men naked, they just talked about their husbands gaining weight. Hello, of course, you are not going to talk to your elderly shrink about how you dream about Daniel Craig, naked and covered in whipped cream. That you share with your friends, and blog readers.

I loved 3/4 of THE RED TENT, but I agree it is a fabulous book about how women survived and thrived in a patriarchal society that they found themselves living in.