Help me look at good looking women without guilt.
July 20, 2006 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Why do good looking women make me nervous and guilty when looking at them?

I have been noticing that speaking or interacting with a good looking woman makes me nervous as hell. While if they were average or even ugly I don't get nervous! Even looking at a woman in a certain setting, makes me guilty if she was good looking, but if she was average I don't have a problem.
It is almost like looking at a disfiguered person, I try not to look in order not to make them feel bad. Same guilt comes to me when looking at a sexy or cute woman! Maybe for different reasons that I don't know.
Is this something common or a well known behavior? And how do I get over it?
posted by convex to Human Relations (53 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you single?
posted by bigmusic at 1:01 PM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: No.
posted by convex at 1:02 PM on July 20, 2006

Maybe because you want to look, for whatever reason (attracted to the hotties, repulsed by the disfigured folk) and you feel guilty for wanting to stare, even if you don't.

Or, rather than wanting to stare, you recognize that this person likely gets stared at frequently and you don't want to contribute to their discomfort.

Are you sexually attracted to these attractive women? Any particular hang-ups about your own sexuality?
posted by utsutsu at 1:05 PM on July 20, 2006

Could it be a (subconscious) (perceived) status issue?
posted by amtho at 1:06 PM on July 20, 2006

Short answer: envy/lust/shyness

Long answer: Everyone has awkward moments like this. Beautiful people can be seen as representatives of a particular status or ideal, one which we may not have yet attained. Conversely, they could subconsciously infer that they are somehow "out of one's league", and are reflections of a near-unattainable ideal. Dwelling upon such matters can foster strong pangs of inadequacy, or just aloofness. One might feel they're not likely to be taken seriously if they're not as composed, attractive, or successful as the other person being encountered.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:07 PM on July 20, 2006

I grew up very bashful and asocial. I mooned over girls but generally couldn't do much more than glance. Once when I was in my early teens I was coerced in a theater setting into holding a very pretty girls hands and making prolongued eye contact, and that was nigh overwhelming.

I don't know why, other than, again, my socially crippled, extremely bashful early adolescence. But I hear you.

I've gotten better at meeting peoples eye as time has passed—when I'm actively engaged in some sort of communication I have no trouble at all. People I know, people I actually talk to? No problem.

But I still err on the side of short glances when people-watching or walking down the street. There's definitely a sense of getting caught looking, which strikes me as a strange combination of politeness and ridiculousness when I step back and look at it objectively.
posted by cortex at 1:09 PM on July 20, 2006

(To an extent, my above comment applies to people in general, but for unusually pretty or ugly or unusual-looking people it's amplified.)
posted by cortex at 1:11 PM on July 20, 2006

You're not alone. I can't work with women for the same reason. But I'm riddled with guilt complexes that I've gotten used to, so I'm cool with that :)
posted by wackybrit at 1:12 PM on July 20, 2006

Beautiful people know their beautiful and get much more than stares all the time. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by geoff. at 1:16 PM on July 20, 2006

Conversely, they could subconsciously infer that they are somehow "out of one's league", and are reflections of a near-unattainable ideal.

Heh. I meant "subconsciously" to the observer's reckoning, not the beautiful person's. Some people, attractive, or otherwise, may put on airs, but we can often become our own worst enemies during first encounters.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:29 PM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all of who answered so far, and to answer some of your questions. I don't have problems with my sexuality, and whether I am sexually attracted to beautiful women, not necessarily, I find good looking people especially women like art, I enjoy looking at and value.
Smart Dalek, you said envy, sometimes it crosses my mind, if I have someone close like that! a wife, a gf, etc... Even a coworker, not for sexual reasons though, I find it very fortunate to be able to pretty woman, it is almost calming and serene. Shyness, maybe I am generally shy, and lust, I am perplexed by that. For me, a woman can be very beautiful yet is 0 sexy, and a very average looking woman can be very sexy.
posted by convex at 1:36 PM on July 20, 2006

For me, a woman can be very beautiful yet is 0 sexy, and a very average looking woman can be very sexy.

This is very true.
posted by mmascolino at 1:42 PM on July 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Women get so many conflicting messages about beauty -- you can't be concerned with your appearance, because that means you're not a smart serious person; you have to be attractive, otherwise no one will want to interact with you and you'll have no value -- and I would imagine that men feel some of that same back-and-forth about women, as well. If you like pretty girls, you're shallow; if you don't, you're not manly.

The US, at least, is a little screwed up when it comes to ideas about physical beauty, especially women's beauty.

I like to think that just as I can appreciate a landscape, or a butterfly, or any other naturally beautiful thing, I can appreciate a beautiful person. It doesn't really have to be anything more than that -- just an acknowledgement that human beings like to look at beautiful things, and there's nothing wrong with that.

For the most part, I'm guessing that as long as you're not being sleazy about it, or staring for uncomfortable periods of time, people don't mind your looking at them. I don't think what you're feeling is unusual (Seriously, I'm starting to believe that a lot of the backlash against sexual harassment policies comes because many men feel the way you do), but I think it's possible to just relax a bit about it, maybe by recognizing that the women you're looking at are not feeling put off by it.
posted by occhiblu at 1:52 PM on July 20, 2006

What you are talking about is a frustrating part of my day. I get concerned about irritating these women that I'd like to look at and I get concerned about being judged by bystanders who might judge me for looking at the women. I don't want my fellow citizens to think I am sleazy or shallow or immature. I haven't found an answer to this problem. I think Freud said something like "civilization yields discontent" and this is a good example of that.
posted by Aghast. at 2:02 PM on July 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I totally know what you mean, convex - really, seriously, ultra-beautiful women and men have the same effect on me, and it's exactly the same thing as when I encounter people with severe burns, or dwarves (sorry, I know saying that is spectacularly politically incorrect, not to mention wrong, but... er, nope, no excuse, I'm just a bad person). I assume this is a combination of wanting to look, because disfigured/beautiful people are out of the ordinary, but knowing that we shouldn't, as it will make the disfigured/beautiful person uncomfortable.

Funnily enough, I find that the way to avoid this sort of awkwardness is to force yourself to look longer than you think is appropriate - after just a few seconds, you get used to the beauty/whatever and can carry on, but if you look away immediately, you start the cycle of guilt and nervousness, and start worrying about whether the person noticed you looking away, being nervous, &c., which makes it worse.

So, yeah, try to look a bit to stop yourself feeling awkward, if that makes any sense!
posted by jack_mo at 2:03 PM on July 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's very common—I'd say most guys have felt that way on occasion (I know I have)—and the thing to remember is that beautiful women are familiar with the feelings they cause in the male sex, so you might as well just accept your sweaty palms with the same nonchalance they do.
posted by languagehat at 2:09 PM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: I wonder if having a low self esteem can have anything to do with it. What do you think? As if I am not worth of looking at this good looking woman, while if the woman was average there is no problem. I don't know, I am just trying to find answers.
It is comforting still to see some of you share the same issues with me. And I wonder what women reader might have to add or give men like us some insight.
posted by convex at 2:18 PM on July 20, 2006

I think it's possible to just relax a bit about it, maybe by recognizing that the women you're looking at are not feeling put off by it.

But is this a reasonable assumption? Females are not unified, of course (ancient legend to the contrary), but in general, do they mind?
posted by gsteff at 2:34 PM on July 20, 2006

I kind of get this way with very tall people-- both men and women. I am not sexually fixated on them, or anything like that, but when I see a very very tall person (6'4"/190cm and over) I want to take long looks at their hands and feet, watch them handle everyday objects, especially tiny objects. My friend's brother is about 6'5" and has gotten used to me making him handle golf pencils and airline liquor bottles.

I just look and look, and when they notice me I say "Wow, you are really tall. My brothers are tall." Seems to take an edge off (although not so much with tall women).
posted by oflinkey at 2:45 PM on July 20, 2006

Men are not alone. I can work myself up into a state of deep embarrassment (blushing and all!) looking at a spectacularly beautiful person (okay you caught me, woman). And it also does not have to be sexual. Like, for instance, extreme height + extreme thinness can cause my prolonged awe-staring before I even recognize potential sexually-attracting attributes.

And I once walked my shopping cart into a pole staring at just such a tall and beautiful woman (Do I live in a really awful sitcom or what?).

But actually jack_mo's thing works for me as well. I just admit to myself what I'm doing (overtly staring) and try to hold it for one beat longer so that when I look away my brain is tricked into thinking it chose to look away, and wasn't shamed into it.
posted by birdie birdington at 2:54 PM on July 20, 2006

In an attempt to answer gsteff's query, I'd have to say that in my experince, women are in general not put off by some casual looking. I personally feel like it really goes both ways. I can't really speak for beauty, but if I catch someone staring at me in an interested sort of fashion, I generally take it as a compliment. It's kind of flattering that someone thinks there is something interesting enough about me to stop and think about it. Maybe this is really self-centered, I don't know. But I know I do the same for people who, for whatever reason, look interesting to me, and as long as saliva isn't running down my chin, I don't think anyone has a problem with it. Nobody likes leering... but if you could even feel relaxed enough about it to flash a hint of a genuine smile, you can feel for a second that you are connecting with an absolute stranger. One of the fun parts of life, I think.

So I guess I have to nth the suggestion just to relax about it. People who are classically beautiful/attractive are likely already used to people staring at them and probably don't even notice it, or maybe just use it to feed the old ego. Either way, you aren't really doing them anymore harm than anyone else.
posted by liverbisque at 3:15 PM on July 20, 2006

You are a biological creature. Your desire to find a mate is ingrained -- at some level, it is buried deep in your genes (for most people; I think I've read that some people are asexual, and maybe they don't feel these desires). There aren't 6 billion people and countless megatons of biomass on this planet because organisms are reticent about getting together. One of the first things your mind is doing, on some level, when you pattern-recognize someone of your preferred mating gender is to size them up as a potential mate. I strongly suspect this is completely instinctual -- the sizing up part. We can, and do, alter what criteria go into the decision of mate or no-mate, but we can't really turn off the actual sizing-up itself.

Your brain activates the "mate with this person" primal instincts at a really low level, way before you ever consciously say "oooh, she's hot!" or "I want to ask her out."

We are, of course, much more than just slaves to our selfish genes, so we can, and do, nip this "mate with this person" instinct in the bud all the time.

But you still felt it on some level, and almost by definition a beautiful person will have inspired a strong feeling of attraction (that's really what beautiful means, in some sense). Your guilt stems from having felt that attraction, however fleeting. You think it's wrong/inappropriate to feel it, which could be because of many things (you think the woman is out of your league, you are in a committed relationship, you are shy and afraid you just let your feelings show, etc...).

This is something as common as a penny. I'd wager damn near every human being has some manifestations of this kind of thing. The degree will vary greatly, and some people will get rid of these feelings as they grow up, others won't.

But I think at the end of the day this is just biology and societal norms conflicting.
posted by teece at 3:28 PM on July 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

And I wonder what women reader might have to add or give men like us some insight.

Hey, I gave you my womanly insight!

Really, I'm not drop-dead gorgeous, but I get looked at a lot. The only time it bothers me is when the guy is staring so hard that he looks like a serial killer about to follow me home, or when he makes extremely rude comments (or even just slightly rude comments). In fact, I get so many ridiculously gross sexual comments on most days that I'm pretty happy when a non-predatory, non-skeezy guy smiles at me.

And as for just looking -- I actually didn't realize how much I'm used to guys looking at me until I spent a full afternoon once in Boston's gay neighborhood with my roommate. It was like I was suddenly invisible, and it was hugely disorienting and vaguely upsetting. My roommate kept laughing at me, and singing a song he made up along the lines of "No one's looking at you, everyone's looking at me, except for that man, who just checked out your SHOES!"

We're used to getting looked at. So much so that we don't notice it unless you do something to make yourself look scary. Really.
posted by occhiblu at 3:31 PM on July 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: occhiblu I had no idea you were a female. I marked your comment thinking it is from a guy, I did not check your profile and if I did, it is not obvious, my apologies.
I see how getting looked at in certain ways can be annoying if not scary. I find when people look at me uncomfortable, distracting and in some cases rude if not creepy.
One day I was on a bus and this lady in front of me was focusing so hard I felt something was going to happen to me, then I started thinking about it and it actually sounded funny, I wanted to laugh, but I started suppressing it, thinking if I smiled she will think I am smiling back and she will stare more! Not easy to swallow ones urge to laugh.
posted by convex at 3:52 PM on July 20, 2006

Best answer: It's OK, no offense taken!

I think you need to remember that women, regardless of how attractive they are, are more used to getting openly stared at than the average man is. Because though women do stare at guys, we're generally a bit less obvious about it; guys are often so obvious about it that it's just normal background noise.

And from what I can tell, a guy takes someone staring at him as pretty hostile. Women just... don't. Eye contact is not a hierarchy-establishing sport with me, it's something I do because I think it's friendly. If I see someone looking, I'm more likely to smile than try to stare him down. It's just not that big a deal.
posted by occhiblu at 4:07 PM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: Very true, good points.
posted by convex at 4:18 PM on July 20, 2006

I completely agree with occiblu.
It isn't the casual looks or smiles that are bothersome, it's the lecherous and aggressive actions that are.
posted by cleo at 5:01 PM on July 20, 2006

I agree with occhiblu too. If a guy can smile at me without being creepy, it is okay that he's looked at me. If a guy wants to stare I don't mind in principle, but I think it would be nice if he does it after I've passed by, or in a way that I don't have to think about the staring. I'm female and I sometimes stare at guys... some of them look so good! But I follow those rules when I do it. I think don't like seeing that I'm being stared at because while I know there is a lot of harmless staring, obnoxious or dangerous behavior always seems to start with staring.

Different females probably have different takes on this.

Hm, I think you will also be less likely to offend if you can make your looks seem like glances. And "beautiful" people are probably used to being looked at, but I've wondered if that is why a lot are also rather standoffish.

You might experience less discomfort if you remind yourself that they are people just like anyone else.
posted by halonine at 6:17 PM on July 20, 2006

You could concentrate only on the noses of women who elicit guilty feelings in you. Frankly, there just aren't that many hot noses in the world.
posted by paulsc at 6:28 PM on July 20, 2006

And I wonder what women reader might have to add or give men like us some insight.

I'm not spectacularly beautiful or anything but I am extremely tall for a woman and reasonably thin and people stare at me all the time. It's fine. I like to people watch too so I never think negatively or look down (haha) on anyone who is within the bounds of normal staring behaviour.

If people are obviously uncomfortable and can't stop fidgeting or won't look me in the eye then it makes ME uncomfortable and the situation is awkward.
posted by fshgrl at 7:07 PM on July 20, 2006

though women do stare at guys, we're generally a bit less obvious about it; guys are often so obvious about it that it's just normal background noise.

Ah, I was going to ask your womanly perspective on that one, too. As a guy, I notice that I get a heap more ogling attention from gay guys than from women, perhaps in the order of ten to one, if I had to guess a figure for it. I was starting to wonder if I somehow happen to fit some kind of gay ideal, but I guess any interested women are just being their usual subtle selves.

(PS - loved the shoe song...heh heh)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:19 PM on July 20, 2006

You could actually strike up a conversation, and then it's entirely reasonable to look all you want. Good looking people are still just people.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:40 PM on July 20, 2006

In addition to what oneirodynia (?) said, good looking people often have fewer conversational skills and less complex personalities... talking to them can help you quickly connect with them as people... see them more as a whole person instead of just phenomenal symmetry... and therefore a lot less interesting and intimidating.
posted by ewkpates at 3:37 AM on July 21, 2006

Oh, ewkpates, that's a horrid generalization, and not really true.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:38 AM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You could actually strike up a conversation, and then it's entirely reasonable to look all you want. Good looking people are still just people.

I did mention in my question that speaking to good looking women makes me nervous.
It is even more difficult for me to find something to talk about, just to talk.

I still don't understand why speaking or looking to an average looking person is easier.
posted by convex at 8:40 AM on July 21, 2006

You might not like it... but let's talk probability... the basis of intelligence and personality is hard work... and why do this work? To survive, to increase social status, to prosper... and if you could do these without improving your personality... odds are...
posted by ewkpates at 9:29 AM on July 21, 2006

Best answer: Is this just with coworkers? I'd say that it could be because in the back of your mind, you're afraid that if you look TOO long or look in the wrong way that you'll wind up with a chat with HR. sadly, it's a very valid concern. There are a fair number of women that will turn around and claim sexual harrassment when some guy looks at them. (Seen it happen. Not to me, but to a coworker.)
I think that a lot of our society says that if you look at a girl too long, you're a pervert to be avoided. "If she thinks you're cute, it's flirting, if not it's sexual harrassment." Seems to be very true.
See? "I'm pretty happy when a non-predatory, non-skeezy guy smiles at me." The OP in this thread may smile, but will be seen as a predatory & skeezy guy.
As men, most of the time we have absolutely no idea how a woman is going to view us.
I could be wrong, but I'm just basing this off of personal experience and observations.

But to you, convex, I offer this. Be polite and be yourself. Try to look like you're confident in the situation. Say cheerful things about the environment. "The weather outside is beautiful today!" or something along those lines.

And try not to look at their tits. That one is probably key.
posted by drstein at 11:08 AM on July 21, 2006

Best answer: "...I still don't understand why speaking or looking to an average looking person is easier."
posted by convex at 11:40 AM EST on July 21

You might profitably spend a couple hours with this site (as previously discussed on The Blue) investigating your personal ideas of facial beauty, to learn something of traits you find particularly attractive (at least for the Caucasian face traits featured by this Web site). You may also discover reasons why you have strong preferences and reactions for some combinations of features and proportions, by following some the discussion and commentary links. These reactions vary from person to person, so understanding your own is probably the best way to come to grips with this.*

Then, when you meet an attractive person in whose presence you become nervous, you can examine their face for traits to which you may know you respond strongly. Doing something like this to occupy your mind a bit, or making an effort to focus your attention on a minor feature, like their nose, or their chin, or their left eyebrow, can desensitize your reaction, by distracting you from seeing the features or combination of traits causing your reaction. Try it on the linked site.

*[The general presumption is that the broad consensus of what constitutes an attractive person points to some underlying pre-disposition in our brains; I'm not sure I buy that explanation, but I haven't a better, vetted one to offer in its place.]
posted by paulsc at 11:34 AM on July 21, 2006

drstein, you're wrong, at least with regards to me, and if we're keeping this at the level of a stranger smiling at me on the street.

I find that most decent guys have no idea of the amount, and content, of crap that many women put up with on a daily basis. Walking to yoga a few times a week, I've gotten a marriage proposal from a homeless man that included weirdly offputting information about how many babies I would make for him, "Hey baby, nice ass!" screamed at me from too many cars to count, verbally accosted by a guy who I inadvertantly ignored when passing him and so he decided to scream "Why do all the women think I'm hitting on them!?!?" at me after grabbing my arm at an intersection, and all manner of "Baby, come sit on my face, mmmmmmmmm you so fine, mmmmmmmm I wanna taste you, mmmmmmmmm shake that ass, mmmmmmmmm baby lemme show you what a real man can do for you" comments from guys on the street, in cars, or yelling from construction sites.

I've also gotten and given friendly smiles to perfectly polite homeless men, I say hello and give a big smile to the slightly werid but totally nice guy who guards the parking lot near my studio who always asks me politely how my yoga class went, and I love the guys dressed in donated clothes who sit outside the various cheap hotels sunning themselves and listening to music and seeming to be thoroughly enjoying themselves who occasionally say hello to me.

"Non-skeezy" means you aren't following me, you aren't making overtly sexual comments, you aren't staring at my breasts, you don't pursue a conversation with me after I've made it clear that our interaction is done.

Obviously, the context changes if we're not talking about strangers. Some random guy looking at me on the street doesn't bother me; a co-worker who constantly stares can become a problem. And a co-worker who flirtatiously asks me about my weekend is fine; a stranger who does the same might be overstepping his bounds.

But please know that when I say "skeezy," any guy who's remotely concerned about how he's appearing is simply not going to fit in that category. It's not some arbitrary "You're not attractive to me, therefore you're sexuall harassing me" decision.
posted by occhiblu at 2:19 PM on July 21, 2006

occhiblu: Oh, of course I'm not saying that *everybody* is like that. Of course they're not. Different people have different experiences.

But I can sure tell you that I've never met any girl that has had as many.. um.. interactions as you just mentioned. Yes, I've asked my female friends, some of whom work in SF. In fact, I don't think that I've seen or heard anyone make catcalls at women from construction sites or cars. Ever. Maybe you just live & walk around a shitty part of town. Either you're extremely attractive or you have a knack for drawing out perverts. Or you're blowing it out of proportion. I just find it kind of hard to believe that one girl would experience so many comments and be accosted so often.
But I digress..

Like I said.. "I could be wrong, but I'm just basing this off of personal experience and observations." - your mileage may vary.
posted by drstein at 4:53 PM on July 21, 2006

It's not that unusual, and of course you haven't seen it happen. It doesn't happen when there are other men around.

HollaBack NYC for stories and photos.
posted by occhiblu at 5:22 PM on July 21, 2006

drstein, I'm not even a woman and I've been (embarrassedly, acutely) aware of all the shit women have to put up with for, oh, 35 years or so now, and I'm also embarrassed it took me till sophomore year of college to wise up (when I read an article by a woman explaining what she went through in the course of an average day walking around a major city). I don't know who you're talking to, but I think they're sugarcoating things for you, or you're just not listening to answers that contradict what you want to believe (a very human phenomenon). I guarantee you you've met girls that have had such, um, interactions; you're just not aware of it. It's like saying "I don't know any gay people!"
posted by languagehat at 5:25 PM on July 21, 2006

No, they're not sugarcoating anything, and yes, I'm listening to them. It has nothing to do with what I want to believe. I tend to not spend too much time in big cities. Perhaps that has something to do with it.
And come on. "hollaback nyc?" Please. Why wouldn't it happen when there are other men around? HollaBack NYC seems to contradict that. In fact, it makes it seem like it's more likely to happen when other men are around. it also makes it sound like most everyone in New York is a total lecherous asshole.
Here's a gem: ""How are you doing? Hot enough for you?"

I stop, turn around to him and say "Don't mess with me today." "

Wow. How evil that man was! Surely he deserves an entry on the website about 'street harrassment.' And I like the woman that claims that some guy grabbing his nutsack ruined her entire trip. Sounds like she has other issues if that's the case.

Anyway, this is off topic, so we can agree to disagree.
posted by drstein at 7:27 PM on July 21, 2006

occhiblu: I find that most decent guys have no idea of the amount, and content, of crap that many women put up with on a daily basis

Wasn't that what the woman who wrote the book about a year disguised as a man said? ("Hey, wow! I'm invisible!")
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:30 PM on July 21, 2006

It happens mostly when the men harassing the women are in the company of their other friends, but I'm rarely harassed when I am in the company of men, or there are other men within close earshot. Because the dynamic is not about giving a woman a compliment, it's about an asshole proving how macho and manly he is by flustering a woman.

And yes, it's very simple to dismiss individual acts of harassment as not a big deal. Just as it's extremely easy to dismiss individual acts of racism as not a big deal, to accuse those being harassed of overreacting or being overly sensitive. But the issue is not individual acts of harassment, the issue is a pattern of harassment that makes each individual act reasonably carry more weight than it would otherwise. If one man says "Hey, baby," it's not a big deal. If three men say it, every day, it becomes a big deal, and it's naive to pretend that one man saying "Hey baby" is not a big deal so therefore twenty men each week saying it is not a big deal, either.

One person getting turned away from a lunch counter's not a big deal, either, you know?

But as long as men so charmingly assume I'm overreacting, we're going to get questions like this one, in which men assume that women are complaining about reasonable, polite guys instead of the assholes we're actually complaining about, because you seem unwilling to believe these guys are, in fact, assholes. Which means (1) the guys get to continue to be assholes, because no one they respect (ie, men) is calling them on it and (2) nice polite guys are going to think that all women are somehow hysterical harpies poised to screech "Sexual harassment!" or "Rape!" every time any guy looks at us, because you're not understanding the lower extreme of what we're complaining about, and how that so does not apply to the behaviors the OP is presenting.
posted by occhiblu at 10:29 PM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

You're probably just a nice and considerate guy who doesn't want the women to feel objectified by your looking, and doesn't want bystanders to think you're a creep for 'checking her out'. Similar to what drstein said upthread. As a guy in modern American society, this is nearly always in the back of my mind during such situations - what to me may be an appreciative appraisal or a flirtatious glance toward an attractive member of the opposite sex seems more and more likely to be taken as an example of the "male gaze" and an instance of "visual harassment" if it lasts for more than a second or so.
posted by SenshiNeko at 9:28 PM on July 22, 2006

Best answer: "It doesn't happen when there are other men around." - posted by occhiblu at 5:22 PM PST on July 21.

"It happens mostly when the men harassing the women are in the company of their other friends" - posted by occhiblu at 10:29 PM PST on July 21

Thank you for proving my point.

Men are not mind readers. We have no idea what women are thinking. Many men walk around afraid of interfacing with women because they simply do not know how the woman is going to take it, so they remain in their shell. Some women will react kindly, others will flip out like you and internalize it as some sort of pig-male attitude. The original poster wasn't asking "How can I say crude, juvenile crap to cute girls?" He was asking "Help me socialize with attractive women without feeling guilty about it." Whether or not men say stupid stuff to women is irrelevant to his situation. And again, since you seem to have missed it the first time.. yes, some men say dumb shit to women. Yes, some men are assholes. I fully understand the 'lower extreme' of what you're complaining about. I still think that you're overreacting. but who knows what goes through your head when a guy says something, because you can't seem to decide whether or not it happens when they're alone or with other men.

Fact remains - nobody should have to walk around feeling afraid to talk to a woman just because she's a woman. The OP just needs to be himself, he needs to *not* say crude and stupid stuff, and he ought to be polite. Is there anything wrong with that?

That being said, good luck to you, convex. Not all women will freak out and overreact. Try not to worry too much about things.

posted by drstein at 11:09 AM on July 24, 2006

Mod note: a few comments removed, save the "no YOU'RE wrong" for email or metatalk]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:11 PM on July 25, 2006

That drstein seems to want to cast the majority of women who experience sexual harassment as overly sensitive or just plain liars really worries me. I can't believe I even have to say this: Women aren't crazy. Some women are crazy, but most women are not, just the same as some men are crazy, but most are not. drstein's advice makes it sounds like you have to be "extra" careful, because, whoa, crazy women, who knows what she could do, she could call sexual harassment on you if you even look at her! Bullshit.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:36 PM on July 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Question: Some of you mentioned 'smiling' with looking, as if they usually come together, or if they came together it is okay. 'Within limits of course'. I grew up being taught that smiling without a reason is rude, maybe laughing, but smiling is a big part of it.
How much smiling can help in such a situation, and is it okay to smile to someone, without an obvious reason?
posted by convex at 11:14 AM on July 27, 2006

convex, I can't really think of a common situation in which smiling at someone would be rude. Unless you're smiling at their distress, or seem to be laughing at them, I can't think it would be a problem.

Guys I don't know who tell me to smile I find rude. But I have no problem with guys who just smile at me (and I pretty much always smile back). Most of the time, I find it friendly and charming and polite. And, in fact, it tends to switch a stranger from "potential threat" to "polite guy" instantly.

(You don't have to answer this here, but are you originally from outside the US? I know Americans are always stereotyped as smiling too much, or at least a lot more than people in other countries, so maybe that's the cultural disconnect you're sensing?)
posted by occhiblu at 6:43 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: You got that right I am originally from Lebanon. Good thing to know smiling is not considered rude, the difficult part now is to actually smile. Maybe being very rational and always seeking a reason for every action is what makes it difficult, and most of the time overthinking things.
But it is something to work on I guess.
posted by convex at 7:04 PM on July 27, 2006

If your profile is correct and you're still in SF, then yeah, just relax. We're a friendly smiley open bunch, even by American standards!
posted by occhiblu at 7:21 PM on July 27, 2006

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