How do you avoid staring at cleavage?
January 23, 2008 2:02 PM   Subscribe

How do you avoid looking down cleavage?

So I'm sitting at a desk and a colleague bends down to talk to me. Huge pendelous breasts in front of me. I try to look her in the eyes while talking but that makes me seem weird, as does peering out of the window, or at the carpet.

I'm approaching middle age and I still don't know how to deal with this! Will I ever? As far as I can tell this is just instinct.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool to Society & Culture (90 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I try to look her in the eyes while talking but that makes me seem weird

It may *feel* weird, but it doesn't seem weird when you're the one with the breasts. Keep looking her in the eye. Blink occasionally. That's all there is to it!
posted by headspace at 2:05 PM on January 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

If you can't bear to stare her in the eyes, go back and forth between that and staring up in space, as though you are thinking. Or glancing back and forth between her and your computer screen.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:07 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Eye contact isn't weird [unless it's weird], so I'd vote for that.
If it's a few words back and forth, it's not *creepy staring*, so it's ok.

If it's more than a few words back and forth, try:
look in eyes,
look down at desk as you push your chair back to...
stand up! [lean or slouch as necessary if she's short and you're tall]
then continue looking her in the eyes.

I still feel awkward looking people in the eyes, but I find that they like me better when I do.
posted by Acari at 2:09 PM on January 23, 2008

focus on a little spot above/between the eyes. then it still looks like you're looking in the eyes, but you minimize the weirdness factor ... unless I'm totally missing what makes this weird. that, and some self control, will get you through this
posted by 53B3L1U5 at 2:09 PM on January 23, 2008

Do you have this same problem keeping your eyes on a man's face? I doubt it. Treat her like you would a male colleague.
posted by caddis at 2:11 PM on January 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

Can you find a light hearted way of pointing out that the amount of cleavage is not work appropriate?
posted by jouke at 2:13 PM on January 23, 2008

My hair stylist has The Boobs, and, given that she's a hair stylist and standing over me, said Boobs are likely to be in my face with some alarming frequency. I'm female and assuming you're male, so our situation may be entirely different, but I basically do what TPS suggests. I alternate between staring off to the side as if thinking/spacing and making an effort to look in her eyes while she's gossiping to me about the other stylists at her salon.
posted by katillathehun at 2:14 PM on January 23, 2008

Stand up so TEH B00BIEZ are not at eye level.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:17 PM on January 23, 2008

In general, the women I've spoken to have told me that a brief glance is OK, depending on circumstances. It's the staring that pisses them off. But that's in more informal situations.

In the specific case you mention, maintain eye contact at all costs. The furtive glance in an office setting can have all manner of negative repercussions. Try leaning back a bit to reorient your head into a more natural position to look her in the face and put some space between you and the source of your fascination.
posted by lekvar at 2:17 PM on January 23, 2008

Having missed dozens of flirting signals in the past, due to my general idiocy and obliviousness, let me alert you to the possibility, however remote, that it could be intentional.

Still, it's probably not too wise to say, "Sorry, I missed the first sentence because I'm mesmerized by your proximity and your rather fantastic breasts." Of course, YMMV.
posted by cmiller at 2:22 PM on January 23, 2008

Focus on whatever you two are talking about? It'll help you not look at anybody's bulges, male or female....because you'll actually be focused on whatever it is you're discussing with the person.
posted by cashman at 2:23 PM on January 23, 2008

How do you avoid staring at cleavage? I don't know, the same way I avoid staring at, say, someone's visible surgery scar: I remind my brain that although it may be natural for my gaze to drift toward something interesting, it's also rude. And I don't want to be rude, so I remember not to stare.

I fail to see how this is a question for the ages.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:25 PM on January 23, 2008 [23 favorites]

Sorry, those who want to blame the existence of cleavage on inappropriate garb: anything shy of a turtleneck can show cleavage if you've got the physique.

I feel sorry for this woman. Look her in the eye, the way you should with any adult.
posted by loiseau at 2:26 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nobody's mentioned the possibility that distraction may be deliberate on the part of the boob-swayer.

I know I'd say "Okay, sorry, that's too distracting..." and then stand up or find some other way of rearranging the eye level.

If there is a gasp or outrage at this (mock or not) you can always say "I'd rather have your eyes in front of me when we talk." That's hard to turn against you.
posted by rokusan at 2:26 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think this is hardwired into the deep reaches of the primitive male mind. I don't think it's an instinct that you can turn off.

I recommend standing up towards a wipe board or computer to have something you are both looking at instead of each other.

BTW, I agree with ROU_Xenophobe's comment.
posted by Argyle at 2:26 PM on January 23, 2008

(Then again, someone leaning over me to have a conversation would probably annoy me, regardless of their sex or endowment.)
posted by rokusan at 2:27 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Professional women with a clue either don't wear tops that lead to this issue, or they don't bend forward when talking to male colleagues who are sitting down.

In other words, either she's doing it on purpose, or you're doing her a favor by letting her wonder why you won't look at her directly, and she'll eventually figure it out. Standing up in order to alter the situation is not a bad idea.

Note that I'm not saying it's intentional in this case. And even if it is intentional, it doesn't necessarily mean she's interested...maybe she's deliberately trying to make you uncomfortable, or has some other motivation. But I have worked in a lot of offices with a lot of women who wear skimpy clothing, and this almost never happens to me unless it's obvious that it's not an accident.
posted by bingo at 2:29 PM on January 23, 2008

Condition yourself to think that the cleavage is actually a "tradesman's crack".
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:32 PM on January 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

You have a few options.

Look at her eye, look at her eyebrow, look at the top of her hairline. See that freakish mole half an inch down on her cheek? Look at that. Look at her hands if you have to concentrate on something and then wrinkle your eyebrow as if you're in deep thought. Stand up, put your hands on your hips or hold a pencil. Lead back in your chair, put your pen between your teeth and put your hands behind your head. Tap your pencil ridicolusly.

If those won't work, then it's time to distract her away from you so you can approach her from a more professional level. Excuses ranging from "lunch", cell phone on vibrate, deadline, need to complete this level of Keep the Keep, your dog died are all acceptable.

If that won't work and you feel trapped and your lizard brain still can't get you to focus on her eyes, blink uncontrollably and if she asks why you are doing that, claim that you left your contacts at home that day. And then spend the rest of the day pertending you can't focus on anything.

If you can't use that excuse, I guess you're just going to have to keep looking her in the eye. Sure it feels akward but it's not like she is Medusa. If she is Medusa then you probably should find a new job.
posted by Stynxno at 2:38 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I fail to see how this is a question for the ages.

Perhaps because you're not a man.
posted by yerfatma at 2:45 PM on January 23, 2008 [11 favorites]

Do you have this same problem keeping your eyes on a man's face? I doubt it. Treat her like you would a male colleague.

I've been working on this myself and here's the thing, from a man's point of view: I look into a man's eyes and I feel.... nothing. He's just a man. I look into a woman's eyes and it feels like she is looking into the depths of my soul. My instinct is to deflect my eyes downward. My continuing instinct is for my eyes to stop where they shouldn't. These are instincts, or maybe more correctly, habits, that developed without forthought in adolescence. Here I am in my 40s, trying to be a mature guy, and let me tell you, a habit like that is hard to break. I'm still working on it.
posted by Doohickie at 2:45 PM on January 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

Egads! Let us know when you figure it out!

I have don't-stare-disease... Any time I am NOT supposed to stare at something, anything, I have this overwhelming urge to stare, and then, caught between my reptillian brains physiological need to look and my rational brains urge to be a socially acceptable creature, my body nearly convulses while the two duke it out. And all the while, I literally have no real desire to look upon said forbidden fruit, except for the fact that it is forbidden.
posted by ian1977 at 2:48 PM on January 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

I feel uncomfortable when someone looks at any part of my body other than my eyes while we're speaking. Make an effort to maintain eye contact.

I think this is hardwired into the deep reaches of the primitive male mind. I don't think it's an instinct that you can turn off.

Agreed. I'm gay and I can't help but stare. Boys like breasts. Breasts are fun. Period.
posted by HotPatatta at 2:53 PM on January 23, 2008 [6 favorites]

This reminds me of an experience I had while I was still at University, which is about 5 years ago now.

I'm a guy, but I had never had any trouble not looking at cleavage. I loved women (and breasts), don't get me wrong. But I had always found it easy to maintain eye contact with a woman while having a conversation with her. I always put this down to the fact that I considered myself a 'leg-man.'

Then came Rebecca. She was a TA, and she was a wonderful, wonderful person. Incredibly smart as well. And beautiful. Somehow she and I started having regular lunches. I had a girlfriend at the time and she had a long-term boyfriend, but man, what I wouldn't have given to be with her. I found her stimulating in every way, both physically and intellectually, and my crush on her knew no bounds.

And she was the first woman whose cleavage I couldn't stop looking at.

We would have lunch and talk about history and art and politics and literature and I could maintain eye contact for long periods of time but somehow I always caught my eyes drifting down and looking at that magnificent cleavage of hers. And I felt awful about it. Not only because I had a girlfriend, but also because I respected Rebecca too much to be looking at her breasts like that. And yet still I did it. As much as I tried, it simply couldn't be helped.

Eventually she got an offer to teach at a better university interstate and so our lunches stopped. Nothing ever happened between us. Eventually my girlfriend and I also went our separate ways. She had nice cleavage too, it should be said, but unlike Rebecca, I never had any trouble not maintaining eye contact with her during conversation (though I would certainly eye her breasts a lot when we were fooling around!) I never loved her, I later realised, but such is life.

Now I'm engaged to a beautiful, wonderful woman who engages me physically and intellectually. Her name isn't Rebecca but she's so much better than Rebecca ever was. And I love her. Really, really love her. And y'know what else? I simply can't stop staring at her cleavage. She's got DD's, and in some tops... like.. whoa. My God! Time stops and I can't help but look at them. Y'know what I'm saying? I'm definitely no longer a leg-man. Worse still, she knows the power they have over me and blatantly uses them to get her way sometimes.

Which is A.O.K with me. Heh.

I guess the point I'm trying to get across here is that sometimes you will find yourself unable to help but stare at cleavage, and it usually happens more when the cleavage is attached to a woman you like (or love). I do think it's partly got to do with instinct, and it's one that modern man can control to a certain degree. I also think it has a lot to do with modern culture and the fact that companies use breasts to sell things to us. I read a good opinion piece recently that discusses our boob-lust, and though it is an opinion piece (the lowest form of journalistic writing there is), it has some decent points worth considering.

Anyway, all I'm saying is sometimes you will just find yourself drawn to a woman and, shallow as it may sound, her breasts as well. Just learn to try and control it as best you can and accept that sometimes you'll look. It's no bad thing, really, unless the woman being looked at thinks it is, in which case you really do need to control it. But otherwise, live with it, enjoy it, and get on with life!
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:54 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am a woman, and I can't speak for all women but in my experience, I think women just appreciate the effort of you trying to remove your eyes eventually and listen to what they are saying. Like someone said earlier, a glance isn't a problem, but staring is uncomfortable. If she was leaning over to show you something, then focus on what she's showing you. If she's just leaning over to chat, that sounds flirty. Most women (not all, but most) are aware when their boobs are on display like that, if they aren't preoccupied with work.
posted by veronitron at 2:59 PM on January 23, 2008

Pretend she's your mom.
posted by wafaa at 3:00 PM on January 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

I often close my eyes and look up while talking to someone about work stuff, because shutting out the rest of the world helps me concentrate on what's being said. I do this even in 100% boob-free situations. If you can do it without seeming like you're like, "ahh, boobies!" in a rude way, it could work for you.
posted by ibmcginty at 3:02 PM on January 23, 2008

Heh, like katillathehun, I am female, have a hair stylist with Teh Boobs, and find it difficult to avoid them - I stare at myself in the mirror instead, so she probably thinks I'm a narcissist. I'm just glad to know I'm not the only one.

One of my tricks - not just for Teh Boobs, but also for colleagues with a massive zit you're trying not to stare at, or something like that - is to frown and unfocus, or to look down/aside/at computer screen as if you're really thinking about what they've said, or trying to find the answer to the question they've asked.
posted by andraste at 3:06 PM on January 23, 2008

Well, if your comfortable with it, as in a small working environment where everyone is pretty candid or with friends, make a joke about it.

This has happened several times to me over the years where female colleagues just kept bending over and every time I tried to speak, I kept turning my head into a pair of breasts. So I just did a quite honest "Whoa there! A little distracting! I'm trying to concentrate here!" Oddly enough it has always totally defused the situation. We laughed, they usually got a little red and apologized and the whole nervous dynamic just kind of dissolved. Not sayin I never stole a peek later with any of them, but the uncomfortable part of all of that, once broached, just disappeared into professionalism.
posted by elendil71 at 3:08 PM on January 23, 2008

I second wafaa's advice; very effective.
posted by Dizzy at 3:09 PM on January 23, 2008

You're never going to lose the temptation. They are referred to as mesmeric for a reason. Dealing with it is impossible if you are of the 'easily mesmered' (???) persuasion. This leaves you with two options:

1 - try not to get caught.

2 - Remove the situation - If this is a regular occurrence enough to warrant this much effort, have a spare chair near your desk for her to sit in. If it seems appropriate, tell her you got it so she could be more comfortable when she comes over to talk to you (which may well indicate if it is deliberate flirtation).

The issue with this is not all that much to do with the boobs and staring at them. It is more that the second you become aware and self conscious as to where you are looking, you think it immediately sticks a flashing neon sign over your head saying "TRYING NOT TO LOOK AT THE BOOOOOBS!!!!" and so get irrationally paranoid about trying not to (even momentarily) slot into what has become somewhat of a stigma.

It is the paranoia at the reflex that causes the discomfort, not the reflex itself.
posted by Brockles at 3:11 PM on January 23, 2008

I'm a heterosexual woman and often boobs distract even me. (It must have something to do with the presentation.) All you can do is put forth your best effort. It does help to be on the same level as the person you're talking to: stand if she's standing. Or if it doesn't seem appropriate to stand, lean way back in your chair and assume a posture of total relaxation. Lace your hands together over your abdominal area. Lean your head back and just look at her face, whether she's standing or bending over, as if her presence actually relaxes you.

And yes, it probably has to do with your deep down instinctual primal desires, but it is actually possible for human beings to control those things. You may always be uncomfortable in this situation, but you can manage it better. Just do NOT stare. Look all over the place; do whatever you have to do. You might want to practice looking into everyone's eyes when talking to them, and maybe you'll get better at following suit with boob girls.

And she may be dressing that way on purpose, but from her attire alone, you can have no idea whether she's dressing that way for you. So be careful with that angle.
posted by iguanapolitico at 3:16 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm approaching middle age and I still don't know how to deal with this! Will I ever?

Actually, I think you're dealing with it exactly as you should, because you're making a point of not staring.

You may feel weird 'cause you're connecting breasts with sexual situations and the primitive part of your brain is getting confused about why these breasts are here NOW, in the midst of a normal conversation that is lacking any sexual connection. I know, I know, "But there's breats! Right here and now!!!". You just have to let that part of your run on silently while you stare at the point between her eyes, your computer screen or out the window.

As far as I can tell this is just instinct.

It's totally instinct and not anything to worry about.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:20 PM on January 23, 2008

This has happened several times to me over the years where female colleagues just kept bending over and every time I tried to speak, I kept turning my head into a pair of breasts. So I just did a quite honest "Whoa there! A little distracting! I'm trying to concentrate here!"

As a woman with large breasts, this would really upset me and I would not feel comfortable around you again.

I dunno, I don't GET why this is such a problem -- there are lots of weird and wonderful things in the world and by staring at them you can make people really uncomfortable, so you just don't. You have that power.
posted by loiseau at 3:21 PM on January 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

I dunno, I don't GET why this is such a problem

And I'm sure most of the men here don't understand why a woman would cry at work. But we're not being dismissive about it, and you shouldn't be, either.

"Don't do X" is not a helpful answer to "How do I stop doing X?"
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:28 PM on January 23, 2008 [11 favorites]

I dunno, I don't GET why this is such a problem

It's a problem because a guy has two desires going on at these moments, one to look because it's breasts and the other to not look because you don't want to be rude or make the woman uncomfortable or self conscious. You really DO have the best intentions, but on the other hand you just want to look at something you find irresistibly beautiful.

In stereotypical terms, it's like a woman on her period looking at a mound of the finest, freshly made chocolate. You can't help but be drawn to it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:29 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

And whenever you get a good, (safe!), free shot at 'em, go ahead and GAWK at the snuggle-puppies. Just visually devour those sweater-stuffers. Get it out of your system.

No. The world is not your centerfold, ripe for the jerkin'. This is the workplace, keep your eyes to yourself.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:30 PM on January 23, 2008 [31 favorites]

Jerry Seinfeld said "Looking at a cleavage is like looking at the sun. You don't stare at it. It's too risky. You get a sense of it and then you look away."
posted by iviken at 3:30 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

So I'm sitting at a desk and a colleague bends down to talk to me.

Four options from that point:
1. Put a chair by your desk. Insist that she sit down while chatting.
2. Stand up, and let her know you feel obligated to stand every time she bends down. Manners.
3. Look away and say plainly that you can see her cleavage when she bends like that.
4. Ask her out.

But the best advice I've taken was to look people in the eye when I talked to them. It's quite a healthy habit to develop, for any situation. Making eye contact suggests that you're friendly, open, honest, and interested in whatever the other person is saying. So long as you break eye contact every few moments (blink, look off into space contemplatively, etc. as natural) there's nothing negative about it.
posted by zennie at 3:32 PM on January 23, 2008

Fortunately for my leanings towards being an aspie, with women and men alike I'll find my eyes locked onto theirs, and when talking can only look away if I'm looking at something specific. I notice that some people seem to get squirmy under the unending stare, but that's not all people. Very few have called me on it, in which case I either say, "It's something I do." or I'll never make eye contact with them again.

If you're faced with the options of staring at someone's cleavage, or staring uncomfortably at their eyes, I'd say go for the eyes.

Sadly, cleavage is one of those "something specific" things that I'll look at while talking with people. I'd imagine the odd glance won't land one in trouble, but how does one time a glance to not be too long? Keep in mind that like people who can't alt_tab back to work quickly enough when you walk by their cube, one's own judgement of what might have been quick enough might not match the judgement of the observee. At those times, I force myself to lock onto the eyes, and hold on like they're a bucking bronco.

What I find hard to the point of impossible is talking with someone in an environment with a lot of people moving around. A cute girl will walk by, and my eyes will jump for a ~1 second glance. I'm not a good enough rodeo rider to avoid this. I realize how lucky I am that ms. nobeagle's ok with this. And jumping back to that "judgement" issue, a number of times I'll realize that I made a glance, and as I'm thinking "I think that was too quick to notice; she wasn't looking at my eyes right then." and then ms. nobeagle will turn around say, "Oh, I bet it was the one in the black and red shirt."

on preview: Zennie, I think that might be the whole problem for the OP - not doing the death stare. And speaking from my own perspective, if one lets the eyes wander, there's more chance for the eyes to take the quick (or potentially less quick than one intended) glance. Locking one's gaze is much easier to control than to move one's eyes around but avoid a particular area. Doubly so if one doesn't want to be seen to be avoiding that patch.
posted by nobeagle at 3:39 PM on January 23, 2008

go ahead and GAWK at the snuggle-puppies. Just visually devour those sweater-stuffers.

It's good form not to refer to parts of a woman. If one must, and there certainly perfectly acceptable conversations to do this, then one should not relate said parts to dogs or food as women are neither. Thank you for not being an asshole or behaving in an asshole manner.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:51 PM on January 23, 2008 [7 favorites]

posted by mlis at 3:53 PM on January 23, 2008

Mod note: A few comments removed. Enough with the HURF DURF SNUGGLE PUPPIES stuff; there's a metatalk thread if you need to do something other than actually answer.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:55 PM on January 23, 2008

I dunno, I don't GET why this is such a problem

It is not unreasonable for loiseau to be dismissive on the face of it. Are my fellow men really so unable to control their eyes? Ah well, we're all made differently.

How's this: I remember that humans are really good at telling where other people are looking, so if I look then she will always know I am looking. And I will then be an immature jerk and she will think I'm stupid. I don't like people to think I'm stupid, especially attractive people, so that helps me keep discipline.
posted by alasdair at 3:55 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

nobeagle: Yeah, I am also prone to the death stare. I like looking at people's eyes, and in proper light, irises are fascinating-- especially at close range. So I had to learn to look people in the eye, and then I had to learn not to stare them down to a pile of smoking ashes. It's not too difficult to learn, however. Just takes a little practice. I only rarely smite people, these days.
posted by zennie at 3:59 PM on January 23, 2008

Y'know what I do? I tend to stare at the mouth (arguably because I've got some hearing damage and it makes my life easier). It's not as mental as unflinching eye contact, and it's not as pervy as staring at the the tits.

I can also say that I am in the 99th percentile in terms of seeing tits at work, and yet I find that concentrating on what someone's telling me (or Metafilter) seems to have obviated the problem.
posted by klangklangston at 4:01 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

PS— If you're having trouble not staring at your co-workers' breasts, may I suggest lots and lots of pornography? That'll deaden the immediate "TITS!" response.
posted by klangklangston at 4:03 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

alasdair: men are different from men, and women are different from women.

Other than physical inspection, there'd be no way for me to know if two of my girlfriends were approaching menstruation. All of my other girlfriends definitely had give away moods, and ms. nobeagle has beyond prominent moods. Relatedly she menstuates irregularly. But if she's skipping a month, or going to be a week or two late, I let her know my thoughts, and quite often I'm right.

Again, the OP is asking how to make something non-awkward.

"I've got an ear infection, it's really bad and won't go away." "Hmmm, I had an ear infection once and it went away in a day. This shouldn't be a problem, and it's certainly not advice for the ages. Definitely don't consider a doctor."
posted by nobeagle at 4:06 PM on January 23, 2008

Look at her mouth or nose or forehead or ears or hair when you're not fumbling for something on your desk or checking your calendar or glancing at your monitor or squinting as you gaze into the future. Make up for lack of eye contact with plenty of positive sounds and hand gestures. Also, affect an eye disorder and start wearing huge Sly Stone mirrored glasses around the office.

Or just stop looking at her tits. You can do it. I, too, like tits, but I will not stare at them when I'm not supposed to. Every time you see her coming, just imagine you're going to be accused of sexual harassment and dragged into HR and lose your job and family and friends and home and self-respect if you can't keep your eyes off the tits and on the job.
posted by pracowity at 4:13 PM on January 23, 2008

This is the workplace, keep your eyes to yourself.

This is the workplace, keep your breasts to yourself.

I have fairly large breasts and I do wear low-cut tops sometimes but I accept that guys are going to look at my boobs and it doesn't bother me, so long as when you're talking to me, you talk to my face not my chest.

Its entirely unfair to put all the blame on men. If you don't want your boobs looked at, don't show off your cleavage and don't put your chest in the eyeline of your male colleagues.
posted by missmagenta at 4:20 PM on January 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

A few comments have suggested the possibility of bringing up "proper workplace attire" to this woman. Please, please do not do this. When you have a large chest, it is often not possible to dress in a way that does not show any skin at all and is still flattering: if you cover up entirely, they usually end up looking even bigger. So your choice is showing a little cleavage when you bend over and being perceived as slutty or dumb or flirtatious or whatever other weird meaning is being read into your body today, or having a huge rack and...being seen exactly the same way.

As for "defusing the situation with a joke"...please don't do this. A woman having breasts might bother you, but it's not an unnerving situation for her, so it's not like "Gosh, there's lots of nervous tension for everyone here! A funny joke about my discomfort with your body will solve this for all of us!" I would be sobbing in the bathroom five minutes after this happened.

Imagine that this coworker is a man with a prominent and unusual birthmark. Is it natural to be curious about this person's physical difference and want to look at it? Sure. Maybe you find it odd, or maybe you find it pleasing and attractive. Either way, do you blatantly stare at it when he's talking to you? No. You find some way to look at something else, like his eyes. You do this even though it might be difficult at first. You certainly don't tell him to wear something different to cover it up because his appearance is distracting you, and it would be unthinkable to make a joke like "Whoa! That weird thing on your face is really keeping me from my job!"

I like boobies too, and I think it's okay for people to look at them every so often and enjoy their presence, but in the end they're just another jiggly bit on a person who is mostly like you.
posted by lemuria at 4:26 PM on January 23, 2008 [15 favorites]

The reason this is an issue, on the FYI, is that looking is generally an unconscious action. When something forces you to make an unconscious action conscious ("Don't look there!"), you lose your ability to "just do it." Coming up with a strategy to deal with this situation can be extremely helpful.

I'm not sure if I have any great advice. I feel relatively able to cope in these situations (I'm a dude), and I wonder if it isn't because boobs are relatively pedestrian to me. I talk to my friends (male, female, etc.) about 'em a lot (or maybe more than other dudes?). I recognize them as part of the experience of being a woman. If I see more of someone's chest I'm more apt to think about why they decided to bring the sexy back on that day. Does any of this make sense? I had a Diet Coke and I think my insides are freezing.

Boobs is boobs. The more you can think about them as part of a person—and as always there, whether you can see them or not—the easier it is to acknowledge them (to yourself! not out loud) and move on.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:37 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

IMO it's fine for people of either sex to look briefly so long as they then look away. She will almost certainly be aware if you look for a longer-than-normal time, and definitely will be if she's trying to talk to you.

So: where to put your eyes? Eye contact while talking, or eyes somewhere on her head, or on the paper/computer you're both talking about, or at a point behind, above, or to the side of her head. Ok to look at her hands, or your own hands. Fiddle with a pen in your hand and look at that. Feel free to switch fixation spots regularly to avoid the feeling of "death stare".

Simple rule: When you break eye contact with her, break it by moving your eyes in an up or sideways direction, not down.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:43 PM on January 23, 2008

It's even ok to look up toward the ceiling in a "I'm listening carefully to what you say" bit of body language. (Be sure you are actually listening and nod at appropriate points, repeat a key phrase, etc or else it will really seem like you're spacing out)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:45 PM on January 23, 2008

As a woman, I'd appreciate it if you look at me the same way you look at a man. I was hired for my brains, same as you. Reacting differently to women at work (not looking them in the eye when you normally look your male colleague's eyes) is noticed by the women and gives the impression you are not comfortable with women in the workplace.

As to appropriate clothing at work, nothing short of a turtleneck will eliminate my cleavage, and, as any large-breasted woman know, turtlenecks (which on large-breasted women are pretty taut across the breasts) only makes breasts appear larger.

Unless you have an incredibly close relationship with the woman, please do not make comments about her body. It isn't appropriate for work, and you could rightly lose your job over it.

BTW, I think the instinct excuse is crap. Half the human race have breasts. Time to get over it.

(on preview, I think lemuria and I are sharing the same mind waves)
posted by saucysault at 4:52 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Definitely find some way to get the breasts out of your face. I don't think it's unreasonable for any person to look at something RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOUR EYES, if only because, you know, in the middle of my field of vision, that's what eyes are good at picking out.

Stand up. Get her to sit. If you have to lean up to look her in the eyes, you can perhaps complain about a crick in the neck from having to look up so high. Get back to work on your computer. Ask for a little more personal space, if she's right next to you.
posted by that girl at 4:55 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stare at her lips. You'll register what she is saying better as well. I have a hard time maintaining eye contact for a long time with anyone and to avoid checking out tie clips, necklaces and anything else that in just makes me look like I'm acting "shifty" I firmly stare at peoples mouths so I can concentrate on what they are saying.
posted by dabitch at 4:59 PM on January 23, 2008

I silently tell myself, "If you look at those titties you will die." It is like a secret chant in my head.
posted by LarryC at 5:05 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I can do a pretty good job of averting my eyes if the woman is wearing a brassiere while she leans over, but if she's bra-less, all bets are off. I'm looking then, because I figure she knows she's being a tease and doesn't mind.
posted by jayder at 5:05 PM on January 23, 2008

The trick is to look without looking. You know that there is cleavage in front of you. You have seen it before, right? You know what it looks like. Just carry on a normal conversation and use your mind's eye.
posted by chugg at 5:12 PM on January 23, 2008

Pretend that they are tumors. Two big tumors that will turn you into a jobless pillar of salt if you stare at them!

Seriously though, I can see both sides of this. I am endowed with some boobage, which not only do people love to bring up inappropriately, but to stare at as well if I'm wearing anything less than two sweaters and an undershirt. I always look people in the eye in a work context and actually, come to think of it, I probably couldn't tell you anything about any of my coworkers bodies.

On the other hand, the staring compulsion I do understand. For example, I was on the subway in the summertime and this guy in his twenties was wearing some crazy American Apparel style nut hugger shorts. And I couldn't. stop. looking. Because, whoa man, your testicles are very clearly displayed! And what are you doing!? Oh my god stop looking don't look...but I think his sack is actually slipping out of the leg of his shorts! Whaaaaaaaa.

I just turned around and faced my own reflection in the window of the train until it was my stop. This advice does not apply well to the workplace, though. There, I would say stand up and rub your neck like you had a crick in it from craning your neck to look at them, then look them in the eye from that point forward. If they are leaning over you to show you something on the screen, then invite them to take a seat to show you. But just because you're behind someone doesn't mean you have carte blanche to look now!
posted by SassHat at 5:23 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

BTW, I think the instinct excuse is crap. Half the human race have breasts. Time to get over it.

Uh, yeah. The other half.

Mrs. Director and I have had discussions around this. I explained that breast are a primary visual clue of femaleness. It would not matter an iota if, instead of breasts, women had horns growing out of their backs. It's how we identify them as women, so we'd gawk at the horns just as much.

The thing about eye contact is that it can be learned. Just try holding eye contact for 10 seconds before breaking it off, then bring your eyes back to the other person's. Practice increasing the length of the contact over time. It does work (that's how I improved).
posted by trinity8-director at 5:48 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

The world is full of things that will make you uncomfortable, and perhaps now is a good time to begin dealing with that. Looking anywhere but in the potentially offending direction may cause you temporary discomfort now, but by choosing not to discomfort others, you make the world a better place, and begin to take real ownership of your own behavior.

I had a job interview once with a long-legged HR employee in an Alley McBeal ultra mini, who sat directly in front of me with her legs wide open, no hose. For an hour. When I left, I had a migraine from the eyestrain of never once looking down. Thing is, she was one of the nicest people at the company, and if it had ever occured to her that she was inadvertantly flashing me all that time, she would have been absolutely mortified. It was worth the discomfort to keep from making her feel like shit.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:53 PM on January 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

As a woman with large breasts, this would really upset me and I would not feel comfortable around you again.

I dunno, I don't GET why this is such a problem -- there are lots of weird and wonderful things in the world and by staring at them you can make people really uncomfortable, so you just don't. You have that power.
posted by loiseau at 6:21 PM on January 23 [+] [!]

That is it. Do you really want the women you work with thinking you are some sort of perv? Oh sure, it is an inviting vision, but when it insults the person this much you just suck it up, act like a real man, and concentrate on the person, the face, not the boobies. You work for me, you stare at the boobs of the women in the office and you are in serious trouble. Yes, guys will take that surreptitious peek, ala the Seinfeld comment above, it happens, but the staring or the obvious dropping of the eyes is really insulting and really inappropriate. What if this were your daughter? Are you staring down your daughter's cleavage, even if she is stacked? I hope not. You don't have to deny your emotions, your desire, but balance that against the insult and when you do that the obvious answer, especially in the office, is to keep your gaze above the neck.
posted by caddis at 6:10 PM on January 23, 2008

BTW, I think the instinct excuse is crap. Half the human race have breasts. Time to get over it.

Round, protruding mammaries are a pretty unique, recent development to homo sapiens. Evolutionary biologists explain their presence as substitutes for round, protruding butts when we were bent at the pelvis. Plump, healthy, roundness was our visual clue for advertising sexuality. It's only when we started walking upright (and therefore the bent-over butt disappeared), that female breasts developed. As far as we can tell, there was an innate gap to fill, and evolution filled it nicely. Ergo, breasts.

There's almost certainly something seriously lower-level going on than a simple prejudice that can be switched off.
posted by cmiller at 6:36 PM on January 23, 2008

Yes it is possible. I mainly look at people's mouths when they first start talking to me. When I've established what they're saying, or that I can mostly understand if they have a thick accent, I look at their eyes, but again not staring. I'm very conscious about not staring at a woman's breasts because nobody likes to be stared at. There's not much that you can do if you glance at them (and both men and women do this) but staring is a no-no. Actually caddis has it.
posted by ob at 6:43 PM on January 23, 2008

If your coworkers behavior is making you uncomfortable (and happens often, not a one-time thing that may have been an accident) you should bring it up and ask her politely not to do it.
posted by Justinian at 6:52 PM on January 23, 2008

cmiller: It doesn't matter if there are baser instincts at work. You are at work. Therefore you focus on work-related things, i.e. Not Breasts. You have voluntary eye muscles that determine in which direction you look. Use them.

As for how: what I've found to be most effective (as someone who is also sort of uncomfortable with eye contact) is focusing somewhere between the outer corner of the eye (pick one) and the temple. It gets you accustomed to looking near someone's face when they're talking to you, and with some practice gradually becomes actually looking at their face.

Tilt your chin up a bit if that helps un-center your co-worker's cleavage from your field of vision.
posted by casarkos at 7:03 PM on January 23, 2008

Round, protruding mammaries are a pretty unique, recent development to homo sapiens. Evolutionary biologists explain their presence as substitutes for round, protruding butts when we were bent at the pelvis. Plump, healthy, roundness was our visual clue for advertising sexuality. It's only when we started walking upright (and therefore the bent-over butt disappeared), that female breasts developed. As far as we can tell, there was an innate gap to fill, and evolution filled it nicely. Ergo, breasts.

There's almost certainly something seriously lower-level going on than a simple prejudice that can be switched off.

No, there is not. Just don't be a perv, OK? (You will have the pervy thoughts if you are male, likely, but you will suppress your urge to peek so that you don't insult the person you are talking to, if you are gentleman.) This whole theme of "I can't stop myself" is so stupid. Can you stop yourself from stealing a dollar left on a co-worker's desk? Can you stop yourself from raping that cute girl in the next cube? If you answered yes to these questions then you can stop yourself from openly ogling the boobies. You do not have to yield to every temptation. If you did you would already be imprisoned. Get a life.
posted by caddis at 7:30 PM on January 23, 2008

I'm a woman and I've had this happen to me with female coworkers and it's very awkward to be put in that position even as a woman. It's all well and good to say look her in the eyes but what if the situation were reversed and the OP was a woman seated at her desk and the coworker was a man who came over to her desk every day with his pants unzipped and his penis hanging out? Would the advice still be, hey, just look him in the eyes and quit worrying about his display of his body parts?

I'm well endowed and I bend over every morning in front of the mirror just to make sure no boobies are hanging out. I can't help how big they are but I can dang sure make sure they are covered at work. If this was a one-time event, I'd say it was an accident on her part, but if it's happening often, it needs to be addressed either on a friendly level maybe through a tactful female coworker, or on an HR level, depending on the atmosphere of your workplace.
posted by tamitang at 9:27 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ignoring all the body-related stuff, I'll stick to this one:

I try to look her in the eyes while talking but that makes me seem weird

It only makes you seem weird if she simultaneously does not stop staring you directly in the eyes at the same time, and then it's not really you that's weird, but the fact that two coworkers are staring each other in the eyes like that; usually one person or the other is going to break eye contact here and there, and (if I may make an observational point here) when two men stare each other in the eyes like that while talking, it's usually more of a challenge thing.

So look her in the eyes, and turn away to move something on your desk, then look at her eyes again, then look skyward to think about her point...make a routine of it just like you do road->speedometer->road->mirrors->road when you drive, but with her eyes as the road and her body off-limits the way the radio is (should be) when you drive.
posted by davejay at 9:48 PM on January 23, 2008

side note: i remember when I was young and hormonal and tactless, and back then I'd have trouble not looking as well. There are benefits to being older and married.
posted by davejay at 9:49 PM on January 23, 2008

Mod note: this is in metatalk which means fighting about this topic goes to METATALK. thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:50 PM on January 23, 2008

I work closely with our HR department and I can't stress enough - DO NOT mention anything about her breasts or cleavage. Not in a joke or a harmless comment or even a gesture or sound. It's just a precaution to protect your own ass.

OK, now that we have that out of the way.

Here is some absolutely fail-proof advice - mentally anticipate whenever you know your gaze is about to move within the vicinity of her head, and when you're about to, remember this: I've seen tons and tons of naked breasts before - not just cleavage - but actual naked breasts. Most of them are much, much better than these could ever possibly be. I have nothing to win or gain by looking at these right here, right now.

And then look her right in the eyes. Not the eyebrows or forehead or hairline (you'll just look like a lazy-eyed, awkward fool). And do it confidently, knowing that you don't need that cleavage - you don't even come close to needing that stuff.

Or if it's too early in the morning for that kind of mental tumbling, just blur your eyes a bit while looking into her eyes, because then it won't be as difficult to hold her gaze as she looks back into yours. I think what usually makes us uncomfortable looking someone in the eye is knowing they are looking right back into ours. But if your eyes are blurred enough to not see that, then you should be good.
posted by Detuned Radio at 9:57 PM on January 23, 2008

I'm with you, brother. My version of the problem is magnified to preoccupying levels. Makes me feel bad and rules/ruins my interactions at work. I'll spare you the details. Basically I want to give women my full attention and not make them self conscious or make them think I'm a creep, but it's an illogical compulsion. For me there doesn't even have to be skin exposed.

@ian1977, you described my mental battle exactly. Check out David Sedaris's account of his powerful OCD or Tourette's or whatever it was in the chapter of his book Naked, called "A Plague of Tics." [audio link] That reminds me of the inner struggle. My favorite line is, "It wasn't that I enjoyed pressing my nose against the scalding hood of a parked car; pleasure had nothing to do with it. A person had to do these things because nothing was worse than the anguish of not doing them."

One concept to check out is Viktor Frankl's idea of hyperintention. You try so hard to do/not do something that you are unable to do/not do it. I'm not sure though, because if you relaxed in your efforts to not look at the boobs, wouldn't you just look at the boobs? That was the whole point - don't look at the boobs. If anyone has an actual solution to this, such as some kind of cognitive therapy technique, please share it. I really want to fix this.

To the people in this thread telling the OP to grow up and "just don't look" don't know what they're talking about. These aren't just lecherous teenagers with terrible manners. Most are decent people who know not to stare or be lewd. I think @cmiller, talking about sub-conscious biological roots of the urge to look, is probably onto something. The reason those of you who don't understand don't understand is because you aren't made that way. There is probably something similar for you that guys wouldn't understand.

The people making the logical argument that OP should just treat them the same as any man they respect because it's a work situation and leering is not appropriate are also making the mistake of bringing logic into it. Logic really isn't operating in boob-looking situations. The guy isn't saying, "Now I shall move mine eyes to the breast region and reconnoiter there." It's more like you find your eyes there and have to retrieve them. You never sent them there but there they are. That's the way it is for me anyway.

When a woman with fantastic boobs walks by, boobs a-jiggle or battened down tautly, it grabs you somewhere in your lizard medulla instantly and you just want to shout GODDAAAMN! and tackle her. You don't say that of course, and don't tackle her, but that's the level of instinct/reflex/whatever that we're talking about as opposed to premeditated conscious lechery. And it happens to lesser degrees with less fantastic boobs, but still to some degree with all boobs except maybe still-budding ones or old lady ones. You can hear Homer Simpson in your head saying, "booooobieeeees". It's a sub-rational hypnotic effect, or mesmer effect as someone mentioned. It's not the same as not staring at someone's scar or at the spinach between their teeth.
posted by kookoobirdz at 10:07 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

I am female, I like girls, and I have encountered this problem.

I know you do not want to hear that you need to look somewhere else, but you need to look somewhere else. It helps me focus when I think about how awful the woman will feel if she realizes I'm just staring at her boobs , and how disrespectful and demeaning that kind of experience is for her. Having been on the end of having boobs that people stared at, it is a lot easier for me to sympathize.

I'm no good at maintaining solid eye contract either, so I've found a good trick is to look at the eyebrows, the area just under the eye, or the eyelid. Basically, anything in the eye area. I also sometimes look straight between the eyes, but this makes some people look cross-eyed when they try it.
posted by Anonymous at 10:56 PM on January 23, 2008

Logic really isn't operating in boob-looking situations.

Bullshit. Why don't you just reach out and take a feel? You can suppress that urge, you can suppress the urge to stare. All the people who think this is beyond someone's reasonable control need to just grow up.
posted by caddis at 5:09 AM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Again, I'm with caddis here
posted by ob at 5:41 AM on January 24, 2008

Is anyone actually reading the damn question? Rather than getting all uptight about whether or not it is physically possible not to look is irrelevant.

The OP is saying "No matter what I do, I feel extremely uncomfortable. How do I cope with that (ie, feeling uncomfortable regardless).

No amount of "JUST DON"T LOOK, YOU FREAK!!! OF COURSE IT'S POSSIBLE!!!!!" will help at all. It's pointless indignation. Try and give constructive answers as to how to make not looking feel weird anyway.
posted by Brockles at 7:03 AM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Brockles, the question, iterated twice, is: "How do you avoid staring at cleavage?"
posted by taz at 7:29 AM on January 24, 2008

That's the straight question, but the OP is asking something else in the post.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 AM on January 24, 2008

When one make an Ask Metafilter post there is a little field at the bottom that says "Give a short, descriptive title. Please boil your question down to a single sentence (example: 'How to get an iPod to work in my car?')" In that section, the poster put "How do you avoid staring at cleavage?"

If it were me, I'd stand up, stretch a bit, and continue the conversation standing, or grab her a chair, as others have mentioned.
posted by taz at 7:45 AM on January 24, 2008

Sexual fixating on breasts is not hardwired/instinct, it is cultural which is not saying that it isn't a strong desire, just routed a little differently.

There are cultures that are pretty blase about exposed female breasts but find other things shocking (thighs for example. Hell for the longest time in Western culture the thought of women wearing trousers was pretty scandalous and the same arguments could be made about that, yet we have moved on.
posted by edgeways at 10:20 AM on January 24, 2008

Try to look at her as a human being. If you're uncomfortable with looking her in the eye, that seems like a symptom of a larger problem with human interaction. Looking at one of her eyes can help detach you from the scary "OMG eye contact" feeling.

I'm a girl. I like girls. I've been stared at, and it's really uncomfortable. I've caught myself staring, which is also really uncomfortable. Of course you feel guilty when you're drawn to look at this lovely yet taboo part of her: as you seem to know, it's completely inappropriate to stare. Forgive yourself the accidental glance and focus on the conversation: her facial expressions, her gestures, etc. If even that makes you uncomfortable, engage in the conversation while distracting your eyes: take notes, look up relevant files on your computer, etc. The more you can focus on her personality and your interaction with her, the less the cleavage will be able to distract you.
posted by bassjump at 12:02 PM on January 24, 2008

I find the corner of the mouth is a very safe place to rest my eyes. It also helps me to see what the person is saying as well as hearing it. The other nice thing is you still get the other parts of the person's face in the periphery, so if they make some kind of facial expressions you can catch it.

I have had this problem many times but recently it's stopped. I'm not sure what the cause is but for the last 2-3 months I have done very little boob watching, although to be fair it hasn't plagued me *that* much for the past year or so. I still cannot avoid staring at pregnant women's tummies, though. My eyes fix on those things like they're about to explode. Fascination with the wonders of childbirth, I guess.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:56 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sometimes a woman can be distracted by another women's breasts, too, especially if they are right in front of your face as that woman leans over your desk.

I think I would say something along the lines of, "Here, pull up a chair," or "Let me get you a chair." If she insists on bending over, you might feel more comfortable standing up yourself. If this continues to happen, she may very well be flirting with you, and that can become a dicey situation. Professionally speaking, you should then visit HR, describe the situation and how it makes you uncomfortable, and let them handle it. Personally speaking, you have to decide if you want to pursue something with this woman, and if you do, take it outside the office.
posted by misha at 8:40 PM on January 24, 2008

No amount of "JUST DON"T LOOK, YOU FREAK!!! OF COURSE IT'S POSSIBLE!!!!!" will help at all. It's pointless indignation. Try and give constructive answers as to how to make not looking feel weird anyway.

I disagree. If you feel that weird not looking then you probably have issues that require professional help. See a counselor. The most constructive answer is probably to learn how to not treat every woman you meet like a piece of meat. Acknowledge silently to yourself their beauty, but treat them just like you would treat a man.

The thing that makes you feel uncomfortable is your horny reaction that you fail to control, not the eye contact. You can look the guys in the eyes right, or do you fixate on their package?

Oh yes, it is tempting to look at her pretty body, but lots of things are tempting and you don't do them. Don't ogle either. All the guys that are arguing that they just can't help it are basically saying that they have decided that they would rather satisfy their pervy desire for a good stare rather than make their female colleague feel comfortable. "My horns trump your comfort; sorry babe, to me you are just a piece of meat." You may not have control over your desire, but you do have control over what you do with it. Do you let it consume you and allow rude behavior, or do you compartmentalize it, acknowledge it, yet suppress it for the sake of the other person in the room? In the end it all boils down to respect. No one is ever going to be perfect - see the Seinfeld comment above. However, you can try really hard to make other people feel comfortable around you. I would rather feel weird about staring at someone's eyes (although I have trouble seeing why this is weird) than feel like I just creeped someone out by ogling their body. If you put them first, instead of yourself first, it really isn't that hard.

Someone suggested watch more pron. I think the opposite. It seems like these guys who can't avert their eyes from the tempting boobies have learned to view all women through the lens of the pornographer's camera.

The meta thread became so toxic it had to be closed. Some people need to start showing a little more sensitivity to other people's feelings.
posted by caddis at 11:30 PM on January 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

Obviously the answer is look away, just like the answer to losing weight is to exercise and eat less, and the answer to being lazy is to just go out and do things. The thing is, for some people these things come naturally, and for others they have to have a plan and techniques that let them deal with the situation and "do" the thing that is the answer.

I disagree that people look at woman's boobs because they're horny, or because they feel they have the right to do so. I think it's because boobies have this manufactured mystique about them and even though they are located in a fairly prominent position on a woman (and, depending on your height, they may lie directly on the natural "line of sight" of your eyes when they are relaxed...when I stare into space, for example, my eyes generally fall into an arc around 20-30 degrees downwards, *not* directly ahead) you must not look at them. So, some people get nervous. And when, you get nervous, it is harder to relax and your eyes start shooting all over the place and because you keep thinking "Don't look at the boobies" your eyes keep jumping there in the same way that you can't stop thinking about pink elephants.

So the trick is, relax. Forgive yourself for the accidental glance, knowing that it was not you ogling someone you want to leap upon, but rather a reaction to a lot of societal conditioning, possibly some instinct, and mostly just nervousness on your part and possibly even the position she is in while you are looking up at her.

So when you move your eyes, perhaps the reason that you feel uncomfortable looking in her eyes because you fear that the recent image of her boobies is printed on your eyeballs? That she can see the guilt and shame about catching a peek of her boobies? If so, just relax about that. You can't help that first glance perhaps but just move your eyes towards hers without any guilt in them -- you do nothing wrong so long as you do not continue to stare. Then, keep your eyes focused on her face. Make it a game--play your eyes over her face, noticing her nose, her eyes, the corner of her mouth (as I said, my favorite) and make it a "game" where you try to find the part of her face that is simultaneously the most relaxing, and also the most expressive, so you can take in what she is saying (for example, I would guess that the forehead would be a bad choice).

If you find that your natural line of site goes straight towards her boobies, it is important to change this, because it doesn't make sense to give yourself even more work. Lean back in your chair, stand up, whatver, in order to make your line of sight line up with her face.

I have to disagree strongly with the people who came on here and acted like staring at breasts is okay, or that she is asking for it or flirting with him. This does not help him figure out how to deal with this problem on a larger scale, since hers are probably not the only boobies he has caught himself looking at.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:48 AM on January 25, 2008

If you feel that weird not looking then you probably have issues that require professional help. See a counselor. The most constructive answer is probably to learn how to not treat every woman you meet like a piece of meat. Acknowledge silently to yourself their beauty, but treat them just like you would treat a man.

Absolutely not, as the post after you says, I don't think anything about this is to do with 'being horny'. To suggest this is a mental heath issue is seriously insulting to what is actually a basic response.

The response isn't '' at all. The discomfort comes from 'God, I must be totally obviously NOT looking at her boobs! How do I make 'not looking at her boobs' less obvious?' It's, as I said better in the MeTa thread, more about the paranoia that, no matter where they look, the woman will interpret his discomfort or actions as 'pointedly trying not to look down her top' which tars him (in his mind) with exactly the same brush as if he sat there staring between them at her belly button. The OP is trying to avoid a stigma so much, that even NOT looking makes him feel that he isn't doing enough to remove the hint of it. I suspect one some subconscious level, he thinks she'll go away and say to her friends "God, that pervert was staring RIGHT in my eyes the whole time and shifting in his seat! You just KNOW he was waiting for me to look away so he could look at my tits!".

The problem is simply extreme awareness of the taboo of men looking at women's breasts as disrespectful in the work place. The suggestions to just relax (and get her to sit down) are the best here. Not therapy, for crying out loud. This is not a situation where the OP is saying "How do I hide my erection while I am talking to her, while her lovely mounds of joy are swinging invitingly at me", it is "This situation makes me uncomfortable" and I think that feeling is perfectly justified.
posted by Brockles at 5:00 AM on January 25, 2008

OP: I try to look her in the eyes while talking but that makes me seem weird

Why would you think looking in her eyes makes you seem weird? It doesn't.

Seconding headspace's first response "Keep looking her in the eye" and seconding caddis' comment, "put them first, instead of yourself first".

Sex cues ruin men's decisiveness l Catching sight of a pretty woman really is enough to throw a man's decision-making skills into disarray, a study suggests.
posted by nickyskye at 9:20 PM on January 28, 2008

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