The other day I was listening to an old episode of This American Life with Ira Glass called “Testosterone.” In one story, a transgender male feminist explained how his eyes uncontrollably wandered to female bodies when he took testosterone. He was heartbroken by the fact that he spent more time looking at chests than faces. Of course, his experience is a subjective and personal one that should by no means be applied to all men (cis or trans), but his interview begged the question: how much “ogling” of the female body comes from biological and evolutionary impulses, and how much stems from our culture’s objectification of women?
A recent study may provide some insight. In the first scientific investigation of “ogling,” thirty-six men had eye-trackers attached to their faces and were shown pictures of women of various body shapes. The milliseconds spent examining each body part were recorded. Not so shockingly, the study concluded that men generally spend more time looking at female bodies than faces.
Are these results simply evolutionary or should they serve as an indication that our society objectifies women? Researcher Sarah Gervais questions the general assumption that the results spring from men inspecting women for prime child-bearing traits; she explains, “We live in a culture in which we constantly see women objectified in interactions on television and in the media.” And maybe this has more to do with the findings than anything. When the same study was done with twenty-nine women, the eye-trackers yielded similar results. We women also objectify and critique other women. “When you turn your own lens on everyday, ordinary women, we focus on those [body] parts, too,” says Gervais. Whether we ogle other women because society conditions us to or simply because we’re checking out the reproductive competition, we will certainly take note: “Our eyes are up here.”
Thanks to Daily Mail
Image via Sweetlolixo