A quick glance, a penetrating look, a peek at a woman’s cleavage, a fleeting fantasy, the elbow to the rib of your mate as ‘she’ walks by, followed by a wry smile and wink. While some suggest this is just part of men’s lifestyle and nothing more than harmless play, most know that there is something more sinister going on.
Leering is a way of playing into a very subtle interaction that can only be unravelled with an honesty that lives beyond gender, and an understanding that lives beyond time.
But first, the practical... These exchanges don’t need to be overt for them to have an effect. Even if men think they are just having a harmless fantasy in their own minds, the objectification is registered on some level. If any of this behaviour was truly playful and truly harmless it would not leave a woman sub-consciously adjusting her clothes, clutching her keys as she walks down a road, questioning which route to take, where to sit on public transport, feeling in any way objectified and unsafe. There is nothing playful or harmless about a way of interacting with women that elicits any of these responses.
While there are many forms of leering, objectification or even sexual domination, they all seem to operate in a few simple ways. First, is to reduce the being that is ‘woman’ down to a couple of distinct anatomical features. Then further reduce those features to only having a purely sexual function. Then finally suggest that those sexual functions are the domain and birth right of the male.
Religions, cultures, corporate marketing and, at the extreme end, porn industries, all provide ample fodder for these three reductions of women to be taken on a regular basis and on a global scale.
And the results are horrific – femicide, mass rape, any rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, the perpetuation of the glass ceiling, the gender based put-downs, the subtle games and trust issues that occur within relationships, all occurring with both parties, are crying out for something more transparent and loving.
Leering: seems innocent, but it is all part of the same game to own a women’s form or more specifically, what it is women reflect to the world. Which gives a clue to how we might explore the real motivation behind the behaviour.
While there is nothing excusable about men who choose this behaviour, to truly explore its genesis there is a need to look past gender and blame. What is required to end it forever is to look past time itself.
We need to be willing to ask; “what is it about the female form that scares men (and in truth, many women) so much? What is the innate expression women carry that seems to be such a threat to world order, that this type of oppression is global in nature?”
If we step right back, there is a very deep beauty and sacredness that women embody in their essence. The form of beauty alluded to here is not based on any kind of physical construct. It is not to say that men cannot also express beauty and sacredness, it is just to say that there is something magical, powerful and delightful about standing in the presence of a woman – of any shape or size – who is claimed in her femaleness; who stands unapologetically in her power, spunk and essence.
In reality, leering at a woman who embodies this kind of expression is close to impossible. WARNING: we are entering sensitive territory – the exploration of responsibility.
Looking at the man’s responsibility – there is nothing okay about the choice to project this energy towards women. It is a form of belittling and objectification that comes from a desire to shut down a woman’s expression of this innate sacredness. The harder thing for men to admit is that once the idea of leering is entertained it can feel like a compulsion – it becomes a force that men give themselves over to and one ‘peek’, one ‘thought’ is not enough.
For all the guilt a more ‘enlightened man’ might feel about this behaviour, it is still a choice.
The work for men is to explore why it serves them to have a woman feeling disempowered and defensive. Could it be that many men are not really interested in admitting their own sensitivity and connecting to their own sense of the sacred? Could it be that seeing a woman who is claimed in this innate sacredness reminds the man of what he is missing within himself? If this were true, and if rather than appreciate what is being offered, men were more committed to their own power, position or privilege, then the best thing to do is to control that expression in women so that women are warned not to connect to that same sacredness within themselves.
Of course, taking one look at the outcome of ‘men’s lifestyle’ you see the rates of men’s suicide and mental health and the reality that all of the male power and privilege is a bubble that is long past its ‘pop’ date.
But what about the woman? As expressed earlier, meet a woman who does not hold back her own sacredness and while you might try to leer, all you can do is reject her, but you can’t denigrate her. That is the key. There is something powerful about claimed sacredness that a woman living that expression is showing to the world. They are showing that it is possible to be claimed – both for men and for women. They are showing that regardless of the leering and impositions the world offers, it is possible to forge an inner connection with your own soul and sacredness and move in that way. Because what has been claimed is claimed from within, an onlooker is shown what is possible and the denegation of leering doesn’t touch it—any attempt to denigrate it is simply a confirmation of the truth that has been felt.
This moment is an opportunity for a man to look inward at his own sensitivity and his own sacredness.
My very own experience with this has led me to consider that there may well be a thread in this story for women to unpick as well. A thread about how we have learned to relate with each other and what men and women know from their bodies and express – a thread that shows us that we act on a much lower standard than we could and that there seems to be a deal between men and women.
Could it be possible that the leering and rejection also provide women with valid justifications to not connect to this sacredness within? After all, no woman wants to attract that kind of negative attention and threat.
Does this mean that on some level there is some dynamic that women could look at as well?
Again, this is not to reduce, excuse or minimise the man’s responsibility in any way.
If lived experience suggests that a woman who is claimed within herself does not experience leering, or at least is not affected by the attempt to minimise what they show the world, this then suggests that both men and women have a role in this. If we are brave enough to step back from our gendered roles and consider the very real possibility that we have all lived as men and women over many, many lives, then the conversation about leering can change.
Have women made a deal to be accepted in a world that only sees women as objects? Have women lowered their standards to a point that they are not taught to be sacred? Have men become so detached from their own sensitivity that any reflection or remainder of sacredness hurts too much?
Have a species of beings, who have lived as both men and women multiple times, subscribed to an activity and sustain a way of life that drives us to quash, crush, and avoid sacredness at all costs?
If this is so, then the whole dynamic of leering could well be beings (currently incarnating as either women and men) saying to each other; “I will let you look at me like that, even though it feels vile, if you don’t ask me to be sacred”, and “I will look at you like that, even though it feels vile to me too, if you don’t ask me to be sacred”. It’s not the foundation for a healthy relationship, but it achieves a much deeper and more timeless objective.
This implies that the cycle can be broken by anyone at any time. Men can bring more sacredness and grace than women and not wait for or judge the woman that might reject this. Women can bring more sacredness and grace than men and not wait for or judge the man that might reject this.
When we see leering as an agreement made by beings trying to avoid something much grander, we end where we begin. Leering is a way of playing into a very subtle, yet very destructive interaction that can only be unravelled with an honesty that lives beyond gender, and an understanding that lives beyond time.