The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Cleavage Confusion

The recent warm weather has brought with it a huge amount of exposed flesh wandering up and down the streets. Cleavages of all shapes, sizes and tones have been bouncing about with abandon, triggering within me an age old confusion about how not to look at something which is blatantly screaming out to be ogled.

There’s no doubt it confuses the hell out of the feminist in me.

The younger generations seem perfectly at ease with it all, while the generation above me is forgiven for being lecherous old buggers and are viewed with a certain amount of pity. But for me the dilemma remains: am I allowed to let my eyes roam?

I was brought up with quite a strong feminist cultural background. I knew from the offset that women were in no way inferior to men, and certainly should never, ever be treated just as sex objects.

Fair enough, and I’ve always been a passionate believer in equal rights. But in the confusion of it all there were some less healthy ideas embedded in my psyche, not least the one that seemed to believe all men were potential rapists. This idea horrified me.

As a teenager with raging hormones, it was easy enough to understand the difficulty in trying to keep all these sexual urges under wraps, but the idea of taking a woman against her will was utterly abhorrent. Of course in those days I didn’t yet understand rape is not about sex but power, so lived in a certain amount of fear of what I was told might be capable.

Back then it was my understanding that all women believed that all men were possible rapists in waiting. So before I could ever hope to establish any kind of relationship with a woman, whether sexual or platonic, I would first have to demonstrate all my sexual yearnings were strictly under control.

One form of this was to teach myself not to look at her breasts when talking to a woman. When you are a teenager with raging hormones, this is an incredibly difficult act; there’s no doubt it would have been considerably easier to gouge out my own eyes. But I was determined and by my late teens I had learned how to look women in the eye even when they were wearing the lowest cut blouse.

However, in the past few years in our very distinctly post-feminist culture, there have been no end of fashion programmes for women showing them how to make the most of their “assets” and draw attention to them. From the cut and the colour of the dress through the plunging neckline, to the use of necklaces to draw the eyes right to the sweet spot. Everything is designed to make men look.

So I’m left in a state of perpetual disorientation as the twin forces of cultural upbringing and in-your-face marketing pull my eyes, brain and conscience in opposite directions.

I suppose I have to conclude that a brief admiring browse is acceptable or even desirable, but no woman is likely to enjoy being gawped at or feel the drool dropping into her cleavage.

But this in turn makes me wonder how many women, when I was younger, must have wrongly concluded I was not interested in them because of my utter failure to offer an appreciative glance…


Fat Lazy Guy said...

Haha, great post. I don't think I'll venture much further into the discussion than that, though, because the consequences could be dire :D

Anna van Schurman said...

If it's any consolation, even when I felt the drool hit my boobs, I couldn't tell if someone was interested in me. A lot of those poor girls were doubtless as bad at reading all signals as I was. (I was always the one with the crush on the gay boy in college. Only I'm not quite as niave as that makes me sound.)

karatemom said...

I think for most teenage boys ( being the mother of two) ...its all about the "boobs" LOL..

I am impressed that you were able to avoid gazing at them.
Having been more of a modest person mine weren't really out there to be gazed upon. LOL>.

Eryl Shields said...

We know men like 'em, we like it when they like ours, but we want them to like the rest of us too. You probably seemed like a rather intense sort as a boy, but it doesn't seem to have done you any harm, you got the girl in the end.

savannah said...

great post, sugar! i would say, that an admiring glance is acceptable, a prolonged stare is quite unacceptable. ;-)

(funny story: i once worked for an organization that employed a very lecherous older man. he had a habit of talking to a woman's bosom or coming up to speak to a seated colleague from behind and leaning over to speak, thereby giving himself a very good view of her breasts. one of the women i worked with put an upside down note on her chest that read "eyes up here" with an arrow pointing up!)

Mary Witzl said...

You'll get some great feedback from all of us, Kim; Savannah is right -- the discreet, gallant, admiring glance is perfectly permissable; the prolonged leer is a no-no.

There is a great expression in Japanese for when you find yourself in this dilemma: 'No place to rest your eyes.' I do remember talking to men who stared hard at my face and confused me terribly. My assumption was that they found me hideous.

Binty McShae said...

From todays edition of the Straits Times in Singapore:


LONDON: It is perfectly legal to ogle a man's chest but not a woman's breasts, according to an unusual ruling on what constitutes voyeurism by a panel of leading judges at the Court of Appeal in Britain.
Women's breasts can be regarded as "private parts", whereas the male chest - even if themale in question has man breasts, or "moobs" as they are known - cannot, the judges said, according to a report in Thursday's Telegraph newspaper.
The legal minds got to grips with the issue after a man who secretly filmed another man's top half at a public swimming pool was convicted of voyeurism. Care worker Kevin Bassett, 44, was found guilty last year after using a video camera hidden in a plactic bag to take shots of a swimmer.
His conviction was quashed after the ruling."

Kim Ayres said...

FLG - very wise :)

Anna - as a ladI always assumed all the girls knew exactly what they were doing and I was the only one who was completely clueless - well me and clearly most of the lads in my class too.

KarateMom - it took years of practice.

Eryl - I was intense, very intense, and scared most girls away I think. Fortunately Maggie's able to absorb it :)

Savannah - great story :)

Mary - I'm sure they were caught by your beauty and otherness. I cannot believe anyone would think you hideous.

Binty - great snippet :) I have to admit that my own boobs don't do it for me in any way...

PI said...

I'm old fashioned and am all for a bit of modesty and being fair skinned am more a cover-upper than a flasher. So I didn't suffer from being ogled but I remember clearly - at a school party - an oaf putting his hand on my bosom and being devastated. I immediately rushed to the kitchen and put my hands under the cold tap whereupon the boy who I really fancied asked me if I was fascinated by water too and we had a lovely conversation which ended with a sweet kiss.
When I first met MTL he was with his brother and another undergrad and this other in the course of the evening came up behind me and put his hands round my bosom. What I find so devious is they do it when nobody is noticing and they know the girl will be too shy to do anything but break away and say nothing. God it still makes my blood boil.
Just looking is comparatively harmless and I'm sure you behaved impeccaby always.

problemchildbride said...

Kim, your boyish urges were entirely natural but your higher brain impulses were intelligent and honourable. That's what counts. You are certainly not the kind of man who objectifies women.

Restaurant Gal said...

Well, down here in the land of "work done," you would not BELIEVE what you see every day, every minute, on every sidewalk. You would stare, but you would be thinking, "Do they even move, or are they now just concrete?" :)

Anonymous said...

It amases me with the state of dress (or undress ) that some girls wear.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - you can rest assured that if we ever meet I shall cast the briefest of admiring glances and keep my hands to myself

Sam - that's the kind of thing I'd expect a chick to say...

RG - ah yes, the world of gravity defying breasts. Maybe they should start using helium rather than sicilon

Fluffly Welsh Sheep - actually I have to admit, many of the girls round here weren't wearing much more even when it was snowing in the middle of winter.

michael greenwell said...

i think i went through a similar thought process to you in my youth - on this subject at least!

Jupiter's Girl said...

My friend purposely shows her cleavage when bartending. She knows that everyone looks at them. Women look too. She says she gets compliments on them and I don't doubt it.

People who show off their noonies (as I call them) want the appreciative glance. Some of them need to cover up, though. What makes them think we want to see all that?

Binty makes me laugh. I never heard man boobs called moobs before. Ha.

Canadian Girl said...

Back when I was younger, I yearned for cleavage I could display. Thinking about it now, though, it's probably good that I'm somewhat lacking in that department. I'm tall enough that as a teenager, my chest was at eye level to most of the boys my age!

Kanani said...

Confusion? For you...yes.

For a generation and socio-economic groups that never bought into feminism?

So look, but don't let that glance go too long!

Kanani said...

By the way, you might want to post on Min's blog. She's planning a trip to Scotland soon.

Carole said...

I have read this post twice and all the comments and each time I think, "I have nothing to say." So here is a comment to say, "I have nothing to say"

Belovedlife said...

Kim, great post...How's that family of yours doing?
I am assuming Meg will not be out showing off any unecessary flesh this summer ;)

Kim Ayres said...

Michael - it probably affects every bloke at some point in his life

Jupiter's Girl - she probably gets more tips too

Canadian Girl - ah yes, tall girls - a teenage lad's blessing

Kanani - I'll pop over and check that blog soon

Carole - well thank you for taking the time to comment anyway :)

Beloved Life - we're all getting by, thanks. As for Meg, quite apart from the fact that she's still only 10, she's also got very pale skin and is prone to sunburn. So covering up has to be part of the process

C in DC said...

From the other side, it's not easy for girls either. Cover them completely up, look like you have a shelf in front of you, and get called a prude. Show them off too much and get labelled a slut. What the tasteful zone in the middle is can be hard to find and varies according to the situation.

Kim Ayres said...

I guess it's not a problem for men - any butt cleavage they show is too much...

Freakazojd said...

Kim. Enjoy the boobs. :)

Kim Ayres said...

Stick up a photo then ;)

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