The Female Gaze


In August this year, a senior Kerala IPS officer, a Rishiraj Singh, announced in a speech that any man caught staring at a woman for more than 14 seconds could be arrested. There is no such law.


Vanaja Vasudev, a young accountant, responded on her Facebook wall in Malayalam (English translation by the BBC): “To tell the truth, if a good-looking guy passes by, I check him out. Whether it is at a temple yard, a church festival, a bus stop, while going to buy fish at the market or on my way to work, I look (meaning: check them out) properly.How can someone like me tell the brothers (meaning: men) looking at me that they should stop after 13.59 seconds? The quota for the day is over. I don’t know everyone’s opinion. As far as I am concerned, this is not harassment; it’s just for fun… You don’t get pregnant from eye contact.” The post was liked more than 10,000 times.


Of course, since we are a nation in a state of permanent outrage, she was trolled by ‘good-hearted’ puritans to the point that she had to respond with another post. The puritans said the commissioner was only trying to protect young women like Vanaja, that staring was a slippery slope. These were outnumbered by the Typical Indian Male responses, which, pretty much all of them, called her a promiscuous slut. But, Vanaja had made her point. While the officer was hoping to earn brownie points as a crusader against sexual harassment, Vanaja was stating a fact of nature: boys look at girls, and girls look at boys, too.


Speaking of girls looking at boys, more women are also consuming pornography on the internet and mobile phones than ever before. Critics say that pornography can warp the man’s view of his partner — they start expecting their wives and girlfriends to start looking and acting like the porn stars in the videos and magazines, ultimately leading to unhappy relationships. This is like reducing the Oxford English Dictionary to a school alphabet chart. Life, especially sexuality, is a little more complex.


According to data released by PornHub, 30 per cent of the Indian visitors on their site are women, 6 per cent higher than the global average of women visitors. The report also mentions that Indian women watched porn for longer compared to their male counterparts. Objectification is what the porn industry rests on. In this, it does not discriminate. The male is objectified as much as the female. The silicon-implant chick is matched by the buff black stud. The stud’s enchilada probably makes the Indian man, known to possess one of the smallest in the world, feel even smaller.


The female gaze extends beyond just sneaking glances at men in the fish market or to pornography. If you really want to see the male body being objectified, there’s nothing like the Olympics. No, I’m not referring to the equestrian dressage event, but the men’s synchronised diving.


Here’s the sequence. The men perch their heels on the diving board, they close their eyes in meditation and take the plunge in tandem, creating a negligible splash, a few minor ripples. The dive done, the fun begins. They come out of the water and go lightly jogging into the showers. The handheld shaky camera follows. The divers even wiggle their butts for our benefit while they’re showering. Post shower, the divers enter a warm splash pool — at least that’s what it looked like to me. The camera follows. It focuses on their chests and arms, while they sit around daintily splashing themselves with water, waving at us, playfully curling their biceps in calendar poses, showing off.


I happened to be watching this scintillating performance with a few friends in Delhi. My ex-girlfriend downed her rum and Coke, threw chocolate-flavoured popcorn at my TV and said, “Look at that butt.” My gay friend couldn’t stop whistling. I looked at the perfectly-shaped wiggling bottoms for exactly 14 seconds, and then lowered my eyes.

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