Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Object Subject

If the greatest turn-on for men is to see that the woman is turned on, then the greatest turn-on for women is to feel that she IS the turn-on. So goes the argument that Esther Perel lays out in terms of dynamics related to eroticism between heterosexual men and women. In other words, we women need to feel like the object of desire in order for the erotic to be enjoyable. 

In 1975, Laura Mulvey coined the phrase "The Male Gaze" in her essay titled Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. A piece that posits that in the context of cinema, women are frequently depicted as sexual objects in order to please the heterosexual male. The term "male gaze" has evolved over the years to cover much more than the genre of cinema, to include all visual arts and literature. 

As a painter I notice that when I paint a nude female subject, there are heterosexual men who try to veil their pleasure, so that their expression doesn't get misconstrued as the type unable discern the visual from the behavioral. And therefore overstating academic-based praise and downplaying erotic-based praise. 

We females also veil our praise. On the one hand, we say "She (the painted subject) is beautiful" but are careful not to be overly effusive so as not to build a hierarchy of beauty or condone pleasure by a viewer who might be viewing the subject as the object of beauty. It feels safer to make sure that we pass the litmus test of the trendy strand of feminism that argues every body is calibrated equally and therefore every body should yield the same type of pleasure by the viewer. Our veil also works to keep our praise conceptual instead of practiced, because to agree with Perel's argument that we are turned on when we are the object of desire has the potential to have someone categorize us as anti-feminist. And overly preoccupied with the erotic. 

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