Saturday, 26 July 2014

Custody of the Eyes

I don't know if I am being terrible romantic about my youth, but I don't remember being particularly attracted to men just because they had no shirts on. For one thing, men didn't go around without shirts a lot, except at the beach or by the swimming pool, or when mowing their lawns, and no-one looks his best mowing a lawn. Equally, I thought young women who squealed, "Look at his a**!", were not merely crude but weird. I mean, what is the symbolic value of buttocks for young women? Honestly. For older women, I suppose they might be an indicator of virile youth versus flat or saggy old age. As a young women, I personally was all about clothes and animated faces. [Long and embarrassing reminiscence edited.] Where was I?

Oh yes. Shirtlessness. So the other day I was walking along the beach with my friend and her new baby. It was a warm, windy day, one of those rare warm Edinburgh days when the beach is crowded with families and naked white babies and fourteen year olds in bikinis and gangs of youths. Almost nobody ventures into the actual Forth to swim because no matter how warm the sand is, the Forth is COLD. And often dirty. So I was surprised to see a gang of shirtless youths in bathing trunks swaggering towards us. Were they perhaps going to the swimming baths?

And then a funny thing happened. The swaggering youths no longer had heads. They were all naked chests. A vast magnetic smorgasbord of naked human torsos, without personality. In a panic, I forced my eyes away, and the torsos sauntered by. I looked back and they had their heads again. Goodness knows how old they were. Nineteen? I hope nineteen. They were pretty hairless.

It was a bit unnerving, but I put it out of my head until the next day when I was on the Rough Bus and teenage girls in incredibly skimpy clothing got on at the suburban shopping mall. The coltish girl in front was wearing a tiny halter shop and short snorts and actually looked very good in her outfit, if also seriously unsupervised, unlike her chubbier (but not actually fat) friends. I gloomy composed the aphorism "If you look great in a bikini, you're probably too young to wear it."

Then it occurred to me that the contrast of my reaction to mostly naked boy teengers was completely different from my reaction to these mostly naked girl teenagers: grudging admiration and pity for the later, and I don't know WHAT for the former. Feeling attracted, completely against my will, to multiple bare chested swaggering guys who could have been anybody felt super-creepy, and I didn't like it. So I told B.A. all about it.

B.A. was sitting under the portico of the Historical House with a beer and the Times Literary Supplement. He was wearing a shirt.

"Yes, well, now you know what men go through," said B.A. cheerfully. "We get used to it."

"UGH!" I said. "BLAH! I don't like it. Maybe it's because I'm growing old. Testosterone is kicking in! WAAAAHHHH!"


Domestic Diva said...

Too funny, Seraphic! LOVE the line about looking good in a bikini = being too young to wear it.

Sheila said...

I don't know if it's age thing. As a teenager, I was plenty "visual" and also attracted to anything breathing and male.

The big distraction for me, however, wasn't actually something *attractive* ... I was discombobulated and disturbed by men in tight pants. Especially teachers. I'd be sitting there in high school, in the front row, and these male teachers would all be wearing tightish pants with their crotches right at my eye level! Very distracting, I hardly knew where to look.

It boggles my mind that these pants, and the male habit of sitting with legs far apart, are culturally accepted. Naive teenage me was shocked and upset by it. (And by Speedos. Good golly.)

Julia said...

"...I don't remember being particularly attracted to men just because they had no shirts on... Equally, I thought young women who squealed, "Look at his a**!", were not merely crude but weird. I mean, what is the symbolic value of buttocks for young women?"

Seraphic, in this paragraph you have summed up how I feel. I don't know what the matter with me is (or if it's a problem at all) but I find very few men attractive. I'm straight, but I'm just not attracted to that many men. All those male film stars women/the media carry on about? Look, I can see that they are objectively good-looking, but I'm still not attracted to them.

By the way, have you been watching the Commonwealth Games? I've only seen about 15 minutes of it so far - the end of the women's marathon.

TRS said...

Ah, in the American Midwest farm country, our farming neighbors had all boys who were overwhelmingly handsome and equipped with lovely muscle toned farm boy bodies.
This was first brought to my attention by my older sister, who when we together drove to town for errands would slow down if the eldest boy was shirtless, tanned and operating the tractor in the field near the road.
Just to admire, as we didn't fancy them as romantic interests.

I do recall my aunt, perplexed, telling us that in her day they never thought boys butts were cute. It must have been the 80s that changed that .perhaps the cover of a certain Bruce Springsteen album, and ads for Levi's 501 jeans.

I do agree with Shelia, that the tight polyester pants of those days, had me confused as well. I didn't understand why the music stars on the Barbara Mandrell show left such a young, prepubescent me feeling 'funny' at the sight of those pants.

Today, I find that I admire fit and toned bodies for the work put into them. If I stare too long, I offer up a short prayer of, "nice work God. We are fearfully and wonderfully made."

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I think the peurile "oh look at his ___!" kind of modern sexuality among women is mostly a product of feminism being absorbed through the skin. The Sexual Revolution proposed a new paradigm in which men were thought to just run around the world looking for something to sleep with, with no sense of responsibility or emotion attachment, and this was held up as a kind of goal for women to aspire to. So young women are now taught that it is expected of them to walk around the world going up to men and saying, "Oooh Yum!" and smiling suggestively.

It is an attempt to adopt the male sexuality of the bottom rung, what we now refer to in Yookay as "laddishness" and used to simply be called "boorish" or "caddish" before those terms became a joke. It is, in short, young women trying to prove how hip and modern they are to other young women.

I'm told that men find it EXTREmely unattractive. Repulsive, in fact. Though a certain type of young man doesn't care about his feelings of moral revulsion if there's going to be a little sex in it for him. And this marks the difference in psychological makeup between men and women. Men call it "compartmentalizing", but women can't do it, so they generate much more moral and intellectual cognitive dissonance - painful static in their brains that can turn very rapidly into depression and even substance abuse if the behaviour isn't checked.

Seraphic said...

Hilary! Thanks for dropping in!

Julia, the only sport I ever watch on TV is footie. I will watch NHL hockey, but only in the actual arena. Oh, and I have seen a real live professional footie match in Germany, and two in Edinburgh. Live is way better.

And I was not attracted to that many men when I was in my 20s either. Nor am I usually attracted to that many now, which is one reason (I suppose) why the Episode of the Naked Torsos was so disturbing.