If you keep abreast of the pseudo-scholarship you would think that the dread male gaze is programmed to objectify women by reducing them to the sum of their body parts.
It does make intuitive sense that men are more likely to check out a woman’s mammary region, her gluteal musculature, the curve of her hip and her shapely gams.
Men are naturally drawn to bodily cues that signal fertility.
It is more difficult to explain that, given the choice, women are more likely to want to gaze at women than at men.
Apparently, human nature has not heard the news about gender parity.
Now, a study from the University of Bristol in Great Britain has thrown these assumptions into question. By studying involuntary eye movements the researchers have shown that when a male and a female heterosexual are shown an image of a woman, the man is more likely to look more intently at the woman’s face, while the woman is more likely to will look away from her face to gaze at her body.
If your face is your social identity—the way other people know who you are—then the person who looks more intently at the woman’s face is the one who endows her with more humanity.
That would be the man. He seems to have the greater desire to get to know her as a human being. So much for the claptrap about the male gaze.
The results are open to different interpretations.
The researchers suggest that women are less likely to look someone in the eye because direct eye-contact, especially the kind that fixates on a face, is considered to be threatening.
Being weaker, most women do not go around threatening other people, either male or female.
I would add that when a woman looks slightly down and away, it can also be considered flirtatious. Women modify their gaze in order to attract attention.
News reports on the research have suggested that women tend to ogle other women because they are checking out the competition. If women see other women as threats, or as potential enticements for their men they pay special attention to the body regions that they imagine men will find most alluring.
It seems equally probable that when a woman looks over another woman she is studying her outfit. Women’s attire is far more complex than men’s. Putting together an outfit, to say nothing of a look requires considerable time and effort and work.
A woman takes more time examining another woman’s outfit because she wants to know how it was put together.
A man, on the other hand, will be less interested in how it goes on and more interested in how it comes off.