Anonymous said: How do I appreciate women's beauty without objectifying them? I usually just stay silent because I'm too nervous
This question brings up its own questions, mostly because of your word choices. So, I’ll try to address the different options that your question brings up.
You ask how you can “appreciate” a woman’s beauty without objectifying her. If by “appreciate” you mean “think positive/sexy things about it” then that seems pretty obvious to me. Think whatever appreciative thoughts you want! You can even let them be objectifying in the privacy of your mind! Obviously thinking respectful things about people who you hope to have sex with or be friends with is ideal, but I am a big believer in giving yourself some freedom to think your thoughts and not shame yourself for them. Your behavior and speech should be held to a higher standard, and our behavior stems from our inner feelings, of course, but you can be a male feminist and still want to cum on a woman’s face, or see her dressed up tarty, or role play tawdry traditional gender-role reinforcing stuff. We’re all capable of infinite complexity in our sexualities and the first step in healthy sexuality is NO SHAME. Unless that’s sexy for you!
If by “appreciate” you meant “verbally express my positive/sexy feelings” about a woman’s appearance, then that’s a very different question. I deeply believe that men’s intentions are usually crystal clear. A man can give you a pretty serious, specific compliment, but it can be delivered in away that doesn’t make you feel gross. It’s usually done quickly, it’s general (“you look beautiful today” as opposed to “your eyes are amazing”), there’s no lingering to get my name or number, there’s no further conversation, they just say something really nice and move on. That’s my favorite. His intention isn’t to warm me up to try to chat me up and eventually fuck me, and that’s apparent. It leaves me with a totally different experience than the alternative, where a dude can say something totally benign, but in such a weird, lingering, “I’m fucking you so hard in my head right now” manner that you feel gross and soiled afterwards. Whether his intention is to get to know me or not, he is DEFINITELY sending objectifying vibes at me and I feel gross afterwards.
You say that you often end up just remaining silent, but you say it like it’s a bad thing. If your goal is to just think something nice at a lady, then not verbalizing, because of the risk of her feeling creeped out or intruded upon or objectified is a GOOD CHOICE. If you’re not 100% sure that you’re able to compliment women without making them feel slicked in your imaginary jizz afterwards then it’s OKAY and GOOD to keep your thoughts to yourself. I promise the women of the world do not need to hear more compliments from men, in general. I wish all dudes would err on the side of caution in this regard (or any regard, honestly.)
Compliments for the sole reason of starting a conversation with a woman are a slippery/not-my-favorite slope, because they’re just kind of uninspired, in my opinion. I don’t want to talk to a stranger dude about my tattoos, or the gap in my teeth, or my outfit. STRANGER LADIES: I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ALL DAY ABOUT ALL THESE THINGS AND MORE. It can feel weird and not good to know a man has been observing you and deciding what he does and doesn’t like about how you look (even though it’s obvious and we all do it) and it’s just not my favorite way to start talking to dudes.
If your goal is to strike up a conversation with a pretty woman, and you want to use a compliment as an opener, then I can see how clamming up might feel like a failure, but I’m still glad you’re keeping quiet, for the ladies’ spared. That’s just such a corny and strangely coercive move for a dude to open with, because immediately we’re supposed to be grateful and gracious and friendly, when maybe we don’t want to be, or we’re in a bad mood, or we’re gorgeous and hear that shit constantly so it doesn’t feel meaningful for us. Regardless, it’s not a strong opener, so find a better one, that’s not about her body or face. Even complimenting her shoes is better. That’s less overtly sexualizing.
Again, I urge you to look at the ways you think about women. All humans are complex, and we all like different things, which makes it so easy to get scared, to second guess yourself, to apply your experience with a single woman to determine your behavior forever, etc. But if your appreciative thoughts are genuinely non-objectifying, and your intentions are non-objectifying, then that will usually come through. Does that mean the woman will be receptive? Definitely no. And that’s okay! Sometimes you smile at a stranger on the street and they scowl back and you somehow manage to keep living, and even smile at strangers again. It’s not about you, necessarily, and even if it is… if your genuine desire is to be a respectful ally and sexual partner to women, you will work out your technique, because it will be important to you to get right.
How do you get it right? Trial and error, my man. Ask the women in your life how compliments from men make them feel. Ask them what they do and don’t like to be complimented on. Try complimenting a female friend who you feel safe with, and who feels safe and unthreatened by you. Tell her you’re working on your technique and ask her for feedback. Compliment your mom, or your sister, or your cousin, or your sister in law. Any woman in your life, who you are thinking ZERO sexual thoughts about, and who you think of with respect and love, will love to get GENUINE compliments, probably, and it will be good practice for you. After them, move on to old ladies. When you’re a smooth, confident, not-gross compliment-giver to women who you definitely don’t want to fuck, THEN you’re allowed to move on to women you’re attracted.
Even then, please remember: Most women don’t need more dudes talking to them about how they look, good or bad. We are subjected to an endless barrage of men’s opinions, in person and in the media. Even men with the best of intentions telling us what they like about our appearance adds to the lifelong fatigue of being told for our entire lives what men think about us, so it’s totally okay to not do it.
Thanks for asking, friend. Let me know how it goes.