Like Kyle, when I was in my 20s, I was trying to hold the feminine up as some sort of an "idealized form", and persuaded myself that my ogling was harmless and "doing the women a favor" by letting them know I was "appreciative". In fact, I was objectifying them and not seeing them as people. It was interviewing a college art professor that provided an attitude adjustment; or rather, a faux pas with one of his models, a woman by the name of Rhonda, that let me see the error of my ways.
I (literally) bumped into Rhonda coming out of one of the studios, she was wearing a bathrobe, and all but falling out of it.... and I was staring. Rhonda was short, petite, and curvy, with reddish gold-hair, and pretty green eyes, with a lovely oval face. Again, I was staring, and mostly looking down her cleavage.
I recognized the professor, and stepped in to say I was looking to interview him... and as I was doing so, Rhonda tapped me on the shoulder and said "Excuse me. But your behavior in the hallway made me feel very uncomfortable." This caused the professor to be a mildly hostile interview subject, as Rhonda was one of his top models. He insisted that she sit in on the interview.
The interview started up with talking about his program, and the classes he was teaching - it was one of the standard "Here's a professor doing something interesting" pieces that have run in campus newspapers since the time of clay tablets. Very quickly, the professor directed the interview (with the recorder running) to Rhonda, asking her what I'd done to make her feel uncomfortable.
Rhonda said that my actions in the hallway had been unacceptable, because it was clear that I was not seeing her as a person. She felt more degraded by my staring down the front of her bathrobe than by sitting on that stage in front of a class full of art students. I said that it hadn't been my intention to make her feel uncomfortable, and her position that my intention didn't matter in the least; my actions did. We were both getting a bit defensive, when the professor raised his hand and interceded.
"It's not that you're not seeing Rhonda - she's got a lovely figure." Rhonda had a small blush from that. "It's that even here, I can see that you're trying to both stare at her and not stare at her. You're wondering what she's got under that bathrobe." I blinked, and was about two syllables into my denial when he said "Stop. You're doing a discredit to yourself by lying. The problem isn't that you want to look; the problem is that you don't want to see."
He gestured to the stage. "Rhonda, when's your next class?" She said that she didn't have her study group for another two hours, and he asked if she'd mind sitting for a private set while he did some figure sketches. Rhonda shrugged and said "Not a problem." He filled out a time slip and she walked up on stage. I was assuming the interview was over and was about to pack up the recorder, and he told me to stay, if I had time - and to keep it turned on.
Dumbly, I said "Sure." And Rhonda took off her robe, slipped out of her panties, and sat on a stool while he went and adjusted a few lights. He asked to make sure she was comfortable, poured a pitcher of water and put some glasses near by and then took out his charcoal and gesso board and started doing fast delineations, while talking the whole time; for the most part, as he was sketching her. He asked how her classes were going, if she was having any trouble with her studies. He told her a joke or two, and then, after a bit, asked Rhonda if my being there was still making her uncomfortable. Her answer?
"No, he's making eye contact now, and he's got this image that I'm a real person now." The professor nodded, and said "And do you mind now that Ken is looking?"
"Nope", she said. "Good - can you take a different pose - this will be a fifteen minute set." And Rhonda's pose shifted from something demure to her stretching her arms out behind her - thrusting her breasts out, one leg back - giving me a view down to her pubic thatch. "You see, Ken - women notice when you stare at their chests. They even notice when you stare at their butts. I'm not sure how they know, but they do. The trick here is to see them as more than jiggling curves. When I do art, it's not enough to get the lines and shading right; the trick is to get some impression of Rhonda's personality down on the gesso." [Editor's note: gesso is the white base used on canvas for paintings.]
He shifted to a different shading pattern for a moment, and looking over his shoulder, I could tell he was putting the shadows along the line of her throat, and under her breast. "When you stare, without making eye contact, even if you're not thinking sexual thoughts, you are dehumanizing her. Remind her that you see her as a person, a woman who has moods ranging from blindingly furious to laughing, not just as tits and ass." He finished the shading. "Just because she was running around in danger of falling out of her bathrobe in that hallway, doesn't mean that you shouldn't go up to her, shake her hand, say "hi", and tell her how lovely her hair is."
Rhonda smiled at that, and it was like a flash bulb lighting up the room. "You see, if you tell a woman that she's done something lovely with her hair, particularly when you can see that she's wearing nothing but her good intentions, you're complimenting something that she has direct control over. And, if she appreciates the attention, she'll smile back at you. And if not, you've left her a graceful way to demurr - and in both cases, you've shown her some respect as a human being. Now, I'm not saying we have to get to quite the level of feminism where any interest is assumed to be unwelcome, and where we should deny our own responses..." At this point, Rhonda adjusted her pose. "because, honestly, doing that would be a denial of our nature. And remove one of the simpler joys of being a man."
"Just remember. Real men make eye contact." He gestured at Rhonda, who had her arms crossed underneath her breasts, squeezing them together, with an impish grin on her face. "Even when she makes it hard." I blushed, and Rhonda laughed.
"There, I think Rhonda's demonstrated the point adequately. Ken, while I can't actually tell you to take her out for lunch, I know she's been working modeling sets for going on three hours now. I can, however, strongly recommend it - and Rhonda would make a good interview subject." And with that, he sprayed fixer on the charcoals, told Rhonda he was done, and she put her panties and bathrobe on.
And with that introduction, I took Rhonda out to lunch on the campus newspaper's voucher, talking about where she was from, how she'd gotten into modeling, and what kind of nerves it took to get up on the stage the first time. And made eye contact the entire time.
So, anecdotes aside, my advice for Kyle is that objectification of any sort can be seen as unwelcome, even "innocent" objectification. I'll always remember the professor's advice: "Tell her how lovely her hair is, especially if she's wearing nothing else but her good intentions." and "Real men make eye contact." I heartily advise that Kyle learn to do the same.
A response to Ken from Keith:
Might I enter a mild caveat? (I come from the respectful, not the intrusive end of the spectrum, by the way.)
I believe I've picked up from your site and certainly from others that many naturist women feel validated by men looking at them and respecting their assertion of comfort in their unadorned bodies. (I give ultimate respect to the two women I've seen at Tything Barn who have had mastectomies.)
Other women again seem to me to take a control freakish attitude that they will control precisely which modes of contact they will accept. The actual modes vary wildly.
I haven't got it wrong, as far as I know, in my own naturist life, but I found the newsletter slightly unsettling in that the young model's requirements were hard to understand. If I encounter an attractive women partially dressed then I, aged 67, Christian, 43 years married will sometimes look too long at certain parts before pulling myself up - much like Ken. If some Rhonda makes me feel bad about that then, actually, I have feelings too.
Thanks for the latest gallery. This e-mail is already too long for a busy man to receive, but I will squeeze in what I have long wanted to say, that my dear wife, just about a naturist, would not understand if I became a member. I do feel some guilt that you give so much and I don't contribute.
A response from the editor:
(Don't worry about it, Keith. As a matter of fact you've earned a membership by sending me a letter I wanted to use.)
Keith also has a good point, just like Ken did. While it is very cool to respect another as a person, one should not imagine that there are hard and fast rules as to what will offend another person. For instance a girl brought up in Italy may well be offended if she has a day where nobody gives her a wolf whistle.
One can merely try one's best to be polite and loving, try to "when in Rome, do as the Romans do", and beyond that let the chips fall where they may. - Eolake, editor.
Ken and Rhonda fell victim to the society we live in. A society that won't allow women to be topless in public they way men are allowed. Even Breast feeding in public is frowned upon. Often by women themselves. When a society makes something taboo, then human nature desires that item.
One only has to study certain tribes around the world where women routinely go topless. Because this is normal and acceptable to them, men do not place on it a big emphasis. It wasn't to long ago when seeing a woman's ankles made a man stare.
Men by nature are opportunistic creatures. Because of this they will take what they can get when they can get it. When Rhonda came out wearing a bathrobe, and "all but falling out of it", Ken, knowing the window of opportunity would be brief, took that opportunity to see what he could before it was gone.
To further prove my point just read a little further into Ken's letter. When Rhonda disrobed and allowed Ken to see, without the thought that she would quickly cover up, the taboo was gone. Unfortunately, Until society removes the taboo men will always look for cleavage.
Thank you, Eolake, for your time.
"I have been through all the sites of this type and Domai is the only site I have kept beyond the first month. Like DOMAI I demand great quality and taste alike. Without any trash. ...And your customer service! I once had A problem with this site and you not only had it fixed, but also E-Mailed me back in under ten minutes which is completely unheard of on the Net." - Kevin W <kpw2 [at] frontiernet.net>
[e-mail address used with permission]
Much more in the members' area.
Pictures are available in 4X size for members.