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What is the Male Gaze? with Author and Tedx Speaker, William Beteet

Jun 30, 2023


The Male Gaze is a topic that tends to come to the forefront when it comes to analyzing media whether it be movies, books, pornography, advertisements, and more. Simply put, the male gaze refers to a social construct in which media is created (intentionally or not) through the male perspective of, usually depicting the sexual objectification of women or emboldening a male protagonist at the expense of multi-dimensional women. On this episode of the Modern Intimacy podcast, Dr. Kate Balestrieri and William Beteet discuss how to notice the male gaze in media and understand the impacts it can have on societal, mostly around women and toxic displays of masculinity.


What Exactly is the Male Gaze?


Even if you weren’t aware at the time, it’s highly likely you’ve come across the male gaze more than once in your life while consuming media. The male gaze can look like a female character in a movie who solely there to be “eye candy”; she does not offer any dimension to the plot and her purpose is to stimulate the heterosexual male audience consuming the media.


In the context of the male gaze, women are reduced to sexualized objects for the male viewer/consumer. For example, the pornography industry is one that tends to be steeped in male gaze. While there has been more emphasis on creating erotic material that includes a female gaze, the average porn video you find online is curated with common heterosexual male preferences around sex and the female body top of mind.


Effects of the Male Gaze


The male gaze is not just an abstract concept or theory; much research has been done around the topic of the male gaze that highlights very real impacts inflicted on both men and women.


Problematic representations of women


As mentioned, within the male gaze typically features women as objects of desire for heterosexual men and leaves little room for additional facets of their identities. This can be problematic because these depictions can inform the way that people view women and contribute to misogynistic/sexist societal messaging. This can be especially harmful for young children because their minds are developing and what they absorb from media can create truths for how they see themselves and women.


Increases body shame


The male gaze and body image go hand in hand because women represented within the male gaze usually fall under a Western beauty ideal. She’s white, thin, young, conventionally attractive, always looks and dresses nice, and ultimately aesthetically appealing within the confines of beauty norms. When people see women constantly through media depicting a male gaze, it can message to women and girls that their bodies are not appealing if they don’t look like to desirable women in media.


Promotes objectification


The male gaze in inherently objectifying as it displays women as sexual objects, which can seep into the mind of people of all genders. For women identifying people, it can instill self-objectification which can lead to issues with sexuality, self-esteem, and identity. For male identifying people, it can enforce a sexually objectifying ideology around women which can result in seeing women as one-dimensional and lead to relationship issues.


Unrealistic expectations and entitlement


Since the underlying messaging of the male gaze is to promote an idealized woman who is sexually appealing, it can set an unrealistic precedent for men about what they believe women “should” look, how they “should” act, and what women’s’ roles are in relation to men. It can create a sense of entitlement that men can develop towards women’s sexual identity and sexual expression that take agency and autonomy away from how women choose to express themselves sexually, that is, if they choose to do that at all.


It’s unlikely that society will eliminate media created through the male gaze altogether, however, it can help to become more aware of when it’s showing up in media. Over time, feminists and allies have become more vocal about the problematic representations of women in media and many have created their own media with more dynamic and multi-dimensional depictions of women.

In this episode, Dr. Kate Balestrieri and William Beteet discuss how to recognize the male gaze in media, and unpack its detrimental impacts on dating expectations, relationships and masculinity.


Guest info: William Beteet III (he/him/his) has been published in TIME, Huffington Post and Inc. Magazine. He’s a TEDx Speaker, Quora Top Writer and has over 160,000 followers on TikTok. William received his Juris Doctorate from Illinois Tech and has degrees in both Philosophy and History from Baylor University. William lives in New York where he has performed, along side of Bill Burr and Tracy Morgan.


Follow William on Instagram and TikTok @billbeteet


Additional Resources for Understanding the Male Gaze:

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey (year) https://www.asu.edu/courses/fms504/total-readings/mulvey-visualpleasure.pdf What is the Male Gaze?

Definition and Examples in Film by Kim Leonard (2021) https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/what-is-the-male-gaze-definition/


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Intro and Outro Credits Erica Gerard www.podkitproductions.com #malegaze #misogyny #patriarchy #mentalheatlh #relationships #podcast

This is the cover for the Modern Intimacy with Dr. Kate Balestrieri podcast.
Dr. Kate Balestrieri, host of Modern Intimacy, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist, helps people live more fulfilled lives by shattering stigma and erasing shame. Dr. Kate invites you to join her as she investigates the relationship between sex, mental health, relationships and modern society.


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