Father and Son Have “The Talk” – The Yoga Pants Talk

When Cornelius Walker observed his son’s particular interest in a girl wearing yoga pants, he realized it was time to discuss respecting the right of women to feel safe and secure.

I like women in yoga pants. If I see a woman with her yoga mat slung across her back, stainless water bottle in hand, rocking a pair of lululemon crops my eye might linger perhaps a half-second longer than usual. The first time I noticed them was at a coffee shop, where a young student (I presume, living in a college town as I do) came in for a chai latte. At first I thought it an odd fashion choice for the bitter New England winters until my companion alerted me to the yoga studio across the parking lot. Since then yoga pants appear to be everywhere: at the gym, the home improvement center, the DMV. It certainly doesn’t hurt that yoga practitioners are often young and fit. It’s clear these women spend time working on their bodies, and if they didn’t want others to take notice they wouldn’t wear such revealing clothing.

At least that’s what I’ve heard, but not from women. Because when I ask women—and I have—they universally say they wear yoga pants for comfort. I’m sure there are women out there who do want you to look, who derive some pleasure at the titillation caused by the sight of their shapely rears in pants that appear designed to aid those who suffer from a deficit in imagination. The problem is, those women are rare and they’re indistinguishable from the women who are simply out and about during their day, whether on the way to a Hot Power Vinyasa session or just to the corner store to pick up a pack of smokes. A pair of yoga pants is not an invitation to ogle, let alone comment.

I was reminded of this the other day when picking my seventh grader up from school. There was a cute girl a few yards away wearing yoga pants and I noticed my son looking a bit too long. When I was his age the boys thought it was all good fun to go around pinching and slapping the girls’ butts. “Of course the girls enjoy the attention,” they rationalized, but anyone who cared could tell the difference between enjoyment and the look of horror that crossed many of those faces. The boys weren’t pinching and slapping butts because the girls wanted it, they were doing it for their own enjoyment. If there was a girl or two that did enjoy it, that’s of little comfort to the many who were violated.

I turned to my son, “you know, even if the girl chose those pants to make her butt look cute, you still shouldn’t stare or comment. Her wanting her butt to look cute is not the same as her wanting you to comment about her butt. And staring is just rude, and makes some people uncomfortable.” He paused for a second, while the words sunk in. It was clear he hadn’t ever thought about what she wanted. In fact, I doubt he was even aware that his staring had any impact on her.

“But what if she does want you to comment?” he asked, always looking for the loophole. “She’ll let you know,” I replied. I thought to add, “and if you’re married to her, the answer is always ‘you look great'” But there’s no need to perpetuate that tired stereotype…

 

 

Photo: Flickr/lululemon athletica

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About Cornelius Walker

In 2000 Cornelius Walker was named Ambassador of Useless Knowledge. Not one to rest on his laurels, he has since redoubled his efforts towards learning a little about everything and a lot about nothing.

Comments

  1. I asked my 13 year old son what he thought of women and girls in yoga pants and he said, “That they go to yoga class?” And I figured that was good enough for now.

  2. confused.... says:

    So your son has been taught he can not give a compliment until he has been given a green light to give a compliment AND he should give the compliment that the requester wants to hear (especially if married)

    • Nick, mostly says:

      Sorta to the first, and no to the second.

      Which is to say this: just because you think it’s a compliment doesn’t mean it is one. Context matters. Going up to a random person and saying “nice butt” isn’t usually taken as a compliment. That doesn’t mean you can’t say something nice – I had a woman compliment my shirt the other day – but commenting on body parts has a different context and is laden with more meaning than commenting on clothes. If there is a woman I don’t know, I’m not going to give her my appraisal of her butt unless she asks for it. If it’s my weight training partner, I might tell her her butt is looking tighter since we’ve been working out together (assuming we have that type of relationship). Many men (and some women) seem to be completely tone deaf to context when appraising whether or not to proffer a compliment.

      The last line was written in jest. I didn’t tell him that precisely because I didn’t want to perpetuate that stereotype, but I included it here because I wanted to reference and acknowledge the irony in soliciting compliments.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        I second Nick aka Cornelius here. As a woman.

        Please, NEVER say to me “nice butt” or “great boobs” or “you’re hot”. When I was single, a simple, “That’s a cool haircut” or “cool shoes” or “isn’t this line long?” (while standing in a long line, obviously) would go a long way. It starts a conversation.

        Don’t say sexual things to people you don’t have a sexual relationship with. Just don’t.

        • Michael Rowe says:

          I agree–not sure how commenting on the ass of a woman you’re not dating or married to, however flattering the comment might be, would be anything other than creepy.

        • “Don’t say sexual things to people you don’t have a sexual relationship with. Just don’t.”

          That’s complete crap. You can’t make a hard and fast rule like that based on your personal preferences. There is such a thing as flirting that occurs prior to the onset of a sexual relationship and men can flirt just like women.

          • tinfoil hattie says:

            Thanks for the mansplanation! Without you, I might never have realized that actually, I love strange men coming up to me and making sexual overtures. Phew! I thought it was inappropriate, sexist, and immature to do so, but you have corrected my wrongful thinking. How would women ever understand sexism if it weren’t for helpful dudebros like you? Shame on me for ever thinking that women, not men, know sexism when we see it!

          • Joanna Schroeder says:

            Seriously, Ed, that has worked for you? Saying a sexual thing to a stranger?

          • Nick, mostly says:

            “Remember context” is the hard and fast rule. If you’re flirting, you’re establishing a relationship. But walking up to a stranger and saying, “nice ass” is not flirting. If you’ve been flirting and mutually escalating the talk to be more sexual, there might be a point where you can comment on how fine her ass looks in those yoga pants.

            Funny enough when I had just finished writing my reflection above I went to see a friend who happened to be wearing yoga pants at the time. I asked her why she was wearing yoga pants.

            “Because they’re comfortable and I think they make my butt look cute,” was her response, turning with a flourish.

            “So, would you mind if someone you didn’t know came in here and stared at or commented about your butt?” I inquired.

            “It wouldn’t make me super uncomfortable, unless they’re also in my space.” she said with a shrug, “but that’s kinda rude.”

            “But you just said you wore them to make your butt look cute, and then did a little twirl,” I said.

            “Yeah, but I know you,” she said.

            • Odd to think women might have complexity in their experience of context and safety.

            • “Remember context” is the hard and fast rule.

              Making context a “hard and fast rule” seems kind of oxymoronic. Since context is something that necessarily varies and changes at the slightest aspect, different people will necessarily have different perceptions and readings of their context. Inevitably, one person will think something is appropriate in one context, and the other will think it is not appropriate in that very same context.

              The only hard and fast rule that seems to be safe for all parties is “don’t say anything” or “don’t interact.”

  3. It seems like things are swinging from “making the comment whether she wants to hear it or not” to “assume that she doesn’t want the comment until she gives you the go ahead….and make sure its what she wants to hear”?

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Danny, this is my little logical game:

      What’s the worst that could happen if you gave her a non-sexual compliment? She doesn’t want to go out with you, but she’s not offended.

      What’s the worst that could happen if you gave her a compliment sexual in nature (ie “nice butt”)? She doesn’t want to go out with you, you made her feel dirty and unsafe, and she thinks you’re an asshole.

      So, you know, say something genuine and nice about something other than her body or sexuality instead.

      • What’s the worst that could happen if you gave her a non-sexual compliment? She doesn’t want to go out with you, but she’s not offended.
        You sure that she won’t be? It may increase the likelyhood of not being offended.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Of course I’m not sure. But if you genuinely like her shoes and say something, without stalking or invading her space, you’re doing nothing wrong.

          There will be people who are offended if you look at them sideways, so there will always be a risk of living and breathing as a human being on this earth. My guidelines should work.

          As Dr NerdLove said, some women are assholes, that doesn’t make all women assholes.

      • “She doesn’t want to go out with you, you made her feel dirty and unsafe, and she thinks you’re an asshole.”

        No that’s how you feel and you can’t speak for all women. She just might be a strong person who doesn’t find all male sexual interest threatening. You expect men to be hyper sensitive when engaging women but these young women many not be the shy butterfly you are.

      • What’s the worst that could happen if you gave her a non-sexual compliment? She doesn’t want to go out with you, but she’s not offended.

        What’s the worst that could happen if you gave her a compliment sexual in nature (ie “nice butt”)? She doesn’t want to go out with you, you made her feel dirty and unsafe, and she thinks you’re an asshole.

        Under the “Schrodinger’s Rapist” rule, even non-sexual compliments can be construed as offensive and threatening and can make a female person feel unsafe. The person receiving these compliments may take them as social transgression and preliminary harassment that may escalate.

  4. Good job. It’s never too early to tell your son that, as a male, his sexual feelings are a menace to society. After all, every man is one yogapant-ogle away from raping someone, right?

    • Nick, mostly says:

      Yes, that’s exactly what I told him. I said, “Son, you’re guilty of rape until proven innocent, so make sure you’re completely deferential to whatever her wants and needs are and by no means are you to make your own sexual desires or needs apparent, you’ve got to keeps those locked away until you die.”

      • And if that doesn’t work, you can send him off to a John Stoltenberg retreat.

      • For a moment I thought you were being sarcastic. But then I realized that when it comes to rape men really are guilty until proven innocent (and then sometimes treated like as guilty anyway).

  5. Is this serious? A man’s sexual feelings are a menace to a society? That’s what you conclude? So what’s a woman’s sexuality then? The definition of evil?
    This isn’t about not giving compliments until you’re told it’s okay. It’s about being respectful and if you don’t see that then take a second to consider your presuppositions. I’ve found that men don’t consider how staring affects a woman, because the men are the ones staring and enjoying the privilege of invisibility. If you were stared at because of what you chose to wear that day, be it for comfort/convenience/fashion/etc, you might view the situation differently. It is not a compliment.
    Thank you for sharing the story, I think it’s a great example of good parenting.

    • I wonder how much invisibility you could take and still consider it a privilige.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        One word, JE:

        Empathy.

        If you want someone to have it for you, then you gotta do the same in return.

        • Exactly. And to blanketly describe “invisibility” as a privilige is hardly empathetic to the people who suffer from being constantly ignored and overlooked.

        • Yeah because being told that your invisibility is a (male) privilege is a great way to offer empathy.

          • Joanna Schroeder says:

            I never said that.

            I think you can at least try to understand what women go through. If you want people to understand your experience, your first step should be in trying to understand theirs. That’s a rule for everyone.

            It doesn’t matter if they’re not doing it for you, some people will, you still have to be a good person. At least that’s the rule I go by.

            I will try to be a good person regardless of what is happening around me.

            • I think you can at least try to understand what women go through.
              I did try at one point and learned the hard way that it simply didn’t matter. Trying to understand women only taught me that women have it worse and men should get to the back of the line because they have so much privilege.

              After working on the frustration of those results (and still being told that those results either did not happen or who knows how many other excuses) I’m back to trying again.

              But in the interest of understanding then let’s look at serious’s mention of invisibility as a privilege and JE’s questioning of it.

              Serious seems to be limiting men’s invisibility to how it benefits them in terms of being able to judge women from a safe distance so to speak and calls it privilege.

              JE questions it. I’m guessing on the grounds that serious ignored the parts of invisibility that basically mean you don’t exist.

              Serious cherry picks in order to call invisibility a privilege and JE questions that.

              So perhaps there is more to invisibility than just granting men a privileged position in relation to women?

              (The reason I’m worked up over this is because when it comes to the gender discourse which of the two points is more readily accepted? Not only that but on a side note I’m reminded of something else. It seems that when it comes to calling something male privilege the harmful parts of a particular thing being called privilege are conveniently stripped away.)

            • “I never said that.”

              but the post I answered did.

              “I think you can at least try to understand what women go through.”

              I never questioned seriously on how women experience their gender role, only her conjecture on what the male role is like

            • No, by no means am I denying any harm of invisibility but I do believe that when you are the standard or the dominant one, you don’t take the time to consider how you got to be in that position, simply because it isn’t something you’ve had to think about. When I tried to have a similar conversation with a man who felt that all women enjoy being stared at and asked him to consider himself in that position, he couldn’t because he had nothing to relate it to.
              My comment was not meant to be generalized as my opinion of the male role. I was mainly responding to the comment that criticized the author for making his son believe his sexual feelings were a menace to society. I took that comment to mean that its author had never considered how his role as a man allows him a different approach to sexuality and its expression. He never had to change his behavior in order to seem “appropriate” but felt that the young man should be allowed to stare because it reaffirms his sexuality. Yet if women were allowed the same, how many would be labeled a variety of demeaning terms and what opinions would be drawn about their values that aren’t presupposed for men? In that sense, yes, I believe the privilege of invisibility applies.
              However, as I said, I don’t deny its harmful aspects. Invisibility of masculinity is not a positive thing for either gender, as it allows for an illusion of gender neutrality that is by no means neutral. I don’t believe the answer is to paint men in a bad light but to draw attention to norms that go unquestioned that don’t serve either gender.

        • Empathy would be women choosing to wear some loose shorts over those yoga pants so they don’t draw the gaze of 13 year old boys. Empathy would be not wearing outfits that our overtly sexual when that is not your intent.

          • empathy: n. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
            So a woman should be able to understand how a man might view her as a sexualized object that is seeking any and all forms of attention and should, on that basis, never wear anything form-fitting because it draws attention to her body? and she should understand that men simply don’t have the self-control to not give unnecessary attention to her because of her clothing? and she should assume that all men would respond this way?
            I don’t think this solution would be positive for men or women.

          • No, Ed. I’ve been reading your comments here and on the other post about yoga pants. Normally I try to be empathetic and understanding, but your comments are way off the mark. Assuming that all women (and in this case, a 13 year-old girl) go out of our way to drive men into a sexual frenzy by wearing clothes we like is not only wrong, but dangerous. And insulting to both genders. Are all men really so primitive that the sight of a woman in yoga pants makes them lose all control? I don’t think so. Is finding such a woman attractive a bad thing? No. The point of the article is that openly staring at her IS. He’s teaching his son that the girl is not responsible for his reaction. It’s OK and perfectly natural to HAVE a reaction.

          • Joanna Schroeder says:

            Time to dust off my Jabba the Hut costume!

            Would hate for someone to get upset by my skinny jeans or v-necks.

            I knew I’d get some use out of that thing after all!

            Finally, the men of the world can be free of my meddlesome breasts and bottom. Phew.

  6. casualconversationalist says:

    I agree with most of seriously’s comment. I don’t think that teaching your son not to ogle is teaching him that “his sexuality is a menace”. It’s teaching him to be generally respectful and considerate of the feelings of others. A lot of women are uncomfortable with prolonged stares and comments on their physique from men that they do not know or are not attracted to. Telling a boy that the best thing to do is to be mindful of that, and not press unwanted sexual attention on a woman, is not smothering that boy’s sexuality. It is teaching him that there are instances when expressing his sexuality is not necessarily appropriate. There are lots of times and places where it is 100% fine for a man to express his sexuality, but expressing it to a complete stranger that is not even expressing definite interest might be a little out of line.

  7. I think that the most important piece of advice this person is passing on to his son is that ,contrary to popular belief, most women do not dress a certain way FOR men. Just because a woman wears yoga pants, or a short skirt, or a low cut top, it does not mean that she is wearing it to solicit looks and compliments from men. Men are not questioned when they choose to wear comfortable clothing, yet somehow if a woman wears comfortable yoga pants she is “asking for attention”. That line of thinking is one step away from saying that rape survivors are “asking for it” by wearing revealing clothing.
    No, I’m not saying that this boy is a rapist because he finds yoga pants attractive. I’m saying that part of understanding your own sexuality involves learning about boundaries, your own and those of others. Learning to respect your body and the body of others, be they intimate partners or strangers on the street.

  8. I really, really appreciate this, and I really wish more fathers had this talk with their sons. I have a great father and my brothers are good people, but while my dad himself wouldn’t publicly “compliment” female strangers because he finds that wildly inappropriate as a polite and married man, when I try to curtail my brothers’ inappropriate behavior by explaining how harassed I feel on a daily basis by what may seem harmless -albeit admittedly intense and obvious- stares and the apparent, frequent need strange men indulge to vocally objectify me…both they and my dad always dismiss me disbelievingly and insist women should like AND graciously accept ‘compliments.’
    THIS on the other hand really is a step in the right direction and I hope many men follow it, so women can feel safer being in public, just trying to live life.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I think a compliment can be okay, if appropriate. My husband has a “classic” Toyota Land Cruiser and people who drive these cars (especially the ones 20+ years old) have this sort of brother/sisterhood. I’ve seen my husband walk up to a woman who was driving a Land Cruiser about his year, and say, “Great car, it’s in great shape!” etc. But he kept his distance physically and sort of judge her reactions as to whether she wanted to talk to him or not.

      I was waiting in my car watching this all unfold and thought about how wonderfully he handled respecting her space, and I’m sure he didn’t even realize he was doing it. Honoring her sense of safety came naturally to him. After a few little car-chats, he walked into the store and she drove away.

      So, in some cases, a compliment is okay. I have people tell me they like my running shoes a lot since I got these insanely bright orange ones. Firefighters, the guy at starbucks, kids, etc. That’s SO different than, “great butt” or “you’re hot”. It’s simply about respect and appropriateness.

    • If we expect men to be the primary initiator of relations between men and women then women are going to have to put up with unwanted advances. There is no way around it. Women can’t expect to live in a insulated bubble of privilege where men dance around their personal peeves. A women does not represent all women and the most sensitive ones should not set the bar for everyone else.

  9. Cornelius/Nick, thanks for having that conversation with your son. I never knew yoga pants created such an uproar for men.

    I thought this was an important part: “He paused for a second, while the words sunk in. It was clear he hadn’t ever thought about what she wanted. In fact, I doubt he was even aware that his staring had any impact on her.”

    I bet your son isn’t that different from most boys his age. I’m sure that most boys don’t think about how their actions may impact another. That’s perfectly normal and he hasn’t done any wrong. But it’s nice that you planted the seed in his head to think about others.

    For the guys that see this as a negative, I don’t think many men would appreciate me complimenting on strictly their money. Like if I saw a guy pull out a big role of money and said, “Wow, you have so much money. That’s great.” or if he had a really nice car or house, “Wow, you must make a lot of money. I like it.” While smiling at him. It’s the same with women and their body parts. It doesn’t always feel like a compliment when the thing getting attention is more about what another person gets from it or has the potential to get from it.

    • For the guys that see this as a negative, I don’t think many men would appreciate me complimenting on strictly their money. Like if I saw a guy pull out a big role of money and said, “Wow, you have so much money. That’s great.” or if he had a really nice car or house, “Wow, you must make a lot of money. I like it.” While smiling at him. It’s the same with women and their body parts. It doesn’t always feel like a compliment when the thing getting attention is more about what another person gets from it or has the potential to get from it.

      If a woman compliments men for pecuniary and material aspects, they are probably not going to feel degraded and violated in the same way that women supposedly feel when men comment upon a female person’s physical/sexual attributes. Though they may take care not to let that particular woman near the good silver. And they will probably feel less guilty about exploiting and discarding her, since they are aware she has similar motives.

      Dumby: Do you think she’d look at you if you were poor?
      Tuppy: Do you think I’d look at her if she were ugly? Fair’s fair, exchange rates and so forth.

      • “If a woman compliments men for pecuniary and material aspects, they are probably not going to feel degraded and violated in the same way that women supposedly feel when men comment upon a female person’s physical/sexual attributes.”

        I think men do feel devalued and degraded when women pay special attention to his bank account.
        Alot of men don’t want to be used for their money and compliments about their money, from a woman, isn’t all that flattering, as you prove in your own comments below.

        And there is nothing “supposedly” about it. What alot of men don’t get is that they unfortunetly usually only give compliments about a woman’s phsyical persons/sexual attributes because they are attributes that may best benefit *his* pleasure first. Not because he is sincerely giving her a compliment or even wants to sincerely compliment her and make her feel good about herself. Sometimes when men give “compliments”, they are not really compliments in the true spirit of a compliment. They are mearly giving credence to something *he* gains pleasure from first.

        “Though they may take care not to let that particular woman near the good silver. And they will probably feel less guilty about exploiting and discarding her, since they are aware she has similar motives.”

        I’m disturbed by the idea that it’s okay to use and discard a person for your own benefit while obviously wanting to be used and discarded as a person yourself. Someone that would do that to another person, even if that person had the same motiviation, is not better than that other person. Infact, I would say that they were actually made for one another.

        • I think men do feel devalued and degraded when women pay special attention to his bank account.

          You would rightfully object if I claimed to know how all women would feel and think in response to something. Likewise, it is wrong and unfounded for you to claim to know how all men do feel in response to something. When men present themselves in ways that emphasize their wealth and material advantages (driving a new luxury car, wearing an expensive suit, etc.), it is hard to believe that they would necessarily feel “devalued and degraded” if someone paid attention to the things they specifically wanted to emphasize. When a man presents himself with indications of wealth (flashing money in the bar, offering to buy people drinks, giving lavish tips) he knows that he is advertising his bank account. Some such men perhaps have vague hopes that someone will eventually like them “for who they really are” and not just for their money. But they certainly do not mind using their money as an initial point of attraction.

          I know that when a woman presents herself in any given way, we are not supposed to make any assumption that she is doing so for the attention or consideration of other people. We must assume her motives are entirely internal, self-regarding and solipsistic. And I will fully accept that feminist presumption. Fortunately, we are under no such presumptions for men. Perhaps a rare, outraged man might yell “How dare you compliment my Ferrari and my Armani suit! I drive a Ferrari and wear an Armani suit for my own internal reasons! The attention and opinions of other people have nothing to do with why I drive a Ferrari and wear an Armani suit!” But that man would swiftly be excluded from the kingdom of the sane.

          Alot of men don’t want to be used for their money

          Says you. How much is “a lot of men”? Three quarters of men? Half? One quarter? If you mean “be used” in the sense that somebody will take a lot of a man’s money and he receives no benefit or gratification in return, then yes, a lot of men (and people in general) would probably find that unpalatable. However, some men do not mind “being used” for their money as long as they get something for their own interests in return. When men purchase pornography, they know that they are being valued for whatever money they pay to the vendor. But they do not mind paying money because they find the gratification from the pornography to be worth the purchase. When men patronize lewd establishments like strip clubs or Hooters restaurants, they usually know full well that the attractive women who interact with them there are only interested in monetary compensation. Nevertheless, they usually find the transaction to be gratifying and may seek similar transactions many times over.

          An unattractive but moneyed man may know full well that the attractive woman he fraternizes with is a “gold digger” who only values his money. However, as long as he enjoys her sexual company, he may not mind and will still find the transaction to be satisfying and worth his while.

          And there is nothing “supposedly” about it.

          I am not doubting or disputing that most, perhaps virtually all women feel violated and degraded when men comment upon their physical attributes. What I am disputing is your suggestion that unsolicited compliments about a man’s money are of the same gravity, threat or peril as unsolicited comments about a woman’s physicality. Men do not view such a comment as the same kind of threat or danger that women view the sexual/physical comments. Therefore, it is not a compelling analogy.

          Certainly, some women do objectify men for their wealth. However, most men do not perceive such material objectification as similarly dangerous or damaging as most women perceive sexual objectification from men. At worst, most men might find such an explicit comment about their wealth to be vulgar or crass. If a man makes unsolicited sexual or physical comments about a woman, those comments supposedly carry the plausible possibility of assault, rape and other transgressions. If a woman makes unsolicited comments about a man’s wealth, the man is not immediately panicking about how this woman might murder him and steal his money (though that has happened to some moneyed men who fraternized with avaricious women).

          What alot of men don’t get is that they unfortunetly usually only give compliments about a woman’s phsyical persons/sexual attributes because they are attributes that may best benefit *his* pleasure first. Not because he is sincerely giving her a compliment or even wants to sincerely compliment her and make her feel good about herself. Sometimes when men give “compliments”, they are not really compliments in the true spirit of a compliment. They are mearly giving credence to something *he* gains pleasure from first.

          This indictment that you make about sexual/physical compliments applies to any kind of compliment under the sun. Any compliment, positive feeling or affinity for a person or their characteristics can be construed as some selfish valuation for the pleasure or gratification that the person could or does give. If a man compliments a person that she is good athlete, perhaps he is only giving credence to the pleasure he gets by watching her play soccer. If she were not an impressive athlete, perhaps he would not care about her. And this does not only apply to physical matters. Any compliment of an emotional, psychological, intellectual or whatever nature can be construed as serving selfish motives of the complimenting person. A compliment about a person which suggests what physical gratification they could give to the complimenting person is an invalid compliment? Why is such a compliment any worse than a compliment which suggests what emotional, psychological or intellectual gratification that person might provide to the complimenting person?

          If you compliment a person that she is caring and compassionate, perhaps you are only giving credence to the emotional gratification and relief you gain when you talk to her about your problems. If she were not willing to listen to your complaints and problems, perhaps you would not compliment her or even care about her. If you compliment a person about how she is brilliant and intellectual, perhaps you are only giving credence to the intellectual and mental stimulation that you receive by interacting with her. If she could not or did not provide this intellectual and mental gratification to you, perhaps you might not even give her the time of day. When a woman says her husband is a wonderful man who makes her feel special, does she actually love him? Or does she just love the way he makes her feel? And if he could no longer make her feel that way, she might not care about him. Even when a new mother says how wonderful her new baby is, can we tell if she really loves the baby? Or does she just love the emotional gratification and esteem that the baby provides? Under your standard, we cannot be sure that any compliment is a “sincere compliment.” Almost any compliment holds the possibility that the complimenting person is only thinking of their own interest and benefit.

          I’m disturbed by the idea that it’s okay to use and discard a person for your own benefit while obviously wanting to be used and discarded as a person yourself.

          Call it disturbing if you like. I would just call it “reciprocity” or just an application of the Golden Rule of doing unto others as they would do unto you. If I know that a person is willing to use and discard me once they get what they want, I would feel much less compunction about doing so to them.

          And the fact that a person is willing to associate and fraternize with a person who they know wants to use and discard them does not mean that they want “to be used and discarded as a person” in some masochistic fashion. They are aware that the other person wants to exploit them, however, they may think that the gratifications and benefits that they can obtain from this other person are worth the risk, and they take care to be on their guard. That is the standard procedure for a lot of human interactions, whether it’s buying a car, negotiating an investment, or even getting married. Both sides often know that the other side is in it to get something for themselves.

          Someone that would do that to another person, even if that person had the same motiviation, is not better than that other person.

          Who says they have to set out to be better? They are just treating that person in like kind or similar fashion. However, I do think that such scenarios in which both sides intend to exploit each other are morally different from situations in which one side has good faith and the other side simply chooses to take advantage of that. A man might be content to exploit gold-digging women for his sexual gratification, but if he thinks he has come across a woman who honestly cares about him, he might show her honest caring and devotion in turn. And I would hope he would.

          Infact, I would say that they were actually made for one another.

          Then why object to the match? I think you are being even more pessimistic than warranted. Even when both sides are out to use and discard each other, it is not necessarily an interaction marked by hostility or malevolence. When an old, moneyed man wines and dines an attractive woman, he knows that she is primarily there for monetary remuneration and material benefits. And he knows that she may discard him if he can no longer provide the material gifts or if she herself comes across a better prospect. On the other side, the attractive woman knows that the moneyed man primarily values her for physical and sexual gratification. And she knows that he may discard her if he grows weary of her, or if his legitimate spouse demands he end the affair, etc. Most people go into such interactions with eyes wide open and under no illusions. When the association ends, it is not always a bitter affair. Some sugar daddies give generous parting gifts to their former mistresses. Call it prostitution if you like, but I do not see how it is any different than a man paying his ex-wife a generous divorce settlement.

        • I think men do feel devalued and degraded when women pay special attention to his bank account.

          You would rightfully object if I claimed to know how all women would feel and think in response to something. Likewise, it is wrong and unfounded for you to claim to know how all men do feel in response to something. When men present themselves in ways that emphasize their wealth and material advantages (driving a new luxury car, wearing an expensive suit, etc.), it is hard to believe that they would necessarily feel “devalued and degraded” if someone paid attention to the things they specifically wanted to emphasize. When a man presents himself with indications of wealth (flashing money in the bar, offering to buy people drinks, giving lavish tips) he knows that he is advertising his bank account. Some such men perhaps have vague hopes that someone will eventually like them “for who they really are” and not just for their money. But they certainly do not mind using their money as an initial point of attraction.

          I know that when a woman presents herself in any given way, we are not supposed to make any assumption that she is doing so for the attention or consideration of other people. We must assume her motives are entirely internal, self-regarding and solipsistic. And I will fully accept that feminist presumption. Fortunately, we are under no such presumptions for men. Perhaps a rare, outraged man might yell “How dare you compliment my Ferrari and my Armani suit! I drive a Ferrari and wear an Armani suit for my own internal reasons! The attention and opinions of other people have nothing to do with why I drive a Ferrari and wear an Armani suit!” Such a person is exceptional.

        • Alot of men don’t want to be used for their money

          How much is “a lot of men”? Three quarters of men? Half? One quarter? If you mean “be used” in the sense that somebody will take a lot of a man’s money and he receives no benefit or gratification in return, then yes, a lot of men (and people in general) would probably find that unpalatable. However, some men do not mind “being used” for their money as long as they get something for their own interests in return. When men purchase pornography, they know that they are being valued for whatever money they pay to the vendor. But they do not mind paying money because they find the gratification from the pornography to be worth the purchase. When men patronize lewd establishments like strip clubs or Hooters restaurants, they usually know full well that the attractive women who interact with them there are only interested in monetary compensation. Nevertheless, they usually find the transaction to be gratifying and may seek similar transactions many times over.

          An unattractive but moneyed man may know full well that the attractive woman he fraternizes with is a “gold digger” who only values his money. However, as long as he enjoys her company, he may not mind and will still find the transaction to be satisfying and worth his while.

        • And there is nothing “supposedly” about it.

          I am not doubting or disputing that most, perhaps virtually all women feel violated and degraded when men comment upon their physical attributes. What I am disputing is your suggestion that unsolicited compliments about a man’s money are of the same gravity, threat or peril as unsolicited comments about a woman’s physicality. Men do not view such a comment as the same kind of threat or danger that women view the sexual/physical comments. Therefore, it is not a compelling analogy.

          Certainly, some women do objectify men for their wealth. However, most men do not perceive such material objectification as similarly dangerous or damaging as most women perceive sexual objectification from men. At worst, most men might find such an explicit comment about their wealth to be vulgar or crass. If a man makes unsolicited sexual or physical comments about a woman, those comments supposedly carry the plausible possibility of assault, rape and other transgressions. If a woman makes unsolicited comments about a man’s wealth, the man is not immediately panicking about how this woman might murder him and steal his money (though that has happened to some moneyed men who fraternized with avaricious women).

        • What alot of men don’t get is that they unfortunetly usually only give compliments about a woman’s phsyical persons/sexual attributes because they are attributes that may best benefit *his* pleasure first. Not because he is sincerely giving her a compliment or even wants to sincerely compliment her and make her feel good about herself. Sometimes when men give “compliments”, they are not really compliments in the true spirit of a compliment. They are mearly giving credence to something *he* gains pleasure from first.

          This indictment that you make about sexual/physical compliments applies to any kind of compliment under the sun. Any compliment, positive feeling or affinity for a person or their characteristics can be construed as some selfish valuation for the pleasure or gratification that the person could or does give. If a man compliments a person that she is good athlete, perhaps he is only giving credence to the pleasure he gets by watching her play soccer. If she were not an impressive athlete, perhaps he would not care about her. And this does not only apply to physical matters. Any compliment of an emotional, psychological, intellectual or whatever nature can be construed as serving selfish motives of the complimenting person. A compliment about a person which suggests what physical gratification they could give to the complimenting person is an invalid compliment? Why is such a compliment any worse than a compliment which suggests what emotional, psychological or intellectual gratification that person might provide to the complimenting person?

          If you compliment a person that she is caring and compassionate, perhaps you are only giving credence to the emotional gratification and relief you gain when you talk to her about your problems. If she were not willing to listen to your complaints and problems, perhaps you would not compliment her or even care about her. If you compliment a person about how she is brilliant and intellectual, perhaps you are only giving credence to the intellectual and mental stimulation that you receive by interacting with her. If she could not or did not provide this intellectual and mental gratification to you, perhaps you might not even give her the time of day. When a woman says her husband is a wonderful man who makes her feel special, does she actually love him? Or does she just love the way he makes her feel? And if he could no longer make her feel that way, she might not care about him. Even when a new mother says how wonderful her new baby is, can we tell if she really loves the baby? Or does she just love the emotional gratification and esteem that the baby provides? Under your standard, we cannot be sure that any compliment is a “sincere compliment.” Almost any compliment holds the possibility that the complimenting person is only thinking of their own interest and benefit.

        • I’m disturbed by the idea that it’s okay to use and discard a person for your own benefit while obviously wanting to be used and discarded as a person yourself.

          Call it disturbing if you like. I would just call it “reciprocity” or just a variant of the Golden Rule: doing unto others as they would do unto you. If I know that a person is willing to use and discard me once they get what they want, I would feel much less compunction about doing so to them.

          And the fact that a person is willing to associate and fraternize with a person who they know wants to use and discard them does not mean that they want “to be used and discarded as a person” in some masochistic fashion. They are aware that the other person wants to exploit them, however, they may think that the gratifications and benefits that they can obtain from this other person are worth the risk, and they take care to be on their guard. That is the standard procedure for a lot of human interactions, whether it’s buying a car, negotiating an investment, or even getting married. Both sides often know that the other side is in it to get something for themselves, and they take that into account when they act.

        • Someone that would do that to another person, even if that person had the same motiviation, is not better than that other person.

          Who says they have to set out to be better? They are just treating that person in like kind or similar fashion. However, I do think that such scenarios in which both sides intend to exploit each other are morally different from situations in which one side has good faith and the other side simply chooses to take advantage of that. A man might be content to exploit gold-digging women for his sexual gratification, but if he thinks he has come across a woman who honestly cares about him, he might show her honest caring and devotion in turn. And I would hope he would. If he is not willing to show her the same reciprocal devotion, I would hope he would just end the association.

        • Infact, I would say that they were actually made for one another.

          Then why object to the match? I think you are being even more pessimistic than warranted. Even when both sides are out to use and discard each other, it is not necessarily an interaction marked by hostility or malevolence. When an old, moneyed man wines and dines an attractive woman, he knows that she is primarily there for monetary remuneration and material benefits. And he knows that she may discard him if he can no longer provide the material gifts or if she herself comes across a better prospect. On the other side, the attractive woman knows that the moneyed man primarily values her for physical and sexual gratification. And she knows that he may discard her if he grows weary of her, or if his legitimate spouse demands he end the affair, etc. Lots of people go into such interactions with eyes wide open and under no illusions. When the association ends, it is not always a bitter affair. Some sugar daddies give generous parting gifts to their former mistresses. Call it prostitution if you like, but I do not see how it is much different than a man paying his ex-wife a generous divorce settlement. Just another way of burying the hatchet.

    • I doubt most men would have their roll of money on obvious display if they were not prepared to shrug off the attention that came with it.

  10. You sound like a superb dad Nick – thoughtfulness is a great lesson to instill.

    And speaking of thoughtfulness: from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in The Little Prince

    “Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? ” Instead they demand “How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? ” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”

  11. I think a good rule of thumb for everyone is to not stare at people in general. It is hard to do. It is human tendency to look at what one finds interesting. However, since most people do not like being stared at, everyone should be conscious that their gaze is not always wanted. Likewise, I think a good rule of thumb is to realize that just because someone is dressed a certain way does not mean they dressed that way to draw attention.

    Coincidentally, a few days ago I went with my godson’s brother to pick my godson up from school. As he walked to the car, I noticed two girls staring at him. I mentioned to him, and when he turned the girls quickly pretended to look the other way. That is not the first time I have caught girls staring at my godson. I know girls are completely incapable of sexualizing boys in any way and that no boys are at all bothered by the unwanted attention, however, I do want to point out that staring at the opposite sex and making unwanted comments is not something only boys do.

    As for the compliment issue, I do not know of anyone other than egotists who prompt people to compliment them, so it is very bad advice to tell boys not to compliment girls unless girls ask for the compliment. Better advice would be not to compliment someone’s body parts unless you know the person.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      All good points, Jacob.

      I think Nick may have been thinking about when a person says, “Do these jeans look good on me?” or “Do I have a fat butt?” which, sadly, is a pretty common conversation piece for teenage girls.

      I agree about the staring. My son has girls who seem to like him, and when they stare he starts to feel like they’re teasing him or that he’s done something wrong.

  12. I’m surprised at how offended so many people are by this. he’s just letting his son know that you can look at an attractive female and appreciate it in your head, but to also be aware of how that person feels, and not to do something to make them feel uncomfortable. he’s not telling him that it’s bad for him to appreciate her attractiveness. there are ways to check somebody out without making them feel threatened. stare if you want, but if they notice, look away for a bit. don’t just keep staring at their ass. just be polite about it. it’s some huge denial of freedom to ask a guy to be polite.

  13. Nick – great dad.

    Ed – the good part: You’re here reading. The measure of intelligence is being able to absorb and change one’s view point by growing in empathy. I hope you’re intelligent enough to do this. (Which will require your modifying your male privilege mindset.)

  14. So is it bad for your son to stare, period?
    Or is it only bad if the person he is staring at realizes that he is staring?

    • Nick, mostly says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily good or bad to stare, only that one should consider whether it achieves their desired outcomes and weigh the potential for harm. If your goal (or distant dream) is to get to know the person better, and set them at ease around you, staring is likely to work contrary to that purpose. If you’re not concerned about how your staring might impact the person negatively, and how that negativity might contribute to the discord in relations between the sexes, then staring seems a good start in that effort.

      • If your goal (or distant dream) is to get to know the person better, and set them at ease around you, staring is likely to work contrary to that purpose.

        Probably. That is, if that person realizes that the other person is staring. If the staring person successfully uses stealth or subterfuge to evade detection, and the person he is staring at never realizes or finds out, I do not see how that person is going to be upset or discomfitted.

        The staring person may or may not have distant hopes of interacting or engaging with the person he is scrutinizing. However, in the interim, the staring person may be content to stare at the person as long as possible so as to accumulate memory material for masturbatory purposes.

        If you’re not concerned about how your staring might impact the person negatively, and how that negativity might contribute to the discord in relations between the sexes, then staring seems a good start in that effort.

        Are you describing a scenario in which the person being stared at finds out about the staring? Or are you saying that even if the person that he stares at never realizes that he was staring, it still “might impact the person negatively” and “contribute to discord in relations between the sexes”?

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