The Male Gaze

The Pleasure of Looking


In Philip Brookman Exposed : Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera 2010 quotes, ‘In Rear Window the protagonist is a photographer who is both entertained and hypnotized by other people’s problems; he is both a voyeur of and a participant in the emotional relationships that unfold before his eyes.’

‘Rear Window is all about the relationship between the spectator and the image, the viewer and the viewed….the window serves as a literal framing device akin to a photographer’s lens..the window separates Jeffries from the world outside his apartment, isolating and protecting him..’


Michelle Henning The Subject as Object in Photography: A Critical Introduction 2005 quotes, ‘The concept of objectification has a special relevance to photography.  In one sense photography inadvertently objectifies people by turning them into things to be looked at.  But it has also been suggested that in everyday life women are already constituted as objects to be looked at and men as ‘possessing the gaze’.  According to this argument women internalise the male gaze to the point that they survey themselves.’

She then quotes John Berger in Ways of Seeing coming to the conclusion that, ‘Men look at women.  Women watch themselves being looked at.  This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves.’

The Male Gaze

Laura Mulvey quotes in Visual Pleasure and Narative Cinema;

‘There are circumstances in which looking is itself is a source of pleasure, just as, in the reverse formation, there is pleasure in being looked at.’

‘In his Three Essays on Sexuality,  Freud isolated scopophiliaas one of the component instincts of sexuality.  He associated scopophilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling or curious gaze.  His examples centre on the voyeuristic activities of children, their desire to see the private or forbidden.  In this analysis scopophilia is essentially active.’

‘The cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, but it goes further developing scopophilia in it’s narcissistic aspect.’



In psychoanalytic terms, the female figure possesses a deeper problem.  Ultimately the meaning of a woman is sexual difference.

The woman as icon displayed for the gaze and enjoyment of men always threatens to evoke the anxiety it originally signified for a male child.

By turning the represented figure itself into a fetish object (hence overvaluation, the cult of the female star) the instinct is focused on the look alone.


Information from University Lecture Powerpoint

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