I've written before about certain heterosexual women's obsession with the male gaze. In this view, being looked at as sexually desirable by a man (objectified) is experienced as degrading, dehumanizing and defiling.
And yet, as discussed in this article, being seen as irresistibly desirable is, for the typical woman, the most powerful sexual turn-on of all.
How can these two seemingly contradictory facts be reconciled? I used to think that it was simply a matter of women lying. Either they were trying to keep men off balance with double-speak ("Don't my breasts look luscious in this black lace push-up bra? . . . Don't look at me, you objectifying pervert!"). Or else they were lying to themselves out of shame ("Isn't it horrible? That man found me attractive. Sexist pig! Now, why are my panties damp?")
The obvious (to me) truth was that women love being desired by particular men (the ones they find attractive) and hate being desired by men to whom they're not attracted.
And then, last night, it hit me. To many women, being desired is so powerful that they actually experience it as a sexual act. This is why, just like any other sexual act, it's luscious when done by someone to whom we're attracted, but can evoke powerful disgust when done by someone to whom we're not. Just like I might love having my earlobes licked, but I'd feel defiled if Howie Mandel did it.
Of course, my new insight comes no closer to solving the bind that women have put ourselves into. We've told men that we hate being looked at with desire, so the good guys don't look at us with desire (or at least they try to pretend not to). And yet being looked at with desire is what many of us most crave sexually.