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Men, and Ladies, Please Don’t Stop Staring [OPINION]

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Emily V. Gordon was a couples and family therapist before becoming a full-time freelancer writer. She likes when a man gives her a look for the way she is dressed, but maybe not as much as when a woman does.

It’s getting warmer out for those of you who don’t live on West Coast and you know what that means: for ladies, the skin is coming out from its long winter slumber. It’s pasty and needs some sun. And you know what else it means: men will be unable to make eye contact again for a bit.

I wanted to write something addressing both men and women on this topic, because I feel as if everyone gets a bit screwed in the annual “Spring Skin Parade.” To me, this is a basic issue of biology- we want to look at the things that will help us propagate our species. This is why I ogle a man in my neighborhood I call “Half Naked Dad”- the gorgeous, tattooed, shirtless man who runs while pushing a baby carriage at the park every day. Seeing him inspires a million stupid cave woman-like urges in me, and I have started running in sunglasses specifically to ogle him more freely. He is virile, he is confident, he is a good father, and I am powerless. So I get it.

So first, let me address the men — Dudes, I promise you, we are not dressing in a revealing manner merely to get your attention. That is certainly part of it, but it is PART. There is also comfort in hot weather, dressing to remind yourself that you are a sexual creature after months of wearing puffy coats. The other reason is to impress other women. I’m not breaking any new ground here, but seriously, 80% of what I wear is so that I can get a female stranger’s appraising glance. I swear, once, I was in a haunted house and one of the female monsters whispered “I love your jacket” as she slunk away, and that one statement filled me with the joy of a thousand zombies. Getting a man’s attention is fairly straightforward: legs out, boobs out, clingy. Getting a woman’s attention requires more finesse, and occasionally also involves having your legs out. So when guys say “She wouldn’t dress that way if she wasn’t okay with me looking”, this is both true and bull crap. We can handle it. It may even give us a little jolt of “yeah, I still got it!” on a glum day, but us dressing sexy isn’t asking for anything. It’s just dressing sexy. Take a glance, an appreciative glance, maybe even give a thumbs up if the spirit moves you, but try to refrain from any of the following: leering, continual staring, licking your lips, attempting to touch and pretty much anything that would offend your mother.

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Now I shall address the ladies — Ladies, let’s try and remember that our boobs are out and that we have great boobs. Dress how you want, dress comfortably and sexy and boyish and puckish and whatever, but be aware that you cannot control anyone’s actions except for your own. If how others react to you bothers you so much, you have two options: change the thing they’re reacting to or change how you perceive the reaction. That’s it. Those are the only options you have. If you find yourself incredibly offended by the male gaze, you haven’t watched Fox News lately, or read op-ed columns in small towns, or taken a look at some of the ridiculously anti-female legislation being proposed around the country. I’m not saying “we have to take it, and hey, it could be worse,” I’m saying that life is better when you find yourself not constantly offended and that is something that is in your control. That’s all.

For me, dressing in a revealing fashion is about me having fun with of one of the powers I have at my disposal. It’s not my only source of power, thank god, and it’s not even my best one, but it’s one of the things I can do with this bag of flesh that has been granted to me. If I want to be cooler and more comfortable, if I want to remind my husband why he locked this down, if I want that girl at the coffee shop to finally see me as something other than a lame customer, and if I want to marvel at all the different ways I get to present myself, I can do that.

It’s lovely to be a woman.

Emily V. Gordon is a couples and family therapist turned freelance writer, comedy producer, and video game talker-abouter. You can find her at Huffington Post, xoJane, and Nerdist! You can find her on Twitter and her own blog too.

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