The Love Goddess: Women’s Desire … or (Yawn) Men’s?

Editor’s Note: Who is the wisest of them all? Who is more dedicated to your pleasure than anyone on earth? Who can help you when you’re going online for the first time to find love; or when your lover’s children hate you; or when you want to strangle your husband? Why, the Love Goddess, of course. She promises nothing less than celestial wisdom, heavenly sex, divine dating. Read on …

I love reading articles on female desire because, of course, I’m the Love Goddess and want to encourage pleasure, and women’s pleasure has remained more elusive over the centuries than men’s. Haven’t we all spent lifetimes reading What Men Want and obsessing over it? (I’ve been pleasing Jove now for thousands of years.)

So yesterday’s New York Times Magazine’s cover story, “What is Female Desire?” looked promising. The “postfeminist generation of researchers” busily “discovering things Freud could never have imagined” looked exciting. The prospect of men now starting to obsess over what pleases US was magnificent. And then, and then … there it was, right on the cover: the picture of a woman’s face apparently experiencing desire. And four more photos inside, again, either of a woman’s face or her body. So before we applaud these postfeminist discoveries about our desires, I’d like to offer a prefeminist discovery of my own, and I want my darlings down there on earth to listen up, because it’s important.

Whose point of view are we witnessing when we see these five photos of women supposedly feeling desire? Certainly not a woman’s. No, we get no sense, in a story where the subject is women, of what a woman sees, what she imagines, what she desires! See? Once again, we’re stuck being seen, looked at through the male gaze, in this case the eyes of the (male) photographer. We are merely imagined by that photographer, in the familiar open-mouthed, sexy-to-men, desirable state that has characterized men’s fantasies of women’s desire for centuries.

So the pictures illustrate not what a woman wants, but a male fantasy of what men want a desiring woman to look like — which, may I say, even the article’s contents suggest is NOT what she looks like and certainly not what she feels. Notice the shot of the woman’s soft belly and curved thighs. Please, ladies, for the sake of our sanity and our children’s understanding of love, look at this photo shoot and ask yourselves: Who wants what here? Who’s desiring whom? As a young friend said, “How about even one photo of a man?”

And if the big question, the one Freud was stumped by and felt couldn’t be answered — What do women want? — is only obscured yet again by men’s desire, we have gotten nowhere — despite postfeminism. Young women continue to have to see themselves through the male gaze, looking as men apparently would like to see them, in a state men have decided is women’s sexual arousal. No wonder women have had a hard time expressing what they want!

Photographs that accompany an article are vital to the story. They tell us what we’re supposed to be looking at, and whose point of view is considered important (because it’s that point of view we’re seeing). And if the subject of the story is women — but the point of view in every visual is not — then the story itself is confusing. And in this case, that confusion not only adds to the objectification of women postfeminists should be screaming about, but worse, adds to the confusion women feel, and always have felt, when they try to express what they want. 

-TLG

Like all savvy goddesses, the Love Goddess has her own blog, which you can visit by clicking here.

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