19 votes

Oglers, repeated glancers, gazers - Stories and opinions

Tags: personal

This could definitely just be in my head, but I HATE it when people look at me for extended periods of time or repeatedly (when I'm not talking, minding my own business, doing errands, working out, etc.). I know it's related to trauma that I'm learning to ignore/ not be reactive to. The feelings it brings up in me is just invasive. I find it happens a lot on job sites and when working out, I just get this feeling that I'm being visually undressed or being fantasized about, like ew, stop. I can tell the difference between day dreamers (glossy eyed) and active lookers. Again, I've learned to ignore it these days, I can't control other people, only myself. I can only vocalize to stop looking at me or focus on your work excavator operator, the grounds down there...

Anyway, enough about me, what about you?

24 comments

  1. turnipostrophe
    Link
    Good post... makes me think... I am part of the problem though. 🙈 I like to look at people. I think humans are interesting, their faces especially, but also the whole way they exist. The kinds of...

    Good post... makes me think... I am part of the problem though. 🙈

    I like to look at people. I think humans are interesting, their faces especially, but also the whole way they exist. The kinds of clothes people wear, the hairstyles they choose, the way they carry themselves suggest a lot: what their priorities are at that moment and how they want/expect other people to treat them, look at them, perceive them, think about them.

    When I'm on the subway, I sometimes imagine what they'll do right after their stop, how they'll go through the turnstile and up the stairs and out into the city, looking both ways (or not) as they jaywalk to their destination. If they have an excited kid or dog back home who'll jump into their arms as they open their apartment door. Or if they'll walk into their office and ruin someone's day with a giant stack of paperwork. Or if they're on their way to meet up with their best friend from 25 years ago who moved away in high school to Belize and didn't have a phone so they couldn't contact them but now they're back in their old neighborhood in the city and want to reconnect at the old bodega with the Bulgarian guy and his niece and her yellow cat who puked on their shoes that one time because it ate an entire can of almonds while they were trying to decipher the guy's accent while ordering a grilled chicken sandwich with tomato, lettuce, onion, and swiss cheese and no mayonnaise and no hot sauce for their mom who was sick that day with a high fever but still really wanted a grilled chicken sandwich with no mayonnaise or hot sauce, all other toppings irrelevant.

    I don't stare for very long, or I only cast short glances, because I don't want to get assaulted. But I do like to look.

    I get uncomfortable when I see people at the gym or when they aren't wearing a lot of clothes. It does feel invasive to stare in those circumstances. I see how it can be invasive in general too. I think I would have trouble changing that behavior though. People are holistically the most beautiful things in the world and looking at a blank wall or an ad for a sandwich chain is not quite the same.

    14 votes
  2. Fal
    Link
    I was kind of bad at conversations when I was younger, and never really knew where to look so I developed a bit of a habit of looking slightly down from their face at their neck or chest. This is...

    I was kind of bad at conversations when I was younger, and never really knew where to look so I developed a bit of a habit of looking slightly down from their face at their neck or chest. This is still a habit I slip into now in high school when I’m tired or not feeling particularly conversational, which isn’t… great.
    I swear I’m not checking you out I was just bad with people as a kid :(

    9 votes
  3. [9]
    Omnicrola
    Link
    This reminded me of an article I had read a few years ago where researchers had done a study to determine how long was "too long" for direct eye contact. I can't find the exact article, but it was...

    This reminded me of an article I had read a few years ago where researchers had done a study to determine how long was "too long" for direct eye contact. I can't find the exact article, but it was interesting to read not only about the differences between cultures, but also just how much it varied. They were specifically studying how long an individual had to maintain direct eye contact before the other person would be uncomfortable. The range was something like 3 seconds to 0.5 seconds, though I don't remember clearly how various cultures fell on that span.

    Anyway, here's an article that's kind of similar : https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/02/the-impact-of-making-eye-contact-around-the-world/

    Side question: Do you ever make direct eye contact with yourself in the mirror? Does that make you feel the same way?

    8 votes
    1. [8]
      kyotja
      Link Parent
      Tangent to your side note: staring at your own reflection for too long can elicit a reaction ranging from confusion to terror- I personally lean more on the extremely uncomfortable side - and...

      Tangent to your side note: staring at your own reflection for too long can elicit a reaction ranging from confusion to terror- I personally lean more on the extremely uncomfortable side - and there's a name for it!! So that's something to be aware of when practicing your self-stare-down.

      But to beanie's point, I am afraid I am on the other side of the awkward gaze. When I'm out and about, particularly working out at the gym, I find my gaze is like my hands during a conversation- I'm not sure what to do, so I just kind of let it dangle there awkwardly. I make a conscious effort to avoid staring directly into others' eyeballs, but oftentimes when I'm looking straight ahead intently focused on something else, people will walk into my line of vision and make accidental eye contact. I assume it makes them just as awkward as it makes me feel. I'm not sure what the point of this is other than to say, beanie, my apologies on behalf of us awkward accidental gazers everywhere. We mean nothing by it. Curious to see what others' experiences with awkward eye contact are, though! Good topic.

      7 votes
      1. [5]
        beanie
        Link Parent
        @Omnicrola, fascinating, I do avoid making eye contact with myself in the mirror! And yes, it does make me feel eerily similar (eerie) to when other people stare at me! @kyotja, Loll! No need to...

        @Omnicrola, fascinating, I do avoid making eye contact with myself in the mirror! And yes, it does make me feel eerily similar (eerie) to when other people stare at me!

        @kyotja, Loll! No need to apologize. I wouldn't put accidental eye contact in the same category since there is usually an immediate reaction to look away (awkwardly, not guiltily) and, well, it was accidental. I'm talking about a person not knowing they are being watched and then they find a pair of eyes on them (intense, not looking away, suggestive sometimes, eeeee!). I think I'll refrain from doing the experiment in the article you sent. I'm already freaked by my reflection, but it's great to know why I am freaked and that I'm not the only one!

        Given the articles and questions @Omnicrola and @kyotja referenced, I think I have a better understanding of why the extended/ suggestive eye contact gives me the creeps: I think it stems from the fear of being vulnerable. Like, yeesh, I get it, I would have no control if you decided to attack me right now, you really can look at me all you want and I can do absolutely nothing about it. It makes the power dynamic more apparent.

        5 votes
        1. [4]
          Omnicrola
          Link Parent
          The mirror thing is weird for me too. There's that colloquialism of "being able to look yourself in the mirror", and I never truly understood it until the last few years. Without going into the...

          The mirror thing is weird for me too. There's that colloquialism of "being able to look yourself in the mirror", and I never truly understood it until the last few years. Without going into the details of why, I noticed from time to time that I was avoiding eye contact with myself in the mirror. And when I noticed I was avoiding it, I would try to do it on purpose, and it would be uncomfortable. Ultimately, this was because I wasn't happy with the decisions I was making. I'm coming out the other side of that now though, and I find myself much less reluctant to look myself in the eye.

          3 votes
          1. [3]
            vord
            Link Parent
            The longer I stare at myself in the mirror, the more I can see the features of my parents in myself. For me personally, this is distressing. I am more than the sum of my parents. Then again, folks...

            The longer I stare at myself in the mirror, the more I can see the features of my parents in myself.

            For me personally, this is distressing. I am more than the sum of my parents. Then again, folks who have better relationships with theirs might feel differently.

            3 votes
            1. [2]
              Omnicrola
              Link Parent
              I have a pretty good relationship with my parents. We live in different states, but I love them both and should really call them more than I do (not be cause of guilt, just to catch up). I don't...

              I have a pretty good relationship with my parents. We live in different states, but I love them both and should really call them more than I do (not be cause of guilt, just to catch up).

              I don't see my parents in the mirror, but in the last few years I've seen my dad's hands when I look at my hands sometimes. It's really weird. My dad is a die hard DIY and engineer, and there are a lot of things I learned from him that I'm proud of, but there are also mistakes of his that I don't want to repeat. So that mental moment of my own brain telling me "you are literally becoming your dad" was very trippy.

              3 votes
              1. teaearlgraycold
                Link Parent
                My Dad is a great man. I think if I ever feel like I’m becoming him it would be a moment of pride.

                My Dad is a great man. I think if I ever feel like I’m becoming him it would be a moment of pride.

                2 votes
      2. [2]
        zeda
        Link Parent
        Seems almost like the visual equivalent of semantic satiation. Too much of the same input for an extended period of time being having its meaning distorted. Hmm

        Seems almost like the visual equivalent of semantic satiation. Too much of the same input for an extended period of time being having its meaning distorted. Hmm

        2 votes
        1. kyotja
          Link Parent
          Spot on! As your brain adjusts to staring at your own face, it begins to ignore the visual input, and the face recognizing portion of the brain begins to fill in the gaps with... something. It's a...

          Spot on! As your brain adjusts to staring at your own face, it begins to ignore the visual input, and the face recognizing portion of the brain begins to fill in the gaps with... something. It's a very curious phenomenon, and one that I was very glad to find out I wasn't alone in experiencing.

          2 votes
  4. [3]
    MacGuges
    (edited )
    Link
    Thank you for raising this topic : while the contemplation of it has been fascinating I realize that you're not alone and that this phenomenon creates real social harms. Your mention of trauma...

    Thank you for raising this topic : while the contemplation of it has been fascinating I realize that you're not alone and that this phenomenon creates real social harms. Your mention of trauma brings to my mind the work of Alice Miller, the child psychologist who theorized that corporal punishment of children translated to state justifications of violence. https://www.naturalchild.org/articles/alice_miller/roots_violence.html. I recall one of her observations being that children's memory of past violence they received from their parents could be recalled easily with stern glance. Past parenting manuals extolled this phenomenon as a practical benefit of harsh discipline, that most children could be effectively coerced after one or two examples. I don't know if Dr. Miller compared this phenomenon to social-sexual development in adolescents, but I have to wonder how many women can remember similar traumas that began from men's regarding.

    For my own praxis I need to admit my own complicity. I'm familiar to the satisfying appearance of a female stranger and the lure of looking further. Within a public space there is a sense (at least to myself) of visual perception as a form of recreation without consequence. OP's testimony is a form of evidence of this sense as only a delusion: of course you cannot have observation without interference. I'd like to imagine a world where my own gaze doesn't remind strangers of their past traumas, but it seems that is only possible here and now through imagining those traumas cannot exist.

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      This led me down a mental tangent thinking about this in the context of Zoom. One of the secret reasons I've liked Zoom meetings, is that I get to stare at people. Not in the lewd sense, but in...

      I'd like to imagine a world where my own gaze doesn't remind strangers of their past traumas,

      This led me down a mental tangent thinking about this in the context of Zoom. One of the secret reasons I've liked Zoom meetings, is that I get to stare at people. Not in the lewd sense, but in the people-watching sense. Since nobody can tell exactly what I'm looking at I can stare directly at people to try and read their faces better, which I would never do in person.

      At the same time, the flip side is that since I can't tell what anyone else is looking at then they are all simultaneously looking at AND not looking at me. Which leads to the constant feeling of being watched. I find it only mildly uncomfortable, but I can easily understand why a lot of people don't like turning on their cameras during meetings (especially large ones). @beanie how do you feel in Zoom meetings?

      5 votes
      1. beanie
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Group zoom meetings, I usually like to have my camera off, however, I sometimes feel bad for the speaker and will occasionally turn the camera on to give them visual feedback (a nod, smile, or...

        Group zoom meetings, I usually like to have my camera off, however, I sometimes feel bad for the speaker and will occasionally turn the camera on to give them visual feedback (a nod, smile, or thumbs up to show that people are listening/ understanding/ interested).

        In small group meetings, it's usually required of me to have my camera on, although I'd prefer to have my camera off. I understand having the camera on give visual cues (you know when the person is about to stop talking/ when it's your turn to talk, again with visual cues to the speaker to show that you're understanding them).

        To be completely honest with you, I have a hard time looking at other people in the zoom meetings though. I'm usually looking out a window and I get self conscious b/c somehow that's been interpreted that I'm not listening - so I force myself to smile and look at the camera, so uncomfortable. Also, I've been doing interviews recently and I think there is a study saying if you're more attractive/ smiling, you are most likely to get the job (so, I have to do the make-ups, smile, all that jazz). Going back, I think looking out the window has to do with me not liking being indoors. I'm attracted to light and I often stare out a window when answering questions and it also feels like I can pay attention more when I'm not looking directly at the person speaking/ I can hear them better when I look outside a window. I have to compromise though. So, that's why I work in the field, I can always (or almost always) be outside. But weirdly, when I work with construction/ field workers, I can look them in the eye when we're having a conversation. Maybe it has to do with being outdoors, knowing that I can make a run for it and can't be cornered? Or maybe it's to show them I respect them, care what they think, etc. because I know they get treated really poorly? I work in sewer, so, you have to look the contractor in the eye, you can't be ashamed, you have to show them you respect them, and you have to shake their hand! (you can always hand sanitize later)

        Thank you for telling me you people watch on Zoom! Yeeeeeee, my privacy! If I'm snooping on Zoom, I'm usually seeing what their pet is doing (watching them live their best life). But usually, if my camera is off, I'm staring out a window.

        6 votes
  5. vord
    (edited )
    Link
    I think I am (was) unintentionally part of the problem as well. When I was much younger, it was a terrible blend of horniness, loneliness, and social anxiety. Worse, I was kinda aware of it being...

    I think I am (was) unintentionally part of the problem as well.

    When I was much younger, it was a terrible blend of horniness, loneliness, and social anxiety. Worse, I was kinda aware of it being problematic, and that did not make that social anxiety any better. Even 20+ years later, no longer lonely or teenager-horny, I still sometimes finding myself sliding into that social anxiety, to the point of stammering around strangers. I meant no harm to anyone, but when I saw someone I was atttracted to, my anxiety skyrocketed and my staring/glancing would get worse. To anyone I've made uncomfortable, I am sorry.

    These next two paragraphs are tangential, but they crept in my head while writing the above. I'd noticed some other things throughout the years.

    I am a tall, somewhat imposing man. Whenever babies see me, they'll stare at me a long while, and then they will laugh or cry. Nobody else I know has quite that same level of extremity with babies. I don't know why, but it does strike me as strange.

    I used to commute on the train, which was especially dark out in the winter, and one day I noticed that women would cross the street when it was just them and me on the sidewalk. I had to get pointers from my wife on how to stop terrifying women while walking to/from the train. Again, I am sorry. I was most likely freezing cold or melting hot, I was rushing as fast as I could walk, and you happened to be in my most direct route. Doubly sorry if you tried a subtle escape to another street and I ended up following you around a corner, gaining fast.

    8 votes
  6. NoblePath
    Link
    You know, I just caught myslef lingering too long on the figure and countenance of a young lady. I was enjoying it immensely-but I flashed, for the first time ever, on some of the reasons why and...

    You know, I just caught myslef lingering too long on the figure and countenance of a young lady. I was enjoying it immensely-but I flashed, for the first time ever, on some of the reasons why and how it is wrong. I am trying to take something that isn’t meant to be shared that way.

    The really salient thing, vis a vis this post, is that it also originates in trauma. I suffer from considerable trauma of mutille varieties. And i realize that I am trying to get what was denied to me when I was a child, or regain what has been taken.

    Human-ing is hard when most things are nurturing. When you add in extra trauma, things go so far awry. Here’s hoping healing is the near horizon

    4 votes
  7. FlippantGod
    Link
    I saw this thread with two comments, and wrote a response. I didn't post it because I assumed users here would mostly all have awkward eye contact stories. I assumed wrongly! Users who have shared...

    I saw this thread with two comments, and wrote a response. I didn't post it because I assumed users here would mostly all have awkward eye contact stories. I assumed wrongly! Users who have shared how they admire people in public, is this your first exposure to the idea that it can make people uncomfortable? Or, if you were on some level aware, what determines whether or not you gaze at someone? Have you been on the receiving end of an uncomfortable gaze?

    I guess I should share my story, as mundane as it is. One evening I was commuting by train with a single other passenger in the car. We sat at exact opposite corners, and I diligently avoided so much as looking at the other rider for over an hour. Apparently, we had the same stop, and getting up our eyes locked.

    I awkwardly averted my eyes and wondered if they thought I was staring, if they thought I was making a come on or something. And then my stomach sank and I wondered if they had been staring at me. I doubt it, and honestly at that distance it's really hard to say where exactly their eyes were looking. But the way my eyes seemed to snap to theirs felt physical.

    Then I got to awkwardly stand next to them waiting to get off, wondering if it was going to be one of those "oh this person is going the exact same route as me at night and it is just random happenstance but my lizard brain is not cool with it".

    4 votes
  8. [7]
    HotPants
    Link
    How do you feel about presenting/ talking in medium/ large groups?

    How do you feel about presenting/ talking in medium/ large groups?

    3 votes
    1. [6]
      beanie
      Link Parent
      Weirdly, I'm okay with that. It's usually in a professional environment and I'm there to convey information that people are (or should be) interested in (and if they aren't, they're twiddling...

      Weirdly, I'm okay with that. It's usually in a professional environment and I'm there to convey information that people are (or should be) interested in (and if they aren't, they're twiddling their thumbs or something). Also, since I'd be the speaker when presenting, I have the attention/ upper hand and can ask a person who I'd thought was staring weirdly if they had any questions or had something to add (put them on the spot, so to speak and have people stare at them weirdly to see how they like it). Also, I kinda view presenting as a performance, so in that case, I can be a performer (not myself).

      3 votes
      1. [5]
        HotPants
        Link Parent
        I asked because I knew someone much like that, wonderful at presentations, not into direct eye contact, and with an unusual cats-eyes way of looking at the world. I will confess to oogling with my...

        I asked because I knew someone much like that, wonderful at presentations, not into direct eye contact, and with an unusual cats-eyes way of looking at the world.

        I will confess to oogling with my googly eyes. I can´t seem to help it. It´s not a conscious action. I´m sorry for making people like you uncomfortable.

        3 votes
        1. [4]
          beanie
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I guess with this post my aim is to make people more conscious. I can say it's all trauma, but I don't think all of it comes from there tbh. Women have locker room talk too, we gossip. In many of...

          I guess with this post my aim is to make people more conscious. I can say it's all trauma, but I don't think all of it comes from there tbh.

          Women have locker room talk too, we gossip. In many of those sauna room chats, we talk about how it's uncomfortable when we get stared at in the gym. We've all come up with different ways to respond: some ignore, some make ugly faces, some where baggy clothes (me), some stop our workout completely to make it apparent that we see them, some directly address the issue, etc. Either way, it's something that is an interruption (even ignoring takes effort) and that takes away from the work out: we want to de-stress and have goals/ determinations too. And for those who think wearing specific type of clothing is asking for it, in those sauna chats, people say they wear those clothes to give them more confidence and they end up having a better work-out because of that confidence.

          Males are attractive too, there's a meme out there about grey sweatpants (oh, great heavens!), I actively and consciously try not invade other people's personal space by not looking at the bulge; penis' bounce when those with penis' run/ jog (just like breasts do)! I'm not out here ogling, licking my lips, staring, etc. The ogling does happen to men, there are people who talk about it on different platforms. I think it happens more to women. In either case, regardless of sex, it's uncomfortable and invasive.

          I think we all should become a little bit more conscious of our actions. Of course, there is the extreme which may lead to the path to social-anxiety where you question your every action or non-action. Just a little bit more conscious is fine imo.

          For me, when it comes to oglers in the form of "people watchers" (referencing @turnipostrophe and @Omnicrola), I feel like there are so many people who are out there who give permission to be watched (content makers in any platform, even authors in fiction/ non-fiction (I reference fiction because in @turnipostrophe, they are essentially fantasizing/ making up a persons past/ present/ future trajectory, so I think fiction is fair game), the porn industry, etc.). And in the case of giving permission to be watched, the person who gives permission is given some power back: they choose what you can see.

          I personally think the slightly weird part of people watching is the power dynamic: I want to watch you while going unnoticed and without consequence, I want to know more about you without you knowing more about me, I want to observe you and make whatever conclusions/ judgements about you without you getting a say... and there is nothing you could really do about it.

          8 votes
          1. [3]
            Eylrid
            Link Parent
            I think it's worth considering why staring feels uncomfortable in the first place. The reasons I can think of all boil down to security, or lack thereof*. We're afraid of what people will do...

            I think it's worth considering why staring feels uncomfortable in the first place. The reasons I can think of all boil down to security, or lack thereof*. We're afraid of what people will do because of what they see, which could be anything from being dismissive/rude to full assault, depending on the circumstances and people involved.

            When we feel safe and secure we don't mind people looking. Hence public speaking and performance being okay: It's a controlled environment. Or the saying "Dance like no one's watching." They're still watching, it just doesn't matter.

            So my question is what can we do to make other people feel more safe and secure?

            (*It's hard to use the word "insecurity" here without the connotations of it being a flaw on the part of the person feeling insecure, which I don't intend.)

            4 votes
            1. [2]
              beanie
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              I did mention that some of the discomfort comes from trauma in the post, hence not feeling safe and secure. The trauma: a family member used to watch me/ analyze me... then he fucked me, I was 9....

              I did mention that some of the discomfort comes from trauma in the post, hence not feeling safe and secure. The trauma: a family member used to watch me/ analyze me... then he fucked me, I was 9.

              I was also analyzed and watched on a job site, they waited until I was alone with them, and somehow disclosed they wished they met me before they met their wife and kissed me on my face.

              Pre-covid times of being watched in a club, me noticing being watched, saying "ugh/ ew/ wtf" as loud as possible to make the point that I'm not interested... well, that never worked, still decided to approach me and talk to me even with the countless declines.

              [Edit: Or the time I was doing yoga at the gym with a male yogi, a personal trainer that worked for the gym would look at me extensively (even though he had his own client to pay attention to). I made it apparent that I see him by stopping what I was doing and looking directly at him. The male yogi I was with noticed and asked the trainer "can we help you with something", he said "no" and finally looked away. That is, until my male yogi friend left the gym, the the trainer was back to ogling/ staring. For me: it's about power/ control. Needless to say, I cancelled my membership. This is also the main reason why I usually do group classes rather than work out by myself at the gym. I actively change my routine to make sure I'm most comfortable and away from ogles/ stares. And I'm tired of changing my routine. I work out outside at a park now, I won't dare do yoga there, I just run and and do low intensity work outs, there's a guy who doesn't do yoga, but just lays down on a yoga mat... staring, smiling, following me with his eyes. I'm sure one day he'll try and talk to me. I make sure I do my low intensity work outs out of his line of vision. And I noticed that the more I'm conscious about my surroundings, the less attention I have for noticing my form. The stares take away from the workout. It's an interruption.]

              The feeling of insecure (unsafe is the better term as you mentioned), comes from being sexualized and sexual assault. Having my consent withdrawn from me (which started from being watched - prey/preditor).

              Many years of therapy, prefer not to talk about it, it has been and will be something I struggle with and actively work on every day (including behavioral issues, substance abuse, relationship with food/ body (if I'm not attractive, they won't be interested, same goes for resting btch face), etc.).

              And, again, as I mentioned in previous responses, I can't say all my discomfort stems from here because others have disclosed their discomfort in being watched/ ogled/ glared at when doing physically strenuous activities (or just mundane activities).

              *caveat, I do find myself attractive and am pretty confident in safe spaces, I like the way I look and my personality. I just don't like being sexualized.

              2 votes
              1. Eylrid
                Link Parent
                I'm so sorry you went through/go through that. That's awful.

                I'm so sorry you went through/go through that. That's awful.

                1 vote