The XX Factor

Readers Respond to “A Dandy’s Guide to Girl Watching”

Troy Patterson’s piece, ” A Dandy’s Guide to Girl Watching ,” went up on Thursday morning before 9am. By the end of the work day, there were 140 comments on Troy’s ode to sidewalk gazing, and at this point it is DoubleX ’s most commented article ever.

The very first reader response alluded to rape, which provoked a flurry of responses. “[I]t may seem extreme, but when a guy checks a girl out … there’s a place in the back of her mind that worries about … the potential for sexual assault,” commenter Psychprof wrote. SomeGuy countered, writing, “just because I look at an attractive female, it doesn’t mean I want to rape her,” a sentiment backed up by RCWilliams , who argued that, though it is wrong to make someone feel uncomfortable, “an appreciative look” that “lingers a bit too long for comfort” is “a gaffe, not an assault.” Humward agreed, saying “we too often fail to even try to differentiate between a man (a) looking briefly and appreciatively at an attractive woman and (b) a man leering, groping, or even raping her.”

A number of commenters said that while they heartily approve of a certain variety of subtle, discreet, visual appreciation, they believe there are important boundaries. As Stevedl26 wrote, “girlwatching should not be overt in order specifically to avoid giving offense. No leering, wolf-whistles, or other such unseemly behavior.”

The most heartfelt reactions came from DoubleX ’s female readers. Many found the article to be creepy and unsettling at best, and disrespectful and degrading at worst. P. Starling fumed, “We are TIRED of your shit, okay? We don’t take it as a compliment,” though she ultimately conceded that “premeditated objectification and the occasional “Wow!” are different, and I know that.”

Some readers felt betrayed at the article’s being placed on DoubleX at all: “So much for ‘what women really think.’ Instead, his piece is more like shouting at the women readers of the site: ‘Hey you *girls* (not women) … You think your mind and your heart matter? They don’t. All that matters is whether I think you have great tits,” wrote bumblebee611 .

But many women were pro-Patterson and fans of gawking more generally, like freefall127 , who wrote, “i’m sure plenty of ladies will disagree on this point but for myself, i find some pleasure in making an old man smile simply because i’m a girl and have the power to brighten his life … i don’t feel like I’m less respected for it and i don’t see anything nasty in it either.” Kate-M wanted everyone to know, “Guess what-I’m a gawker. I totally check out guys. And I’m kind of obvious about it too.”

The last word comes from reader GeeM , who suggests the following “punishment” for Troy: He should be made “to put on his tightest T-shirt, or shorts, or whatever he thinks will turn heads, and see how he fares as ‘the watched.’ ”

Photograph by Getty Images.