The left guide to Olympics hand-wringing: ‘Is it ok to leer at athletes?’


2:00 pm - August 3rd 2012

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contribution by Vanessa Pelz-Sharpe

Liberal Conspiracy is running a light-hearted series on Olympics-related topics that may or may not prompt some hand-wringing.

There is a part of me a pulsating, engorged part of me, that feels wonderfully at home with leering at athletes.

Each one of them is in peak physical condition. Their bodies are taut, smooth, rippling odes to physical perfection. When I listen to Ryan Lochte speak, I am reminded why I adore him most when he glides through the water, a sleek machine of brute strength.

For most of the year my crushes are more esoteric: James Deen, Ryan Adams, Paz de la Huerta. These people are beautiful, sure, but they are simply a refinement of your average person. That guy you’d meet at the pub, plus five points.

Olympians however, as Breaux Greer states: “Even if their face is a 7, their body is a 20.”

Of course they are out there on the court, pitch, track, or poolside, to be admired for their sport. They’re awe inspiring: geniuses with body parts I have no idea how to manipulate and for that alone I applaud them.

Every time I see someone who has given up their social life, cake, and any chance at a healthy relationship so that once every 4 years I can scream “Come on!” I tear up a little.

However I know little if anything about sport. I have no teams. I participate in nothing more than swimming lengths at my local pool and even that I do gracelessly and red faced.

When I watch the olympics I am lost in a sea of rippling musculature, something as an ‘educated’ woman I am supposed to be ‘better than’. I should fancy people for their wit and intellect not because their insanely cut quads.

So once every 4 years, let me enjoy this. Let me revel in the muscles that undulate across Danell Leyva’s back. Let me have this quiet, awestruck, moment before I have to return to my daily life, and my peers who’s faces are an 8 and who’s bodies are a 6 at best.


Vanessa blogs more regularly at Nightmares and Boners, and tweets from here.

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Reader comments


I had a lovely image when @hannahpool described the catwalk action the Men’s Gymnasts gave on monday, apparently muzak plays and everyone claps them on as they walk up to the mat/bars/vault in those jumpsuits and shorts. The physical perfection on display is about more than eye candy i know but i do view the world through a critical aesthetic gaze, can’t help it and for me it adds to my enjoyment. On a Saturday or Sunday whilst discussing the progress of Chelsea i’ll allow myself the odd #gratuitousStyleTweet, AVB was a gift. A gift i tell you. British rowers and cyclists being who they are there’s been little to ‘thirst’ over these last couple of days, the athletics couldn’t get here a day sooner.

There’s little wrong with aesthetic enjoyment of athletes, and it seems very much in the tradition of the Greeks, so perhaps especially appropriate at the Olympics.

Sadly, more often than not, it descends into either misogyny (http://www.metro.us/newyork/sports/article/1148979–what-if-every-olympic-sport-was-photographed-like-beach-volleyball) or misandry (http://itsjustahobby.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/a-quick-one-of-the-wrist/).

If you steer clear of those, enjoy away. You’d be daft not to.

3. Chaise Guevara

Quite right, Vanessa, why the hell shouldn’t you enjoy it?

And fair play to Sunny for posting this, as he’s normally one of the principle hand-wringers on the matter!

4. Paul Fisher

Oo – er, steady on! fan yourself down. lol

What you’ve descovered is you are a human being. It makes a nice change to hear this perspective. You’re not seeing them just as object’s, on the contrary you point out the sacrifices they’ve made to be there.

Now i must get back to the heptathlon. 🙂

I’m not sure this is actually funny, as opposed to a re-hash of the TubeCrush phenomenon, in which case I’m sure Ryan Lochte needn’t be worried that the author and thousands of other women and men are leering at him from their armchairs.

6. Chaise Guevara

@ 4 redpesto

“a rehash of the TubeCrush phenomenon”

Admitting you enjoy looking at an attractive person on the telly is one thing. Taking a surreptitious photo of that person, uploading it to the net without their permission and then encouraging strangers to rate their appearance is quite another. It’s the difference between passive appreciation and active harrassment. Not saying everyone who used TubeCrush was a creepy voyeur by any means, but you can totally understand why someone would be upset to find themselves up there.

7. Alisdair Cameron

“James Deen, Ryan Adams, Paz de la Huerta. These people are beautiful, sure, but they are simply a refinement of your average person. That guy you’d meet at the pub, plus five points.

Which fucking pub is that, then? C’mon, you’ve got to tell. Because if you added five points to the denizens of some of my local boozers, then they’d just about reach the level of Cro-Magnon man and woman.

@Chaise Guevara – I see your point, but then I resisted to temptation repost the article’s opening paras with Missy Franklin instead of Ryan Lochte on the basis of ‘see how far a male hand-wringing leftie can get away with it’.

Never mind though. Maybe the next article should be: ‘Dear Sunny – my friends really enjoyed the opening ceremony and the lighting of the Olympic flame, but I insisted on explaining how it contributed to global warming, which they all deny exists. Am I turning into Buzz Killington? Yours, Theresa Green.’

9. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 redpesto

“I see your point, but then I resisted to temptation repost the article’s opening paras with Missy Franklin instead of Ryan Lochte on the basis of ‘see how far a male hand-wringing leftie can get away with it’.”

Well, yes. And I do wonder why Sunny is suddenly all, um, liberal on this issue (to the point where he’s effectively posted this under the title “I Bet Someone Will Wring Their Hands Over This! So If You Disagree I Can Say You Proved My Point Ha Ha Ha!”), given his normal position on such issues. Actually, no I don’t, I came to the same conclusion as you.

Fair play to Vanessa nonetheless, though.

Barring things that are already illegal, there’s nothing it isn’t OK to do. There are no rules, really.

11. Shatterface

There is a part of me a pulsating, engorged part of me, that feels wonderfully at home with leering at athletes.

Do we really need to hear about your engorged parts?

Who you fancy is up to you. Personally I prefer women who drink pints and eat curry to those with the ascetic life of an athlete.

They really don’t look much fun to be around.

12. thinking about it

Personally I prefer women who drink pints and eat curry…

You perhaps, but the stinky wind of this woman would be quite hard work to endure.

13. Northern Worker

Beach volleyball ….. emmmm!

The Law of Unintended Consequences: Olympic Games ‘a disaster’ for London businesses
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19086415

16. Frances_coppola

Vanessa, you’re a woman. You’re designed to leer at well-muscled hunks. Tell the “educated” part of you to shut up and enjoy the view.

Also, since they’re athletes they’ll be far, far more interesting to talk to than the usual toned-to-fuck but completely vapid gym bunny. Though probably less interesting to talk to than Brian Cox.

18. Charlieman

Has anyone else observed American Neck Phenomenon? It is where the subject has a neck of equal width to the head; in a face-on photograph, it means there is a parallel sided projection above the shoulders, with only the ears sticking out.

I described it as American Neck Phenomenon because I have also observed it in non-athletes: have a look a Mark Zuckerberg for a geek example. Most Formula One drivers suffer from American Neck Phenomenon, but that is a consequence of what they do.

I’m sure I’ll get over it.

19. Charlieman

@16. Cylux: “Though probably less interesting to talk to than Brian Cox.”

As a Lancastrian (with a soft accent), I love the the way that Brian Cox talks in open vowels. You know, more or less, that he is from the North and if you are unsure, he’ll deliver a Mancunian give away to put you right. Of course, it doesn’t mean that Cox is talking sense but he is working within the constraints of broadcasting.

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 18 Charlieman

I completely failed to pay attention during the more technical linguistic parts of my degree, so (re)educate me here: what do open vowels signify in terms of English accents? Specially, when you say he uses open vowels, do you mean he speaks Mancunian or RP?

21. Charlieman

@19. Chaise Guevara: “I completely failed to pay attention during the more technical linguistic parts of my degree…”

It has been observed in the past.

We should talk about it in the morning.

22. Chaise Guevara

@ 20

Charmed, I’m sure.

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 20 again

In fact, what on Earth does that mean? Because I’m pretty sure I’ve never entered into a debate about linguistics in a technical sense, here or elsewhere. I’ve discussed linguistics in a less technical sense, sure. Like saying that etymology doesn’t automatically trump current usage. But that’s about it.

So all I’m seeing here is me asking you a friendly and honest question, and getting an arsey and randomly insulting response that ignores the question I asked in the first place. For some reason, I get the feeling that whatever will be discussed in the morning will not be worth listening to. I suspect it will be along the lines of “Ha, you have long since shown your ignorance of the great vowel shift as it reflect modern politics! Cower before my esoteric expertise, brief mortal!”

24. Charlieman

@22. Chaise Guevara:

Please don’t blow off, Chaise. Apologies about the abruptness of my former comment; it was intended as a jovial remark, not as a shutdown. To follow it up in the morning was an honest offer.

Not just us chaps then? Jolly good. Carry on.

Leering: ok. Articles about leering: no thank you.

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 Charlieman

Fine, follow it up, then. Although FYI I probably won’t be able to read it for a day or so, off visiting friends in a bit.

Leering? The London 2012 Olympics are the most gender-equal games ever:

AT THE flamboyant Olympic opening ceremony on July 27th, Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee declared the London games a “major boost for gender equality”. For the first time all sports are open to women and all national teams include female athletes—Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had never sent women before. Women make up 44% of competing athletes, the highest share ever; in the American and Canadian teams they outnumber men.
http://www.economist.com/node/21559924

How does this work then? Leering at secondary sexual characteristics is OK on TV but not in a newspaper?

Or only if done occassionally? Or only if women are at men?

My own belief is that given the interest that humanity has traditionally shown in the whole subject of sex then it’s fine generally. It’s simply part of what makes up human nature.

But there are those around who do distinguish: so what is that distinction?

Between, say, Page 3 and swimmers?

I could listen to Brian Cox forever, but i don’t mind Bradley Wiggins, he likes vodkas and tonics!

I watched the women’s triathlon today, what I say is they are very fit – both meanings of the word raar

They are much better eye candy than anorexic models or the average overweight, unfit woman waddling down the street. You don’t need to be of Olymyian fitness levels, just look after your body properly.

Lynne: “I could listen to Brian Cox forever”

The actor and SNP activist?

Bob B (@28):

For the first time all sports are open to women and all national teams include female athletes—Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had never sent women before. Women make up 44% of competing athletes, the highest share ever; in the American and Canadian teams they outnumber men.

There are also more women than men in the North Korean, Russian and Chinese squads. Somehow I’m not getting a clear correlation between democracy and gender balance, especially as Barbados didn’t send any women at all and Bhutan didn’t send any men.

Olympic athletes are examples of magnificent physiques so it is not surprising that Vanessa drools over the males but female Olympians are leaner than traditional male views of optimal female sexual physiques.
OK, if she wants to leer at athletes what harm does it do (unless she has a partner with a heart condition who dies when trying to replicate an Olympian’s physique)?

IMO this celebration of sporting prowess is taking on the dimensions previously associated with totalitarian regimes – eg Nazi Germany and the 1936 Olympics, the ascendancy of the erstwhile GDR in the medals league table and the 1980 Moscow Olympics. It’s curious how totalitarian regimes like to sponsor sports and film industries. No wonder Britain’s historic achievements in science were dropped from the opening ceremony of the London Olympics – very likely in case some benighted journo recalled this news report from a couple of years ago:

UK science funding bodies have learned that they will have to absorb cuts of 41% to their capital expenditure.

This capital expenditure is money spent on building, maintainance or equipment.

These cuts are on top of the 10% real terms cut announced by the Chancellor George Osborne during the spending review in October.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12021483

Objectification is reducing the person being looked at to an object without any reference to or acknowledgement of them as a human being rather than a thing.

The appreciation you describe of the physique of an Olympic athlete isn’t objectification; you are appreciating the human form on the context of achievement and dedication. No hand-wringing required in my opinion.

(That might help to answer Tim’s question in comment 29 as well).

@ChaiseGuevara:

You know how I was saying about leftie men being told it’s not okay for them to ogle? Well, here’s Vagenda arguing that it’s okay when women do it, but not when men do. Sample quote:

But there is a line between admiration – oh boy, let’s call it plain fancying! – and objectification.

In this case, it’s ‘plain fancying’ when the Vagenda team do it or approve of it; but ‘objectification’ when either heterosexual men do it or when the Vagenda team disapprove.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 37 redpesto

It’s truly pathetic, that line of reasoning: not only do these people tend to assume that “skimpy clothing = objectification = wrong” is a moral given, they then tie themselves in knots trying to justify their sexual pleasures while demonising others’. Male sexuality is perverted and oppressive, female sexuality is daring and empowering, blah blah blah blah blah.

That article’s bizarre. At some point it says that, while some women like to be told they’re hot: “some feel intimidated or offended if you whistle or leer or publicly look at pictures of them in degrading positions and generally make them feel like an object”. Publically look at pictures of them in degrading positions? Are we talking about a woman who poses for a pornographic magazine, then finds herself on a train opposite a guy who is reading that magazine? No, I think she means “publically looking at pictures of other women in a degrading position”. This is followed by a full-caps rant informing us that different women are separate beings… I think the only person who needs to be informed of that is our author!

So by her logic, our OP must offend and intimidate some men because the woman who wrote it admits she likes looking at some other men. I’m not offended, and I don’t particularly want to write policy based on people who are.

Lol. I certainly enjoyed the sight of Jessica Ennis’ butt racing down the 400m track. I think you’d have to be a blind, soulless, unappreciative puritan to say any other.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Christopher Bartlett

    The left guide to Olympics hand-wringing: ‘Is it ok to leer at athletes?’ | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ByRkUhVL via @libcon

  2. Philip Marsh

    Is it ok to leer at Olympics athletes? Lefty hand-wringing addressed, by @sarcastathon – http://t.co/pJYsSE5J (via @sunny_hundal)

  3. Dave Harris

    Yes. ish. RT @sunny_hundal Is it ok to leer at Olympics athletes? Lefty hand-wringing addressed, by @sarcastathon – http://t.co/AF0ZtIz9

  4. Sir Alastair 2Mac

    RT @sunny_hundal: Is it ok to leer at Olympics athletes? Lefty hand-wringing addressed, by @sarcastathon – http://t.co/dDgWvFm1

  5. Finchampstead Boy

    RT @sunny_hundal: Is it ok to leer at Olympics athletes? Lefty hand-wringing addressed, by @sarcastathon – http://t.co/dDgWvFm1

  6. Colin-Roy Hunter

    The left guide to Olympics hand-wringing: ‘Is it ok to leer at athletes?’ – Tongue in cheek perhaps! %D http://t.co/BGJjrSuQ via @libcon

  7. sunny hundal

    Is it ok to leer at Olympics athletes? Lefty hand-wringing addressed, by @sarcastathon – http://t.co/XU5fFJTH

  8. Rachel Clarke

    YES THIS THIS RT@sunny_hundal: Is it ok to leer at Olympics athletes? Lefty hand-wringing addressed, by @sarcastathon – http://t.co/oFsnq64H

  9. Summer Teh

    The left guide to Olympics hand-wringing: ‘Is it ok to leer at athletes?’ | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/DtozEjEi via @libcon

  10. Miss Petal

    Is it ok to leer at Olympics athletes? Lefty hand-wringing addressed, by @sarcastathon – http://t.co/XU5fFJTH

  11. Nicolas Chinardet

    #sporno RT @sunny_hundal: Is it ok to leer at Olympics athletes? Lefty hand-wringing addressed, by @sarcastathon – http://t.co/kXybTPJE

  12. Jamie

    The left guide to Olympics hand-wringing: ‘Is it ok to leer at athletes?’ http://t.co/yLQ3YQt7

  13. Spirit of 1976

    The left guide to Olympics hand-wringing: ‘Is it ok to leer at athletes?’ | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/YsZyqVVN via @libcon

  14. Dan Karran

    Is it ok to leer at Olympics athletes? Lefty hand-wringing addressed, by @sarcastathon – http://t.co/XU5fFJTH

  15. BevR

    The left guide to Olympics hand-wringing: ‘Is it ok to leer at athletes?’ | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/90sbcAHY via @libcon





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