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Gazing, voyeurism

Posted at 22:08 on 29 Apr 2011 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: Female gaze, Jacq, kink, meta-analysis, Thomas Cameron

Last summer Tom and I finally got the change to take to bed a good friend we'd been courting for some time. The young lady tells me she'd like to be known here as Jacqueline - and yes, she's the same girl who recently inspired me to top a lover for the first time. This is the first half of that story.

I first kissed her after midnight in the garden of a London nightclub. She has red or purple hair and soft curves, a calm sense of competence and pragmatism, and she laughs easily and often.

She and I revealed our mutual attraction to each other early on, but our flirtation stalled on the knowledge that she was deeply, unequivocably submissive; and I was moving on from my tendency to date other subs, and starting to seek out dommes and switches. She and I spent a pleasant night together, but I couldn't help feeling that things would be more satisfying for both of us with a top in the bed.

I'm perfectly capable of enjoying non-kinky sex with other women, but I can so clearly perceive Jacqueline's yearning to be dominated that it's frustrating not being able to fulfil it. Pleasing my lovers is one if my biggest turn-ons, and if introducing a third party was the best way to please Jacq, that was something I was more than happy to arrange. Besides, I knew Tom fancied her, and there are few sights more sexy than watching two of my lovers get it on.

I liked the idea of inviting Tom to join us, but it took us a while (her included) to work out whether it also appealed to her.

Happily, it did.

I only have fragmented memories of that evening. Jacqueline and I on our knees, side by side with our elbows resting on the wooden headboard of Tom's bed. Her jeans slipping down to reveal purple lacy knickers and a beautifully pale, round arse. Her minimal responses, indrawn breaths, tiny noises at the back of her throat, contrasted with my own articulately vocal reactions. Tom and I had only just moved house; we hadn't spent much time together and I hadn't been spanked much recently. I felt every stroke acutely. Jacq hadn't played properly for years, and I sensed in her a hunger that reflected the depths of my own submission. I focussed on her experience, her sensations, my own an afterthought. She didn't make much noise but she obeyed every command readily. Her submission throws down a quiet, steady challenge. Call yourself a dom? Bring it. Can you win me over, break me down and put me back together? Can you go as deep as I can? I dare you to try.

The most memorable aspect of the evening for both she and I was when Tom and I, teaming up, laid her on her back with her legs spread. Often in threesomes we find ourselves playing a kinky version of "good cop, bad cop"; he torments while I comfort. With Jacq, my desire for her fed into her own desire to be dominated, and even on that first night I found myself rising to her challenge. Her hands were either bound to the headboard or she was instructed to keep them there. I found myself, sadistically, murmuring to Tom that I didn't believe she'd ever felt the switch on her inner thighs. My headspace was divided in two: partly, I imagined myself in her position, thought about what I'd want/not want, what would make the most intense experience for me. And partly, I very much wanted to see her pretty thighs whipped.

Tom instructed her to stay silent. And, bless her, she did, although the switching gained in intensity until she was vividly marked. I looked on all the while, soothing her, holding and kissing her hands - but watching with hunger as red lines blossomed against white flesh, and she struggled against the pain.

I wouldn't have suggested it if I didn't know she could take it. Nor would I have suggested if it I wasn't reasonably confident she would enjoy it - if not the sensations, then the experience of submitting to them. Later, talking about that scene, she mentioned that the switching in itself wouldn't have done a great deal for her, although she could endure the pain - but that instruction to remain silent embodied the sort of power play which affects her most deeply. For her, that was the most intense part of the night.

I found myself thinking back to this evening when I was reading MayMay's excellent article, Breaking Pornographys Fourth Wall: Erotic Satisfaction as a Function of Gaze. In it, he breaks down the concept of "gaze" not only into male vs female, but into objectifying vs embodying. As a queer/bisexual woman, I'm well versed in the complications of gendered gaze. My gaze is definitely female, but I look with desire at women as well as men. It got me thinking, if on the embodiment/objectification spectrum homo-gazing is identifying with the person you're watching, and hetero-gazing is imagining you're with the person you're watching (i.e. doing things to them/responsible for their experience), what would bi-gazing be?

Watching Jacqueline submitting to Tom, I found myself occupying the same mental space as when I watch submissive women in porn. Simultaneously, I imagine myself in their place, and watch events unfold as an appreciative - and often sadistic - voyeur.

When I'm being a voyeur in real life, as with Jacq, my enjoyment of what I'm watching is predicated in empathy. I believe that the person I'm watching is enjoying their experience - this is essential - and because I enjoy the same sort of experience, I can engage with theirs more closely. But I'm not really imagining being them, when I'm with a real person. I'm very much occupying an external viewpoint: enjoying participating in their experience, watching their reactions, appreciating the appearance of their body.

This is pretty much exactly the same as my enjoyment of submissive men in porn. My empathy with a sub man has that thrill of the different, that mental leap as you imagine the experience of the other - but gender isn't the only form of otherness. I have the same leap when trying to imagine the experience of a dominant woman, or a monosexual person, or someone who does not share my kinks.

Since I'm bisexual, I can 'hetero-gaze' people of either gender that I happen to find attractive. For most of my kinky life I've not identified as a switch, so I've mostly only 'homo-gazed' submissives and bottoms. However, I do have a mode of engagement with other submissives which isn't imagining myself in their skin, but simply in the scene; sadistically enjoying their suffering (hetero-gazing) because I can empathise with them enough to trust that they are enjoying it (homo-gazing). Does this mode, perhaps, fall into the 'bi-gazing' category; or would I need to be a true switch? If bisexual/bigendered gazing is the ability to desire either gender, is the other 'bi-gazing' the ability to either objectify or embody, depending on context?

As I've recently expanded my kink and confidence to include the occasional topping experience - and I hope there'll be more of that in time - this mode of simultaneous objectification and embodiment has blurred into my toppy impulse. My inner sadistic voyeur has stepped forward to become a sadistic, but still empathic, agent.

When I'm fantasising, sometimes I imagine myself in the position of the spankee, bound, dangling, helpless. But sometimes I imagine a spanking happening to someone else. I see the legs kicking, the reddening curve of the bare bottom, the hairbrush falling again and again. As I sat for the first time with Jacq over my knee, it occurred to me that the gaze in those fantasies of watching a spanking take place are not, necessarily, taking place from the perspective of a voyeur. It's possible that I am imagining myself into the position of the top. It's an exciting prospect: it opens my kink in a new direction, gives me a grounding upon which I can base a new switch identity. And yet, even from the point of view of the spanker, the appeal of those fantasies is always in my identification with the victim, imagining and empathising with their experience. That tendency towards embodiment is something I can't seem to avoid, regardless of whether I'm casting myself as spanker or spankee.


Great description of your threesome experience, for want of a better word. You had all the good words!

I think we all have a 'bisexual gaze' to be honest. I think if people were really totally honest about how they look at others, and porn, etc, they would admit to sometimes identifying with the 'model' putting themselves in their position, and sometimes being the 'voyeur' and imagining acting on/with the model. And, I think they'd admit they did this with people of all/both genders.

I can't prove this belief as people will never be THAT honest but I hold it all the same!

I'm a little wary of projecting my own experience onto others. As a bisexual, it's easy to believe that everyone's at least a little bit bisexual, or would be if they hadn't been broken by society - but I'm not sure this is fair. Intellectually rather than intuitively, it seems more likely to me that sexuality is a spectrum; that monosexual people might be rare but they probably do exist; and that it's just as inappropriate to try to look for a reason why someone might have ended up monosexual as it is to look for a reason why someone's kinky, or gay. When it comes down to it I do actually believe that the full range of human sexuality is "normal", and not just the bit that I fall into.

That said, I take your point that there's more complexity and variety in the way people gaze than is catered to by the porn industry, on average, or than most people are probably aware of.

I wonder if there's a mode of enjoying watching a scenario without necessarily wishing oneself either into the top or bottom's perspective - a "voyeur" mode, perhaps? But my own voyeurism tends to be either embodying or objectifying, and even if you were watching a scene without wishing oneself into the position of either party, I'd be inclined to put it into the "empathic objectification" category. Tricky to articulate exactly why though - and of course not all gazing is straightforwardly or simply objectifying or embodying.


I'm reminded by this post of how eloquent you are and why I'm such a fan of you and your blog. You have quite a remarkable mind and a very interesting take on things. This question of gaze and voyeurism/identification is something I've given a lot of thought to for myself, if not in this particular terminology. As a sadist and a sensitive person, I can't help but be intimately involved with the reactions and emotions of a woman under corporal punishment, although I don't identify with her per se. And although I'm 99% hetero, I have been aroused before at seeing cp scenes in mainstream movies with a man receiving. In those cases I'm not attracted to the man and I don't identify with him. There's just something about seeing someone deal with pain... That's probably the most consistently predictable aspect of my fetish.

Very interesting stuff. I've got more thinking to do!

Best Regards,

I wonder if there's a mode of enjoying watching a scenario without necessarily wishing oneself either into the top or bottom's perspective - a "voyeur" mode, perhaps? But my own voyeurism tends to be either embodying or objectifying, and even if you were watching a scene without wishing oneself into the position of either party, I'd be inclined to put it into the "empathic objectification" category. Tricky to articulate exactly why though - and of course not all gazing is straightforwardly or simply objectifying or embodying.

Spankings of the Week...

Blogger has been deleting blogs again - at least Fesseur's great French blog and Crankyspanker have been the victims this time. Crankyspanker is back at his own domain, though! Intense I really like this series Bedtime Pretty girls spanked Not as k...

Missed this post with all the travelling, but I'm very glad to come back and find it!

I *really* like the distinction between the objectifying and the embodying gaze. It very neatly dispatches the insinuation that all porn is inherently objectifying, and - if you happen to be a porn-maker - leaves you with a challenge of how to gently push the viewer towards an embodying experience. I would argue that in BDSM porn in particular empathic viewing is going to be much more satisfying.

[perv] May I suggest more field research while you determine the nature and direction of your own gaze? [/perv]

Ah, but you're talking as if an embodying gaze is somehow more valid or moral than an objectifying gaze; and as if objectifying gazes can't be empathic. I disagree. The distinction seems to me not to refer to whether or not you appreciate the personhood of the individual you're watching, but to whether you'd rather be in their position, or in the position of their partner in the scenario. So any top who is aroused by watching a bottom is probably looking with an objectifying gaze, but that doesn't mean they can't be doing so in a human, compassionate or empathic way. It just means they'd rather be the giver of that experience than the receiver.

I do agree though that there isn't enough embodying porn in general, and there absolutely isn't enough embodying porn of women or male bottoms. But that's a general complaint of porn - that it doesn't have the narrative context or richness of personality or intimacy which I need to engage with a scenario. It goes without saying that many people need that sort of context in order to watch it with an embodying gaze - but actually, I find it offputting when I'm watching with an objectifying gaze too. If I'm imagining doing something to/with someone, I want to feel as if I've got at least some sort of access to who they are and what they like, otherwise it's pure fiction. Which is fine if it's well-crafted fiction, but so little porn is!

I like to get my inspiration from really meaningful phrases said by truly great people like “One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another”, do you know where I can find thematic compiltaions of those?


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