I am 43 (my husband is 44) and we live in Boise, Idaho.
Something happened the other day for the first time in my 7 month marriage that has caused me great distress.
My husband and I were sitting in the car picking my daughter up from school and a woman walked out. My husband watched her walk out of the school. When I looked at him, he looked away. Then when I glanced away, he looked at her again and watched her walk away.
He is definitely a people-watcher and I have noticed him glance at attractive women before. This doesn't bother me at all. But there was something about this that struck me as more than a passing glance.
I asked him later about it and he said, "Boy, you don't miss a thing." So, I asked him to tell me what it was about and he said, "I don't know that a woman would be able to understand but it has something to do with all men having a natural base-instinct to be drawn to the feminine."
Further discussion revealed that among the thoughts running through his head were, "I wonder what she looks like naked."
This was such a surprise to me. To me, wondering what people look like naked seems like it is invading people's privacy--ogling. Also, it feels like a form of betrayal to me and our commitment. It makes me wonder, "Does he think that about women all the time?" And more importantly, "What does it mean?"
Additional dialogue indicated that he pictures men and women naked often. He claims it is just wondering "what their story is." I was very disturbed to
know that he has wondered what my friends look like naked , as well as my adult daughter who is in her mid-twenties. He said he has also wondered
about couples and how they have sex with each other.
He insists wondering what a woman looks like naked is as innocent as wondering what color her hair is – and there was no lust or "impure thoughts."
So, Dr. Saltzman, please tell me, if you can, is it in the scope of the "normal" wandering eye or people watching to picture a woman (or man) naked?
I am enjoying reading your letters and responses on your website,
and I am sincerely hoping for a response from you.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Thanks for your kind comments about my website.
Your question is one particular case of a general problem which is at the heart of many marriage and relationship difficulties. This problem is the pain and misunderstanding caused by the vast differences between female sexuality and male sexuality. As I explained in my reply to a woman who had three-way sex with her husband and another woman, and now regrets it, these differences developed in the human brain and body over countless eons of gradual evolution. I will quote from that "ask dr. robert" here:
Although many people try to make sexual behavior be about "love," it really is not; sexual behavior is the expression a deeply programmed instinctual drive which is common, in one form or another, not only to the higher animals such as dogs, gorillas, and humans, but to all but the very simplest plants and animals. If you understand this, then you should be able to understand that your husband, when he had sex with your friend, was just acting on this instinctual programming, which in the male--not just in men, but in the male members of many species--takes this form: "have sex with as many fertile females as possible."
The males of many species have ended up with this kind of programming as a result of eons of evolution during which those males who had genes for polygamy spread more of their seed, and spread it more widely, than those who tended to be more monogamous. Therefore, more individuals in each subsequent generation had the genes which favored polygamy. As this was repeated, and repeated, and repeated, a kind of filtering or sifting took place, slowly eliminating the male genes for monogamy, and slowly promoting the male genes for interest in any available female.
The situation for females is very different--almost opposite in fact. Since she can bear only one child at a time, a woman has, unlike the man, no genetic interest in having multiple lovers. In fact, her genetic interest is better served by getting one man who can not only impregnate her, but also stay by her side to provide for and protect her and her baby, thus helping to ensure survival of her genetic material into subsequent generations. And so, just as the genes for monogamy were slowly sifted out of the male population, the genes for polygamy were slowly sifted out of the female population.
This is the most basic difference between males and females, and must be understood by anyone who wants to get a feel for human sexuality and its complications.
Please understand that in sketching out these basic male-female sexual differences so broadly, some of the finer points are obscured. I have not even begun to address homosexuality, for example, or to discuss those men and women who are not particularly interested in sex. But the general schema cannot be denied. If you do grasp this profound difference between male and female sexual instinct, then you will see that your husband's interest in bodies, particularly female bodies, is not a particular problem of his. In fact, it is not a "problem" at all, but simply one possible expression of the most central and deeply ingrained feature of the unadorned male sexual program--copulation often and with varied nubile partners. When I say "unadorned," I mean accurate, truthful, actual, as it really is.
This is not to say that all men are driven to picture women naked, or "undress them with their eyes," as this is often put, but rather that this "ogling," as you call it, is one of the many ways (along with sexual fantasy, frequent masturbation, liking to touch women, smell them, flirt with them, etc.) by which the male drive is manifested short of actual sexual contact. And, even though you feel your husband's interest in women as a personal affront like a kind of betrayal, there is nothing personal about any of this. That men are driven to notice and desire women's bodies is simply part of Great Nature, and as the ancient Greek proverb went, "You can throw Nature out with a pitchfork, but she will always come back again."
In other words, your husband has not chosen to stare at women and to wonder about their breasts and genitalia. He never decided to have that interest, and he cannot decide not to have it. All this is simply the work of "Mother Nature" who endowed the male of the species with a rather diffuse, unfocused, and indiscriminate sexual interest so that superior genetic material (that which favors survival and procreation) might spread as widely as possible into each subsequent generation. Although I speak of "Mother Nature," and say that "she" did something "so that" certain genetic material could spread, all that is just metaphor. This process is completely automatic: no one chose it, no one arranged it, no one designed it, no one carried it out.
Now, as I said at the outset, your unease about your husband's obvious interest in young women's bodies is just one particular case of the kind of relationship difficulties generally occasioned by the great gulf between male and female sexuality. In this particular case among many, you fear that your husband's obvious fascination with (forgive the phrase, but it is apt) tits and ass implies a betrayal of you and your "commitment," but, in my view, you are mistaken. That fear is based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of his "roving eye" which arises from assessing your husband's sexual interests from your own point of view--the point of view of a woman--instead of understanding it from the male point of view, the point of view, that is, of the one who has the roving eye.
If a woman begins to find other men compellingly attractive, she usually assumes that something is wrong with the relationship she has with her present man. But for a man, this is not at all how it is. From his point of view, this absorbing interest in young, nubile women feels normal and natural, and says nothing to him about how he feels towards his own woman. In fact, this interest, this fascination with female anatomy, is entirely natural to most men, and is, as I said, not a choice, not a decision, not a preference, but rather a genetically driven agenda which was present in potential at birth, and which lasts a lifetime.
Just as most men cannot understand the psychology of their wives or girlfriends, you are misunderstanding the innate psychology of your husband, a human male endowed with an urgent, compelling, and irresistible desire to know what is under an attractive woman's clothes--every attractive woman. Since men have learned, early in life for the most part, that women will neither understand nor appreciate their sexual psychology, they have developed ways of dissembling--of hiding or denying their interest in women in general--and, in order to keep the peace with wives and girlfriends, they use those ways, particularly when confronted directly. This is what your husband is doing when he tells you that "there was no lust or 'impure thoughts.'" Right, and if you believe that, I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you cheap!
But if he would come clean about how easily his head turns when an attractive women walks by, and about how wonderful it would be if suddenly her clothes would simply disappear, or if somehow he could develop x-ray vision, or perhaps even if he somehow could have sex with her without hurting you or jeopardizing your marriage, he probably would also tell you that he was forced to lie because, if he had tried complete honesty, you would not have been able to comprehend that he intended no disrespect for you at all but was simply trying to let you in on his deeper nature as a human animal. If he could speak honestly, he would tell you that he likes to look--in fact for him girl watching might be a kind of favorite hobby--but knows that he must not go further. Indeed, that is the contract he made when he married you, to give up part of his unadorned innate sexuality in favor of monogamy--and it is made at no small cost to the man, the cost of having to control his powerfully compelling sexual instincts--so that he might enjoy the intimacy, friendship, and security that a good marriage can provide.
Although I doubt that you will ever really understand male sexuality--you would need a male brain, testicles, and lots of testosterone in your bloodstream to do that--you may be able to understand what I am trying to put forth here: when it comes to sex, men and women are very far apart and always will be.
Therefore, my advice to you is this: give your guy a break. As long as he is faithful to you physically, and as long as he treats you kindly and gently, in my view you are doing just fine.
Thank you for your timely and thorough response.
Your response has lead to some honest, frank and productive discussion between my husband and me.
We have reached new levels of understanding and intimacy as a result!
All the best,
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