Desire enters at the eye. I've said that before, but it's something that bears repeating. Desire begins with what we see. Desire enters at the eye, and what we see becomes part of the stories we tell ourselves.
There's an argument out there about whether it's true that males are the visual sex, the sex that wants to see more than know. That's not an argument about brain wiring, of course--- or not really. It's an argument about why males want to look at the female body, an argument about porn, about power and the Male Gaze, and about something else as well. There are female writers who argue that women are no less visual than men, that female sexuality responds to the eye at least as much as males. That's an argument about why men should recognise that, yes, they're being rejected because of their looks and bodies and why they shouldn't think that women don't look at bodies the same way men do. It's part of the envenomed argument out there in the blog world about "friendzoning" and "Nice Guys". That's an argument that's depressing enough for anyone male to hear, and of course it's one that leaves me well aware that I can't live up to any possible standards of male attractiveness. It's an argument that induces anger and bitterness on all sides within moments, and it's one that I want to stay away from.
What I do know is that I can lose myself in what I see. I have sat on subways long past my stop just to look at a pair of long, slender legs in a summer dress. I've seen lovely girls in short shorts crossing the campus quad and realised ten minutes later that I'd followed along halfway across campus. I've looked up and found myself in some classroom building I'd never seen before or at a subway stop on the other side of the city. I'd never have spoken to the girls--- I'm not sure I'd have known what to say. I certainly tried--- I hope I tried successfully ---to look without being obvious or even noticed. Be very clear: I couldn't have spoken to the girls, and I'd have been nonplussed if any of them had ever spoken to me. I didn't want to pick anyone up, or make anyone an offer. I was losing myself in what I saw, in the idea of physical beauty, in the stories I'd be creating about the girls. Be clear, too: I wasn't telling stories in my head about having sex with them. The stories were more about the girls in something like fashion photography, about them posed at cafe tables or on street corners or the library steps. It was all far more Stockholm Street Style or Babes At The Museum than overtly sexual. Nonetheless...I would lose myself in looking at beauty, even if I knew I'd never approach any of the girls.
It's something one does in spring and summer--- drift through urban streets amidst passing beauty. There are rules about it, of course. One looks briefly in passing. No eye contact, or at most a half-second glance over one's sunglasses. No holding eye contact. One never speaks, never tries to actually approach anyone. Keep moving, of course, threading your way forward through crowds. I can laugh about losing myself over a girl on a street or in a museum, but it has happened. A complete dissociation from whatever I was originally doing and just sighing over a lovely figure passing by.
There is a tribute one pays grace and beauty and style and youth. One does lose oneself in passing beauty. It has to remain abstract, though. Never speak, never call attention to yourself as an observer. There's a long and ultimately meaningless argument as to whether lovely girls on summer streets dress to be noticed, to assert their own beauty and allure. Whatever the answer to that may be, one never speaks, one never holds a gaze. Admire in passing, but it has to be only in passing.
Pay tribute to youth and beauty and grace and style. Let desire enter at the eye, and create a world of stories from what you see. Remember, though, that losing oneself in beauty is about admiration and tribute, not about flesh itself. Desire enters at the eye, and we create stories based on what we've seen, on how we fit what we see into dreams and tales. Holding the glance, speaking, being seen too obviously to look--- no. Never those things.
We move through a world where beauty and grace pass by--- other ships on the horizon, ghostly islands seen once at a distance. There's only the briefest time to look. Look--- and then dream. You'll never exchange signals or try to land--- accept that. Understand that it's necessary that you pass by in silence. What enters at the eye is turned into memories and stories. But don't ruin the ghostliness, the abstract admiration, the melancholy of passing on. Don't lose those things.