In Defense of Ogling Women

The big story coming out of the BCS national championship game (aside from Bama = Awesome, Notre Dame = Overrated, again) was Brent Musburger’s admiration of A.J. McCarron’s beauty-queen girlfriend.

Here’s the Miss Alabama in question, Katherine Webb, at the game:

And here’s Musburger’s reaction:

Or something like that.

In the first wave of online commentary, people said that Musburger’s comments were somehow beyond the pale. ESPN even felt the need to apologize for the fact that Musburger is 73 years old and still has the temerity to point out that a 23-year-old girlfriend of a college quarterback is attractive.

That seems to be the template that the culture wants to fit around interactions like this between men and women: Men are creepy and lecherous, and they can barely constrain themselves from taking unfair advantage of women at every turn. If Musburger had been just a little younger, he probably would’ve leapt from the press box onto Webb and started licking her face while other men in the crowd cheered him on. And it’s up to vigilant warriors of virtue like the ESPN PR department (Ha!) to issue the proper apologies and keep men’s baser instincts in line.

Well, if anyone is interested in saving women like Katherine Webb from weird, leering older men, they first need to get them out of the Miss USA pageant, which is run by Donald Trump, the poster boy for weird, leering older guys. For that matter, get them out of all beauty pageants. And then get them out of magazines like Maxim and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, which cater exclusively to the leering market. For good measure, we could just eliminate the whole modeling field.

But to her everlasting credit, Webb said that an apology wasn’t necessary:

“I think the media has been really unfair to him,” Webb said on NBC’s morning show. “If he would have said something along the line of that we were hot or sexy or made any derogatory statements like that, I think that would have been a little bit different. The fact that he said we were beautiful and gorgeous, I don’t see why any woman wouldn’t be flattered by that.”

Well, heavens to Betsy, it almost sounds like she took it as a compliment. An older man said she was attractive, and that younger men should strive to win the attention of women like her (“If you’re in Alabama, get out there and start throwing that football around!”), and she took it as a compliment. What kind of a crazy, upside-down world is this chick living in?

That video clip above is from a cartoon called Red Hot Riding Hood, made in 1943. That’s right, it’s seventy years old. And I daresay that was a simpler time. It was a time when hooting at good-looking women was considered harmless and (in the extreme cases where your eyes bug out) humorous good fun, rather than the aggressive lechery of would-be rapists.

Comparing that time to this, it certainly seems like women were treated better in times when reactions like Musburger’s were more acceptable. Y’know? When guys could wolf-whistle and hubba-hubba without getting maced or sued… when women didn’t bow up like a cornered mongoose whenever a co-worker noticed they did something nice with their hair… it just seems like male-female relations in general had more respect and dignity.

I know feminists will dispute this to the death and say that the state of sexual politics is light-years better now than it was in 1943. But I know that if I could trade sexting and booty calls and Lady Gaga’s meat bikini for a few wolf whistles, I would take that deal. And I bet that a lot of women would take that deal too.

Coming from the Christian perspective as I do, I have to address the question, “Am I in fact endorsing the ogling of women?” Yes, yes I am.

Men aren’t supposed to look at women with lust in their hearts. But admiring a woman’s beauty is different from lusting after her (unless you’re a wolf in a tuxedo, in which case the moral guidelines are kind of blurred). If a man can’t look at a pretty woman without lusting after her, then he has problems that can’t be solved by not looking at her or by pretending not to notice her beauty. Burkas don’t stop lust any more than putting a towel over my head and crying when the news is on stops Obama from being president.

The truth is that women are beautiful, and that men will notice. It’s hard to buy into any system, religious or political, that tries to deny what is obviously true.

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