The Masculine Gaze

It can happen anywhere, when you least expect it. You're minding your own business, lost in thought, when suddenly your eyes lock with another man's gaze.

That twinkle you see isn't just a metaphor -- it's an electrical impulse that passes between you. A good friend of mine, with a penetrating gaze, confirms that he has actually seen a flash of light emanate from the eyes. "It is as rare as the sighting of a rainbow," he says, "but it happens." In that fleeting moment, time seems to stand still and all sorts of things are communicated man to man, such as:

• I see you. I acknowledge you as my fellow man.

• I see right into you. I recognize you as my brother.

• Don't be afraid. I'm not going to bite you, unless you'd like that.

• I can feel your aura of sexual virility.

• We share the same passion; I know what you are yearning for.

• It is our masculine birthright to seek out others to share and satisfy our burning desires.

• If I don't shoot off soon, my balls are going to explode.

• Where's the nearest men's room?

• Give me your home phone, pager, and cell phone numbers.

My friend recently observed that "If you look at the driver in the car next to you when you stop at a red light, that person will instantly sense your gaze and turn toward you. It is a universal and uncanny phenomenon. This fact alone is proof of psychic awareness and the power of the human gaze."

Sometimes, when I catch myself locked in these primal gazes, I turn away quickly. A deep part of me understands the power of this contact and knows that I am fully capable of acting upon it. I instinctively sense that if the gaze were to go on any longer, it would pull me physically toward that man. We would become predatory animals on a mission to satisfy our sexual hunger. Such feelings can be frightening to a civilized man, reminding him of the fine line between self-control and promiscuity.

Anyone who has ever felt horny knows that a man can be taken hold by something that goes beyond the mind and body. It goes beyond the mind because intellect has nothing to do with it, meaning that horniness can bring about actions that are totally illogical. It goes beyond the body because horniness is not always satisfied by a physical orgasm. That something that takes hold of us is energy -- sexual energy. It is a powerful force that propels us to merge with or melt into another person in ecstatic communion. This energy usually involves the genitals, but not necessarily. Mere eye contact between two horny men can sweep them off their feet and down on all fours.

Some people believe that these moments of eye contact are spiritual reunions of a sort: old souls remembering a familiarity, seeing through the masks of this lifetime to shared experiences from other times and places. I think there is a truth there, whether or not one believes in reincarnation. The truth is that there is an acknowledgement of something shared. Our eyes are mirrors for one another in which we recognize the many roles all men play: son, brother, father or father-figure, comrade, colleague, confidant, lover, and horny devil looking for trouble.

One twinkling exchange can reveal so much that it's no wonder a man might feel overwhelmed and turn away. To hold that gaze might even reveal too much about oneself -- things that one hasn't fully admitted or acknowledged in his own nature. A man might legitimately feel vulnerable under such conditions.

Entire books have been written to explain why men don't like face-to-face communication as much as women do. It is easier for men to let their hair down, so to speak, lined up at a bar than facing one another in a booth. A man's face, and particularly his eyes, expose his thoughts and plans. To look another man in the eye is often considered threatening or provoking, most likely an instinctual response.

Men, like other predatory animals, have eyes set right on the front of their heads so they can use binocular vision to track their prey, while their prey have eyes at the sides of their heads so as to catch predators sneaking up on them. The only time other men ever look me directly in the eye for more than a fleeting moment is when they know me or think they know me. And that brings us back to the power of the twinkling glance and the deep familiarity it communicates.

A held glance forces down the protective psychological walls we've build around ourselves, as well as the masks our egos have created in search of personal uniqueness. Familiarity says, "Don't put on airs around me -- we go way back, and I've seen you at your best and at your worst." Depending upon how desperately we grab onto those walls and masks, a held gaze can seem like an invasion. Or it can seem like the long-awaited lover gently pulling back the sheets with one hand while jacking up an erection with the other.

It's good for eye-to-eye exchanges to feel profound, for they are. They carry on an ancient tradition, as old as mankind, in which men celebrate their masculinity with the only people who can fully appreciate and understand it -- other men. But in addition to comradery, improved eye-contact helps us grow in compassion.

"I try to see the beauty in everyone and I make my own beauty freely available," my friend says. "It is easy to feel attraction to a human form that is conventionally beautiful, but I try to see the beauty in the commonplace or conventionally ugly. I try to understand why a human soul chooses to express itself in a less than perfect way and I usually discern a sad tale of oppression, of outside forces that thwart, twist and distort the natural loveliness of the human body. It is sad because such tales are unnecessary: if we just let others be themselves, they would be radiant and beautiful. But some of us don't and some of us aren't."

I now make it a point to try to initiate eye contact with as many men as possible when I go out. I usually hold the gaze only long enough to feel that chill go up my spine. I see you, my fellow man. I recognize you as my brother. I sense your aura of masculine virility because I'm broadcasting it, too.

Our passion is the same. Our birthright is to share it.

And we do share it, with every glance.

Abdul Hamid is the creator of the once famous website Abdul's Waking Dream

Opening photograph, Derek and Keith, 1996 by Blake Little. Top photo this page:Untitled by Anonymous, 1970s. Bottom black and white photograph, Craig on my floor by Stanley Stellar, 1970. All photos from The Male Nude. Published by Taschen.