Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Women as Visual and Passive Pleasures in Art, Film and Culture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2747 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

Reference this

This essay explores the women as visual pleasures and passive women images by the male gaze by using the work of John Berber and Laura Mulvey and looking at the quote “Dressing can be seen as a practice of constructing identity through the materials of fashion” (Twigger Holroyd, 2017, p. 52). Today, it is impossible to form with only their own identity, because of much interference from others or society.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

It is an instinct that everyone wants to be pretty. So modern people constantly craving for something. Is this also instinct? No. The cause of desire comes from the outside, not within. “Man’s desire is the desire of the Other” (Jacques Lacan, 1973, Seminar XI, p.235). We are always exposed to the wonderful and charming images that are poured out of diverse media. Desire arises from projecting themselves into the image. The image is not real, just intended for various purposes. People feel their flaws compared to models and celebrities on media. This essay discusses the essential way of seeing women and the essential use to which their images are put, has not changed from the old art history of Western. Women are portrayed in a quite different way from men, with the audience always assumed to be men and the image of women consumed as a composition for the audience. The attitudes that this relationship of active men and passive woman contains today are expressed in more varied media such as advertising, journalism and television. This unequal relationship is so deeply imprinted on the whole culture that it still forms the consciousness of many women. Sexual objectification and the male gaze can be caused by the self-consciousness of the body by physical surveillance. Most people, however, can not recognise the source, and this is done by the individual. Women themselves are asking for what men are asking for women. They also look at their femininity the same way men see women.

Starting from the definition of the gaze(French le regard), this term can be related to Simone de Beauvoir’s Feminist understanding if women’s oppression within the dialectics of gender relations (Beauvoir 2009). In sociology, psychoanalysis and philosophical term, the gaze describes the act of seeing and the act of being seen.

John Berger used this notion of the gaze widely in visual culture. In his seminal text Ways of Seeing (1972), he described that in Western culture, from painting to advertising, men look and women are looked at. John Berger proposed how throughout the history of Western art and in the contemporary world of advertising and popular culture women have been portrayed in ways that emphasise their status as passive sexual beings or maternal figures. Especially by presenting the male gaze as an important agenda, gaze and gender first explicitly raised the issue of associated social power. This foundation provided a framework for analyzing not only art but also popular visual culture as a whole. John Burger says that in order to understand nude paintings, one must first understand the social status and relationships of men and women. Men are judged by their abilities, whereas “women are not born, but rather becomes, a woman (Simone de Beauvoir, 1949, The Second Sex) .” Men were depicted in action and women as objects to be looked throughout the dominant male gaze by the creator. John Berger argued that Numerous nude paintings are based on biblical or mythical stories. These paintings contain many fundamental meanings, but what it consists is the body of a woman. Beginning to see the difference between nakedness and nudity in the European tradition. Clark states that to be naked is to be deprived of clothes, and implies embarrassment and shame, while a nude, as a work of art, has no such connotations (Kenneth Clark, first published in 1956, The Nude: a Study in Ideal Form). In other words, Nude is distinguished from ‘naked,’ which is not conscious of other people’s eyes. Nude has a ‘special purpose to show to others. Therefore, women in oil painting follow the customary tradition of painting. In addition, Western oil painting is innumerable. At that time, the object of painting is like a kind of authentication shot these days. This flaunting of possessions is an old tradition of an oil painting. John Berger depicted that as the media of oil painting has this attribute, it does not fit well with the purpose of conveying the truth. The media defines how the reproduced object will be expressed by the creator.

This image of active male passive women is also evident in films. In now-famous 1975 essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, the concept of the male gaze was introduced by Laura Mulvey. In other words, Mulvey pointed out that Hollywood cinema provided images of viewing pleasure of male with certain psychoanalytic paradigms including scopophilia and voyeurism, for instance, the work of directors Josef von Sternberg and Alfred Hitchcock. In psychoanalysis, the term ‘Scopophilia’ refers to sexual pleasure involved in looking and ‘Voyeurism’ is the pleasure in looking while not being seen. Both of these terms acknowledge the ways in which reciprocal relationships of looking can be sources of pleasure. She described as the ‘male gaze’, the concept is more accurately described as a heterosexual, masculine gaze.

In movies that stimulate visual pleasure, it is women who are mainly sexually targeted and who are the subject of erotic responses, whereas the men are the role of telling stories and causing events to take place. The camera’s gaze, the male audience and the male s gaze make women one same object. Mulvey argues that women’s bodies on screen are fetishised, eroticised and objectified for the pleasure of the male gaze. A woman is visually positioned as an ‘object’ of the heterosexual male desire.

Voyeurism is the pleasure of looking while not being seen. Through this process, women are denied the possibility of forming their own way of seeing the world.

  In Alfred Hitchcock’s, Rear Window (1954), photographer Jeff is confined to his home all day with a leg injury. He sits in a wheelchair every day and peeps at neighbours living across the building all day using the camera’s zoom. A man suspected of murdering his wife is Jeff’s most focused figure. The story of the movie revolves around Jeff and suspicious guy husband. Among the neighbours, Jeff stares at a female dancer with excellent looks and figure. Most of the images Jeff peeps at are of her changing clothes, decorating herself, and working out in her underwear or tight exercise. This structure of an active male passive woman is clear and typical of the scheme.

According to John Berger’s study, the first nudes in the tradition began with Adan and Eve. The became aware of being naked because, as a result of eating the apple each saw the other differently. Naked was created in the mind of the beholder. The woman is condemned and is punished by being made subservient to the man. When it comes to women, the man becomes the agent of God. “men act, women appear.”(John Berger,1972). These prominent features to be seen below are summarized by the original John Berger.

Numerous nude paintings are based on biblical or mythological stories. There are complex allegories, but the essential thing is the female body. Biblical and mythological stories are a kind of justification for exhibiting the naked body of a woman. To enjoy a woman’s naked body, a reasonable form was needed to avoid off moral criticism.

The story of Susannah is about two people who are greedy to see the beautiful Susannah bathe and threaten her. the meaning of the mirror symbolizes your narcissism and vanity.

Figure 1. Jacopo Tintoretto(1518-1594), Susanna and the Elders, Louvre Museum, Paris


Women in the painting look like fainted or unconscious. A woman is posed so that her body is on display for the viewer. Understanding some of these features will make you realize that, strangely, the woman is twisting her body towards the male audience outside of the picture. The posture and gesture of women should be  beautifully idealized.

It is often the case that a woman looks at the front. The fact that a woman in a nude picture looks at the front means that she recognizes that she is being seen. Facing the viewer with a woman in nude would give her a sense of temptation In other words, it is expressed as if women themselves have the desire to be seen.

Figure 2. Alexandre Cabanel(1823-1889), The Birth of Venus(1863), Orsay Museum, Paris

The additional fact that, basically, women’s nude paintings account for a large portion of them. “Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, But 85% of the nudes are female.” (Guerrilla Girls,1989, Public art, MOMA in New York)

Figure 3. Ediuard Manet(1832-1883), Olypia(1863), Orsay Museum, Paris

This female model is facing the front. Advertising images of fashion brands have only changed characters into modern models and follow the result of the legacy of oil painting basically. You can see ads that show the attributes that come out of nude paintings..

The other advertisement made by fashion company Dolce & Gabbana and all most brand are using this kind of advertising strategy. The strategy is also the most common and efficient at capturing public attention in modern society. In this picture, we can see four men stand around and stare at a woman. What we need to be most aware of is their posture. The woman is lying down on her back, and one of the topless men is pulling her wrist down physical strength. It gives us the impression that she is being raped.

Figure 4. Calvin Klein jeans (2014)

In the film, camera angles and close-ups of female actresses enhance the sexual voyeuristic gaze that is associated with a dominant male protagonist. The presence of male also argued that the most popular movies are filmed in ways that satisfy masculine scopophilia. The Wolf of Wall Street is dominated by the male gaze of Jordan and the assumed audience, We see a full body of Naomi and she remains an aesthetic object who wears tight dresses and lingerie.

Figure 5. DOLCE & GABBANA AD. Spectrum (2012)


Figure 7. Martin Scorsese(1942-), The wolf of Wall Street (2013), Margot Robbie

Figure 6. Dennis dugan(1946-), Just Go With it(2011), Jennifer Aniston



In conclusion, we will return to the Twigger Holroyd quote. This essay argues that her quotes could be impossible to form with their own identity by using the diverse notion from John Berber and Laura Mulvey. The women as visual pleasures and passive women images with the social roles and sexual stereotypes of men and women by the male gaze. All most of images describe women plays the role of providing pleasure through the voyeuristic gaze. We have seen men as the subject of voyeurism and women as sexually targeted images, literally active men and passive women. In this regard, this structure seems that it is not a matter of individuality but a matter of gender. That means that this kind of Gender ideology has been rooting deeply in for a long time. Many artworks and media such advertisements and movies have endless reproduced this kind of such structure. Women themselves are asking for what men are asking for women. They also look at their femininity the same way men see women.

Images from movies and advertising have getting become much more widespread, powerful, and sophisticated now. This influence of image is quick, cumulative, and for the most part, subconscious. As this consequence, women themselves are asking for by the male gaze.

“The essential way of seeing women, the essential use to which their images are put, has not changed. Women are depicted in a quite different way from men – not because the feminine is different from the masculine (John Berger, Ways of seeing, p64)”

Today, Modern women are under greater pressure than ever before to be young, thin and pretty by the male gaze. From a young girl to a mature woman, it seems that women are becoming somewhat self-conscious in themselves.

We should critically look at our attitude of consuming these media to address the benefits in the future and try to fundamentally change the structure of the media’s views and thoughts on female sexualization, responding to one-sidedly wrong ways.

Women have struggled in many ways to be considered equal to men at work, in public places and even at home. Respect is what all women want. Many women have been portrayed as sexual objects for men by the result of the male gaze.

 We must stop and break the gender-specific. Anyone can be all active and passive. Everyone should be active when it comes to this problem.

“Men don’t live in a world in which they are likely to be raped, harassed, or beaten. At least, straight white men don’t live in such a world, whereas women and girls do.”



  • John Berger. (1972) Ways of seeing Cinema (Accessed : 26 April 2019)
  • Laura Mulrvey. (1975) Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (Accessed : 26 April 2019)
  • Niall Richardson, Transgressive Bodies: Representations in film and Popular Culture
  • University of Sussex, UK, ASHGATE (Accessed : 3 May 2019)
  • M, Sturken and L, Cartwright ‘Spectatorship, Power and Knowledge’ From: Sturken, M. and L. Cartwright, (2001) Practices of Looking: an Introduction to Visual Culture Oxford: Oxford University Press pp. 76, 78 – 83, 87 – 89 (Accessed : 22 April 2019)
  • Simone de Beauvoir. (1949) The Second Sex (Accessed : 10 May 2019)
  • Kenneth Clark, first published in 1956, The Nude: a Study in Ideal Form (Accessed : 15 May 2019)


  • https://www.lacanline.com/2010/05/what-does-lacan-say-about-desire/ (Accessed : 20 May 2019)
  • https://www.guerrillagirls.com/naked-through-the-ages (Accessed : 20 May 2019)



Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: