Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Voyeurism

This weekend I read a book written by a straight Christian man about how to minister to queer folk. I probably shouldn't have read it. My thanks to those who put up with me while I did.

One of the things that troubled me most about this book was the sense of being watched, intruded upon, and exposed. I do not think the author saw clearly, but to the extent that his words hit home, it was painful to read. This book felt like the work of a voyeur. But I am reminded in the work of Marcella Althaus-Reid that the voyeur is as involved with the objects of his gaze as are the objects:

“The voyeur’s gaze can carry the intention to dislocate power...Dogmatics or ecclesiology aside, the first challenge that the voyeur’s gaze presents to us is that its power is outside the order of legitimation...The voyeur looks and sees in the other what the other cannot look at.  The voyeur masters the surroundings, contexts, and materiality
of the body in location.  From what perspective does the voyeur understand?  From all the perspectives of watching with impunity, adding the pleasure of new angles, of all the angles and non-authorised points of view to what is seen...Thinking about and discerning God from a voyeur’s epistemology favours mutuality in the construction of God’s identity.  God is then here not the big eye which follows us like an Orwellian policeman, but a dialogic God, whose identity is dependent somehow on people’s own loving relationships.” (Queer God, p. 42-43)

These words carry a caution for us that as we gaze upon those whom we consider Other that we are inescapably bound up in that connection and changed by what we see. And this is no different for me who gazed back a little too closely at this author through his words.

We trample too hard on each other's souls in this life. This is true in romantic relationships, church relationships, work connections, with family and friends. We get into one another's stories and we take liberties, put up our feet, jump on the bed. 

We ought to tread more delicately.

"The Perfect Gaze"
by Mary B. Campbell

Great care must be taken in looking
At the beloved. If you look
Too long, the spirit of the other
Will be forced into hiding
Or disappear from this world.
The gaze must be no longer
Than five glances; otherwise
It is fatal.

The gaze should be empty of design
Or content; it is like a question
Which is satisfied at every moment.
Even in sleep, the face of the other
Forestalls the need to know more.
If you ask out loud
You will waken a liar.

Ending the gaze is a rupture:
You look away, you abandon the beloved
You travel inwardly. This is freedom
And the hardest part. But love
Is the breaking of all spells,
Even its own.

Campbell, Mary B. The World, the Flesh and Angels: Barnard New Women's Poet Series. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1989.


  1. wow.

    Love this line of yours, "We trample too hard on each other's souls in this life," and love love love the poem.

    "Love/is the breaking of all spells/even its own."


  2. Thank you, SL. Appreciated your steadfast company.

  3. My mind questions..... Isn't your writing a blob tantamount to asking us to be voyeurs of your life?

  4. Alissia--yes, everything I post here is available for public scrutiny and (I hope) enjoyment. Blogging is an exhibitionist art, after all.

    But the book I read this weekend was written by a straight, cis man who lived among "The Gay Community" (his words) and then wrote a book for evangelicals telling them how to better evangelize to gay people. I disagree fundamentally with how he views LGBTQ folk, and I found how he told his story distasteful to me as a queer woman. It seemed as if he had spent some time examining a foreign population and then described techniques for hooking them in.

    So my comment on voyeurism is not so much that he peered at my particular life (because he didn't at all) but that he gazed insistently upon one particular community of LGBTQ people. What I was trying to bring into this is that the voyeur's gaze is deeply bound to the individuals on display and that both are changed by it. And therefore, we ought to gaze lightly and carefully.


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