So the male gaze wasn’t really considered a thing until around the second wave of feminism in the 1970s, when Laura Mulvey introduced the concept into an essay she wrote on “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Aiming specifically to highlight asymmetry of gender power within film, Mulvey stated very specifically that women were objectified in film because heterosexual men were in control of the camera and. I will add on to that to say it is not just that they contorlled the camera, but often that they also were the narrator of the story.
As a result, Hollywood played to the models of voyeurism and scopophilia, something which only added weight to Mulvey’s argument. It is a concept and argument which has subsequently become extremely influential in media studies as a whole, not just feminist film studies.
So what exactly is the male gaze? The male gaze occurs when the camera — or the visual lens of a literary narrator — puts the audience/reader into the perspective of a heterosexual man. As a result, it may linger over the curves of a women’s body or any other physical aspect of her presence. The result is that the woman in then displayed as an erotic object both diegetically and non-diegetically. The man then emerges as the dominant power within the created fantasy, and the woman is passive to the active gaze from the man.