12 November, 2006

"Dickensian Ogling", another view

Here's how economists describe the term pent-up demand:
When demand for a product is exceptionally strong, perhaps because the demand built up during a recession when people could not afford to buy the product or because the product was temporarily not available to be sold.
Here's a more general, non-economic definition based upon the one above:
When demand for something is exceptionally strong, perhaps because the demand is built up because of repression or because the demanded something is otherwise unavailable:
And here's an example, courtesy of the New York Times, of pent-up demand in Dubai:
Temperatures have dropped from blazing hot to balmy, the turquoise waters now have a refreshing chill and the sand is just about bearable to walk on. As winter arrives in this Persian Gulf city, the masses are thronging by the tens of thousands to its white sandy beaches, wearing, in an unlikely exercise in maritime coexistence, everything from black flowing abayas to slinky bikinis. Thronging right alongside them are Dubai’s “beach pests,” the gangs of men who trudge through the sand, fully dressed, to ogle the women.

Mostly laborers at the front lines of Dubai’s building boom — toiling on manmade islands, innumerable high-rises, even a dome in the desert for the world’s largest indoor snow park — they flood the beaches every weekend to leer at women, photograph them and occasionally try to grope them in the water.

“They pretend to take pictures of their friends, but they are really taking pictures of you,” said Anika Graichen, 23, a German hotel receptionist who has lived here for three years. She lay on the beach last week trying to ignore various groups of men who passed by with their eyes locked on her. She is almost used to them now, she said. “I think I can understand it,” she said. “It’s the only place they can have a look at women.”
I don't condone how these men behave, but like Anika, I think I can understand why they do. These men live a life of extreme deprivation during the years they spend here:
Indeed, for the estimated 500,000 foreign workers here, most from the Indian subcontinent, the chance to spot a woman in a bikini may be hard to pass up. They typically live in a Dickensian world of squalor, working 12-hour shifts six days a week, often denied their wages of about $150 per month for months at a time. Most of them secure work by taking out loans from recruiting agencies at home to get here, forcing most to stay on for years without seeing their families and loved ones.
One result of this deprivation is behavior like this:
They tend to beachcomb in groups, their camera-equipped cellphones always at the ready. Many do not know how to swim; some enter the water wearing their traditional robes, made of thin white cloth that becomes transparent when wet — and reveals far more of their anatomy than most beachgoers want to see. Incidents of physical harm to women are rare, though the police have arrested flashers and men committing lewd acts in public.
I leave it to the reader's imagination to figure out the other behaviors to which all of that pent-up energy is ultimately directed. I also leave it to the read to figure what, if anything, ought to be done about both the behavior and its root causes- both social and economic.


A final thought... I find it quite surprising that the standard-bearer of politically-correctness, the NY Times, would use the word "pests" to describe human beings.

Starling teaches at the American University of Sharjah and blogs at The Business of America is Business


! said...

EmiratesToday had the same exact word ! "Pest Banned"

Why can't men stare when the women show off their "commodities" !!

The law should be FAIR shouldn't it?

Woke said...

Already posted by i,Bobo.

Anonymous said...

Woman only object to rude stares. I mean one should only stare politely like behind dark sun-glasses (expensive brand would be even better).

Starling David Hunter said...


i bobo posted the article with no commentary. What I posted is called a blog post. Now you know the difference.

secretdubai said...

sThese are some issues why the staring is so uncomfortable to/resented by women:

1. The sheer scale
The ogling isn't being done by one or two guys, it's being done by dozens and dozens of guys, all around you, all the time. It's constant, it's every time, and they never go away.

2. The lack of subtlety
This isn't subtle, sophisticated "giving the eye". It's a herd of moon calfs staring without reservation. It's not a couple of sexy guys noticeably eyeing some probably single girls from their beachtowel, who will almost certainly give up if the girls show disinterest or even scowl at them. It's twenty men standing and staring despite the fact they are being giving no encouragement. Even if women glare, shout, and even get angry, they will stand and stare. I have tried waving a phone and shouting police (in Urdu) but they still stand around grinning and filming.

3. Social inferiority
It's difficult to phrase this any other way, so I'll just be blunt. These are not men who are realistically expecting to form relationships with these women. The attention is unwanted and it is totally one way. While this may be completely unfair, it's a reason women resent it. They get nothing back out of it. It may be unfair that people are classist and "look-ist" and money-ist and even racist but they are. There is a difference between a really ugly guy trying to chat one up in a club and a really good looking guy. The same line that may be sexy on one pair of lips is sleazy on another.

At the end of the day, while we do feel sorry for these men, while we may understand why they stare, why we may feel angry at a world that has left them uneducated, a culture that has left them confused as to appropriate behaviour, and a system that has left them endlessly desperate for female flesh, we still hate and loathe their attention.

Slagothor said...

i bobo posted the article with no commentary. What I posted is called a blog post. Now you know the difference.

Yeah, condescending supercilious priggishness really is the best way to educate people.

peter parker said...

I think The Lady beat everyone to it. I read her update at 10am this morning!

marwan said...

Another angle from a slightly educated man:
It's a humongous gender imbalance. Dubai has always had this; I can't remember seeing too many girls in Dubai even when I was growing up.

But arriving in Australia, and suddenly being surrounded by an avalanche of hotty hotness, was a bit much for the old brain to absorb. I'm not ashamed to admit I spent the first two days snapping my neck around at every woman in sight.

After two days, they became wallpaper. After four years, I notice guys more than girls (nothing that There's Anything Wrong With That(TM).)

Maybe I'm looking at it in too innocent a way, but I guess it's pretty much the same in the labourers home countries, where women aren't seen a lot socially.

Anonymous said...

What are the options?

1 - Send them home (the workers)

2 - Send them home (the women)

3 - Allow the workers to bring their partners over (which entails provision of housing, family welfare support, education... citizenship?)

4 - Arrange government run brothels (including health screening etc)

5 - Charge exorbitant rates to access all beaches

6 - Education

7 - How about teaching the workers Phillipino and teaching the maids Urdu/Hindi and start pairing them up?

Woke said...

Apologies. I did not go through your post properly.

shansenta said...

anon @ 10:02 13Nov
I think there has been a lot of blogging, commenting, scoffing, etc. against the "onlookers", on this forum and other numerous media. However none has really tried to find solutions like you have.
I can't think of more, but I'm sure there could be plenty of other options - not necessarily applicable, but definitely worth opening the debate for a viable solution.

On the menace itself, isn't the tendency to find faults only with the onlookers? With all due respects to dresses worn by each community living here, don't we see a tendency from a few members of a few communities trying to go that extra mile to show extra amount of flesh, extraneously, at any given occasion, forgetting that this is a Muslim country? And sometimes you find some members coming from even other Muslim communities where they are supposed to cover even their hair and faces!

Dressing up fashionably and stylishly, becomes more relevant if the time and place of doing so is kept in mind.

At the same time however, I feel the beaches should be kept free of prying pests.

Anonymous said...

Idle mind devil's workshop, perhaps? They have time on their hands: can't afford to go to the malls for a skinny latte or the movies to view some (H/B)ollywood totty from the back row; can't face slumming in their 12-man room in a hovel on their 1/2 day off; can't afford to go home.

I don't condone for one moment what they are doing. But they aren't yobs, they appear to me to be bored, lonely and sad.

Give them something constructive to do, which makes them feel valued. Provide them with sports facilities to burn off the extra "energy". Teach them English. Teach them Islam. Teach them something!

Perhaps they will then return to their countries (whenever) to become valuable members of their community. Or (just imagine) stay here and achieve something more for the betterment of this country.

Maybe the best people to help them would be the scantily clad maidens (after they put on a robe).

Maybe the scowling damsels will learn something from the "simple" construction worker.

There seems to be a lot of "looking down the nose" at people, as SD mentions in (3).

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