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When the imperative to guard your eyes is brought about the first thing I think of is a man that is careful with what he sees with regards to immodest women.

However, there are other case when this might apply:

  1. Women staring at immodestly dressed men.
  2. Men staring at immodestly dressed men.
  3. Women staring at immodestly dressed women.

Does the commandment to guard your eyes apply the most in the case of men staring at women or is it equal in all of the cases mentioned above?

The practical difference is that if the cases with the women staring at X cases are more lenient then a woman would be able to go to an all-female gym where not everyone is careful about their modesty. Same with an all male gym.

The term "immodestly" here is to be taken loosely and can include the case where the subject is actually modest but still provokes sexual thoughts.

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First off, I'll apologize in advance for lack of concrete sources. What I'm writing is based on what I heard (on several occasions and different contexts) directly from one of my Rebbeim, but due to personal ideals, I don't quote anyone's name online without specific permission from them. He's a well respected Rosh Yeshiva, but it's up to you to decide if a random thousand-point internet user's word of recommendation is enough for you. ;) At the very least, these ideas could be something to think about.

With that, here goes:

There are essentially two problems of 'seeing'. The first one is an objective measure: certain body parts (i.e. private areas) are inherently forbidden to look at. This applies to both male and female areas of the body (granted, the areas aren't the same), and regardless of if the viewer is male or female. This is regardless of any reaction by the person seeing it (what these body parts are is a discussion among the Rabbinate, but not really necessary for the point at hand).

The second issue is a subjective one: it is forbidden to look at an object that arouses someone to have improper thoughts (I'm fairly certain this applies to women just like for men. Don't quote me on that though). There are Gemaras that say things to the effect of 'it's forbidden to look at the finger of a woman with intent to gain pleasure' (Berachos 24a) and 'it is forbidden to look at clothing (for example, if it was hung to dry) of a woman you know' (Avodah Zara 20b). This can actually change over time due to societal norms about what is considered 'beauty' as well as personal preferences. This could theoretically apply to looking at someone of the same gender as well, if that causes one to have improper thoughts.

To apply these concepts to your question, it seems like all the examples you gave are forbidden according to reason two. Based on your wording of 'staring at', I would guess that the person looking is gaining some sort of pleasure from the staring, which makes the staring forbidden.

If your usage of the words 'staring at' wasn't referring to 'inappropriate' staring (i.e.just 'casually seeing' as opposed to 'active staring'), then we roll back to reason one. If the situation is inherently forbidden to be seen, then one is not allowed to see it.

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Rabbi Moshe Feinstein writes that due to um ... anatomy and physiology, there are certain prohibitions on men that don't apply to women.

(If the viewing is likely to lead to inappropriate actions, then it would be prohibited no matter what gender.)

  • 4
    Your answer seems a bit vague. Could you elaborate a bit or at least give the actual source? – Ani Yodea Jul 10 '15 at 14:03
  • I don't think we needed RMF to tell us that... – Double AA Jul 10 '15 at 14:44

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