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Love and lust: Does it all start with The Look?

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Knicker-dropping, spine-tingling, chest-heaving seduction success depends, by and large, on one thing. That thing is confidence. Confidence, not beauty, brawn or wealth, really qualifies an effective lover. Confidence, loud or quiet, always wins.

And often, it’s the eyes that have it. For confidence, in other words, is but a Look.

Just one Look can say it all, one look is the look of love, and so forth, until ‘'good-looking'’ takes on an entirely different meaning, seeking really does mean finding, and seeing binds strangers in the belief something special is possible. (They locked eyes from across the room/the rest, they say, is history).

But what happens when a good-look goes bad? What happens if your gaze repulses rather than attracts? Can staring deep into the limpid pools of your lover’s face actually see you sink, not swim?

Actually yes – catching the wrong eye, even with the right intentions, can fell even the surest of swashbucklers.

So the question becomes when should you look, and how?


Before getting to the answer, let’s first observe the science. A seminal study in 1989 found a correlation between concentrated, mutual gazes and feelings of romantic love. Subsequent research has also determined females are better at making eye-contact than males, thanks in part to lower testosterone levels - though infant males with super-high testosterone levels match the ‘here’s looking at you score’ of their female counterparts.

Among other things, such research tells us that eye contact is a natural form of expression for women, and so-called alpha-men. Those of you with an evolutionary-biological bent will no doubt see reason here – those without will at least relate to lived experiences of these facts.

But, as ever, there’s more to it than science – who hasn’t heard of the Evil Eye? A concept that eloquently expresses the great influence some cultures believe lives behind our eyeballs; this is the same notion which gives rise to the ancient mythology of eyes as soul-windows - ocular oracles not to be, uh, overlooked.

Yet the idea of the Evil Eye also, importantly, reveals a dark side to the story of our peculiar seeing-machines. We know eyes – and their uses – relate to power both magnificent and terrible. We know this intrinsically, or because we’ve consumed the literature. Regardless, we know it, though there is great confusion as to how we avoid looking the wrong way, or staring when we shouldn’t (particularly today, in a world where to see really is to believe).

And this is problematic, especially in a multicultural country such as ours, because there are many societies where making direct eye-contact is offensive, or where eye-contact between certain people is a grave taboo. Indigenous Australian civilisation abounds with such examples. And they are worth noting, as the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration’s ‘Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Benchbook for Western Australian Courts’ so eloquently points out.

Of course, we’re more concerned with the letters of love than the law in this blog, so it is back to this sexy field we return. We know ‘'making eyes'’ at people works when it comes to romance and attraction, but which people, and when?

In some respects, this is an impossible question to answer, for while we might make generalisations based on culture, we can’t account for every individual. Some people relish focused gazes more than others, and some people are better at staring than most. Broadly, assuming the right time and place is picked, it is best to accompany any sort of eye-locking with an expression that says yes rather than no – a cheeky smile and open posture doesn’t go astray.

What stands is that eyes are more than things we can see with. They are very powerful tools, tools that can be used for good or evil – and they should be a considered aspect of any effective lover’s repertoire.

So, as it is Friday, and the weekend is here, and chances are you will confront eyes aplenty over its course, I ask: Are you a creepy-peeper, or have you got the Look all figured out?

When was the last time you dared look a handsome stranger in the eye? When was the last time you made eyes with someone across the room? Do you feel threatened or excited when your lover looks into your eyes? And could you stop someone in their tracks with but a glance...?

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