GerryNorth-e1342602124661111111111In France they built a circular multi storey prison called a Panopticon. In the centre was the watchtower where guards could see out but prisoners could not see in. The authorities found they could remove the guards and the prisoners would still behave well. Some prisoners however went mad as they felt watched 24/7, never having an alone moment.

Cultures are like a Panopticon. You feel you must behave according to cultural expectations. Have you ever wondered if big brother is looking at you all the time? Well he or she is. It is called the “Normalising Gaze”, where your behaviour is subject to the scrutiny of something you cannot actually see. This invisible “Normalising Gaze” shapes the way you behave and feel so it would be helpful to understand it.

Take the gay scene, or as I call it the homosexual landscape. It expects the subjects of this culture to behave in certain ways with regard to dress, fitness, attitude, alcohol use, sexual expression, Grindr and other sex contact avenues, etc. You are expected to behave according to the normalising gaze and you usually do.

In Western cultures status is important. It matters what job you have, what car you drive, where you live, what possessions you have and what you talk about and don’t. You know what is expected of you to have good status and you behave accordingly.

The problem is are you being yourself or are you merely behaving according to the normalising gaze? If you come from a deeply ingrained religious culture that gaze would probably inhibit your gay expression. If you live in rural areas of Australia you might feel you can’t act in certain ways because of it.

Once you know we are all subject to the “Normalising Gaze” you can then ask yourself is this what I really want to do? Am I in the wrong job, the wrong lifestyle, living the wrong ideals or adopting the wrong attitude towards meeting people for sex?

All this begs the question of whether we all are really thinking out things for ourselves or acting out behaviours imposed us by the cultures we live by. Once we know about the “Normalising Gaze” we then have the power to change what we really want to without it. It’s called personal independence. Take care.


Gerry North is a gay couple counsellor. Email: [email protected] or






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