A common topic in many gun enthusiast forums is "women with guns", "hot chicks with guns", "sexy girls with guns" etc etc. I would not claim to be above indulging in these threads as they consolidate random pictures of women with guns into a single location for enjoyment by those who enjoy such pictures, myself included. I am sure there are feminists who resent these pictures and the artistic merit of such photographs is certainly debatable but that's not what I want to discuss. Instead I want to look into one of the most common responses of viewers of these pictures when they are posted. That response is some variation of "She needs to get her finger off the trigger".
The "finger off the trigger" response is in reference to a common concept of gun safety known as trigger discipline. Trigger discipline is the idea that until the handler of a firearm is ready to shoot said firearm whether it be during target practice at a gun range or firing at a criminal in self defense, the shooters finger should not be on the trigger. It is a good safety rule and anyone who says otherwise is most likely a reckless fool. But is it really necessary to insist that a staged photo of a model holding a firearm for no other reason than the enjoyment of the viewer be bound by this rule?
Firstly I think it is important to recognize whether or not the enjoyment of the viewer is actually the point of the picture. In the many pictures included in girls and guns topics, you will see variations. You might see a photograph of a girl enjoying herself at the gun range. The picture, probably taken by her friend or boyfriend or whoever, might have the girl shooting the gun down range in which case it would be expected that her finger be on the trigger. If that same girl is then turned around and posing with her finger on the trigger while the gun is not pointed downrange, it might not be such a stretch for someone to recognize that her finger is on the trigger and that this is a safety concern. If I happened to be on another lane at that range at the time that photo was taken it might urk me to know that someone nearby was practicing poor trigger discipline. But let's consider the other type of picture. Models with guns.
For the sake of argument, lets go ahead and say that any girl holding a gun in a staged picture is a model. Commonly these pictures are taken for advertisements but they could also be the product of a company who produces sexy pictures. Another common reason might just be a girl taking the photo for herself or significant other to feel sexy. In all these cases we will refer to the girl as a model. So here it is. No range, no target, just the model and the gun. She is wearing a bikini and holding a semi automatic pistol. She isnt pointing the gun but instead holding it against her body provocatively staring either demurely off in to the distance or intently at the camera. Then you see it. It will probably be the last thing you notice, but there it is. Her finger is on the trigger. Of all viewers of the picture, a subset, whether it be quietly to themselves or publicly for all the net to see, will cry foul.
Why? I couldn't help but ponder this beyond "get over it, its just a picture". My hypothesis is that it might say more about the individual protesting the lack of trigger discipline than anything else. The concept of the Male Gaze is pretty well documented and I do believe it comes in to play here, but I think it goes beyond that even. Male Gaze of course is the fact that media favors the point of view of the male as a female being looked at by a male in a sexual way loses at least some identity as a person and becomes little more than an object being viewed and most likely as something to be obtained. Also in these photos we can consider the Female Gaze as well which is the understanding of the woman that she is being sexual objectified by a male and thus sees herself not how she appears to herself but how she assumes she appears to the man, men or women that are objectifying her. So if someone sees this type of picture and tries to enforce trigger discipline on the model I have to assume something different is happening.
One possibility is that the viewer is trying to deobjectify and rehumanize the model. I find this possibility extremely interesting and "Why?" once again comes to mind. I can't help but think that to comment on trigger discipline in this instance is exposing a self esteem issue with the viewer. I feel that the viewer must be frustrated with the fact that the model as an object has become unobtainable. Perhaps this is why the critique comes into play. I am sure that everyone has seen a tendency for someone who feels that an attractive woman is "out of their league" might suggest the beauty of the subject is questionable. They become overly critical to shift the inferred opinion of others that "they can't have that" to "they don't want that". This can become dangerous in a public forum however. If an objectively beautiful woman is accused of being unattractive, the accuser can expect to be challenged. If a hundred other people insist the accuser is wrong, perhaps with attacks against his objective ability, taste or maybe even his sexuality, he has not accomplished what he wants to which is to feel better about himself by proving he is better than and too good for the model in the picture. To instead attack the trigger discipline gives the accuser an opportunity to attack the model without the fear of his opinion being challenged.
Another reason to rehumanize the model is to make her obtainable. The viewer might feel that as the model has been globally objectified by all viewers that she can't possibly be obtained by any one person including himself. So to expose the mistake of incorrect trigger discipline knocks the model off the pedestal of the masses making the model obtainable as a flawed individual that can be courted by the viewer. Even more so, as it was the viewer who exposed the fault, he might even expect the model to be indebted to him for helping her improve and give herself to him as a reward.
I feel obliged to point out that I don't believe that this behavior is some life altering flaw these responders might have. Everyone experiences low self esteem at some point. I think, if I am even correct, that this behavior is simply indicative of the trait, not the severity. Still I am always intrigued to see the similarities in how these traits manifest from person to person regardless of the varying severity.
Now at the opposite end of the spectrum I can't help but ask. "Why does the model have her finger on the trigger?"...and she almost always does. I feel like there must be some level of research in how to properly frame a "girl with a gun" photo especially if the camera man is professional and perhaps has even worked with models with guns before. To this I could say nothing if I had not experienced this from the point of view of the photographer. What I found as the photographer is that the picture is sexier when the model has her finger on the trigger. I took a photograph of a girl holding two semi automatic pistols in a not threatening manner. I had double checked the magazines and chambers of the guns and knew they were not loaded, but my own trigger discipline still had me insisting to the model that she keep her fingers off the triggers. When I reviewed the photograph I took, I was less than enthusiastic and I wasn't sure why. Then I had her put her fingers on the triggers and retook the exact same pose. The difference was night and day. The photo was instantly sexier. Now this doesn't say that pictures of girls with their fingers on the triggers are automatically sexier. It just says that I myself believe this to be true. So I now know that this is my preference which again leads me to ask "Why?"
Even when asking myself why I might feel one way about something and another way about another I can only assume as I am constantly finding that I don't know myself as well as I think I do. So assume I did. One possibility is the model's act of having her finger on the trigger instills a more kinetic feeling to the photograph. If she is prepared, knowingly or not, to fire the gun, then the photo represents something that is happening or at the very least about to happen. Correct trigger discipline by the model can only create a photograph of something that might happen but then again might not. This is probably less interesting and less inciting of emotion to the viewer even if it is only recognized at a subconscious level. Certainly a woman on the verge of immediate action is more interesting than a woman who might perhaps maybe at some point choose to act maybe.
Still I think ultimately a successfully sexy photo of a woman, to me, requires that she be not necessarily unobtainable, but also uncontrollable. I feel that a model with her finger off the trigger is benign. She is nothing to fear and easily controlled. The simple act of putting her finger on the trigger visually promotes me to DEFCON 1. From what I know of myself and all the women I have been attracted to in my life, it doesn't surprise me that I find the more dangerous depiction to be the most stimulating. I want a challenging woman. The girl with her finger on the trigger, with no trigger discipline, will challenge me. The girl with her finger off the trigger is nothing to worry about and of no interest to me. If this is true, I am forced to revisit those guys who protest the models with no trigger discipline. Do these men prefer their women to be easily controlled? If so, is that a compliment or a supplement to the low self esteem hypothesis?
But I am done asking questions. I personally think some interesting research could be done here. Cross referencing personality tests with the results of men's preference of women's trigger discipline in pictures would be a good place to start. If my hypothesis is correct, women could show men a picture of them holding a gun with their finger on the trigger and know that if he complains about poor trigger discipline he is most likely going to beat her. If I am wrong we can just go back to saying "Get over it, its just a picture" and move on. Either way - Go science!