In my general travels through alternative sexuality, "male gaze" is something that comes up periodically.
In my copious amounts of spare time (read: when stuck in traffic during my commute to or from work, or usually just before I'm about to go to sleep), I have this great hobby of analyzing things to the point of absurdity. Usually winding up saying to myself, "why the fuck do you care so much about this?" and then scratching the whole thing.
I got into one of these analysis overdrives a few days ago about femdom porn and the male gaze - whether all the vinyl and high heels are just the male gaze subtly enforcing itself even from a submissive stand-point. True to form, I spent a few hours having a little debate about the whole thing with myself in my head, and then ended it with, "you know what? If it makes the people participating feel good, it doesn't really matter."
There have been situations, though, where I've been acutely aware of how much the people involved aren't liking what they're doing in a sexytimes situation. And it's difficult to separate those instances from the male gaze, because there are two particular ones that I encounter fairly regularly.
1. The woman who's doing an MFF threesome as some sort of obligation to her male partner.
2. The woman who's brought to a gang bang party because it's a fantasy of her male partner for her to participate.
In both cases, it's apparent usually from the very beginning that the woman's not into it. Either they go completely dead fish or, in a sort of "if you can't beat 'em" fashion, get ultra-porny. They're participating to appease a male perspective of what's "hot" and not out of any actual interest of their own. If I'm being completely shitty and stereotypical, these women are easy to pick out because they wear the same suffering expression sitcom men put on when forced to watch a "chick flick" or hang out in anything remotely resembling a retail establishment that sells women's apparel.
Moral of the story? If it makes you happy to participate in something sexy, go ahead and do it. If it doesn't make you happy, there's no obligation for you to participate. (Side note for all those fucking "we're open but only as long as we always play as a couple" couples: If you want to participate in something sexy that will make you happy but will make your partner unhappy, please stop dragging them into it anyway. You will survive doing something fun and sexy without your significant other there the entire time. I promise.)