Answered on Quora.
I can answer this. This is the straight up non-PC answer from working class White heterosexual hypermasculine and rather homophobic culture.
In this culture, if a man is staring at you, it means either of three things:
- He’s a fag. Sorry, but this is how they would phrase it. They probably won’t hit him or even bother him, as even this homophobic group is pretty PC nowadays. They don’t like gay men, but they don’t bother them either. They will just ignore them. If no, then 2 or 3.
- He’s looking for a fight or trying to fight you. Obviously this is a certain type of stare, generally a hostile one. If he doesn’t stop staring, there’s going to be a problem. More specifically, someone might get hurt. If no, then 3.
- He’s crazy. He’s a nut, a kook, a loon. This could even include neurotic, weirdo, etc. They will stare back at this man in a weird way like a “What the Hell is the matter with you, you freak?” stare. There’s a certain level of hostility to it, the way you might look at a disturbing crazy person.
Now if a man is staring at you and smiling, he is generally a straight man, and he is doing this out of admiration. There’s no sexual overtone to it. He likes and admires you on some level. Maybe he thinks you are a really cool dude, and he wants to be like you. Straight guys, often good-looking cool guy-types age ~25-40, sometimes give me this look. It’s quite a compliment.
If he is staring at you and smiling but has a creepy sexual look on his face, see 1 above. This is also rather stalkerish behavior, and it gives me the willies when gay men do this to me, sometimes by following me, which makes it even more stalkerish and creepy. He also might be closeted. One who did this to me at my university graduation ceremony (!) was very closeted. He followed me as I was leaving with my parents. It almost ruined the event for me as it scared the crap out of me.
In my life, I have found that the men who stare at me in a non-hostile are almost always gay or bi men. It’s an indication of sexual interest. I don’t particularly like it.
You are not supposed to stare at other men in my culture. It’s very much a no-no. You will make a lot of people mad if you do this, so you should not do it. You are not even supposed to look at men much. You look at women, not men. Looking at men too much is considered gay, so most men don’t do it.