Sweetie- you’re being insecure in NOT bringing it up. If something bothers you and you’re uncomfortable with it, don’t worry about looking insecure or jealous or any of that Cool Girl crap, speak your mind.
I actually had this exact problem with my husband in early weeks of dating and it was a dealbreaker for me. Like your guy he was a sweet, attentive boyfriend- but he’d openly notice a hot woman in front of me, even make a comment about it. He was so used to women playing ‘Cool Girl’ about this (though in fairness, I’m sure there are women who genuinely aren’t bothered by it) that he seemed surprised it was an issue for me.
Well, we were at his company’s Christmas party which was held at a Casino, and after the dinner we were out in the main casino area and he would openly notice other women and make the occasional comment. So I turned to him and said “I’m going to go home now, good night” and he asked me if I was feeling alright or if something was wrong and I looked right at him and said calmly but firmly “I am your date tonight. I don’t care if you notice other women, but to be so obvious about it right in front of me is really disrespectful.” He apologized and asked me to stay and when I said no, offered to drive me home. I said no again and took a cab home.
He sent a message shortly after that apologizing again and asking me to please meet him for coffee the next day after work. I agreed (lol half because I liked him and half to give him a piece of my mind). And I told him that doing what he did was not only disrespectful, it was hurtful. I had looked forward to the evening with him, looked forward to being his date, had gone out of my way to try and look nice for his company Christmas party and him checking out the room so openly made me think he was insensitive and really just not that into me, looking around for something better. And I told him (and he confided in me later on in our relationship that this gutted him) that I had really liked him but that this was changing the way I felt toward him and that this wasn’t something I was okay with, perhaps we weren’t right for each other.
And he said again he was sorry, he didn’t think of it being hurtful and I told him truthfully “Maybe no-one told you this before now, but it doesn’t mean they (any exes) were okay with it. Maybe a one or two were honestly fine with it and ogled other guys the same way, but most likely they weren’t okay with it (insert Cool Girl-like explanation), but were afraid to say so because they didn’t want to come off as jealous or insecure. But I’m secure enough to not give a rat’s ass if someone thinks I’m insecure or jealous. I think it’s disrespectful and I’m not wililng to be with someone who treats me like that.”
He was really remorseful and promised if I gave him another chance it wouldn’t happen again. To his credit, we’ve been together many years now and it’s never happened again, not once. He knew it was a dealbreaker for me and I meant what I said- but it’s important to do this early on in a relationship while it’s still relatively easy to walk away. I’m not saying we can’t notice other people, but to openly show it like that wasn’t something I could be okay with. Tell him you’re not okay with it Bee, asap. And firmly. And if he tries to invalidate your feelings- you tell him it’s about self-respect, that you’re not insecure enough to silently put up with something you’re not okay with. And if he can’t respect this, be done before you get too invested the relationship.
ETA: Sorry for the ridiculous length of this post but I wanted to share my own experience.