About a year ago I got into a conversation on twitter with a fashion magazine about what sexy is and how and who defines it. We agreed that I would write an article for them, but in the end it never got published: so now I get to post it on my own blog!
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‘Sexy’ is many things. It’s a look, an action, a thought, but mostly it’s a feeling. ‘Sexy’ is pretty much anything that illicits sexual reactions whether physical or mental. By its very nature it is wholly subjective and, as such, a one-size-fits-all formula for what sexy is cannot be defined. It’s not enough to say “you are” or “you are not” sexy, for no better reason than what rings one persons’ bell may not even jingle anothers’.
Sexy as an image is what drives common understanding and use of the word. Sexy as a concept is much more intangible and harder to comprehend. Take, for example, a man playing in a park with some children, four straight women observe him: one wonders where their mother is and why that man is playing with them, she worries he is a paedophile and keeps a wary eye on him and her own children. Another admires the active role the carer or father is taking in the care of his charges. The third finds him mildly attractive for his obvious fatherly and husbandly qualities. And the fourth simply can’t take her eyes off of him and can’t stop thinking about how great sex with him would be. A fifth woman is completely oblivious to his presence. If you substitute the women for gay men or the man for a woman and the straight women for men/lesbians you will still observe the same basic reactions; some people are interested, some more so than others, and some are oblivious, not interested or actively turned off.
When we meet someone that we are attracted to, two thoughts invariably shoot through our minds, 1) “Wow! That is the most dreamy/sexy/gorgeous/fuckable person I’ve ever seen!” followed quickly by, 2) “How do I look? What am I wearing? Do I have anything on my face/in my teeth?” Sadly, the second thought invariably includes “I’m so ugly/plain/boring, there’s no way that heavenly creature would ever look at me” along with a wish to look more like a favourite actor, musician or idol. This is the legacy of years of saturation that we are not “good enough” the way we are. The fashion industry has turned human bodies into instruments of sex appeal. If you don’t look like what’s in vogue then you are not sexy ('good') enough. “But that’s okay,” whisper the fashion intelligentsia, “You can buy this and that product and these or those clothes and all will be okay. THEN you’ll be sexy enough.” In fashion, sexy has become an ambiguous word coined as a generic term for whatever is in season but even in the urban dictionary, users describe the term to mean: ‘the whole package, including that certain something you can’t put your finger on: it may include the persons attire, voice and attitude.’
The many variables that make up the fashion industry have a vested interest in making (and then keeping) people dissatisfied with themselves and feeling inadequate. Just imagine what would happen if everyone in the developed world realised that they were good enough, just the way they are. If we all woke up one morning and said “I’m pretty damn satisfied with the way I am.” … It would be conglomerate apocalypse! What most people come to realise, at some point in their lives, is that it’s all a big farce: physical appearances are not what matters. Not to mention the massive waste of time, money, energy and resources that go into creating, marketing, buying and applying the latest fashion must haves.
The clarion call for ‘sexy’ has been sounding for a long time, but it has been so perverted in recent years that conscious Gen Y’s and disenchanted Gen X’s are actively fighting back: ethical consumerism and realism are part of the new sexy. The ugly sides of the fashion industry (such as animal testing and the fur trade) are steadily being sidelined; the modern consumer does not want to be sexy at the expense of another creatures’ discomfort or life. Although non-photoshopped images are being demanded, and released, the doctoring continues and the “sex sells” mantra is still widely, if not solely, used in all aspects of the fashion and beauty machinery. ‘Sexy’ should not be a commodity. What is the point of having millions of people thinking that a select group of individuals (and only those individuals) are the epitome of sexy? The vast majority of their fan base is never going to meet them, even less engage with them on any meaningful level. ‘Sexy’ is part of what keeps a species growing; sexy, is all about having sex. What good does it do you if the person you desire not only does not know you exist but is never going to? Being a geek and having a crush on one of the most popular kids at school is one thing; you actually have a chance, you are at least in the same locality. Having a crush, sometimes to the point of obsession, on a famous person (living or dead (eek)!) is entirely fruitless. They will never know you exist, much less reciprocate your feelings - especially the dead ones. You’re setting yourself up for loneliness, and potential partners up for failure.
The number of social media sights dedicated to hook-ups speaks volumes of the desire to meet and sleep with ‘sexy’ people. Sex will, of course, always be extremely relevant, and as a society we are working on better communication between lovers as well as creating more, and better, user-friendly devices to bring the amazing benefits of a healthy sex-life to more and more people. That being said, the new wave of Gen Y is fast moving away from current attitudes of sex for the sake of sex. They are far more interested in socio-politic affairs than personal sexual gratification; the very existence of A-Sexual Awareness Day is a small hint to changing trends and what to expect in just a few years. Gen Y are looking for connections on a deeper level than the purely physical can provide.
But what of 'sexy'? What is it? True sexy is four fold: visual, chemical, ideological and emotional. On first attraction (which is usually visual and/or chemical) what we find sexy is what we perceive the other to be, and how much pleasure we think they will provide for us or that we think we can provide for them. In other words, it’s all about individual gratification. When and if secondary (ideological and emotional) attraction comes into play the desires become about us. And that’s when the sexy really hots up. It’s no longer about the singular. It’s about what we can do together to create something great. Whether that’s in the bedroom, at a protest or in a boardroom, when you work together to achieve a common goal, and you reach it, the euphoria released by a climax that has been achieved by connected parties is the most sexy thing you will ever experience.
The only known formula for individual sexiness is being true to who you are: you know that feeling when you’re happy and float on top of the world? When you are oozing confidence and aren’t even thinking of whether or not you are ‘sexy’ – that is when you are at your most sexy. And if you need some help turning it on, you can always try “breathing through your genitals” as they say in the theatre...!