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a moment of profundity...

...or just random, half-thought-out babbling. Whatever. Anyway.

There's a strong movement against the idea that you have to be thin to be attractive, and it's taken hold enough that there are overweight female celebrities (in non-sidekick/comedy roles), and most people on the street will agree that the hollywood ideal is too extreme.

I've seen no such movement against the idea that you have to be sexy to be attractive. If you suggest the idea (that you *don't* have to be sexy to be attractive), most people will say "yes, of course" - but have you seen any *hint* of this in practice?

Our society is extremely sexualized. Clothing is designed to draw attention to primary and secondary sexual characteristics, makeup is styled to emulate a person flushed from orgasm, everything is advertised with the implication of "you'll get sex if you buy this". In and of itself, this is not necessarily bad....

However - add onto that the moral legacy of the victorian era. Sex is bad, sex is only done with your spouse and even then you're not supposed to enjoy it, sex is not something you talk about, etc. etc. etc. We have not gotten over that, not by a long shot. (If you think you have, think again - I still catch myself working from that mindset at times, and I've spent most of the past ten years trying to break it.)

You put these two factors together - everything is about sex plus sex is bad - and you get one huge friggin' contradiction. To be attractive *and* moral, you must look, and to some extent act, like one type of person, but not actually *be* that person. (I think that element of dishonesty that seems to be culturally expected of women, and is being encouraged throughout the media, is what wyndam has been so upset about.)

And everyone is going to deal with this contradiction differently. Just as cultural standards differ about what amount of flesh is decent to expose, so are individual standards for what is just being friendly and what is leading someone on. Hell, make that individual standards of the moment - depending on a person's mood and environmental factors, they may be using different standards from moment to moment and not even realize it. Mistakes are going to happen, and when it's about as touchy an issue as sex, assumptions are going to happen that will compound the mistakes into huge raging hairballs of melodrama.

Solution? I have no solution. The world is fucked up. Sex is good, mmm'kay? But it confuses people, so be nice.

I will now go immerse myself in trigonometry.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2002 01:21 pm (UTC)
I find your statement: "You don't have to be sexy to be attractive" interesting. I think it may be wrong. I think this because 'sexy' means alluring and, well, attractive. 'Sexy' is as subjective as 'attractive' is.

You may be able to say 'you don't have to be thin...', because thinness is something measurable. But how do you measure sexy?

just a thought...

i do find it an interesting idea that two of the MAJOR societal drives we see in the US are so contradictory.

May. 9th, 2002 01:23 pm (UTC)
It's that whole theory....that started in the church...


It's archaic and stupid but that's the truth of the matter. Once sex was a beautiful thing between two people that resulted in mutual love and coupled with the idea that children resulted. Now it is something perverted. Even though you could go ask your parents or your grandparents how many of them had sex before marriage and most of them would tell you they did (if they are open and honest..).

I was even told by my mother that she had an abortion before she married my father because they got pregnant when she was still only 17 or 18. Amazing how what is good for the goose is not good for the gander though...

My parents told me time and time again that sex should be saved for marriage because you give away a part of your "soul" to that person and become "one" with them... But what if I want to become "one" with more than one person.. what if I like that feeling of intimacy. That deep understanding of where a person is coming from and pleasuring them.

Being an empath that is one of the highest levels of enjoyment I find is watching my partner become totally succumb to the bliss of the sex. Is that wrong of me.. HELL NO... I like having sex.. I like the feel of hands brushing acrossed my naked skin. I like feeling SEXY!~

Yeah.. I'll admit I have low self esteem.. and that when I'm with someone.. I feel special.. I feel like I'm worth something.. but that is not the real reason I have sex. the reason that I enjoy sex is because (1) I can.. and (2) because it is such an intimate experience.
May. 9th, 2002 01:33 pm (UTC)
Hmm. To me, "attractive" means "attracts me to the idea of doing X with someone". (Where X could be just about anything I like to do with other people -- sex, conversation, bike-riding, etc.) And "sexy", to me, is just a subset of "attractive" that specifies that X is sexual. (It can be used theoretically -- I'll call people "sexy" when there are other factors that mean I'm not actually attracted, but that I could be if the other factors were gone. E.g. I'll occasionally describe women/their outfits as "sexy", but I'm still token-straight-chick.) If I mean "fits societal standards of attractiveness", I'll say "conventionally beautiful" or something. Beauty, to me, is often separate from attractiveness. I've known many sexy people that I'd also describe as somewhat ugly (although not to their face). I think my "sexy-meter" is mostly based on the way someone moves, including facial expressions. Beauty can catch my eye, but it can't hold it if there isn't something else there.

I don't mean to sit and wordsmith (I'll save that energy for my thesis) -- I just don't exactly understand what the distinction between "attractive" and "sexy" that you're trying to draw is, since, as I said, "sexy" is for me a subset of "attractive".

As for society, I think the fact that Brittany Spears (sp?) is so vocal about being a virgin just sums it all up. Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalen in one package, sort of.
May. 9th, 2002 02:03 pm (UTC)
Yay Bible Refs!
May. 9th, 2002 02:29 pm (UTC)
Don't take this the wrong way...
You are my goddess!

Or translated: Can I quote this (with reference to you) just about everywhere? This was unbelievably well put.
May. 9th, 2002 04:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't take this the wrong way...
hee. certainly :) and thanks!
May. 9th, 2002 02:38 pm (UTC)
(I think that element of dishonesty that seems to be culturally expected of women, and is being encouraged throughout the media, is what wyndam has been so upset about.)

I love you. Now, if I can just get you to edit all my LJ entries before I write them...

As long as your in my brain, can you find my keys?
May. 9th, 2002 02:43 pm (UTC)
those kinky Victorians
umm, Victorians were a good bit kinkier than you're giving them credit for (it's part of why I love Victorian literature). While I don't have time to talk about it (sorry), I highly recommend Foucault's _The History of Sexuality_ volume 1. Even just the first 20 or so pages are very helpful on this subject.
May. 9th, 2002 02:50 pm (UTC)
Re: those kinky Victorians
Oh good, someone else said this.

There is still a cultural predisposition (which we may choose to call, not inappropriately, 'Victorian') to consider sex conservatively. Moving away from a strong cultural bias causes cognitive dissonance for lots of people. I wouldn't say that that the two cultural assumptions (sex bad, sex good) are contradictory at all -- I would say that in many ways they are the same cultural assumption, but a complex cultural assumption under shift; "sex bad" comes at the early end of the bias, and "sex good" at the current end.

I doubt there was ever a time when everyone thought sex was simple and fun.
May. 9th, 2002 10:14 pm (UTC)
Re: those kinky Victorians
You know, I was just thinking to myself, "I bet Bill is going to jump in and argue about what the Victorian era was really like." :-)
May. 10th, 2002 03:34 am (UTC)
Re: those kinky Victorians
So you were surprised then when I jumped in and *agreed* what the Victorian era was really like then? :b
May. 10th, 2002 09:51 am (UTC)
Re: those kinky Victorians
Right, you argued against the original poster. :)
May. 10th, 2002 10:29 am (UTC)
Re: those kinky Victorians
Show me how to comment on a conversation with two sides without disagreeing with one of them! ;)
May. 9th, 2002 05:20 pm (UTC)
While I could debate whether or not sexy actually implies sexual desire / readiness, I don't think it's really the issue at hand. People have different defenitions for lots of words, particularly intelligent and thoughtful people for words I think are left purposefully vague. The issue you're addressing is that Americans, or the most part, live in both a sexualized and sexually constrained (by any number of things) society.

Because of this, it is difficult to broach topics such as embracing one's own sexuality, particularly in magazines that are expected to sell to as wide an audience as possible, as many of the readers may well not be used to such ideas. It makes even the most well-intentioned article in Glamour or Cosmo or the like potentially send the wrong message. I think telling women it's okay to be sexy without guaranteeing sex is both healthy and sensible; there are many times when I dress in a way I find sexy simply to feel sexy, not because I intend to have sex later on.

The article was likely designed to speak to women who think that if they dress in a way that will make them feel good they are without question leading on the men (or women) they're with. That sort of attiude comes form the same school of thought which, in its extreme form, blames rape or coerced sex on the woman if she was dressed in a sexy way because, "She was looking for it." However, if not carefully and cleverly done, an article designed to tell women that they can dress and feel sexy without promising or even wanting sex teeters that dangerous edge between the sentiment expressed above, and the read that wyndam took from it which says, "Do what you like! Don't worry about how other people will react, because you're a woman and sex is your choice!" Some might interpret that as the ability to act without consideration. That's hurtful and dangerous.

A thought I just had, in a siliar vein: There is a young man who dances at the goth club I frequent. He and I are acquaintences; we know one another from LARP circles. When he goes to the club, he dresses in a way that I think of as sexy. When he dances, he dances sexily. In the past, he was quite playful and teasing with me sexually. But I never took this as an invitation to have sex, because when it got down to it in regular everyday interaction we acted like acquaintences. Would anyone in my position have thought he was promising sex? I ask because I'm wildly and improperly extrapolating to see if men are more likely to feel that women acting sexily towards them are promising something than the other way around.
May. 9th, 2002 06:06 pm (UTC)
In a week where I've been debating the need/usefulness in my life for sex, relationships, and LJ (in no particular order)... all I can say is thank you.
May. 9th, 2002 07:51 pm (UTC)
you don't need to hear this from another person, but... amen. well put.
May. 9th, 2002 11:10 pm (UTC)

let me breif you...

Here lies the old myth,
Breaking the mold with,
Truth to take away the trickery,
Twenty centuries of progress,
Suffer slowly as we regress,
Losing head way to our selfs,
Behold the covers,
The sisters, the mothers,
The daughters, the spouses,
On the magazines,

Treading the current,
Issues at hand,
Shifting, we sway,
From justice, and then back again,
What we once broke,
He has made right,
Lifting her up,
Giving back to Jesus Christ.

She is strong but never silent,
Sure of where her truth/ Strength comes from,
One day,
One girl army will overcome.

Written by Reese Roper, ...if you read this over it will make sense to what was written in the journal.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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