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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.


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.


firesea: self-portrait
Heather Keith Freeman
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