Our culture is stuck in a sexy rut. Justin Timberlake claimed to bring sexy back a few years ago, but let’s face it, sexy hadn’t gone anywhere. Sexiness has been oozing everywhere for the last decade, permeating our culture from toddlerhood to grandparenthood. Brides are sexy. Pregnancy is sexy. Mothers are now MILFS. Senior citizens are sporting bikinis and STDs. Sexy. Sexy. Sexy.
Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder, Whatever happened to beautiful?
Nobody wants to be pretty these days. Sexy is all the rage. When did the sexy become the end-all-be-all standard of beauty in our culture? I’m not talking about inner beauty versus outer beauty. This is about straight-up looks, namely female attractiveness. Women used to choose from a variety of looks: beautiful, elegant, refined, chic, gorgeous, radiant, stunning, adorable, quirky, divine, fun, smart, playful, pretty, sweet, sophisticated, edgy, powerful, sassy, and, yes, sexy. Sexy was just one of many choices, but now it seems to be the only choice.
When I attend a wedding, I can’t wait to see the bride walk down the aisle. When she finally appears, I hope to gasp. For most women this is the most beautiful day of their entire lives. A bride whose gown is nothing but a sexy white dress has missed an opportunity of a lifetime. In my opinion a bride should be stunning, beautiful, radiant or gorgeous. Sexy is too small for such a grand occasion, even if it is a small wedding.
Likewise with pregnancy. When I see a pregnant woman teetering on stilettos, I don’t think she looks sexy. I think she looks desperate and stupid. Desperate, because she can’t embrace the changes her body is undergoing as she clings to an image of sexiness despite sore and swollen feet. Stupid, because she doesn’t realize or care that her body has released a hormone called relaxin which has loosened all of her ligaments. Her body’s center of gravity has shifted and her ankles are vulnerable to twists. Sky-scraping heels have set her up for a potential fall and miscarriage. Nothing sexy about that.
I know, I know. I’m getting hate mail right now for being so judgemental. I’m probably assumed to be a prude. That’s what happens when anybody objects to too much sexiness; you get labeled unsexy. For the record, I wear and will continue to wear sexy clothes, sometimes. I’m thrilled that baby bumps are celebrated rather than hidden. As much as I love Lucy, I welcome the end of maternity tent dresses. I don’t object to any woman at any age or stage of life choosing to dress in a sexy way, excepting pre-pubesent girls. My problem is that we now feel the pressure to be sexy everyday in every way at every stage of life. It’s limiting, and frankly, it’s boring.
The thing is, sexy isn’t even sexy these days. True sexiness requires two components: confidence and mystery, both of which are lacking in today’s overt outfits. When breasts are hoisted up to the heavens in miracle-wonder-push-up bras and skirts have to be yanked down to exit a car, a woman looks anything but confident. She looks like she’s trying too hard. The too tight, too short, too low-cut clothes scream, Notice me! Notice me! Mystery has vanished. Today’s woman lacks the je ne sais quoi which provokes intrigue and desire. Instead, our clothes cry, je sais trop. I know too much. Jaded desperation does not evoke sensuality. The sexy look in fashion is really just the blatant commercialization of the female body, stripped not only of clothes but also of beauty. The female body is not only the subject of great art; it is a work of art. The so-called sexiness we embrace reduces a woman’s body to an image of pleasure for men crafted by the pornography industry. It’s cheap. It’s stripped down. It’s a reduction.
Unfortunately, our culture has unwittingly equated sexiness with relevance. Pop culture used to be reserved for teenagers who naturally gravitate towards over-the-top looks as they explore their budding sexuality. Tackiness has always been the stuff of teens, which is both worrisome and charming. Inappropriateness is somehow appropriate during that stage of life. The problem is pop culture has now expanded and increased importance. Young women have closets of clubwear, but nothing to wear to lunch. Baby boomers cling to their sexiness as they age out of key the demographic spread. Mothers and mother-to-be feel the need to prove that they are still sexy, but what they’re really saying is: I still matter. Nobody wants to be pushed aside and be told they are no longer important. Pop culture has always been fickle, cliquish and silly. It is a shame that pop culture has become our society’s culture.
Sometimes people speak of society as if it is an entity separate from themselves, but that is not the case. We are members of our society which means we have the power to define our culture. Let’s start to define it with broader strokes, more colors and different flavors. Let’s break out of our sexy rut. Start today. Go shopping or choose an outfit from your own clothes that isn’t sexy. It doesn’t need to be unsexy. Just choose a different adjective for your look. Then get out there and strut your stuff in the sunshine. Be beautiful!