Victoria’s Secret has released their “What Is Sexy” winners on Monday, causing outrage and criticism that most of these winners are young white and thin. So what is sexy?
Recently when playing on my phone, I heard my 6-year-old goddaughter singing and recording a video saying “I’m so sexy, I’m so sexy.” I asked her what she thought sexy was and she responded “sexy is being beautiful.” Not only was I mortified that she thought you had to be sexy to be beautiful, I was baffled as to how I was going to explain to her what sexy was. As a Sexologist, I’m supposed to be able to answer this question, right?
As much as I do enjoy their underwear, Victoria Secret has gotten sexy wrong. Not to say that their sexy winner’s list is not that, but their sexy winners list does not define what sexy is. They are a brand that has refused to progress with the times and incorporate models and clothing appropriate for all. But it’s not a crime still to call their models and winners sexy, however we need to make it known that they are not the only ones who are.
Some might think that being sexy is flaunting flesh, other attribute biological factors that are linked to fertility such as silky hair, clear skin or a big bust. But there is nothing set in stone to say what sexy is. Some say sexy is an attitude, others say it’s confidence. Sexy is no longer something we do or a way we look to entice someone in the romantic and physical sense but a concept we have now incorporated into everyday life, as proven by Victoria’s Secret’s categories list. So, if it’s an everyday concept that applies to so many different things and people, how on earth can we define it?
So, I’m sorry I can’t answer the question what sexy is because it’s what you think it is. But challenge your thoughts as to what it means to be sexy. Are your thoughts conditioned by the society around you, by social media, by brands such as VS? If you feel sexy wearing something, doing something or saying something, that is sexy. If someone else thinks you are sexy, that is sexy. It might be a look or it might be an attitude, but it is what you think it is regardless of any stereotype that might exist on a list. It is scary because sexy is a word for many so often linked to sex, but our overuse of it these days has desexualised the concept and made it into an everyday thing. How many times do you hear the word sexy used? You get dressed and your friend says “you look sexy.” Even my Mum will comment on a photo or something I’m wearing and tell me I look sexy. We hear it on TV, in advertising and to sell any products. It’s everywhere.
As for explaining to a 6-year-old what sexy is, it’s not so simple. I did tell her it was something people did to attract attention in the romantic sense (what now seems like an outdated view) and even that didn’t feel right. It was the best I could do at the time, but I look forward to when she is older and able to understand more these open-ended concepts and to continue to have these conversations with her.
Since we have lost the concept of sexy being directly related to sex, why not embrace it as something every adult is in their own unique way just like we have embraced the concept of beauty. I say adult because I don’t want to encourage kids to feel the need to be sexy, there is enough of that around. We can’t win the war against the sexualisation of our youth, but we can help my redefining the term sexy to be something everyone has the right to, without taking off clothing off, flaunting their skin or enticing a sexual advance. Maybe we just are better off at adopting my God Daughter’s approach that sexy is beautiful. They are both now two terms overused, that can’t be defined and something we allow everyone to be.