An Exploration of Not Wanting to Be Sexy, and of Never Feeling Sexy

I just finished reading Kasey Weird’s old blog post from April 2013 on Feeling Sexy, which I had not come across before.

I read the post, and NessieMonster’s comment on it, too, which then turned into a full blog post on NessieMonster’s own blog, and I read that too:

And then Kasey Weird wrote a follow-up post with further thoughts on the topic:

After all that…

Today, Jo posted a nice index of all of her blogging on asexuality. In it, I discovered this interesting post from 2012 titled, Sex or Society: the pressure to be attractive (an experiment):

Jo’s post there includes a lot of comments from asexual-spectrum folks on whether or not they think their asexuality influences their desire (or lack thereof) to “look sexy”, to “be attractive”, etc.

Those four posts give me some insight on the phenomenon of feeling sexy, and give me a lot to think about.

I think I have never truly felt sexy. Which, as a fact, is kind of fascinating to consider. I never really considered it before, but I am considering it now.

The Asexual Agenda Question of the Week last week on what people think about the term “asexy” had already got me started me thinking about this a bit too, because of its relation to the term “sexy”.

Sexiness seems to be a very complicated concept tied up in gender roles and heteronormativity, and for straight cis women it is complicated enough. For any other group to feel sexy or be perceived as sexy, things get much more complicated.

I’m an asexual woman who thought I was straight up until I started questioning if I was asexual and then, consequently, identifying as asexual.

Personally, while I already know this isn’t true for all asexuals, I’m sure my lack of feeling sexy in my life has to do with me being asexual.

I’m someone who now realizes that my entire life, there has never been a sexual situation at all that my participation in actually would bring me any form of satisfaction, happiness, or pleasure. There are other ways to experience asexuality, but my way is of sex-aversion, 100% of the time. I don’t even get aroused in any circumstance. Sex is usually a foreign concept and not on my mind.

For some context, please note that I’m a fat cis woman. (Edited years later to remove fat-phobic phrasing in a few sentences. Hopefully this is better.)

But I was still in straight-size range for at least some of high school, possibly all of it, and then at some point I transitioned into plus sizes. I do hope to lose some weight eventually. I need to start exercising regularly as a start. I feel in my case it would be healthier to lose weight, and I want to be healthier. But at least I stopped gaining weight a couple of years ago. Anyway…

I have no way of measuring what the average person thinks when they look at me, and might be very oblivious at times to people staring or something… but in terms of my own conscious recognizing of what others feel, usually based on explicit statements made to me…

I’ve felt sexually desired a small enough number of times that I can count it on one hand. These moments always felt so confusing to me. For a number of reasons. I generally relate to what Kasey said here:

If someone happens to find me attractive when I have not intended to be attractive to that person, it’s not much of an ego boost to me. I don’t even really feel like their attraction under those circumstances has anything to do with me, per se; it has to do with what they see me as, which is often distinctly different from my own perception of myself. When strangers flirt with me, I am always confused as to what they think they see in me, and I’m certain that they’re mistaken, that I’m not what they think they want.

But it’s also complicated for me if someone finds me attractive because, as Coyote has blogged about recently, there is a “Sex-as-Worth” principle in society, so I think I instinctively felt that I “should”, according to society’s standards, feel like this was the ultimate proof of my worth.  Especially considering how rare it is that it happens. I should take it as the ultimate compliment, I should be either grateful people find me sexy despite my weight, or be someone who has better self esteem about my looks and not assume that being fat means I’m unnattractive. Because apparently straight men do find me attractive, a concept that I don’t think I had properly considered before I started online dating at age 22.

I linked to a post of Jo’s above. In the post, she quoted quite a few different AVEN users. One of the quotes was:

Since I’m not sexually attracted to others I don’t particularly want them to be sexually attracted to me. Sometimes it’s flattering, but more often it’s problematic, annoying, or even frightening. Comfort takes a far higher priority.

I think I feel that way too. Or like… like I want my reaction to be one where I’m flattered, because that is the “correct” reaction for a woman to have, at least if someone is complimenting me in the correct context, such as… my boyfriend doing it. 😛

(Catcalling, for example, would be a drastically different context, where there isn’t the exact same degree of pressure to “take it as a compliment”. It gets much more complicated in that situation. I have never been catcalled in my life, as far as I am aware. I have been complimented on online dating sites for my looks by male strangers, but that’s the most complex situation I’ve personally experienced.)

But for me, even if my (now-ex) boyfriend who I cared for deeply and trusted complimented my looks or told me he found me sexually attractive, it’s… uncomfortable in a really hard to describe way, a way that is really best described by sex repulsion or sex aversion.

(I like to call myself sex-averse, not repulsed, personally, but regardless of the nuanced semantics… both of our groups have a lot of experiences in common, and this is possibly one that many sex-averse and sex-repulsed people can relate to.)

This kind of compliment makes me think my boyfriend — or whoever is doing the complimenting at the time — is thinking of me in a way related to sex. And I would rather stay as far away from personally being involved in anything having to do with sex as possible, even someone else’s fantasies, or someone else’s trigger for arousal, or trigger for desire, or trigger to be thinking about sex, or any of it.

On Kasey’s Further thoughts on feeling sexy post linked above, Ginny left a long comment that included some gold such as:

…if I’m trying to look sexy and someone sees me as sexy, I assume that means they find the same things about me sexy that I do; it means that, going forward, they’ll continue to enjoy seeing the kind of sexy I enjoy performing, and that they’re attracted to the sexy-me that I feel most comfortable being.

That makes a lot of sense to me, as someone who has no comfort with any form of performing sexuality, who has no version of a “sexy me” that is comfortable. I can see that for other people, non-asexual people, or even some gray-asexual people or sex-enjoying asexual people, that this might be how they often experience excitement over being considered sexy in the right contexts.

Another comment quoted in Jo’s Sex or Society: the pressure to be attractive (an experiment) post was:

As I am asexual I try NOT to look ‘sexy’, as I would feel very uncomfortable if somebody were to find the way I dress provocative. I would prefer people to see me as cute than sexy.

and again, I mainly agree with that.

There was even:

I think it does have an influence, because being asexual I don’t seek to appear sexually attractive to other people. I just want to look normal, not funny nor disgusting. I don’t care if I look attractive, I even rather not.

The problem, though, is if a straight man doesn’t think of me (a woman) as sexually attractive, that, in and of itself, sometimes seems to imply he thinks of me as ugly, as something profoundly negative. (Far too often, I feel, that is the implication.) We have this false binary that American society (and almost-certainly some wider degree of society too) often operates under the assumption of – you are a person with worth if you’re sexy, and you’re worthless if you’re not sexy.

But I want to be worth something as a human being, yet not be sexy, and I am not sure if this is even possible in the part of society of live in, in the social contexts I’m in so often. It’s only now that I’m fully consciously realizing this truth about my desires, anyway!

Jo’s post also quotes another AVEN user saying:

I think I would feel the same amount of pressure about my appearance if I wasn’t asexual. I feel as if people evaluate my worth (sometimes) depending on my appearance, whether or not I’m asexual or whether or not I’m looking for sexual attention. Even asexuals can’t opt out of the structures that facilitate sexual culture.

This Sociologist’s paper I found on a quick Google search of the word “sexualization” states:

The sexualization of girls teaches girls—and through it girls learn—that to be successful group members they must be, among and in addition to other qualities, sexually attractive to boys/men.  The sexualization of girls teaches that being an object of male sexual desire is a sine qua non of being a successful girl—other things may also be required, but this is basic.

When you’re not even trying to look sexy, you have no desire to be sexually desired, AND you’re convinced that your body is the opposite of sexually attractive because of your weight… feeling “sexy” is just such a loaded idea.

I’ve always thought of the definition of feeling sexy as that positive feeling that comes from being thought of in sexual ways, which means… it doesn’t apply if being thought of in a sexual way happens to be negative for you.

It’s possible I was subconsciously using a lack of wearing make-up, a lack of bothering to do much to control the frizz in my type 2C curly hair, and even my lack of concern over my growing body weight as my own version of “leave me alone, I’m not interested.” I was potentially doing these things as a way to avoid being sexy. And in the process, I was also, definitely avoiding feeling sexy.

Being sexy and feeling sexy are different.

Being sexy is mainly… uncontrollable, because some people will find you sexually attractive regardless, and some body types/races/gender identities really are “sexier” by society’s standards than others, often in extremely unfair ways. There are only so many clothing styles for sale in stores and sometimes it seems that women have no choice but to buy “sexy” clothes, etc, etc. There are ways to adjust how conventionally sexually attractive you are, and sometimes you can control aspects of it, but… being sexy is a complex topic.

I thought people feel sexy if they’re dressing in a way that means they HOPE a certain percentage of the population around them will be more likely to think of them “as a sexual being” than when they dress other ways, or they KNOW that their clothing will cause this reaction in those around them, and this fact about their outfit was purposeful. Whatever that vague term “Sexual being” means. I guess in this context I intended it to mean someone who has the potential to have a great sexual experience with a partner.

Even if you’re a straight woman who will be perceived as conventionally sexy by other straight women, it’s you being perceived as someone who is possibly competition, someone clearly a possible sexual partner on the heterosexual market, even if you’re already “Taken” (married, dating) etc.

I don’t know.

I definitely think in order to feel sexy, a person must first desire to be sexy, at least in one other person’s mind. Feeling sexy is about the embracing of being sexy, or about choosing to believe one is sexy “enough” by society’s standards. About personal satisfaction with your own level of sexiness, and maybe about the increased “worth” of yourself when you “are” sexy (for people who embrace/accept the sex-as-worth principle).

I feel like my thoughts on this subject may be too all-over the place… so please leave your comments below and let me know your reactions after reading this post. I’ve love your own thoughts on the concept of… “Sexy”, feeling it, being it, asexy as a term in the asexual community, all of it.

18 thoughts on “An Exploration of Not Wanting to Be Sexy, and of Never Feeling Sexy

  1. This is a good post and I identify with a lot of it. I particularly liked your discussion of the difference between “being sexy” and “feeling sexy”.

    Sometimes people (usually cis women in my experience) talk about dressing in a sexy way for themselves, rather than for male attention or the male gaze. But for me, if there’s a chance that somebody (especially a cis man) would think I was sexually attractive enough that he wanted to approach me, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that at all. So there isn’t really a “for me” space (unless I only ever dressed that way when alone, I suppose) because there are always other people around, observing and reacting to me, and some of those reactions are likely to trigger aversion.

    In general, though, I don’t think about myself or my body in terms of attractiveness or sexuality, but rather in more functional terms. There’s a real disconnect in my mind between my sense of myself and any thought relating to sex.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Valprehension and commented:
    One of my favourite things about writing about my personal experiences is that sometimes it inspires other people to think about those aspects of their own lives. I have a feeling that this post on From Fandom to Family is going to make me write more about this myself!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. But I want to be worth something as a human being, yet not be sexy, and I am not sure if this is even possible in the part of society of live in, in the social contexts I’m in so often.

    I have been thinking about this a lot, ever since that question of the week as well. And it goes hand in hand with the way advertising uses ‘sexy’ as an inherently positive/desirable/cool thing to be, and thus markets products that way, etc. I’m not sure it’s possible to escape that in mainstream society either. :/

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I never minded asexy much as a term before that question of the week… it was obviously supposed to be silly and fun… but knowing some people don’t like it, I realize that deep down, the truth is I never was fully comfortable with the term either, I was just trying to force myself to like it, because idk, sexy is a positive word, isn’t it? 😛 And I’m happy to be asexual, and “Asexy” is a combination of that… but yeah. I think I understand, after writing this post, just why I never really have 100% liked “asexy”. It is almost buying into the sex(iness)-as-worth principle, it is too close to the word sexy, and well… yeah. My thoughts on this topic are complicated lol.


      1. Yeah, I get that completely – and I also didn’t really think about it prior to the QotW, only had this vague feeling of weirdness about it. I think I might write a bit more on this in more detail in the next few days.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. GREAT post, so much of this I’m nodding vigorously. And I’ve got my own bigass comment response:
    “there has never been a sexual situation at all that my participation in actually would bring me any form of satisfaction, happiness, or pleasure” <– You know this about me already, but still, SAME.
    I have been grappling with the tension between wanting to feel attractive while having no interest in forming a sexual relationship for as long as I can remember. I didn’t start thinking deeply about it though until I was deep in the throes of my eating disorder throughout high school and college. It was during that time that I kept telling myself how stupid it was to be slowly killing myself like I was for the sake of feeling beautiful/hot/sexy/whatever when I sure as hell didn’t want anything to come of being attractive. I just wanted the confidence, self-love, and in some sense power that comes from knowing that others find you attractive and thinking of yourself as attractive—without any of the baggage that comes from people wanting to ask you out or have sex with you or having a romantic relationship. That’s why telling myself there was no point in having an ED didn’t work, because my asexuality was actually not contradictory: my asexuality and my desire to be attractive were/are completely separate things, but during that ED time I tried very hard to convince myself out of it by relying on the idea that they MUST be connected—surely if I don’t want sex/romantic drama there’s no reason to want to be attractive?? And yet I did! It was SO CONFUSING. And I thought about it a LOT. But by now I’ve been able to make some sense of it. For me, being attractive is tied to confidence and power because of how ingrained the social messages are in my head, about how women need to be everything to be great—they need to be smart, cool, strong, with deep emotional lives, all while being super hot. And my perfectionism that I’ve had my whole life latched onto that and has just never let go, thus, whether I like it or not, I have this insatiable inner drive to be perfect, and that means being attractive—for no other reason than that’s what it takes for me to feel good about myself and my perfection. I don’t want to be touched, I want to be admired from afar as an idol of perfection, pristine and above all. I don’t mind being on a pedestal or behind a glass case, as long as I’m acknowledged for my absolute perfection. Obviously that’s never going to happen, but that’s what my inner perfectionist has and is always aiming for. And that actually works well WITH my asexuality. Which goes to the bit where you mentioned the awkwardness/discomfort of being found attractive to others when you’re not attracted to them. That was part of my line of thinking when I tried to convince myself out of an ED. I was like, “What is wrong with me!? I don’t WANT to deal with that ickiness and drama that comes from people wanting to flirt with me or ask me out or want sex!” Nothing about any of that sounds appealing. But that wasn’t enough, it wasn’t the right argument to make to convince me that there was no point in being attractive at all. I wanted people to think I was attractive BUT ALSO know I was untouchable. I wanted to know what the hot women in movies and TV felt like when they just walk around knowing in full confidence that their appearance was an asset and not an obstacle—to go through life and NOT feel ugly, to NOT feel like you should be hiding because you don’t deserve to be out in public. I wanted to be in that club because I was sick of being out of it. But—and this is the tricky and unrealistic part—I wanted that attractiveness without any of the unwanted attention. I wanted to look in the mirror and see that I was comparable to the "hottest” actresses—to know for myself that I was hot—but not have to deal with catcalling, flirting, dating, etc., things that I have never had to deal with.
    “This kind of compliment makes me think my boyfriend — or whoever is doing the complimenting at the time — is thinking of me in a way related to sex. And I would rather stay as far away from personally being involved in anything having to do with sex as possible, even someone else’s fantasies, or someone else’s trigger for arousal, or trigger for desire, or trigger to be thinking about sex, or any of it.” <– YES! For me, when I want to feel attractive, I want it to be aesthetically, the way I find people aesthetically appealing. Whenever someone is described as “sexy” or “hot,” all I see/feel is aesthetic appeal: I see someone who is nice to look at, and that’s as far as it goes for me. I feel no other interest in the person except to look at them and admire the genetic lottery they won. And that’s all I want from others—to be admired for my appearance but with no added interest or desire or arousal—the gross baggage that usually comes with being “hot” in society.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It always feels SO GOOD to find someone has perfectly put into words the exact thoughts you’ve been struggling to grasp and make any sense out of. And that’s what happened to me when reading your comment. At least a tiny bit of weight has been lifted off my shoulders, thank you for that! I actually found this post by googling “I want to be admired from afar”, a concept I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, little did I know the search would be this successful 🙂


  5. “We have this false binary that American society … often operates under the assumption of – you are a person with worth if you’re sexy, and you’re worthless if you’re not sexy.
    But I want to be worth something as a human being, yet not be sexy.”

    YES! And it’s a stupid, stupid position to put women in!

    I think in general I’m in the not-wanting-to-look-sexy camp. As far as most men (and women) are concerned, I’m not sexually attracted to them, so why would I want them to be attracted to me?

    Does that change when I am attracted to someone? Um… maybe? It’s been so long, I don’t really remember! I certainly do want the other person to find me attractive. And I’m very aware that, because I’m not conventionally “sexy”, they probably won’t. But I don’t necessarily want them to find me attractive because of what I look like. I mean, when I’m attracted to someone, it’s not primarily a matter of looks. Usually I a) like someone for their personality and value them for their friendship, then b) start to feel attracted to them, as a result of which they c) become physically attractive to me. In other words, my perception of them as sexy comes out of my attraction to them, not the other way around. And I’d like it if other people felt about me the same way. It’s a cliché, but I want to be liked for my personality, not my appearance!

    Then again, it might be nice to be found physically attractive too. Perhaps I’ve just given up on the idea because I know I’ll never conform to normative standards of female beauty. Being tall, skinny, and flat-chested means that a lot of traditionally “sexy”, or even traditionally “feminine” forms dress won’t work on me. I’m actually much more comfortable in trousers and a polo shirt – and I even think I look pretty cute in trousers and a polo shirt! It would be nice if the guys I fancied found this look attractive. Unfortunately, it’s not a look that tends to appeal to straight men.

    Liked by 1 person

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