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 cis woman whose height is 5’5”, and my weight has been hovering around 200 pounds for as many years as the concept of sexiness has felt relevant to my life — since at least when I started to consider dating at age 22. I’m 25 years old now. I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t obese according to this chart, and yes, 5’5” and 200 lbs is obese… (For people not using American measurement systems, this is 165 cm and ~91 kg.)
But I likely was still in a healthy weight range for at least some of high school, possibly all of it, and then at some point I transitioned into overweight and then finally obese. I do hope to lose some weight eventually. I need to start exercising regularly as a start. 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.