Can we define what is ‘sexy’?

In an article for Lenny Letter, Emily Ratajkowski raises awareness for what it is like for a young girl who is sexualised by others from an early age. She, like many others, was taught to be cautious about her own sexuality for fear of the way others looked at her. In many young girls this can create a sense of guilt or awkwardness in owning their sexuality, or simply dressing in the clothes they want to. We teach our children to be careful, to think about the message their behaviour or clothing sends to people. God forbid the message would be the “wrong” kind.

She then brilliantly discusses what ‘sexy’ even means. Are we not taught that to be sexy is to be trashy, or is a tool that should be used to impress men? Why is it not something we own, or use as self-expression? It is important that we can walk out into the world wearing whatever we feel beautiful in, and be able to celebrate ourselves without glares or disgust emanating from those around us. If the individual feels sexy, then that should be something that they own and create, and not something that can be imposed or taken from them simply for the gratification of others. This is the first step to busting the myth that everything women do somehow is for the pleasure or attraction of men.

It is clear that this idea is one that should be embraced and celebrated, but the realistic view is that it has roadblocks working in our patriarchal society. While celebrities can embrace their own sexuality in fabulous Beyoncé ways, can you imagine the looks women would get strolling the streets in the outfits donned by Victoria Secret models? The danger of celebrating what ‘sexy’ is, is to only celebrate how celebrities or porn stars show off their sexuality. This would make something that is inherently yours something that can only be objectively put on to you, meaning that embracing yourself and your own ‘sexiness’ is just becoming a new way to body-shame others. ‘Sexy’ looks different for different people and it is important that we realise this.

While this article is centred around female sexuality (for I have little knowledge on what it is like for a male to own their sexuality), it is important to reflex these issues onto men too. For if it is not acceptable to sexualise a young girl based on what they wear or how they look, then how could we say that it is different for young boys? It is not uncommon for women in the realm of social media to sexualise young boys (check out the comments Brooklyn Beckham gets) in the same way men do it to girls.

Lastly, it may seem like this is a substantial change, but in reality this change is a noticeably small one. We should not sexualise others based on the clothes they wear or how they appear. Let sexy be something that the individual defines, and not something that defines the individual.