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What does it mean for a woman to “feel sexy”? In our current consumer culture, the idea of achieving sexiness is all-pervasive: an expectation of contemporary femininity, wrapped up in objects ranging from underwear, shoes, sex toys, and erotic novels. Particular celebrities and “sex symbol” icons, ranging throughout the decades, are said to embody it: Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Farrah Fawcett, Madonna, Sharon Stone, Pamela Anderson, Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Megan Fox. Ways of achieving sexiness are suggested by new sex experts, confidence and self-esteem advocates, and make-up aficionados, who tell us how to “Have Better Sex!”, “Seduce Your Man!!”, “Look Sexy, Feel Sexy!!!”
All this expectation to be sexy, and to be constantly working on becoming sexy, has created a high level of cultural anxiety around sexiness — not to mention that this should remain “naturally” sexy, as though no work had gone into it at all (see, for example Jennifer Lopez’s “ordinary” sexy selfie in a bath full of rose petals).
Alongside these pressures, women’s feelings of sexiness now also take place in a period that’s been defined as “post-feminist.” It’s become culturally normative to assume the battles of the feminist period have been won, and that women now have equality with men. This means that, ironically, we are told how to do, think, act and feel sexy, as long as we’re doing it for ourselves. The expectation to feel sexy becomes as contradictory as a “Question Authority” bumper sticker.
How do women make sense of sexiness as part of feeling like a woman in the 21st Century? More importantly, one has to understand how generation figures into the equation, in terms of the “discursive repertories” that different age groups would have at their disposal in the context of “post-feminism.” How do women at different life stages negotiate the pressures to be sexy? Is sexiness achievable, or is the expectation too much? Do all women have an equal right to feel sexy? Who is missing from contemporary understandings of sexiness? How does the culture of sexiness interact with how women feel about themselves?
During the research stage of our book, we spoke to two groups of white, heterosexual women, whom we called the “Pleasure Pursuers” (aged 25-35) and the “Functioning Feminists” (aged 45-55). Our discussions with these women were filled with stories of pleasure, pain, anxiety, fun, concern, disgust, and support. However, what was interesting was how both groups made sense of sexiness as a way of defining themselves as ‘good’ people: either as “good” new sexual subjects (fun and pleasure-seeking) or as “good” feminists (critical and nostalgic). Both allowed women to understand themselves in affirmative, authoritative ways. But the actual experience to feel sexy was something to work towards, or something that had already passed. Neither groups talked about feeling sexy in the here and now.
What it means to feel sexy now, today, is political. It folds together spheres of governmental policy, consumer culture, identity, and new digitally-driven feminist activism. The idea of a powerful and self-defined sexually confident woman has a strong pull for feminist researchers, as do calls to respect women’s “voice” and agency. However a consumer culture that sells confidence, choice and self-determination to women is way more difficult to defend. What we did find, though, through our discussions with women, was that their positions were slippery, contested full of contradiction, and never fully formed. For us, this spoke volumes about how to make sense of sexiness today, as a political construct, and as feminist academics and researchers.
Whether we’re pursuing the post-feminist promise of the sassy, sexy, self-determined, self-knowing feminine identity, or critically reacting against it, wishing it was replaced with more “authentic” feminist notions of sexiness, the cultural impulse to be sexy is side stepped. In a similar argument, Nina Power, author of One Dimensional Woman, warned us not to “be misled: The imperative to “Enjoy!” is omnipresent, but pleasure and happiness are almost entirely absent.” What it means for women to feel sexy today is what’s missing — and it’s these missing places, gaps, and contradictions, that deserve more critical inquiry and inter-generational dialogue.
Adrienne Evans is a Senior Lecturer in Media at Coventry University. Her main research interest is in exploring women’s contemporary sexual identities. Her current work continues in contemporary gender relations and the use of creative methods in research and teaching. She has published this work in the European Journal of Women’s Studies, Journal of Gender Studies, Men and Masculinities, Teaching in Higher Education, and Feminism and Psychology. She is co-author of Technologies of Sexiness: Sex, Identity, and Consumer Culture.
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Image: Postmodern Sleeping Beauty by Helga Weber. CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr.
Hi everyone, and welcome to the Hot Books Blog Hop! RNSL Nite Lite is hosting our very first blog hop and it is an 18+ hop. With Valentine's Day right around the corner, we figured we'd give you something to warm the bed at night.
This hop runs from Feb 3-10, 2012 and signups for it will remain OPEN during the duration of the hop. We'd like to give everyone the chance to participate and are allowing signups even after the hop starts. So please tell your friends.
Up for grabs are some awesome, but slightly risqué YA books. I will pick two winners, and those winners each get to choose a book!
Ondine and The Autumn Palace by Ebony McKenna: So, a handsome prince is transformed into a ferret, and when that happens, his clothes tend to get (in)conveniently left behind...
R.A. Nelson's Throat: Don't worry, this isn't Twilight... Emma could rip Bella a new one--not that she would want to. She's a good girl, just a little... troubled.
In the second part of my conversation with David Sehat, author of The Myth of American Religious Freedom, we discuss the influence of the moral establishment today – on women as well as the gay community. Read on to find out why evangelical Christian families like to keep “sexy” in the family (i.e. the Sarah Palin effect)! For the back-story, go to Part 1.
Me: So marriage is completely transforming. And not just because of gay rights. When the recession hit we heard about a lot of moms taking over the family unit. Young people (pre-adults) are putting marriage off or forgoing it all together (woman no longer needs man). What do these shifts mean, when the moral establishment is concerned?
Sehat: I think the law has evolved in exactly the way that Stanton wanted [for more on Stanton see Part 1]. She essentially wanted no-fault divorces, in which people could decide that it wasn’t working out, for whatever reason. That development in law didn’t occur until the 1970s, which coincided with the dismantling of the moral establishment by the U.S. Supreme Court during and after the 1960s. But I’m not sure that marriage is over. Marriage still involves a powerful set of legal incentives – we’re talking about property rights, hospital visitation, tax benefits. And that’s why many gay activists want gay marriage -to erase the stigma of gay relationships and to gain access to this powerful legal status without having to go pay a lawyer several thousand dollars to arrange for the transfer of assets at death and the various legal protections that come automatically with marriage.
Me: As same-sex marriage becomes legalized in more states, do you foresee the moral establishment…letting it go?
Sehat: I don’t see conservative religious advocates letting it go, because for them marriage is the center-piece of a society in which religious norms are defended in the community as a whole. For religious conservatives, society is not a collection of individuals, but of families. And families are central to the perpetuation of godly norms. Gay marriage is an affront to that ideal and the last place where they can make a stand, since they have lost so much ground with at-fault divorce, the acceptance of sex out of wedlock, etc.
Me: And where exactly in the bible does is say homosexuality is evil? Ooo and that I’m a slave to man? Would you mind refreshing me on those passages?
Sehat: There are a bunch. In addition to the idea that women were created to help man, in Genesis 3:16, after God found out that Adam and Eve had eaten the apple, God says to Eve:
I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing, with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.
That last part, “and he will rule over you,” is the foundation of Christian patriarchy. There are also examples in the New Testament of women being commanded to stay silent in church and to submit and obey their husbands. Ephesians 5:22:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
And there are several negative references to homosexuality. The obvious one is the Sodom and Gomor
That’s right. Talk about living with the competition!
Guardian Angel Publishing (http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/), a company specializing in children’s picture ebooks and paperbacks, has started an imprint of books written and illustrated by children under twelve years of age. These books will be given the same amount of attention as those written by their adult counterparts, distributed to schools and libraries by Follett, Inc (the largest distributor of children’s ebooks to schools and libraries), and sold through all the major online retailers as well as on order at any brick and mortar bookstore. The low expense of electronic and print-on-demand publishing has made this innovation possible.
Of course my daughter is thrilled… how can she not be? Already all her classmates have asked for her autograph and her school librarian bought a copy of her book. There’s no question a thing like this can do wonders for a child’s confidence and self esteem, not to mention the way it also encourages and nurtures a child’s artistic talents. She’s already planning a sequel and I can’t blame her. To learn more about her book, visit: http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/angelinbubble.htm.
How did you find out about this publisher? How did your daughter write and illustrate a book? Does it take long? … You may ask yourself.
Actually, I didn’t even know there were publishers who were doing this, and I stumbled upon this company while searching a publisher for myself. As to how did my daughter write and illustrate the book, it happened last summer… yes, on those long, hot, and often boring summer days when you have nothing to do and wish school would start soon. We turned the kitchen into an atelier--papers, paints, pencils, crayons everywhere. I wanted to teach her the whole process of how a picture book is made. She worked and I supervised. Sometimes I helped, too. When she faltered, I kept encouraging her. After 5 days (we worked about 3-4 hours a day) we had what is called a dummy!
When, a few months later, I stumbled upon Guardian Angel Publishing, I knew I had to give it a try. Lynda Burch, the publisher, answered the same day. She said she loved the book and would like to encourage my daughter’s talent. The rest is history. My daughter is the first author under this imprint but there are books by other young authors in line as well.
Is this to remain an oddity or will it become a trend? I have devoted and plan to still devote time promoting her book, but would a mom who is not an author know how to do this? What about book reviewing? So far I have not been too successful gathering reviews because some reviewers, while they congratulate my daughter on her achievement, aren’t sure how to critique a child’s work. As a reviewer, I fully understand, so I’m concentrating on gathering endorsements instead.
Guardian Angel Publishing is offering contests sponsored in elementary schools and will select winners for publication. If your child has written and illustrated a book and you would be interested in seeing it published, you may find more information and submission guidelines at: http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/angeltoangel.htm.
In the end, I think this is something schools should definitely get involved with in order to encourage students to read and write. There must be thousands of talented little authors out there who aren’t even aware of their talents and whose creativity needs unleashing and nurturing. Even if you don’t submit to a publisher (though I have to tell you, there’s nothing quite like holding your child’s published book in your hands!) this is a fun and educational activity to do with your child during those long summer holidays.
Men think about sex, and they think about sex a lot, so you might be amazed that something would be too sexy for a guy, but there are at least ten things that I think you may agree are too sexy, here they are.
Guys find it sexy when a girl is into the same things as him, such as a sports team, or horror flicks. What could be better than sharing a favorite past time together? Guys find it too sexy when the girl starts looking like his favorite teams best player or the killer in a horror flick. If she looks like a quarter back or an axe murderer, its not hot.
Guys find it attractive when a woman isn’t afraid to get dirty. It shows that she isn’t going to be a demanding little princess type. Guys find it scary when the woman doesn’t look like she has taken a bath for months. And before you say anything about the picture not being great, you just try to look up “dirty girl picture” and see how easy it is.
Guys find it sexy when a girl works and spends some of her own money. It makes him happy to see her get the things she loves and wants. Guys find it too sexy when she spends all of her own money, his money, and money they don’t even have. Also, and please note: Just because you can buy anything you want, does not mean you should.
Men find a damsel in distress a bit of a turn on. It gives him a chance to be a hero for a change. Men find it concerning when the same damsel is in distress all of the time. Well okay we might rescue her a few times before we clued in but I am sure eventually we would clue in. Eventually. Maybe.
Guys find it sexy when a chick asks their opinion on something like which car to buy or what computer to get. Since women always think they know best, it is hot when they throw us a crumb or two. Guys really don’t like it when a chick tells them how to do something, like change a tire, or fix a computer. And if the chick is a chicken telling a guy how to fix the computer, well that’s just wrong.
Guys find it sexy when a girl cooks, or does house work in the nude. Can’t think of anything too sexy here. Doing dishes naked, vacuuming naked, mowing the lawn naked, whatever, guys are pretty cool with it.
Guys love seeing some skin. A little tease is wonderful. Careful that you don’t show too much as in the photo below, the one one the left is showing a bit too much skin and has dangerously entered the world of being too sexy.
Writers need to develop deep imagery. It doesn't matter if it's real story or a fictional one; it's the authors' duty to induce reactions from the reader.
Use Imagination—Take a deep breath and read the following paragraph. See if your mind reacts to the stimulus.
It's a hot summer day. You pull a lemon from the fridge. You're holding it in your hand. Look at the outside; run your thumb over it's yellow waxy skin, notice the tiny green bits. Feel how cold it is in your hand. Raise it to your nose and smell it. Mmm. Press it gently and notice the weight of the lemon in the palm of your hand. Pick up a knife and cut it in half. Hear the juices, feel the little spray and notice the smell as it increases. Bite deeply into the lemon and allow the juice to swirl around in your mouth. Did your mouth react?
2 Comments on Use Imagination and Trigger Emotions, last added: 5/2/2010
When did the commander-in-chief become a sex icon? That was the question I decided to pursue this Presidents’ Day. And of course the more people I spoke with, the more complex the question became. By the end of the investigation I learned some Americans continue to preserve a “pure” image of presidents past, while many find their sex lives highly relevant to our political history. Check out the slideshow below to see exactly what Oxford’s presidential experts had to say!
(To see a full image, click on the center of each slide.)