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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » What's Your Pleasure... or is it yours at all?

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Author Topic: What's Your Pleasure... or is it yours at all?
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Some recent reading (namely Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs, which is a brilliant piece of incredibly insightful work) has reminded me of an issue which we talk about in fits and spurts here, but which I'd like to give the spotlight of it's own thread.

Namely, this: How many of you feel like you're given the message that you need to be sexy, but primarily in either how you dress or appear (rather than you feeling sexual on your own terms), or in how you behave according to a cultural idea of what's sexy?

How many of you might have observed that what you define or perceive as sexy manages to fall right in line with what you are TOLD is sexy, by media, by peers, by partners, by what and who is around you? How many of you have definitions or ideas about what is sexy that is radically or even marginally different from all those covert and overt messages, and how do you work that out?

In that same vein, or if you want to approach the subject from a different angle, what have your experiences been -- for those of you who are sexually active, or have friends who are, or who are even just thinking about it -- per the WHY of being sexually active in terms of YOUR pleasure, and what you PHYSICALLY enjoy? With the whole of your sexual history -- not just that one partner who may have recently come along and changed things for you -- how much of your sexual activity do you feel has really been about exploring your pleasure, and what you want to explore, and how much about a partner's pleasure and what they want? How much of it, if any, hasn't even seemed to be about any of that at all, but about status or covert or overt requirements to appear sexually attractive/sexy/sexually available?

If you're bisexual, gay or lesbian, how has this affected, if at all, the above, or come into play?

Lastly, with any of this, if you once felt one way about this stuff, but now feel differently, or have since had different experiences, what's happened to change things for you?

Big topic, I know, and if I've not been clear, give me a shout-out. But I'm curious to just hear y'all rap about this. Things in this regard have changed a good deal since I was in my teens: a friend and myself were just gabbing the other day about longing for the time when a sexually active teenager could actually just enjoy themselves, explore themselves and others without feeling that it/they had to look a given way, or resemble this position in that film, or fit into a given media notion of what is and is not 'sexy" (especially for women). So, while I listen to/read all of you daily, and I keep up with articles, studies and the lot, I'm interested in just opening this up to you and hearing how you feel about it.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Conker
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Well i didnt get exactly all what you said but i agree that media influences alot on how we act or are supposed to act sexually speaking, now as far as sexual exploration me and my girlfriend have a very very open relationship and can talk about anything and we have no problem letting each other know what feels good and such but i could care less about myself and all i want is to pleasure her and make her feel good, i really coould care less about myself.,, sorry if im a little off on what we are supposed to post
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zeta
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It is a big question to ask...

well, I saw a Lydia Lunch concert last weekend. And she made a really awesome point about how women who are not seen as "standardly sexually attractive" in our society are just not seen as sexual at all. That bothered me a lot. Since, okay, I'm young, and skinny, and in a lot of ways what society "wants" me to be, and I seee my body as rather attractive really. But what if I were less as according to standard.. I just don't know.

I used to be *extremely* comfortable with my own sexuality, having been brought up in an unusually sane environment. However, a coupla guys I dated insisted that females in control of their own sexuality and prepared to ask for what they wanted were unattractive to males (since they need to chase) and while I know they were full of ****, the influence made me messed up anyway.

I also have started minding, more and more as I grow older, the general misogyny in our society and it makes me more and more a "militant" female. I feel like the anti-female-sexuality culture we live in, or the culture that insinuates that sex is only for passive females who place themselves to be judged by the male gaze, has ****ed up some of the joy I took in my own body, and I'm pretty bitter about thst.

Sanely, I know that my sexuality is mine to enjoy. Emotionally, I feel that while I have been able to protect myself agains partners who'd be actively evil, living in this anti-female society has done nothing but bad to my enjoyment of my femaleness, sexually and otherwise.

And I used to be bisexual, but since for a teenage girl to be that was to be nothing but a sex object -even other girls would often enough only make out with you in order to attract the attention of guys -well, I just gave up. I don't want a girl I fancy to just use me to make herself look hot to some goddamn jock hoping for a threesome. On that front the social assumptions about bi girls pretty much screwed it up for me.

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I don't get even, I get odder

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-Lauren-
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My main complaint about mainstream images and attitudes in general is how we are generally discouraged from being our natural selves. Not only does this apply to ways people of different genders are supposed to act personality wise, society seems to try to convince us that certain, naturally-occuring characteristics of our bodies are unsexy or unacceptable.

Lots of topics on the boards recently bring this to my head.

Regarding circumsision, the foreskin is a naturally occuring bodypart that has somehow been accepted as unhygenic, un-necessary, and unsightly.

For body hair, double standards apply. It can be accepted as sexy for a man to have stubble on his face in the media, yet ugly if a woman has a bit of stubble on her legs. I feel ugly and unsexy if I have any sort of bodyhair.

Sampling foreign bathing products has also led me to the conclusion that the media includes prejudice against any sort of body odor. Comparing the scent of women's shampoos sold in Europe and the Americas, respectively, have proved this; European bathing products have a very light fragrance, while most American bathing products for women are overly scented and flowery-fresh.

I don't think I need to speak anything for the thin-is-in trend.

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lizenny
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What a great topic to stretch my head with. Plus it's been a while since I've posted so LET'S GET READY TO RAMBLE! [Big Grin]

I thought about this for a while and I just couldn't really put down everything I found sexy. There was just too much. I tried going the other way and using what I found not to be sexy to narrow it down but I couldn't find anything.
For me an aura of confidence is really all it takes regardless of what someone looks like. Someone could be in a banana costume for all I care as long as they appear to be sending a signal saying "I believe I'm sexy." as opposed to "I'm trying to be sexy." or "I'm not so sure if I'm sexy." then they've made it into Lizenny's personal realm of the sexy. (I actually imagined the banana suit thing. I wasn't kidding.)

I think that what probably gets people so touchy about sexiness and physical appearance is that this is where differences between people are more apparent immediately. On this level what's sexy seems more black and white than it really is. I think it really has more to do with preference than with rules or social programming anyway. For example for me personally, chipped nail polish adds a sexy point or two. I have no idea why but it's safe to guess that it's not because someone told me so. However I imagine that people would be more likely to openly admit to preferences that are more popular. Imagine some guy trying to justify the nail polish thing to his buddies. Awkward right? Big breasts and low cut tops are just safer to discuss. In a way an odd preference can be a bit like a same-sex attraction in that at times it can be harder to relate to most people in that regard and that can lead to it being pushed aside in favor of the more mainstream.

I think being bisexual definately broadened my definition of what's sexy. I find that regardless of a person's gender my standards of sexiness are pretty much the same(nail polish included:p). It also helped to get rid of any notion of mutual exclusivity. Many of us don't realize that finding one thing sexy doesn't necessarily disqualify any deviations from that. What's sexy, even for one person on one particular aspect of a person can cover an entire spectrum. A good illustration is what a friend of mine told me recently. He said "I like large breasts because I like breasts in general." I happen to agree.
I think the process of accepting myself also affected my view on this in that I feel that now I don't look elsewhere to see what I should or shouldn't perceive to be sexy. With that in mind, as far as I'm concerned the pleasure is ALL MINE.

I know who I am. I know what I like. My hands hurt. I'm done typing.

[ 06-09-2006, 02:58 AM: Message edited by: lizenny ]

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I AM WOMAN...THE REMIX!!!

You catch more flies with manure than you do with honey.

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Irm
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Oy, guess who is still alive? I have dissapeared for the most part, as I am in Arkansas now, and my mate's Internet service only works about 5% of the time. Hopefully this will not interfere with AGA stuff. Gih.

As for the topic at hand: absolutely, my sexuality has been largely effected by media, societal expectations, male behavior, etc. That twist on my person has lessened CONSIDERABLY at this point in my life, but I still feel trapped by it to a deep level in the sense that I simply cannot let my sensuality fully flow, and when I am in an uncomfortable social situation, I find myself falling back on sexual stereotypes in order to “warm up” whomever I am talking with. Some days it just gets exhausting to be considered “intimidating”, which seems to be used interchangeably with “hard to get into bed”.

I think the statement that women who do not fit mainstream sexy are not considered to be sexual AT ALL is nail-on-the-head. The opposite is also true. Many women who DO fit mainstream sexy are EXPECTED to be sexual, or to be receptive to certain types of males, or even to be bicurious. A good example is a short TV commercial I saw a couple of weeks back, in which a “real life tattoo shop” was introducing its newest worker: a very, very “hot” woman who, for all of her tattoos and piercings, looked like she could draw a few millions in a look-at-our-hot-heroine blockbuster. They showed a clip of her walking in the for the first time, the men reacting with oogling eyes, and then showed quick interview clips with the males. Even though this woman was their new COWORKER, all they could talk about was how sexy she was. One of them had an attitude of “oh wait and see, I'll have her bedded by the end of the week”, and one of the others said—no joke—“She's so hot; it's only a matter of time before she gets together with someone.”

How does her fitting their idea of “hot” suddenly make her a sexually seeking individual—or even one who is so desperate that she obviously HAS to date the first person that “hits her button”, ie. one of them? Does he mean that because she is hot, she will be pursued, and therefore will not “have to” be single very long, which we all know is just a curse upon women who aren't sexy enough to “get a man”? Did it at all strike them that maybe she is there to TATTOO and does not want to be sexually harassed by her coworkers? Hmm...

On the opposite side of the spectrum... Women who do not dress/act in a way that is mainstream sexy are clearly NOT interested in sex, or dating, or etc. (I have an AGA blog ready in which I rant somewhat on this subject while reciting my birthday experience at the strip club. Suffice to say, when I showed up the first time, I was dressed to please the mainstream, and got a lot of male attention, tips paid for, etc. When I went back a week and a half later dressed in my OWN idea of sexy--a black vinyl corset, some shoulder pads, etc--I was pretty much blown off.)

The only real "social group" that I have my foot in is comprised of some hardcore party animals. They're all very nice guys, though their attitude towards women is appalling. ("If you want to get into the party, you have to either bring five bucks for booze or two hot girls.") Strangely enough, they don't treat me as much as the object that they seem to treat most of their female acquaintances, and I had never really given it much thought, until I ended up in a somewhat deep conversation with one of them and found out why.

At first, he told me, "Well, I don't see you as a girl. You're not like the others--you carry yourself differently, you speak differently... You're a woman." Which was all fine and dandy. But then when I voiced a bit of offense that no one ever flirted with me or thought to invite me along for certain events, he was actually pretty startled, and explained to me that no one thought I would be interested. I thought he meant my interest in females, but as it turns out, that very attitude that caused him to regard me as a "woman" rather than a "girl" was the same one that sent off signals of "leave me alone--I find sexuality appalling". "Woman" seemed to be another word for "prude old crone", whereas "girl" seemed to mean "ready, willing, and fertile!" Appearently, because I dressed how I wanted, carried myself with maturity, had a dominant streak, didn't shave my legs, and refused to be on "boob-cam", I was "just one of the guys" and not in any way interested in anything sensual. He thought that I would find being hit on "offensive", because I was obviously my own woman. Well, I suppose if sexual interest is equated to demeaning someone, then I WOULD be offended... if I had to downgrade to "girl" and to NOT "being my own woman" in order to be seen as having sexuality.

On the whole homosexual thing... I had a lot to say on that, but most of it has slipped my mind in mid-rant, and this is getting pretty long anyhow. Suffice to say that it's just difficult to have one's sexuality taken seriously, PERIOD, no matter what you do, when you are a lesbian. Either my sexuality is "not real", or I "just haven't found the right guy" (I get ten times the **** for that one now, as you can imagine), or--MOST commonly, by overwhelming majority--my sexuality isn't really SERIOUS, and I wouldn't actually have a genuine relationship with a female: it's just HOT. Sadly, I found that attitude even amongst some WOMEN. Explain THAT?

(Not even going to go into lookism stereotypes for lesbians. I showed my 60-some-odd-ear-old teacher one of my corsets, and he remarked with confusion that it accentuated my feminine curves. I said "of course", and he said, "Why would you want to do that? I thought you were into girls?")

When asked, a lot of women have answered to me that the greatest part of being a woman is "having power over men". [With mainstream sexiness.] I want to know: how about having power over YOURSELF?

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September
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It's been a good many years since I've let mainstream media affect how I view myself and others. I figure that I am going to do as I please, rather than letting someone else prescribe that for me, and if others feel they need to react to that as prescribed, then that is their problem and not mine.

The funny thing is that I actually look pretty "sexy" by the current standard but refuse to put on the act that is expected to go with it. Needless to say, this confuses guys. It's happened quite a few times that once I got talking with guys I'd known by sight for a while, I was told that they'd been wanting to approach me but didn't know how because I seemed so 'aloof'. I guess by this they mean that I am supposed to dance in on high heels and drape my cleavage all over them, rather than sitting somewhere in a corner with a book.

I did buy into the whole "sexy" thing when I was younger, maybe middle school. I had a friend that all the guys were going nuts over and yeah, I was pretty envious of that. So I tried to look and act like her, but it didn't succeed in doing anything other than make me feel pretty pathetic. Eventually I got over that and since then I've cared pretty little about how others percieve me. As long as I like myself and what I'm doing, then it's okay.

As far as what I percieve as sexy, I've also never really gone with the standard opinion. For me, sexy isn't contained in a muscular body or a winning smile or even bundles of money. Sexyness is a pretty intangible thing and more often than not it's just a matter of how someone carries themselves. I have no idea why my opinion tends to diverge from the popular one, but I've never had any qualms about voicing it and the worst I've gotten for it is an odd sideways glance.

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-joey
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Heather
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Let's throw something else into the mix as you think on this:

If "sexy" wasn't inextricably linked, right now, with capitalism and consumerism, if it wasn't so PROFITABLE, how differently might, or might not, "sexy" be defined?

I also want to pull some quotes from some of you which I think are brilliance:

Everything where you started here, Red:

quote:
"Well, I don't see you as a girl. You're not like the others--you carry yourself differently, you speak differently... You're a woman."
... is full of SO much to say, question, think about. Especially when you consider the fact that the commodified version of sexy insists that "women" do their level best to look/act/appear like "girls," but girls as defined by men.

In other words, to me, when I think "girl," I think playful, daring, inspired, free, full of energy, ferocious, kind, fair, spunky, driven, etc. I do NOT think, pliable, soft, gooey, naive, pretty, available, etc.

Zeta:
quote:
Sanely, I know that my sexuality is mine to enjoy. Emotionally, I feel that while I have been able to protect myself agains partners who'd be actively evil, living in this anti-female society has done nothing but bad to my enjoyment of my femaleness, sexually and otherwise.

And I used to be bisexual, but since for a teenage girl to be that was to be nothing but a sex object -even other girls would often enough only make out with you in order to attract the attention of guys -well, I just gave up. I don't want a girl I fancy to just use me to make herself look hot to some goddamn jock hoping for a threesome. On that front the social assumptions about bi girls pretty much screwed it up for me.

UGH! That makes me so terribly sad. And it's not an uncommon experience, but for the love of Pete, I want better for you all! This is sexual tyranny.

(And Lydia Lunch! One of my high school icons! Lydia is some pretty darn cool people, how great you've gotten to see her.)

Which sidetracks me from some of the other amazing things said, to get wistful and say that I miss, really miss, the punk sensibility. That isn't to say it was the most women-friendly, feminist environment ever, it wasn't. It, too, had it's flaws, and there was plenty of covert and overt sexism there. But one of the things I miss about it, per what it gave me in my teens, was putting such an awesome value of individualism and individual style. In those circles, back when, you'd get ****, not congratulations, for mimicking some percieved norm or ideal, rather than inventing and reinventing yourself as originally as possible. As a teenage girl, especially one as troubled in many respects as I was, that was HUGE for me, and a very welcome respite from the pressures to conform, especially per how I looked and behaved, that I saw in mainstream culture, in the one year I spent at public high school, etc. Mind you, we still took plenty of crap from other kids not in those circles for being so weird, for wearing what we did, for how we spent our time and where our attention was put, but hey, it only fed the rebellion, ultimately.

I used to spend hours and hours crafting some of my clothes from scraps picked up at Goodwill and Amvets, and for my ENJOYMENT in the product AND the process, to whatever style was just inspiring, to ME, was whimsical and fun and creative... when it was about sex appeal, it had so much more to do with me expressing myself sincerely rather than wanting to make a given impression or cultivate a given reaction, to show this body part or that one, etc.

There are still some pockets out there, for sure, but it's upsetting to me that the opposite of that seems SO much more pervasive than it was 20, 30 years ago. [Frown]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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joyfulgirl
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i think about this all the time! i identify as a femme lesbian, and i loosely fit into society and media standards of sexiness. but it confuses the hell out of me because i want my sexuality to be my own and i've never been sure if it is. i always ask myself, do i feel sexy and attractive because i'm successfully fitting in to cultural beauty standards? does my awareness of this make it more acceptable to my anti-consumerist feminist politics? i just dont know.

then sometimes i feel like an undercover agent or something. here i am, i can pass as a nice straight girl if i want to. i can claim thin privelege, beauty privelege, and straight privelege. yet, i've been a lifelong lesbian, and have strong anti-consumerist, lesbian feminist politics. so, when i accidentally claim straight privelege (i never choose to do it because i believe in fighting assimilation) i feel sexy. like i just got away with something sneaky. i feel devious and empowered by the thought of, "if they only knew how wrong they are about me."

now, i realize that this can be interpreted and spun an many different ways. i'm not quite sure how feeling sexy by claiming straight privelege fits into my political lifestyle, its a little unsettling. and it only happens in certain situations, not any where any harm or degradation would come to me if i wasn't claiming straight privilege. but i won't get into a tangent about identity politics, as tempting as it is.

basically my desire and personal standards of beauty are things that i've been struggling with for a while. i want them to be my own, i want to own them, but they fit so well into what american culture tells me to want. so, if anyone knows what i'm going through, i'd love to hear your feelings about it.

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"they say you can bear anythng if you can tell a story about it."

-sue monk kidd
the mermaid chair

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summergoddess
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Namely, this: How many of you feel like you're given the message that you need to be sexy, but primarily in either how you dress or appear (rather than you feeling sexual on your own terms), or in how you behave according to a cultural idea of what's sexy?
--The message of being sexy caught my attention years ago. Society sees women as sexual objects. You have to put yourself out there regardless of what you really believe in.

How many of you might have observed that what you define or perceive as sexy manages to fall right in line with what you are TOLD is sexy, by media, by peers, by partners, by what and who is around you? How many of you have definitions or ideas about what is sexy that is radically or even marginally different from all those covert and overt messages, and how do you work that out?
--While I know what society wants in me as a woman, but I have not let that come to my head. I choose my own world of what's sexy. Being sexy is being yourself. Being your own person and not changing for anyone including society itself. What you have is a celebration itself. I can wear whatever I want. Being comfortable in my own skin on my own terms has been given me the ability to take care and love my body for the way it is. I think about all these people who conform to cosmetic surgery to fix themselves up to the norm of what a woman should be like. We're all beautiful in our own way.

In that same vein, or if you want to approach the subject from a different angle, what have your experiences been -- for those of you who are sexually active, or have friends who are, or who are even just thinking about it -- per the WHY of being sexually active in terms of YOUR pleasure, and what you PHYSICALLY enjoy? With the whole of your sexual history -- not just that one partner who may have recently come along and changed things for you -- how much of your sexual activity do you feel has really been about exploring your pleasure, and what you want to explore, and how much about a partner's pleasure and what they want? How much of it, if any, hasn't even seemed to be about any of that at all, but about status or covert or overt requirements to appear sexually attractive/sexy/sexually available?
--I have sex because I want to. I had to learn to love my body completely in order to appreciate and love the same way to another person's body. I love exploring. Everything about ourselves and our partner is so beautiful. When I have sex with my husband, we're celebrating our love and appreciation for each other in the most physical and intimate way. I have the power to say when I want to expose all of me and share it with my husband. I feel so sexy being so natural and naked. We please each other when we both want to. Our love making is so beautiful when really into it together. Pleasing each other is through love and communication and being truly honest about each other.

If you're bisexual, gay or lesbian, how has this affected, if at all, the above, or come into play?
--I am a bisexual. My sexuality has also allowed me to appreciate other women with the same respect that I have for men. We're all beautiful. I don't have any preferences in either sex of what they should be or have in them. You just have to love and respect them for who they are wholy, not just for their physical parts of them but also for their personality and everything else.

Lastly, with any of this, if you once felt one way about this stuff, but now feel differently, or have since had different experiences, what's happened to change things for you?
--My image of what's sexy and everything changed when I felt ready to have sex. I fully understood what really means to be sexy and that's really about yourself. Being true to you and to others and being comfortable and having the power to do what you want to do. However, regardless of whether your a virgin or not, you should appreciate yourself, others, and the true meaning of sex, being sexy, and all those things.

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~Jules

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Blink
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I actually had a lot of problems with Female Chauvinist Pigs. The "Pigs In Training" section did not reflect my reality, nor the reality of ANYONE I know. (I live in an urban area and don't know many people who attend private schools, which could explain it, but I hate that, say, when my aunt or another adult picks that book up, they assume that those teens are just like me.) I also felt that the book would have been a lot stronger if Levy had spent a significant amount of time showing ways that women can and do reclaim their sexualities and create their own ideas of "sexy," rather than just talking about the negative things that are going on. Finally, I guess I was sort of uncomfortable because I could see her passing judgement on ME.

I am a teenage young woman. And a feminist. Sometimes I wear a short skirt, maybe even as short as the ones she calls "belts" in the book. Why do I wear it? Because my thighs are not obscene and I like to feel the breeze on them, and besides, longer skirts tend to restrict my stride when I'm running. I also happen to like reclaiming the short skirt as an article of clothing, rather than a symbol of sexual looseness. But I felt like if Ariel Levy saw me in my skirt, she would have assumed I was just another Pig In Training.

When it gets especially hot, I like to walk around the city topless, because I enjoy doing it. Not because I want to be sexy, but because I don't want to let sexist conventions dictate how I enjoy my body. (But I wonder if Ariel Levy would think I was just another Girl Gone Wild.)

I can also often be seen visibly carrying a strip of condoms around when I am at places with other young people. This is because I have expanded my paid job as a sex educator to also do what I think of as "guerrilla sex education" by having people ask me why I am carrying around strips of condoms, giving me a great opportunity to offer them one and give a quick talk about STIs and how to use a condom, as well as and answer any questions they have. Maybe Ariel Levy would have thought the condoms just meant I was sexually available.

To get back to your questions, I guess I don't think about being sexy very much. I suspect this is partly because I'm queer and in a committed relationship with someone who thinks I'm sexy no matter what, and partly because I've been removed from the range of conventional sexiness for so long (I look young, I have braces, I chopped off my hair with kitchen scissors--although it's since grown back) that I've gotten pretty comfortable with where I am and what I do. At the same time, I wonder if I do the things I mentioned above partly because I am not at all conventionally sexy, because I want to prove that non-conventionally sexy people can wear "sexy" clothes and talk about sex and have sex and enjoy their bodies. So in that way, I guess the way that I choose to be is a direct reaction to norms of "sexiness", even though I'd like to consider myself completely liberated from that. At the same time, I think it is still positive and subversive, even if it is reactionary.

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Heather
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I think the point of the book was to show the negatives, pretty expressly, especially given they're often given very little visibility.

(And know that, as an author, the scope of a book is often very much not 100% your decision: what a publisher wants is a HUGE factor. So, for all we know, she did want to include more than was included.)

I think you're leaping a bit, Blink, with how any of these roles may or may not have been assigned to you by the author. I have seen a myriad of examples of the things she discussed in the book, even just at these boards over the years alone, and what you're talking about with you...heck, darlin', even your awareness of what you're talking about changes the landscape considerably.

quote:
t the same time, I wonder if I do the things I mentioned above partly because I am not at all conventionally sexy, because I want to prove that non-conventionally sexy people can wear "sexy" clothes and talk about sex and have sex and enjoy their bodies. So in that way, I guess the way that I choose to be is a direct reaction to norms of "sexiness", even though I'd like to consider myself completely liberated from that. At the same time, I think it is still positive and subversive, even if it is reactionary.
And I think even in that varied approach, it brings up some of what she was trying to evaluate. namely, WHY do we need to pove that anyone can wear "sexy" clothes? In other words, not only do we know anyone can do this already, where's the benefit, and to whom?

[ 06-12-2006, 06:20 PM: Message edited by: Miz Scarlet ]

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Blink
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Miz Scarlet, you're right, I was leaping a little. I think that came from the fact that I felt an undercurrent of judgement in the book that went beyond "these women are not making very good choices," and also that I felt that Levy seemed willing to take things out of context or misinterpret them. (Not that I would know what the original context was, but sometimes I would have that suspicion from the way that she was using quotes and stuff.) I just really didn't like that book, and I still can't quite figure out why or formulate a valid critique. Maybe I just came to it expecting something different. Lots of people who I respect seem to have loved it, so it's starting to feel like it must be something with me.

quote:
WHY do we need to pove that anyone can wear "sexy" clothes?
Because right now, "sexy" clothes have all this baggage attached to them. Women who wear them are seen as loose, sexually available, and often anti-feminist, and are judged by both women and men, when, in fact, "sexy" clothes are really just clothes, and it's not right that there is this system set up around them to judge, make assumptions about, and degrade women based on what their clothes look like. So when people who aren't conventionally sexy, who are clear (with themselves, and with others) that they aren't wearing these clothes because they are sexually available or anti-feminist, then it starts to dismantle some of the assumptions about women that keep many women trying to either look "sexy" to project one image, or to avoid wearing "sexy" clothes to project another, and helps create images of women beyond the ones that basically amount to a virgin/slut dichotomy. At least, that's how I see it right now.

[ 06-12-2006, 09:14 PM: Message edited by: Blink ]

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Heather
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quote:
when, in fact, "sexy" clothes are really just clothes, and it's not right that there is this system set up around them to judge, make assumptions about, and degrade women based on what their clothes look like.
Very nicely spoken!

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zeta
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As far as the punk sensibility goes -I find it's still there, somewhat, in the goth scene. I read from somewhere recently that the subculture is especially noted for being a lot more female-positive than most. I'm not sure how they defined that, but I have noticed that non-standard looks are, well, the standard, as is blurring of gender roles. Also, a lot of the dress is for creativity and show; you can run about in a goth club semi-naked in a vinyl corset (though you don't have to), and the general assumption is that you're trying to look nice, not that you're trying to get laid.

(Also, what if one was quite available and was indeed trying to get laid? I don't find that excuses rude male advances; "wanting to have sex and looking for someone to have it with" is hardly the same as "have no personal preferences and anyone will do").

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Whiskeyginger
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I feel that confidence is the sexiest thing that anyone can have. There is a line that confidence crosses and that's arrogance that is such a turn off. As long as people are sure about themselves I find it incredibly sexy. I am not sure if this fits what you are asking us but that's what I got out of it.

Do I dress sexy? Sometimes, I don't need too though, I have enough confidence that I can go out in my pjs and sweats and feel invincible. I know I am an attractive person, I'm defiantly not ugly, but I'm defiantly not the hottest thing since sliced bread either. I think the older I get and the more conformable I become with being in my skin the sexier I feel.

I’m not sure why I dress up sometimes when I go out though, maybe it’s because others find the clothes attractive, maybe because they show off my best ‘***’ets, maybe it’s just because I really like switching up my style a bit and sexy clothes are not my normal teeshirt and jeans. I seriously wish we could just go back to nudism being acceptable. It’s so hot right now that if I had balls they’d be sticking to the side of my leg. I would love to take off all my clothes and just walk around.

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Anything is possible if you don't know what you're talking about.

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summergoddess
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quote:
WHY do we need to prove that anyone can wear "sexy" clothes? In other words, not only do we know anyone can do this already, where's the benefit, and to whom?
Society has this belief that sexy clothes project that you are sexually available. These type of clothes are just clothes really. When people wear them, it's not because they should look sexy, but because they want to wear it. They feel comfortable and it has nothing to do with being "sexually available". Everyone's beautiful regardless of what clothes they wear [Smile]

So that's my take.

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~Jules

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thathollygirl
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I am so hot.

But it took me a while to come to the conclusion that society's standards don't matter. I feel pressured to look sexy, but my sexuality is my own buisness.

I've discovered my own sexual pleasure, but that was only after a sexually abusive relationship. I overcame that, and now I'm comfortable with my sexuality both alone and with my boyfriend.

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Djuna
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I feel sexy when I'm dressed in my favourite stuff and I've done my hair and had a shower. Just a complete feeling of being comfortable with my appearance.
I honestly don't look at girls as sexy or not, I think more (subconsciously, like who I'd like to go out with, without meaning to sound too chauvinist) in terms of beauty, physical and in terms of personality. Like do I like their eyes? Are they fun to be around? Do they have a nice smile?
I don't know how anyone else feels, but I personally wouldn't want to go out with a stereotypically 'sexy' person. I'm in love with a person, and whether they're 'sexy' or not doesn't matter. What matters is if I like how they look.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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vkitty9
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On the other hand, should we discourage women who find stereotypical sexiness to be, in fact, sexy? Not because everyone says it is, but because it makes her feel empowered and good about herself; it makes her feel sexual; it turns her on.

It doesn't always mean she hasn't got a brain or has bought into the media hype, if she wears tight, cleavage-y clothing (after all, wearing a rubber dress does that too, and it's not the nationwide norm of sexy). And it doesn't always mean (although many will assume) that she is sexually promiscuous.

I'm just saying benefit of the doubt, mind. I completely agree with most of what has been said so far. Maybe I'm playing Devil's Advocate. [Razz]

This sort of topic is fabulous, because it does make us step back and reevaluate the meaning of sexuality and our own idea of what is sexy, and encourages self-esteem. But on the other hand, it left me wondering if my idea of what is sexy is wrong--if maybe it's too mainstream.

And I don't even buy into the plasticized version of sex we're sold. I'm more into sampling a variety of different looks.

And pin-up couture. [Big Grin]

Great topic. I adore Scarleteen..

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Djuna
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Absolutely - I'm glad you're keeping me on my toes [Smile] . I suppose a better way of saying that would be that I'm attracted to people who are great to be around. You know, people who you'd be with always if you could be. [Smile]

[ 07-22-2006, 12:48 PM: Message edited by: smileyjoseph ]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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hunnybunny888
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I do not fit the media standards of "sexy" or beautiful, I'm tall broad shouldered, curvy, thick haired, small eyed, etc ,etc ,etc. I still get just as many guys as my freinds who are media saavy.
Lets start with what I let the media define for me. I let it define fashion, coolness. If I'm going out with my girls I wanna wear all the clothes in the fashion magazine, sexy, cute, hot, the whole lot. However, on a date or when trying to impress a guy I will not dress according to media standards. Its not something I do conciously. I just feel like when going out with a guy I wanna wear something that I feel comfortable in, that i know i look good in, that is my clothes, that is giving off the vibe that I want to be giving off on this date or outing.
So I let the media define what is fashionable, what is "cool" what is hot. However, I do not let the media define what is sexy or beautiful. I couldn't tell you what makes me feel sexy. Sometimes I'll be dressed up in a hot outfit with my hair and makeup done and feel hideous. Other times I'll be in my pajamas and feel like the sexiest person on earth.

I think right now that in the media there is not a certain "look" that is described as sexy, I think we are mistaking what we see. When the media shows sexy they show lust, or create lust. So I guess what is sexy, what makes people feel sexy, or view another person as sexy is lust. So if I do not fit the media standards of hot or pretty but can create lust with a guy he will find me sexier than any model that might walk in the door

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000
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I was actually pretty bothered by the Female Chauvanist Pigs book. Granted, I didn't read very much of it, but that's because I was turned off so much by the first few pages. I guess some women think they're being empowered when they're in fact just being objects, who not only do things that do not benefit themselves but also feel pressure to outwardly look like they're enjoying those things, but I found her sweeping generalizations rather offensive. Any author can use more sensitive, less-generalizing language. I guess I felt like she echoed my mother in some places -when in fact she probably is not really like my mother at all. It's just that my mother thinks overt sexualization disempowers women, and at the same time my mother really does not promote any sort of positive youth sexuality, b/c I don't think she really believes there is such a thing.

What I find sexy is often inspired by media, I suppose -but not necessarily pop-media. A lot of it is inspired by fiction I've read throughout my life, and various artwork. I'm steeped in media, but not necessarily pop-media. I think a lot of psychologists would tell us our unique sexuality comes from outside influences, whether it be popular influences or not. I enjoy sexuality, but I have found myself worrying about displeasing partners or potential partners more than I would advise my own friends to do if they were in my shoees.

[ 08-08-2006, 09:03 PM: Message edited by: iheartdc ]

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Heather
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One thing, if you'd have read the book a bit more, that you would have found, was that Levy differentiated between parroted sexual performance, and expressions of a person's authentic sexuality, espcially when not done out of feelings of obligation to do so.

I don't think, either, that women being overtly sexual is something disempowering. That's sort of stating the obvious given the body of my work over the last ten years, mind, but I'm right there with you, and yet, wasn't in disagreement with Levy through most of the book.

(I have noticed though that for younger women readers, I think something about the book or its tone was just too close to home to work in some way.)

Generally, the sexological approach to where our own sexuality comes from is that it's a very big mix of things: innate factors, issues of personality, interpersonal realtionships and influences, as well as extrenal influences. I think it's possible that some of the trouble we see sometimes is when the most pervasive infuence in someone's life, period, is media and mass media: there are a lot of folks growing up with TV as a babysitter, with video games as friends, etc.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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kitka
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Parroted sexual performance - yeah. Yesterday I read a old LA times article on Joe Francis and his empire built on "wild" college girls. Skeezy to the nth degree.

Maybe the "something about the book" is this...?
By deconstructing the phenomena of overt sexual perfomance (not authentic sexual reality), Levy is suggesting that the performers' self-perception/expression is as invalid & false as the performance itself.

She's also precise in calling out these young women's misappropriations of sexuality in scholarly terms- maybe that tone comes across to younger readers as didactic or judgemental.

Levy suggested too (unless I'm remembering wrong) that because parroted sexual performance is a very poor mimicry of authentic sexual expression, genuine sexual pleasure doesn't enter into the equation. That seems to be one of the tensions between the feminist vanguard of thirty years ago and the "empowered" women of today.

i.e. A girl masturbates for the cameras but, for the life of her, can't orgasm.

Until I ran into my current boyfriend, I didn't think of myself as sexual, passionate, or remotely attractive to anyone outside a platonic context. Was that a consequence of long-term exposure to shabby sexualized stereotypes? I think so.

If it weren't for mass media, we wouldn't know what drunk college girls were doing in Daytona. We wouldn't witness their exhibitionism as a crowd-pleasing mechanism and then occasionally call into question the maturity we've reached. We might otherwise think, "Oh, that's dull." But seeing it viscerally - I know that riles my fur. It makes me wonder every now and then, in my un-sexy moments, "What would my life have been like had I been a party girl with C cups?"

Pin-up couture... I discovered Dita von Teese yesterday. Wowie!

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biblacknproud87
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This is a load to for my brain to process, but I guess I'll jump right in, or I'll try. Maybe I'll start with this quote from someone, and start from there.

quote:
For body hair, double standards apply. It can be accepted as sexy for a man to have stubble on his face in the media, yet ugly if a woman has a bit of stubble on her legs. I feel ugly and unsexy if I have any sort of bodyhair.
Body hair...for me, this is a weird issue. I am black, and African-Americans are generally known for being less hairy than our nonblack counterparts. So, growing up I never heard the adults (women) in my life talking about shaving. My mom has never shaved in her life, except for under her arms I believe, and I only just started removing hair from my legs and genital area this summer (using the product Veet). Before that, I only removed the hair under my arms (which is normal in our culture). However, once I started college last year, which is 50% white, I began to become self conscious. I felt like all the white girls would look at me like "Eeeew, you don't shave", lol. I always felt left out when they would talk about "Aww man I gotta shave again" or "Can I borrow your razor?" or something to that effect. And I realize now, actually only after reading this topic, that what others project to you, many times you eventually adopt that way of thinking. Of course, I still see absolutely nothing wrong with not shaving ever, and I don't do it as often as I hear my friends in college say they do, but my thoughts about it have changed.

As far as body image, this is also a weird subject, also because of cultural differences. As I'm sure some of you know, thanks to the hiphop world, in black culture the ideal woman is "thick". She has a nice big booty, thick thighs, etc. As a bisexual, that is generally what I find attractive in a woman, of any race (no discrimination here, lol). However, the black ideal is generally not the mainstream ideal in America (although that "Real" campaign shows things are changing a bit, people are still obsessed with being thin). So it's a bit weird, because I cater to my own personal culture, but am outside of the mainstream culture. My feelings about women and beauty are genuine, but I realize that they are formed because of the environment I grew up in. However, there are limits to this, depending on who you talk to. I am a big girl, not thick, just plain old big, lol. My height helps to "slim" me down a bit, but I am overweight. I constantly feel "pressured" to look like what my culture says I should, as a black woman. I put "pressured" in quotes because it's not really pressure; most of the time I don't really think about it. But every once in a while, I'll think about it, and wish I had a bigger booty or something, lol. (my boobs are the perfect size, but that's mostly because I'm big). But when I'm in school, I still don't fit the bill, because I'm not thin. It makes things very difficult for me, and it shows in my relationship track: I have none. I have never been in any kind of relationship, and at 19, it can be frustrating. I am also a virgin (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Guys as well...as I said, black people are not as hairy blah blah blah *doesnt feel like repeating herself* lol So growing up, the men in my life weren't really hairy. My younger brother (whose 18th bday is today YAY) has NO hair on his legs, and none under his arms, for example. However, through television, going to the local mall, and just general travel, I got used to the idea that white guys are kinda...well hairy, lol. So I tend to find hairy white guys quite attractive (if they aren't its no bother), but am not all that fond of a hairy black guy. It's really weird actually...well it isn't that weird when you think about it, but...

[ 08-22-2006, 12:04 PM: Message edited by: biblacknproud87 ]

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I'm lovely
I'm beautiful
I love myself
I need me
Before I need anyone else

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