One of the confusing and/or ambiguous anomalies of the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s was about sex. One the one hand, many female supporters of sexual liberation were metaphorically ‘burning their bras’ to assert their freedom to fuck who they wanted and as often as they wanted; the so-called ‘zipless fuck’ as Erica Jong penned it in ‘Fear of Flying’ in 1973. However, on the other hand, many of these same women were ordaining an end to sexual objectification, loudly voicing a determined and decisive rebellion against being sex objects; often donning overalls and assorted asexual apparel to ‘desex’ their appearance; at least superficially. These predominantly middle-class and well-educated females were actually living ‘a lie’; denouncing the regard of them as sex objects yet at the same time living as just that; fucking around with many men who they may have lusted after and/or lusted after them. What was the issue really? And has it changed in more than half a century? It was a contradiction I was well aware of too, as while I embraced ‘fucking around’ I did not want to be perceived as a sex object, though did happily accept the sexual flattery without much contentious complaint. I was only in my late teens, early twenties, ignorant and naive about the implications and consequences of my behaviour. There didn’t seem to be a problem with asserting my sexual desire, at least not to me, strongly adhering to the idea that living out my needs, sexual as well as all others, was my ‘right’ as a human being who happened to be female. I did not however, even want or try or consider ‘de-sexing’ myself as far as what I wore; I was contemptuous of many females in those days for not wanting to look sexy and attractive. Also, many of these women blamed men for it all, denying their own responsibility about their clothing choices and unaware of their own latent hypocrisy. Not only were these women, myself included, behaving as sex objects, we were sexually objectifying the men, too. They were just as much our toys and playthings as we were to them, creating our own double-standards, reversing decades of the imbalance which favoured men.
The issue for me became clearer as I surged into my mid-twenties, where regarding men as sex objects and still living as one, too, had consequences at work and at play as I also loudly proclaimed my professional ambitions as well as declaring my right to pursue those ambitions fairly and justly. I was damn good at my job, but when promotions were denied as well as a pay increase I unquestionably deserved, my sex life started to take centre stage for some of the people I worked with. It was no longer any kind of contradiction for me, I was living my life as I wanted and needed, answering to myself and no one else, but I copped a lot of flak for my behaviour, mostly from other females.
At 65 now, work is irrelevant, but I contend that many women have still not resolved the contradiction about ‘looking sexy’ and actually living it out by accepting the image they have created for themselves. Too often, they look like ‘sex-bombs’; yet manifest angry and hostile stares at men who ‘dare’ admire their sexy appearance. Or reacting more extremely in another direction, they wear drab and dowdy clothes to ensure they do not look sexy at all. And just what is ‘looking’ sexy about? Is it flaunting fleshy tits, squeezing into tight, crutch-length skirts and hobbling along the streets in skyscraper heels? While dressing sexy according to their perspective, many women still seem reluctant to revel in their sexuality on the street, contemptuous of men who appreciate their sexiness or else hiding it under layers of baggy, shapeless clothes that deny any semblance of a sexual being? Are they still unable to accept their innate sexiness as human and dare I suggest it: normal? What are they still running away from? Of course, even high-flying (no relation to any fear now!) female executives in diverse domains wear asexual suits; maybe Armani or Chanel, but they are worn as ‘desex’ suits as far as I’m concerned. Keep female sexuality ‘eunuchised’ lest the men in the boardroom start masturbating (or at least fantasising about it) under the table; their minds no longer on the spreadsheets before them. Is looking sexy for women still shrouded in a secrecy that supposedly protects them from predators on the streets or are they cautious about appearing obviously sexy because other people, women and men both, will accuse them, even condemn them for their sexy sight? Would these same people be able to ‘see’ beyond the sexiness to appreciate what might lie beneath the surface? Or are we all so intrinsically superficial that sexy or unsexy is all we notice? Screaming sexual harassment if they’re even approached for a fuck is slammed by some men as unjust and unwarranted; after all, what do they expect if they dress in that way? Maybe too some women are just ‘tired’ of consistently boring recitations about a big cock or unimpressed and unexcited about its display when he flops it out in front of you in private seclusion somewhere; then attacks you for disinterest as a woman who hates herself (I know as this happened to me at 26 years old with a male work colleague). In another perspective, of course we women are obviously bitter and twisted if we allege sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace on the basis of our sexy image, as if we ‘invite’ this discrimination by dressing as we do. We should obviously conceal our sexuality and dress as a sack of potatoes in order to be considered ‘seriously’ to obtain the jobs we deserve, as wearing ‘our clitoris on our sleeve’ (as I was ‘attacked’ by a boss in London at 27 years old) is far more important than our intellectual and professional experience. Moreover, we’re probably man-hating dikes as well; closet lesbians yet to come out and face our real truth. Clearly, we have psycho-sexual problems and need help.
Appreciating our own sexuality and indeed, enjoying it, tastefully, stylishly and elegantly, is still a perilous ‘minefield’ full of black holes and IEDs of the verbal variety guaranteed to thwart even the most adventurous and daring. So-called women’s lib might have unchained some women from the bonds in the boudoir, but outside in our social environs, another kind of bondage is still extant in how we dress and how we want, either consciously or unconsciously, to appear. Looking ‘sexy’ is simply dangerous and daring to do so is at our own peril.
The Macquarie Dictionary defines sexy as ‘sexually interesting or exciting; having sex appeal’ and that of course is in the eye of the beholder. Moreover, it is also in the eye of the beheld as to how they regard themselves and how they want to dress and appear. It’s not always a conscious choice, women often choosing to live in the shadows of their sexuality for all sorts of reasons unknown to their conscious psyche. Others will consciously choose to appear asexual, especially in the workplace or where more conservative and conformist appearance is demanded, albeit unspoken, as the acceptable norm.
With my innate passion for clothes, I have ‘looked’ at females, particularly when I was young, and later males, as to what they were wearing, and as I got older, trying to understand what looking ‘sexy’ was all about. It certainly wasn’t about being traditionally beautiful or necessarily handsome; it wasn’t even about being slim, skinny or shapely; but something far more intangible that was almost incomprehensible and impossible to define. For many people in our society however, it is inextricably linked to body image; the body beautiful cast as slim and sexy on our catwalks; both male and female. I have espied many women whose BMI might be excessive; yet, they can still appear sexy and likewise men, too. It seems to surpass the superficial, yet, I’ve heard and read all too often how men are either into ‘tits’ or ‘arse’ or a bit of both, deeming these attributes, and/or lack of them, as sexy. As for women, what I hear now is all about the ‘inches’ of a man’s cock, as if we can ‘see’, or want to ‘see’, under his fly to ascertain his sex appeal, or potential fuckability. Is female sexiness simply more physically obvious in that we either have tits, arse, etc whereas we cannot ‘see’ behind the zip. And how much of it all is in our imagination; our fantasy head playing havoc with our common sense?
I can’t really answer these questions and no one else can either I’ve realised over the decades; suffice to say that as individuals we all have our own unique criteria for who we deem sexy. Yet, I espy so many women and men too, but especially women, who just dress down and dowdy as if to deny any sexiness at all. They are a motley assortment of various colour and creed; whereas others try to overstate their sexiness by often revealing too much tit in what I consider a travesty of good taste. Call me a bitch maybe, but being subtle for want of a better word, is more what it’s about for me. You don’t have to ‘dress to kill’ with fleshy cleavage in your face! Maybe some men are turned on by it, but I find it tawdry and cheap. I’m not gay, but I do appreciate a woman who looks sexy as much as a man; albeit for different reasons at different times and in different contexts. Maybe as I’ve read, looking sexy is about confidence; exuding a strong and assured sense of self and the people I’m berating for either down dressing or up dressing are compensating for insecurity and sense of inadequacy, not just about their sexuality per se, but about a plethora of personal and psychological issues lurking in their unconscious and manifested by their apparel. Or is it that ‘sex object’ connotations are enshrined in women’s code of clothing, irrespective of behaviour yet still hypocritically ambiguous? Is looking sexy just more ‘dirty’ words about sex? I’ve always been a people watcher, observing not just appearance but behaviour too, and I do realise it’s not always indicative of hidden complexes; rather, it can be that some people are extroverts, others introverts and probably most of us, a bit of both, expressed in our own way in different situations with different people. The issue it seems to me is still a reluctance, and/or denial by both men and women to revel in their sexuality; accept themselves and each other as sexual beings (not objects per se) while simultaneously acknowledging that their sexuality is just one aspect of who they are. Being objectified, instead of humanised, betrays our essence as sentient human beings, and it’s the objectification of us all not the sex per se that needs to be understood so it can vanish from our vernacular.
I think about how the women’s movement affected my life, from the time I started perusing women’s mags as a young kid, and later feminist books etc Expressing my sexiness was relevant to who I was as a teenager as much as it is now as an older woman; an intrinsic part of me that I’m not always conscious of or aware of when I get dressed every morning except that I enjoy looking good and feeling good when I look into the mirror. With wrinkles and white hair, I can only hope I’m still ‘sexy’ for some men. Some men certainly are for me, though finding a man to fuck at my age is much more problematic, if not at times impossible. There’s just a dearth of interested ‘simpatico’ participants.
Ageing however has its positives; I’m no longer in the workplace except in my own home in which I feel an incredible sense of freedom to dress as I really want without social shackles suppressing my sense of self. I sit here now typing at 9pm with no make-up, my hair pulled back, and in a dressing gown. Similarly, I’ve entertained men wearing exactly the same garb as well as my splattered cleaning clothes. I hope these men, who I regard as friends, don’t ‘judge’ me according to what I wear or look like. I’m not really sure and I actually don’t care except that I need to feel comfortable in their company as I hope they do in mine, irrespective of what I’m wearing. Going out is sometimes the same; I can’t always be bothered to look my ‘best’, sexy irrelevant, trekking to my local supermarket, usually at night, without make-up and my hair pulled off my face. It’s all in the eye of others! Sadly, a male friend of mine, who is not gay and used to be a hairdresser, just imparted some information that sadly, was not new to me; that some of his female clients would rise much earlier than their husbands in the morning to ensure they were resplendently dressed and fully made-up with hair of course perfectly coiffured by the time their men got out of bed. What I can only ponder, did these women ‘do’ during sex? Lights off and sprint out of bed at dawnlight so husband doesn’t see her dishevelled and in disarray? This wasn’t new to me because over my life I’ve observed women at parties who danced so ‘coolly and calmly’ so as not to disturb their carefully contrived image. It’s got nothing to do with being sexy of course, as these women are ‘sexless’ to me and more concerned with their distorted ideals of ‘attractiveness’ than being sexually alluring.
There are so many questions I’ve asked myself over my life about the issue that will probably be on my agenda for the rest of my life; at least as long as I can still think for myself. Certainly, being an ‘older’ woman now is a blessing I revel in as much as feeling ‘sexy’ in my own right.