Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why Women Don't Feel Sexy

Sorry to have another sort of negative post so soon, but I have a feeling there are quite a few women out there who will relate to my point today.

A sure-fire way to get a man to not even try competing in a certain field is to demonstrate to him he doesn’t stand a chance. For example, what guy who knows he can’t run for more than two minutes is going to sign up for the Chicago Marathon? What guy who knows he’s all thumbs is going to try to build a curio cabinet from scratch? What guy who isn’t very good at math would aspire to a career as a CPA?

Unfortunately, there is a lesson similar to this built into much of our culture, a lesson which women must deal with on a daily basis. The lesson we learn from TV, movies, magazines, and of course advertising everywhere, is that to be attractive to men sexually you must be gorgeous, thin, appealingly dressed, and able to flirt. Now this message is only true to a degree, I’ll admit, but the problem is, men being the way they are (primarily aroused by the visual), there is a certain degree of biological truth operating here.

One would like to think that over time, and with the influences of women’s liberation and such like, this situation would be improving. I’m not sure how much it has. Over the past week I’ve seen a couple films from the past two years, and one from the 50s, and it’s remarkable how some things never change.

In 2006’s “The Last Kiss,” a romantic drama starring Zack Braff, a young man is tempted away from a committed relationship by a sexy co-ed. Throughout the film we are exposed to very few female characters: the co-ed, who uses her body to acquire affection; a young mother who is driving her husband away by her constant whining about the baby; and Zack’s girlfriend, who we are told is “a wonderful woman” but doesn’t demonstrate any particular interests, abilities, or character traits. The men in the film are all interested basically in finding and sleeping with women they find sexy (secondary characters who are all, of course, gorgeous).

In 2005’s “Lord of War,” Nicolas Cage plays an arms dealer with a trophy wife. In this film, apart from the protagonist’s mother, all the women are there for sex and beauty as well. Nicolas’s wife serves no purpose but to fulfill his fantasy of a gorgeous mate, and she herself admits it at one point. The other females in the film are prostitutes (and much too pretty to be prostitutes, if you ask me).

Meanwhile, I watched 1956’s “Forbidden Planet,” the classic Disney-produced sci fi adventure with Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis. To a viewer of today, the blatant sexual-objectification of Anne Francis’s character is jarring. The sex-starved team of astronauts leer at her, and innuendo flies as only could happen in the 50’s and early 60’s.

But as uncomfortable as it is to watch a film like “Forbidden Planet” today, it’s really just another era’s treatment of the same phenomenon that thrives in 2007. We see again and again, men interested in women simply for sex, and therefore only interested in those women that are beautiful, thin, and sexily-clad.

How discouraging.

I remember a few months back reading a support group bulletin board where women who had found porn on their husbands’ computers had posted about their feelings. A couple of ladies talked about looking at these photos and concluding “I just can’t compete with that.” Indeed, any non-self-deluded woman in today’s culture is going to draw that conclusion on an almost daily basis.

So, with so much telling us that we can’t compete in the arena of sex, it can get hard sometimes to be motivated to try, like the guy who can’t run for two minutes contemplating doing a marathon. It certainly does nothing to inspire the libido! And it’s a shame, too, because for the most part, our “role models” as sexy women are sheer fantasies, rare in number, air-brushed, and unhealthy. We couldn’t be like them even if we should, which we shouldn’t.

But in the meantime, we have no genuine role models when it comes to healthy sexiness. While men can achieve sexiness by emulating the courageous, interesting, successful, smart, funny, not-necessarily-good-looking guys portrayed in popular media, what are women supposed to do?

I think the best thing we can do is try to ignore the whole mess and simply be ourselves. Genuine female sexiness comes from the heart and soul, not from the cosmetic counter, the Victoria’s Secret catalog, or the bottle of diet pills. I can think of one example from pop culture that I think exemplifies this, and that’s Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon on “30 Rock.” Liz isn’t trying to do anything but be herself and run a comedy show, and she manages to be quite sexy anyway, thank you very much.

My dear husband assures me that however moronic men act sometimes about attractive women, they aren’t all as shallow as that. He says the average guy doesn’t really possess such impossible standards, and can be turned on by love and respect as well as by beauty. That’s good news.

Now if we could only get the media to send that message occasionally, it would be a lot easier for us ordinary women to get sexy.


Anonymous said...

So we should just ignore it and feel sexy? Seriously. It's not that easy. Let' dig to the next level?

Diana Laurence said...

It ISN'T easy, Anonymous, that's for sure. That was my point in this whole post. But that said, if we less-than-physically perfect women give in to what the media so often tells us, we'll never be able to see ourselves as sexy. The first step is to recognize that much of the media profits in one way or another from perpetuating impossible standards of beauty. Films starring hot women make money. But that's not the real world. In the real world, few of us are Angelina Jolie, and even the men know that. Yet every day, ordinary humans find each other attractive. It helps simply to remember that when it comes to sex, what you see in theaters, on TV, in magazines, and (I should know) in fiction books is FANTASY. So treat it as that, not as a measure of what constitutes sexy.

One could write a book about the challenge and complexity of maintaining a female's sexual confidence...too much to tackle in a blog comment! But suffice it to say, I agree that it's not that easy.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying and i agree, but it's hard trying to be sexy with a little weight on you. When every time you go somewhere with your husband he can't help but check out some hot chick that do have the media body.

Diana Laurence said...

Anonymous, I find comfort in what my husband tells me: That although men are pretty much hardwired to check out the hot chicks, they appreciate the women they love in an entirely different, more deeply dimensional manner. I fantasize about other guys myself, but it's not like I want to replace my husband with them. So that's how I try to deal with it!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, this article helped me alot. I don’t often feel like I'm good enough for anybody due to the fact that I'm not flawless in every way.

I'm really into fitness so I'm more bulky and I can't dance the way I use to be able to. It makes me feel unattractive.

Putting that aside, great article and very welcoming! >.<

Anonymous said...

Nope...sorry ...did nt make me feel any better, more confident or sexier...I think you ve missed a really important issue here and that is anger.
When we women are angry with our man we it hold sexiness, either consciously or unconsciously.
Even if, in the beginning, we make a decision not to give into him when he comes on to us next, by way of punishment perhaps, as a conscious decision, when we are angry, adrenaline is released into our bloodstream, we feel tense, breathe more rapidly, our pulse increases and this chemical reaction, which in some ways mirrors the feelings we have when we become sexually aroused, takes over in an UNconscious way. Anger causes certain receptor areas in the brain to light up but others controlling pleasure shut down.
Sadly, it can take a long time to stop feeling angry and hurt. In fact it may not even be that we are angry with our lover...whatever has made or IS making us angry will effectively shut down our pleasure centres .
So we must learn to prevent, control and remove the angry feelings. Not so easy as they embed themselves deep in our psyche and if we are not careful can take root there. The trick is to first identify the source if the anger, understand why we are angry at it, and try to get rid of it...meditation can help enormously, relaxation techniques, being kind and good to ourselves and others..letting go of negativity to leave a healthy space for positivity to fill us like a welcoming warm and friendly light.