who gets to be sexy? is it me?

A version of this piece also appears on Psychology Today. 

I was not sexy last night. Bear and I went for a walk in the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Bear was like, “We’re leaving in ONE second,” because I kept stalling to gchat with a friend. I was like, “I need to put clothes on!” And he was like, “Well, you have ONE second,” and I put on leggings, a giant floral print dress (I can’t remember why I have this), and a bulky sweater. And scuffed, cheap boots. Not cutely scuffed. Just scuffed and flaking, so you can see that they aren’t real leather.

My hair is a bad length. People keep telling me, “No! It’s so cute!” And I know that’s not right. Either they can’t remember that it used to be cuter, they’re being polite, they’re lying, or they haven’t seen something cute in a long time. My hair has grown out from a buzz cut without attention, and it turns out that I have like forty different cowlicks, and it flips up on the sides like I’m trying to look like I’m from the forties, and it’s puffy, and it looks like a badly made wig. That’s just the truth.

Why is it like this? Because of my genes. And because I keep not doing anything about it.

I was not sexy at all, when we walked along the waterfront. A group of Orthodox men went by, and I thought for a second that I might seem almost respectable to them, in my shapeless, full cover attire. Almost.

Bear stopped me by the base of the carousel. He was saying something about me being beautiful, and I was handling it well. Not laughing or anything. Trying to respect his opinion.

And then I thought about the Killing Us Softly (4, 2/2) video I had watched earlier that day. In it, Jean Kilbourne talks about beauty and gender and food and sex, and she says:

A visitor from another planet who just looked at our popular culture would have to come to two conclusions:  the first is that sex is really the only thing that matters …and the second is that sex and sexiness belong only to the young and beautiful. If you’re not young and perfect looking, you have no sexuality. And I think the ultimate impact of that is profoundly anti-erotic. Because it makes people feel less desirable. It certainly makes women feel less desirable. How sexy can you be if you hate your body?”


I’d forgotten the exact quote within seconds, because that’s the way my memory works, but the sentiment stood out. How do I know when I’m not sexy? It’s when I don’t look like the images of sexiness I’ve been handed, all my life.

(an oak sapling. source)

But sometimes I feel sexy, and I can’t see myself. And I both want to see myself, because I think I must look amazing, and I don’t, because I’m afraid that I don’t, and that when I figure out that I don’t, I’ll stop feeling sexy.

I am afraid that if I gain more weight, I will stop being sexy.

But it’s ironic, because the more weight I gain, the sexier I feel. So I’m stuck in a strange catch 22. My thick, pliant thighs strike me as sensual. But they simultaneously symbolize the downfall of my sex appeal, because when my thighs were lean and didn’t kiss each other fondly, I was somehow given freer permission to be sexy. Given permission sounds wrong. Who gave it? No one. Everyone. I don’t know. It’s vague. It’s pervasive. I start losing my vocabulary. I start getting confused.

I’m afraid that when I get older, I will stop being sexy. Because I don’t actually know what older and sexy really looks like. Sometimes there are older women in movies and on TV who are supposed to be sexy, but it’s mostly because they look like younger women.

“Look!” the media occasionally yells, “This older actress is STILL hot!” And then there is a picture of her being incredibly thin. It starts with very thin.

I often think older women look lovely, beautiful, good, even when they aren’t very thin and don’t look unusually young for their age. But I don’t know how to apply the word sexy to them. Which means that when I am older, I may not know how to apply it to myself.

I don’t know what sexy looks like in shapeless, baggy clothes and bad hair. I don’t know what sexy looks like with wrinkles and a drooping neck. Some days, I don’t even know what sexy looks like with chubby arms—with my arms—right now.

But I do know that I don’t want to have to fight and fight to claw my way backwards to a thinner, younger sexy. And maybe I want to try to think sexy is about more than how things look. Maybe sexy is a whole experience. Maybe sexy is complex. Maybe sexy is what actually turns someone on– what actually turns YOU on. Maybe sexy is a feeling. Am I sexy when I feel sexy? Even before I know how much or how little I resemble the women and girls designated as sexy by advertising and television and men on the street and friends. Maybe sexy can be more about sexuality, and less about physical beauty. Do they have to be inseparable?

What do you think?

If they do, I may have to just not be sexy. Because I’m already on a dangerous road, with this hair, and so far, I’m sort of liking the danger. Weird hair, thighs that kiss, delicious food, growing up and getting better at life, Bear, who thinks I’m hot anyway. It feels worth it, even if I have to give up on sexy.

But I don’t think I do. I think maybe sexy and I can work this one out.

(mature oak. I see it’s put on some weight and it’s a little gnarled. Lookin’ good! source)

*  *  *

Are you sexy? What do you think makes you sexy? What makes you feel unsexy?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look the morning after. I sleep on my hair, I mean. Because then it isn’t as puffy.

P.S. When I searched for “oak tree” one of the pictures that came up was of a woman in a bikini leaning against a tree, which may or may not have been an oak. A side caption read, “Young skinny attractive woman in the woods.” Oh, good. Um, should someone be resting their case here? Jean Kilbourne? Me?


Kate on March 13th 2012 in beauty, body, perfection

58 Responses to “who gets to be sexy? is it me?”

  1. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    I’m totally hot…and it’s not just the “flashes” :) I rock the thrift store denim…so, denim makes me feel sexy…it goes with everything, mainly ME! I like your grown out buzz cut…

  2. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    oh…as for UNsexy…when my tummy pokes out too much, i don’t feel as sexy…but my butt makes up for it i think!

  3. kate in cleveland responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I was just thinking about this yesterday! I felt really sexy when i was getting ready for bed and i was wearing my glasses, my hair was pinned up, and I just had on a tank top and black comfy pants. It was a combination of sexy librarian (glasses and pinned up hair) and someone sporty and athletic. I looked so cute! My boobs looked good, my waist looked thin….

    I feel unsexy anytime i see a photograph of myself. I feel like the only good photos of me are of the collarbone and up.

  4. Melanie responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    I definitely think sexy is more than physical. It’s a feeling, and energy you put out to the world. I know that what I find sexy is very different from what the media in our country tells me I should think is sexy. I find Zach Galifianakis, with his twisted humor and huge red beard sexy. I see a woman buying a cup of coffee for someone on the street and think she’s sexy. I view someone walking down the street with their head held high, looking like they’re ready to take on the world, to be sexy. Now that I’m trying to describe it, I’m seeing that it is really difficult to describe. :)

  5. Kate responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    I’m glad you tried– those are good descriptions. And I love a huge, red beard myself…

  6. Grace responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I feel sexy when I wear one of those netted bras ( the ones that don’t mold your boobs to look like a barbie doll’s) with a tight tank top. My boobs aren’t particularly large, but they’re a nice teardrop shape that makes me think of slinky 40s heroine or a comic book broad. Unsexy? I do battle with my fencer’s thighs pretty much everyday. No matter how skinny I get, how many stretchy-lengthening poses I do, they remain stubbornly and hugely muscled. Bah!

  7. poet responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    If you’re looking for someone older and sexy, look no further than Maude from “Harold and Maude”!!! OK, she’s relatively normal-sized, I guess, and doesn’t have gray hair, but she’s quite obviously old and *radiates* sexiness!

  8. Emmi responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    @poet: Harold and Maude is my favorite film of all time! I aspire to be more Maudian every day :D

    @Kate, poet is absolutely right, if you haven’t seen Harold and Maude yet, it’s just 90 minutes and full of amazing music by Cat Stevens. Streamable on Netflix :)

  9. Sonja responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Unexpectedly, I think that my pregnant belly is damn hot.

  10. Mandy responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Beauty–and sexiness–is in the MIND of the beholder. Whether the beholder is someone else–or me.
    And, sometimes I think beauty is too confined to the visual. It’s not just the way someone (or something) looks, it’s how it sounds, smells, tastes and/or feels…
    Maybe you can widen your definition of “sexy” a little.

  11. Sarah Rooftops responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    I think Judi Dench embodies sexy in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” – she’s playing a retiree and she’s short and not skinny, but she’s the love interest and you can TOTALLY see why. It’s all about the attitude and a face full of smile lines. I want my face to look like I’ve enjoyed myself when I reach her age.

  12. Kate responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Yes! I can totally see it. Thanks.

  13. Rowdygirl responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    I like to remind myself that being thin and beautiful don’t automatically equal happiness and\or sexiness. Look at the actresses and celebrities who are “all that” along with being rich and famous and alot of them are miserable. They can’t hold relationships together and many look to drugs and alcohol. If being skinny was the answer, there wouldn’t be so unhappy and \or dead skinny chicks.
    My man told me his friend used to tell him : “When you see a smokin’ hot woman, just remember.. there’s a guy somewhere who’s tired of her shit.” I like to think this applies to women as well. :)

  14. Frankie responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    I feel sexy when no one is looking.

  15. Another Kate responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    @Sarah Rooftops, I LOVE Judi Dench! I always thought she was what I would like to be like “when I grow up.”

    In response to this post, been feeling remarkably unsexy lately…always feel unsexy when I’m PMSing and I feel like none of my clothes fit right. I do have this one black velvet dress that makes me feel incredibly sexy no matter what, though. It always hangs just right, no matter how I feel about myself. It’s my “reality check” dress — as in my, “You’re not fat, look at you in this SMOKING dress!” dress :)

  16. Lynellekw responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    I think people are sexiest when they’re happy and enthusiastic and focussed. At least, that’s when I get the most attention, and when I’m most interested in other people. The energy radiates off them, and it’s magnetic.

  17. zoe (and the beatles) responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    this, kate, this…is so god damn brilliant i don’t even know where to start.

    this: But it’s ironic, because the more weight I gain, the sexier I feel. So I’m stuck in a strange catch 22. My thick, pliant thighs strike me as sensual. But they simultaneously symbolize the downfall of my sex appeal, because when my thighs were lean and didn’t kiss each other fondly, I was somehow given freer permission to be sexy. Given permission sounds wrong. Who gave it? No one. Everyone. I don’t know. It’s vague. It’s pervasive. I start losing my vocabulary. I start getting confused.

    is EXACTLY how i feel. exactly what i think about on a regular basis.

    i am heavier than i’ve ever been but i think it makes me incredibly sexy. i am all joan from madmen curvy and hot damn! why NOT celebrate my finally connecting to my womanhood and soul at the same time? “technically” (whatever that means) i am not supposed to be this heavy because i am so short. but…it looks normal. it looks natural. it *feels* natural and normal, too. what makes me feel unsexy is when i start comparing myself to this cultural ideal that i will never be similar to in any way. it’s then i start questioning my sexiness. and, unfortunately, my worth.

    man. i love jean kilbourne. i love this. i love you. thanks for writing this, it was, clearly, exactly what i needed to read today.

  18. zoe (and the beatles) responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    and, further, on second thought, a body is a body is a body. sexiness radiates from the inside out. (okay i promise i’m done talking now).

  19. T.K responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    We live in a world that tells women that “sexy” is being the object of someone’s desire (and provides them with a very rigid guideline of how that’s achieved). Every image, every plotline, every product speaks to that. And we have all internalized it to some extend whetehr we know it or not.

    Our sexuality is defined by our sex appeal to men rather than by our own desires. Our own desires had become so entangled with our need to be desired, so muddled. You were spot on when you talked about permissions. The society doesn’t give you permission to desire if you are not desireable (you are just a pathetic joke then you unsexy failure of woman you). I feel like it’s become almost impossible to own your desires and to feel things on your own terms.

    So that’s how I try to define sexy – being sexual (an active subject) rather than looking a certain way (a passive object). Putting your own pleasure and sexual needs/wants, which are for your satisfaction above your appearance, which is really for other people’s satisfaction. And owning your desire, even when that means desiring men that aren’t “sexy” in a conventional way because they are to you.

    But sometimes I just define sexy as big boobs, tiny waist, a gorgeous face, and the ability make any man beg for mercy in bed. Yea, I suck, I know.

  20. Jenna responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    I love this post. It’s so true that we are bombarded with images of what it means to be sexy; thin, young, perfect skin, hair, teeth, etc. But really sexy should be an attitude or a feeling that anyone should feel comfortable having no matter what they look like or are wearing. It’s too bad that isn’t how it works. It’s hard to feel like you can be sexy, when you don’t fit the media representation of sexy.

  21. mia responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    I lost my sexiness twice: I lost most of it after having my children and the rest after having breast cancer and aging about 20 years in a few months. It’s weird, you can feel it go. Suddenly, the riffraff in the park don’t whistle at you and call you “mama” anymore. Then you can’t get service in a restaurant or even a drugstore. Believe me, if you don’t KNOW you’ve lost it, you haven’t.

  22. Marie responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    I feel sexiest when I’m the most oddly dressed, when I look very feminine with the least like the stereotypes of female beauty – and the unsexiest when I’m dressed the most like everyone else because I feel like I’m trying and failing to meet that standard.

  23. lik_11 responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    I’ve always been tall. Reaching 5’11″ by the age 13, I grew up feeling very awkward. After being forced to take ballroom dancing classes as a tween, when I was literally a head above all the boys in the class- dancing was off limits because I felt so weird. I don’t dance…. until I turned 31 and decided to lose weight. One day I decided to go to a zumba class and discovered that I LOVE zumba. In the middle of rolling my hips and shaking my shoulders (boobs) – I feel SO damn sexy!!! I wouldn’t dare to look at the mirrors 360 degrees around me- because I’m pretty sure how I look would ruin the way it makes me feel.

  24. Sophia the Ginger responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    As a 14 going on 15 year old, it disturbs me that people find me “sexy”. I’m lucky that I matured earlier, and have a balance of a thin waist and curves, but I am still a young minor. I look and act a bit older than I really am, but I’m still just a child. Men (and sometimes women) look at me in a different way now. In a way, I like the attention, but a part of me just wants to run away and go back to not caring about what I look like. A few weeks ago, I was jokingly trying on dresses with my friends and put on a skin tight LBD. At first, it felt awkward and I couldn’t stop staring at the little pudge on my tummy. My BFF called me and I came out of the dressing room. Everyone said how sexy I looked, like a real Marilyn. Even the husband/boyfriend of some unknown woman looked at me. That was the first I experienced “sexiness”. It’s a weird feeling, like morphing from the invisible catipiller to a beautiful butterfly.

    On that note, I just want to say that I am officially in love with your blog! I read it everyday, even when there aren’t any new posts<3
    You have helped me through a lot:)

    Much love, your adoring fan,

  25. Sooz responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    I’m not sexy. But to me sexy is something about you…not what you look like. Unfortunately, I am in the minority in this thinking. I feel like sometimes I have this aura that’s like “who cares what you’re wearing or look like…girl…you are HOT”. And also, I always think every other woman on the planet is way sexier than me. It is a very confusing subject matter and I get all itchy and annoyed whenever I think too much about it. So I try not to…think about it and just embrace those moments when I feel like I am one hot mama jama. :)

  26. San D responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 11:10 pm #

    Sexy is a state of mind, not a state of body. Although the media in our society defines sexy in terms of body, many women and men find intelligence, wit, humor, passion and “je ne sais quoi” sexy. Some even find money and power sexy. I never defined myself as a sexy human being, but others did along the way, and it always suprised the heck out of me.

  27. Datura responded on 13 Mar 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    “The sexiest thing is trust..” -Tori Amos

  28. Bethany responded on 14 Mar 2012 at 12:35 am #

    I always think of sexy as confident. It’s bold. And thus, when I get old, I fully intend to not dye my hair.

    There’s just something about a woman who has embraced her fully-gray head of hair. She isn’t afraid of getting older. She relishes the fact that she’s lived a full life and has wisdom to offer. The world doesn’t tell her who to be; she tells the world who she is. What could be sexier than that?

    As for when *I* feel sexy, I guess… I don’t really. People generally mistake me for being much younger (the summer after college graduation, a woman in the tampon aisle asked if I was “old enough to even need those”), so I tend to think of myself as pretty, but not sexy.

  29. Abby responded on 14 Mar 2012 at 2:35 am #

    I feel a lot sexier once I cut my hair short. This past summer, I cut off 17 1/2 inches because I wanted to donate it and I figured long hair would be too much of a hassle in college. I feel like maybe my long hair was more beautiful, but my short hair is a little more cute or sexy.

    Another thing is, I feel sexy when I’m laughing. I know that sounds weird, but it makes me feel like maybe I could be one of those women where people fall in love with her when she’s laughing. Or laughter makes me seem more sexy, somehow. I don’t know. It’s weird, I know.

    All I know is, I’m finally coming to accept the fact that there is a sexy beast in here and I’m loving it!

  30. Staci responded on 14 Mar 2012 at 7:33 am #

    You know, it’s kind of weird. But, when I consider myself, I like to think my strong arms, broad shoulders and back, wide built hips and strong legs are rather sexy as all sexy can be. If I wasn’t me, I would definitely check me out. But then, my view of what is sexy is warped kind of by society, and the media. And I fall to hushing those thoughts about being sexy to tell myself No, you aren’t a twig, therefore you are not sexy.
    It’s a usual battle with myself every day. But, it’s nice to remember that Aphrodite is put in the sexy category for most people, or was in that category for most long ago. And she is a strong woman. Just like Starfire from the 1980′s comics. Not the one now, though.. they made her not so good in the new editions.. >_>’

  31. i wasn’t going to post today but, you know. « zoe & the beatles responded on 14 Mar 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    [...] about sexiness. specifically about bodily sexiness. it’s pretty brilliant and i recommend you read it. i kind of freaked out because she put into words how i feel and how i think on a pretty much [...]

  32. Kate responded on 14 Mar 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    And I know what you mean. I remember the first time I noticed a guy looking at me “that” way. I was ten. My aunt had dressed me up in a tight outfit and makeup, and I had this sense that this was “sexy.” But when this man looked at me the way he did, I wanted to change back into my regular clothes.

  33. E responded on 14 Mar 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    What a fantastic post, Kate! When I try to define the sexiness of women intellectually (myself included) I often put a lot of importance on how a woman looks and carries herself. Under these terms, I don’t really think of myself as sexy because while I sometimes think I look pretty awesome, I don’t think I have a sexy air about me.

    Sometimes I do feel sexy though, and it’s not when I’m analyzing how I look or interact with men or anything. It’s when I’m aware of my body, when I’m working out or stretching like a cat under the covers in bed. Concentrating on how my body FEELS (and how it could make someone else feel) is sexy, regardless of how I think I look.

    On another note, when I think a man is sexy it has a lot to do with how he acts and not just how he looks. Being gentlemanly in everyday, non-sex-related interactions? Totally f*cking sexy. Being overly sexual when I’m uncomfortable with the situation? Gigantic turn-off.

  34. Emily M.M. responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 4:45 am #

    I am certifiably “older” at 37, and I think I feel sexy sometimes. It is not a corset-rending, swoon-worthy sexy, but the kind of sexy that comes with being comfortable in your own skin. Does that count? Me think so. I feel sexy when I am laughing with all of me, when I can feel my happiness and excitement pouring out of my soul and into the space between me and another. I feel sexy when my glee at being alive elicits a broad grin from men and women alike. My sexiness is not about sex. It is about feeling alive.

  35. Kate responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 11:41 am #

    @Emily M.M.
    Nicely put.

  36. Aezy responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Today, walking down the street in my dads massive demin jacket and scuffed up boots, I felt sexy. And I didn’t care if nobody else agreed! I loved the way my body felt, I had happy music on and I had SWAGGER.

    The thing that makes me feel most unsexy is when I have greasy hair. Cannot stand the way it feels or looks – somehow all the grease seeps into my brain and makes me think bizarre thoughts.

  37. Eat the Damn Cake » Little Victories: tank top responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:00 pm #

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  38. Kate responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Happy music!! That makes ALL the difference. I wish I’d mentioned music in the post, because music makes me feel sexy all the time. And I’m the same about greasy hair. I actually had greasy hair when I thought of the idea for this post… :-)

  39. Sheryl responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    What I find funny is that sexiness is so equated with youth in popular thought, and the age of “sexy” just keeps getting younger and younger.

    Sometimes I feel like only people who are too young to be truly sexy are seen as sexy. Which is mostly to say that maybe society has pushed the definition of sexiness and prettiness to such and absurd point that it’s lost meaning.

    Because if sixteen year olds in mini skirts and crop tops are the embodiment of “sexiness” in society, then that’s not a trait that adults actually want, so much as want to want.

    If that makes any sense.

  40. Beth responded on 18 Mar 2012 at 8:02 am #

    I find sexiness confusing, I feel like it’s something others project onto me rather than something I’m actively doing or feeling. I hate it when vans honk at me or men make comments about my body in the street. If that’s what being sexy is, I’m not sure I want it!

  41. Stephanie responded on 18 Mar 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    I came to your blog from galadarling and must comment! You’ve written this so well. I especially loved when you wrote “I’m sort of liking the danger.” This is great and exactly how I feel at age 42. I’ve always been a pretty standard version of “sexy.” I was an athlete and have a body that basically fits the social ideal. I never felt sexy or “in” that body, however, when I was younger. I remember when men first started looking at me and making comments to me, at age 14 or so, and feeling horrified by the experience. Likewise, in my 20s and 30s I loathed that I received more compliments whenever I was at my thinnest. Now over forty and having been through my first serious health problem, I’m looking a bit older and the greys are coming in. Friends have been telling me to colour my hair, as if amazed that I would “give up” what I’ve had. The truth is though that I’m at a point at which I’m starting to own “sexy,” at least in the way that I would define it. For me it has become the embracing of the danger of meeting or not any social ideal and not even bothering to think about it anymore – it’s not on the list of my priorities. Sexy for me is unsurprisingly about living within and rejoicing in that self that has nothing to do with the socially constructed one. Keep up the lovely writing!

  42. LINK CITY « Sharables responded on 18 Mar 2012 at 10:09 pm #

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  43. Monday Motivation | responded on 19 Mar 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    [...] Who Gets to be Sexy? Is it Me? [...]

  44. Jeremiah responded on 19 Mar 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Wonderful piece, as usual, Kate. So, here’s this old guy’s take on sexy. Sensualness is basic. A person moving as though his or her body is really enjoying the movement, really feeling the atmosphere it’s moving through and finding pleasure and satisfaction in the grace and balance of it all is very sexy.
    A body, of pretty much any shape, so long as it has some strength and fluidity of motion, can feel and be perceived as sexy and sensuous.
    I think the trick is being an integral part of your environment…to attune yourself to your movement through the current space and experience your body as a dancer and yourself as the dance.
    That’s what I try to do.

  45. tuesday tip — finding your sexy when you’re ______. | fueled by diet coke responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 3:06 pm #

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  46. Like shut up, I can’t get off the internet. | Good luck with Madeleine. responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 3:42 am #

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  47. steph responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 7:18 am #

    but how can you feel sexy when you hate your body?

    its something i’m battling with right now

    i can have days where i think i look ok, i look pretty and presentable, i am however at the heaviest i’ve ever been – that acceptance of my body…

    it’ll come crashing down when i flick through a magazine and see image after image of super thin woman, air brushed unreal women

    worse still when my bf comments on women he finds hot or sexy and i’ll sit there feeling like chopped liver

    its a catch 22 when you hate yourself and want to wallow in self pity – but then when you try to lose weight by going for a walk people yell out at you from their car what they deem to be a super witty put down

  48. Eat the Damn Cake » don’t tell me to get over it responded on 03 Apr 2012 at 12:59 pm #

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  49. Melinda responded on 07 Apr 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    I believe that sexy is a state of mind. But I also believe that (if I can be honest) society only allows a few women the permission to be “sexy”. Women who look and act a certain way. Women who adhere to what society wants them to be.

    From the time I was very young, I’ve been told that I’m not sexy because I’m not pretty enough. Some people have tried to strip me of my femininity. Most of the people I’ve encountered seem to equate sexiness with being promiscuous or attention-seeking…my husband included.

    I know deep down that this is false, because I AM a sexy woman. I am a sensual, sexual person. I should not need anyone’s permission to be sexy. But on the other hand, I feel like I do. Sometimes it can be a very weird dichotomy.

    I noticed that my cousin, who is a year older than me, has always received tons of male attention. She has always been obese but still considered to be the “pretty one”. She was allowed to wear sexy clothes and to flirt and to be confident…to be sexy. She was allowed to feel beautiful and encouraged to think highly of herself, while I wasn’t.

    I believe that the difference in how certain women are treated (by our families, as well as society) can shape how we view ourselves and what it means to be sexy. I wasn’t allowed to be sexy. Hell, I wasn’t even allowed to feel pretty or good about myself in any sense. My attempts to do that were always met with ridicule.

    I don’t feel bad about myself when I look at magazines because I don’t aspire to look like a model or any of the famous women touted as “beautiful”…although I wouldn’t complain if I had the body of Beyonce or Kate Upton. ;) Models and actresses have the advantage of being able to enhance their beauty with personal trainers, stylists, etc. We ordinary folks who aren’t blessed with money and luxuries simply have to make the most of what we’ve been given.

    But I do feel bad when I compare myself to women who are NOT famous, because that type of beauty seems more attainable in a sense, but it is also out of my reach. Hopefully that makes sense? I feel envious of women with the confidence to throw on sexy outfits that display their curves. I’ve always been made to feel ashamed of my body and my sexuality, so I don’t really know how to show that side of myself anymore.

    And gaining about 30 lbs. didn’t really help my body image either. Sometimes I will have rare moments when I look in the mirror and don’t hate the person looking back at me. Sometimes I think that I could be sexy, truly sexy, if I didn’t care about the opinions of others.

  50. Kate responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    I am so so sorry you’re going through this. And don’t read those magazines! Seriously! They can be poisonous. Instead, read body acceptance sites, books, and google pictures of un-airbrushed women. As for your boyfriend, he’d better think you’re sexier than those other women! So tell him to remind you why.

  51. Eat the Damn Cake » sex on the battlefield responded on 04 May 2012 at 9:21 am #

    [...] P.S. You can find a post from me (Kate) about sexiness here. [...]

  52. Life [Comma] Etc responded on 09 May 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I wish I knew you in high school. That’s all.

  53. Bonnie responded on 01 Jun 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    I see sexiness in eyes, which I know sounds completely cliche. But when someone looks at me and I see excitement and that look that says “I just want to be around you right now”, I find it very sexy – especially when there are smiles involved. A lot of the time sexy for me is, oddly enough, just someone who looks cuddly. So basically, sexy for me is incredibly vague but I see it in people who look approachable…and who have books with them.

  54. Eat the Damn Cake » the girl someone should write a book about responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    [...] Except that anything can work on real people, breathing, grinning people. [...]

  55. gina responded on 24 Oct 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    SMART is sexy! also talent and humor..

  56. Juliette responded on 19 Dec 2012 at 11:42 am #

    I love your article. I stumbled across it when I was obsessively searching the web for pictures of beautiful women who are growing out a buzz cut. You seem to be a very cool person. I wish, I knew you in real life (probably like most people, who have ever vistited your blog)

    I’m a 23-year-old female university student from Germany and I got a buzz cut about 2,5 months ago to fix a bad pixie haircut. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, it made matters worse.

    I’ve never felt so unattractive and unsexy. Before I cut my hair, I was self-confident, happy and passionate about life. Now I’m a person who despises her looks and rejects herself. I’d love to be able to not give a damn about my hair and enjoy life again, but I don’t know how to deal with these feelings of inferiority.

    (Ok, the following doesn’t have so much to do with your article, but I’ll mention it anyway to get it off my chest)

    You’re also happy to have a husband who supports your decisions. I’m in the position of being in love with someone (also a Jew,btw), who courted me for a year and who I turned down again and again, just so that he’d come crawling back and strengthen my self-esteem. I just didn’t think that one day he could be gone.

    Now I wish I was brave enough to fight for him, but with the short hair I’m too scared (especially, because he said more than once that he really doesn’t like short hair on women), but on the other hand, if he was after me for a whole year, maybe this wasn’t just about my long hair. Plus, my hair will grow back in no time. He saw me the day I got the buzz-cut and said, it didn’t look horrible at all, but he must have been lying, because I was about the ugliest person on earth.

    Even though I had blocked him on facebook some weeks ago telling him that I love him, but that it’s time to move on, he called two days ago and then he sent me an e-mail asking me if I remembered the day when we went on a trip to an Austrian village together. So, maybe there’s still hope.

    I can imagine, that you’re a very busy person and that you don’t have any time or interest to answer questions of crazy strangers. I also know that you’re not a psychologist (or are you?), but I’ll ask anyway.

    What would you do, if you were in my shoes? Hide in bed for the next months? Or face life? But how? And what do you think about the effed-up situation between me and my Jewish almost-ex-boyfriend? I would appreciate your answer on your blog or via e-mail.


  57. Eat the Damn Cake » why aren’t we allowed to think we’re pretty? responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    [...] wonder sometimes who is allowed to be beautiful. Is [...]

  58. Why Aren’t We Allowed To Think We’re Pretty? | Thought Catalog responded on 23 Oct 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    [...] wonder sometimes who is allowed to be beautiful. Is [...]