There Is Actually Nothing Powerful About Being Sexy

”Mr Trump, that blue tie is very provocative. You look SO powerful! The ladies can barely keep their hands to themselves.”

There Is Actually Nothing Powerful About Being Sexy

Turn on just about any music video and you’ll see one of two things. Sexy women being portrayed as powerful, or simpering women begging for better treatment, with the assumption that they are modest so they deserve it. If sexiness is as powerful as the former would have young women believe then surely the latter is redundant. Alas, no.

It’s time to debunk the sexy as powerful myth.

Powerful women belong in boardrooms, in houses of parliament, they are CEOs, and bankers, they are not scantily clad, writhing on stages while men beg for mercy, unable to control themselves in the face of their wily charms.

Will they still be begging for mercy when her hair is white and her face is lined by the years? Probably not. By the time she is holding a baby to her breast there will be crass jokes about how her vagina has been forever altered by birth, and how no one wants to see a baby near a breast. By the time her hair is white she’ll be cast aside, obsolete.

The reality is that being sexy holds no power anywhere. Being sexy is a commodity, sexy women are a commodity, a marketable item. They are powerful because of what men want to do to them or because of what men would like them to do for them, but not powerful in their own right. 

The contradictions of sexy as powerful are quite mind blowing when you think about it. Girls are told not to dress “like that” or they are targets for rape ….. and at the same time they’re told that dressing in sexy clothing and “twerking your junk” is powerful because it will cause men to lose their minds in your presence. It must be very confusing to be a young woman in this culture.

”Dress like this, it will make you powerful beyond compare! Grown men will see you coming and fall to their knees, they will be so overwhelmed by your powers of sexiness they will lose control of their faculties …..  your sexy power may cause rape so keep an eye out for that.”

Uh ha.

Of course it’s well documented that there’s no link between clothing and rape, but never let the truth get in the way of a good rape defence! After all, the poor rapists will be so ensorcelled, so bewitched by the sexy powers they shouldn’t be held accountable for criminal acts!

Dressing in sexy clothing can neither make a woman vulnerable or powerful, what it does however, is put her in the line of fire. It makes her vulnerable to unpleasant public comment, because for some reason what we wear is believed to completely negate the behaviour of others.

The same is not true for men. No one has ever said:

”Mr Trump, that blue tie is very provocative. You look SO powerful! The ladies can barely keep their hands to themselves.”

Because we know that men derive power from genuinely powerful things. The President of the US is powerful, the head of the World Bank is powerful,  Justin Bieber is a performer. Sure, he’s rich, and being rich does afford a level of power not afforded to the average man, but it has nothing to do with whether or not he is sexy. In fact if you were to raise his name in a discussion about powerful people you’d probably be laughed at …. and rightly so.

Although millions of girls and young women think Justin Bieber is sexy, no one equates that sexiness with power.

Modern pop culture is misleading millions of young women by equating power with sexiness. There is nothing remotely powerful about being sexy. Sexy is a purely subjective, power is objective. Teenaged girls are longing to be desirable, and unfortunately, they are determining their intrinsic value based on desirability rather than on their mere humanity. This is because their entire culture, every billboard, television show, magazine, and music video portrays sexy women as powerful. Of course we want our daughters to feel good about themselves, but we also want to ensure that their self esteem does not come from their appearance.

Not everyone is a supermodel, and the current popularist push to expand the definition of sexy, is vacuous and dead in the water. Magazines which claim to encourage the “Every body is sexy!” mantra never put their money where their mouths are. You’ll never see a plus sized – genuinely plus sized – woman of colour on the cover of Vogue. Sexy women are white, and thin, and they have to be young too. Teenagers, and their vulnerable self esteems see right through it. They may attempt to embrace it, but they’re not stupid. They know there’s only one body type our culture glorifies.

We need to discuss true power, desire, and the value of each human being, thoroughly and regularly with our children. By creating imaginary power in sexiness we do two things. Firstly we tell young women that they should seek to please other people with the way they dress and behave, rather than simply enjoying clothes because of colours, patterns, and fabrics. And secondly we tell them that power has an expiry date. You are powerful when you are available to men, but with motherhood and age that subsides. Get some granny wear on and stay out of the way. 

Women and girls are not empowered by sexiness, they are oppressed by subjective, appearance based, judgements. True power is found only by casting aside those judgements. Society has a lot invested in convincing women that sexy is powerful. Whilst we seek to find our power in sexiness we are submissive to the rule of men.

FOR FURTHER READING

Woman tied up - sexy
Sexy is more like chains than freedom
License: Creative Commons CC0.

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14 Responses to "There Is Actually Nothing Powerful About Being Sexy"

  1. Exiled Star  29 May, 2016 at 12:53 am

    “..they are determining their intrinsic value based on desirability rather than on their mere humanity.” At first glance this could come across as victim-blamey. They only think their value is based on their desirability because they are immersed in a culture that relentlessly judges women by their appearance. I make this point because whenever women let the damage done to them by male-dominated culture show, they are inevitably made out to be bringing it on themselves.

    Reply
    •  29 May, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      At first glance, but only for readers who aren’t discerning. This website is extremely opposed to victim blaming, and highly critical of the culture that perpetrates it. You are absolutely right. It is NOT the fault of young women, or adult women, it is simply how things are because of patriarchy.

      Reply
  2. AfroErotica  2 June, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Such eurocentric bullshit.

    Powerful women “belong” in boardrooms and the other operating centres of imperialist, capitalist culture?

    This means that powerful women = women who uphold the cishet, patriarchal and white imperialist kyriarchy?

    So no powerful women freedom fighters, revolutionaries and paradigm shifters?

    This article is whitefeminist™ crapola, written by someone with no concept of existence outside their reactionary, colonial mind.

    Reply
    •  2 June, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      Actually this article is specifically talking about european culture, which is why it has that angle. We would welcome your own perspective if you have any writing on the subject, from a different perspective! It’s very hard, as a white woman to write for everyone, and I make no claims about my ability to speak on your behalf.

      Reply
  3. AfroErotica  2 June, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    “sexy women are white and thin”

    *”the eurocentric gaze of mass media indoctrinates viewers into seeing commercially sexualised depictions of women as sexy, and representative of a standardised and narrow perception of beauty. ”

    #fixed

    Reply
    •  2 June, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      I agree completely! That’s kind of the point that was being made. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Reply
  4. Rose  3 June, 2016 at 3:24 am

    There’s nothing wrong with being sexy. The idea that there is something wrong with being sexy prompts the bullying of healthy women who did nothing wrong. Same as we shouldn’t bully curvy people, or disabled people, we shouldn’t bully people who look different than we do. If someone is sexy, that doesn’t mean they are falling into some patriarchal slavery trap. It might just mean that they take excellent care of themselves; I personally think plastic surgery isn’t sexy, but I’ve known some people who have gotten it and there’s no reason to denigrate them for their personal decision, or even express disapproval. I go with, “You look great; no more of it!” And that’s not because I don’t think they should be able to; just that doctors messing up isn’t nearly unheard of.

    Reply
    •  3 June, 2016 at 10:24 am

      Of course there’s nothing wrong with being sexy. But there’s nothing POWERFUL about being sexy either. The point is not that women should avoid being sexy, because that would be impossible. We are biologically programmed to find other humans sexually attractive. The point is that if women are seeking to be powerful, they will not find power in matching lingerie sets.

      As for plastic surgery, I would never tell anyone what to do with their body. Whether to have plastic surgery or discourage more surgery in the future. What women do with their bodies is up to them. If our culture put less emphasis on the appearance of women and more on the presence of women as human beings, there would be a whole lot less surgery. Our worth is NOT defined by our appearance, anymore than power is found in being sexy.

      Reply
  5. Stephanie  5 July, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Great article. I’m also an Australian woman with 4 children who is baffled by this idea that embracing your male imposed role of sex object is somehow empowering. Yeah being sexy is fine, but its not everything and it’s certainly not empowering.

    Reply
    •  5 July, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Reply
  6. Mary Burkes  10 July, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    i am American and 68-years-old. I think the real, true power of being sexy is the pleasure it gives oneself, simply to feel healthy, confident, and like you look appealing to your self in the mirror. That then builds the confidence to enjoy interacting with other humans in a nutritious way. What more power than to enjoy life and share it with others? That is a step on the path toward creativity, cooperation, community and contribution.

    Reply
    •  12 July, 2016 at 9:40 pm

      Women may well feel GOOD when they feel sexy, but that is separate to power. Power is not a feeling.

      Reply
  7. troy  20 July, 2016 at 7:15 am

    “…sexy women are a commodity, a marketable item. They are powerful because of what men want to do to them or because of what men would like them to do for them, but not powerful in their own right.”

    Thanks for the article. The comment above I particularly like because it suggests the power-thru-sexiness goal in terms of something completely defined by males. Man delineates the where/what/how etc. and as a result retains control under the guise of female empowerment. It’s as if we say “You can have power ….but only if it’s on our terms.” The sad part of course is that many women have bought into this for decades with the hopes of attaining a certain level of equality, which after all this time is still quite some distance away.

    Reply
    •  23 July, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      Ahhhhh yes!!! Thank you for your insightful comment. Very very true!

      Reply

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