It’s Almost Valentine’s Day and the Word ‘Sexy’ Makes Me Want to Scream

My name is Caro, I am a lingerie blogger, and I have a problem: if I see the word ‘sexy’ used one more time, I will scream. It’s a tough position to be in.

Part of me hates the fact that lingerie is so completely sexualized. The pressure around Valentine’s Day just exacerbates this issue. I want to tear away that baggage, to make it ‘just’ a piece of clothing, a garment as any other. As much as I really, truly believe that lingerie is personal and doesn’t have to have anything erotic about it, I can’t shake the conviction that the intimate, sometimes risqué side of lingerie is still part of what intrigues me about it.

IN CASE YOU DIDN’T GET IT THIS IS SEXY SEXY SEXY

I think that I’ve just heard (and written) the word ‘sexy’ so many times I don’t even know what it means anymore. Sexy seems to bog me down in nonsense and continually raises the question of who this ‘sexiness’ is supposedly attracting and why you should care. I’m sure I’m written about ‘feeling sexy’ before with regards to lingerie, but I’m not sure I really know what that even means? I’m not really calling for a reduction in eroticism– sometimes I even bemoan the lack of it (such as with same-sex relationships on TV).

But there has to be something more complex and interesting than the word ‘sexy’ slapped on everything with abandon. Sexuality, if not ‘sexy’, is part of what occasioned this blog in the first place. I do think it’s an interesting topic to explore in relation to appearance and self expression. Intimacy, invisibility, illusion and the tension between the natural and the unnatural all interest me when it comes to lingerie and sex appeal can’t be completely left out.

Fraulein Kink

There are actually several posts from lingerie bloggers about how lingerie gets unfairly stereotyped as overtly sexual, but they also often emphasize the utterly utilitarian aspects of having undergarments that fit and support. The thing is, the utility is only a small part of what interests me about lingerie and it is usually superseded by a response to the aesthetic qualities of a garment, the ‘fashion’ component.

But fashion still has a complex relationship with sex and sexuality. Recently there has been a lot of backlash to the idea of ‘Trends Dudes Hate,’ a type of article the ladymags often write that ‘reveal’ that men hate red lipstick or dropped crotch trousers with the assumption that this should sway women’s clothing choices. Arabelle wrote an interesting piece for The Style Con about the value of sexlessness in clothing and touching on the idea of clothing that could eradicate harassment which even further complicates the idea of sexuality in lingerie. Lingerie has a weird dual reputation as both the ultimate mancatcher and an utterly useless garment that men don’t appreciate, which just adds to this ‘sexy’ confusion. Clearly, I never care about what men think about lingerie, but the question of what your partner finds sexy is still an issue that a lot of people care about– which is probably why my article on wearing lingerie for your partner is one of my most popular ever.

Darkest Star

Writing this post really raised more questions than it answered for me, but I think this is a discussion worth having. Can ‘sexy’ ever be an inherent quality in a garment, or does it come from the person wearing it? I continue to wonder whether a meaning for sexy will ever be recovered from it’s current levels of nonsense. Does sexy have value? What is its purpose?

 

10 Comments
  1. I completely agree with this article. I went to a lingerie fair in Paris once to do some research and nearly every stand was boudoir based. I got bored and left.

    It would be great to see a lingerie ad that isn’t sexualised and was a bit more ‘real life’ or, if I dare say, slightly humorous. Do Victoria Secret et al realise that woman don’t float around their bedroom all day in their undies trying to suduce? I find it quite insulting as a woman. These ads do not do our gender any justice.

  2. An interesting post! Obviously sexy is different for everyone, but the one unifying characteristic of “sexy” people I know is confidence (or at least the ability to fake confidence). To be sexy you have to feel confident in what you’re wearing whether that’s your lingerie or your clothes. I am often described as sexy by friends, and this has happened while wearing a pencil skirt and corset or while sitting at home in jeans and an old t shirt. I think sexy is more a state of mind than a definable set of criteria, dictated by men. Unfortunately the term sexy won’t be going away. Whether we try to be sexy or not someone out there will think that we’re sexy, whether that’s because of how we look or our personalities…I used to hate people calling me sexy, I am more than that, but I have learnt to accept that there is nothing I can do to change other peoples perception of me and even embrace it.

  3. I adore your posts about this issue. Although I agree with you about how annoying it is to see that everything is categorized as sexy, in the lingerie market, I think that my main problem with this is how the ads and campaigns state that you must be sexy for someone else.
    Living in a quite sexist place myself, I know women can be divided into the boring and the sluts, or something like this. The ones who wear granny panties and the ones who wear g-strings. I feel like sexuality, the use of lingerie and the capacity of feeling sexy should be used for the woman herself, and not for the pleasure of anyone else. Of course, when you have the freedom to feel sensual and you decide to please a significant other or just someone you feel like pleasing, you end up feeling even better with yourself.

    We are still far away from a ‘perfect’ ad, but I quite like how Aerie managed to connect the word sexy with women having fun and feeling good (even if they were models and part of what society considers to be beautiful or perfect). It’s way better than this picture of Candice trying to please the viewer. I do like teasing and yes, I sometimes feel sexy when acting or wearing things that may fall in this category of what industry considers to be sexy. But most of all, I think that sexy is something personal, and it should be celebrated in many different ways than how it is today. :)

  4. I really love reading your thoughts on this, and I wish I could organise my thoughts well enough to give a good reply, but here’s the messy version:

    For me part of what is irritating about the type of sexy that Victoria’s Secret et al are pushing, is that it’s really neat, tidy, cleaned up, non-threatening version of sexy. It’s basically not very sexy at all. You could put their ads in a PG movie without the slightest problem. It’s the ‘sexy’ you can show a 12 year old, and they will learn absolutely noting new about sexuality.

    These are women with absolutely no visible hair besides what’s on their head. We don’t feel like we’re getting to peek under their clothes, like these women have just taken off their jeans, like someone might have seduced them and they’re about to have sex. They look like a pale and hollow imitation of real human sexuality. That’s what bugs me about most of the ‘sexy’ lingerie ads.

  5. Thank you for your post! I’m already quite fed up with all the Valentine’s Day-ads so this came just at the right time. I’m one of those ‘utilitarian bra bloggers’ which may be due to the fact that, realistically, there is nearly no lingerie in my size range that really appeals to me, so I go with black and lacy as a minimum requirement. I’d also say, that confidence relies a lot on the fit of a bra. But I totally relate to the question of style too: I want to express myself with all my clothes; some are more important than others but feeling good and sexy has a lot to do with liking your garments.
    My main problem is that the advertised sexiness reproduces the idea that women have to be attractive (mostly for men) in a very objectified way, the whole representation is so male gazey that I can’t stop ranting about it. I’m totally fine with erotic or pornographic deptictions if they’re honest about being that and not pretending to be some kind of sexy default / submissive availablity-image of women in general. I would love to see lingerie become more of a kind of self expression as fashion is supposed to be than simply a ‘be more attractive for men’-device.

  6. I saw something described as ‘sensual’ the other day and I just screamed “YES!” (In my head) because that to me conveys an actual feeling and I guess in a sense an attitude based soley on how you feel not what others think. It still may be meant to make people look, but I feel that the sensuality comes from within yourself, kind of a “first me, then you”. I kind of feel that ‘sexy’ is just a front and ‘sensual’ is what it really is when it comes from within you.

    I definitely used to be one to pick things out based on someone else’s desires other than my own, but then I was single and I discovered that I should have always been doing it for myself first.

    Another thing about ‘sexy’, I think it is just way too overused anyways, if one were to search for just leggings or a cute summer dress on eBay, they will almost certainly be labeled as ‘sexy’ when it isn’t, it’s almost like they use it as a marketing ploy for people to buy it.

  7. I love this thank you for saying it out lout!

    A big part of why I felt compelled to start my company was the derth of intelligent boudoir-wear on the market. Oversexed cougar or sexless crone were not appealing options for women my age. I wanted to elevate the conversation from ‘woman in lingerie is wanton,’ woman in ‘granny panties’ is ‘sexless.’

    We are all sexual and sensual beings. It is central to being human. I think of lingerie as wrappings for my most precious, intimate self, my being. It is why I make pieces not simply to be observed in, but to inhabit.

  8. I think it does and it doesn’t have to be sexy. It really depends on what purpose you’re buying the lingerie for. Even feeling sexy for one’s self is important (maybe even more important than feeling sexy for a partner?) There are types of lingerie that I buy that are utilitarian (I wouldn’t even call them lingerie, more like undergarments) and then there are pieces that I mainly just covet because I want to wear them to feel sexy but I can’t justify the price for that sentiment. Isn’t that wild? I’d rather not spend the money to feel close to my sexuality, even proud of my sexuality because I’m flaunting it in something pretty, lacy, flattering… Hmm. Good topic!

  9. How did I miss this post? More often than not, when it comes to lingerie I’d rather wear something interesting and/or beautiful and/or comfy (utilitarian I guess), than something deemed sexy. Beyond that, what is usually depicted as sexy is generally not sexy to me. Finally, I think that Valentine day is the most ridiculous holiday ever. Anyway, great post!

Comments are closed.