Looking Sexual vs Being Sexual

Black_and_White_love_romance_kiss1[1]Is “beauty” really sex? Does a woman’s sexuality correspond to what she looks like? Does she have the right to sexual pleasure and self-esteem because she’s a person, or must she earn that right through “beauty”?

–           Naomi Wolf

A lot of women and men confuse looking sexual with being sexual. We look at an attractive woman and think, oh, she’s really sexual. Then we see a not-so-pretty woman and suppose she’s not.

But “pretty” and “sexuality” are actually two different things. Sex is all about feeling, not the surface experience of just existing, however beautifully.

But as Naomi Wolf points out in The Beauty Myth, too many women don’t enjoy sex because they think they don’t look sexy enough. And since a lot of women think they don’t look sexy because of their body type, age, or low self-esteem, a lot of women miss out on great sex.

Because a woman’s ability to enjoy sexuality can be so closely tied to how she looks, many cut their breasts to get implants just so that they can experience eroticism. Even when their partners don’t want them to. As Wolf put it, “In a diseased environment, they are doing this ‘for themselves.’”

And about one-third of women lose sensitivity in their nipples, post surgery, becoming less capable of enjoying the sensations of the breast.

And even then a lot of “hot” women spend their time thinking about how they look and not experiencing how they feel. So there you have pretty sex objects who don’t enjoy sex.

Women think they need to look a certain way because men are hardwired to be visual. Yet it’s not true. In tribal societies women walk around nearly nude, and no one cares. Those men aren’t visually attuned to the breast as erotic. In our culture men learn to be aroused by breasts through the strategic revealing and covering of them, creating the allure.

Wolf says beauty is not the same as sexuality. Instead:

Wherever we feel pleasure, all women have “good” bodies. We do not have to spend money and go hungry and struggle and study to become sensual; we always were. We need not believe we must somehow earn good erotic care; we always deserved it.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 4, 2013, in body image, feminism, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. noellekeshmiri@gmail.com

    First of all looking sexual vs being sexual don’t go together … trust me I’ve had male friends tell me that they have hooked up with hottest chicks and it wasn’t that good compared to the average girls. it sucks and sickens me that women can’t enjoy sex because of how they look , what an uncomfortable feeling but i think men have that too! just not as much as women, yes men are visual but what your noticing they are not … men love sex and i thnk women should be more confident and accepting , but i can see why a man thinks a hot girl is sexual because he might think she’s confident and is very sexual

    • Yeah, I’ve heard men say they were surprised that their partners were all distracted and worried when they (the guys) weren’t noticing any problems at all. They were just happy to be with the women.

  2. After reading this post I immediately remembered the thousands of different magazines, and millions of different articles which give us “top secret” information and teach us how should look like a sexy woman, how to become sexy and attractive for men. Isn’t it a nonsense? Of course, beautiful and expensive clothes, makeup and beautiful hair makes a woman attractive, improve her self esteem and, as a result, allow a woman feel sexier. But after she put it all off, and being in the bedroom with her beloved man, she once again become feeling shaky and complexed. So, just looking sexual doesn’t mean to be sexual that is much more important because not being sexual can even destroy your relationships or marriage. In my own experience I know that when I forgot to wax my legs on time I feel uncomfortable in my bedroom and I think that I’m not so attractive to my husband at that time. That is why first of all women should feel themselves sexual, then they pose a special aura of sexuality, and only after that they will look really sexual even if they forgot wax their legs 🙂

  3. I completely agree with the idea that sex is about feeling and its greatly psychologically related because nothing kills a vibe more than not being in the mood. This type of unrealistic sexy is pretty standard for most women. I do not doubt that most women have certain standards to be “sexy” and they let it stand in the way of experiencing one of human’s better activities in life. This truly is unfortunate that women believe to be sexy to anyone they have to stack up to their own high standards and it does not help that society encourages women to yearn for the thinner, fuller, perkier look to be sexy. Billboards advertise this type of idea but does this mean we have to believe it? When you watch horror movies, I always find myself reminding my conscience that its all fake, its not real; should it not be the same with the horror circumstances that media put on women to fulfill this sexy quota? I think so.

  4. Jessica Minasi

    I’ve been battling depression since high school and I agree that some “not-so-pretty” women feel that they can’t pleasure a man the same way a pretty women can. I believe it’s because the media is portraying “sexy” as being more important then ones inner qualities like smarts, personality, morals and future goals. It really lowers girl’s self esteem at a very young age and lowers their chance of happiness with the partners they choose to have.

  5. After reading this article, I can honestly say i never knew that. I never knew someone’s sex life can be controlled by how they feel about their own physical appearance. I myself am a tomboy; ran with the boys, ate with the boys, played sports with them, ect. So if you can tell, my physical appearance was never really a “big thing” to me. But I’ll tell you what, my sex life has been great. Never once has my sex life been controlled by my own physical appearance. My sex life has been controlled by passion and emotion, feeling. He made me feel like I’m beautiful, smart, needed, wanted, sexy, safe, a lot of great things for a long while. So I turned to him and said, LETS DO THIS 😉

  6. After reading this article some many of my thoughts and questions have been answered. As a man the issue of looking a certain way has not affected my sex life what so ever. Although I cannot say the same for a few of my partners .I would always wonder why they would want to keep the lights off during sex or even in one case just get completely get turned off after seeing a reflection of themselves naked before hand. I guess I was just to blind to the fact that sex in our society today is being taught from our media which portrays beauty with sex and no longer is something that is being felt through passion and emotions.

  7. I always considered the idea of tribes not taking breasts sexually being lack of censorship. Just like how the Middle East censors women’s bodies completely, and going nuts over lower legs, while we go nuts over full nipple, but cleavage can only make us notice. In other words, it’s how much you grow up being exposed to it. I dont’ think it’s that if tribesmen had women flash their breasts after seeing them in person for 20-50 years would suddenly make them acknowledge them sexually.

  8. Reblogged this on Tiffany's Non-Blog and commented:
    Love this!

  9. Its funny that sexy women; women that men find very sexy, don’t enjoy sex. Its like a waste in a way; sorta like someone studying to be a doctor and not enjoying or using their skills on themselves;idk maybe a bad ex, but us men don’t even think about if were sexy when we do sexual activity; all we think about is is our partner sexy or is this porn sexy. I think a lot of men are at a loss, because of women not enjoying sex, and as a gender we have ourselves to blame for 50 percent of it. The other 50 percent is a woman’s.

    • Well, not all sexy women don’t enjoy sex. But a lot of them are way more focused on how they look to their partner – how great they look – than focused on sex, itself.

      Yet I wouldn’t blame “men” or “women.”

      Instead, I blame a culture that socializes all of us: teaching women to feel like they aren’t sexual if they don’t look “sexy.” And teaching men to feel that women who don’t look “sexy” aren’t sexual. We all unconsciously internalize these ideas and then reenact them without much thought. I’m trying to help people give this more thought, because that’s the only way that things can change.

  10. Great article, as usual, Georgia. It struck me that the same could be said about loving ourselves. We often think that we need to look, act, be a certain way to be worthy of love. In actuality, “we always were” lovable.

  11. My experience would indicate that there is a great deal of truth in this post. I am married to a woman whom I find very attractive. I tell her daily that she is beautiful, but she doesn’t see herself in the same light. We have struggled some in our marriage with mismatched libidos and in some of our most honest conversations about this she has stated that she doesn’t want sex when she doesn’t feel sexy. Of course sexy to her equates to the commercialized images on the magazine racks. I have joked with her that I am “supposed” to be the visual one when it comes to sex. In our case it would appear that in her mind she is not visually appealing enough for me so she cant let go and enjoy sex as she worries that I am not turned on enough by her. No matter what I say I cannot convince her otherwise.

  12. Very good post, all people are inherently sexual, even those without conventional “beauty” and those with disabilities.

    Exactly, we are always beautiful when enraptured by sexual pleasure and satisfaction 🙂

    Rohan.

  13. Hmmm, I have implants but feel everything. I actually had a breast reduction at 20 and still had sensation, which they said I may lose. I put the implants in after my second son. I shouldn’t have had the reduction so young, but my breast were huuuuge! lol My son came 8 years after the first, I didn’t think I would have a second child. 🙂
    I know this about woman…but I’ve recently been having sex with this guy that’s a little over weight. Nicest guy I’ve met in years. Well, sex with him is more enjoyable than any drop dead gorgeous guy I’ve ever been with.. Beauty is but skin deep. Shame he was only here on business. Darn it. LMAO Okay, I can only say this on your blog! LMAO Hugs to you. Paula xxxxx

    • Yeah, as I said, about 1/3 of women lose sensation in their breasts when they get implants. So it’s a risk. It’s not a sure thing to lose sensation.

      I can certainly understand getting surgery for health reasons. Perhaps heavy breasts are painful, for instance.

      But I do worry about a culture that teaches girls and women that everyone needs to have a particular type of look and that their bodies aren’t beautiful just the way they are.

  14. An interesting post, that smashes a lot of myths thanks for sharing.

  15. All kinds of psychoanalytic literature flowed through my mind as I read this wonderful article. The title ‘Looking vs. Being’ is central to Winnicottian thought. Winnicott emphasis on ‘going- on-being’ with a spontaneous gesture vs. a false self that’s reactive to the environment. Thomas Ogden, in his book The Matrix of the Mind, also differentiates between individuals who are ‘thing like a objects’ vs. people with internal subjectivity and a sense of ownership. Last, I recall Francis Tustin’s article on the significance of the nipple. She writes the the child perceives the nipple as an extension of his or her tongue and views it as the ‘button of the breast’.

  16. In the end, if you learn to love your body you can feel sexy with nice lingery and clothes whatever your size of the body or breasts.

  17. overcoming depression

    Reblogged this on Overcoming Depression.

  18. overcoming depression

    Nice post

  19. This is a very different point of view. I am surprised and more than a little saddened to learn that some people think they need to look a certain way to enjoy their bodies.

    I can understand the need to lose weight if you’re obese, or getting implants if you’ve lost your breasts to cancer…but the average woman shouldn’t feel this way. Is this the reason why womenfolk tend to not be as “into” sex as men aka thinking about groceries/school/etc instead of focusing on what they’re doing and experiencing? If so, this kinda makes sense to me now.

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Blog Quotation—BBQ « everyday gurus

  2. Pingback: Looking Sexual vs Being Sexual: reblogged | Overcoming Depression

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