Real vs Cartoonish Sexuality

Real sexuality? Or just cartoonish?

Real sexuality? Or just cartoonish?

I believe we should afford our daughters and ourselves a right to our own authentic sexuality. Not the cartoonish MTV kind, but the kind where we respect ourselves enough to listen to what our bodies and hearts feel is right for us.

Paraphrasing psychoanalyst and author Joyce McFadden, there.

What is authentic sexuality? In my last post, I suggested it is neither shameful nor a crutch for powerlessness or low self-esteem. But what else? 

Young women are flooded with images screaming “sexy is” which can feel foreign or unpleasant. Or the market offers limited choice. Some have a hard time finding anything they feel comfortable wearing because sexy is all that’s offered.

Cartoonish sexuality is all about surface. It’s about plastic and peroxide, feeling famished and wearing clothing – or even implants – that don’t quite fit.

Actor Gabriel Olds tells a story about a woman he met at a party who blurted out, “By the way, these fake boobs are so not me.” He asked why she’d gotten them. A former boyfriend had awoken her one morning with the romantic proposition, “Hey, you ever think about getting better tits?” So she bought D-cups. He left her soon after. Eventually, she got the implants removed because they had never felt like “her.”

I asked my students how they imagined cartoonish sexuality. They said:

  • A freakish figure not found in nature
  • Huge boobs combined with small waist and hips, big lips, bleached blond hair
  • How society sees sexy – not what comes from inside
  • Artificial and superficial

Taking it further, how cartoonish are ten-year-olds wearing Abercrombie and Finch padded bras or thongs? (Do parents actually buy these or does Abercrombie just stock them knowing it’ll bring plenty of free publicity?)

And authentic sexuality? What about that? My students had more thoughts:

  • Natural
  • Appreciating a range of body types (including your own)
  • Light makeup (or none)
  • A real smile
  • Good personality, a sense of humor and confidence
  • Who you really are

We often think of women’s sexuality in terms of what they look like. Let’s turn to what inauthentic sexuality feels like:

  • Having sex out of feeling pressured from friends or boyfriends.
  • Having sex because it seems like the “right time,” but not because you want to.

Experiencing sexuality through the male gaze is not authentic, either. Women too often focus on how they look instead of how they feel in the bedroom. They are observing (and often criticizing) but not experiencing.

Inauthentic sexuality involves unhappily acting like porn stars for your partner’s pleasure, but not your own. (If you’re both enjoying it, that’s different). Some do things they don’t like just to keep the guy. One woman called these experiences “harrowing.”

We can all take a page from our sex-positive ancient Tahitian sisters who were not objectified in the way Western women are today, who learned the beauty of sexuality, and who did not act only for others. Of course, we live in a complex world so our sexuality must be responsible. We must protect ourselves and others from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies. And then FEEL INTO IT and REALLY enjoy.

Here’s what one commenter had to say on the issue.

Personally, I’m constantly questioning myself when I get dressed; am I choosing this outfit for attention or simply because I genuinely like it? I try to embrace my sexuality and my femininity and dress/act in a way that’s natural for me. I don’t like playing games or feeling like I have to put on a show for others… Perhaps one small step towards liberation is dressing and acting for oneself rather than for others.

I’m on Spring Break. This is a rerun.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Beautiful Women’s Hips Are Thinner Than Their Heads?
Being Sexual vs Looking Sexual
Men Are Naturally Attracted To Unnatural Women

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 April 2, 2014, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Jennie Asuncion

    When I read the title of this article (Real VS. Cartoonish Sexuality,) I literally thought it was going to be about the sexual appeal of a real woman versus the sexual appeal of a cartoonish woman. I learned that real sexuality was more about a woman’s confidence in herself and focusing on how she feels sexually versus what she looks like. Whereas, cartoonish sexuality pertained more to a woman’s physical appearance and the insecurities and pressure they feel as a woman. It’s sad to think that body image is something that a lot of women struggle with, to the point where they cannot revel and celebrate in being a woman. And what makes it even worse is that their already present insecurities are being fed with physically impossible examples, such as barbies, cartoon characters drawn to look like “the perfect woman,” and photoshopped pictures in the media.

  2. This topic caught my eyes as myself, a huge fan of cartoon and manga. It’s true that most of the characters in cartoon has overly exaggerated body shapes both men and women. Even the face, they have huge eyes, bright hair colors which doesn’t even exist in real, and small face. In Japan, there are huge population of cartoon, manga, and anime fans, and it’s also true that some of them are seriously falling in love with these unreal characters. I guess that’s one of the factor that most guys in Japan like a girl who has a huge boobs and skinny body. It is also said that Japan has a huge population of people who watch porn videos in the world. I agree these kind of girls might be sexually attractive to guys perspective, however I want them to notice girl’s internal sexuality.

  3. I wish more young(middle school aged)girls could read this post so that they can see there is more than one sexual ideal to grow up to be. I know what it feels like to walk into an Abercrombie & Fitch and feel like I’m supposed to be wanting to look like their ad’s or wearing their tiny clothes. I wish that at the time I had know that I’m not supposed to want to look like anything or anyone else.There is too much effort spent anticipating someone else’s ideal and not enough emphasis on discovering your own individual ideals. I’ve learned to feel sexy without make-up or thongs and it helps me to feel sexy with my partners too since I’m not worrying about laying at a certain angle, or making sure my make up smears. While there are some women who do get joy out of looking dolled up, it doesn’t have to be the standard for every women.There ARE two kinds of sexy, just in this society it unfortunately takes a lot more soul searching to find the personal acceptance of “Real” natural sexy.

  4. I am really interested in this article, and I really agree with it. Actually, women who are in my country are really often concerned about their appearances and outfits. However, I am not sure if they are wearing the clothes for themselves or not. When I see the women who wear clothes, which can mostly cover the parts of their bodies like busts or hips, I usually feel they want to wear the clothes for themselves. On the other hand, when I see the women who wear kind of sexy clothes that is exposed a lot, I sometimes guess they want to enchant men. Therefore, for me, they are not the true selves if the guess is correct. If this case happens to some current couples, I think it is not necessary to be sexy for their boyfriends because they already love each other. Also, if they are in the bed, I really think both of them should have same feelings, and they should think themselves first.

  5. That’s a really interesting transition. Thanks for sharing.

  6. My current boyfriend has inadvertently taught me something about sexuality, my own anyway, that I had started to know and then left behind when I started dating my first boyfriend. When I was first coming into my sexual self I was experimenting with girls because boys still found me very intimidating. It was a very raw and reciprocity was the name of the game. The my first boyfriend and I started dating at 14yrs old and my life, and more importantly my sexuality, became about how I could better please him from a very superficial side. I picked up a copy of each of Anton LaVey’s books and set about becoming the best satanic witch I could for him. I carried this through until about 2 and a half years ago when I met my current boyfriend. After our first real date we contracted into a monogamous relationship and from that point on he was naked 99.9% of the time we were home as that was what he did when he was at home. (Note: we started living together right away because I lived closer to school than he did so we would stay at my apartment during the week and his parents place on the weekends.) All of a sudden sex was never about being sexy or what you were wearing to be sexy and purely about being in the mood and what turned us on about each other from an intellectual or mental side because we were always naked if we were at home unless we were to go outside of our room as we live with my dad in our apartment. There are still things that I cary in my life from Anton LaVey’s teachings as if I did not believe in them I would have never picked them up intellectually let alone superficially in the first place. But now, it is about being friends and honesty are first and for most and being sexually stimulating only comes in all of the right ways, as mystery can only hurt you in the end, mystery is only sexy because it is usually a lie that makes you believe the person is who you want them to be when they usually are not. Now role playing is not to be discredited as it is a great way for some to express themselves but should be addressed and taken as such and as a thing of reciprocity in and of itself rather than something we bring as an accessory to our first dates because if you do, you will never get to know anyone and wind up with that person for maybe only a couple of months because that is about how long we can hold a lie before it becomes self-evident and becomes encumber some more than anything else.

  7. I love the points you made here, I’m a firm believer in natural beauty. That said I have dyed my hair before though – lol 🙂 x

  8. Great post- so many important points and clear delineations made between the two. I agree that claiming the way we embody our sexuality in the world is a huge liberation. That your students are so aware puts them way ahead of the curve. Also, to add to the list of authentic sexuality – it is also our sexual energy that powers us and feeds our creativity and health. It can also be the direction connection in the body to embodied spirituality for women except that is not acknowledged in most cultures today.

  9. I totally agree with your “students (who) had more thoughts”. Is a natural woman becoming a rarity nowadays ? ❤

  10. The thought that comes up for me as I read this post is a disconnection from our true self. It’s part of the malaise of our time. One of my best friends Who is 54 years old told me that she got purple hair the other day!! Of course my first thought was oh no! And I realized that it’s expressive.
    James Hillman talks about finding a place to express our pathologies. He talks about it being in a way that’s not harmful to others and more importantly not harmful to our self.
    I think you touch on issues that certainly bring this kind of discussion to the forefront which I appreciate

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