Sexy = Sexual?

Paris Hilton, "That's hot!"

Paris Hilton, “That’s hot!”

When people talk about sexuality, they sometimes confuse looking sexy with being sexual.

At least when it comes to women.

You see a sexy woman and assume that she is sexual. When you don’t know anything about how she actually enjoys her experience in bed. Maybe she is just looking hot but not feeling hot.

As Paris Hilton once explained, for her,

Being ‘hot’ is a pose, an act, a tool, and entirely divorced from either physical pleasure or romantic love.

Which is interesting because the notion that sexy = sexual seems to prioritize the male experience.

If you look hot for him, he had a great sexual experience (you assume). So you were being sexy. But were you in touch with your sexual feelings and pleasure? Maybe not.

In fact, college women often use their partner’s sexual satisfaction as a measure of their own, saying things like “If he’s sexually satisfied, then I’m sexually satisfied,” says University of Michigan psychologist, Sara McClelland. Men are more likely to judge their satisfaction by their own orgasms.

Kerry Cohen, psychotherapist and author of Dirty Little Secrets, describes the problem this way:

(Young women) are victims of very narrow definitions of sexual desirability. And in the course of confirming their desirability – and hence their worthiness – they end up completely removed from their own sexuality and experience of sexual desire.

And Naomi Wolf asks this question in The Beauty Myth:

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”?

Sexy, pretty, beauty… none of these are the same thing as “sexuality.” Sex is all about feeling, not just how we look, however beautifully.

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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 April 4, 2016, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. It’s weird that women feel or that stats show women’s sexual experience is about men. And women are divorced from their own experience and wants. But when it comes to reality atleast from my perspective, girls and women do require or atleast it’s not something that’s ok and many guys feel they must not be like those “other guys” and to satisfy women. If this wasn’t the case, you wouldn’t hear songs in popular culture. For example the old song ‘I don’t want no one minute man”, we all heard that song in highschool it was popular and guy’s learned on knew, they can’t just go with status quo and to step up their game with ladyfolk and last in bed, please her, and not just do a quick bang and it’s over. Women personally and culture wise have voiced their wants and how guys need to bring it and about men being good in bed and such.

    Guys are aware of this stuff, so guy’s want to be good in bed. If anything more is asked of for guys to be good in bed and criteria which is why there probably is performance anxiety from some men. Women don’t seem to have that anxiety about being good in bed, more how they look in bed. Whereas, guys think of their dick size, their stamina, and love making skills that get their women off and make him better than other guys. Like many guys know that there are men can definitely be bad in bed for women, decent in bed, good in bed and great in bed and all these ratings. Women don’t have such criteria as I’ve heard most say that women aren’t usually bad in bed. Some might not be great or good, but it’s still good for the guy. Even “starfishes”, well it’s still sex so its good, so women don’t seem to have this reason or pressure to be good in bed or step up their game, whereas guys acknowledge to step up their game if they want to be seen as good in bed to women or rated high compared to other men. Last thing I’d want is to be seen as bottom rating compared to other men.

    • And it’s not really men’s fault — or not most men anyway. It’s society’s fault. Men would rather have their lovers enjoying sex. But girls learn that their role is to be sex objects. Like men aren’t top that their bodies are supposed to arouse women so they don’t have to spend their time in bed wondering if they do. But women often do worry about it. In addition to all of the sex moves.

      Plus, our society represses women sexuality so much that that leave them outside of their own experience and focus instead on men’s experience.

  2. I never felt “sexy =sexual as far as in bed goes. If anything one’s who dress in a certain way that’s sexy or like materialistic and too caught up in being and looking hot. To me, I often feel it’s a facade and many times view that woman as most likely not being good in bed, because of her vanity. Like she’ll be a starfish in bed, because she thinks her hotness is enough to be great in bed or the man is blessed by her mere body and apperance that it’s a great time for him despite her being starfish in bed. Actually interesting you showed and brought up paris hilton. That exemplifies it as she fits that mold. God this was a lonnng time ago. But I remember when the paris hilton sex tape was out, some of my friends watched it, it was a big curiosty for people then obviously like the Kim K one that came after. Anyway, I heard it was not that good, because well, Paris Hilton was a starfish and it wasn’t a surpised, because she dressed sexy but there was a vanity and self obsession about her from seeing her reality show and then it makes sense that it would be that way in bed and lack of enthusiasm. To me the sexual women aren’t really how they dress or act.

    There;s like an “aura”. I can’t say simply confidence, because some can be confident but not that sexual. But like something in their eyes, way they walk it’s not outward but sultry and sexy. Sex personified and you get a feeling she rocks that man’s world whoever she is. There are some with that sultryness. Sometimes it can be the quiet ones. But this makes sense as it does seem like it’s a facade like the one’s wearing revealing clothes shaking their asses at the club, act sexual, but not really what they portray when in bed. It makes me think of the guy with a power strut or fancy car, like he’s a big shot and walking around like he’s got a big dick, but it’s just a facade or compensation and act and in reallife it’s actually quite small, but the bravado compensates for it.

    • I was reading Peggy Orenstein’s book, which I cited in another comment, and she mentioned that both Paris and Kim look like they are bored in those sex tapes. At best it seems more like a self-esteem boost and enjoying sex. Or in the case of these two, Publicity.

  3. Hello Georgia, I totally agree with the last paragraph. Sex is about feeling and each individual, man or woman feels, approaches and thinks about their sexuality differently. Some men and women have a higher sex drive, others not so high. We are all different. However, we all enjoy feeling good, being touched and loved… Being human. Great post….

  4. I think that when we find someone sexy, we believe they have had and enjoy sex, and/or they want sex, so just by finding someone sexy we are making assumptions about their sexuality. But these are not safe assumptions, and even asexual people can be unintentionally sexy.

    Sexy and beautiful are two different things, being sexually attractive and aesthetically attractive respectively. It is possible to be one or other without being both. Neither has anything to do with sexuality, which is more to do with being sexually or aesthetically attracted.

    In a patriarchy where a woman is measured by her ability to catch and keep a man, it’s no wonder that a woman’s priorities should be her beauty and sexiness and his pleasure. This is why women’s sexual liberation is bound up with the fight against the patriarchy.

  5. I completely agree! Also, I’m sure you must have written about this, the tendency of correlating gender expression with sexual orientation cannot be more misguided. Just as a “hot” woman is considered sexually available and “good at it” for men, “non-hot” or unfeminine women, who are sometimes called “tomboys”, are automatically assumed to be either asexual or homosexual. Similar stereotypes exist among men too. I wrote a post a while back discussing sexuality and sensuality. Here’s a link, if you’re interested: https://ofopinions.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/of-sensuality/

  6. Feminine beauty, or prettiness, and sensuousness are different things. Equally different is sexiness. While beauty is a function of proportion that pleases the eye or is an internal response in the beholder based on the woman’s totality of attributes, sensuousness is the totality of the woman’s appeal to the onlookers’ senses. Sexiness is a function of the emotional state of the woman at a given time. The same qualities also obtain in the masculine gender, described as handsome, macho, and virile. Your post, Georgia, brings out all these nuances.

  7. You’ve nicely explained and pointed out the basic differences. Hope someday, people will understand.

  8. That’s a great fine-print. I absolutely agree with you…I might find you sexy but who knows how you are in bed!
    They are totally different aspects, which might be at opposite angles to each other.

  9. It is sad how women have been suppressed for so long, that even their sexual encounters are determine by men’s satisfaction. Because, the average man achieves orgasm in three to five minutes, while it could take a women four times as long. So men, stop being selfish and ask your lady how you could please her, because every women is different. Also, its shocking how they relate sexy with sexual, because as a heterosexual male that has slept with over a 100 women it is not true. The most beautiful women I have slept with have been boring, because they believe the myth, sexy=sexual.

  10. In my opinion it is wrong for society to just assume that because a woman may be half dressed or wear revealing clothing, then this must mean that she is looking to have sex or trying to perceive herself as a sexual person. This view is mainly because of men, and honestly some women do dress provocatively because they want sex, but this doesn’t apply to all women who may dress that way. Until men stop looking at women this way, this view wont change at all. It’s not only men that do this but women as well. Women are quick to bring down another girl for the way they wish they could look or for doing something they wish they could do and just don’t have the confidence of doing it.

  11. People often confuse looking sexy with being sexual. most men and some women too see it as sexy=sexual. But like Paris Hilton says “Hot is just a pose, an act”. I agree with Paris, A women can be dressed sexy and want nothing to do with sex. They are two different aspects. Someone might be dressed sexy and be horrible in bed. Society just assumes sexy dressed women are always sexually active. But im sure that there are some women that dress sexy and are sexual and are great in bed as well. There might also be a women who is dressed sexy but isn’t feeling sexy at all. We cant just assume by the way someone is dressed that they have a sex life.

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