I was speaking with Amanda Leigh of The Amateur Pole Arts Showcase when she casually spoke this little truth, “Sexy is not about sex.” I know Amanda’s not the first or last person to make this observation, but when she said it something really resonated with me. It was the perfect summary of some deep feelings I usually take significantly more words to express.
To the literal person, “Sexy is not about sex” may seem like a paradox. How can the adjective form of a noun not be related to the noun itself? First let’s establish the two different working definitions of sexy. The first one is the cultural, presentational “sexy” – someone else’s projected concept of sex appeal worn like an accessory. As Paris Hilton put it, “I’m sexy but I’m not sexual.” In the same way a person can dress “sporty” or “artsy” but still lack any in real athletic or artistic talent, a person can dress sexy but lack any real sexuality. Hugo Schwyzer writes pointedly on this type of “sexy” in his article, “The Paris Paradox: how sexualization replaces opportunity with obligation”.
The second “sexy”, the one I want to explore, is the sexy of the soul. The one that reveals your most authentic self without agenda or obligation. Just like the first “sexy” this one too is not about sex, but for an entirely different reason.
Oscar Wilde says, “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” To me what he is saying is that sex is an outlet for deeper/suppressed emotions. The human emotional palate is complicated and constantly reassessing its perceptions of the world. And it is through this expression, this struggle for personal truth that we find the real sexy. Think of people with the “It Factor” or a “Je ne sais quoi” – they appears effortless because whatever they are doing is honest. When witnessing another person in that unapologetic place it can be mesmerizing, intoxicating… sexy. Not because it’s intending to provoke a sex act, but because for a moment it is an emotional mirror. Just like in good books, movies, tv shows, and art we are all comforted by the pathos of finding our reflection in the world. We all crave understanding and acceptance because it validates us. That’s what sexy is about.
Bringing this all back around to pole dancing: I think pole dancing is one of the best conduits for authentic sexy in the world. The free reign of expression for the dancer is almost unrivaled. The ability to move unencumbered, to climb, flip, spin, fly and even just be off balance can speak emotional truths in ways that few other modes of communication can. Add to that the music and costume choices of the dancer and you have a perfect window in someone’s psyche. You think you’re getting turned on by exposed skin and the sexual nature of the movement, but remember all of that didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Each choice came from somewhere deeply personal to the dancer. Those booty shorts, thigh-high boots, and Lil’ Wayne songs are all working together to show you a part of who that dancer is. On a potentially unconscious level you were drawn to the intangible higher truth which manifests itself as sexy.
So next time you find yourself feeling someone is sexy, ask yourself why. There’s more to it than you think…