"Sexy" and who gets to define it

Discussion in 'Underwear, Clothing, and Appearance Issues' started by Kevbo, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. Kevbo

    Kevbo Member

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    I'm not sure there is a term that is more abused than "sexy" when applied to women. I don't read women's mags, but their cover headlines never fail to work the word in somewhere, often in terms of some kind of make-over. This is true, too, of some online places such as health.com, which also often advertises some sort of "sexy" make-over/workout link to click on, and practically every make-up and hair product commercial on TV.

    But here's the thing: to me, "sexy" means "sexually appealing or exciting to the target audience" (usually in these contexts, the opposite sex). So, for a hetero woman's make-over or workout to be truly considered "sexy", doesn't it stand to reason that some sort of judging panel composed of hetero men should be consulted? Not the gay guy who designed the clothes or did the hair. Not the supportive girlfriends who are going to tell you that you look good regardless of what you changed. If you truly want to know (as a hetero woman) if your efforts have resulted in sexiness, shouldn't you, ah, check with the target audience: hetero men?

    But I don't think "sexy" means "appealing to the target audience" in these magazines and websites. It seems, instead, to mean "something that changes your appearance in a way that gives you more self-confidence". Now, I'm not arguing against the importance of self-confidence in being sexy, but believe me when I say that while some level of "confidence" is necessary, it is hardly sufficient in many situations.

    The advice or clothes or make-up tips I've seen that were recommended as "sexy" are often, to me at least, not even close to the mark. For example, stiletto eyelashes will get you nowhere on the sexiness scale, regardless of what Drew Barrymore says. Looking emaciated is not a turn-on, despite how much skin-and-bones supermodels are compensated. Wearing a new teddy to bed will not make up for acting, uh, nasty all day.

    For me, "sexy" (for a woman, to a man) can be reduced to:
    - be aware that you are a sexual creature; at the appropriate times, wear your body like it's lingerie
    - know that men are visual and tactile; you don't need to sport revealing or tight clothing, but you need to make clear to a man that you're interested in that you're aware of these two senses, that you will play to them, and that, for the right guy, you enjoy it
    - not projecting high maintenance ("I charge a significant toll") or too-low maintenance ("everyone gets a free ride"). What you want to project is "for you and you alone, I'm willing to try anything within my moral bounds".
    - never project "I'm acting this way or wearing these clothes merely to snag a man"

    Kevbo
     
  2. Not_Punny

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    Interesting comments, Kevbo. I think you about summed it up!
     
  3. D_Tim McGnaw

    D_Tim McGnaw Account Disabled

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    Lets put aside all this "women should take directions on how to turn men on to feel sexy" horse shit sexist nonesense and get to this little nugget of bizarreness about "the gay guy who designed the clothes or did the hair"; what decade do you live in where it's normal to come out with this?

    You are aware that heterosexual men work in the fashion industry, in hairstyling, in the magazine industry etc etc right? In fact if we break down the numbers you'll find there are vastly more heterosexual men in these industries than gay men. So your little thesis amounts to diddly squat mate.

    How about you bother to apprise yourself of the facts and stop making fatuous presumptions about things you clearly know very little about, oh and then maybe contemporise your attitudes towards women too while you're at it.
     
    #3 D_Tim McGnaw, Dec 5, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010
  4. Kevbo

    Kevbo Member

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    I'd be interested in seeing your sources that "vastly" more hetero (than gay) men are hairdressers or fashion designers. A quick Google search got me no firm numbers, but in The High Cost of Being Gay :: EDGE Boston, a gay newspaper, they say that the number of gay hairdressers "dwarfs" straight ones.

    By the way, don't water down the numbers by using the whole industries. Restrict yourself to hairdressers and fashion designers, which is what I originally alluded to. And don't count barbers who cut only men's hair.

    I find it somewhat curious that you're offended here. Let's say I'm right and that male hairdressers and fashion designers are typically gay. Does it not make at least some sense to you (as a 99% gay man) that you're not going to have nearly as authentic an opinion of what actually makes a woman sexy to hetero males as, say, a hetero male would? It's not an insult! It's just the way things are. Similarly, I wouldn't have a clue how to make myself (or any other guy) attractive to gay males. How would I know? The "Gestalt" (visceral) reaction just isn't there for me.

    As for your sentence 'Lets put aside all this "women should take directions on how to turn men on to feel sexy" horse shit sexist nonesense' -- that's what all the frigging magazines and talk shows and websites are doing, without consulting the actual men that are supposed to be the ones turned on! That's my whole point!

    Kevbo
     
  5. vaeyinn

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    I think you may be missing that these magazines and talk shows are usually sexist.

    At very best, you could say that the only way they could help a woman to be sexy is to help her feel sexy.
     
  6. D_Tim McGnaw

    D_Tim McGnaw Account Disabled

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    You might bother to read the material you link to-
    This means yes a significant percentage of men work in hairdressing in the USA are gay (according to this one study), but they do not make up the majority of men who work in hairdressing tout court. There are simply vastly more heterosexual men in the world, meaning that in a profession as widespread as hairdressing gay men simply could not be the majority (whatever the statistics in the US may be). The statistics simply could not support that possibility. That the percentage of straight men who are hairdressers is smaller is merely a function of the fact that there are vastly more heterosexual men in the world.

    The Fashion industry is a complicated and complex one. Lets start with Designers, even if we restrict ourselves to designers working for houses which put on shows at the big fashion weeks in London, New York, Paris, Milan, or the smaller fashion weeks of Tokyo, Mumbai, and other capitals we are talking about thousands of individuals. There are roughly 10-20 individual designers working in Haute Couture of whom one might expect that every design shown at fashion week in their Haute Couture show is entirely their own work (though in fact even that isn't uniformly the case) of these 10-20 only Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Gaultier, Elie Saab, Giorgio Armani, and Valentino could claim could claim to be even remotely as influential as you suggest. The rest of the members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture are essentially unknown outside of a small circle of fashion industry insiders and the even tinier circle of haute couture buyers.

    Of all of these only Chanel and Dior, and to a lesser extent Gaultier and Armani (Privé) produce Haute Couture shows at every, most or some Paris fashion weeks.

    Bear in mind that a vanishingly small number of women actually look to the Haute Couture shows for inspiration for how they dress and you begin to see what we're dealing with here. It's also worth remembering that probably only Chanel and Dior could even credibly claim that an entire Haute Couture show was designed by one head designer, whatever his or her sexual orientation may be.

    Now lets drill down further, most major fashion houses produce Pret a Porter shows, that is ready-to-wear clothing shows which have a wider influence (though still only a marginal one really) on how women dress or what they view as "sexy" on a day to day basis. Naturally the big labels do not bother to point out that in fact Pret a Porter shows are not the work of single chief designers but in fact are the work of hundreds of in-house designers and a host of free-lancers and consultant designers. But that's still the case.

    Believe me when I tell you that having worked as a free-lance jewellery designer in the fashion industry, and having gone to art college with fashion designers now working in the industry directly that of the men working as designers at a Pret a Porter level by no means are gay men a majority among them, because once again the simple dictates of statistics mitigate against it. The myth of a gay fashion mafia is exactly that, a myth, because there simply aren't enough gay men as a proportion of the general population to dominate an industry even of the modest scale of the Pret a Porter major label fashion houses.

    Now crucially almost all the big label fashion houses are owned and directed by a hand full of huge luxury brand corporations, the obvious examples being Louis-Vuitton-Moet-Hennessy and PPR. These companies appoint and fire Chief designers and these companies are dominated both numerically and in terms of manager, director or CEO authority by heterosexual men. The fashion labels wont admit it, but in effect it is these super-massive luxury brand corporations which dictate the direction which fashion takes year on year as they adapt to market forces and impose the simple requirements of high volume sales and low bottom line expenditure. The higher the volume of sales the more people will be employed in design and the smaller the number of gay men become as a proportion of those working in design.


    In the wider fashion industry, which is to say the industry which produces clothing for billions of people around the world and sells in gigantic volume and which directly influences how men and women dress every day, the numbers of people employed in a design context is huge. It is these designers, working for stores which retail in malls and high streets around the world producing affordable and accessible clothing who most influence how ordinary women dress and not (contrary to popular myth) the great Maitre Couturier. Once again simple statistics dictate that it is impossible that gay men predominate here.

    It's also worth remembering that the fashion industry in its entirety is dominated by marketing and advertising. Fashion houses, even ones as lofty as Chanel, have little or no particular control over how they are marketed and advertised since generally this is out-sourced to consultancies normally owned and operated by the major luxury brand corporations. These advertising and marketing firms are probably the single most influential forces in the entire industry, and believe me when I tell you that they make little or no reference to the creative design concepts developed within the ateliers of a few chief designers. In fact the relationship is inverted, marketing trends dictate how designers design far more frequently than designers dictate marketing trends.

    Marketing and Advertising are both numerically and in authority terms hugely predominated by heterosexual men, and if you want to know where modern ideas about "Sexiness" "Beauty" "Allure" etc originate then you need to look to the boardrooms and strategy meetings of the major fashion/cosmetics and luxury brand advertising and marketing companies. It's from here that the concept of the woman enslaved by pressures to consume large quantities of relatively cheaply produced but highly priced products originates; the female consumer pressed into feeling inadequate about her weight, and almost every other aspect of her appearance for which these companies have developed hundreds of thousands of cheaply produced and highly priced and glitzily and seductively advertised solutions ranging from shoes, hand bags, jewellery, clothing, hair products, cosmetics, toiletries and perfumes to cosmetic surgeries and beauty procedures.

    Decades of strategy developed by heterosexual men, looking to maximise profits for huge corporations have produced the the pressures on women to look and behave and consume in a certain way. If you want to know who is responsible for the kind of ideal of female sexiness you find un-sexy then gay men are the last people you should be looking to for answers.


    Publishing, TV, Movies and websites, who do you think they are controlled, operated and directed by? A mythical gay mafia or a very real and very massive set of industries which both customarily and statistically are overwhelmingly packed with huge numbers of heterosexual men all looking to produce ever increasing profits for large corporations?


    Oh and do you really believe that just because I happen to be gay I have absolutely no idea what makes a woman sexually attractive to heterosexual men? The fact that you happen to be unable to see what might make a man sexually attractive to another man is beside the point, and hardly constitutes evidence of whether or not I have a gestalt understanding of what makes women sexually alluring to men. Gay men and straight men aren't two separate branches of the human species, we have the same brains and the same basic inherent behavioural characteristics.
     
    #6 D_Tim McGnaw, Dec 6, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  7. Kevbo

    Kevbo Member

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    Hilaire:

    I will bow to your very impressive knowledge (and explication) of the fashion industry. My flip comment concerning fashion designers comes from the names I hear bandied about by female coworkers, and ones that seem recommended in the style pages of the NY Times and, assumedly, in women's magazines. I'll grant you the point on this and stand corrected, and I congratulate the writing effort you put in on this.

    On the hairdressers, not so. We are reading the same text (from the Edge) differently, and I think you're making a common error in reasoning. The part you quote is:

    The way I read this is as follows:
    - across the subset of all male hairdressers, most are gay
    - this does not mean that all gay men, or even a majority of them, are hairdressers, simply because (implication) there are many more gay men in the world than there are hairdressing spots to fill. It is much more likely that some other occupation, with a larger workforce overall, would be the winner if you did a headcount of gay men's occupations

    I hope you see how that works. The quoted text reverses the pie charts from the first sentence to the second. The first sentence says that, in the pie chart of all hairdressers, the gay slice far outsizes the straight slice. The second sentence says that, in the pie chart of all occupations of gay men, the slice for "hairdresser" is not the biggest slice and is not large enough to even lend itself to stereotyping.

    I hear you concerning the "gay mafia" fallacy but I made no such claims, so rest easy on that one :rolleyes:.

    Finally, as for you as a gay man having no idea what might make a woman sexy to a straight man, I did not explicitly say that; I merely said that asking a straight man the same question will get you a more authentic answer. His reactions to a woman are different than yours (by definition, no?) and more on-point.

    Part of the reason I posted in the first place is that I do a lot of writing on the weekends and hang out in various restaurants and bars, observing life and the social swirl. I see a lot of women who are obviously there to hook-up and who have paid a lot of attention to their appearance, sometimes to the last detail. And so many of them get no action, and I can often spot why, and I wonder: where did they go astray? Why did they make this choice or that? I'm not blaming all or even most of this on the factors I cited in my original post (women's magazines, advice from gay hairdressers or fashion designers, etc.) since there are manifold other reasons why. (Maybe the woman simply has no fashion sense, or no sense of her own pluses and minuses, or looks too standoffish, or too desperate, or a million other things.) But these standard sources of advice are not helping matters, IMO, and it seems like it could be addressed quite effectively.

    Appreciate the dialogue,
    Kevbo
     
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