From time to time I get sick and tired. Fed up. At the end of my rope. Vexed beyond measure. You know what? I’ve had it up to here with ‘sexy’. The gloves are off and I’m having it out with sexy.
My objections are several, ranging from aesthetic to moral. So let’s start with light matters and ease into it.
First of all, sexy is lazy. Have you noticed how everything is sexy these days? Paint is sexy, as is food, or cars, or shoes. Falling back on sexy as a one-size-fits-all adjective is a disservice to a rich and varied vocabulary. Think of the words that aren’t being used because sexy gets picked for the team every time: attractive, appealing, gorgeous, beautiful, seductive, desirable, alluring, entrancing, stylish… well, the list could go on for pages, because sexy is used to mean nearly anything and everything positive.
Which leads to my second point: it’s inaccurate. One of my pet peeves is sloppy language, particularly language in print. I’m not haranguing against someone using ‘effect’ when they meant ‘affect’ in conversation with a friend. I do object to Kwik-Kopy (cutesy spelling seldom works in your favour – and that goes for children’s names, too.) and ‘should of’ instead of ‘should have’ by someone who doesn’t realize what it is they’re really saying.
My problem with sexy? It means ready for sex; sexually exciting; sexually suggestive. Surely to Pete we don’t mean to imply such qualities when we talk about sexy cell phones, or sexy restaurant design!
While I accept that English is a living language and therefore our words morph in spelling and meaning through popular usage, I do protest the hijacking of the language of Shakespeare and L.M. Montgomery – a process that is flattening the nuance, dulling the beauty, neutralizing the meaning by superficially applying inaccurate meaning to words. Stop it!
So far this has been the rant of a grammar geek, which I admit may be a little sad, but this goes deeper than a mild obsession with the parts of speech.
To realize the power and importance of words, you need only read the Gettysburg Address: “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom”; listen to the Psalms: ”You created my innermost being, You knit me in my mother’s womb, I am fearfully, wonderfully made”; or contemplate the difference between ‘abortion’ (bald statement of fact) and ‘pro-choice’ (whitewashed balderdash).
Falling back on sexy as the adjective of choice means we don’t have to remember the other words. Fine. It’s getting stale, but fine. What are we really saying when we say everything is sexy? For one thing, I think it indicates an unhealthy focus on sex. (People want to keep God and government out of the bedroom? Then why do they insist on dragging the bedroom into everything?) My identity as a person compasses much more than just my sexuality and I’d appreciate it if the minute details of my life also reflected something broader than sex. I’d rather not be asked to think about the sexual connotations of a car or sunglasses, thank you.
While not every use of ‘sexy’ is meant to imply sexual appeal, the word does focus our sense of value on sexuality. Young girls aren’t interested in being virtuous or modest (both qualities that used to be highly praised in women) but rather want to be sexy. Sexy has higher cache than pretty or beautiful these days, so how do you suppose those young girls want to be perceived? And not just young girls, either. Look at the women around you. Are they aiming for beautiful, or sliding into sexy?
We’re inundated with messages that sexy is a desirable quality, a superior condition, and because we hear it all the time, we’ve become inured to how objectionable and full of lies it really is.
I’m sorry, Justin Timberlake, but I’m kicking sexy to the curb.
Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Patricia explores authentic Catholic femininity on her blog The Feminine Gift.