~ content warning: body tawk ~
For a long time, I tried to look cute.
Cute was safe. Cute was familiar. It communicated something about youth and innocence and not threatening the status quo. Kittens are cute, and everybody loves them!
For me, cute meant that twee Modcloth style. Little cardigans and vintage-inspired prints and funky necklaces.
Sexy was off-limits. It was OK for other women, but not me. I had to stay as palatable and inoffensive as a bland snickerdoodle. Sexy was dark and brooding and mysterious, with lace and strappy things and uncomfortable shoes and restrictive underwire bras. (Maybe even whips and handcuffs!) My cheap stretchy beige bras were very comfy, thankyouverymuch.
Cute is nice and controllable. Sexy is wild and uncontained and a little bit scary.
Part of falling down the Nikole Mitchell rabbithole has been seeing how she fully owns and expresses her sexiness (she posts near-nude pics on Instagram and sends the uncensored ones on OnlyFans). She can be VERY sexual, and it’s 100% on her terms. It doesn’t mean she’s some morally bankrupt, malicious, conniving succubus like Christianity would’ve had me believe.
As a young Christian in the ’90s, being sexy was one of the worst things to be. Baring your midriff or wearing spaghetti-strap tops wasn’t allowed, because it might “cause guys to stumble.” (As if you can stop adolescents from being horny.) Sexy was evil, and evil meant hell. Purity and 100% abstinence was the only acceptable option (which didn’t stop three girls in my class from getting pregnant). It was an incredibly damaging, restrictive, repressive environment and firmly implanted in my mind that SEXUALITY IS WRONG AND BAD. (Don’t even get me started on the Britney Spears virgin/whore dichotomy that was happening at the same time–women should be titillating but chaste! Adhere to a narrow version of femininity without ever enjoying yourself!)
Anyway, yes, society definitely demands that women be sexy, which I think is part of why every few years we get wireless bras and Billie Eilish wearing baggy clothes, as a way to say FUCK THAT. (Then the pendulum will inevitably swing in the other direction. I shudder to think about the return of low-rise jeans.)
But I’m learning that being sexy has little to nothing to do with societal expectations. It’s more about feeling good in my body. Completely loving and accepting all of the parts of me I thought weren’t good enough and needed to be fixed. Too small here, too big there? Nope. FUCK THAT. Nothing about my body is wrong! It’s my body, and it gets me from here to there, and digests food, and does all sorts of awesome things! And it deserves to be celebrated and loved and worshipped as it is right this second, not after I lose weight or something.
For me, being sexy is choosing to treat my body with the utmost respect. I threw away one of my old bras with busted elastic, and I’ve been checking out Natori (although the idea of spending $70 on a bra still makes me flinch a little). Moisturizing makes me feel sexy! Shaving my legs because I like the slippery-smooth feeling under clean sheets. Languishing in bed on a weekend morning with coffee and a magazine sounds sexy to me. It’s sexiness on my own terms. A nice bathrobe because I deserve it.
Even typing that is scary. Saying I deserve something or am worthy of something flies in the face of right-wing evangelical Christianity, which pounded into my head that I am worthless but for Jesus saving my dirty, dirty soul. You know what? I don’t think hell exists, but if it did, it really would be a party. All of us freaky sexy weirdos partying and eating barbecue (vegan kabobs optional).
Being sexy is about accepting yourself. Loving yourself as you are RIGHT NOW. Pampering yourself and loving on yourself just because you’ve made it this far. Just because you can! Take a bubble bath. Don’t wait to celebrate your body.
My desires aren’t wrong. In fact, Nikole Mitchell says god/the universe gives us our desires, so they’re all awesome! (I’m still personally chewing on that one, because what if you’re Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos–my favorite straight white guys to hate other than 45–and you desire to become a trillionaire and keep exploiting people? But I digress.) My desires, especially sexual ones, are NATURAL and nothing to fear. Christianity doesn’t get to make me feel bad about myself anymore.
I have been SO inspired by curvy, “plus size” women who wear form-fitting clothing and crop tops and short skirts, rather than hide in oversized sacks like Christianity would’ve had me do. Celebrating my shape feels so much better than trying to hide it with shame and self-loathing. My body is amazing and beautiful, and I’m no longer afraid to be sexy. Watch out, world, because you won’t even know what to do with me.
P.S. Looking sexy, whatever that means, is never an invitation to sexual harassment or assault. In case that isn’t obvious!