Despite front cleavage, side cleavage, 8-pack abs, and D’Angelo videos, it would seem we, as a culture, want to be as far removed from sexy as possible.

Oh, we certainly have no issues with sex. We see sex in pop culture, sex in politics, sex in violence, and sex in religion. In fact, barely more than 10 years ago, Texas wanted to know what type of sex we were having in our bedrooms, in case that type of sex was criminal.
With sex overflowing from the fountains of society, it’d be easy to assume the variations of the root word could not be far behind. In fact, sexy was purported to be brought back in the early aughts yet continues to remain an afterthought while its three-letter counterpart keeps all the glory.

There’s no real difference between the two, anyway, is there? Add a ‘y’ and nothing much changes. What more needs to be dissected? The difference is minimal if not insignificant . . . well, at least for those who dare not read between the lines.

On the surface, (a.k.a. conventional standards), the difference between sex and sexy is simply grammar. But for those who trust subtext to be equally valuable to context, trust also, there’s more to sexy than meets the eye.

On the surface, sexy transforms sex from a noun to an adjective. Under the sheets? Sexy transforms sex to sex and pleasure, the most formidable threat there is . . . according to our politics.

To view sex through politics is to historically view sex complicit with danger, not pleasure. Excitable impulses? Dangerous. Sexual urges? Dangerous. Women and sex? Needing to be protected from danger. Same sex acts? Not only dangerous but historically criminal.
To view sex through the lens of politics is to order extra sex, hold the pleasure. Pleasure just leads to trouble. Pleasure sinks political careers; encourages women to behave like sluts; tempts men to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do; and degenerates youth to the detriment of society. But to think sex and pleasure as only a threat to our politics would be so singular. There’s much more threat to go around . . . according to religion.

To view sex through the lens of many religions is to deny pleasure altogether. No provocation. No seduction. No masturbation. No oral sex. And certainly no clitoral stimulation because that’s simply too pleasurable to control.

To view sex through the lens of most religions is to order no sex avoiding pleasure altogether. Sex just on its own leads to sin. It distracts, disrupts, detracts, and corrupts absolute faith absolutely. Many religious leaders abstain completely in an attempt to prove more formidable than the formidable threat affecting our politics too. But to think sex and pleasure as only a threat to both politics and religion would be so vanilla when a three-way threat is much, much dirtier . . . at least according to popular culture.

To view sex through the lens of pop culture is to order sex with the pleasure on the side . . . for women, minorities, “imperfect” bodies, and anything deemed outside of the mainstream. All those not listed (a.k.a. heterosexual White men) seem to be enjoying lots of pleasure.

Men singing about sex and pleasure are rock stars. Women singing about sex and pleasure are vulgar. Men receiving pleasure on film is PG-13. Women receiving pleasure on film is NC-17. Men who write about sex and pleasure are successful. Women who write about sex and pleasure are anomalies.

Even if we were to break away from the other worlds of politics, religion and popular culture, real world variance fails to offer anything contrary. Sex? Still plentiful. Sexy? Not so much. Yet since sex is the one thing everyone’s either thinking about or doing, why are we continually stimulated without any pleasure?

Strip clubs are rife with stimulation, although watching 18 year old girls do one thing with their bodies while their eyes undermine pleasure is definitely not sexy. A straight woman’s alternative—the male stripper revue—is equally enmeshed with sex although watching 25 year old men do exactly what the 18 year old girls are doing is definitely not sexy either.

Do we, as a society, have no idea how amazing sexy is? Do we not trust in our ability to use sexy—sex and pleasure—for good as opposed to evil? How on earth would we know? We never expect the presence of sexy in the way we perceive sex. We never expect the presence of pleasure with something still archaically considered dangerous.

It would certainly be considered reckless to think sex can’t be dangerous. But then again, it would also be stupid to think the danger aligned with sex has anything to do with sex.
Somehow, sex and the dangerous sides of life have cohered in the mind of our most significant policy makers, so much so, the pleasure that should be inherent in sex has fallen underground.

What’s above the sheets never insists upon, advocates for, or educates us in trusting sex’s relationship with pleasure. And when what’s under the sheets lends its voice, it’s consistently struck down by the politics du jour, influencing the head scratcher that begs the question: aren’t we missing the point? Aren’t we missing an opportunity to perceive sexy for what it truly does? What it truly is?

Sexy does the thing nothing else can do: it transcends sex. It transcends the experience of sex from something we do to something we feel long after the doing is done. It can be readily found in the bedroom, and just as readily found out of it.

It emphasizes the process more than the outcome and can be had despite the presence of another body. Sexy has a tendency to take us places sex can never go. Sexy isn’t even dependent on sex which paves the way to a very sexy irony, the irony behind the question: what is sexy without sex?

To know sexy without sex is to know sexy is sensual. We feel it to the core in what we see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. It enlivens, awakens, and rejuvenates parts of our senses sex alone can’t adequately stimulate.

To perceive life from a sexy perspective is to trust sex and pleasure to be found in everything and anything we take in. It’s also a perspective that equally trusts sex to be vital to life and the pleasure found in it to be life affirming. But sexy doesn’t merely represent sex and pleasure. It also represents empowerment.

There’s nothing sexier, or more empowering, than one’s ability to say yes, no, or maybe at any given time for any given reason, unapologetically. There’s nothing sexier, or more empowering, than expressing yourself—regardless of political, religious, or conventional confines—if that expression gives voice to who you are and how you love.

There’s also nothing sexier, or more empowering than mutual consent.

Mutual consent and sexy go hand in hand. When consent is mutual between participating adults, monogamy is sexy; same sex is sexy; simple foreplay is sexy; and Kink is sexy.
Mutual consent ensures everyone’s on the same playing field. No personal fouls. No clipping. No face-masks, or unsportsmanlike conduct. All participants play with mutual respect, sensitivity, and self-control directed toward mutual pleasure, not individual gain.
Sex consistently represented absent of pleasure is how our politicians are doing it; how our religious leaders are doing it; and how pop culture is doing it. And how are they doing?

Sex absent of pleasure seems to be very pleasurable for Clinton, Spitzer, Weiner, et al. Sex absent of pleasure seems to be very pleasurable for our religious leaders as well. And pop culture? Very pleasurable for the fully clothed, overweight, unattractive men in movies, commercials, and sit-coms watching their supermodel girlfriends seduce them into desire.

It would appear sex absent of pleasure is the self-fulfilling prophecy we’re trying to avoid. The one-sided pleasure that never fails to leave victims in its wake. But maybe the sexy sides of life contribute and influence society toward a state only our policy makers can foresee? Maybe sex absent of pleasure is purposefully instituted to actually expose predatory priests; sex as a weapon; oppression in our communities; civil unrest?

Maybe sex absent of pleasure keeps sexy at bay protecting us from consenting to actions we’ll come later to regret? And maybe if I were hot boxed I’d see it more clearly because I can’t see the reason when I’m sober.

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