Monday, April 7, 2008

Redefining Sexy – Going Beyond the Physical

Rock hard abs, chiseled features, flawless skin, and unnaturally perfect features. These days, the media has helped to shape the belief that sexiness is all about looks. Matthew McConaughey flaunts his six pack abs and gets named sexiest man of year. Halle Berry’s six zero waist, luscious curves, and flawless features makes her one of the sexiest women in Hollywood. The need to be sexy has led to 12 and 13 year old girls imitating Britney Spears in her prior years, wearing low-cut jeans and flaunting too much skin. The search for perfection has lead to a dramatic increase in plastic surgery in the past decade – recently showing a shocking increase among teenagers and young adults.

Why is it that we are programmed to think beauty is only skin deep? Take a Victoria Secret model. Sexy? Of course! Now, keeping her looks intact, remove her flawless grace and make her extremely clumsy. Added to that, take her self-confidence down a notch. Still sexy? Not really. Cute, yes.

Here’s another take. Give a Victoria Secret model the attitude from hell. She knows she’s all that and a bag of chips, and everyone else can take their opinion and shove it. Janice Dickinson’s attitude can’t touch hers. Sexy now? No way!

So really then, what is sexy? Certainly not the rock hard abs and flawless features that we, as a society, have come to worship.

Last month, I was at Best Buy getting my computer repaired by the Geek Squad. Just the name shouts, “Not sexy!” The guy that was helping me out was your typical Geek Squad attendee – late teens to very early twenties, about 5’3”, curly hair and glasses, probably weighed 115 soaking wet. I wouldn’t have given him a second glance. And then something amazing happened. I watched as every sales associate, and those of his Geek Squad colleagues, kept coming to him with questions or problems. This guy not only knew all the answers, but was able to handle 2-3 problems being thrown at him without showing any hint of stress, impatience, or irritation. What’s more, he handled everything with a smile and confidence. Watching him work and interact with his environment, I thought to myself, “Man, if only I was a bit younger.”

There is something incredibly sexy about a person who knows what he or she’s about. Sexiness is not about physical attributes, but about attitude and how a person carries himself. It is the show of self-confidence without being boastful or arrogant.

We may think we idolize stars because they are beautiful, but we really don’t. Victoria Secret models are sexy because they appear graceful and confident on the runway, and because of the self confidence that exudes in their ads. We fall in love with celebrities because of the characters they portray onscreen and on stage. These characters are often strong and confident. It has nothing to do with the actual stars, whose lives are oftentimes less glamorous than we believe them to be. Take a look at Whitney Houston, for example. When she sings and is on stage and made up, she’s stunning. Her voice and confidence is unmatched. But it’s only a character she plays on stage. The real Whitney … well, you’ve seen enough of her face plastered in the tabloids alongside charges of addiction to know that being Whitney Houston isn’t as glamorous or sexy as it appears to be.

Shahrukh Khan (who goes by the title of King of Bollywood and is probably one of, if not the most, influential Indian celebrity in the world) was asked which of his colleague actresses he thought was the sexiest. His response? “Kajol, because she is genuine and passionate about life, and doesn’t even know how beautiful she truly is both inside and out. That is sexy.” If you know anything about Bollywood, you’ll know there are actresses far more beautiful and loads sexier than Kajol. But what Shahrukh said has merit and shows how truly enlightened he is, and that he’s past the superficial. Shown here is a photo of Bollywood actor, Shahrukh Khan, with actress, Kajol.

Take a look at some of your favorite characters in books, especially the heroes. What makes him memorable? Why is he sexy? You’ll find that it’s not because of his manly looks, but because of the way he treats others (especially the heroine), and because of the way he acts, the decision he makes, and the actions that follow.


Savanna Kougar said...

Well done, Mai. It's the whole package. Certainly not just a physique. Personally, I adore physical beauty. Not what is deemed physical beauty these days, however. But I also adore a beautiful personality, a beautiful intellect. Someone who is genuinely beautiful inside and out. I've known some people who physcially may not be that impressive, however wben you get to know them, they become more and more beautiful. Because that's what shines through. It's who they truly are.

Evonne Wareham said...

You are so right about competence being attractive. A hero in particular - in print or in real life - never appears better than when he's doing something that he's good at. Provided, of course, he has no idea how sexy that makes him ...

Lexie O'Neill said...

Fascinating topic. Right now, I'm starting to plot the book I hopefully am going to write in May (my heavy writing time). The thing is, my hero is NOT the buff brother. But the wizard/Druid priest who knows everything, sacrifices for centuries to reunite his people, etc. I think that's sexy, but who knows if anyone else will buy it? :)

Trish Milburn said...

This was a wonderful post, Mai. I totally agree. I'll admit to thinking someone is sexy in the traditional good-looks sense, but not if he's a jerk or cocky. That just ruins. If you get a great combination of looks, brains and kindness, that's sexy.

Mel Hiers said...

I'd buy it, Lex!

You're right about the confidence and competence thing, Mai. Although, personally, I like to see a little vulnerability in heroes as well. Kind of like Andrew in The Gods Must Be Crazy. He's smart, competent, he saves the day, but he can't seem to much right in Kate's presence. But when he does, she notices.

Anyhoo, this was a great topic! :-)

Savanna Kougar said...

Yes, Evonne, nothing more sexy to me than a man doing what he's good at and confident about, whether blue collar or white collar.
Lexie, I think your Druid hero is far more fascinating and desirable than just a hunk guy.
Trish, I couldn't agree more. There were some guys in college that were considered the most sexy. Yeah, physically, they were good-looking. But their attitudes were such a turn-off I rarely noticed them, unless another gal pointed them out.

Mai Christy Thao said...

Savanna and Trish, you guys are right. It's a combination of looks, personality, intellect, and kindness. Evonne, I agree with you about competence being attractive as well. And Mel, I like what you added about a little vulnerability. It makes any character (even the antagonist) not only real, but likeable and makes the reader sympathetic toward that character.

Lexie, I'll take a tortured hero or one who makes sacrafices for the greater good over a hunky hero any day!

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Here, here! Excellent post Mai! Sexy is as sexy does. I'm not much held in sway by physical beauty.

What holds me is the inner wonder of the person. I have dated more Geeks than Gods. The Gods have always bored me with their narcissism and vanity. (Honestly, I can't date a man who uses more hair products than me or a man who spends more time in the mirror than I. And trust me, my use/time with both is very small.)

The Geeks have intrigued me with their wit, passion, a unique view on life. Sigh. In my writing, I always craft heroes who blend these elements. If I could only meet one in real life.... :)