Stop It With The Sexy

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I am not a legalist.

I am not old.

I am not out of touch. 

I am not celibate.

I am not any of the things you might wish I were so you could write off what I’m about to say. Which is this:

Stop it with the “sexy.”

Usually when I write about something I’m calm and collected and all together composed, but today I’m just sad and very angry and frustrated. 

I’m sad so many of us—guys, girls, children—feel the need to be sexy, to fit arbitrary standards prescribed by society, standards that measure our value by our ability to arouse others.

I’m angry the world has convinced us that truly good things are sexy and that sexy, not “good,” is the determiner that matters, swapping words like “interesting” and “compelling,” “beautiful” and “satisfying” for the much cheaper, vulgar “sexy.”

I’m frustrated we Christians are just letting “sexy” slide, like it’s an embarrassing uncle we can’t un-invite to the party.

For the past few years, I’ve been talking to teenage girls about clothes and beauty, shame and self image. And as I’ve researched I’ve been overwhelmed by the cultural push toward sexy as an ultimate measure of a person’s worth.

Scarlett Johansson recently said, “One of the best things for a woman to hear is that she is sexy.” And I doubt anyone batted an eyelash when she said it.

Of course women want to be sexy.

Our hair products have SEXY written across the bottle in big, block letters. The makeup we buy will make us sexy. The high heeled shoes we wear are sexy. Even when we don’t wear makeup and shoes, someone will tell us the natural look is sexy. 

A few months ago I listened to a Christian wedding photographer talking about her methods and goals. She said, “I think every bride should feel sexy on her wedding day.”

Really?

The word “sexy” means, as perhaps we’ve forgotten, “arousing or tending to arouse sexual desire.” 

According to Johansson (and almost everybody else) one of the best things a woman can hear is, “You arouse me.”

I won’t be crude, but women should realize arousal isn’t always (or often) romantic. Ought we to feel pleased by the arousal we compel in adolescent boys and in middle aged, married men, in a handful of drunk men at a bar or in our boss? You see, when we try to be sexy, generally, we have a general impact of arousal. Unless you’re alone, “sexy” spills.

I hear women say defiantly, “I’m not responsible for their arousal.” And I am so confused. Because I thought you wanted to be sexy; arousal is the result of sexy.

Men today feel a similar pressure to be sexy. On Man Crush Monday, an Instagram regular feature, half dressed men crowd my feed, all of them hashtagged #sexy by teenage girls, college students, and thirty-something mothers of four. I watch women consume these men.

The desire to be “sexy” leads us to make products of ourselves. And it smears sex—holy, God ordained sex— with the filth of the world’s idols: power and pleasure.

I am offended by the word “sexy.” Offended is too weak. I am furious and provoked. If it’s possible for a person to wage war on a word, that is my intention.

Some will say, “God made sex, and sex is a beautiful thing.” They will say, “sexy” lifts up the goodness of God’s creation—to say something is “sexy” is to say it’s good like sex is good.

And I would say God didn’t make sex—not the all-call, anybody-can-play sex we mean when we say “sex” today. He enabled and sanctified sex between a husband and a wife, and so sex between a husband and his wife is the beautiful thing. 

If you must say “sexy,” say, “That is sexy like sex between a husband and wife.”

Odds are, most people will think you mean the opposite of what you actually mean (because the world is backward that way). Because “sexy” rarely has anything to do with the bond of marriage.

I know most people who use the word don’t intend it literally. They mean something is pleasing. Good to look at. Satisfying. 

We say intelligence is sexy when we actually mean intelligence is exciting and inspiring. We say a sense of humor is sexy when we really mean we want to have coffee with a person who makes us laugh.

Why is it that when we see something beautiful, something like intelligence or grace or a great sense of humor, we immediately assume our feelings are sexual? 

Here’s the truth:

Everything is NOT about sex.

Everything IS about God. 

And that means good design and chocolate and intelligence aren’t “sexy”—not essentially; they’re holy. We like them, fundamentally, because we see God in them.

If “sex” is our god, everything will be valuable only so long as it inspires desire and provokes arousal. 

But if the Lord God is Who we worship, everything is made valuable in its being made by Him.

My God tells me to “flee sexual immorality.” He says “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” And He says it because He has plans for me, because He’s making something of me, because He wants to give me something better than “sexy.”

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If this post struck a chord, consider my (Not That) Modesty resource available HERE