Monday, March 18, 2013

On the Desexualization of "Sexy".

Over the weekend, I was watching Food Network. One of the personalities quipped something to the effect of, "That steak looks sexy."

Later, I switched over to HGTV. It wasn't long before I heard one of their hosts refer to granite counters as being sexy.

Later still, I flipped open the latest issue of Better Homes & Gardens, and in an article about curb appeal, there it is again: "It might not be sexy, but cleaning is an important part of curb appeal."
Let's try this again, shall we?

It might not be enjoyable, but cleaning is an important part of curb appeal.
It might not be pleasurable, but cleaning is an important part of curb appeal.

It might not be fun, but cleaning is an important part of curb appeal.

Those granite counters are so beautiful.

Those granite counters are so classy.

Those granite counters are so gorgeous.

Those granite counters are so stunning.

That steak looks excellent.

That steak looks great.

That steak looks top-notch.

That steak looks exceptional.

I'm sorry, I must have missed the memo that "sexy" became a synonym for fun, excellent, and beautiful. Apparently the thesaurus did too, as you'll note that sexy is no where to be found in any of the synonym lists above.  In fact, here's the entry for sexy:

Look, I'm not against the word "sexy" when used in proper context. There's a time and a place for that. But why are we desexualizing (and devaluing, in my opinion) the word "sexy", and using it to describe everything from mops to steaks to counters to cleaning? Those things aren't sexy, actually, and I don't understand why we're using the word to describe them.

Well, actually...I do understand why. By desexualizing sexy, we're also desensitizing ourselves to "sexy". Think about it: it is why a toddler dancing along to LMFO's "I'm Sexy and I Know It" has 622,000+ views on You Tube, and most of the comments consist of things like 'so cute!' and 'every day he's shufflin!'. It's why when we hear a kid singing "Heeeeyyyyy sexy lady", our first reaction generally isn't to cringe, but to start doing the ridiculous Psy pony dance.

I think it's obvious that kids aren't sexy. And if someone were audacious enough to say that they thought they were, child services would probably become involved immediately. But yet, I can't tell you the frequency with which I see toddlers and their parents singing along to "I'm sexy and I know it" at a stoplight. I don't generally like to point fingers at other parents and shame their decisions as a parent, but seriously, can we stop this friends? If we don't want others to describe our toddlers and young children as "sexy", can we please stop allowing them to describe themselves that way? Can we please stop using the word "sexy" as if it were interchangeable for "fun" or "excellent" or "beautiful"? Because it's not.

The word "sexy" has value. The word "sexy" has a place. This just isn't it.


  1. I'm with you on this one. I literally cringe whenever I see kids singing that sexy and I know it song. Luckily, my kids DON'T know that song, because that's not the type of music I listen to. They do know a few foul mouthed lines from the Killers, which drives my husband insane, but to me, while not any better, it's COMPLETELY different than my two year old shaking her behind and saying she's sexy and she knows it. And Lordy be, remember that video of the dance competition with the little girls doing that put a ring on it song? Again, not my type of music, so I didn't even know the song, but the WAY they were dancing was just too much for me. The thought that kept running through my mind was "THIS is where creepos from SVU go to select their next victims." Not a good feeling.

  2. I'm with you on this one. Last year, one of my (Kindergarten) students was singing, "Sexy and I Know It", and teaching it to all of her friends. My standard course of action when I hear a child say a "bad" word (after I get over the initial shock that they know that word), is to ask them, "Do you know what that word means?" Generally they don't, so I explain that when we don't know what a word means, we probably shouldn't use it because we don't know if it's a bad word or not. When I asked this girl, however, she said, "Yes! Sexy means you're pretty!" That pretty much broke my heart.

  3. I've had to deal with this too from C trying to sing songs with sexy in it. So many kids use the word, it's out of context everywhere as you pointed out, so she's exposed to it constantly despite me trying to filter that and other words out of her environment. What works for us is to concede maybe words like sexy aren't bad word, but they ARE grown-up words and if she hears kids say it or hears music with it it's not okay for her to say it too. She understood and while it's not a perfect system (psy is still in her vernacular), it's an easier message for her to accept than a blanket no in the bad word category, especially given its overexposed prevalence in our culture.


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