India’s Confusion Over “Sexy”

If “SEX” is a four-lettered word in India, it’s not hard to believe the confusion that the extra alphabet in “SEXY” has  recently caused.

The chairperson of India’s National Commission For Women, Mamta Sharma stirred up a hornet’s nest when while speaking at a function for women she said“Boys pass comments on girls terming them sexy but sexy means beautiful and charming. We should not see it in negative sense.”  She then went on to describe a scenario which basically amounts to street sexual harassment — of a bunch of guys, calling out “sexy” at a woman walking by.

Now if Ms. Sharma expects that woman to smile and courtesy her thank you to these men, she too is clearly confused about what SEXY means!

The online dictionary gives three definitions of ‘sexy’ along with their usage in sentences for all those who are working hard to understand this word 🙂

  1. concerned predominantly or excessively with sex;  risqué: a sexy novel.
  2. sexually interesting or exciting; radiating sexuality: the sexiest professor on campus.
  3. excitingly appealing; glamorous: a sexy new car.

I do not think that any woman walking down the street, with a group of strange men hanging around the corner,  calling ‘Hey Sexy!’ after her —  thinking she’s risque, sexually exciting, or excitingly appealing — would feel flattered, charming or beautiful!  She would probably feel irritated, upset or terrified depending on what else these men are doing and/or saying along with ‘sexy!’

I’ve always been a proponent of women claiming and owning their individual sexual identities, expressions and rights.  In fact I have argued [see this article] that one of the biggest problems with Indian women is that we are socialized from a very young age to repress and deny our sex and sexualitywhich we are taught are the property of the family, community and culture we belong to.  So we are like hand-puppets.   Our body and sexuality are not our individual choice and expression — they are our bidding to do as is expected of us.   How we can and cannot dress.   Who we can date or not date.  Who we can marry or not marry.  Whose bed we share, whose children we bear.  Nothing belongs to us, not our sexuality, not our bodies, not our wombs!

But the most important thing about us women reclaiming our bodies and all their sexual functions and expressions is that ultimately it is we who decide who we want to be,  what we want to do, what we will allow for others to say and do within a sexual context with us.  So as women — we decide what sexy means to us individually.  And for each person it is as different and as unique as they are! In how they see themselves as ‘sexy’ or how they look at ‘sexiness’ in others.  [ My sister and her friends thought Tom Cruise was very sexy and in college they’d watch back to back re-runs of his film ‘Top Gun.’  I used to think he’s a douche — pun not intended 😉 By the same token, one of the men I was enamored with was cruelly referred to as a ‘mutating gene!’ ]  Maybe some women don’t like being sexy even if they have an idea of what sexy means to them!  And maybe others  like being sexy to certain men they like, but not to others.  That however is each woman’s choice!!  ‘Sexy’ is not something you force down a woman’s throat!! That’s abuse — even if it’s verbal!!  That’s a hint to Ms. Sharma!

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