What does embracing your sexiness mean?

‘It’s being a boss ass bitch’

Being “sexy” is complicated. While it is glorified, it is also shamed. Even though we are encouraged to show our sexiness, we are also taught to feel ashamed of it. Being sexy is desirable yet apologetic.

When the media describe a woman as “sexy,” most of the time the focus is on her physical appearance. However, is her body the only factor that makes her sexy?

I asked college women what “sexy” means to them and how they are embracing their own sexiness through empowerment and confidence.

Natalia Paez, 20, Riverside City College

“It was made very clear to me at a very young age I was to dress and act a certain way, so I would not be a temptation to men. Because of that I associated the word ‘sexy’ with shame.

“Now, when I think of a synonym for sexy, I think of the word ‘powerful.’ It’s being a boss ass bitch. Not in a dominating, forceful way but in a brilliantly unapologetic way of completely owning yourself.

“Sexiness isn’t an exclusively physical trait. It’s loving yourself and not being afraid of showing the world you’re a bundle of wonderful qualities. Smiling is also one of the sexiest things a person could do. The right smile can drive you wild.”

Lanessa Long, 20, California Institute of the Arts

“I think sexual empowerment is being at peace with your body and its desires, and choosing confidently what you do or don’t do with it. Sexy is owning whatever your sexy is.

“It’s hard to love my sexy, sometimes. I love feeling sexy, yet hate being sexualized, and so many things have made me think they go hand in hand.

“Allowing myself to feel sexy is one of my sincerest forms of liberation and joy. I feel sexy when I am empowered and am empowered when I feel sexy.”

Meghana Brandl, 20, University of Wisconsin-Madison 

“I would say sexy means confident. I feel sexy and confident when I’m in leadership positions. For example, when I’m helping to run great student organizations like LiNK [Liberty in North Korea] and helping to put on events for the campus community.”

Lauryn Maher, 20, Portland State University 

“Consent, communication, compassion and patience are all sexy to me. I don’t feel like any of those could be optional, but that’s probably because they’re the ultimate basics. Some other less fundamental things are good hygiene, musicians, pretty voices, and a head full of hair. I’m just always drawn to good hair.

“Body image has been engrained into my brain as what determines sexiness, so it’s a really hard thing for me to think about. I’ve also never had a romantic partner, so sexiness is not something I feel on a regular basis. If I could guess a time where I’ve felt somewhat sexy, it would be a time when I’m most confident in my appearance and am having solid mental health. I’ve probably done my makeup really well that day and am wearing clothes I feel confident in. I haven’t gotten cat called or uncomfortably stared at.”

Jocelyn, 20, Johns Hopkins University 

“Sexy means being confident in your own skin. I actually wouldn’t associate myself as being sexy. I’m still working on the confidence thing. It’s also a term that has so many connotations associated with it from the media that I don’t think I fit very well.”

Frances Anton, 19, Portland Community College

“When it comes to the word ‘sexy,’ it is a word thrown around in the modern day market to sell products to people. It’s there to make people feel displeased with themselves. It’s there so people compare themselves to something ‘acceptable’, and then move closer to that to try to make themselves feel better. So, what I feel is ‘sexy’, is whatever is being marketed to me, such as long lashes, long legs, and big eyes. It’s actually a word which makes me feel moderately uncomfortable because of how much it’s sold to me and how much I’m told to be something different.

“I think an idea which surrounds the idea of sexy, is that it’s synonymous with being lovable and deserving to be catered to. So, I can say personally there are two scenarios where I feel most attractive: when my partner caters to me, when I wear the heels and have the lashes, and when those two things are combined.”

Sexy means something different to everyone, and whatever sexy is to you, it’s important to embrace it. Sexiness can be empowering and liberating, and every woman has the right to feel sexy and not be ashamed of that feeling.

University of Wisconsin