Oi, you. Sentient flesh owner.
I have some questions for you.
Do you think you’re sexy?
What do you find sexy?
What does sexy even mean?
I found it an interesting subject to understand not least because just the other week my friends and I were discussing this very topic at dinner. More specifically, we talked about pole dancing, which is traditionally assumed to be the dance of sexual arousal. Yet these days pole dancing has become a hot fitness trend, which is as physically demanding and effective as gymnastics. In fact, international pole dancing championships take place in London every year, and top performance is judged on composition, execution and technical challenge, not sexiness. Pole dancing may still be sexy, but others may watch Olympic weightlifting and find it arousing instead.
What do we mean by sexy? I suppose we mean a concoction of attraction and desire. It's a feeling or an impulse we cannot quite control. But an impulse isn't quite right here: you and I may list Idris Elba and Scarlet Johansson as actors we find sexy but it is equally possible to refer to more abstract terms which have the same effect: smell of perfume, dimples, hats... I asked my friends on Facebook to give me some examples of what turns them on. Here are some of their brilliantly versatile answers.
Women confessed that they are attracted by intellect, generosity and kindness. They find it sexy when men show utmost dedication to their calling and are good at what they do. One friend of mine pointed out confidence as the key factor; another wrote about persistence and even impudence. Women who focussed on the physical characteristics drew a portrait of a tall, broad-shouldered man with "teeth(!), sensual lips and captivating eyes".
One man told me he was turned on by "a sparkle in the eyes, a straight back, a long, thin neck, full lips, feline flexibility, long legs with a round bum and a woman's ability to walk so as to showcase the said bum." Other men highlighted a smile, breasts, a nice arse, elegance, femininity, tomboy features, curves, shyness and confidence. It became pretty clear to me what the French had figured out a long time ago: sexiness is je ne sais quoi. Every person has a mystery trigger under her skin which will be gently touched or pressed with greater assertion one moment in time. And in that moment other things - height, shape, even teeth(!) - will fade in the background of the state of arousal.
With this in mind, online dating doesn't stand a chance. The statistics of successful relationships may prove otherwise, but how can a radiant smile or a deep, yet tender voice compare with a bunch of carefully curated photos on a smartphone screen? I might be turned on by musky eau de cologne or quiet confidence, but the right balance of sexiness is so delicate that one drop too many may result in revulsion not attraction. Intimacy is impossible without that je ne sais quoi, yet dates arranged online have more in common with job interviews than romance. Recently I had dinner with a guy who ticked all the boxes (including the musky eau de cologne) but there wasn't a hint of chemistry which had got under my skin.
The most interesting aspect of this sultry matter is whether we feel sexy about ourselves. A few people mentioned confidence, sparkling eyes and smiles to me. It is true: it's not about one's bum or shoulders. No one craves intimacy with an angry, gloomy or a talentless person. So let's stop worrying about our shapes, sizes and teeth and instead let's pursue our passions, develop our talents and do what we love. Let's smile because spring is finally here and savour little pleasures in life. Let's ignite sparkles in the eyes of people around us - and I don't just mean those yellow-faced emojis with red hearts.