A photographic exhibition by Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf called Mature shows a series of older women in classic pin-up poses. These photos have stirred up the full range of positive and negative emotions in both men and women. For me, as maturity approaches at a rapid rate, I worry that I’ll reach the point where I’m no longer sexy. Far from being relieved by this thought (as some women might be), it worries me.
Does feminine beauty and sexual attractiveness have a use-by date?
What is sexy?
The definition of sexy seems to be as slippery as people’s notions of attractiveness. As much as I want sexuality to be entirely about attitude, personality, charm and passion, from my own experience I know that physical appearance also plays a part. I would be lying if I said I don’t care how my partner looks or that I’m not concerned that my skin is getting wrinkled and age spots are appearing. But am I falling victim to the narrow definition of physical beauty dictated by modern Western culture?
Perhaps sexy is not about looking a certain way, but more about feeling a certain way. Sexiness might be better defined as inhabiting your body (with all its quirks and eccentricities) with confidence.
Being sexy is allowing the spark inside you to show — the spark that draws others to you like moths to the flame. And if this is the definition of sexy, then age, size, shape, colour, and gender no longer play a part.
A state of being or an end result?
There seems to be an expectation that sexiness is a valued trait because it guarantees you’ll have sex with someone whom you find equally attractive. But in reality, we can’t control the actions of other people. Whether or not someone finds us attractive and wants to have sex with us is entirely up to them.
If we think of sexiness as a state of being, rather than a means to an end, then sexiness is available to all of us, at any time.
We can choose to live with our hearts open, to pour our love into the world, and to do with our bodies whatever makes us happy — whether that means wearing a pair of thigh high boots or wearing a pair of paint-stained overalls.
In the end, it all comes down to loving yourself. If you feel worthy of love, someone’s going to love you. If you want to be ravished sexually, then you’ll find someone who can’t wait to do precisely that. If someone thinks you’re too old, too fat, too curvy or too grey — in fact too anything — then they aren’t the kind of person you’ll find a deep intimate connection with.
Sexy is an attitude — one that begins on the inside and translates into how you choose to look on the outside and how you carry yourself in the world. It’s the light of your soul that creates beauty, and all you have to do is own it.
What do you think? Can you still stay sexy as you age? Do you even want to?