What Sexy Is
Looking for what is truly sexy on the web
Posted Feb 08, 2012
Nothing in the world is easier than finding sex on the web. You are, at all times, just two clicks away from raw depictions of any and all imaginable (and some quite unimaginable) variations on the theme of human sexuality. This is not surprising. Sexuality, or to be more precise, sexiness–the poses and adornments staged to elicit sexual arousal–is the true currency of American culture. This is because sexiness fuels America's biggest economic and cultural engine and most highly valued skill: Marketing. American culture's main source of power, and unique contribution to the world, is the perfection and promotion of the art of salesmanship. And nothing sells like sexy. Sexy sends a quick, clear message that can easily be deployed publicly, like a billboard. Actual sex is not the same at all. It is inefficient as a public message or marketing prompt; it's murky, unwieldy, and time consuming.
American culture has thus made a signature tenet of the notion that sexiness exists as a realm unto itself, independent of–and often quite hostile to–actual sexual activity. Looking sexy is valued across the board in America, whereas being sexual (as in actively having sex) is regarded with ambivalence at best and often outright hostility. Sexiness is fun and hot and gets you noticed, promoted, televised, envied, and attended to. Sex gets you disease, disrepute, discord, lawsuits and unwanted pregnancies. Sexiness is manageable, orderly and public; it's corporate. Sex is messy, disorderly and private; it's personal. America, despite its kneejerk mythologizing of rugged individualism, is at heart a conformist corporate society obsessed with rules and control; it worships and relies on complex, hierarchical organizations–business, military, prison, church, team, family. In America, you're only as powerful as you are connected, affiliated and organized. That's why sexiness (the public posturing) wins over sexuality (the private and personal act). In America, the successfully sexy outnumber and out-earn the successfully sexual.
In its rush to appeal to the broadest common denominator, American sexiness often amounts to a caricature; it is to true sexiness what Hallmark greeting cards are to deep human emotion and interaction. Yet amidst all the effort, the posing, posturing, panting and pouting, one can still find truly sexy moments on the web–mysterious, subtle, original, surprising, particular and alive. The following is a sampling of sexy web finds: clips of art, dance, film and music that capture-for me-the slippery, intoxicating essence of what sexy is.
1. Wan's sway
Wan Kar Wai's classic film, "In the Mood for Love" is a slow dance of secret longings made all the more compelling by its savvy grasp of the ways in which the presence of desire magnifies the import and implication of even the tiniest gesture. There is no sex in this movie, yet everything about it is sexy, as evidenced in this gorgeous clip. Notice the sad and dignified violin, reflecting the lovers' bearing. The meticulous self-possession, and suppression, signified by the stiff collar around the woman's long neck and by the man's severe, slicked-back hair; and notice particularly the way the can of noodles sways on its handle in the woman's hand as she walks down the stairs to the kitchen, and the way her hand touches the wall as the man walks past her in the narrow corridor.
Almodovar is not a subtle artist. He works with primary colors and primary emotions, externalized. Yet he has an uncanny feel for sensual beauty, its inherent sorrow and irresistible pull. And he knows how to awaken all the senses. The choreography of his scenes–such as in this collage from "Talk to Her"–makes you happy to be alive, and feel fully so. And Caetano Veloso's voice, of course, melts away any residual resistance.
This scene from the late, great Pina Bausch's dance Café Muller is not sexy, attractive or beautiful in any conventional sense. And it doesn't appear to be on its face concerned with sex at all. But underneath, the meshing of physical abandon and discipline, of awkwardness and grace, of rhythmic repetition, flailing and clinging, of body parts by turns limp and stiff, of desperation and determination bespeak a deep feeling for sexual desire. And there's nothing quite so sexy as true artistic vision on display.
A recognition of, and respect for, the power of restraint–of the hidden, the hinted; of the pause, the note that is not played–are qualities largely absent from the American brand of sexual imagination. Moreover, the advance of age is considered by American culture as an assault on sexiness. Older Americans are deemed sexy only to the extent that they look and behave like teenagers. But you can see the power of restraint in this little clip from Carlos Saura's movie, Tango. And you can watch the 67-years-old Argentinean dancer Juan Carlos Copes becoming sexy by honoring, not rejecting, his age.
5. Sara's rose
What the Spanish flamenco dancer Sara Baras does here with her arms and hands–the combination of power and elegance, of economy and lavishness of movement–demonstrates the inherent yet infinitely surprising expressiveness of the human form. And she also has a rose. What's sexier than a rose?
Sammy was my mother's favorite. As a youngster I never understood her fascination with this strange, funny- looking dude. My mother, I later learned, identified with his status as the ultimate underdog–a short, black, Jewish, one-eyed man–and thus could bathe vicariously in the reflected glory of his triumph. But beyond autobiography, Sammy also had style. Charles Bukowski once said something to the effect that style is the answer to everything. He claimed to have seen dogs with more style than men. But there never existed neither dog nor man with the style of Sammy Davis Jr. Here, late in his career, performing his signature song, he manages to be at once broken and whole. And he appears to both know and not know that this song is inevitably about him.
Let's just establish on the outset what should be self evident: a guitar is sexy. A slide guitar is sexier. A slide guitar played by a woman is damn sexy. And a slide guitar played by this woman–Dayna Kurtz–is sexier still for the persona and voice of the woman playing it, a sexy blend of poise, patience, and power.
In freezing an image, photography does, or allows us to do, something inherently sexy: pay full attention to the singular moment. Many photographers have captured sex in their own myriad ways. Think Nan Goldin, Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Herb Ritz, Lee Friedlander, Irving Penn–the list goes on. But Man Ray, as evidenced by the cumulative hypnotic effect of this slide show, was surely among the best of them, with an eye for the drama of the female form and a superseding interest in what lies just beyond reach. Many of his pictures, while ostensibly focused on the female body or face at center lens, in fact seem to be more interested in the jostling background shadows.
There's something to be said for the sexy allure of oddity, the tug of the obscure, the feverish play of strange imaginings for which the web has become a boundlessly hospitable venue. Here someone set some vague herky-jerky filmed scenes to a deeply grooving tune by forgotten early 70s prodigy Shuggie Otis (who wrote the tune and plays all the instruments; he was not even 20 at the time). There's a drab motel room, a pillow fight complete with a shower of feathers, some table dancing, a movie projector...
10. Colin's pride
For this last clip, I asked my (awesomely sexy) girlfriend to do a guest spot. When I asked her to explain her choice, she pointed out that to even ask such a question after having glimpsed Mr. Firth's physique and masculine aura was the telltale mark of a philistine of low aesthetic sensibility, not to mention poor eyesight and a questionable IQ. In my defense, it should be pointed out that my girlfriend is an unabashed user of the new, hopelessly addictive synthetic drug known on the street as 'Downton Abbey,' which has the effect of making women feel highly aroused at the sight of nothing happening.