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Try Sexy, Not Sex

By Madhavi Sunder

WE WEREN'T ASKING for them to shake their little tushes on a catwalk.

But the guys that we invited to our "I'm Too Sexy for Your Party" party a week ago were simply not willing to do what we women do almost every day of our lives: preen to be seen.

We honestly didn't think the theme was too far out. We've already been through the sexual revolution, right? I mean, little boys and girls in malls across America wear their "I Wanna Sex You Up" T-shirts as if they know what it means. Meanwhile, University Health Services is making plans to start carrying the new female condom. Sure, last week's 15 Minutes was a bit over-stated in saying for most of us, "To be a model. We understand." Still, we did make the natural assumption that since sex is unabashedly everywhere (in commercials, in magazines, in the Harvard Lampoon and in the Widener stacks), our peers would know how to dress for success at our party.

But the assumptions faded fast.

Both women and men seemed to think the task of dressing "too sexy" was just too confusing. "Not slutty, not sleazy," we told them. Many of them wondered what was left.

But the men, we must say, were over-whelmingly perplexed by our request. Suddenly, without our intention, the tables were turned at our innocent and, yes, trendy little party. For the first time in many of their lives, our male friends were asked to show off their bodies and strut for the benefit of us ladies. Machismo comes easy. Bring all, not so.

"What's sexy?" the guys asked us, unable to discern the difference between what is sexy and sex. "Should I come naked?"

To others the word "sexy" meant only scantily clad women, and not members of their sex at all: "Should I wear a skirt?" our roommate's boyfriend asked.

"Oh, you girls going to dress sexy?" asked our Currier House floormate, David A. Aronberg '93, chair of the Undergraduate Council.

Wishful thinking, boys.

Their comments showed how uncomfortable they were with the concept of being on display for women. Indeed, "That's so embarrassing" was an oft-heard response. For once, the guys were learning how it feels to be objectified. This time, they too had to pull their hair out and agonize over What am I going to wear tonight? How can I look sexy?

We didn't do much to help. At first, we felt bad for many of our male friends, appraising them and thinking to ourselves, "Gee, how is he going to look sexy?" Unable to think of an answer, we let them off, saying that "sexy is an attitude," promising to let them into our party anyway.

It was later, however, that we realized that the real reason why we couldn't give them a better answer was not because we thought they could not be sexy, but because we had no concrete idea--beyond "William Baldwin," "Richard Gere" and "Keanu Reeves"--of what sexy for men is. We women have Victoria's Secret, Cosmo, Elle. In fact, there's no way we could name all the ways women are shown how to be sexy. Men, on the other hand, have very few societal clues. The Chippendales, we would argue, are sex--not sex-y.

OUR MALE GUESTS strove to do their best. This is some of the stuff they came up with:

Shirtless with gold chains. Survey says: Too cheesy.

Unbuttoned shirts (revealing beer-bellies). Survey says: Are you kidding?

Others came in (ahem) stuffed longjohns. Survey says: False advertising...and that guys just don't know what we like.

So what did we learn from this endeavor? That it's about time that men clue in to what women think is sexy. That requires two things: First, men need to realize that it takes two to make a thing go right. That is, men should think about sex and sexy on reciprocal terms, rather than in the Miltonic terms of "he for God, she for God in him."

Second, women should speak up more about what we want and what we like to see. It's going to take some thought and honesty (on the part of both sexes) about what exactly that may be.

Meanwhile, we're planning a sequel, "Too Sexy 2," for the spring. So, ladies, let's talk about sex-y now.

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