Make “Sexy” Great Again

When I was younger, the word “sexy” bothered me. It’s hard to put into words why – but if it was impossible, I wouldn’t be writing this, would I? 

I suppose it was because I viewed the word as outspoken objectification of women. This was perhaps a societal byproduct; I don’t recall ever hearing the word in reference to men. I remember my dad telling me that it was often used to describe cars, which made me feel better. Still, it was a skin-deep, superficial concept. 

Jhumpa Lahiri, through the seven-year-old character Rohin, defines “sexy” as “loving someone you don’t know.”¹ Lahiri probably isn’t defending this as the be-all, end-all definition of the word; she’s a writer, so she’d probably describe sentence structure as “sexy” (I’ve been there myself). But there’s a point she’s making with this, within the context of the story and beyond. This definition causes the character Miranda to realize that her affair with Dev isn’t worth it and never was. Some readers may realize they’ve placed too much priority on physical attractiveness and not enough on a deeper connection.  

screenshot of² 

The words that follow all describe clothing or beauty products (and, might I add, all for women) with the sole exception of “and I know it.” This confirms Rohin’s description; the goal of sexy cocktail dresses or sexy plus size tops is to attract the attention of onlookers – people you don’t know, who don’t know you.  

Maybe Lahiri would like to live in a world where “sexy” was followed by “words in Spanish” or “genetic research.” I know I would. 

¹Jhumpa Lahiri. “Sexy.” From Interpreter of Maladies. 1999. 

²Homepage of Screenshot generated 9/16/19 at 12:30 PM MDT 

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