Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Sunday, October 14, 2012

RELATIONSHIP TIP: Can You Be Sexy Without Having Sex?

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I saw a woman who turned my head, and I’m sure turned countless others, as well. She appeared to be about 60 years old, wore a tight-fitting blouse that accentuated the size of her large breasts, and tight black jeans that hugged her narrow waist. But that’s not all: She also wore five- or six-inch wedge heels, wore her sunglasses tipped over head, and walked with an I-look-good attitude that was impossible to overlook. I’ve often seen such types around, and heard others make snide comments about the way they dress or their perceived effort to try to look like a young girl when they’re actually approaching older-woman status. When I hear such snide comments, I cringe, and I’ll tell you why.

As a therapist, one of the common threads I see in men and women who seek out therapy is the difficulty feeling good about themselves because their inner voice is often so critical. It’s my job to help boost their ego and get some perspective, and I talk until I’m blue in the face about doing what makes you feel good as opposed to catering to what others think about you. I always say, “Unless we’re talking about someone you know and care about, who really cares what anybody thinks?”

The woman I saw at the grocery store, I guarantee you, feels sexy, and she wears her sex appeal proudly. As I witnessed such pronounced sexual self-confidence in action, I wondered about a broader question that relates to sexuality: What if you’re not having sex? Is it possible to still feel sexy, or do you need to have sex in order to feel sexually attractive?

The truth is that people feel sexy because they get some form of reinforcement for their appeal. They don’t need to be having sex or to have had sex recently, but a person who feels sexy will have received feedback from others that they are sexy, which reinforces and maintains the feeling of being sexy and sexually attractive.

How many men and women would say that they feel sexy? The number, I imagine, is quite low. To find out, I researched the issue. A 2011 study, for example, by the company Superdrug surveyed 2,000 women and found that only 7% of women reported feeling sexy every day. That’s a small number. Keep in mind that research on such subjective experiences – feeling sexy, in this case – is fraught with extraneous variables, meaning that it’s difficult to get a truly accurate measure of how sexy women feel. The same, of course, applies to men, though the types of roles we see in Hollywood for men shows that, at least, the American viewing audience is much better able to think of an older man as sexy than an older woman. Do men feel sexy? Anecdotally, I can tell you that the male clients I’ve seen over the years feel sexier than the women do because the women are often so critical of themselves.

Ultimately, feeling sexy is important because it means that you’re connected to your sexuality and have positive self-esteem about your appearance and ability to connect with others. Though you don’t have to have sex to feel sexy, you do need to engage in behaviors that appeal to others in order to get the feedback you need to feel sexy. For some, like the woman I saw at the grocery store , she relied on conventional and predictable methods to elicit sexual feedback from others: style of dress and a pronounced swagger as she moved. But there are other ways to behave in a manner that will elicit the kind of feedback you need to feel sexy: being physically affectionate, using the range of tones you have in your voice, and making and holding good eye contact.

Everyone would be lucky to feel sexy every single day, but that is both an unrealistic and unnecessary bar to set for yourself. So, do this: Ask yourself if you feel sexy. If your answer is no, come up with three new behaviors you will do to improve your sexual self-confidence. It will take work at first, but soon it will became second nature once you start getting the kind of feedback that boosts self-esteem.

1 comment:

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