Gather is a series that showcases real people in an intimate, interview-like setting, discussing a variety of topics (akin to the black-and-white W Magazine interviews with filmmakers, writers, and other artists). Collectively, this series will be a playlist of social experiment videos with humans talking about all facets of life - love, humor, frustrations, memories, preconceived notions, politics, poetry. We’re all so very different… and yet, so very similar. Gather is a creative space for all kinds of people. Interviews will be candid, unscripted. The series (hopefully) provides a window to us at our most vulnerable. The first episode in the series, “What Is Sexy?” discusses the concept of “sexy” and how personal a definition it is, despite the media’s own distorted, limited view. This episode, like all of Gather, depicts people of all backgrounds having a conversation - a conversation that challenges traditionally harmful media narratives in the modern world.
it’s story time.
gather blog: WHAT IS SEXY?
SEXY (adj.): sexually attractive or exciting; appealing.
Type the word “sexy” into Google and what you find isn’t surprising. First, the above dictionary entry for the word appears, followed by a list of web results, ranging from links to Cosmopolitan, GQ, an array of YouTube videos with aggressive and, many times, confusing titles. Switching over to images results is much more predictable - a sea of explicit images of women posing in little to no clothing, gazing directly at you with glazed eyes. Oh, and there’s the occasional photo of a shirtless man holding a kitten.
Something feels inherently off about these results. Why? Given the definition above, it seems perfectly reasonable to equate “sexy” with “nudity” or just good old fashioned pornography… right? Maybe not.
When we sat down with over twenty volunteers and asked them to describe what “sexy” means, we received some telling responses… and no, not even a single person mentioned shirtless guys and kittens (although hey, if that’s your thang, that’s your thang and you fly that flag boo boo). Instead, we got answers like this: “Right now, sexy means to me… happiness”. There are a few striking elements to this response apart from the obvious absence of any mention of physical attraction. One is the equating of “sexy” to “happiness”, which are both words with definitions that are highly subjective and personal to the definer. Another notable piece to this response is the use of the phrase “right now”. The speaker, in this case a young woman in her early twenties, is not only giving her own definition to the word in question but is openly acknowledging that this definition could, and likely will, change. “Right now” implies a magical kind of malleability to “sexy”, the potential to evolve as we do. Interview after interview, we received similar responses, and a fascinating pattern emerged - intuitively, we all know that rigidness isn’t sexy, but flexibility sure is.
“I feel sexy when I’m on stage in front of a full house audience…”
“I feel sexiest when I feel like outside matches the age that I feel inside.”
“To me [I feel sexiest] when I am feel most connected to my true self.”
“I feel sexy when I’m helping out doing small things… changing a car tire… opening a jar of mayo that’s stuck.”
When asked, people tend to define “sexy” as it relates to themselves rather than others. The concept of “sexy” arises when there is a link to our authenticity. When we have opportunities to be ourselves, we feel the most attractive. This very authenticity is something we find alluring in others. Authenticity has myriad faces, whether it is goofy, serious, scientific, creative. Sure, you may think that Kate Upton donning the cover of Sports Illustrated is sexy. But “sexiness” is often much humbler and unrelated to physical appearance. Again, see: opening a particularly tough jar of mayo.
What we see in the media is drastically affecting our view of “sexy”. Why does this matter? A critique of the media’s portrayal of “sexy” is a critique of its portrayal of authenticity. There’s no substance in the media’s depiction, and these days, substance is important. Being ourselves is the sexiest thing we can be, and it is important that this is reflected in our media. We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. We have varying passions, talents, and senses of humor. Shouldn’t this variety be reflected in the media? Shouldn’t the way we define “sexy” be as diverse, evolving and unique as we are?
“What Is Sexy?” is the first of a new series of social commentary videos from LittleFire, collectively called Gather. This content aims to spark compelling conversations regarding a wide range of topics, topics that go well beyond “sexy”. The Gather series will continue to focus on broadening perspectives on a multitude of subjects so that people of all ages and backgrounds may have a platform to promote their ideas and continue to challenge traditionally harmful media narratives. It’s story time.