Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lesson #31: There Is No Universal Consensus Of "Sexy"

I spent most of my early twenties working at a popular Castro restaurant in San Francisco called, "The Patio Cafe."  The owner had a propensity for hiring "twinks," ie, skinny younger men who personified some fantasy of youth.  On Sundays there would be about nine of us working together on the floor.  One might think that nine gay kids, who had relatively similar physical characteristics, would be interested in the same kind of boys.  However, after being there for many years, I found the truth to be exactly the opposite.  Everyone who walked in was the object of desire for at least one of us.  It didn't matter how young, old, short, tall, dark, light, hairy, smooth, clean, dirty, rich, poor, bald, long-haired, nice, mean, smart or dumb, the customer was.  There was always at least one of us that said, "WOW that guy is hot," another said, "Dude, you are crazy."

It was then I came to the realization that there is no universal consensus of what is considered "sexy." Different people eroticize different qualities in other people.  Some men and women like their partner to be older, some younger, some overweight, some thin. One could go into deeper reasons about "why" one person is more attracted to some type than another, but what's the point?  Hormones are hormones, stimulation is stimulation, sexy is sexy. It's there for someone or it's not.

This runs contrary to what media wants you think.  Television, movies, and magazines impress upon their audiences that there is only one idea of attractive: young and thin.  As pointed out in Lesson 40, the goal of these images is to scare you into thinking you are not sexually appealing to others, so you'll buy products to make you feel confident.  People are fed these messages so insidiously and consistently that they come to believe that young and thin is a universal ideal of sexual desirability, and live in great fear of not looking this way. 

When I was in my twenties I took rejection very personally.  I thought if someone wasn't physically interested in me that it meant I was less of a person, a loser, a nobody.  I didn't understand back then that my self-loathing and self-hatred were universal turn-offs that transcended anyone's physical preference.  And I certainly did not have the tools to understand it's not personal if he's "just not that into you."

Knowing that now helps me to embrace turning forty, and stand up to cruel and distorted notions of ageism. There will always be facets of our culture that brainwash others into believing that aging is something to be feared, and that getting older means you will be asexual, lonely and obsolete. The reality is that some people are physically into you, and some people aren't.  That is just as true at age forty as it was at age twenty as it will be at age sixty.  There is no universal consensus of "sexy," and there never will be.  So embrace what you've got, and use it!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Hear! Hear! It's a good thing we don't all go for the same type, or we'd all be tripping over the same small group of people. There really is someone for everyone. :-)