Ariel Levy on current day “sexiness” in Female Chauvinist Pigs

Quoted from pg. 29-31.

“If the rise of raunch seems counterintuitive because we hear so much about being in a conservative moment, it actually makes perfect sense when we think about it. Raunch culture is not essentially progressive, it is essentially commercial. By going to strip clubs and flashing on spring break and ogling our Olympians in Playboy, it’s not as though we are embracing something liberal-this isn’t Free Love. Raunch culture isn’t about opening our minds to the possibilities and mysteries of sexuality. It’s about endlessly reiterating one particular-and particularly commercial-shorthand for sexiness.

There is a disconnect between sexiness or hotness and sex itself. As Paris Hilton, the breathing embodiment of our current, prurient, collective fixations-blondeness, hotness, richness, anti-intellectualism-told Rolling Stone reporter Vanessa Grigoriadis, ‘my boyfriends always tell me I’m not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual.’ Any fourteen-year-old who has downloaded her sex tapes can tell you that Hilton looks excited when she is posing for the camera, bored when she is engaged in actual sex. (In one tape, Hilton took a cell phone call during intercourse.) She is the perfect sexual celebrity for this moment, because our interest is in the appearance of sexiness, not the existence of sexual pleasure. (Before Paris Hilton we had Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson to drool over: two shiny, waxy blondes who used to tell us over and over again that sex was something they sang about, not something they actually engaged in.)

Sex appeal has become a synecdoche for all appeal: People refer to a new restaurant or job as ‘sexy’ when they mean hip or powerful. A U.S. Army general was quoted in the The New Yorker regarding an air raid on the Taliban as saying ‘it was sexy stuff,’ for instance; the New York Times ran a piece on the energy industry subheadlined ‘After Enron, Deregulation is Looking Less Sexy.’ For something to be noteworthy is must be ‘sexy.’ Sexiness is no longer just about being aroused or alluring, it’s about being worthwhile.

Passion isn’t the point. The glossy, overheated thumping of sexuality in our culture is less about connection than consumption. Hotness has become our cultural currency, and a lot people spend a lot of time and a lot of regular, green currency trying to acquire it. Hotness is not the same thing as beauty, which has been valued throughout history. Hot can mean popular. Hot can mean talked about. But when it pertains to women, hot means two things in particular: fuckable and salable. The literal job criteria for our role models, the stars of the sex industry.”

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