“If you got it, flaunt it!” …So goes the advice to women around the world.
If you want to attract a man, you have to put yourself on display—you’ve got to be sexy. Lest I make this sound like a diatribe against secular culture, I should mention that Christians have offered me this advice too. Well-meaning but (in my opinion) misguided women have suggested that if I ever wanted to get married, I needed to “advertise” more.
I have been thinking a lot about this over the past month, and I have to admit that I wasn’t sure I even wanted to talk about this here. I worried people would think, “There is just another one of those frumpy, outdated, Christian women wishing for the good ole days of Victorian England (or whatever era was most prudish).” Let me be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking care of your body and wanting to look beautiful.
But “sexy”? …Let’s think about that together.
Hearing how the word “sexy” is thrown around in everyday conversations, it’s everywhere! Everything from food to cars is now “sexy.” (I can’t lie—there is something special about a bacon cheeseburger!) But it seems almost anything can be considered sexy today. Back in the 1990s Kenny Chesney sang about a girl who thought his tractor was sexy. In 2006 Justin Timberlake crooned that he was bringing sexy back. During the 2013 Superbowl, even a web hosting company was called sexy (I wish I could un-see that commercial!)
Some people find the word empowering—others offensive.
Also, in 2013, ESPN Sports announcer Brent Musburger came under fire for gushing over Katherine Webb (the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron), calling her “beautiful.” Musburger was immediately criticized for his remark, and a flurry of Internet and Twitter commentary followed. Some felt that it was inappropriate for a 73-year-old man to comment on the looks of a 23-year-old young woman. In an interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, Webb said something interesting:
“I think the media has been really unfair to (Musburger). I think if he had said something along the line if we were hot or sexy, I think that would be a little bit different…The fact that he said we were beautiful and gorgeous, I don’t think any woman wouldn’t be flattered by that. I appreciate it, but at the same time I don’t think I needed an apology.” *
Webb’s comments got me thinking—what is it about the word “sexy” that would have been offensive to her, especially in light of the fact that so many things in our culture are called this very word? I think it comes down to its basic meaning. Sexy means, “sexually suggestive or stimulating.”** Though the words beautiful and sexy may be considered interchangeable, they have two very different meanings.
So, if being sexy means being “sexually suggestive,” I have to wonder, is sexy a sin?
Let’s consider these two women:
- The Shulamite of Song of Solomon – Though the word “sexy” is not found in the book of Song of Solomon, I think we can safely make the argument that the bride groom found his bride sexy. Chapter seven alone (with some pretty blush-worthy descriptions) makes clear that this man is captivated by his young bride. Within the marriage relationship, it’s natural and good that a husband and wife find each other sexy. God designed marriage as the only right setting for sexual intimacy (Gen. 2:24). So, for a husband to find his wife sexually attractive is a good thing (Check out Prov. 5:15-20, which also speaks about the rightness of sexual attraction within a marriage).
However, outside of the covenant relationship of marriage, here’s what God says about a woman being “sexy”:
- The Immoral Woman of Proverbs 7 – This woman used her looks and words to ensnare and entice men into sin. The Bible says she used the way she was dressed with “crafty intent.” Notice her motive—she was seeking to trip up the men who crossed her path. She wanted them to find her sexually attractive and suggestive. She drew attention to herself and intentionally put herself in situations where she would be noticed. The intent of her heart was not for the good of others.
Bottom line: The only appropriate person for a woman to be sexy around is her own husband.
What does that mean for our interactions with every other member of the opposite sex? I once heard a woman say that guys could find almost any outfit suggestive, and it was up to men to keep their minds out of the gutter. But that is a “me-first” kind of attitude that doesn’t belong in Christian thinking and ignores our responsibility. Instead, we’re called to have an “others-first” mindset, even if that means suspending some of your own rights for the sake of a weaker brother. Romans 14:13 encourages “Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”
Ladies, we have some thinking to do when it comes to how we dress and interact with guys.
Do we have “crafty intent” like the Proverbs 7 woman when it comes to our clothes and our body language, or are we committed to adorning ourselves with modesty, which is fitting for women who profess Christ (1 Tim. 2:9)?
Despite the fact that the world (and, unfortunately, some women in the church), push “sexiness” as a feminine virtue, I encourage you, my sisters, to think about what is pleasing to the Lord. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Prov. 31:30)
(For some great tips about modesty, check out Amanda Walker’s article.)
Candi Finch serves as Assistant Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies at Southwestern. She loves used book stores, travelling, getting to teach young women, and eating any food (especially bacon) she doesn’t have to cook herself! Her secret ambition in life is to compete on Survivor or The Amazing Ra