July 20, 2012
the biological imperative
Sex is one of the few things that we usually do without any clothes on, part of the remaining fragments of our lives that we still keep private, if we choose. If we’re lucky, sex becomes more about feeling than seeing, and transcends being about superficial displays of beauty and status.
Yes, of course, like everything else, beauty and fashion is connected to sex, but perhaps not in the way it would seem. This post describes two ways I break – or make – the connection.
One. Fashion is not sexy.
Recently, I was watching an interview (OK, he’s very talkative so it was more like a monologue) with the fashion designer J.W. Anderson on SHOWstudio, whose knitwear is featured in the Teen Vogue photo above. He was talking about the universality of blue jeans and t-shirts for men. To paraphrase, Anderson said that most men wear the anti-fashion uniform because almost all of us want to sleep with people in jeans and t-shirts. That’s why selling innovative fashion is an uphill battle. Jeans are just what’s sexiest, for almost everybody. It is the biological imperative that keeps us dressing alike.
Most people don’t want to sleep with men in suits – men who wear suits in their dating profile photos aren’t as successful at getting responses. And then there’s the anecdotal cliche of the terminally single fashion female. If you’re trying to attract a partner, to appear formal or trendy is a liability – that’s the crux of the whole Man Repeller joke. High fashion models are barely legal, asexual aliens. There’s something about fashionability that says: look at me, don’t touch me.
Two. Overcoming being the body.
We all have a primal urge to continue our species, and women have a critical role as bodily vessels. This is why beauty and and body snark alike are the feminine counterpart to politics and tabloids. Imagine fashion as the feminine counterpart to sports.
Whenever women are criticized and measured by their appearance, instead of their ideas, their merit, their work or their actions, this is not a rational, civilized impulse. This is base animal instinct. I’ve observed almost every kind of person doing this, regardless of gender or orientation, myself included. The biological imperative can only be overcome by sheer intellectual effort.
To extricate a woman’s physical body from her body of work, she needs to still be working after she hits menopause. Once a woman loses her childbearing potential, the human race’s collective interest in her – fuckability – subsides and she is allowed to just get on with doing her work – and well, because she has decades of experience. We stop looking and we start listening. Watching this process happen to Hillary Clinton made me notice how profound this shift must be.
Being the body is part of the female experience. Once you graduate from the animal reproductive agenda, whether by age or by fashion, you stand to gain freedom from the tyranny of appearances you wouldn’t have had any other way.