Women are often categorized in one of two ways when it comes to aesthetics: we’re either sexy or cute.
We usually know which one we are, and oftentimes strive to be the opposite, i.e. sexy women want to be cute and cute women want to be sexy.
This categorization might seem harmless compared to everything else women are called. However, these labels have roots in a much deeper issue regarding the sexualization of women.
I have never been the cute type. I’ve always been the sexy woman who wanted to be cute. At the fresh age of 10, I was blessed with puberty and cursed with the curves of a woman. Actually, I enjoyed them at first, but it took me no longer then a few months to wants them gone. That is when I realized that looking like a woman meant people assumed I was one. When I realized that, wearing my first bra – even a pink one with cat prints on it – meant I was ready to be a sexual being. It meant I was ready for objectifying looks, unwanted grabs, de-humanizing cat-calling, stolen kisses, slut-shaming, and scary walks to the back parking lot because “he just wants to talk.”
And so, with all the pressure and expectations for me to be a sexy woman, I kind of became one. At the age of 10, knowing nothing else, I tried to grow into what I thought I should be. I tried to stretch into a mold I couldn’t possibly fit in. I’d kiss boys and try not to flinch when they touched me. I’d tell my girlfriends about my sexual explorations as if I had an amazing time when, in reality, I thought it was kind of gross. I’d talk to 32-year-old men about sex and masturbation as if it was the latest on Teen World. I’d hold it together when older dudes would hold my hand against their crotch when we were kissing, only to spend the rest of the week cringing at the thought of it.
In reality, I didn’t want to kiss anyone, didn’t want to feel any boners, didn’t want any grabs, didn’t want any “compliments.” I just wanted to be a cute girl, a respected girl, a fun girl, a loving girl. But I couldn’t, because, no matter how hard I tried, I still looked like a sexy woman.
And I did try hard. Growing up, I would change schools often. And every one or two years, when that would happen, I’d try to be the new, cute girl. I’d push my breasts down with sports bras, speak softly, and stay away from boy trouble. I’d think to myself, “maybe if I’m really clear that I just want to be friends, they’ll leave me alone.” And for a few weeks, it would work. I would start believing that, maybe this time, I’d be the cute girl.
And then, a boy would happen. All it would take is one boy, wanting to validate his masculinity badly enough to do something disrespectful and uncalled for.
Back then, disrespect looked like butt grabs, name calling, boob jokes, and just-get-in-the-fucking-car trips. And after the first display of disaffection, the reputation I was trying so hard to build would go down the drain. From cute girl to sexy woman in one painful second.
Suddenly, all boys thought it was okay to treat sexy women that way. Hello to more butt grabs, more name-calling, more boob-jokes. Goodbye to seeing me as a potential friend (or even girlfriend), hello to seeing me as a potential to get them off.
Yes, I was no longer girlfriend material. Because sexy, sensual, slutty women don’t make good girlfriends when you’re young – cute girls do.
Eventually, I would get tired of fighting and accept my reoccurring fate as a sexy woman. From age 10 to, well, now. At 21, I’m still a sexy woman, and even though displays of disaffection might look different nowadays, the disrespect remains. I am still dehumanized by words and actions that try to control my sexual expression. I am still objectified by the male gaze. Misogynistic societal structures still don’t recognize the fact that I have sovereignty over my own body.
The only thing that has changed is my reaction to the labels placed upon me and all women alike. I have grown to not let them affect me as much. Mostly because, I am no longer a girl pretending to be a woman.
I no longer let my sexual expression be defined by someone else’s idea of what is appropriate, or what is exciting. I no longer believe I have to tame my sensuality in order to be respected. I no longer see my curves as a cruel temptation to a male’s uncontrollable sexual appetite.
I no longer think that, just because I don’t get labeled as cute, I can’t call myself cute. I am cute as fuck. I am also sexy as fuck. I am all the things I want to be and some I’m still learning to accept.
I can only speak for my now experience as a sexy woman. And though I have romanticized the life of a cute girl in the past, I know it comes with its own challenges and tribulations. I’ve heard you had issues coming into your sensuality. I’ve heard you had a hard time realizing your womanhood. I’ve heard you felt awkward dancing, or flirting, or exploring intimacy because you were once told you were not sexy. I’ve heard you had trouble being outspoken, or decisive, or building boundaries, because you were expected to be a sweet, soft-spoken, cute girl.
And may I leave you with this: you are cute as fuck; but you are also sexy as fuck.