Season One I recently began a Facebook discussion about the merits of using sex for professional and financial gain. Appealing to the sexuality in another person is simply one of many methods to endear yourself to someone.
People of all genders do this. Confidence and charisma go a long way toward convincing others to give you professional opportunities, as well as toward making them want to see you naked.
I was shocked and disheartened by the claims because they stem from the pervasive belief that men are in power because they are more deserving of power. Because most power belongs to men, other men cannot use sex to get ahead. Using sex to get ahead is cheating the system.
The system is a meritocracy. More men are in power because they have more merit. Even if you truly believe men cannot use sexuality to get ahead, this line of reasoning hinges on the flawed belief that we live in a meritocracy.
When you live within a system that runs on politics, charm and likeability are valid currency. Sexuality, on the other hand, is titillating. People who take advantage of this, who excite others, are often extended favors and courtesies that many competent but uninspiring people are not.
But even when expertly wielded, sexuality is no replacement for merit. It is, at best, a power-up. I met him once, and his magnetic draw is undeniable the man is dripping with sex.
But he offered nothing beyond seduction, and it caught up to him. People figured out he was a snake, despite all his alluring qualities, and his legacy now is not power but a mug shot. In men, sexuality is viewed as inherent.
The intentional things men do to make themselves attractive, like styling their hair, shaving, smelling good, dressing nicely, and other upkeep, are considered more about being normal, hygienic members of society than about making themselves sexually appealing. Instead of being called out and criticized, their behaviors and motives are left unquestioned. Men are allowed to be whole humans without having to draw lines between where their sexuality begins and their personhood ends.
Women, on the other hand, have been so ruthlessly sexualized by media that they are seen as two distinct entities: It looks like cleavage. It looks like short skirts. It looks like long, flowing hair and pumps and red lipstick. Men have created an ideal sex doll image and broadcast it as a prototype for women to emulate, yet they want to punish women in professional settings for adhering to it. Professional settings are no place for sexuality, they say, as they recline, muscular forearms emerging from rolled-up sleeves.
By making female sexuality a distinct thing, differentiated from the humanity of a person, they can address it and pretend they are not addressing the whole person. It allows these men to further compartmentalize their sexual fantasies from their day-to-day lives while convincing themselves that they do care about women.
When they speak out against cleavage, they believe they are doing women a service by encouraging them to get by on merit, not sex. In reality, they are drawing lines around female sexuality, trivializing it, and telling us not to take advantage of it. They are separating us from a fundamental element of our personhood. As a woman with sufficient competence, talent, and savvy, I have absolutely no qualms about using sexuality to get a foot in the door. I carry on intelligent conversations and work my butt off to prove my worth.
Even with those tools at my disposal, the playing field is nowhere near level. So if I can gain the tiniest sliver of an edge by showing a little skin, I will absolutely take it. Cowing to men who belittle female sexuality is cowing to the rules of the patriarchy, and I refuse to play by the rules of a system designed to keep me down.
You will be okay.