Remembering the definition of “sexy”, sexy photos cause arousal and imply the (fantasy) that sex is possible or maybe even imminent. This means that, most times, the subject needs to have a connection with the viewer. The easiest way for this is for the subject to be looking into the camera, so there is eye contact with the viewer. For example, here is a photo of the lovely Nikkii:
However, the arousal can also come without eye contact, if the rest of the photo sets a mood or scene where sex might be occurring soon. For example, in this photo of Chelsea Christian, she is pulling on her top in a way that will expose more skin.
In my (over-)analysis of what is sexy, my next observation is that showing things that are not normally seen can be sexy. By showing something not normally shown, a certain intimacy is implied, and the sharing of it with the viewer can be quite special moment. The idea is that if you see these areas, you might be moving closer to sex, at least in the viewer’s mind, if not in reality. This is why a low-cut dress is sexier than one with a high neck, and why a short skirt is usually sexier than a floor-length one.
Examples of showing what is not normally seen
Think about underwear. Pretty much by definition, it is worn under other clothing, and hence not seen. However, a glimpse of it can be quite sexy.
Another example that really turns some people (and not others) on is tan lines (marie claire, Betty Confidential, the Frisky, Yahoo answers). Areas that are light are areas that are normally covered. Tan lines imply that the person is normally more modest than in the photo; they are something that is not normally seen. The untanned areas are a dual eye attractant—they are both light and they are an area normally unseen.
Yet another example is the area between the breasts. For example, think about a dress with a neckline that plunges to the navel. The “between-boob” area, while shown more often than some other areas, is still not something that is shown in most day-to-day life (unless you live a very interesting life or in a warmer climate that I do :-). Similarly, underboob and sideboob are much less often shown. Therefore, showing them can be quite sexy without showing nipples.
The next-to-last example is the butt. Most swimsuits cover more than “absolutely necessary”; the minimum seems to be what I have heard called, “butt floss”, where a single string goes in the butt crack and widens just enough to cover the genital area; basically, a g-string. Since this much butt is not often shown, showing it can be sexy.
Showing more implies intimacy
Finally, one of the major reasons that nudity can be sexy is that showing everything implies a great deal of intimacy. This can be an obvious prelude to arousal and (imagined) sex, concepts discussed in earlier blog entries (1, 2). One of the few times that nipples and the genital area are normally (in the US) seen is when about to engage in sex. This is what sexy photos are all about—creating the illusion that sex is possible and maybe even imminent.
Showing what is normally hidden can easily be combined with removing clothes, a subject of a prior blog post. After all, if something is coming off, whatever is underneath is showing—underwear, tan lines, or skin.
Another thing that strongly affects this topic is the culture. I live in the US, where showing breasts and the pubic area is frequently against the law, even if done in a completely non-sexual way. Whether or not I agree with this (I don’t) is immaterial. Normally, more than just pasties and a g-string are required to be out in public. What it means is that in the US, more-or-less everything in this blog post applies.
However, I was in Copenhagen a few years ago. There, people of both gender would go to the public park, remove their top and often strip down to just their briefs/panties. They would then lie down and soak up the sun. For Danes then, there is less that is “not shown”. Hopefully, someone from Europe will comment and provide more insight about what is “not shown” and how it relates to sexy.
On the other side of the covered/uncovered spectrum are cultures such as those in north Africa and southwest Asia. From several visits to south Asia, this paragraph applies there nearly as much. There, women are often covered much more. This means that people are not accustomed to seeing much skin, and any skin can be sexy, even to the point that some men claim that the sight of female skin drives them insane with desire.
Here are a few photos illustrating this concept. This first one nearly shows “too much”, but the hint at betweenboob behind her hair and the obvious underboob show that Alicia in a sexy way.
Candace has seen some sun, but not always wearing the same clothing. Therefore, her tan line is not a sharp one. There’s also a bit of betweenboob at work to make this image sexy, as well as the implied about to show more, all of which make this a sexy image.
In this photo, there is both the underboob, betweenboob, as well as wearing only underwear. In other words, there is a lot shown here that is not shown in public. Of course, the fact that she’s stunningly beautiful does not hurt either.
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