We all know that physical "beauty" is a social construct - something that is subjective and culturally defined, not an objective biological trait. How do we learn about beauty, and what it means to be beautiful? We usually learn from a very young age what is expected of us, most often from print media such as books, magazines, and even posters. We also learn that in order to be deemed "sexy," or a sexually attractive mate, we must first master the standards of beauty.
In a very condensed form, female American beauty seems to revolve around the following physical features:
* Long, shiny hair
* Well-groomed nails
* Clear skin
* Facial features accented with colors, in the form of makeup
* Very thin body, yet still curvy
* Medium to large breast size
* White teeth
* Flattering clothing
* Attractive scent, in the form of perfume
Scanning the above list begs the question: are the things which are demanded of us in order to be sexy really healthy? Most of them involve the application of chemicals which are widely known to be cancer-causing with repeated exposure, such as nail polish remover, facial creams, and shampoos. Others are downright harmful in regards to their effects on the female body, including maintaining a very low weight and getting breast augmentation. Even the items that are not explicitly damaging rob women of extraordinary amounts of time and money, such as hair styling and highlights, teeth whitening procedures, and high-end perfumes.
The fact that cultural standards of beauty are often detrimental to women's sexual health only serves to show that these behaviors do nothing in terms of improving the ability of women to enjoy sex. They improve the desirability of a woman to a man, at the expense of the female body itself. Therefore, when discussing women's sexual health it is important that we NOT base solutions around being or feeling "beautiful." A woman is only sexy when she is sexy to herself.
Shaina Gaul is a feminist and freelance writer living in Iowa. Read more of her thoughts at http://www.toasterbyte.com.