HelenaSo with the omelet down, next up on my list of “Stuff that probably most teenagers can do better than me” is the sexy pose and/or pic.

I’ve been perusing my little cousins’ Facebook pages — which is not a fun exercise if you’re familiar with grammar on any level — and the screen is filled with scroll upon scroll of “sexy pics.” I’m talking pursed lips, hair flipped, chest out and hip cocked. Is there some kind of class now? Or have all the hormones in the water rejiggered these girls’ faces and fixed them permanently to “sexy time”?

I was a closeted siren back in high school. By day, I was awkward, lanky and oblivious. But by night, in the privacy of my own bedroom, I spent an inordinate amount of time giving myself the eye in the mirror. I practiced looking smoldering, doing what the senior girls did during Spanish when Senora Para had her back turned.

That way, when we took the inevitable “now all the sexy bitches” group shot at either Homecoming, the Winter Formal or Prom, I’d be ready. Back then it seemed like scowling was the way to go, or barring that — a smirky half-smile. But I don’t ever think I got it down to a science because for every one of these:


There will always be one of these:

image In the age of rampant digital evidence, there isn’t one week that goes by where a photo of me doing something called living life doesn’t pop up somewhere. Thing is, I’m rarely doing really interesting stuff. Stuff that would require me to look intense, smoldering and sexified. Most days it’s me and my dog, Miles, painting the living room red. What then is my motivation when my camera-happy boyfriend sneaks a picture while I’m cooking dinner besides, “There, are you happy now?”

Last weekend I caught the excellent documentary “Sexy Baby,” about cyber sexualization, on Showtime. It follows three women — a 32-year-old former porn star, a 12-year-old addicted to Facebook and a 22-year-old getting labiaplasty. The most compelling character, of course, is 12-year-old Winnifred whose three-year journey goes from feminist priestess-in-training to rocking her training bra in public cause it’s her “style.”

In one scene, Winnifred and her bestie shout, “PHOTO SHOOT!” and then proceed to run around her apartment snapping pictures of themselves posing sexily on ordinary things around the house. Then they post said pics on Facebook and Instagram to see what happens.

“I know I look like I’m down to fuck,” says Winnifred, who admits that she actually isn’t.

I don’t remember this being a thing when I was a kid. In the 90s, the thing to do was take pictures with your best friends at a one-hour photo then distribute said pictures to the very same friends lest they forget what you looked like an hour ago. The “don’t fuck with me” scowl was in. We looked more like baby gangsters than sexy babies.

What then can I tell my little cousins about not only the futility, but the dangers of the sexy pic? Winnifred explains it starkly in the film. Being sexy online can be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But that, of course, is wholly unfair and provides a loophole the size of Texas for someone else’s behavior.

I’m starting to think the best way to show the girls in my orbit “what sexy is” is to be the exact opposite of whatever they think it is. So for every insane finger-in-mouth-blank-stare pic they post, I’m going to post one of my fart face. I know they lurk around my online life as they piece together what a grown woman looks like from the jigsaw puzzle of magazines, “Basketball Wives” and whatever the hell.

Maybe if they see it’s nothing different, nothing special from regular old life, then they’ll stop trying to live it so fast.


This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Helena on XOJane! 

Tags: ,
Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter