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The new sexy: Authenticity

David Moss | Sunday, February 12, 2012

When you hear the word “sexy,” what images or people pop into your mind? When I asked some Notre Dame students this question a few days ago, names like Rihanna, Bradley Cooper, Megan Fox, Katy Perry and Idris Elba were mentioned. In many ways the concept of sexy depends on the “eye of the beholder,” and what we behold is influenced greatly by what the culture calls “hot.”

Typically the term sexy refers to those attributes of an individual that can be easily assessed, usually by a quick glance. The new sexy isn’t really that new, but authenticity has lost its staying power in the technology driven, 24/7, competitive college environment.

Although authenticity is based on something other than social standing or incredible good looks, it has the potential to enhance a person’s sexy quotient exponentially.

Everyone I have talked to about the new sexy agrees that authenticity creates an environment where great relationships can flourish. Both women and men say this is the kind of sexy they’re looking for. The question becomes, how do we make the new sexy a reality in our community.

What does it mean to be authentic? When something is authentic, it is worthy of trust. You can rely on it, you can depend on it, you can believe in it. We all know the difference between an authentic friend and one who we suspect might have a hidden agenda. In Proverbs 18:24 it talks about a friend that “sticks closer than a brother (or sister).”

The Mayo Clinic and other medical researchers have written extensively about the health benefits of authentic friendships/relationships. These relationships can boost your happiness, increase your sense of belonging and purpose, reduce stress, help you cope with trauma and assist you in avoiding unhealthy lifestyle habits. In many respects our ability to live authentic lives will determine our quality of life both now and as we age.

The first and most important step in authenticity is to, “Know thyself.” So often we are encouraged to look at others to find out who we are, instead of paying close attention to who we are deep inside. What are your strengths and challenges, dreams and ambitions, likes and dislikes? What is your passion or, as they say in the South, what stirs your grits?

Take some time to discover your family history. What makes your family story inspiring, quirky and uniquely wonderful? Whether we like it or not, our family is the foundation of our lives, and as we build upon that foundation, it is important to know all we can about the bricks we have inherited.

Secondly, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” To the level you have discovered step one, apply that knowledge to the practical, everyday choices we all must make. Do I go to Fever when in fact I would rather get into a good book? Do I silently participate in the promulgation of a racist or sexist environment, or do I speak up at the appropriate time?

Do I enable poor behavior by pretending that is cool when in fact it is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard?

This step is where the rubber hits the road and a certain amount of sacrifice is mandated. If you are being true to yourself, it will be impossible for you to participate in, or approve of, everything that comes across your path.

We’ve all done things that don’t fit who we claim to be — this is called being human. If you haven’t done so already, now is the perfect time to begin the process of bringing consistency into your personality formation. The sooner you begin, the sooner you can move to authenticity, which becomes irresistibly sexy and a natural magnet for other authentic individuals who will find you desirable.

Forming authentic relationships is a futile process when individuals swing like pendulums . . . one day praying the Rosary and the next day scheduling a booty call.

The third step in the new sexy is to find the authentic person in others and celebrate, encourage and support their autonomy. Once the first two steps are underway, this third step happens with very little effort.

When you know who you are and you are able to walk consistently with that knowledge, you gain a natural appreciation for the stories of other people.

Their story is equal to yours, no better or worse. This allows you to engage socially without unrealistic expectations, to make reasonable choices about the activities you get involved in, and gives you the ability to respectfully challenge the inconsistencies you see in yourself and in your friends.

In addition, because you have wrestled with your own inconsistency, you recognize the necessity of administering grace to others on this journey of growth and development. May this be the beginning of making the new sexy common place on our campus.

Dr. G. David Moss is the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and the Interim Director for the Gender Relations Center. He can be contacted at

[email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.