November 30, 2014

It's a Big Job, and Someone Needs to Do It

Idris is still very much alive, but he's probably not terribly concerned about our little American magazines.
Idris is still very much alive, but he’s probably not terribly concerned about our little American magazines.

By Alexa Day

Something has been weighing heavily on my mind this past week. I’ve tried to stay positive about it and put on a brave face, but this is really bothering me. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to share this with you, the Lady Smut community, but ultimately, I decided that this is an issue that affects too many women in one way or another. As an erotic romance writer, I have the responsibility to raise issues like this, whether they’re easy to talk about or not.

Really, it’s about starting a dialogue. It’s about raising awareness. It’s less about finding an answer than it is about asking the right questions.

So let’s look right at this. Ready?

In a world where Idris Elba is also alive, how the shit could Chris Hemsworth be the Sexiest Man Alive?

Sorry. Let me take a half-step back and moderate my tone. This is a hot button subject for me, you understand. Maybe a word or two of background will help me regain my perspective.

Since the mid-1980s or so, People magazine has selected a Sexiest Man Alive for one of its November covers. Slate has a long story about how this whole thing came about, and honestly, it sounds like something that should probably have been squashed after Mel Gibson became the first Sexiest Man Alive. Maybe even before. Seriously, go read the story and make your own conclusions.

Luke is certainly cuter than his brother. But is he sexier? Hmm.
Luke is certainly cuter than his brother. But is he sexier? Hmm.

Given the history of the whole Sexiest Man Alive popularity contest, which seems confused at times and obvious at others and just sadly misinformed at others, you would think it would be easy for me to abandon my unrealistic expectations surrounding this whole thing. And in a way, you’re right. For the last couple of years, starting with Channing Tatum, I’ve said I was going to swear the whole thing off. I thought I meant it with Adam Levine last year.

Still, as broken as this is, there is so much potential for this to turn into a universal good. How can I turn away from potential? Sexy is my business. Shouldn’t I commit to business being good?

So how do we fix this? Presuming that it’s possible to identify a handful of Sexiest Men Alive — because I think choosing just one is part of the problem — how would we go about doing it?

The easy way is to do what Empire magazine is doing; they trust their readers enough to poll them. Check out the male half of their list of 100 Sexiest Movie Stars from last year.

The hard way is to start by trying to define sexiness. We’ll never come up with a single set of criteria, but identifying a set of variables would be useful, mostly so that we can discuss them thoroughly. Channing Tatum lost me when he became a family man, but plenty of women just love the sight of a man with a baby. I personally enjoy age and life experience more than youthful prettiness, but pretty goes a long way for a lot of other people. Smart is sexy, of course, but how smart does he have to be? Is confidence more important than being able to dance? I don’t think we’ll be able to put a fence around sexy. But if we want this process to be easier, we’ll want to get our arms around some variables.

We also need to stop turning this into a popularity contest. I presume that’s how we ended up with Richard Gere the second time. One of the joys of my job is discovering the hidden gems of sexiness and sharing them (or some of them, since I’m awfully selfish) with you all. I just think that if we’re really looking for the Sexiest Man Alive — the very sexiest man on the surface of our planet — then we need to be looking beyond American popular culture. Scouring the world for all the sexiest men and then subjecting them to an extensive evaluation is going to be an awfully big job. It’s going to include lots of men I’ve never seen or heard of. I hope.

There's a really strong argument that William here is sexier than Chris.
There’s a really strong argument that William here is sexier than Chris.

Finally, we’ll have to introduce a problematic element to the proceedings. We need to remove consent.

I know, that’s kind of uncool. And yet, for this to succeed, we must remove the ability for the Sexiest Man Alive to decide he wants nothing to do with the title.

As it is, People magazine decided somewhere around Matthew McConaughey that the title of Sexiest Man Alive could only be awarded to a man who was okay with it. Given the troubled history of the whole process, it’s kind of easy to understand how a fellow might want to say no, right? Who wants to be after Nick Nolte?

But requiring consent is part of the reason this has turned into a popularity contest. People are most likely to consent — and perhaps to campaign — if they have something to gain from the process. Like publicity for movies or something of that nature. On the other hand, required consent works against a man who is sexy but modest (which is beautiful, isn’t it?), or sexy but uninterested in being on the cover of a magazine, or sexy but wary of what this will do to the gravitas that’s holding up his career.

Channing is more concerned with gravitas than he appears.
Channing is more concerned with gravitas than he appears.

I believe in celebrating sexy for the sake of sexy, which will likely mean removing his ability to refuse our attentions. I’ll take full responsibility for reassuring the poor dear. “It’s okay, sweetheart. It just means we think highly of you. It’s not just about the pretty. There’s a whole set of variables. And a committee. A really big committee.”

Alternately, I’m happy to work the casting couch. Or I can do both. I’m nothing if not dedicated to the cause.

Who else is ready to volunteer? Who wants to right this affront to Order? Sound off below.

And for more coverage of the day’s pressing issues, follow Lady Smut.

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  • Post authorC. Margery Kempe

    So many men more sexy than Hemsworth! But I’ll admit Channing Tatum does nothing for me either.

    Reply to C. Margery Kempe
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      I don’t understand why Luke Hemsworth isn’t more popular here; I think he’s better looking than either of his brothers. Channing Tatum at this point would have to convince me that he is interesting to get back into my good graces, especially with the baby. I’m not wired for parenthood myself, so if you want to keep me far, far away from a man, make sure he has the baby. 🙂

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

    Idris is smokin’ and Tatum has never done a thing for me, but Hemsworth is helluva hot and sexy plus sweet and charming and I say that as a woman who traditionally is not turned on by blondes.

    That said, I agree the “Sexiest Man Alive” edition needs to be retired. Posthaste. It’s a marketing tool & nothing remotely empirical, even if a sexy quotient could be quantified, which I don’t think is possible. Sexy is in the eye of the beholder

    Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      It’s just so sad. At first, I was bummed that the SMA had drifted from its original purpose, but now I know that this actually *was* its original purpose. So sad. Still, I’d love to be on the frontier of empirical sexiness research, even if “there’s beggary in the love that can be reckoned.” I want to try!

      Maybe it’s more like the study of theology than the study of mathematics. I can get a MacArthur Grant for that, right?

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    It’s fascinating that in America what we consider sexiness or handsomeness in a guy is almost in an inverse ratio to his awareness of it. We like our guys clueless when it comes to how hot, how sexy, etc. they are. “Product in my hair? I have no idea how that stuff got there….”

    In this way — Idris — whom I agree out-sexies Tatum and Hemsworth is totally above them all. He seems exceptionally unaware of his hotness factor. Channing seems most aware, but I like him because he laughs at himself.

    And you know who finds Hemsworth most sexy? Guys. My husband in the grocery store wonders why Hemsworth hasn’t been voted most sexy year after year after year. Probably DH thinks this is because Hemsworth has the most muscles. Which shows you what guys are interested in.

    Meanwhile, I think Liam Hemsworth is hotter than Chris and the other one, but only when he’s all dirty with coal dust like in Hunger Games….

    Anyway — I’m voting with inclusiveness. I think all three are hotness on a stick. I find Tatum hot despite myself, I find Hemsworth hot because he can pull off the whole high and mighty accent thing without looking like a big goof, and Idris— WHY ISN’T HE PLAYING BOND! I DON’T UNDERSTAND!!!!!!! Sigh. But that’s a rant for another day….

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Oh, I think I know why Idris isn’t playing Bond. I don’t begrudge Daniel, or I’d make a bigger deal of it. In fairness, I was one of the purists who didn’t want a blond Bond — and my formative Bond was Roger Moore! But the Bondfolk don’t like change. I wonder if we’re not seeing the tail end of the franchise.

      I have my fingers crossed for your rant. 🙂

      Reply to Alexa Day
    • Post authorKel

      Why isn’t Idris playing Bond? What a fabulous casting… I’ll be over here, trying not to drool…

      Sexiness is a very personal thing for me. It’s predicated on movement and stance and tone of voice and the look in his eyes and whether or not I think he’d manage to keep up when the world fell apart. Being able to dancefencefight is a big part of it, but some people can move when standing still because movement is about knowing your body and how to live in it. Being able to look me in the eyes is a big part of it because I scare people, and scared isn’t sexy. Being able to laugh is huge, because when the world breaks, one must have a sense of humor about it…

      It’s only when we get past all the important things that appearance enters into it. And yes, there are things that are more attractive than others… but they’re variably important.

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