And then there's appetite: The thing women are not supposed to have (except in music videos, and then it's so clearly on display for the benefit of the viewer that I don't get any idea what Madonna or Christina Aguilera or Eve really wants for herself). You can fake blonde. You can fake tan. You can even fake sexy—for a while. What you can't fake is the real and unmistakable scent and feel of someone who actually likes...sex. You can't fake that Bessie Smith growl, the easy warmth of someone who wants a little sugar in her bowl and who is prepared, under the right circumstances, to have and give a very good time. Who would you rather have dinner with: the flour-fearing vegan or the happy omnivore who looks on dessert as a special occasion, not a torment? So it is with sex. Shame, guilt, and aversion are not attractive to most people. Confidence and an adult appreciation of pleasure—and of the amazing human machine, which despite imperfections and wear and tear, can do such a glorious job of delivering it—is appealing. People who know that and show that they do are simply irresistible.
The heart of sexual energy is making others feel beautiful, wanted, clever, charming, making them see themselves in the warm, pink light of our unembarrassed attention and allowing some of the flattering light to fall on ourselves, our strong points, and our frank interest. It isn't the tenacious, almost hostile, approach of the lonely man or woman who is only a step away from turning on us if we disappoint. It isn't breaking up marriages or insulting one's spouse. It is embracing the world and the people in it; it is embracing desire and attraction as sources of pleasure rather than shame, and appreciating what we have to offer as well as what they, the lucky objects of our desire, do.
Amy Bloom is the author of Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude (Random House).
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