Why “Sexy” Sells & How to Authentically Embrace It. ~ Heather Pennell

Via elephant journal
on Apr 4, 2013
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Image: Heather Pennell
An example of the kind of editing magazine covers go through.

We’ve all heard the phrase “sex sells.”

And I can imagine the stereotypical thoughts that may pop into your mind when you think of that:

A highly photo-shopped, half-naked, blank-faced woman, exposed for the world to see.


Though some part of the ego yearns to look that way (as much as we like to deny it), we all know that it’s not real.

And anything that ain’t real ain’t worth talkin’ about.

Yet, we are still drawn to it.

“Sex is one of those impulses that comes forth from within that cannot be denied. You can squelch it and contour it and regulate it, but it’s an impulse that continues to come forth, sometimes more than others, but it continues to come forth.”

~ Esther and Jerry Hicks (Abraham)

The reality is that sex does sell, but it doesn’t have to be the kind that makes you feel like a piece of meat being thrown to the dogs.

Photo: Heather Pennell
Un-edited photo, au-natural can be just as sexy!

Sex sells because it tantalizes our senses—it speaks to that part of our mind that is biological and, for the most part, out of our control.

And let’s get real, what woman hasn’t at one point in her life used ‘what her momma gave her’ to get a free drink, entrance to a VIP event, or even just some attention?

This type of behavior—along with the word sexy—has been harshly judged.

We’ve forgotten the true meaning, the true potential of being sexy, and I say it’s about time we take it back.

We are sexual beings—that’s a fact. In embracing our sexuality, we embrace our potential as visionaries and creators.

I’ve seen so many women in today’s world caught up in their masculine energy: they do, do, do, giving all of themselves with little energy left to receive.

It’s the kind of woman who has watched and mimicked men that succeed through action, determination and guts.

They strive for equality with men, but in doing so, their energy shifts to become predominantly masculine as well and takes them away from their natural feminine power.

No one is better than anyone else—we’re all equals.  If you respect yourself and demand it from others, you’ll get it.

So, the next time you see that half-naked woman, instead of looking at her with envy or disgust, look at her with intrigue.

Men aren’t truly attracted to the woman who quickly gives herself away, they are drawn to confidence, empowerment and value.

A high value woman loves herself enough to hold her boundaries, be playful and treat herself while practicing extreme self-care.

This woman knows how to be gentle, yet direct, nurturing, yet discerning, and above all, she knows how to communicate her desires.

She’s the kind of woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it with confidence.

Now that’s sexy.

Photo: Heather Pennell

One thing I’ve noticed as a photographer working with driven, successful female entrepreneurs is that the more powerful they are, the more they allow their sexy, feminine selves to shine in photographs, on stage, and in everyday life.

I’ve heard from many women who don’t want to appear hyper sexualized in their photos, as they don’t want to “attract the wrong audience.”

I get that.

But in hiding our sexual energy, we snuff out our potential to radiate what makes us truly unique.

This doesn’t mean you have to wear a super tight dress, show the ta-tas and stick out the booty. (But embrace it if that feels good for you!)

It means you know and show what it means for you to be a woman.

Perhaps it’s the slight tilt of you head, or dancing your finger across your collarbone. Perhaps it’s the way you stand with heart open and curves flaunting.

Your true feminine energy will turn you into a rockin’ sexual goddess, while celebrating the woman that you are.

So the next time you’re in front of a client, your lover, or the camera, this is what I want your body, mind and heart to be singing:

I’m sexy and I know it.

(Let’s not be bashful here!)

Heather PennellHeather Pennell combines photographic branding, transformational coaching and intuition to elevate conscious entrepreneurs. Her unique process shows biz savvy professionals how to embody confidence and success in front of the lens, their clients and the world. Check out Heather’s work by visiting www.fieldsofheather.ca.

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger


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42 Responses to “Why “Sexy” Sells & How to Authentically Embrace It. ~ Heather Pennell”

  1. joshua says:

    Hi Five!

  2. "Look at her with intrigue" – such a great article, thanks for bringing light to this topic that many are scared to touch.

  3. dave says:

    Its part of what we are, as much as anything else. Denying the body is as imbalanced as denying the soul. Another way of rocking it is to not embellish the aging process, but embracing it. I find the expression lines on a mature lady incredibly attractive, because it tell the story of a lifetime, joy and sorrow. Authentic to the core. That's hot, and not vain or narccissistic at all. You ladies do have some awesome powers, you know?

  4. I love your thoughts Dave, I totally agree with you. Women of all ages and sizes are beautiful, and the more they know and feel it to the core the more it shines through!

  5. vickiholleman says:

    Heather, you continually inspire me in all areas of your work and life. It really is time to take the true meaning and power behind sexuality back. Thank you for this great article!

  6. Leanne says:

    I LOVE this Heather: "It’s the kind of woman who has watched and mimicked men that succeed through action, determination and guts. They strive for equality with men, but in doing so, their energy shifts to become predominantly masculine as well and takes them away from their natural feminine power."

    I know the type of woman you're talking about. Have met many and was once on this same path myself. Over the past few years, I've realized that I derive the most power when I'm simply myself. And this includes expressing my feminine sexuality. What comes from being myself is a source of true power rather than force and my experience reveals that people don't respond well to force and it will always be an uphill battle when you're trying to be a certain way because that's what society tells you to do.

  7. Dave–need more of your type in our lives! I totally agree with your take/spin on Heather's story as it applies to (us) older women.

  8. adrienneford says:

    as an ex-model that was paid for what i look like it becomes difficult to define the lines between person and body. i was a body, and that body was my business. being told my body was not good enough time and time again, naturally i started to deny expressing myself through my body. this article opened my heart and inspired me to own my feminine energy embracing my sexy! love love love!

  9. Beth says:

    Im so on this wave length right now. Stepping into the powerful feminine aspect of our beings, and realizing sensuality and chaos is a part of the void known as the divine feminine.

    Lots of love!

  10. Heather,
    Thanks for sharing this. It might just be my opinion as a man who's been on the planet over half a century, but it starts from the inside, that's what I'm drawn to in a woman. Trick photography is fun, but doesn't really hold up in the light of day. I'm living the American dream, loving what I do and dating a ten years my junior pilates master, but it was her work ethic and her inner strength that was the attraction. Her pilates ass is just a fringe benefit. I'm a handful and a half and need a STRONG woman to deal with me. You can't Photoshop that!

  11. Photoshop can only do so much. I'm all about bringing that strength that's on the inside out through images so the world can see the truth of an individuals essence. And you're right, you can't fake that! Confidence is true sex appeal!

  12. Sheri says:

    "We are sexual beings—that’s a fact. In embracing our sexuality, we embrace our potential as visionaries and creators."

    I love your article, Heather.

  13. Barbara says:

    Although there are some stellar truths bleeding through this article, which I do appreciate, it's somehow insidiously missing the point, making some assumptions about all women, possibly polarizing the sexes and enhancing gender role and objectification. Don't we all, regardless of gender, fall somewhere on the spectrums of sexual orientation, masculinity and femininity? Is it possible to embrace sexuality for ourselves, not as a "man" or a "woman", and avoid the temptation to concern ourselves with what other people see or think of us. We are not here to be eye candy or sexy for anyone. We are here to embrace our unique inner spirit of love and allow it to permeate the universe without apology.

  14. Personally, I always find the unedited versions of people far sexier. Photoshop can't create "bien dans sa peau" or being comfortable in your skin. A little messy is a good thing. xo

  15. Thanks for sharing this article! I write about yoga + sex and spend a lot of time thinking about both. I love seeing and encouraging women to embrace their inner sexy goddess and radiate that goodness outwards! As a women's studies student in college, I definitely went through the compulsory lipstick = evil phase, but as I grew older, I felt the paradigm shift so that now I embrace my fiery red lips + my big, sexy brain too.

  16. I hear you.

    I definitely can see how my article is written for a specific audience in certain ways, and I must say it can be difficult to write something that encompasses every single point of view or way of life.

    And as a woman, I have masculine traits that I love and I wouldn't trade them for anything.

    There's nothing wrong with it, I'm just aware of it and do my best to balance it with what comes naturally for me on the feminine side. A healthy yin/yang balance that works for me specifically.

    So that's what I would say, do what is natural for you, "It means you know and show what it means for you to be a woman." Or a man, or whatever you'd like to go by.

    Just being authentic, confident and embracing who you are is what Sexy is to me.

  17. Kate Muker says:

    Thanks for sharing Heather!! I totally agree that our culture has mixed messages about what it means to be sexy and as a results has suppressed the very quality that makes a women's vitality shine through. Keep sharing your wisdom we need to let the world know it's ok and welcomed for women to shine their sexuality.

  18. Thank you Kate, I hope one day we are all able to embrace what makes us so special, as each and every human being is. <3

  19. Dayle says:

    Heather you say it clearly, in a way that's easy to understand and impossible to judge 🙂 Makes it possible for me to embrace my feminine sexual energy and see where it takes me….

  20. Lori says:

    Great article Heather! Yesterday for our Photo Mantra together I felt super sexy posing for the photos thank you for your unique and genuine ability to bring out my feminine sexual energy it felt nice dedicating that time to feeling great in my own skin and I truly believe I will transfer it more into my life because of how amazing I felt from this experience! Much gratitude and love to you lady <3
    Lori Stove http://www.itsallpawsitive.com

  21. Gender Studies 101 says:

    Does the world really need more articles that tell women to be subtle about how they act sexy, suggest that they give up positions of power, or play into gender expectations to make their rightful power more understandable to men?
    Encourage people to be sexy if they want to be sexy, be sex positive, but don't discourage "masculinity" as if women are doing something unnatural by behaving in a certain way.
    The list of feminine virtues Heather lists near the end of this article attempts to put limits on the way women should act, and what qualities in themselves they should encourage. Why is a female neccesarily nurturing, and what's wrong with women taking on "masculine" roles?
    Write to people in general, urging them to adopt your loose soft-cotton finger on the collarbone style sexiness,and plugging your photography. Don't target women, they've already heard this from their moms, their landladies, and their boyfriends or girlfriends.

  22. Nick Sol says:

    Apparently, the world really needs more positive, loving and supportive people.

  23. Lori Lothian says:

    As one of the women who have been lucky enough to work with Heather for a shoot, I agree that my sexy self is key to my vitality and presence on camera, or off!

  24. Christal says:

    Great article and comments here, but I can't help noticing just how much focus there is on the specific traits of Confidence and Strength, which I would argue are really just more masculine traits. Of course Heather already acknowledged the sexiness of balance, authenticity and just being natural in an earlier comment, so I just want to reiterate the importance of that and add another point. The true power of the feminine spirit, as I understand it, is most in the ability to express and teach how to share our Vulnerability, something our strong, confidence driven male world is sorely lacking. Confidence is sexy, yes, when someone is in that space and so they ought to own that and let it shine, but so is someone who authentically expresses themselves during those times when they're feeling a little less confident, a little unsure, a little less strong, a little sad, a little scared. The feminine spirit also teaches us to honor these times as she is in tune with natural cycles and seasons and so allows each aspect the space it needs to express and do it's work. Being able to acknowledge the spectrum of our human experience, while we are experiencing it, as we are experiencing it, whatever it is(confident or shaky, loving or frightened, thus opening that safe space for others to also express themselves without any pressure to be one way or another as a means of proving they are either this or that), even just acknowledging when it's time and there is a time, to take a confident step forward OR a step back from the world of power, strength and confidence, to recharge, that level of nurturing, awareness and acceptance, to me, is the sexiest of all and where I believe the true power of the feminine spirit lies.

  25. Colette says:

    Great article! There is nothing more 'intriguing' than a woman who fully embraces her sexuality as part of her whole self and this applies to men too.

  26. Heather Pennell says:

    I love this response, and I completely agree on Vulnerability being beautiful, feminine and powerful. In fact, although I didn't touch to much on it in this article, I have written others on the topic. Unfortunately, I'm unable to talk about EVERYTHING in one go, but the act of being vulnerable is worth an article itself. Thanks for your inspired and beautiful insights Christal.

  27. Lori Lothian says:

    thats a beautiful share!

  28. Heather Pennell says:

    Thank you Vicki! I would love to hear how you applied this knowledge to your life and the results you are getting from it.

  29. Heather Pennell says:

    Beautiful Leanne, I hope that more women do the same, fully embrace who they are on all levels (even the uncomfortable parts.) It's a gift to everyone when we show up with such authenticity.

  30. Heather Pennell says:

    Wow Adrienne, I'm so glad this opened up your heart. I used to work in fashion and I too had some awful experiences in the industry. I switched my direction to provide a photographic experience for women that was empowering rather than selective! So much love, thanks for your share.

  31. Heather Pennell says:

    I'd love to hear more about how that's showing up in your life, what results are you getting from living from that place?

  32. Heather Pennell says:

    I love a little messy, we are all a little messy. Sometimes very messy, but that's what makes us special and human!

  33. Heather Pennell says:

    I love that you have the women studies background and still resonate with my message. In fact the photo of the magazine edit was from a girlfriend's project who was in a women's studies course. There are a lot of stereotypes out there around women, gender and sexuality. I hope to continue to stay in my power with what I know to be true for me, and hopefully that inspired people like you to do the same. xoxo

  34. Heather Pennell says:

    So glad to hear that. Rock your goddess self out my dear, you deserve it!

  35. Heather Pennell says:

    Lori, it was a blessing to work with you. You have so much to offer the world and the more you step into that the better off we all will be. Love you!

  36. Heather Pennell says:

    Yes Lori, it's so important. It shows up everywhere in our life, it's impossible to snuff it out, so we may as well embrace t and love ourselves up!

  37. Heather Pennell says:

    Yes, totally applies to men. I find men with confidence, honesty and authenticity wildly attractive!

  38. @Lifeyum says:

    "But in hiding our sexual energy, we snuff out our potential to radiate what makes us truly unique." This is it, Heather. In holding back who we are, our essence, we dampen our natural spirit in every aspect of our life. {…full disclosure, too: I'm a grateful photo mantra client}

  39. Rina Liddle says:

    Self love, yes, but I find it odd that a photographer could write an article on sexy photos without mentioning the male gaze or contextualizing the history of such pictures within the history of advertising from which the title is drawn. What does it mean when women position themselves as the object of the male gaze and how do we recognize the distinction between being “sexy” and being objectified. Also, what is this idea of “natural” it seems to me that this kind of universalizing “what is feminism” is Eurocentric in nature. Feminine beauty, or what is idealized as beauty is clearly different among different cultures and different times. It is ever-changing and highly constructed through various discourses, specifically fashion and and advertising. If we define “natural” as being “how we are” without makeup, tweeting, bras and the like, which are not found in the natural environment, then we would likely look less “feminine” without long eyelashes, painted nails, and hair where we like to pretend doesn’t exist. Categorizing behaviour and appearances into binary oppositions of masculine and feminine or natural and cultural is a very slippery practice.

  40. Rina Liddle says:

    Here is a better explanation of the issues I was trying to bring up for discussion: http://www.upworthy.com/the-people-who-approved-t

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