Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Chivalry: Bringing Sexy Back

 Some time ago, a friend of mine rather wittily quipped that chivalry is “bringing sexy back.” It made me laugh then. Now that I’m actually taking time to think about it, I’m realizing he was dead on. Why? Because I experienced chivalry… and it was the sexist thing ever. 

Picture this: a beautiful day, an old town, and hours to spend with a good friend I hadn’t seen in a while. That was all I was expecting when I made plans with this guy, and I was stoked. I was slightly embarrassed when he insisted on paying for everything all day. I was touched when he ordered my drink for me. I tried so hard not to bump into him or trip over him as he stood aside to let me go through every doorway first. I appreciated the fact that he always put himself between me and the street. All day, he did so many little chivalrous things that made me feel like a lady that I lost count. And the best part is that I knew he wasn’t doing it to get anything out of it. He wasn't doing it to woo me. He was simply treating me the way he treats every young lady in his company. Yeah, I about melted by the end of that day. 

Webster defines “sexy” as “sexually suggestive or stimulating” or “generally attractive or interesting”. He uses the synonyms “erotic” and “appealing”. I don’t know about you, but when I think of “erotic” or “sexually stimulating” things, I usually feel like I need to go to confession. But wait! Erotic comes from the Greek word "eros", which means romantic love, which can be a totally ordered, non-sinful, beautiful love! And sexuality means who a person is as a man or a woman… so couldn’t we paraphrase to make sexy mean something that encourages a person to be who they are as a man or a woman? When I hear “sexy” I think it must be something scandalous… and I’m coming to realize that there is nothing more scandalous to the world than ordered humanity, including love and sexuality. 

Now that I’ve clarified what we mean by sexy, I think it follows quite logically that chivalry is incredibly sexy. When I was with a chivalrous man, I felt more feminine than I had in a long time (and when you wear scrubs, camo, or running gear about 90% of the time, feeling feminine is a rare treat.) In other words, I felt encouraged to be who I am as a woman. Sexy can also just mean generally attractive/appealing. Tell me you weren’t sucked in, “attracted” if you will, by my anecdote. Chivalry gets attention, it draws positive interest. Yeah, I find the idea of spending more time with a chivalrous guy appealing. (Even though letting a guy pay for me is still really hard. I admit I try to think of things to do that don’t cost money. But I digress.) Finding chivalry sexy doesn’t even necessarily have to mean that a romantic attachment (or high hopes of a romantic attachment) is involved. Chivalry makes the statement “it is good that you exist as a woman.” And that is very sexy.

To my men out there who might be a little nervous to be chivalrous, I hope this gives you just a little more encouragement to stick your neck out. As long as you treat women with equal chivalry, you don’t have to worry about leading them on. If you do have feelings for a girl, chivalry might be a means to get her attention. Once you have her attention, it’s best to just be up front and honest about those types of things rather than dishing out ambiguous acts of chivalry. 
To my women, I pose a challenge and a question. First, the challenge: build up every man you encounter who acts with chivalry. Encourage him. Make a big deal about it. Because it’s awesome. Now the challenge: can you think of a female character trait that complements chivalry, put a name to it, and give it a good description? I’m working on it, and could use a little help.

1 comment:

  1. A quick thought on your question. My immediate thought was dignity. You recently shared Fulton Sheen's quote about men needing to rise to the level of a woman's dignity. I would think one reason a man is chivalrous to a woman is to respect her inherent dignity. (Just one reason, as a true gentleman isn't chivalrous only to women he finds particularly dignified.) But perhaps it's helpful for a woman to give a man something to respect? Maybe one way she does this is by dressing modestly? Or by graciously accepting his chivalry? Hmm I kind of feel like dignity might not be the right word, especially since it's not exclusively feminine. Sheen mentions several in that quote. Just a stream of consciousness. Great post!