Can You Dress Sexy Without Seeming Slutty?

I’m Hotter than My Boyfriend and I Feel Like I’m Settling

Dear Evan,

What is a good way to get a guy to back off on the physical stuff when you first start dating? I dress very sexy and have a nice figure, am attractive and feel like guys are always all over me right away to get physical. I feel stupid saying, “it’s only our first date,” and moving their hands because it sounds immature to point out the number of dates, but I don’t know what else to do! I am not a prude by any means, but I usually like to wait until around date 4 to have sex. Also, if I say things like that I dressed as a dominatrix for Halloween and that I sleep naked, is that considered teasing or flirting? I really don’t know. Maybe I mislead guys by talking about these things and that is why they are all over me. Oh, and please don’t tell me to start wearing turtlenecks and khaki pants when I go out because that is not going to happen ;)! Thanks!


Dear Natalie,

Let’s see if we can agree on one thing first:

If Britney Spears hates the paparazzi, you certainly can’t blame her. But if she can’t deal with having her every move scrutinized, she shouldn’t have become a celebrity. That’s the unfortunate price of doing business. If she doesn’t like it, she can become a fry cook or a flight attendant or a neurosurgeon. Right?

So if Natalie insists on dressing sexy to show off her nice figure, she can’t be too surprised when men want to get a premature sampling of the merchandise. I’m not saying “you’re asking for it”. I am saying that dressing sexy has that effect on men. If you don’t want to have that effect on men…don’t dress sexy.

Assuming a guy is just putting his arm around you (as opposed to physically assaulting you), this is all pretty normal behavior. And the reason for it is not simply that men are obsessed with sex (which is true), but rather that they’re tantalized by the possibility that they can get it right away. And although you describe yourself as a fourth date girl, every guy knows one thing: Rules are meant to be broken.

Which is why we don’t pay much attention to them. This works both ways. He tells you he’s never getting hitched, but he marries the next woman he dates. She says she never dates short guys, but ends up with a dude who’s 5’6”. For the right person, all bets are off. And nowhere is this more obvious than with sex. No might usually mean no. But it can also mean maybe, and very often, yes.

And when you’re showing off your curves, Natalie, you’re bringing sex to the forefront of men’s minds and giving them the hope that they can convince you to break your rules. Because for every woman who says she never goes home with a guy on the first date, there’s another one who’s waking up next to him the next morning.

If you want to keep better control of your date’s behavior, you need to be a bit more conscientious about how you’re coming across. Listen, I don’t know any guy who isn’t tantalized by a hint of cleavage and the suggestion that there might be some risqué costumes in your closet. But if you find this is consistently putting you in an uncomfortable position, who’s job is it to change tactics? Them? Or you?

I’d say scale it back a little bit. You can look sexy without looking slutty, and you can talk about sex without seeming to come onto them. Just sit on the other side of the table, don’t have too much to drink, and make it clear that you’re interested with your words, not your body.

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  1. 1

    You said “I’m not saying you’re asking for it” and then went on to basically saying she’s asking for it and telling her how she can stop asking for it. I’ve not seen the way this woman dresses so I can’t comment on the particular case, but surely a woman should be allowed to have her own sense of style and wear clothes that make her feel confident, without having men pounce on her at every turn. In some countries, having uncovered arms or face is seen as a sign that the woman is asking for sex and I’ve even heard some men in such countries say that if a woman is out on her own after dark she deserves to be raped. So the solution is to cover up, not go outside after dark and basically succumb to the fact that men have such a skewed idea of women they think a woman who is aware of her physical attributes or one who wants a bit of independence is by definition cheap and easy. Or maybe the solution is for men to get it into their heads that sometimes a woman’s need to feel sexy is nothing to do with her wanting to have sex with just anyone.
    To the woman I would say, never feel bad about saying you’re not the kind of girl who has sex on the first date. Tone your dress sense down if you have clothes that still make you feel good about yourself but if it’s a matter of personal style, learn to deal with the idiot men who think less of you for it and see this as a test of their personality so that you know whether they’re worth dating in the first place. A respectful man would not assume anything and would definitely not make any moves if you’re not comfortable.

  2. 2

    Hi there,

    My experience is that men already have decent (or indecent, as the case may be) imaginations and that keeping some things to yourself is not a bad idea with men you don’t know. They have the ability to fill in the blanks themselves. Once you know a man’s character and you want sexual attention, it’s the time to, “let it all hang out,” so to speak.

    Especially if you dressed in a sexy manner *and* are talking about sleeping naked and dominatrix outfits (how this comes up in conversation in the first place is worth giving some thought to) on date numero uno, it offers the impression that you are trying to provoke a sex response in the man. And then they touch you. They may even think they are supposed to, at that point. You have your results. If that is not the desired effect, perhaps consider a different approach.


  3. 3

    Oh, and I agree with Evan re: body language (his last words.) If a woman is dressed sexy, talking sexy, and also oozing sexy, a man may think she wants the sexy!

  4. 4

    All right, and now for the parry and riposte…Wanting “the sexy”–what’s wrong with that?

    I find it absolutely fascinating that so many posts from women on this blog represents the point of view that they do not want sex (or even much physical contact beyond a chaste peck), or only want it within the confines of a committed relationship, etc. Perhaps I’m mistaken, and this is probably going to rub some people the wrong way, but I get a somewhat puritanical vibe from a lot of the posters here, and it makes me wonder if that’s why they’re looking to this site for advice in the first place. I’m not saying you gotta give it away on the first date, but there is an AWFUL lot of talk here about how to avoid sex, when we know that most men consider it to be a defining element of any romantic relationship. Realistically, there needs to be some meeting of the minds.

    Again, I’m not advocating behaving like a slut, but doesn’t anybody but me ever WANT to provoke a sex response in a man they’re attracted to? And I don’t mean married women with their husbands or people in long term relationships. I mean women who are new to a relationship but thinking it may be headed in a physical direction, and they’re not opposed to that. In a previous post, I mentioned I have a general three-date rule for getting physical with a man, but that can vary one way or the other depending on the chemistry and my overall intuition about him. I’ve pushed men off past three dates and slept with a few on the first or second date. By the time I met the man I’m seeing now, we couldn’t have kept our hands off each other if we tried, but there have been guys in my life with whom all I’ve exchanged is a handshake on the first date (again, just so I don’t get painted as a slut in the comments to follow).

    Also, the idea of women dressing in a sexy style to please themselves is really an oxymoron. It’s nice to think we can do this, but it’s just not reality. The definition of sexy is to be arousing, exciting, appealing, etc. If you don’t want that sexiness to be imparted to another party, don’t leave the house. Put on your sexiest outfit or better yet nothing, and dance around in your living room. The minute you present yourself in public, for better or for worse, you are inviting anyone who sees you to make a judgment about your appearance based on the local cultural norms. To think you can wear a low cut top and tight pants out to dinner strictly for yourself is ludicrous. Society just doesn’t work that way, whether you’re in the Middle East or the Upper East Side.

  5. 5

    Sorry, should be “posts”…”represent”–little subject/verb agreement problem tonight–blame it on the mojito!

  6. 6

    I suppose that sexy clothing is all subjective – growing up, I was told that wearing sleeveless clothing was inappropriate – which is complete non issue to other people.
    Living in Europe now, there is an overwhelming that American girls are too friendly and sluttier than European girls. I actually knew a guy friend who told his friend to get with this girl bc “She’s America – she’ll totally have sex with you” I don’t think Evan is trying to insult the sender or demean her or women , but is being consistent with how he is. He is simply stating how things are – we can’t change what other people think or do, so the only thing we can do is change ourselves. My dad always said that if you do the same thing all the time, to not be surprised if you get the same results. So if you want something different to happen…do something different! She asked for his opinion, and he gave it, so why crucify him for it. I personally hate the double standard that women and men have in dating and have debated this sexy v slutty thing – but it exists – so what can we do?

  7. 7

    Poster above said:

    “but surely a woman should be allowed to have her own sense of style and wear clothes that make her feel confident, without having men pounce on her at every turn.”

    What you said above is the equivalent to saying.

    “I want to flirt with men, without them thinking I am interested. A woman should able to flirt with men without having them pounce on her”.

    Here’s the deal… Scientific fact. Several different studies so far have proven there is an EXACT objective correlation between a woman’s sexual desire and her “skin showing”. In the exact most fertile 2-3 days of the month, the woman is showing the most skin, and the least in her least fertile period.

    The kicker? She doesn’t know when she is the most fertile/horny. This is a subconcious decision. The scientists measure this with different electronic markers on the inside. All the woman gets is a feeling of “I just feel like wearing *this* today”.

    In other words, dressing in more form fitting and skin revealing clothing IS an objective, biologically built in marker telling people “I want sex”.

    Not all women who dress that way do want sex. But in general its a viable indicator.

    In other words, not only are you miss-advertising… But now you want TWO ENTIRE genders to change, so you can just dress differently? 🙂

    You want both women to stop using that marker to indicate sex, and men to stop reading that indicator, just so that YOU can use it when you’re not horny?

  8. 8

    shimrit you gotta be kidding us and yourself.

    as a man, this is something i completely agree with. if a woman doesnt want sex, DONT DRESS SEXY. this is pretty obvious. i know it was a while ago, but in the early 20th century, women did not on any occasion wear sexy yultra revealing clothing. it was unheard of, unless perhaps you were a dancer or something. but today, your averga girl/woman can walk around looking like a total SLUT, and not be questioned. as a man, i find this terribly distracting and i would not date a girl who dressed in this fashion. there are nice dresses and clothing for a woman that shows off your nice form but doesnt show much skin, and its far more classy looking then a pair od short shorts and a tube top, or whatever else that shows tons of skin. flirting with guys when you are not interested in them is also a big no no. contrary to what you may think, NO man likes a woman who flirts with them just to be told “i gotta BF” or “im married”. its just unsulting and makes you into an attention whore.

    1. 8.1

      I totally agree here. If you’re looking to screw continue dressing how you’re dressing and talking about how u sleep naked at night (on a first date..? Classy). I have a cute petite figure but men can figure that out without me dressing like I’m off to a club. Not to mention I am looking for a husband so I dress nicely, sexy perhaps but conservatively. And the two can coincide. Though in your this girls case it doesn’t sound like they do.  

  9. 9

    Like it or not, assumptions and judgements are made on how people present themselves and appearance is a big part of that. Face it, ladies, you can take just about any man around, give him a shave and a haircut, stick him in a tux, and he’ll look like James Bond! Think about how you are presenting yourself. Then think about your words. Do you really think you can show a ton of cleavage, talk about dressing up as a dominatrix and guys won’t get the message? Sounds like you want someone to tell you it’s all the fault of those big bad brutes who got grabby and poor little innocent you had nothing to do with sending any misleading signals. Right.

    1. 9.1

      But if she makes clear that she does not want to be touched by saing ”please stop”, the boy HAS TO STOP.

      I like to wear sexy and very sexy dressed. That doesn’t mean that I will sleep with random guys.

  10. 10

    Thank Lucy for you valuable post. Just I read your entire post. Very nice and beautiful appearance ourselves. How can we appear to the other persons and environment? I think it is very different person to person.

  11. 11

    Just because I dress sexy, hot , whatever you want to call it it doesn’t mean I want sex with any old Tom, Dick Or Harry. And it doesn’t give anyone the right to touch me or have sex with me.
    Just because I show a little cleavage or leg at times, you can look but not touch without my permission. Sure you can like what you see, looking and touching are not the same. END OF!
    What on earth does dressing like a slut mean? Who decides what looks slutty? Why are woman being labelled as sluts? What on earth is that about?
    I’m not liking this. Like I don’t like it if girls get drunk and men think it is then ok to touch violate or raoe them and get told don’t get drunk then. Women have a right NOT to be touched without their consent whatever they wear or if they have too much too drink. Just like that poor girl who that happened to recently in the news. END OF!

  12. 12

    Rose – you’re conflating so many things.
    All that’s being said here is that Natalie should act congruently with her desires/intentions.
    Dressing provocatively (“advertising”) and proffering information about dressing as a dominatrix for Halloween are incongruent with her stated goals of not wanting sex immediately.
    Sorry – that’s how society works – if you’re offering information about your sex life and dressing provocatively on dates, you’re sending the message that you’re interested in more.
    For her to disclaim that “men shouldn’t infer that”…well then she shouldn’t send the message. I bet other women would infer the same things from her dress and demeanor – remember men are (generally) pretty oblivious to social cues, so if men are picking up on this stuff, then she’s being pretty blatant.

  13. 13
    Sparkling Emerald

    OK, I must admit, that was painful to read, because it makes me re-call my youthful days, when I dressed waaaaaaay to skimpy.   Showed way to much skin.   Then acted all pouty when guys came on to me to soon or to strong or whatever. Whenever anyone tried to tell me, that I needed to crank it down a notch, I wouldn’t hear of it.
    I know better now, and I dress fashionably & a little sassy, for the office   and maybe a teeny tiny bit sexy on a date, but nothing over the top, like I did in my younger, stupider days.
    And it makes a big difference in how I am treated this time around.   Still haven’t found a special someone for an LTR, but only one man I have dated this time around has tried blatantly to use me only for sex (he did not succeed)
    It’s not a choice between dressing like a Jezebel, or wearing khakis & turtlenecks.   There is a figure flattering way to dress attractively & stylishly without coming off as as Jezebel or an Amish farm wife.
    I don’t know how this letter writer dresses, but the best fashion advice I ever read was that it’s OK to wear a dress that is short or tight, but not both. And I think I might drop the naked sleeping and dominatrix halloween talk on a first date.   C’mon how is a guy NOT supposed to picture you naked, when you TALK about your NAKED self ?

  14. 14

    I heart slutty clothes, though I don’t dress that way anymore (too old, sigh). I wouldn’t have worn it on a date though.   It was more for clubbing or a house party,  when you’re with your friends and there’s safety in numbers.
    And, no, I don’t think women who dress slutty deserve to get molested and I think the men who do that are completely responsible for their actions.   But in a situation where you could be vulnerable, it’s better to go under the radar rather than LOOK AT ME.   To be fair, though, even in hotpants and a bra top,  all I  got was a few comments .  Most men are not out of  control.   I only remember getting “touched up” once.   I was wearing a below the knee a-line skirt and a non revealing blouse. So it needn’t have anything to do with what you’re wearing. In fact, a woman wearing something  extreme can be quite daunting.
    I think modesty is  attractive, better to go for the slow reveal than let it all hang out on the first date or two.

  15. 15

    Look by all means. looking is not an invitation to be groped or touched. It’s an invitation to LOOK!

  16. 16

    Funny just reading this now. I also seem to attract the men who want to touch, grab, make out, go home on the first date, tell me I’m sexy/great body etc. I’m not complaining, I might not sleep with them but I don’t mind making out. I’ve been wondering if its something about me. I certainly don’t dress slutty, a body skimming shift dress, or a feminine a-line dress is usually my go to outfit for a date but I have very feminine proportions, the classic hour glass figure. I am wondering if my body language is over the top sexy though. I am going to try to mind my body language on my next date to see if I could tone something down.

  17. 17

    Julia – womens’ figures are very attractive to men because that’s how we attract them.   Based on some comments of both men & women that I asked, aged 25 upwards.
    A man will look at a woman with a short skirt and low cleavage (particularly if accompanied by the totally sexy look – i.e. LOUD make-up and jewellery, funky stockings, high heels.
    The more educated type will just look.   The less educated feels a sense of entitlement.  
    In some countries, it is still considered proper to be dressed covered in public.   Personally, I think it sorts out the men who want a one night stand and those who want a woman for something else.
    A personal experience – I love sexy clothing and once wore a Marilyn Monroe type dress with high heels and deep red lipstick when out with my rather conservative boyfriend! HE was really embarrassed with my outfit.

  18. 18
    Sparkling Emerald

    I think there is a wide variety of clothing a woman can wear that is NOT the Amish Farm Wife look or the street walker look.   Clothes that are figure flattering, but not too revealing.   My favorite fashion advice was that it’s ok to wear a dress that is tight OR short, but not both.   I usually stick to that advice, and I get many compliments on how I dress, and I don’t think my clothing choices come off as “slutty”.

  19. 19

    Marymary 15 – I reckon on first, second and third dates, some modesty is really the best.
    After my Marilyn Monroe dress experience, I never wore sexy in public again.   Plus, as I mentioned, certain nationalities seem to see sexy clothing as entitlement.

  20. 20

    I disagree. I am a teacher and used to work at a school in which the men, security guards especially, completely objectified me. I used very professionally (oftentimes in slacks, turtlenecks) in clothes that were never too tight or short or showed any cleavage, etc. I acted as any professional teacher  would — was firm but warm and polite to everyone I met.  Sometimes it’s the company of men that’s around you, who may conjure up all kinds of fantasies regardless of how you are dressed. I have had looks and stares to downright lewd comments.

    In this case, is it the woman who is in the wrong, or the type of men that she’s surrounded by? I   completely understand the debate about dressing slutty vs sexy, and I am glad that the fashion industry in some ways have widened fashion selections, per se; but I am not convinced that women are still not judged a lot more harshly than men when it comes to appearance. Ask any professor, doctor, lawyer, etc. who are women, and the same holds true. Blame it on men’s propensity to be more visual characters? Perhaps biologically, there is not much there to contest.

    If an attractive  man came into an office with no shirt only — flashing his abs and pec, etc, nobody in our current society is saying that “he’s asked for it” Instead he is regarded as a stud, as some kind of admirable hero. But reverse the situation with an attractive woman walking in with a confident air, a nice pair of heels, and a stylish form-fitting dress, and all of a sudden “she’s asking for it” — for attention, for men to come on to her. Please, give me a break.

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