Sex symbol

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Latin lover Rudolph Valentino
Sex symbol Jane Russell , 1945

A sex symbol is a famous person, male or female, who is perceived by the general public as sexually attractive . The term was first used in 1911 .


At first, figures from religious and mythological texts such as Venus , Eve ( Dürer's picture: Adam and Eve ), Helena , Delila , Salome or nymphs were primarily stylized as sex symbols . History characters like Madame du Barry can also be seen as sex symbols of their time. However, the expression ideal of beauty is more applicable in the cases mentioned.

Sex symbols in the media age

Elvis Presley , sex symbol of the rock and roll era, 1957

The film industry played an important role in the creation of sex symbols. She spread the image of beautiful people in the world, especially in the era of silent films , when there were no language barriers. One of the first sex symbols was Danish actress Asta Nielsen in the 1910s and 1920s .

William Fox (he founded Fox Film Corporation in 1915 ) discovered the potential of the hitherto unknown actress Theda Bara (1885–1955) and from 1915 built her up into the first vamp or sex symbol in cinema history with an unprecedented publicity campaign . Other stars from the early days of the studio were Betty Blythe (* 1887) and the swimmer Annette Kellermann (* 1887).

Sex symbols in Hollywood cinema

Halle Berry (2004 Hamburg ), 2009 the “most beautiful dark-skinned woman in the world”.

The Hollywood movie theater brought (with) the first sex symbols out: the dancer and actor Rudolph Valentino (1895 to 1926) in the 1920s and Mae West (1893 to 1980) in the 1930s. West represented sexual stimuli not through a lack of textiles, but through ambiguous situations and dialogues in her films. She was followed by platinum bombshell Jean Harlow , Marlene Dietrich and the goddess of love Rita Hayworth as sex symbols. The censorship did not allow any too daring film scenes. In Gilda (1946) , Hayworth only suggests a striptease by taking off one of her gloves. Marlene Dietrich later commented:

“At that time you didn't talk about sex. Sex was taboo at the time of the glamor girls. Mae West once said to me: "We have to do everything with our eyes". And that's how we did it. "

In the 1940s morale relaxed in various places. Pin-up girls became popular and part of the mass media. Soldiers in particular contributed to its widespread use, and Bettie Page was a particularly popular sex symbol . The sex bomb (in American bombshell ) was a popular eye-catcher in the cinema. Stars like Jayne Mansfield openly flaunted their sex appeal . Marilyn Monroe , who started her career as a pin-up model and in her earlier supporting roles as a sex bomb, is still considered the sex symbol to this day . Male idols like Gary Cooper , Clark Gable and Sean Connery were considered heartthrob or heartbreaker . Even a conservative reaction in the 1950s could not stop the progressive sexualization. The more revealing the cinema became, the more the perfect body played an important role in order to be marketed by the media as a sex symbol. Since the late 1960s, nude scenes have been a common stylistic device in film. Furthermore, women in particular were able to achieve the image of a sex symbol with just one revealing role, according to Kim Basinger in 9½ weeks (1986), Carré Otis in Wilde Orchidee (1989) or Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct (1992). Brad Pitt , David Hasselhoff , George Clooney , Angelina Jolie , Megan Fox , Pamela Anderson and Scarlett Johansson are now in the tradition of popular sex symbols such as Valentino, Hayworth or Monroe. Since the 1980s, more and more photo models have appeared alongside actresses.

In Europe, different forms of sex symbols emerged. With Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren from Italy and Brigitte Bardot from France, several European actresses made world careers as sex symbols. In addition, there are mostly European actresses who appeared as " Bond Girls " in the Bond films ( Ursula Andress , Honor Blackman , Claudine Auger , Diana Rigg , Britt Ekland , Barbara Bach , Corinne Cléry , Maud Adams , Barbara Carrera , Tanya Roberts , Grace Jones , Maryam d'Abo , Famke Janssen , Denise Richards , Halle Berry , Eva Green , Olga Kurylenko , Léa Seydoux , Monica Bellucci ). In the genre of erotic films of the 1970s and 1980s, some sex symbols were also produced, above all the multiple Emmanuelle actress Sylvia Kristel . With the British Samantha Fox , a nude model achieved comparatively great popularity.

The medium of film is still important today, although sex symbols are often created and disseminated through television, for example through soap operas or music videos . Many supermodels in the fashion industry and also top athletes are also seen as sex symbols. Teens also often see their idols as sex symbols; In particular, members of “ boy groups ” or “ girl groups ” are often perceived as such by their fans. Even if fans mostly project the sexual attraction onto a member of the group, the entire group is usually perceived associatively as sexually attractive and given the status of a sex symbol.

Fictional characters as sex symbols

Fictional animated and / or virtual characters also sometimes become so popular that they become a sex symbol. The cartoon character Betty Boop from the 1930s is considered the first fictional sex symbol. Fictional characters ( bishōjo or bishōnen ) regularly appear in fan-produced dōjinshi, especially for lovers of Japanese anime , manga or computer games ( eroge , ren'ai adventure , ren'ai simulations ), which are called otaku in Japanese . Some of them are of an erotic ( ecchi ) or pornographic ( hentai ) nature.

In addition to anime and manga, western cartoon characters and characters from video games are also the source of a number of fictional sex symbols. Examples include a. the computer game character Lara Croft and numerous superheroes from " Comics " and their later adaptations, such as B. Catwoman or Superman .

The Barbie toy figure is also generally viewed as the embodiment of a sex symbol.

Androgynous sex symbols

In some cases, people who display androgynous traits are also given sex symbol status. Popular examples of this are the artist Andy Warhol , the musicians David Bowie and Iggy Pop , the British comedian Eddie Izzard or Frank N. Furter , the protagonist of the Rocky Horror Show , as well as followers of the visual kei scene (Mana, Gazette, An Cafe etc.)

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Sex symbol  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Sources for individual people listed here who are considered sex symbols in the journalistic community:

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Word Origin & History
  2. US broadcaster was looking for "Beautiful Black Women" Halle Berry is the most beautiful . RP Online . April 11, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
  3. The most beautiful dark-skinned women in the world . Rheinische Post . April 11, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
  4. Halle Berry is the most beautiful woman in the world: “Sexiest Woman Alive”. , accessed on January 29, 2015 : "The actress has now been named the" sexiest woman alive "by the US magazine" Esquirer ""
  5. Ally Sinyard: 100 Sexiest Hall of Fame: Halle Berry ( English ) FHM (magazine) . May 29, 2014. Accessed on January 27, 2015: " Halle Berry: the epitome of beauty par excellence "