So, there’s no reason you shouldn’t write sexy female characters. That’d be kind of dumb. But it can be kind of confusing when you hear complaints about overly sexualized female characters and how that’s a Very Bad Thing. So what’s the real deal? How do you write legit sexy female characters without making them “sexualized” characters? We’ll look at a few factors you can keep in mind.
1. Character Agency
So why did your character choose to dress up in a skintight, cleavage-baring bodysuit?
If this is the “costume” your character chose for herself and she has a LEGIT reason for making that choice, then you’ve got a sexy lady on your hands. But it is important to make it clear that this is her decision, and it’s a decision that makes sense. No female warrior is going to choose a skin-baring barbarian get-up for the battlefield. Not unless it’s her first day going to war and she’s not going to have a second.
But a character like Catwoman, who needs to get around all slinky-like and who maybe, just maybe is hoping to distract a certain Bat before he can unleash his Bat Attack on her kitty cat ass most certainly would have good reason for choosing the costume that she does.
A person’s sexuality is never the core of their identity, so when you write characters who could be summed up as the “sexy chick” or the “sl*tty broad* you know it’s time to take a step back and look at what you’ve done.
It’s fine for a female character to be promiscuous. It’s even okay for her to be dangerously promiscuous, if the story calls for it. What’s not okay is for that to be your character’s sole identifier.
3. No Excuses
Please, please, please don’t explain away your character’s sexual habits and proclivities with some sort of excuse that “absolves” them of their “sins”. By doing so, you’re actually taking away agency and ownership - essentially, having the character wear their promiscuity like a costume. I said you don’t want to make a character’s sexuality the core of their identity, but you don’t want to strip it from their identity either.
It can “feel” like you’re empowering a character by letting her use her sexy to get whatever she wants. But the problem with this is that if you’re not careful, it can come across as you saying that’s the only weapon she has in her arsenal. Go ahead - let her use her sexy to get what she wants. But be sure she has other traits and attributes as well.
Remember - there’s no single, universal kind of sexy. Even a supermodel isn’t going to turn the head of everybody who’s into girls. So with that in mind, don’t write characters who literally entice everybody. Allow your female characters to develop strictly platonic friendships with straight guys/lesbians/bi peeps (…etc, you get my drift). Make sure there’s someone who sees beyond the sexy. If you give them that, the reader is much more likely to see beyond the sexy, too.
I’m sure there are a lot more points I could go over - this is just a starter to get you thinking a little more critically about sexy vs. sexualized.
The thing is, I really don’t like this argument that we can’t have sexy female characters, whether it’s in video games, or movies, or books, or comics, etc. It’s self-defeating and, really, beside the point. What needs to change is the way we write about these characters.
And it’s not that female characters can’t be overtly sexualized, either - sometimes that needs to happen for plot. (Think: Slave Leia in Star Wars). The difference being that this is something that is internal to the story. It happens for a reason and you’re not necessarily meant to enjoy her sexualization. Keep all this in mind in order to start writing more sex-positive stories.