Pretty Versus Hot

Pretty Versus Hot

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Recently I came across an article called "The Death of Pretty," in which the author laments our culture's movement from valuing "pretty" to valuing "hot." He describes "pretty" this way:

"Once upon a time, women wanted to project an innocence. I am not idealizing another age and I have no illusions about the virtues of our grandparents, concupiscence being what it is. But some things were different in the back then. First and foremost, many beautiful women, whatever the state of their souls, still wished to project a public innocence and virtue. And that combination of beauty and innocence is what I define as pretty."

The author believes this type of behavior and beauty in a woman has a positive affect on the men she comes in contact with.

"By nature, generally when men see this combination in women it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact. That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it."

"Hotness," on the other hand, sends a totally different message.

"Young women today do not seem to aspire to pretty, they prefer to be regarded as hot. Hotness is something altogether different. When women want to be hot instead of pretty, they must view themselves in a certain way and consequently men view them differently as well.

"As I said, pretty inspires men’s nobler instincts to protect and defend. Pretty is cherished. Hotness, on the other hand, is a commodity. Its value is temporary and must be used. It is a consumable."

Probably for the reasons this author points out, I've long struggled with the word "hot" as an acceptable description of physical beauty, although I've heard it used plenty in Christian circles. And I honestly think we don't even recognize what might be wrong with it. After all, if "hot" is what culture values, why should some of the best (Christian) girls be left out? Even T-shirts proclaiming innocence use the term: Modest is Hottest. 

So what really is wrong with Christians getting on the "hotness" bandwagon? Regardless of what we call it, the innocence and non-consumable beauty and value associated with "pretty," or even "beautiful," should be what we as Christians extol. Conversely, we should steer clear of the cheapened concept of feminine beauty and sexuality associated with "hot." By avoiding terms loaded with meaning that is far from God's ideal, men affirm true beauty in the women they know and women aspire to something that is far more valuable. Sometimes words are just words, but other times they influence us in significant ways.

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  • "First and foremost, many beautiful women, whatever the state of their souls, still wished to project a public innocence and virtue.  And that combination of beauty and innocence is what I define as pretty."

    Much of that innocence was lost during the sexual revolution.

  • I saw this article a long time ago on someone else's facebook page. I think the line: "what I define as pretty" sums this up pretty well. There are times to be "pretty" and there are times to be "hot" neither one has value at the expense of the other. I don't think that desire "cheapens" women, or that having a firm grasp on your sexuality (or how much of it you are projecting) is always a bad thing. I think _self-awareness_ is key. It's not that being desired or sexualized is always bad -- it just needs to be in the right context and the right setting -- and that setting, for the Christ-following woman, is somewhat narrower than it is for culture at large.

    If you met a women in "pretty" clothes right down to the ruffled skirt and hairbow of a little girl you'd think that there was something very Lolita and strange about her, the same way that a woman in "hot" clothes looks out of place in an office setting.

    Whatever you are, be self-aware. My husband and I often joke about wearing "age appropriate" clothing, because when we're out and about we'll see older women rocking chucks and cut up off-the shoulder T-shirts or V neck shirts that show far too much cleavage for their age -- They don't need to be less "hot" because that's not the issue -- the issue is that they aren't *self-aware* and that's often what comes to the table when we have these types of discussions. Two women can stand side-by-side wearing the same outfit and on one it could be completely becoming and on the other look totally scandalous for simple reasons of proportion and sizing. It's not that one girl is striving to be "pretty" and the other is trying to be "hot" as it might be that the second girl just isn't self aware of the way other people are seeing her.

    And that, in and of itself, is one of those issues where you have to weigh your own heart and motives to see if her motives are at fault or your own.

  • Test...test...test...is this thing on?

    There may be something to said for context also.  A term that would be unwelcome from a stranger may be welcome from a specific person at a specific moment in time.

  • Tiger Woods is back in the news, I noticed this morning, with a pretty girlfriend. Perhaps one day she will replace his pretty wife. Quite a few months ago Vanity Fair ran a photo spread of many of his dalliances. Some of them were waitresses and some were sex workers that charged tens of thousands of dollars for a night but there was one thing that stood out. None of them were pretty.

    Pablo Picasso had a very pretty wife, a ballerina. But his mistress was hot. Images don't capture it but there is something very powerful about his sculpture. It's completely abstract, the mind can't quite figure out what to do with it, yet it's extremely sexual at the same time. At museum where I saw it, located in a particularly worldly metropolis, the room was full of very uncomfortable people. And the subject of his abstract sexual images was his mistress, not his wife.

    Pretty is something that engages the mind while hot engages the body so we tend to think of pretty as higher and better than hot. But pretty is what we want to look at. Hot is what we want next to us. Looking at Picasso's sculpture sitting in a museum, a place dedicated to pretty things, my mind tried really hard to look at it and see it as pretty. And while my mind wasn't noticing, the art touched me on an much deeper, richer and somewhat uncomfortable level.

    What counts as pretty turns out to be socially constructed, that's why it requires our mind. But hotness is all about basic biology. It's how were built. Pretty comes from the world, but hot comes from God. I know that sounds backwards but I think that's because we Christians have things turned around. This idea that we seem to have that anything sensual is bad and that the female form should be covered up, that comes more from Gnosticism than it does from the Bible. When you seen someone and find them hot you are responding to the image of God the way that God intended. When you see someone and find them pretty you are admiring an object.

  • I think the real issue here is our understanding regarding beauty, lust, attraction, and sexuality. We (Christians) have a serious problem differentiating between attraction and lust(which, by the way, is not limited to sex), and I also believe that what I find disturbing about this discussion is we are only discussing these terms in relation to WOMEN, when such a perspective affects BOTH SEXES and their understanding of their identity and value. Why are we defining these terms only in the context of their relationship/interaction with men?

  • I seem to remember a couple of Boundless podcasts that addressed what was 'hot' in the opposite sex not too long ago. This article describes exactly why so many of us were confused by the choice of words.

    phred, You sound like you have a great interest in art and I used to work as an artist myself.  I've heard everything including pottery bowls described as sexy. Art is meant to move you and sexuality is the easiest way to accomplish that. You can't help but be drawn to it.  Sex sells...even pottery bowls.  You are right. Hotness (sexual attractiveness) is from God. God wants us to find someone hot and marry them so that we can indulge in the lust and longings that hotness can bring. Here is the catch. Some of us are more aware of hotness and more likely to fall into the temptation to lust than others. Covering up the female form (and male, thank you very much!) is a matter of pragmatism if you believe lust outside of marriage is sin.

  • Or to oversimplify, "pretty" means I think you're beautiful, and "hot" means I want to have set with you right now. Perhaps those definitions are a little extreme (and slightly crass), but in a guy's mind those words carry those connotations.

  • HAP,

    You're right.  Back in August of last year Boundless had a podcast entitled "Hot Guys" with the one right after that as "Hot Girls".  Not much criticism back then.

  • Good catch, HAP and MikeTime! Suzanne's post gives Lisa and me a good word to think about, too, as we produce content for Boundless.

  • Maybe I haven't said this before, but this is something that I think needs to be repeated: Lust and attraction are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. Just because you find someone physically attractive does NOT automatically mean that you're lusting after them.

  • Calling a woman "hot" always seemed to focus on superficial things to me. I don't think it's inappropriate, but it gives an incomplete or shallow picture. It tends to focus on the body only. It's usually more sexualized. It's maybe one step above "sexy" (although, some would argue "sexy" is more expansive than that).

    Calling a woman "pretty" or "beautiful," however, encompassed her entire being. Her heart, her mind, her personality, AND her body. It also gave me the impression that she wasn't throwing her body out there to entice men like a harlot, as a "hot" woman might do.

    I'd rather have a pretty wife than a hot wife.

  • It really seems to me (as a married woman) that some aspects of Christian culture encourage women to be "hot," especially married women who have had a couple of kids.   And I'm not saying it's wrong to want to be that way for a spouse, but some tend to share it with everyone (ie. facebook pictures post-workout, new outfits, etc.).  Add to that the idea from some that a woman must maintain her "hotness" or risk her husband having an affair (but that's another can of worms) and I would say that there is certainly a mixed message out there.

  • Nice to have a post that gets away from the loose use of language that is so prevalent.

    I also believe that all of us should be very wary of assuming that we understand how the opposite sex defines such things. To hear ladies waxing dogmatic on the subject of how men view things causes me to doubt their understanding of the issue. I say that as a man who has been "assessing" women's appearance for longer than I care to think.

    It's mostly about attitude..... and how you project that.

    Having the "right" shape is NOT the same as projecting sexual availability. The latter is about how you choose to display yourself, how you dress, the expression on your face, the way that you stand and move.  Almost every married woman knows the "look" that will have have her husband thinking of going to bed early, without a word needing to be said. Many women use that same kind of subliminal projection to manipulate the young men around them because it makes them feel both powerful and attractive. I've seen it far too often.

    Yes, we blokes use language loosely, to. We'll use the same term "hot" for those who project sexual availability as a manipulative tool, and also for those who possess the normal biological distinctions of their sex. That's why distinctive terms such as "slut" are used, that relate to attitude.

    Then - as the article points out - there are those characteristics of physique and attitude that appeal to our virtues. The things that make me want to protect, that make me feel that this is a woman that I want to spend my life with, provide for and see as the mother of my children. Trust is a big part of this , which is why a certain amount of innocence is attractive. If I want a life-partner, someone who is going to be reliable and faithful, I'm not going to be attracted to someone who looks as though she treats sex and relationships as something casual, to be entered and left casually. Nor am I going to be attracted to someone who doesn't appreciate what I have to offer. That's why the power-dresser doesn't appeal to me as "pretty", either.

    Now,,,if instead of arguing with me about what I see from the man's POV, some of the ladies would like to tell my what they see in men, I'm all ears.

  • Kellie...

    When you say "It really seems to me (as a married woman) that some aspects of Christian culture encourage women to be "hot," especially married women who have had a couple of kids."..... I believe that you are misunderstanding the issue.

    Rightly understood, it is not about sex alone, but about love. A husband and wife are commanded to love each other, and that includes considering each other's needs and desires - sexual or otherwise. That is not "Christian culture" but a COMMAND from GOD.... and it includes, but is not limited to sex.

  • "Now, if instead of arguing with me about what I see from the man's POV, some of the ladies would like to tell my what they see in men, I'm all ears."

    Exactly the same thing. Self-awareness is key.

    What I see from a lot of the guy is a MASSIVE lack of self-awareness and blaming-the-other-party. Including dictating to them those standards that the future missus MUST live up to, while slapping down female standards as "expectations that are just too high."

    When the women get called out on one behavior or another it it's pile-on time, but when men get called out on being irresponsible, it's the economy. Or when they get called out on being overly clingy they're just "too nice"  Or when they get called out on being passive they just being "discerning." When they get called out for being controlling, rude, or mean they're simply trying to "lead." It's everyone's fault but their own that they're single, including the available women around them who "won't give them a chance" OR "are liberated and contentious."

    What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Self awareness is good for you. Maybe you're single because you want to be, or because no one who is good enough for you will never meet your sky-high expectations.

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