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Many cultures throughout human history have depicted skin, but few have done so explicitly for the purpose of being sexually enticing, especially not in their everyday routines.

Hence, I've been contemplating whether it's feasible for an imaginary culture to uphold anti-hedonistic and anti-individualistic values while still embracing provocative attire for their day-to-day activities.

"Weakness festers in the heart of the self-absorbed, while strength thrives in the collective fire of unity." - Empress Iris

I'm in the process of crafting an empire where the inhabitants exhibit behaviors akin to those of seductive bees. To clarify, the majority of the population comprises females (99%+), and males exist only in two distinct social roles: the "suicidal bombers," reminiscent of the explosive ant "Colobopsis saundersi" and a remaining group responsible solely for reproduction.

It's worth noting that unlike their real ant counterparts, the suicidal bombing males don't simply explode at will. Instead, they possess incredible strength, so immense that their own muscles cause their joints and bones to rupture and snap. Their strength is even sufficient to crush a bear's skull with their bare hands. These warriors fight relentlessly until either they or their opponents meet their demise. Upon death, the bombers trigger an explosion, releasing toxic liquids that burn non-human creatures. As these liquids evaporate, the resulting gases suffocate and eliminate nearby enemies, surpassing the efficacy of modern chemical weapons like mustard gas many times over.

Inspired by real life episodes of Japanese Sumo wrestlers, who can lift and hurl adversaries despite their weight exceeding 600 lbs (280 kg). Similarly to the Japanese wrestlers, the suicidal bombers are willing to tear their own ligaments, muscles, and bones apart as they exert themselves, even at the cost of their own well-being.

Given this context, the question emerges: Is there a logical explanation for how an anti-hedonistic, eusocial culture would adopt a preference for sexy attire, beyond the simple rationale of "it's your world, you decide"?

Definitions:

-Sexy : Showing and or hiding and accentuating pieces of the body to create contrast as to especially highlight areas which are considered erogenous

-Hedonism : from wikipedia "These technical definitions of hedonism within philosophy, which are usually seen as respectable schools of thought, have to be distinguished from how the term is used in "everyday language". In that sense, it has a negative connotation, linked to the egoistic pursuit of short-term gratification by indulging in sensory pleasures without regard for the consequences"

Satirical representation of the sexes/genders

the dinamite sticks represent the "go boom organ"

enter image description here

climate

@KerrAvon2055 it is an empire, like most empires in history, it spans thousands of kilometers, which means the climate is different from city to city, Even the smallest empires like Japan don't have one climate but many.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm. You ask a question about provocative attire and then go into a long discussion about these "suicide bomber" males. What does that have to do with how people dress? If there's a connection, I don't see that you made it. $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 4:54

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Hot Climate

enter image description here

Your ant people live in a hot place and the most practical clothing is minimal clothing or no clothing at all.

On top of this, their eusocial biology relies on pheremones being produced by the skin. Covering yourself in fabric is the equivalent to wearing a mouth gag.

On top of THAT, the ant people do not see anything provocative about the lack of clothing themselves. The sexiness is perceived not by the ant women themselves, but by outsiders.

The ant women themselves live in a mostly asexual society where 99% of the population are from the non-breeding "female" worker caste. There is no risk of attracting the wrong sort of attention by displaying your body, when the body is seen as natural and supremely boring.

Of course the breeding caste of male drones finds all these ladies prancing about in loincloths to be incredibly sexy. But that is no wonder. Those guys exist solely to make babies. Any visible skin, any visible skin at all, will send those guys into a mating frenzy. That's why they exist in a cordoned off section of the hive and are only allowed loose when the hive needs to increase population.

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    $\begingroup$ If they perspire, this will only be practical for humid climates (hot arid climates favor lots of layers when perspiration is involved, such as is seen with traditional Bedouin attire), but aside form that this is probably the most practical solution to the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ Is it just me, or is that climate really hot? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 21:15
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Why does naked = sexy if you're an alien bee?

You're presupposing that something humans find sexy (exposed skin and reproductive organs) is also sexy to your alien race. It would quite likely just.. not be. Almost no species on Earth care about nakedness. Your bee/ant people could be way more into someone's pheromones, or the noise they make, or how much they glow, or all sorts of things.

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    $\begingroup$ "Hey ant babe, do you remember the day I was going out to glow like hell for all the females like every night and you were the one with the best juggling skill? They had no chance of being as sexy as you were! You astonished me! Now look at our 253 Kids, hope they'll juggle as you did." $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 12:39
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I am not going to get into the premise of this: this sounds a bit like a masculine wet dream. However, if you want to look up weird fashion, you could look up Edward II of England and Piers Gaveston. This is the age of cod-pieces, hugely long shoes that meant you had to go up stairs sideways, split sleeves that almost reached the ground, and bum-freezer jackets. It used to be a given that the pair were gay, but apparently that may have just been the people of the age judging them as 'people who liked clothes a bit too much to be proper men'. heigh-ho - some things never change. But it was a strange time for court clothes.

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    $\begingroup$ matriarchy with objectified men = masculine wet dream....somehow, I don't disagree with that.... $\endgroup$
    – user104995
    Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 17:12
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  1. Just because you're anti-hedonistic and anti-individualistic doesn't mean you still don't want to have fun sometimes.

  2. This also could have practical purposes, just like how the woman of the Celtic tribes would often show skin to male warriors in order to excite them and encourage them in battle.

  3. You still need to attract mates even in an anti-hedonistic society. Given that there are so few males, sexual competition among the females must be fierce; dressing sexy could be a part of that competition.

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“Sexy” is in the eye (used advisedly) of the beholder

Biology

For a sexually reproduced species, a sex drive is enormously important, but across species, visual enticement is hardy a dominant method.

While some species, including humans and peafowl, are excited by the way a member of the opposite sex looks, this is hardly dominant, even where vision is a primary driver of sexual excitement. A female bowerbird gets hot looking at the nest the male built and many other species are looking for performance rather than looks (good advice for humans there incidentally).

This can be asymmetric between sexes - its not true to say that a male human is attracted to the looks of a female human while a female is attracted the the looks of the male’s bank statement - but there are definitely species where one sex is the attractor and the other is the attracted.

But that’s only for the minority species where vision is actually the relevant sense. Horses and dogs are attracted to the smell of a female in heat, not what they look like.

For a species that has evolved an asexual role for a part of the population, that part will almost surely be asexual. That is, while they may have genitals, they will lack the drive to use them - nothing is sexy to them. This is the case for most species before they reach sexual maturity - pre-pubescent children playing “doctor” are far more likely to curious than sexually aroused (but humans are complicated because culture).

Culture

Once a species develops intelligence and culture, all bets are off. Biology is important but society gets just as big a say.

Even before we get to fashion, what body and facial shapes are considered beautiful is entirely cultural (sorry, I couldn’t find one depicting male shapes but that’s the patriarchy for you). Biology really only gets to say that obvious signs of reproductive weakness or illness are unattractive; once past that, society decides what’s attractive.

As looks go in and out of fashion, fashion also goes in and out of fashion. This is your dead sexy look from the mid 14th century (although the event in the picture is from the 8th century):

Charlemange’s corronation

Although these guys would have likely found it as sexy as a dead rat (check out how sexy those ruffs are!):

Tudor fashion

Individuality

No matter the prevailing culture, there are always subcultures and individuals who blaze their own way - anyone who’s visited a porn site knows that. Something for everyone including a lot of something’s I have no interest in at all - WTF is with all the step-porn?

Who are you trying to titillate?

If you’re writing a book for humans, then the fact that we find the aliens attire “sexy” is probably totally baffling to the aliens.

If you’re writing for the aliens, why? They don’t exist so you won’t sell any books.

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  • $\begingroup$ in the beauty standard website, are those beauty standards actual beauty standards or female fashion trends? Because female fashion trends change every 3-4 years and they are dictated by females, but men don't actually care, since a beauty magazine doesn't influece what a man finds attractive, men don't even notice those shifting trends the same way a husband won't notice the new hairdo of the waife in those common clichés. Also males don't even read female beauty magazines :/ $\endgroup$
    – user104995
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 23:33
  • $\begingroup$ @user104995 there are definitely beauty trends irrespective of fashion although the two feed off one another. There are also fashions that deliberately change the human form: codpieces for men, corsets for both sexes, tattoos, and in extremism, cosmetic surgery. Plump Rubenesque female forms are not the standard of modern beauty, for example. Nor were they the standard of Medieval female beauty which favoured small breasts, wide hips, and a protruding pot belly. $\endgroup$
    – Dale M
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 0:23
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In Robert Heinlein's novel "The Puppet Masters", people on earth were being parasitized by slug-like alien creatures that would attach to a person's upper back and control the person by inserting nerve fibers.

It became expected for people to wear no shirt or no clothes at all to show they were not carrying an alien.

Maybe there could be a health-and-safety reason for nudity in your world.

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    $\begingroup$ the question is not about nudity, someone edited my question title but the question still remained about sex appeal and sensuality not about nudity. $\endgroup$
    – user104995
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 14:43
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Fashion, if sexy clothing is fashionable then it can become the norm. Someone from the 1900's going to a beach today would find bikini's eye-popping, yet many women would be wearing them.

200 years ago in the tropics, women just swam naked. And put clothes on to look sexy. Nothing special about them naked, but glistening with scented oil with some bark fibre, shells and flowers in the right places they were gorgeous.

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Sunlight causes vitamin D3 production in the skin. Perhaps your alien species is dependant on sunlight or X external factor for hormone production so they wear very little for health reasons.

I'm not saying photosynthesis. They would need a large surface area, be well over a dozen times more efficient then earth plants, and move very slowly or intermittently while charging for a few days.

Hormone production from the sun makes much more sense for a species that moves then photosynthesis does. Hope this helps.

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Your creatures are related to chameleons. They can alter skin color on parts of their bodies quickly--it is part of their language. Thus those areas must be exposed in order for people to talk.

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As per most other answers, being sexually provocative (or obscene) is in the eye of the beholder. Humans are one of just a handful of species on Earth to habitually cover themselves with a material they didn't grow from their own bodies (hair, fur, shell); the next nearest parallel would be the hermit crab which uses a "borrowed" shell, or any of a few insect or crustacean species that make mobile shells by gluing various detritus to themselves. The other 8.7 million species on this planet are "naked" by just about any human definition, bare it proudly, and many social animal species think nothing of familiarizing themselves with the scent of a stranger's south end, while most humans would insist on dinner and drinks first.

Among humans, and even advanced societies, the definition of nudity and attitudes regarding it vary widely. Most English-speaking cultures and especially the US are among the more prudish on this topic, as are most (but not all) Islamic cultures, all with fairly strict laws banning exposure of traditionally-sexualized areas of the body. Most European and especially Scandinavian countries, on the other hand, have much more relaxed cultural norms about nudity (and sex for that matter) in a variety of situations. In many of these cultures, female breasts aren't considered genitals and therefore exposing them isn't nudity. The same applies in most tropical climates, where clothing is minimized as a practical matter. Views of very scantily-clad members of both sexes would be considered normal and non-sexual in these cultures, meanwhile in more prudish traditions these same views would be seen as nothing else but sexual provocation, simply because it isn't the norm in that culture to be so exposed and so the only time you're likely to see that exposure is when sex is imminent.

As such, the decision to cover any part of the body is a cultural one, not even universal across our own species. I see no reason it can't be the same with yours. Your ant-person species can wear as much or as little as they want, and within their own society they wouldn't make anything of it, that's their normal. Meanwhile, the first NASA astronaut to show up on the planet, after leaving his sleepy conservative Iowa farming town millions of miles behind him, would get quite the eyeful, if these ant-people are humanoid enough to be aesthetically pleasing to humans, especially in the nude. He would make a point of describing them as nude or close enough.

That could be a literary trick you use; it's possible, with appropriate care, to change the identity of a first-person narrator as you tell the story. You don't want to do this mid-paragraph, but at chapter breaks or especially between different "parts" or "books" of a full published work, it's often done and becoming more common. You can start by narrating from an ant-person's perspective, the way the ant-person would tell it (including what they would or wouldn't think to call attention to), and have this narrator continue up to the arrival of a strange object from the sky. Then at the chapter break, switch perspective to the human astronaut in that "strange object" that just landed, and describe the ant-people from that astronaut's perspective including what he'd think was important to mention about their state of dress.

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Clothing is expensive?

First of all, I agree completely with those who pointed out that what we consider "sexy, revealing, or provocative" is very subjective and mostly a product of our particular culture. Another culture may have completely different rules. However, for my answer I'm going to suggest that the bigger question may be "why wear concealing clothing at all? ". I have a friend who constantly complains about his lack of ability to find cheap clothing that fits. The alien clothing might require uncommon materials and, therefore be a status symbol instead of anything functional. More of a decoration than anything. The less affluent would naturally wear simpler and less concealing clothing.

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A few ideas:

  • Their species has a problem with genetic compatibility. Couples get married and find they can't have children at all, or can't have healthy children. Displaying their bodies could help with mate selection in the same way that humans' mate selection may be affected by the Major Histocompatibility Complex via the sense of smell. The factors that lead to favorable pairings are not consciously perceived. Being exposed to the details another person's body could result in better (instinctual) mate selection.

  • Their culture has a history of secret societies / gangs / cults that were very disruptive and suppressed at enormous cost. The cults have a mandatory tradition or tattoos or some other body art, like Yakuza. Displaying their bodies advertises the fact that the individual isn't a cult member. A person who won't display the relevantparts of their body is immediately viewed by all as extremely suspect.

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