Posted in Of Culturel

Of Sensuality

Kate Bush
Kate Bush

Sensuality is the essence of all art. – Kate Bush

I’ve always understood “sexy” quite literally – someone sexy is someone potentially good at sex. Thus, it baffles me when people draw up “Sexiest Man Alive” type of lists. I think “Hottest” man or woman is a more appropriate term for this kind of thing, because these lists are populated by those who are, or are professionally calculated to be, the current most popular figures in popular culture. It doesn’t have to do with any especial quality that these famous people possess.

Which is why, I agree with what Kate Bush has to say on the subject. In the interview from which the above quote is taken, Kate Bush is asked about what she thinks of her being perceived as sexy, and how she portrays sexiness in her work. She replies that she doesn’t understand what sexuality means. She believes sexuality to be something “projected,” while sensuality to be where all the interest lies, for the artist and the audience. She has a lot of conviction in this, as her album following this interview has a song and is also titled The Sensual World. She doesn’t refuse it, so as to be taken seriously as an artist in a medium which is highly dependent on sexuality for sales, but she emphasises what it should be, and could be, to make popular music interesting and important.

Sexiness is so subjective. In fact, I find it strange how people find other people sexy when they haven’t even met them. There is a whole chemical reaction that is impossible to achieve with just an image or a voice. You can have the stirrings of it, of course, but you cannot draw up the conclusion of them being eminently f***able, without experiencing their presence in its entirety.

Sensuality, as I understand it, lies somewhere between sensuousness and sexuality. An amalgamation of the two, with passion and sincerity thrown in, without any of the four needing to be on the forefront. Perhaps, that is why Kate Bush sees it as the “essence” of art, because it is where the truth of any artistic work lies.

The broad generalisations that some people make about the attitudes men have towards sex really wearies me. There is some solid science that justifies it, but it takes away the faculty that at least I, as a woman, am allowing myself to believe men possess – imagination. Similarly, there are countless women who will tell you that for women, sex is in the brain. Which, again, I do believe in, though it also takes away the opposite – if it is an opposite, for real braininess will conclude it isn’t.

Sensuousness implies a heightened awareness through the senses, something that we feel through all five of our senses, while sensuality is extending that implication to an experience of pleasure, feeling and meaning. You can get it in sex, but you can also get it from a cake. Which doesn’t mean they are different, for as one of my favourite writers, Dylan Moran, has said, “Cake is the language of love.”

All art, whether realistic, escapist or surrealistic, looks for truth. Truth about life, about the world we live in. And, it’s complicated. Which is why, anything wishing to represent the truth of it, is also complicated. I won’t blame pop music for literalising sex too much. There is also much “high art” that has taken a single element of human experience and blown it out of proportions of believability. For example, the most famous proponent of sensuousness – John Keats – preferred to meander in such ideas, though not all of them rendered true. The ones that did, which made him among the very best of his kind, were sensual ideas, that suffused passion and feeling with awareness of some particular aspect of the world. Neither him nor Kate Bush set out to be difficult, as some people more used to a literal and exclusivist appreciation of art tend to believe, but they both tried to capture human experience in all its beauty and imagination.

Though I seem to have tried to come up with my own definition of sensuality in this post, I still find it indefinable. Like love, I know what it is, but I find myself unable to explain it in words. I fear, if I did, I would explain it away and shatter all my anticipation and relish of it. I live for it. In all aspects of my life, I search for that unity. I frequently go to art, because it gives me greater access to it than some mundane activity in life. I frequently find it in people, because I don’t think you can have an appreciation of art without an appreciation of people, despite what I’ve heard many creditable people in the business of the former say. It is a sensual world we live in, and I think it is a loss to emphasise too much on one aspect at the expense of others, when we could be taking it all in.


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

32 thoughts on “Of Sensuality

      1. That’s exactly right. Especially anything before TheRed Shoes. I’ve loved her since childhood and been very loyal. Fanatic with you then!

      2. I came to her pretty late, in my early twenties and I’m twenty-seven now. But, she completely changed my life, my world. She’s the kind of artist I’ve searched for my whole life and she endlessly fascinates me and touches me. I love all her albums! Maybe not equally, but I am a very non-judgemental fan. I think her new version on “This Woman’s Work” on Director’s Cut is really exquisite. And I do love The Red Shoes songs, especially “The Red Shoes”, “Eat the music” and “Moments of Pleasure.” The woman can do no wrong!

      3. I’m 42 and grew up with her. She formed whobi am. In so many ways. My favorite album is The Hounds of Love though i also adore The Sensual World, Never Forever And Lionheart. Have you seen the film she did? Have you heard the rare non lp songs? Like my lagan love? Or under the ivy ( perhaps my favorite song)

      4. I have! I did not like the film much, though she herself dismissed it as “a load of bollocks,” so it’s okay not to! I have listened to her non-lp songs, though not often enough to remember them well. I love her alternative version of “Hounds of Love”. I can’t decide which one I like more between the two versions. Glad to find someone who likes Lionheart. Most fans don’t, but I think there are some truly superior songs on that one, my fave being “In the Warm Room”. I also like The Dreaming. I think if it was released ten years later, it would have been a big hit in the US, of all markets, because people would have understood the “classical” potential of synthesizers by then.
        I do have a deep affection for The Kick Inside. I wish I had that album when I was a teenager, because I think it is one of the few true representations of the psyche of a teenage girl in all art. I think you must have been in your early teens during Hounds of Love and The Sensual World years, which must have been wonderful! Did you get to watch her concert last year?

      5. Lionheart was panned as was The Dreaming. They were beyond conception that’s why problems w understanding occurred but i respect her creativity. Yes shame about the film. I didn’t see her concert thou I wish I had I was stateside. Sigh! Did you? Oh what genius from one so young and good grief what beauty .

      6. No, I didn’t, as I live in India and am one of her few fans (and perhaps the only insane one!) from this part of the world! I did consider parting with half of my savings to buy a ticket from touts and be there! I really wish she would release the DVD, as I’ve been dying to see her concert for over a year!
        With Lionheart, it is understandable I think. It does have a very uneven, incomplete feel to it. Like it was a brief interlude between The Kick Inside and Never For Ever, without any single-worthy material except for “Wow”. The Dreaming suffered because it may have been clubbed together with the synthpop genre, though it sounded nothing like those styles, despite using the same instrument. To think someone as young as 23 wrote and produced it, is incredible for any artist. Even David Bowie must have been in awe of that one.
        Genius, beauty, humane, “mad”, the list can just go on for her!

      7. Well Dave Gilmore from Pink Floyd discovered her, then Peter Gabriel ( have you seen the video they did together for games without frontiers, best duet far surpassed Don’t Give Up). She even wrote with Prince. But she works best alone, it’s her uniqueness and sometimes downfall ( 50 words fo r snow). So glad she’s being discovered by a new generation she is far better than Tori Amos etc she’s the real . What I would have given to see her first concert but i was a child!

      8. Yes, thanks to reality TV shows, the young generation is discovering her. Though it is interesting how they are as divided as they were in 1978. I discovered her the classic way, through the “Wuthering Heights” red dress video. But, prior to last year’s concert and the 2012 Olympics, it was mostly some awful reality show covers of “Wuthering Heights”, “This Woman’s Work” etc for most young people, who seem to prefer the song to her singing it. I have friends who still think she is caterwauling on “Wuthering Heights” and won’t bother listening to her. Amazing how some people still think what people thought in 1978!
        I don’t like to compare her to any other artist. To me, she is an anomaly in music. She doesn’t fit into pop, classical, avant garde or traditional in a clear way. People sometimes compare her to Joni Mitchell or Blondie or Tori Amos or Bjork, but in my mind she has nothing in common to anybody. She is her own category!

  1. Interesting post. I agree that sensuality, like love, is not easy to define. And sometimes it doesn’t always makes sense, but I suppose that is life in a nutshell: Sometimes it doesn’t always make sense ❤

  2. This post has given me food for thought and I’m NOT a deep thinker. But–I truly believe love is an elusive little character. As a mother, I do not think I will ever achieve the level of love for another person that I have for my children–and they are all grown. Love has peaks and valleys and goes in an out. Sensuality, for me, is the way things “feel”–like walking barefoot on soft grass or walking on sand at the shore that’s cool and under the shade or close to the water. I’m still trying to figure sexuality out–it means so many things!

    1. For someone who’s not a “deep thinker” you have some very deep and well-balanced thoughts! Thank you for such a thoughtful response, Catherine! I don’t have children myself, though I do completely understand what you mean. People talk about unconditional, selfless love, but it is very hard to do and not get hurt. With children, there’s not even a question of something otherwise! I love your definitions of sensuality and sexuality too, and it’s refreshing to know a mother of grown children not trying to be too assured about these! Thank you again!

  3. Hey, I came across your comment in the Daily Post and the title of your post caught my attention. Honestly I have never truly thought about Sensuality and Sexuality in comparison before but now that you have addressed it, dictionnary by my side you have tapped into a subject that most people should think about more often. Great post! Well, what are my thoughts? You ask… Sexy is related to sexy. It is something that arouses sexual desire. You are right when you say it is projected but I believe it has taken a technical meaning and maybe the root definition could have to do with being good in bed. I don’t believe it is attribute that is characterized with that because most of us use sexy to mean sexually exciting whether here or not… This however does cause for a definition of sensuality. If sexy can have such a loose and subjective meaning then what is sensuality and what is the need of it? Before today I believed sensuality was pertaining to heightened senses, to do with the body but I guess it is not much different to my description of sexy… Sooo those are my thoughts but from now on, I will always consider your idea of sexy whenever I come across it and maybe, I will know better…

    1. No, no, you do have very perceptive definitions of both sexuality and sensuality! Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I myself am not very sure of the two, though there are differences between the two in my mind. I am not dismissing sexuality at all, or saying that sensuality is somehow the superior. But, I agree with Kate Bush saying that there is a possibility in portraying it in art, without it seeming manipulative or isolated from other human experiences. That tends to happen in popular culture in general, and much too often.

      1. Ohhh hahaha well you’re welcome. Thank you for the insight. I guess I need to meet Kate Bush. Hmmm… I’m not quite sure I understand. She thinks that sensuality should be portrayed in art instead of sexuality? And how does popular culture portray this?

      2. If you get to meet Kate Bush, do let her know about my deep, undying devotion for her! I don’t know how well you know her work, so forgive me if I seem presumptuous. I think the interviewer was trying to draw a comparison between her and Madonna, as they were contemporaries, though Kate Bush started earlier. Madonna set the standard for overt, provocative sexual statements (though I think Cher already did that a decade and a half ago) to establish the parameters of a female popstar, of whom we have so many today in the same make. People try to club Kate Bush with them, especially because she uses dance and other such “sensual” accompaniments to her music. But, I don’t think anyone would call any second of her work deliberately “sexy”, though there is always a great connectedness in her work between human expression and urges. I think that was the point she was trying to make, and how she is different from other female popstars.

      3. ohh well I can understand that. I’m afraid, this is the first I have heard of her. I have always believed sexuality it too exaggerated in contemporary music by contemporary artists. Thank you for taking the time to explain all this to me. And.. hahaha I will certainly mention that to her.

  4. Interesting post, a very good question. Will have to think of a more substantive reply, but setting aside Kate Bush, how awesome is it that you quoted from Dylan Moran! Thumbs up 🙂

    1. Thank you! I am a big “fan” of Moran as well, and often draw inspiration from him for my posts. For me, he’s the greatest living writer, though that comment won’t find his approval! He has more original and perceptive comments about the world right now than anybody else I can think of.

      1. Hmm, I shall have to dig into that point further, very interesting.Thinking about your point a little more, to me there is a notion of slowness with sensuality, which might explain Bush’s statement in part. Whereas sexy has more of a fast connotation. I do not mean the physical act here just to be clear, but the word sensual to me has always implied a leisurely exploration and understanding. Taken in context with art it makes sense. Art is a gradual process, in the crafting of a song lyric, or the strokes of a brush. As a viewer or listener of art, it is also a slow process at times, really coming to terms with the piece. In the best art there is nuance, and hidden meaning. It is not so direct.

        Then again I could completely have taken this in a different direction than you intended, but this is a really good post. One of your best I think.

      2. Thank you very much, Robert! I really didn’t expect the kind of commentary I’ve received on this so far. I am very happy with it!
        I completely understand and agree with the “slowness” of art, as you put it. I don’t think it is as much of an intellectual exercise, as people often say about Kate Bush, as a “sensual” one. As you point out, you can’t be fast with it.
        I think sometimes people misunderstand the reasons why people like pop music, and I include many pop musicians in this group. Whether it is Kate Bush playing a piano quietly, or Mick Jagger dancing around on a well-lit stage, people don’t watch them just to admire them. It is not an escape, but a freedom, a scope to feel a connectedness between their human urges and expression. People don’t want to simply dance or cry along with it, they also want to connect to it personally, in a way that is relevant to their own self. That is why all great art has a universality to them. Because, they can be deeply personal to many.
        I presume you like both Kate Bush and Dylan Moran. Can you name some of your favourites by them? In relation to my previous comment, I have to clarify I am not saying he is THE greatest thinker and observer of contemporary life. He is to me, but I can’t possibly know every contemporary thinker!

      3. I think you nailed it on the head there-“not an escape, but a freedom…”. Very, very true.Though you like what you like, be it a painting or music, I feel the need to understand why I should like it, why I should connect to it personally as you say. It won’t always happen, but I feel the urge to try to understand. And now as someone trying to express himself through my own photography, and my own words on my blogs, I understand that pull. Trying to express yourself in a way that others can relate to. When they do it is the greatest thing. When they extrapolate something else from it that I didn’t even realize myself is something even greater! Sorry to say though I ‘know’ Kate Bush I have yet to really delve into her work in a meaningful sort of way. As to Dylan Moran, I have watched various clips on YouTube (and am a huge fan of Black’s Books thanks to my wife). I will have to get back to you on what some of my favorite observations are from him, but I agree he is a great thinker and observer right now! I’m glad you are getting the comments. It is a very well thought out idea, and your use of Bush and Moran are useful examples. I’m working on a new blog right now that I am excited for. I think I hit upon an idea (however small it is) that solid, and I hope I get some good likes and comments from it. I don’t want to reveal it but would love to bounce some ideas off of excellent bloggers such as yourself 🙂

      4. I started with Black Books too! A friend recommended it to me, and I’ve rarely laughed so hard. I also like his stand up DVDs a lot. It’s not your average stand up comic material, something much more special is happening there.
        Please go ahead and share your ideas for your new post! I’d love to you hear them and provide feedback, if it’s not already up by now.

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