Through the years, Hollywood has produced several icons, screen queens who have personified glamor, sultriness, and yes, sexuality. They include icons like Rita Hayworth, Jayne Mansfield, Mae West, Jean Harlow, and the all-time sex symbol of Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe. Long before people became more open and accepting of sexuality — when orgasms and desires were spoken in whispers, and the adult industry was criminalised or held underground — these women were proud seductresses who showed how beautiful and empowering it was to embrace one’s inner sex goddess.
Rita Hayworth was a popular pin-up girl for GI’s during World War II. Her claim to fame was being featured in what became an iconic photograph in Life magazine. In that photo—which ended up on the bedroom walls of many of that era’s gentlemen—Hayworth was wearing a black lace negligee that sold for more than $25,000 at a 2002 auction. There was no doubt that Hayworth radiated sex appeal both onscreen and off; her lips were voted Best in the World, while she herself was called “The Love Goddess”. She became known for her many film roles, particularly in the film noir Gilda in which she performed a striptease that had that era’s censors keeping an eye on her.
Jayne Mansfield was an American film, stage and television actress—who was one of the earliest Playboy playmates—was one of the leading sex symbols of the 1950s and 60s. Mansfield was renowned for her curvaceous and busty figure, and during her student days had worked as a nude model. She made no secret of her sex appeal, and film producers made no effort to conceal or hide it either.
Outspoken, cheeky, and bawdy are words that come to mind when you think of Mae West. This Hollywood actress, playwright and sex symbol became famous not just for her roles, her looks or her sex appeal, but for her quotes, which included such famous ones as the one that expressed her taste in men: “Personally, I like two types of men – domestic and foreign” or “Sex is emotion in motion.”
Jean Harlow was one of the earliest sex symbols in Hollywood, tracing her roots all the way back to the 1930s. She was known as the original “Blonde Bombshell” — and there’s no doubt that her looks and her curves certainly qualified her to be called one. She appeared in such films as Platinum Blonde, but was most well-known for Hell’s Angels, where she delivered her now famous line, “Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?”
And finally, there’s Marilyn Monroe. No list of sex icons or sex symbols of the Hollywood glam era would be complete without her. She was probably the most famous of the sex symbols of her era, well-known throughout the world. Her screen roles—such as the one she played in The Seven Year Itch—and the iconic photograph of her with her dress being blown by the wind, and she, trying to hold it down, boosted her stature as a sex symbol. She was controversial, too, for her rumored love affairs, and for her controversial death in 1962.