They do want attention, but if you need to ask, then they don’t want it from you.
I don’t wear sexy clothes. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t shave — anything. None of that stopped me from getting sexually assaulted, catcalled, harassed, and stalked. I have suffered because men are sexually attracted to me, and no choice I make will stop this. Refusing to conform to the norms of sexual attractiveness does not stop it. Binding my breasts does not stop it. Being read as gay does not stop it.
So why fucking bother?
If I’m going to be harassed no matter what, why not look good for the people who are respectful and who I might actually want to fuck?
I have spent a long time blaming myself for the harassment I’ve received, and every time that happens, I cut out another part of myself. I stop wearing things that I think I look good in so that I don’t accidentally turn people on. I stop flirting with people, I stop casually affectionate touch in case it is misread. I even stopped consciously recognizing my own sexual desire in case I accidentally communicated it to other people.
I read the saddest email I sent a few years ago:
Your continued affection makes me uncomfortable. It’s the same feeling as when someone I’m not into holds me in a hug too long, or someone I don’t like enough grabs my boob as a joke. It’s a creepy sort of feeling. I don’t look down on you or think of you as a bad person or a fool, but continued conversation with you makes me feel violated in a small way. And it’s ok, I’m willing to tolerate it if it helps you, but your love does not feel good to me and you should know that.
I told someone I was willing to tolerate feeling violated so that they could feel better. And, that’s how I used to look at the word. I felt obligated to suffer to any degree so that male sexuality would not be inconvenienced. I carried immense guilt for men who were attracted to me and whose attractions I did not return. But, my sexuality completely shut down, and I was left unable to form romantic connections to anyone. Being unsexy led to a miserable, sterile dead end.
Why do women wear sexy clothes?
Because women are fucking horny! Because there are few socially acceptable outlets for women to communicate desire, but how they dress is one of them. Because women are looking to get fucked, just like men are.