By the same token, sexy is not exploitative, and exploitation is dishonest. Reverse that chain and you can see that, whoever you are writing, if you are honest about them, fair to them, and allow them their moments of brilliance, you can create that sexiness without it becoming pandering. Sexy is not a visual trait – that’s titillation. Cheesecake, beefcake, those are entirely visual matters. What makes someone sexy – what makes anyone sexy, in my opinion – is less how they look than how they do. Competence is sexy. Capability is sexy. Confidence is sexy. Smart is sexy. A character who clearly embodies these traits in some capacity or another is a character who is going to be attractive.
Bending over to pick up a dropped pen with your ass high in the air isn’t sexy, that’s just a butt shot. We confuse arousing with sexy in the same way we confuse strength with cruelty. A strong character isn’t, by definition, a mean one, but the confusion between the two has lead to a shorthand where the attempt to depict a female character as “strong” translates to “bitch.” They’re not the same. Strength is part of character, as well – those characters who know what they want, know what they’re willing to do to achieve those goals, and who rise again and again against opposition are, by definition, strong.
Greg Rucka (via ComicVine)