Body-Image and Shifting into Self-Acceptance

You’re having sex with a lover, and you’re having a hard time dropping in.

Maybe they’re going down on you, or you’re on top. You glance down & all you can see is the curve of your belly. You can’t even see your pubic area… and aren’t you supposed to be able to sort of see that? You suck your belly in. Things start to feel gross: you can’t feel what your lover’s doing; all you can think about is your belly. Or the face you might be making. Or the cellulite they might see on your thighs.

Meanwhile … your partner is in ecstasy. They are totally in the sensation of their bodies, following pleasure, feeling pleasure, moving on or in your body, fully immersed in the experience.

I say it often: women, especially, have been taught to hate their bodies. Actually, any of us who are in bodies that aren’t exalted or don’t match an enculturated ideal can feel this way- & the bodies that are prized in our culture are quite masculine. We say “no” to fat, to cellulite, to any curves in the “wrong” place—you know, Feminine things. We applaud hard, muscular, thin.

While culture is slowly changing, our attitudes toward our bodies are inherited from our upbringing & downloaded from society.

Can we have okay sex without loving our bodies? Maybe sometimes. Can we have consistently wonderful sex without accepting our bodies? No.

Being a small, white, heteronormative person, talking about body image can ring false. In my own struggle, I once weighed 18 lbs less than I do now. That’s A LOT on a 5’2” frame. No one is safe from this perfectionism. I changed only by consciously choosing compassion over criticism, again and again. By doing inner healing that began to change my external world.

You never chose not to love your body. That happened to you, growing up in our culture. We think that our self-loathing is helpful, that it will motivate us to change. But that self-hate keeps us stuck in the same loop. It’s only when we can see that the cultural narrative is bullshit, and choose to love ourselves now, as we are, in this moment--not a future, maybe version of ourselves--that we can enjoy this moment, AND sex.

For me, knowing I’m taking a radical stance helps (I love going against the grain, and what we're "supposed" to do). It also helps to know that the more I stand confidently in my "imperfect" body, the more those around me are helped. Emotional eating was a huge issue for me (eating to numb or punish), and the Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual helped a ton. I also just *know* in my heart that the person I’m sleeping with doesn’t care if I have a tummy roll, and that I would never date someone who did. Knowing your worth, and that someone is lucky to be in bed with you, is crucial.

Also huge: FEELING.

Feeling your body from the inside, rather than focusing on what it looks like from the outside. Getting lost in your sensations is one of the keys to having amazing sex. I still have moments where I’m on top of my boyfriend, doing something that feels really good, and suddenly, the Pleasure Police come into my head: “What are YOU doing, being so selfish, young lady? Do you have a permit for this? What if HE isn’t feeling 100% perfect, spectacular pleasure? You better shift into different position and doing something that you think might feel better for him, regardless of how it feels for you, STAT.”

Women have been historically taught to make sure everyone else is feeling pleasure, even at the expense of our own pleasure. What if we took our pleasure? What if we followed the feeling while having sex (while staying in connection with our lover, of course, but not as much as we think we need to).

We can begin focusing on how we feel in everything we do: in what we choose to eat, in what we do with our days, in how we exercise, in the types of commitments we take on, in the kind of sex we do or don’t have, and the way we treat our bodies. Dance more, and focus on the feeling of your body in the dance. Walk until it doesn’t feel good to walk. Grind on your partner until your body wants something else. But don’t let what it might look like dictate it. Stay with how it feels.