People who experience body dissatisfaction often suffer from sexual dissatisfaction, as well. The overlap is caused by many things. Sometimes it’s caused by a sexually traumatic experience, but often it’s purely shame.
Our culture’s narrow and inflexible view of what’s sexy is confining, and this is especially true for women. A steady diet of what Hollywood believes women should look like can leave people feeling ashamed of how they actually look. The problem is, there are only a select few with the genetics and means to look like movie stars, but the rest of us still need to find paths toward self-esteem and sexual satisfaction. So, what’s a modern lady to do?
The Value of an Ordinary Body
Shrinking down the value of everything your body does for you into how it looks is minimizing. Your body is the vehicle that allows you to laugh, play, explore your talents, heal from illness, use your brilliant instinct, and experience all of the pleasures of life. Ignoring what the media thinks of your body type and valuing your body for its vast and nuanced capacity to make you the individual you are is difficult—but it’s necessary in order to find sexual satisfaction. The other option, hating your body because it’s not “ideal,” will not help, though it is sometimes encouraged by our society’s laser-like focus on how women look.
Your body is connected very deeply to your mind. So, when toxic diet culture and “wellness” mania doctrines encourage women to deny their instincts, they are promoting an unhealthy disconnect from their bodies. Stopping eating a meal when they are still hungry, exercising when they are exhausted, and skipping sleep to maintain a full schedule exacerbates this mind-body disconnect.
Fear of the Feminine
Feminine sexual pleasure and female bodies are very feared in our culture. This fear manifests itself in some governments and religions in the form of rules, regulations, and inequality. There’s no wonder why it’s so scary: within women’s sexuality is the power to create, to sustain life, and to invent the next generation. Moving beyond this fear into fulfillment is powerful—revolutionary, even.
This insidious fear reveals itself in individuals, too. Just as women can become afraid of their appetite for food, may find themselves unsure of how to handle their sexual appetites, as well. When you starve your appetites, and you don’t respond to your instincts, you create habits that distance yourself from your healthy sexuality.
What Sexy Feels Like
The truth is, most women don’t have total control over what they look like. But we are bombarded with movies, advertisements, songs, books, and all forms of media that tell us exactly what sexy should look like. A lot of people who don’t fit those definitions have satisfying, healthy, intimate sex lives. How do they do it?
To find a stronger connection with your body, restore your trust in your instincts. The way to do this is to focus on what sexy feels like to you. Ask yourself: when do you feel the sexiest? Include your partner in this conversation, too, so that you can find common ground between both of your sexual interests. Regardless of how you look, you deserve to feel sexy and achieve sexual gratification. Reconnecting with your body and your natural sources of pleasure can help you find freedom from the restricting, limited avenues of pleasure that we see onscreen.
Another technique that can help with making progress toward sexual satisfaction is talking to others in your situation. Because shame keeps many women from speaking up about their sexual desires, it’s essential to talk to other people in a similar situation about their sex lives. The media controls most of the flow of information, so seeking out women who lie outside the margins of conventionally attractive descriptors can help you access great wisdom from those who have been where you are and thrived.
You don’t have to be afraid of what you want, whether it’s food-related or sex-related. If you know what you want, you should celebrate that. When women get together to talk about their needs and desires, it upends society’s penchant for dismissing women who aren’t willing to act sexy and available, regardless of how they feel. If you’d like to learn more ways to access an erotic, sensual, and fulfilling sex life, consider meeting with a trusted therapist who can guide you through positive and healing methods.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform.