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How Female Body Image Affects Sexual Pleasure

How is Your Body Image?


Updated February 07, 2006

So you've got your good-body-image days and your bad-body-image days. On a good day, the shower feels nice and hot when you hop in, and you enjoy the way it looks when the water runs over your body. Stepping out onto the mat, you wrap a cozy towel around you and relax on the couch with a bottle of your favorite body moisturizer, just loving your curves and the way your skin feels. You look in the mirror and your tits look perky, your tummy is smooth, your bottom looks rounded, and you think, "Ohhh, yeah, take that!" Turning on some funky music, you slip into heels and dance with yourself, without anyone around to watch or judge.

Then you've got your bad-body-image days. You avoid the mirror on your way out of the shower, and any glimpse of your figure reminds you of the things you hate. Why, oh why, is one breast bigger than the other? Are those more stretch marks appearing across your thighs? The thought of revealing these flaws to someone else makes you want to jump back into bed and hide under the covers.

The psychology behind these days can take total hold of our sex life. Insecurity eats up our appetite for sex, whereas confidence makes us hungry for all the pleasure we know our hot bod deserves. It's quite a simple matter: When we love our tits, asses, vulvas, and everything in between, we are going to come more often. On the other hand, if we are overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy and shame about the way our body looks and feels, then we can't possibly express our sexual needs and desires. Sucking in your stomach while having an orgasm just does not work!


Take back your body image

Some of us are incredibly enthusiastic about our bodies. But for many of us it's a long and hard internal battle that we fight every day.

The promise of a "new sexy you" is the basis of the entire beauty and fashion industry. We are continually encouraged to "find our perfect palette" complete the "6-week body makeover," and change our hair color to "transform our life." The traditional makeover inevitably injects us with a serious dose of insecurity and inadequacy. Why must we feel prospectively bad about ourselves so that we can retrospectively feel better? Hmm. Something about the whole damn concept seems rather backward. We are plucked, buffed, preened, and altered. But at the end of this elaborate, time-consuming, and often painful makeover experience, are we experiencing more sexual pleasure? We think not.

Our culture is obsessed with the female body. Today the bar for normality is set in the pages of InStyle, Vogue, and Elle. We should look just like celebrities and models. We need to be perfect. Free of cellulite. Free of wrinkles. Free of blemishes. Free of anything unsightly. Simply divine.

Let's get real!

This model of the female body is pure fantasy. Our bodies go through changes every day and every year as we grow as women. Some of these changes are related to our cycles, and others are unpredictable. We get PMS, we ovulate, we get pregnant, get fit, get sick, get tattoos, have surgery -- and our libidos are rolled up in all of these transformations. In fact, our reproductive capacity necessitates that our weight and bodily proportions naturally change from puberty to menopause, and for good reason. Ironically, most women spend their entire adult lives struggling against nature.

Pleasure Tip: Redefining what a sexy woman looks like is up to us. Let those women's magazines know how tired you are of the unrealistic images in their glossy pages. Sign an open letter to the editors of your favorite women's magazine, and cut the last strings of your bad-body-image dependencies.

Copyright © 2005 Melinda Gallagher, M.A., and Emily Scarlet Kramer

Melinda Gallagher, M.A., and Emily Scarlet Kramer are the cofounders of CAKE, an entertainment company dedicated to providing education and information about female sexual culture. Melinda Gallagher is a sexuality professional with a master's degree in human sexuality and public health from NYU. Emily Kramer received her B.S. in women's studies from Columbia University. They both live in New York City. They have spent the last five years writing, speaking as experts in the field of sexuality, and actively educating women on the subject.

Excerpt from A Piece of Cake - Recipes for Female Sexual Pleasure
Published: 02/07/06

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