Recently I watched a TED talk where Whitney Thore showed the courage we sometimes need to live life fully, regardless of what our bodies look like. Whitney talks about being large and the shame that shadowed her because of it. Eventually, she decided to say yes to opportunities, even when–and especially when–she felt uncomfortable doing so. By living wholeheartedly, she triumphed over shame.
Beauty Has Gotten Ugly
Do judgements about your body hold you back sexually?
If so, you are not alone. When it comes to negative thoughts about ourselves, critical body judgements top most people’s lists.
Multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns have created impossibly high beauty standards, leading most of us to feel unsightly and unsexy. In the States, the average woman is a size 14. Yet, the average plus-size model is only a size 8. This is not ideal, it’s unreal.
In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf argues that pressure to improve our appearance coincided with a rise in women’s power: “The stronger women were becoming politically, the heavier the ideals of beauty would bear down upon them, mostly in order to distract their energy and undermine their progress.”
While women have traditionally been the front runners in the war against self, a recent survey shows the gap between men and women may be closing.
Today, bodies of all genders are measured more by how they look than how they move and feel. This affects arousal, even the ability to orgasm, says Pat Love. It’s hard to abandon ourselves to lovemaking if we are sucking in our stomachs and avoiding positions to obscure our flaws.
Do You See Halos or Horns?
Have you been taken in by the Halo Effect? We tend to equate beauty with “better,” so that “ideally” embodied people are generally seen as being more lovable, trustworthy, and even more intelligent than they really are.
In contrast, those who don’t match up to a “high-status” body type (young, slim, Ken or Barbie shaped), are branded lesser people in general –- the so-called Horns Effect.
So How can We Love our Real-Life Bodies and Enjoy Real-Life Sex?
Research-based Body Positive programs such as the one at Stanford have been popping up as a backlash to the one-size-fits-all standards of beauty in our culture. We can follow their lead and widen our ideals to include people of all shapes and sizes. Many of these programs have focused on body weight issues for women. They are also highlighting how few people of color are deemed beautiful by advertisers.
Stanford’s Body Positive Movement has five core competencies:
- reclaiming health
- practicing self-care
- cultivating self-love
- declaring your own authentic beauty, and
- building community.
These guideposts are essential to tending Eros, so let’s look at them through that lens. We can use these competencies to delight in the ways our bodies are diverse, glorious, and intrinsically erotic.
I will talk more about reclaiming health and practicing self-care in another blog, but for now I want to focus on self-love, celebrating our real-life sexiness, and the importance of building community.
Cultivating self-love involves shifting our awareness from how we look to how we feel. One powerful way is to think about our bodies as vessels for erotic energy– the force that creates life, heals, and generates feelings of desire. Rather than focusing on the appearance of the vessel, we can focus on its contents – much like enjoying the beverage rather than focusing on the size of the cup.
Another way to cultivate self-love is through compassion. We know that passion loves compassion. We can choose to step into being worthy of love through training ourselves in compassion practices.
If we have a hard time getting to compassion, we can start with appreciation. We can hold our bodies in appreciation for what they can do.
Celebrating Our Real-Life Sexiness
The Body Positive movement asks us to celebrate our real-life bodies; and by extension, their innate sexiness, with joy and confidence.
As we get in touch with the erotic energy that flows through us, we can see our bodies as vessels for creation. What authentically makes you feel that erotic flow?
Practice inhabiting your body fully, living from the inside out- the essence of embodiment.
One great way to celebrate your own body and your partner’s body is through expanding your sensory awareness, through aromatherapy, or a sexy music playlist. When you fully engage in your sensory experience, it’s a celebration of Eros. It’s about getting in the zone, and noticing the now.
At Passion & Presence, we are dedicated to creating a safe space for becoming whole again in our most intimate relationships. We help people who don’t want their body image issues to stop them from enjoying a fully expressed erotic connection to their long-term partner.
I’d love to know what you discover about your own beauty and sexuality.
How are you reclaiming your wholeness, practicing self-care and self- love?
How are you celebrating your sexiness?
How Can I Deepen my Experience of Feeling Better About my Body and of Mindful Sex?
I offer a webinar series as well as a retreat series for couples who want to renew their sense of wholeness and establish body positive pathways to pleasure. They are for people of all shapes and sizes, colors and orientations. It’s through erotic teamwork that we help committed couples use these body issues to become connected and intimate allies.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts or stories. I can’t wait to hear from you!