I’ve always had an issue with the idea that you have to absolutely love yourself before you can truly love another person. In a society where we are told at every turn how to improve to fit a particular mold of “perfect person” – how to get skinnier, how to dress like everyone else, how to have complete confidence, and more, it can be difficult to accept yourself.
“Sex is where intimacy and body confidence intersects in a tangible and inescapable way – it’s time we confront that intersection.”
I think there is value in loving others, even if you haven’t fully come to terms with loving yourself first. One of the ways you can explore external love as a means for hyping yourself up is through physical intimacy. Sex is where intimacy and body confidence intersects in a tangible and inescapable way – it’s time we confront that intersection.
The body positivity movement has made leaps and strides in the past couple of years. Every day that that inclusivity improves, the diversity of what we call beautiful expands. There is a beauty in simply existing. Sometimes, it can be easy to call our bodies beautiful when they are not doing anything. When you are looking at a picture, or in the mirror at your own stagnant form, it is much easier to convince yourself you’re confident than it is when your body is fulfilling a function. I think the body positivity movement is lacking the discussion around intimacy and the way this can impact your body image. There are people in committed, trusting relationships who still will not get fully naked during sex for fear of their partner seeing their body rolls or areas of their body they’d prefer to keep hidden under layers of clothes. It’s scary trusting someone enough to be involved romantically and physically with them, but not so much that our personal body image is unimportant to the way that we allow ourselves to feel pleasure. For so many people, that is the most vulnerable part of having sex: simply being naked around your partner.
“Regardless of how you feel about yourself, you are the sexiest person in the world to your partner at that moment.”
The best piece of advice I ever received in relation to the intimacy confidence problem is that regardless of how you feel about yourself, you are the sexiest person in the world to your partner at that moment. Have you ever seen someone naked in a moment of physical vulnerability and looked at their cellulite, or cared about their body acne? No, because to be blunt, you generally have other things on your mind. You need to put yourself into your partners’ skin – they most likely feel that discomfort that you are feeling about their own insecurities. They are not analysing and categorising what you perceive as your imperfections just as you are not doing the same to theirs. In that moment, you are letting someone into your space, but your body is still yours and you need to love it just as much as you are loving your sexual partner. I really do think this has to be said for sex within a relationship and casual sex. Whichever way you look at the situation, it is still an exposition of each other’s most precious entities. Our bodies serve us every day and they deserve love and respect. Of course, you don’t need to love your partner to have sex with them, but at the very least, you have to respect their body.
“Porn creates unrealistic ideals where everyone involved looks beautiful at all times and nothing is ever awkward or messy or funny.”
The moment you are comfortable with your own nakedness is also probably the moment when the sex you are having gets better and more pleasurable. Sex is one of the few times where you are confronted with solely the function of your own form. If you spend every moment worrying about what you look like and how you are being perceived, then it’s probably not going to leave a huge amount of room for experiencing that actual moment of enjoyment and satisfaction that sex is meant to provide for the participants – you’ll be far too focused on your own appearance than on the act itself. I suppose the way we learn about sex is to blame. Let’s face it, porn creates unrealistic ideals where everyone involved looks beautiful at all times and nothing is ever awkward or messy or funny. It’s okay, and, I would argue, the norm for sex to not be perfect – you’re going to get sweaty and messy and you aren’t going to come out of it with perfect hair. The constraints of perfection take away from the experience itself. The only solution is to properly embrace the situation. Sex can’t possibly be embarrassing when you trust yourself and embrace your own body.
That is not to say that you can love yourself overnight; that you can peel back years of deeply-ingrained body-image toxicity and emerge with a perfect body image. Every time you feel physically vulnerable will be a challenge, but you are not alone in feeling that. What you can do is appreciate the journey of learning to love yourself, and what better way to do that than by loving someone else? While this may not be for everyone, it might be worth trying if all else has failed you. When efforts to defeat your own inner saboteur by yourself falter, you could give celebrating the beauty of the human body through sex with the support of a partner a try.