In the movies and on TV, sex is almost always passionate, glamorous, and more often than not reserved for men and women with perfect bodies. We know that’s not how it is in real life, but that knowledge doesn’t stop some of us from harbouring insecurities about our attractiveness in the bedroom.
In my practice, I’ve seen clients struggle with long-standing body-image issues that prevent them from feeling sexy. Others are worried that they’ve become less attractive to their partner after gaining weight or because of ordinary ageing. Frustration with, and shame about, your body can breed discomfort with sex and, as a result, dissatisfaction with your sex life. In a 2012 study, more than 660 men and women were asked how happy they were with their appearance during sex and how they thought their partner viewed them. The researchers found that people who were generally dissatisﬁed with their bodies were more likely to be distracted during sex. A study published recently found that women who feel positive about their bodies tend to be more satisﬁed with their sex lives, regardless of their age.
My goal is to help people stop worrying about their ‘spare tyres’ or cellulite, so they can enjoy sex. It helps to acknowledge to yourself and your partner how you’re feeling. If you don’t see yourself as attractive, it’s natural to avoid sex. But saying instead that you’re too tired, busy or stressed will only confuse your partner and compound the problem. Once you’ve opened up about your feelings, try these suggestions for boosting your self-esteem in the most intimate and vulnerable of settings.
1. Know what excites you
Turn-ons might include your partner’s scent, the feel of your sheets or a loving hug. Once you identify your arousal triggers, you can practise tuning into them and tuning out intrusive body-image thoughts.
2. Connect with each other
Fostering emotional intimacy (by, for example, sharing fantasies, reading erotica together or hugging and touching) may help you overcome hang-ups about your body.
3. Change position
I don’t mean get acrobatic. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about your body, a spooning position may be easier than face-to-face.
Visual stimulation can add to arousal. If your partner wants to leave the bedroom lights on and you don’t, gradually work your way up, starting with candles. If you aren’t comfortable naked, consider wearing a sexy cover-up, then removing it when you feel more at ease.
Take a positive look
Stand in front of a mirror every day and affirm something about your body. Each time, wear one less item of clothing until you’re not wearing anything. This exercise can help you replace negative feelings with positive ones and build your conﬁdence.