Based on research, who do you think is most likely to have a gratifying sex life?
Amy: a slightly overweight American
Beatrice: a lithe Brazilian supermodel
Cassandra: a post-menopausal American with saggy breasts and cellulite
Deirdre: a post-menopausal Parisian with saggy breasts and cellulite
Erica: a healthy mid-30s American of average build
Fannie: a Vegas stripper
I’ll start with the wrong answers. For Amy, like more than 50% of adults, self-perceived unattractiveness distracts her in many facets of life, sexuality included. Beatrice, like many models, is anorexic—a condition that starves the body not only of nourishment, but sexual function and libido. Cassandra deems her aging body un-sexy, therefore non-sexual, and may be experiencing unaddressed hormonal imbalances that worsen matters. Erica sees more flaws than fabulousness in her body, holding herself up to ideals of pop culture and weight-fixated friends. So while she may desire sex, insecurity often minimizes or prevents her pleasure. Fannie has lost sight of what sexual intimacy truly is, and likely suffers complications derived from sexual trauma in her youth.
Before we all start mixing valium with vodka or punching walls, meet Deirdre. Older French women’s confidence, sexual beliefs and cultural philosophies regarding beauty and aging make Deirdre deLight the clear winner, suggests research.
In France, women consider themselves sexy as they age, says John H. Gagnon, PhD. A study he headed showed that French women, including those with sagging parts, continue to have sex routinely after age 50, significantly more than American women.
I certainly found this to be true. When I moved to Paris during my modeling days, I expected photographers and clients to impart more physique-related pressure than I’d experienced in Manhattan. At my first shoot, the photographer said, “Stick your belly out. I want you to look more natural.” Unfortunately, it was too late for me to look natural or embrace the French notions of embracing one’s self more so than Western culture encourages. But I’ve never forgotten that.
It would be easy to fill this post with reasons we tend to feel insecure about our bodies–a primary reason female sexual pleasure and desire dwindle. Research in the U.S. has shown that women’s body dissatisfaction has more than doubled since the 1970s, according to Katharine Phillips, MD, director of the Body Image Program at Butler Hospital. From the $40-plus billion dieting industry to the media’s unrealistic portrayal of beauty, the contributing factors are as innumerable as they are severe.
Here at Girl Boner Central, we prefer to focus on the positives. Why? Because there are plenty to be had. Confidence is one of the biggest, most valuable turn-ons for women and men, and it’s more attainable than you might think. While the notion seems sweet, we need not move to Paree…
10 Realistic Ways to Feel Better About Our Bodies (And Savor the Satisfying Sex Lives We Deserve)
1. Focus on Pleasure. We all have gas pedals (things that entice us) and brakes (things that trigger inhibition), according to the dual control model of sexual response. The feel of your partner’s arms around you or the smell of his cologne could push your gas pedal, for example, while pondering recent weight gain or an acne flareup might activate the breaks. “By being mindful and learning to enjoy the way your body responds to touch,” writes sex educator Emily Nagoski, “you can train your ‘brakes’ to ignore body image and other thoughts that can impede sexual arousal and orgasm.” In other words, focus on what excites you.
2. Know that he probably loves your breasts. Research shows that up to 70 percent of women worry about breast size. Research also shows that while men indeed love breasts, they tend to most enjoy their partners’ most, regardless of size. Women often assume that bigger and perkier are better. “This tells us that a lot of people are worrying about their appearance for no good reason,” says Justin Lehmiller, a Harvard University social psychologist and sex columnist. (The same applies to men; they tend to worry about penis size, while women seldom do.)
3. Masturbate regularly. Sexual pleasure and orgasm are powerful stress reducers, and poor body image can be a mega stressor. Masturbation allows us to experience sensual pleasure without fear of others’ judgment or watchful eyes. It also increases sexual confidence by allowing us to learn more about our bodies and what makes us tick. Watching ourselves self-stimulate can be powerful, particularly if we learn to embrace what we see in the mirror.
4. Exercise regularly. We don’t need to be triathletes, but the Mayo Clinic recommends routine cardiovascular and strength-training activity for boosted body confidence and sex drive. Focusing on what our bodies can do and the benefits of increased health, fitness and energy make way for all around improvements. Exercise also increases the metabolism and burns excess calories, staving off excess pounds that often fuel insecurity.
5. Steer clear of toxins. I’m not talking about nicotine or air pollutants—though those won’t help either. Airbrushed magazine images, fad diets and relationships with people who judge us by our appearance or fixate on their own are proven body image zappers. Surround yourself with uplifting books, magazines and television. Aim for a balanced diet, based on whole foods, and choose your friends wisely.
6. Address underlying issues. Poor body image often derives from issues more significant than our waist size, breast shape or skin tone. Looking inward, making efforts to address life dissatisfaction and seeking professional help when necessary can go a long way toward resolving underlying causes. The more we stifle them, the more damaging they’re likely to become.
7. Respect your insecurities, and change gradually. If only we could click our heels together and POOF!—no more problems. (Even Dorothy had to work for improvements.) Small, gradual efforts add up over time, and every one counts. Amy Levine, sex coach and Ignite Your Pleasure founder, recommends wearing lingerie that covers body parts of concern at the start of sexual play, then gradually removing it as our comfort increases. The same can be done with lighting, going from dark to dim.
8. Communicate. Talking to our partners about how we feel about our bodies can provide perspective and enhance intimacy. In many cases, our partners aren’t concerned about our bodies the same way we are. They may also have insecurities of their own. If they love and respect you, they’ll do what they can to support you and your growth.
9. Try something new! It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our insecurities that adventurousness falls to the wayside. Exploring new sexual experiences, such as new sexual positions, pleasure toys, background music and role playing, however, can distract us from body angst, rev our sexual engines and provide a sense of empowerment. Need some ideas? Check out Cosmo‘s 31 Ways to Spice Up Your Sex Life.
10. Crank the tunes. No, that isn’t bizarre sexual slang—that I know of. A study commissioned by Spotify found that 40% of people value music over their partner’s physique when it comes to sexual arousal. Create playlists for your varied sexual moods then get the party started.
How do you keep body insecurities from hindering your sex life? Which of these tips appeal most to you? What songs make your GB-turn on list? I love hearing from you, and welcome all respectful thoughts.
As a reminder, signups for the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II have begun! I hope to see many of you there.