Confidence is sexy. Intellectually, and from experience, I know that-but that doesn't always mean I can easily feel it in my body. For me, getting naked in front of someone-both physically and emotionally-can be close to impossible.
If I'm having a good day-if I like my hair, my lipstick, my outfit-I'm happy to show off. But often, I'm so fixated on the flaws I see in myself that I can't appreciate that someone would want to truly see me complete naked-with the lights on.
Submitting to "punishments" and pain and spankings are pretty easy for me, but when a lover commanded me to strip in front of him and bend over, I did it very nervously. It was hot because I knew I wasn't 100 percent comfortable.
It's funny, because in some ways I'm an exhibitionist. Ask me to show you my boobs and I probably will (though since I don't drink much these days it probably won't be in a bar like I used to) because I like my breasts. They're my favorite part of my body and I'm not self-conscious about them. I'm proud of them. I'm almost always sporting cleavage because I like to display my boobs. But the rest of my body? I'm only sometimes happy with it, and showing it off is scarier. I don't love my legs, but I combat that by wearing fishnets and heels most of time.
I've edited three anthologies about exhibitionism and voyeurism, and even got in the shower for the book trailer for Peep Show. I've posed for nude and boudoir photos, and enjoyed it. But those are situations that I can control. I have final say over which shots get used, and the photographer or videographer is trying to make me look as good as possible. It's fun, but it's also make-believe. It's not as raw as stripping down and having someone see and feel my belly or my thighs or any other part I have misgivings about.
I've been on the other side of the equation too, where I've been so enamored of a boyfriend or girlfriend, only to find them complaining about their bodies until I wanted to scream. I think wanting to eat healthily and exercise and generally improve your life is great, but it's hard to lust after someone who's constantly complaining about how they look. There needs to be a balance, and sometimes that's a tricky equation.
My body image drama was highlighted recently when I realized how relieved I was to slip a blindfold onto my lover. There are many reasons I enjoyed it-first off, it looks incredibly sexy-but one of the big ones was that I didn't have to spare a moment wondering what I looked like. That was no longer part of the equation and the moments when I did want to watch, I was the only one being a voyeur. I got to be in control not only in the BDSM sense, but in control of my body. I didn't feel as vulnerable as I often do when I'm naked with a lover. During sex I'm caught up in the moment, but after, I usually want to cover up.
I don't have some miraculous solution, though I wish I did. It's very easy to preach confidence but harder to live it every single day. I don't weigh myself precisely because I know I'd get too fixated on the numbers on the scale rather than my energy or strength level.
Aside from working out when I can, I do little things to make myself feel more confident. I just bought platform sandals that elevate my 5'3" height to something more like 5'6". That little extra boost brings with it a major leap in how I feel about myself. Putting on a favorite necklace or some lipstick, getting my hair highlighted, or wearing a favorite dress all make me more confident and that comes across. There's nothing worse than complimenting someone on their fashion and receiving a half-hearted response.
I realize that my own body image issues don't necessarily make sense. I gravitate toward guys who are on the husky side and curvaceous girls whose curves I can cuddle up to. I don't necessarily aspire to be stick-thin, but right now I'm not happy with my weight, and there are times when that makes it challenging to forget about it and just enjoy sex. It's not necessarily about, Does my lover think I'm too fat? because I don't even get that far in my head. It's that I think it, and therefore can't live in the moment (though I like to think energetic sex burns some calories).
I think it's unrealistic to expect everyone to always feel good about their bodies, and it's been an interesting lesson to me to find that men have plenty of concerns in this regard, too. It's very easy for me to fall into simplistic thinking when I get too focused on my weight-things like: She's thin, therefore her life must be perfect. It winds up affecting my libido-not all the time, but more often than I'd like.
I'm inspired by people like Bevin Branlandingham (of the blog Queer Fat Femme) and April Flores, not only because they're bold and gutsy and hot, but because they own their bodies and sexuality proudly.
I know it's not easy, and I also know that you can't tell someone what they should think about how they look. I dated an anorexic woman and it was heartbreaking to see not only the damage she did to her health, but also how different her self-perception was from everyone else's. Yet we're all entitled to out own judgments about our bodies. We are the ones who have to live with them. You can't force sometime to think happy thoughts about themselves by using "logic" because it's such a subjective topic.
I haven't seen it yet, but I think the new TV show Huge is a step in the right direction. There are more proud plus-size and fat folks out there who aren't just hawking weight-loss tips. But body image, especially as it relates to sex, isn't just about weight. There are so many factors, and much of it we can't control, though most likely there's someone selling you an idealized version of you (like a "designer vagina").
Part of me was hesitant to even broach this topic, because it doesn't feel very "feminist" to be worried about my weight, and yet I do-worry, obsess, berate myself. I've never turned down sex and don't plan to stop getting it on just because I hate my hair or feel bloated on a given day, but I want to enjoy it to the fullest. There's a fine line, for me, between generally trying to be in good shape and questioning every bite that goes in my mouth.
Summer is especially difficult because it's bathing suit season, and people are showing off way more skin. Some days, I want to as well, and others I want to drape myself in a giant hoodie. I can only hope the good days outweigh the bad-and always have my favorite lipstick handy.
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