Body Image and Sex: How to Address Negative Body Image During Intimacy

The way we feel about our bodies, and how the media portrays the “perfect” body, has a huge impact on our overall well-being. But this is not to say that we should all succumb to societal pressure to be a size 0! In fact, it’s possible (and encouraged) to be happy and confident with our bodies and ourselves at any size.

To complement this, a study done by Sabina Vatter of Tallinn University, found that women who are happy with their bodies are better able to maintain happy relationships. This also works vice versa! It was shown that women who are currently satisfied with their current relationship tend to be fine with their weight and their body image. 

But when it comes to sexual wellness, there too is a substantial link between body image and sex. The way that we look is so core to our self-identity that it only makes sense that it would predict elements of sexuality. 

For example, when we feel good, strong, and healthy, we’re more likely to feel sexual. When we develop a critical behavior of our bodies however, it can detach us from our bodies, leading to lower levels of sexual desire, and higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety.

But did you know that sex is a stress reliever? Indeed, those who have sex once a week tend to be happier than those who don’t. But with crushing desire, negative body image, there is a lack in desire which can lead to less intimacy and thus even more unhappiness. 

So how do we end this seemingly endless loop of negative body image, anxiety, stress, and lower levels of sexual desire? 

10 Ways to Address Body Image Issues for Better Sex

If you’re one of the many millions of people who have a negative image of your body, and you feel that it is interfering with your sex life, here are a few things you can try:

1. Believe your Partner

There are two kinds of body image issues that could impact a person’s sex life. One is the way in which a person sees themselves and the other is how they believe others see them. And while, in both scenarios, it’s difficult to move away from negative thoughts, believing your partner is a good step. If you’re with someone who consistently tells you that you’re beautiful and sexy, believe them. After all, we’re often our own worst enemy, judging ourselves too harshly, ridden with self-criticism. Also, when that negative voice creeps in, it may result in less intimacy with a partner, which could cause them to feel rejected. 

2. Decrease Negative Self-Talk

We’re all imperfectly perfect, and negative self-talk is something that almost everyone has or does suffer with from time to time. But in those moments, actively remind yourself that you’re entitled to sexual pleasure and that intimacy, and that it’s important when it comes to bonding and closeness with a partner. Try to be mindful when you hear those critical voices, and realize that, while it is common for many, not everything you believe to be true, is actually true.  

3. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is something that can be practiced daily. Taking a few minutes out of your day to be in-the-now, to be aware of what you’re sensing, and to feel in the moment without interruption and judgment. Try not to be critical of what comes to your mind, but instead, take notice of your thoughts and remember that they are merely thoughts and feelings, not concrete reality.

4. Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises are great in general as they help to tighten the vagina, and to give you the opportunity to experience stronger and longer-lasting orgasms. But how would kegel exercises help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed or undesirable during sexual activity? Do them during your tryst. By putting focus on your kegels during intimate moments, you may be able to stop that wandering mind and free yourself from judgment and intrusive thoughts whilst being present.

5. Breathe!

Another way in which to distract your mind during intimacy would be to practice mindful breathing. Take two deep breaths and focus on the sensation for a second or two. This can help you to clear your mind of negative self-talk and to put your breathing to the forefront of your thoughts. You too can practice your breathing outside of intimate moments, such as practicing daily meditation. Meditation can be as simple as finding a quiet spot and focusing on your breath for three to five minutes.

6. Focus on Your Partner

Just as we mentioned believing the compliments your partner has to say about your body, try to acknowledge the positive cues that they’re giving you. For example, when they are visibly turned on or when you see them becoming more and more aroused. This is a clear indication that you are the reason they’re feeling so sexually charged. Own it and enjoy it.

7. Focus on The Parts of Your Body You Love

Many people have certain parts of their body that they’re not happy with. It could be their arms, their stomach, their legs, or even their thighs. But in the grander scheme of things, your body is your most sacred temple, and there are undoubtedly parts of it that you love. You may adore your hair, your eyes, your lips, your butt, your breasts, or your smile. Any and every part of yourself is special, but taking a moment to be grateful and enjoy parts of yourself is a great way to focus on the positive as opposed to the perceived negative.

8. Avoid Comparison

Remember: nobody's perfect! Even those stars you see in films, shows, and reality TV have been done up with personal stylists, make up artists, and have even had work done on themselves to look a certain way. It’s important to notice when you’re comparing yourself to others, and to try and avoid it. In fact, when we compare ourselves to others, it can actually increase further personal body dissatisfaction and decrease one’s body appreciation and self-esteem. Instead, noting that we are all unique and we all have beautiful attributes can aid in much better sexual satisfaction and overall wellbeing.

9. Do Things That Make You Feel Sexy

When we’re deep inside our own head that’s whirling with negative self-talk, remember that there are things you can do to make yourself feel sexy. For example, if you adore your legs, why not get a pair of sexy stockings with a suspender belt and a skirt to show them off (for yourself and/or your partner). Alternatively, you could reach out to a professional boudoir photographer and organize a photoshoot for yourself, highlighting your most gorgeous features. Think about what truly makes you feel beautiful, and spend time focusing on that to encourage better self-esteem and wellbeing.

10. Be Grateful for Your Body

Interestingly, a study found that those who engaged in five minutes of gratitude reflection (such as being grateful for their family, friends, partner, specific body parts etc) after seeing images of “thin” models were less likely to experience body dissatisfaction than those who didn’t engage in gratitude. When we’re grateful, we tend to experience a positive mood and emotional enhancement. And when we’re grateful about our bodies, there is power to increase one’s appreciation of physical capacities that can help defuse feelings of body dissatisfaction and encourage higher sexual confidence. 

And so, having talked about these 10 ways to address body image issues for better sex, it’s clearly crucial for people to start changing the way they view themselves and their bodies. 

Negative views of one’s body has a knock-on effect, like dominos, overflowing into other spheres of life, including one’s sex life. But when we take a moment to actively work on how we talk to ourselves, try to believe the compliments people are telling us, and develop body appreciation, there’s a huge potential for greater joy and satisfaction during intimacy and beyond. 

You are so worth sexual satisfaction, joy, and happiness.


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