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Body image and your pleasure

Words by: Lauren French, MSexol (Curtin) Australian Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine

Our bodies are pretty incredible things, so why do we hate on them so much?

When body image comes up, it's always discussed in the frame of ‘not enough’; not skinny enough, pretty enough, muscly enough, or sexy enough. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and deciding we’re coming up short! Society is always telling us what beauty standards we need to be reaching for, whether it's the heroin chic of the 90s or the super curvy big booty love we have now. The standards are constantly moving, so why are we surprised we can’t keep up? Over a year spent staring at our faces in Zoom meetings hasn’t helped anyone. Neither does mindless scrolling through Instagram, looking at filtered and retouched images that we then compare against our natural bodies. How we feel about our body can have a huge impact on our sexual self-esteem, our ability to relax during sexual intimacy and even how we allow ourselves to self-pleasure!

Sex and stress do not go together, it's pretty hard to feel sexy and enjoy sensation if we’re having a freak out in our head! During sex, if we’re too busy worrying about how our body looks to our partner, being hyper-aware of them touching our ‘bad’ spots, or even needing total darkness to get it on, we won’t be able to enjoy pleasure. But it’s not even only with partners, how does body image impact your self-pleasure?

Are we avoiding all the amazing parts of ourselves because we don’t like the shape or size of what we feel? There are so many pleasure spots outside of our genitals, so maybe it's time we get exploring!

Now, we can’t talk about body image without mentioning the incredible body-positive movement, focusing on loving our bodies no matter the shape, size or social ideas around it. While I absolutely love this movement, I’m also aware of how daunting the idea of loving our bodies can be. Habits are hard to break! If we’ve spent the majority of our life hating on our bodies, its ridiculous to think we can change that mindset overnight. And going from hating our body to loving it sounds like a pretty big jump, so maybe we should start with something a bit smaller.

Body Neutrality is a great in-between phase for our body image; we no longer have super negative thoughts, but we don’t have to feel guilty for not loving every single part of our body every single day either! Body neutral is all about accepting your body as it is in its current state and focusing on what your body can do for you. We don’t judge ourselves on how we run, just acknowledge that our body lets us run. We don’t judge ourselves on how our body feels pleasure, we simply acknowledge that our body lets us feel pleasure. And wouldn’t life be pretty sad without pleasure!

Lauren French is a proud First Nations woman, Victorian Secretary of the Society of Australian Sexologists & a clinical Sexologist working with the Australian Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine. Lauren is also a sexuality educator with Body Safety Australia, a non for profit organisation specialising in childhood sexual abuse prevention.

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