Before I start writing this, perhaps a little confession.
I’m not the best (wo)man for this job. Yes, I’m a fat woman (let’s not beat around the bush here), and yes I shout about body positivity. Yes, I’m open about my sex life (sometimes to my husbands chagrin – sorry love). And, well, yes I love sex.
But I’ve never really worried about my body in bed. I’m far too busy making sure that both I and whoever I’m in bed with are having a good time to worry about what face I’m pulling, whether my wobbly bits wobble (yes they do), or if whoever I’m with really gives a shit as to whether that bit of me looks more attractive lying down/standing/bending over or not.
So this has actually been quite hard. I’ve had to examine my own sex life, talk to others, understand my attitude towards sex and that of others. So, let’s start at the beginning.
Body Positivity, or BoPo for short, is about not judging people on their physical appearance. It’s about not judging ourselves on our physical appearance, and yes, I know the last bit is probably harder that the first bit. It’s about accepting yourself, loving your body (yes even its flaws, flabby bits, scars and wrinkles) and recognising that it loves you too. After all, it’s keeping you alive, taking care of you.
But women, and more increasingly men too, are experiencing the media’s insistence that we must look, act, be a certain way.
When it comes to the media, women who like food ‘have a voracious appetite’, if we’re assertive we’re bossy, if we don’t like make up, we don’t take care of ourselves and if we like sex, we’re slutty. By the same token when it comes to sex we’re told we should be more active in the bedroom, more virginal, dress in black, wear stockings, wear make-up, please our partner no matter what our own needs are, perform particular sex acts, and look like a porn star while we do it.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t look like a porn star at the best of times, and for the most part, I’m pretty normal. I forget to shave my legs, I take my make up off, I wear pyjamas to bed most of the time rather than a negligee, and sometimes when it comes to a particular position, act or even if I’m in the mood, the answer is ‘no’.
Body positivity and sex positivity for me means that all of this is OK. That it’s OK to be me. To take pleasure in sex in whatever form it takes, whoever I’m with. To pull faces, to wobble, to be a bit scruffy, and just be. But I know for others it’s not as easy. The pressures and expectations are ingrained. Sex feels like it needs to be a performance, and if you’re self-conscious about your appearance, that’s the last thing in the world you’re going to feel comfortable about doing.
And if this discomfort, this shame, is stopping you from enjoying yourself, then that’s wrong.
You should feel no shame in your body. You should feel no shame in being you. You should feel no shame in enjoying yourself in the bedroom – whether it’s on your own (batteries can still be a girl’s best friend) or with someone else. Hell with a bunch of people if that’s your thing. Not being able to lose yourself in the sheer pleasure of sex is a terrible thing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sex isn’t perfect for everyone. There are those who simply don’t enjoy it. And that too, is absolutely fine. If you’re lying back thinking of England every time, then you might want to take a look at other issues in your personal life. But if it’s more about covering up, turning the light off, only ever doing it in one position because you don’t want your partner looking at you in a particular way, then that’s a confidence issue.
In an ideal world, I’d be able to wave a magic wand and make it better for you. To be your fairy godmother and fix you wobbly bits, tidy your greys, make you into the walking talking model of perfection in your fantasies. The truth is, I can’t. No magic pill, no make-over, no amount of plastic surgery can fix how you feel about you. Body confidence isn’t on the outside. It’s on the inside.
I’m not saying that you have to say affirmations in front of the mirror every morning. It works for some, not for others. But the things I will say are these:
Cut yourself some slack.
Stop being so damned hard on yourself. You might be feeling like shit, but chances are your partner, or that bloke who fancies you at work, or that girl whose eye you keep catching at the check-out on a Thursday night, still see you as attractive, they still want to talk to you, flirt with you, love you.
You are not the sum total of your outside.
You are an entire being. You have thoughts, feelings, and people love you because of all of these. Not just how you look on the outside.
You don’t need to be perfect.
Nobody does. It’s impossible. The media is full of airbrushing, thick layers of make-up and fakery. Don’t fall for it.
Confidence can be faked. I do it all the time. Going into a situation where I don’t know anyone is terrifying, but I put on my mental mantle of confidence and off I go. The same in the bedroom, especially with someone new. The likelihood is, they’re feeling just as insecure as you. And the best bit is, the more you fake it confidence wise, the easier it gets. (Editor’s Note: Don’t, fake orgasms though. If that shit isn’t working for you, say it my love).
When your partner tells you how good you make them feel, how much they love you, how much they want you, don’t dismiss it. Listen to it. Believe that that is how they feel. You might not feel like the most beautiful person in the room, but that’s what they see when they see you. To dismiss it, to pooh-pooh it, to be honest is a bit rude.
And finally. You know what? Fuck it.
Let go. Allow yourself to enjoy it. Allow yourself the luxury of letting go. Just once. Try it, just once. Do the things you want to do, open up about what you want to your partner. They’ll find getting you off just as much of a turn on as you find getting them off. Sex is about exploration, trust and ultimately pleasure.
Charlie Hooson-Sykes is a blogger, writer and academic admin type who wears enough hats to confuse a milliner and would describes herself as ‘busy’. Rather fond of food and booze, she could be described as a lush, but prefers to refer to herself as a luscious plus size bird with distinctive feminist tendencies.