Online ExclusivesThe Happy Trail

Body image impacts sexuality

The holiday season is a joyous time. With it comes a flurry of fun and, of course, food. Around this time people have been known to pack on a few pounds. A little extra weight can mean major stress for those owning a mirror. Body image is something many of us struggle with, as there is increasing pressure to look a certain way. Even those aware of the damaging standards that the media pushes face the same problem of insecurity; just because we know the standard is unobtainable does not mean we will stop chasing it. In the case of body image, striving for perfection can lead to dangerous emotional and physical effects. While there are numerous issues surrounding body image, our focus will be complications arising in the bedroom.

Before delving into any statistics or testimonials, it is important to identify the reason that self-esteem plays such a vital role in any sexual relationship. When two people share amorous intimacy, or perhaps crazy rough sex, there is a dance going on between the partners. Perhaps one person takes the lead, or maybe there is a beautifully cohesive movement, but whatever the case, there is the need to be engaged with your partner. If either partner is distracted by a little extra belly or birthmark, they will be taken out of the moment. In the practical sense, they will be focused on their insecurities rather than their or their partner’s needs.

Women are often the focus when the subject of body image comes up; pressures mounted on women exceed those placed on men. However, men do face a similar dilemma, if to a lesser degree. In an article by Today Health, it was found that men face harsh standards as well– it is just that previous surveys were not properly highlighting the degree to which men are affected. For example, 53 percent of men do not like having their picture taken. This is considerably large when compared to the assumption that men are inherently comfortable with their appearance.

While speaking with a University of Puget Sound student who wishes to remain anonymous, we will refer to him as Richard Long, it became apparent that these same body image issues can easily ruin an intimate moment. Long commented that any insecurity can take him out of a moment, and that this has happened to him on more than one occasion. Long has also found that while he can sense when his partner is insecure in the moment, it is not as distracting as his own insecurities.

“I feel like I’ve felt the insecurity more within myself then from a partner, because it’s easier to know what you’re feeling,” Long said.

Long also went on to say that it is hard to know what initially triggers the insecurity. Is it perhaps a lack of chemistry that heightens the self-consciousness, or does an initial insecurity cause a lack of chemistry? It becomes a question of the chicken and the egg, but it is undeniable that there is an inverse relation between the level of intimacy and amount of insecurity involved.

This is a problem that plagues most people to a varying degree, and it is important to acknowledge this because many studies and articles are only focused on the heteronormative categories of “man” and “woman”. It then becomes a question of how we can fix this body image issue.

Where then do we look to for examples of confidence? An article in Oprah magazine suggests we turn to France where body image is much healthier than in the U.S. Here women seem to embrace their bodies, even if they have a little pooch. Of course, we all know this is the end goal. To help achieve it, it is suggested that people focus on feeling healthy and designing their own set of “appearance guidelines” rather than always mirroring it off the media.

Keeping a positive body image is healthy in all aspects in life, but if you really need an extra reason to love yourself, just remember that it will improve your sex life as well.