Sometimes I long for the days when my body was simply a vehicle for self-expressive fun: climbing trees, playing dodgeball, or my favorite–chasing boys. I didn’t worry about what it looked like or how it compared to other girls’ bodies. I certainly didn’t worry about what other boys thought of it. That burden came later.
Somewhere along my personal broken road, in between puberty and motherhood, I became aware of my imperfections and began trying to change them. I was already an athlete, so becoming a runner came easily. A quick diet, however, turned into nearly a decade of on-and-off Bulimia. My self-esteem sank lower and lower. Hell-bent on improving myself from the inside out, I adopted a mantra: I love my strong, healthy, beautiful body. I said it often, although it sounded silly and wasn’t true.
That affirmation slowly began to change how I felt about my body. I took care of myself; I looked good in my clothes. Getting naked was another issue entirely. Intimacy was something I merely endured. Taking off my clothes for someone, unless the lights were low (preferably off), made me feel self-conscious. Imperfect breasts, roadmaps of stretch marks, and various other parts I felt didn’t measure up made it difficult to just relax and enjoy my partner.
Where had I developed such a surety about what was required to turn a man on–what was required to enjoy sex? Sadly, the vast majority of sexual images of the magazines, movies and television of my youth featured insanely perfect women, women who had either been Photoshopped or genetically blessed. While I was comparing myself to these unrealistic images, my male friends were fantasizing to similar but less chaste images they hid in their closets or under their beds.
Looking back I can’t help but wonder how many women have been through similar battles with their bodies; battles heightened by unrealistic images of what men should find sexy. Sure, beautiful bodies are sexually alluring, but fantasy sex is not the same as the deep, fulfilling intimacy that real men have with real women who embrace their sensual selves, imperfections notwithstanding.
Sensuality is sexy. So is confidence. How many times do we derail our sex lives by worrying about how good our bodies look? How many times are we “not in the mood” because our skinny jeans didn’t fit that day? How much darned good lovin’ could we be enjoying if we just let ourselves go?
Men certainly find beauty in women of different shapes and sizes, but more than anything, I have learned, they are turned-on by how desirable we make them feel and by how desired we let ourselves be.
In the end, being perfect isn’t what makes us sexy.