I read an interesting article the other day in an old Psychology Today (Elton, June 2010). The topic? How women's sex lives are affected by their relationship to their bodies. It was educational and sobering at the same time.
One of the points it made? That problems with low sexual desire or arousal in women often have to do with our not being in touch with our bodies. "We are socialized to not pay attention..." one expert in the article says (Meston, pg. 77). When we are out of touch with our bodies, it's hard for us to give attention to our own arousal, thereby allowing it to grow. Instead, we're numbed out and disconnected.
Another issue? Our poor body self-esteem. Although many women put the emphasis on how their partner perceives them, apparently it's just as important that we have a healthy perception of our own bodies. When we don't feel sexy and alive, it's hard for us to go there. "Women have this sexual relationship with themselves that's integral to their sexual relationships, period," argues one expert (Meana, pg. 76)
We may put the blame on a non-sexy partner or say we need to be loved in a certain way in order to be aroused--and these are both important factors. But it's also interesting to consider how the way we're relating to our own bodies might be getting in the way. Are we capable of finding them sexy, feeling the sensations they bring us, noticing what we are aroused by?
It's true that as women we've often been told to tame this aspect of ourselves. Stereotypically men are supposed to be more interested in sex than we are. But when you look at the stereotype through the lens of body disconnection it becomes more interesting. What if we become less interested in sex because the objectification of our own bodies has made us less interested and connected to our own sexual response?
Part of taking back our bodies as our own and developing a healthier relationship with them is also empowering ourselves to feel our sexiness and beauty, regardless of whether or not we match some outside version of reality. It's sad to think that we might depriving ourselves of a rich sex life because we don't think we measure up, or because we're too disconnected from our physical cues to even experience them.
What would it take for you to let the feeling of sexiness back into your life right now? One of the exercises I often do with clients is to let them imagine the qualities they'd like to feel in their body no matter what their current shape or size. Try this on--how would you walk if you truly allowed yourself to feel sexy? What would you wear? How would you feel inside?
If you stopped waiting for things to fit some perfect picture on the outside, how might you allow yourself your own inner sexiness, your own intimate and respectful relationship to your own body right now? What if the future of your sex life depends on it?