At age nine, my babysitter told me, “Boys will never like you—you’re too small.”
I still have no idea what spurred this cruel comment. At that age, I wasn’t even interested in boys, but, nonetheless, my subconscious filed away the comment. Later, as all my peers grew up taller than me, I remembered her words and used them as a weapon against myself. I began hating my petite size so much, that I fantasized about having my legs chopped in two so extra bone could be placed in between to make me taller, so I could finally be “beautiful.”
At age 12, like most pre-teens, I started trying out my “sexy”—experimenting with makeup, hair, and clothes. I was especially keen on wearing the popular, skin-tight Pierre Cardin jeans. On one unforgettable night, a friend of my parents’ broke into our home, woke me in my bed, and tried to rape me. He told me he was desperately attracted to me and insisted he knew I wanted him too; “Because,” he said, “you are always teasing me with the way you dress.” After this traumatizing incident, I adopted a new belief: it’s not safe to express my sensuality. I immediately shut it down, covering my little body in big, baggy clothes.
These two experiences left me feeling confused. I had a desire, like all women, to claim my beauty and shine it into the world, and, at the same time I deduced that if I did, I would be in danger. I felt I couldn’t be myself either way. Both experiences, though seemingly contrary, contributed to my developing shame about my body and the expression of my sensuality.
Shame is the intense feeling that we are intrinsically bad in some respect, and that, in order to be loved and accepted, we need fixing.
When we dislike our bodies, feeling they are in some way flawed, we call this “body shame.” Shame around the natural expression of our bodies’ sensuality/sexuality also falls under this category.
As we know, mass media makes a considerable contribution to the development of body shame. It’s impossible to be immune to the ridiculous standards they present—most of which are not even authentic depictions of either men or women. According to studies, 97 percent of women admit to having at least one “I hate my body” moment per day, and 95 percent of men are dissatisfied with their bodies in some way.
Taking a look at Western female beauty standards over time, we find they have been constantly changing. Flat chests were “in” during the time of the flapper. Next came the buxom figure of the 50s, followed by a reversal of this ideal with the rail-thin, waif look of the 60s. Things looked hopeful for realistic representations of women 10 years ago when the fashion industry started to depict plus-size models, but rather quickly, the sizes defined as “plus” dropped from the size 12-18 range to today’s standards being sizes 6-14. How can anyone keep up? Truly it is freakin’ futile!
If we search to confirm our beauty according to the trends, we might each be considered “beautiful” for one decade of our lives (but so far, not if you’re short).
Regardless of how body shame originates for each individual, when we take it on, it inevitably leads us to disengage from our bodies and/or spend vast amounts of time criticizing and trying to change it. Essentially, we shut down, hide our light, and dampen our natural erotic energy. Ultimately, this impacts our ability to share intimacy, be vulnerable, and enjoy pleasure. For example, when we feel ashamed to be naked in front of our partners, we are preoccupied by thoughts of how our bodies look at various angles in the light of day; when this happens, it’s impossible to simply let go and be present to the pleasure of sexual arousal.
Pleasure happens when we allow ourselves to get lost in the moment—fully present and surrendered to our senses. Pleasure happens when we focus on how it feels to be in our body rather than on how we look. Keeping our focus on our senses is an excellent way to get embodied. When we come back to ourselves and discover how much pleasure is available to us through the vehicle of our bodies, it’s hard not to love it!
In my practice, there are many ways I assist clients to reclaim their innate erotic self. I want to share a few somatic exercises here with you today, so you can create new neural pathways to receiving more pleasure in your life. And don’t worry: if you don’t have a lover, it doesn’t matter—because you don’t need one!
1. Seduce yourself by giving your body some soft sensual touch. Put on some sexy music, turn down the lights, and strip off your clothes. Touch yourself with loving care—exactly the way you like it. Bring your total awareness to the feel of your fingertips caressing your body. Enjoy every little sensation.
2. Take the time to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with all the parts of your body that you have previously criticized. Talk to each part while touching it lovingly. Express your love and appreciation—and apologize for all the negative self-talk you’ve directed toward it over the years.
3. Dance like no one is watching! In the privacy of your own home, put on some ecstatic music that really talks to your soul. Let yourself go wild; let your body express itself in whatever ways it wants to. Get your blood pumping and experience how good it feels to be in your body.
Author: Pyasa Neko Siff
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Kenni Linden