When asked what the worst thing about having sex, is nearly one in three women say it is body shame.
Lovehoney, a sex toy company, conducted a survey with 3000 people, asking them the same question. Men’s top worry about sex was when it was over too soon. But for about 30% of women, the most common worst thing about sex was feeling self-conscious.
But why do women feel so self-conscious while having sex and how does it affect their pleasure?
Certified sex coach Myisha Battle explains:
“Our culture puts a lot of pressure on women to be attractive yet not too sexual—open and receptive to sexual experience but not too knowledgeable or demanding,”
“There is also societal pressure for women’s bodies to conform to an often unattainable standard of beauty. All of this (and sometimes more) contributes to why women feel self-conscious during sex.”
Previous studies have found self-perception to be a large obstacle when it comes to the sexual well-being of women. They show that feeling negative about your body makes you less prone to expressing your needs and desires in bed, state your boundaries, and ask for safer sex. On the positive side, feeling good in your own skin – particularly concerning your genitalia – has been linked with less stressful performance during sex, while also having an easier time getting “hot” and having orgasms.
“It’s really challenging to believe in your sense of pleasure when you are constantly questioning whether or not you are living up to standards that the world imposes upon you,” says battle.
“When we don’t feel the best in our bodies, our sex lives can suffer. In my practice I see people who have difficulty with arousal and orgasm as a result of self-monitoring and overthinking. It’s actually very common. When our minds are racing with these thoughts, it can inhibit our ability to tap into physical sensations and dampen our experience of pleasure.”
No matter your gender, mindfulness is strongly tied to sexual satisfaction.
If you find yourself constantly feeling self-conscious and anxious about your physical appearance during intercourse, Battle suggests practicing mindfulness or meditation in order to be able to keep track of your thoughts and learn how to release negative ones.
“Notice when you’re having a self-critical thought. Keep a journal if it’s helpful. You may be surprised at how many times this happens,” Battle explains.
“You can then try replacing each negative thought with a positive one. It takes time and sometimes a lot of effort to come up with something positive, but over time it can be really helpful for cultivating a positive self-image.”
Confidence comes from within, but that does not mean your loved ones cannot help you on your journey.
Studies have shown that people who share thoughts about sex with their friends tend to be more satisfied when it comes to intimate self-confidence and are more willing to express their needs to their partner.
In addition, if you’re in a relationship, your partner should be cherishing and loving your body while also being obvious about it.
A different study concluded that those who feel their bodies are appreciated by their partners are more sexually satisfied, have more general desire, more orgasms, and are overall more satisfied with their relationship.
“I also recommend taking some time out of each day to practice body acceptance and self-love. Take a moment to thank your legs for getting you to work, your belly for digesting your food, your arms for helping you carry your groceries, and so on,” Battle continues.
“We only get one body in this world, and regardless of ability, age, size, or race, every body has the capacity for pleasure and is deserving of it.”