I like having my stomach touched and kissed during sex. It feels like warm honey. The slightest butterfly kiss on my belly makes me shudder. But something holds me back. I often feel like my belly isn’t flat enough. All my healthy eating and sweaty hours in the gym made my shoulders stronger, biceps more defined and my collar bones sharper. But my stomach is stubborn.
It is strong no doubt, from the daily crunches and deadlifts, but that little pooch of fat around my navel never seems to go. Sometimes it balloons up closer to my periods. The thought of my partner running his hands over my belly is sexy, but the moment it comes to actually taking my clothes off, I’m tempted to cover my stomach with my hands.
The act of covering up my body- with my hands, with a blanket, with a more ‘flattering’ position feels like an apology. Like I am guilty of having an ‘imperfect’ body. Everyone has fat, body hair, stretch marks and acne spots. Then why are we so apologetic about these things that make us human? The answer is probably years and years of conditioning telling us that we aren’t good enough.
When I gained weight as a teen, people made it their moral duty to comment on it. From forcing me to go on crash diets and comparing my body to that of my friends, my family tried every method of body shaming. They would even grab, poke and prod at my belly to remind me to lose weight. Eventually I lost some weight, but gained another type of weight- the weight of shame. I believed I didn’t deserve love, sex or care in the body that I was in. It didn’t matter if I lost weight. The scars were permanent.
Most people, especially women can relate to this. Having a body is hard. The pressure to be beautiful is crushing. For people who feel this way, I’d like to point something out. My weight has varied over the years. I have belly fat, acne scars on my back and thick stretch marks on my butt. And over these years, I’ve had sex with quite a few people. None of them disliked my body or thought it wasn’t good enough.
It was quite the opposite. They enjoyed undressing me and exploring my body. Including caressing my stomach, feeling it with the flat of their palm and leaving it shivering with quick, hot kisses. The right people will cherish your body and never make you feel bad about it. What you think of as ‘flaws’ may be ordinary, or even beautiful to other people.
Feeling comfortable in your skin makes sex infinitely better. It makes you feel worthy of touch. Feeling insecure about my body is so limiting. It makes me tense up when my partner touches my stomach or thighs, instead of enjoying that wonderful sensation. But of course, insecurities are hard to let go of. Body positivity is a commitment of a lifetime; it takes work and courage. What has helped me personally is to build a positive environment. I distanced myself from those who shamed me, and chose to surround myself with people who accept and love me and my body.
I read scholarship and articles by body positive activists and curated my social media feed so that I would see diverse, beautiful bodies every day. I dress myself with love, wear things that make me feel beautiful and got all the piercings and tattoos I wanted to remind myself body is mine. I was born in it, grew up in it and I will decorate it however I want.
I also talk to my partners about my body insecurities. They are generally sensitive, and pay extra attention to the parts of my body I dislike. I know my partner takes more time to touch and kiss my stomach just to remind me that I am beautiful.
And finally- if a partner ever shames you or puts you down, they are not worth it. I promise you, whatever you believe you look like, there are plenty of people in the world who will find you beautiful and attractive. And if your partner isn’t one of them, maybe it is time to reconsider that relationship. It is difficult to let someone love your body if you see it as an ugly, unattractive thing.
Begin by affirming yourself little by little every day. Unlearning that inner critic will make life and sex more fulfilling. Allow yourself to have love, pleasure and joy. Insecurity isn’t worth it, it stands in the way of joy. And even if your skin breaks out, or you gain weight and grow into new stretch marks- it doesn’t matter. You are human and you are always worthy of joy.