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What Is the Connection between Body Image and Sex?

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  • Written By: Victoria Blackburn
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2016
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Body image is how a person perceives his or her body looks and is related to perceptions of sexual attractiveness. It may or may not have a basis in reality, as a person’s body image is to some extent based on how he or she feels about its features. Body image is what the person thinks that he or she sees when looking in the mirror, as well as what he or she thinks that others see. How people feel about how they look can affect all areas of their lives, including their sex lives.

When talking about body image and sex, most people infer that there is a negative perception and relationship. In fact, body image can be positive as well as negative. If someone feels good about how he or she looks, this is a positive body image, while feeling bad corresponds to a negative body image. It is true that having a negative body image can affect the sex life of the person negatively.

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The link between negative body image and sex can result in several different types of behaviors in an affected person. It can result in the person becoming more withdrawn and less willing to express wants, desires and needs. If the person is without a partner, he or she may feel less able to attract a mate. People with a negative body image who are in a relationship with another may feel ashamed of how their bodies look. This can result in thinking that they are not attractive enough for their partner and that pleasure isn’t deserved.

The negative feelings related to body image and sex can result in a decrease in libido. People can become less interested in having sex at all. Decreased libido can also affect the partner, as he or she can become alienated from the person who has apparently lost interest in sex. Unfortunately, these two factors can continue in a downward spiral, as the negative body image is reinforced by the fact that it appears the person’s partner is no longer sexually interested.

Some people who suffer from a negative body image may increase participation in risky sexual activities. By taking part in these types of activities, the person is looking for affirmation or validation that his or her body image is not as bad as perceived. Having multiple partners can put the person, and his or her partner, in dangerous situations and also cause serious health issues.

Confidence and self esteem are both linked with body image. The more content people are with the way they look, the more confident they are. Being confident and having higher self esteem affects how decisions are made every day. Body image and sex are clearly linked, as making good, healthy sexual choices stems from having a good sense of self and a positive feeling about how we look.

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Animandel
Post 3

I have a friend who works as a counselor. She works with young women who have eating disorders. She works with young girls who are starving themselves to death because they think they need to lose more weight so they will be pretty and sexy. The mind is a powerful thing and it doesn't always work in a healthy way. This is so sad.

Sporkasia
Post 2

@Drentel - I have daughters, too. what I teach them is that their bodies are not simply or primarily created for the purpose of having sex. I encourage my girls to play sports. This gives them a better understanding of their bodies and a greater respect for their bodies.

In terms of the expectations placed on women, we live in a disturbing society. A woman's worth shouldn't be measured by how many people think she is pretty. We have to teach our daughters to base their self worth on traits that go deeper than the skin.

Drentel
Post 1

When I was in school it was common practice for us guys on the football team to seek out the pretty girls to be our girlfriends in public. Having a popular and pretty girl as your girlfriend was a big accomplishment and this made us feel better about ourselves. Looking back, another practice that we had does not make me feel so good about myself.

Behind closed doors and in parked cars in the woods we would make out with the girls who were a little overweight and the girls who didn't have what was considered the right features to be called pretty.

I have two daughters now. The youngest one is in college. Every time my girls went out on dates when they were at home, I thought about the way we treated girls when I was in school. That's one thing I wish I could go back and change.

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