Sex with the Lights Off: What is the Link Between Body Image and Your Sex Life?

Oct 23, 2023

Therapist doing online therapy Telehealth

Do you feel uneasy in your skin? Are you preoccupied with flaws in your appearance, even if they aren’t that big of a deal or don’t exist at all? How often do thoughts such as, “Does he see my cellulite?” or “Oh, no, if I turn this way, my muffin top will stick out!” get in the way of enjoying sex? Would you rather have the lights turned off?

You are not alone, though. Most women are not happy with their bodies.

Body image issues may mess not just with your self-esteem and confidence but also with your libido and sex life. Because there is no more difficult place to hide parts of yourself than the bedroom.

Sex counseling can help. If your body image issues cause you difficulty enjoying sex with your partner, sex therapy can be a safe place to address these issues and rekindle intimacy.

What is Body Image?

Body image is our perception of our body, mainly its shape and weight. Having a healthy body image means feeling good in your skin and accepting yourself just as you are.

However, with such high societal beauty standards, it can be challenging to feel good about the way you look. When scrolling through social media, you can’t help but run into thousands of pictures of gorgeous people. Spotless skin, a stunning figure, and a happy, smiling face. They all look so happy, healthy, and beautiful. And you can’t help but compare yourself to those who seem to have it all.

A constant comparison might cause you to become overly self-conscious and focus too much on your real or imagined imperfections. And this insecurity might easily spill over into your sexual life.

What Is the Relationship Between Your Body Image and Your Sex Life?

If you worry too much that your partner doesn’t find you attractive, even though that’s probably not true, it can affect your desire and ability to get aroused and enjoy sex.

According to studies, your relationship with your body can impact your happiness in bed. Research shows that women’s specific concerns about their bodies might negatively impact their desire or capacity to become aroused or have an orgasm.

This makes sense since if you detest your body, you may experience shame and inhibition. Your sexual self-esteem may suffer while your anxiety around sexuality increases, causing you to either not enjoy getting physical or avoid sexual behaviors altogether.

How to Feel Less Self-Conscious in Bed: 4 Helpful Tips from a Sex Therapist

So, how can you get past those self-destructive beliefs and start building a healthier, more positive relationship with your body?

Here are some ideas to help you cope with body image issues and improve your sexual life.

1.    Learn to Challenge Negative Thoughts

In therapy, you can learn to identify negative thoughts, develop effective strategies to challenge them and replace them with positive statements about yourself.

For example, don’t just jump to the conclusion that your negative thoughts are true; give them some thought and question their correctness. Think about the things you love about your body and how they make you feel. This might help you feel more confident and sexually attractive.

2.    Experiment with Body Image Affirmations

It all starts with the mindset. The more you feel confident about your looks, the more likely others will perceive you as sexually attractive. So, start practicing positive affirmations about yourself and your body. Positive statements can help you develop a more positive relationship with your body and begin to appreciate yourself more.

Here are some affirmations to help boost your confidence and foster body positivity:

  • I respect my body
  • I love myself
  • I am more than just my body
  • I embrace every part of my body
  • I am grateful for my body’s strength and health
  • I feel good about myself
  • I do not compare myself to others
  • I take care of my body

3.    Try Loving-Kindness Meditation

Persistent self-criticism can lead to low self-esteem over time. Try loving-kindness meditation to get your self-compassion and self-esteem back.

Loving-kindness meditation is an open presence that fosters kindness, love, and closeness to yourself and others. It can help you recognize negative thoughts about your body and understand how they impact you. Acknowledging your negative thoughts rather than avoiding them will help you overcome them.

4.    Seek Counseling

How we feel about our bodies dramatically affects our sexual lives. So, challenging your negative feelings about your body could be vital to restoring intimacy in your relationship.

Sex therapy may be a secure place to unravel your negative body image and begin reconstructing your sexual life. Your therapist can help you recognize and challenge distorted beliefs about your appearance. Sex therapy sessions can also provide a safe environment to work through problems at the root of your body image issues. You could develop strategies to break bad habits that are getting in the way of your life and find healthy ways to cope.

Let’s connect soon so we can set up a consultation.

Filippo M. Forni, LMFT is a certified AASECT individual and couples sex therapist in Los Angeles, CA. His goal is to provide high-quality and effective goal-oriented therapy services to the Los Angeles and Century City community. He has extensive training in sexuality and multiculturalism and serves as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology.