16 November 2021

Body image and intimacy

Valerie Estrina

Body image, self-acceptance, and intimacy. Why it’s hard for us to feel good about our bodies and how it reflects in our personal relationships.

"Oh, my dating life has been awesome lately. Though I always try to imagine I’m someone else when I’m sleeping with someone. I can’t fully embrace myself in bed because I know I will be disgusted with my body, and that will take away from the experience – even the most amazing one. I won’t even come that way. So, I’m playing a character, like a Victoria’s Secret model or something. You know. It’s kinda sad, but you gotta do what you gotta do" - my close friend confesses to me during one of our late-night phone conversations. She’s an objectively attractive, fit 25-year-old woman with seemingly no apparent insecurities to worry about. Strange, I thought. Then I thought about it a little longer – and it wasn’t so strange anymore.

We were talking about our experience growing up in the ‘00s as the obsession with thinness (the infamous Kate Moss heroin chic) was reaching its peak. Social media wasn’t a thing back then, for better or for worse, but mass media surely was. Polished actresses on TV, cheap tabloids with all-caps titles like “*insert celebrity* IS OUT OF CONTROL” (yes, they were referring to their weight gain), increasing accessibility to plastic surgery, and societal race to perfection all contributed to the permanent warping of our self-perception and body image. The times have changed drastically – but is the issue really gone? 

Pure. Let loose

Pure is an app where classic rules for dating don’t apply. On Pure, you create your own rules.

Well, an estimated 70 million people worldwide are living with eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. And while the topic of ED’s is so all-encompassing and profound it will require an essay of its own, we can’t ignore the fact that for the most part, wherever you go and whoever you ask, you’ll soon realize that most women and men have a deeply rooted, ingrained hatred for their bodies

The hints are everywhere: plastic surgery, gym obsession, fad dieting, altering filters – you name it. If for the most part, we can put more important things to the forefront of our daily routine and not let our body dissatisfaction consume us alive, there is still one aspect of life in which running away from your own insecurities is not a possibility: intimacy.

Body image refers to the way people perceive their bodies.

Body image can be affected by one’s own thoughts, positive or negative, but also family, friends, social pressure, marketing, and of course, the media.

According to statistics, 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies. Now that’s an impressive number, isn’t it? I, for one, can’t remember a single time I was satisfied with myself - and I am well aware that’s how most of us feel. Between social media influencers editing their images into oblivion and portraying an unattainable image to the world, and multi-billion corporations feeding on our insecurities by telling us how to dress, what to look like, and what trends to embody, it’s hard to resist getting caught up in a negative spiral that is so pervasive and cancerous it spares absolutely no one. 

The adult movie industry is not any kinder – you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I mean. We all know what the ideally conventional adult video website actors look like. She is toned with golden ratio proportions, has no body hair, her boobs are identical, no discoloration or imperfection in sight. He is muscular with shiny abs, has an impressive size, stamina, and his lush hair somehow stays perfectly intact the entire scene. And while we, as adults, understand that the industry standard is far from what we’re expected to look like, because first, there’s lighting, editing, and a dozen people on set and second, it’s their job to look like that – we can’t help subconsciously internalize whatever is being shown on the screen.

Sure, the body positivity movement has helped normalize certain things like scars, stretch marks, imperfect skin, and body fat – we can already see a big improvement. Still, we are all striving for The Ideal. The ideal body sells, just like in the early 00s, it never actually went anywhere. Not as openly praised anymore, silently and carefully instead, but still showing us that unreachable Perfect Something we would die for.

Intimacy requires getting naked and showing yourself in ways that leave no room for hiding. And for those of us who have struggled with a negative perception of our physical aspects, that can be incredibly tough to do. It’s a moment of terror - you’re focused on what the other person might think of you and your body more than you’re focused on having fun. I can’t tell you the number of times an intimate encounter was ruined for me due to my self-conscious thoughts. 

“He can definitely see everything right now, like, literally my entire body... oh no” was all I could think about during what was supposed to be a shared moment of joy. 

Sometimes those thoughts are mild and buzzing in the background, and getting rid of them isn’t a challenge, but other times, they can get pretty severe.

It’s even worse when we’re constantly told men love confident women who own their bodies - what if you’re currently running low on self-love and can’t bring yourself to even pretend? This fake-it-till-you-make-it approach sounds too good to be true, and it is.

The only thing that has truly helped me gain satisfaction and be at peace with my body during intimacy is honesty. Admitting to each and every one of my insecurities, big or small, apparent or all in my head. One of the most memorable moments of my life was when my ex-boyfriend sat me down and asked me to list all of the things I wish I could change about my body. I was hesitant, as I’m used to putting on a facade of bulletproof confidence, and lord forbid anyone finds out I’m any less than flawless. But I did it. He then shared his own insecurities in turn, and I was shocked - I considered him Greek God material perfection. Suddenly, this dissonance of perception started to make sense: 

we’re all full of doubts, and most of them aren’t obvious to other people - what a revelation. 

The conversation ended up being one of the most vulnerable, special moments I’ve ever had - a much-needed one, too. It did my self-perception a favor in the long run, for which I am still grateful. 

So perhaps faking confidence isn’t the best approach, after all? It doesn’t seem to work. Neither does the opposite - covering up in hopes of hiding everything you’re insecure about. That just strips you of freedom and opportunities, leaving you empty-handed and unhappy. Should we stop trying to change the unchangeable and be a little kinder to ourselves, the same way we are to other people? 

We might have been taught intimacy has everything to do with our body - thanks to the media, the porn industry, and the general “she’s so hot, I’d totally do her”. But as I’m gaining more experience and growing up, I’m starting to doubt that is the case. It’s the pleasure, the intimacy, the ability to listen to each other, the awkward moments, the laughter, and of course, the exploration in and of itself. 

People are not getting physical with our bodies - they’re getting physical with us.

A statement so seemingly obvious, and yet somehow no one has told me this before. I had to find out for myself through trial and error, and a lot of mental torture thrown in there.

Get ready for unforgettable connections

Whether you’re looking for a passionate adventure, meaningful conversation, or something else, we promise one thing: what happens in Pure stays in Pure.

We’re all just people. We all carry our fair share of guilt and shame, dissatisfaction caused by not fitting certain societal ideals, and self-criticism. We are all terrified of rejection, but most importantly, we all crave acceptance. That is why being a part of the Pure community has been a breath of fresh air, at least for me - being honest is the default here. There’s no need to pretend you’re someone you’re not, people aren’t turning away from open conversations, and most of us are self-aware enough to embrace vulnerability and everything that comes with it. And once honesty is on the table, the need to imagine yourself as a Victoria’s Secret model in your most intimate moments fades away - because being unapologetically yourself is suddenly enough.

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