Lets face it – on some level we’re all in need of some healing around sex.
No matter how free and uninhibited we think we are, everyone has some pain, shame or insecurity lurking in the background connected with their sexuality. It’s just one of those unfortunate side-effects of being a modern human being trying to break free of generations of repression.
One quick look at the media headlines on any given day gives you a quick idea of how screwy our collective thinking still is around sex and how much we are still bombarded with messages we could live without.
‘Anna’s big bum!’ shouts one headline, looking to get a rise out of our primitive instinct.
‘Sandy reveals all!’ yells another, as if nudity is really that much of a big deal to most of us.
‘Karl looking inhumanly HOT!’ screams yet another.
Really, we shouldn’t care. If no-one read the articles or clicked through on the headlines, that’d be the end of that and mainstream media would have to find something more interesting to engage us with. But we do care. And not always simply because we’re curious.
Having spent some time in the Amazonian jungle, I can’t help wondering what effect it would have on us if we grew up in a society where nudity is the norm – where we’re used to running around as kids with nothing on and where everyone we see is forever dressed in their birthday suit. Would we care about seeing yet another bare bum or breast, no matter how cleverly photographed or how famous the person it’s attached to? And would we automatically associate nudity with sex?
In many ways, I’m not sure we’ve come all that far since the days of the Victorians or the Puritans when the sight of a woman’s ankle was considered scandalous. We all have bodies. Yes, naked ones. With nipples, buttocks and genitals. And they do what all bodies do – they eat, digest, fart, pee, menstruate. Oh, and they have sex.
If we were used to nudity as a society, would we feel as fascinated about what the body does as we are now? Would we automatically associate the sight of naked flesh with sex? Somehow, I think not. I’m not sure if familiarity always breeds contempt, but it certainly breeds comfort.
At this most basic of levels, being raised in a society where we have laws governing nudity and where we’re encouraged to see the naked body as something other than totally natural, means that we all carry subliminal messages of shame around the body and its functions. They’re almost impossible to avoid, even for those of us fortunate enough to have been raised by parents with greater awareness. No matter how many sexual partners we may have had, how freely we feel we share ourselves in sex or how adventurous our sexual exploits, scratch the surface a bit and we inevitably find hidden layers of confused and negative ‘voices’ that still whisper down the generations to us.
Women, think of dressing for a first date or a night on the town. How much time is spent figuring out how much to reveal and how much to conceal? What looks sexy? What looks slutty? How to make boobs and bums look bigger or smaller? And guys, how much do you worry about the shape you’re in and the size of your package? How many assumptions do you make about women from the way they’re dressed? Would any of these be relevant at all if nudity was a natural part of our world? If we all knew what we looked like without our clothes on, how would a first date go or a club night? How much crap might we cut through when it comes to dating and sex? We might even get to see the ‘real’ person in front of us from the beginning.
No matter how many books on sex we’ve read or workshops we’ve attended, unless we can come to a place of comfort with our own bodies then there’ll always be some element of holding back or self-consciousness around sex which will restrict our ability to let go fully into the bliss of total intimacy.
But how do we go about healing this most basic of wounds? Much like uninstalling an unwanted programme on the computer, it starts with realising it’s there in the first place and then going through a process to uninstall it. Trying these simple exercises can start the process of bringing us back to a place of innocence around nudity.
- Hand on heart, what messages do you give yourself about your body? If you stand naked in front of a full-length mirror, in normal daylight, and simply look at your reflection, what goes through your head? Take the time to listen to what you say to yourself and notice how that makes you feel. The body is an amazing and complex organism that stays with us 24/7, breathing, digesting, supporting, thinking. Does it really deserve to be judged simply on appearance? If there are practical things that genuinely need to be addressed – like exercising more or eating more healthily – make a commitment to address them, then put them to one side.
- Make a note of the main critical voices that emerge when you stand naked in front of yourself. Literally write them down. Then, over a period of a month, spend a little time each day dissecting and challenging them. Where have they come from? Are they reasonable? If a good friend was saying the same thing to themselves, would you agree with them or offer a different perspective? We often judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else would, putting our flaws under the microscope and missing the bigger picture. What we love about our lovers is usually their personality, energy and overall way of being, as well as the way they feel in our arms – but we often miss those things when we look at ourselves. What is it we love about ourselves?
- Take yourself off to bed with a blindfold. Strip off, get warm under the covers and put the blindfold on. Settle down comfortably and start to just feel. Use your hands to get to know how your body feels – stroke your skin, get to know the curves and hollows, the softness and hardness. Stay with the sensation of touch, immersing your mind in it, and notice how much easier it is to accept the body when you come away from your thoughts and the dominant sense which is sight. If you’re having difficulty switching the brain off, try some deep-belly breathing to relax the body as you go.
Really, it is our thinking processes that screw us up so much of the time. If we could remain immersed in the senses more of the time – particularly when it comes to sexuality – we would be more at home in our own skins and would regain the ability to come from a more natural place in our intimacy with others.
- Spend some time every day naked – or under a warm but loose robe (let’s face it, 100% nudity is not an option for most of us who see frost and snow in winter). Getting used to how comfortable the body feels without the usual support of briefs or bras connects us back into feeling the body rather than thinking about how it looks. Most of us have forgotten the wonderful feeling of freedom that comes with being naked and need to make a point of practicing it in order to re-awaken that sense of ease. Taking time every week to connect with the body through self-massage, from toes to head, is also helpful.
Changing negative or weak self-image isn’t something that usually shifts overnight – although it can do with the right support – but once we’re aware of it, we have the conscious choice about how to handle it. So here’s to a world inhabited by people who care more about being confident and comfortable in their own bodies than about grooming, glamour and glitz – earthily sexy rather than manicured perfection.
(Originally published 2014 on Raw Attraction)