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back to ba(sex): body shaming and sex

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Image: Wikimedia Commons

It seems wherever we look in our increasingly media-consuming society, body shaming abounds. From songs that shame one bodily extreme to the other – ‘skinny’ or ‘fat’– and the eternal homage to anaconda-like penises (which, coincidentally, profess to not perform where a big booty is lacking), there’s an endless string of having to fit in with the in body thing. I mean, it would be remiss to assert this is just the media’s fault, but lo and behold: we can see these institutions to reinforce standards for shapes, sizes and appendages. It doesn’t really matter if it’s one bit of us or all of us.

It’s a social thing. The media picks up body shaming from social conditions. The main premise of these messages seems based on sexual desire, with the occasional mention of health. As such, body shaming equates to a sexual hierarchy. A sexual hierarchy is a vile thing indeed. Why? Because beyond the obvious ethical considerations of sticking your nose into what other people are attracted to, all people are entitled to have consensual sex with people they are attracted to. Jussayin’.

Sometimes, body shaming is so pervasive so as to travel with us even to the bedroom – and I’m not just talking about in our own minds. Sometimes, with a bit of encouragement from within or out, we can get past our hang ups. Sometimes not. Take Chandler Bing. In the 1990s, the Friends character was derided for having a third nipple. The ‘nubbin’, as it was referred, prompted a would-be lover with a prosthetic limb to recoil at the idea of getting up close and personal with it. He also had a toe missing, which was further ripped upon. Yes, I’ve used a media example at the institution’s expense because I don’t really feel like talking about that time somebody ripped me off for having cellulite.

Today, as the tartan, chokers and double denim of Chandler’s day re-emerge, there is a spirit among us that never left. Chandlers of the world face much the same response as you and I. Yes, I said you and I… but I don’t really feel like talking about that time somebody ripped me off for having cellulite (They’re just like face dimples, but somehow repulsive. Pfft. Whatever, society!)

To analyse one particularly prominent issue of body shaming and sex, numerous documentaries have examined the culture of ‘big beautiful women’ (BBWs) and their admirers. The general theme to these documentaries seems celebratory: humans dating humans they are attracted to in spite of society somehow disproving. But ultimately, in this discourse, much like in media (looking at you Meghan Trainor, Nicki Minaj and Sir Mix A Lot) this is fetishisation. Celebrations of body and part types are empowering, of course. We must, however, acknowledge that we are more than just the body and find balance in our lives, sexual encounters and relationships. Fetishising anyone based on their body type – even if it is placed outside the social standard of beauty – is problematic as beyond this, when fashion changes in favour of such values, those celebrated may alienate all others.

Sexual attraction is not solely based on sight. No doubt you’ve noticed this yourself – whether it’s a friend or you yourself who has uttered ‘there’s something about that human, I just can’t put my finger on it’ about a person who prompts consent negotiations to lay fingers on them. Pheromones and scents, speech patterns and dialogue, a shared personal history or concept of your future can all contribute to how you are drawn to a person. Of course there are certain scientific theories that also bring fertility and evolutionary aspects into it, but that’s outside the scope of this article. We are, for the most part, keen on dealing with the social because this is, in effect, where the discrimination we can discern occurs.

Perhaps the reason we are so caught up with form over function is another reason why women in particular – who we already know are so dictated as to looking like *this*, but not like *this* when they look a certain way – have difficulty reaching climax while worrying about their cellulite (still not going there, just giving an example.) The fact of the matter is, when you’ve agreed to get your kit off in front of anybody, you both need to, in effect, shut up. That is, except to chat about what’s okay and what is not okay as sexy-time conditions.

We all need to stop stressing about bodies except to revel in the loveliness that is touching and being touched, tasting and being tasted, and whatever else you and your partners are into. It’s kind of like how someone I know described the first home they bought. To paraphrase: some people thought it was a hovel, but it was theirs*. They owned it and it was beautiful.

*Just to clarify, I’m making an analogy re: said person’s own body. Not another person’s.

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