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The Tiny, Dirty Things Good Partners Do to Fight Body Image Issues

You’d be surprised how much the simple feedback that you don’t care about your significant other’s cellulite or peach fuzz can heal decades of insecurity

A formative experience in my life was when a male friend told me guys don’t give a fuck about my self-perceived body flaws if I’m generous enough to let them stick their dick inside of me. I was incredulous: “But what about uneven breasts? A soft belly? Weird pussy? Nothing?”

“We’re VERY grateful,” he emphatically responded.

The idea that men were not just okay with “flaws” women torture themselves over, but sometimes even into them, was simultaneously a relief and kind of depressing. It was also hard to believe when women are constantly inundated with new things we need to fix: Is your asshole white enough? Will anyone ever love you, or more importantly, want to rim you, if not? 

According to Emily James, a certified sex therapist, both men and women have body insecurities, but women tend to have more and they can be especially detrimental to a couple’s sex life. “Sexual satisfaction is linked to relationship satisfaction, so anything that limits pleasure has the potential to negatively affect the relationship,” she tells me. “Men (when they’re generous partners) especially enjoy making their female partners experience pleasure. So again, anything that inhibits that can create frustration for the couple.”

No perceived flaw can affect a sexual relationship more than shame about your pussy. “Women worry not just about how they look, but also how they smell and taste,” James says. “This may cause women to avoid certain sex acts, such as oral sex. It also leads to distraction, which makes it hard for women to experience complete sexual pleasure.”

Forty-year-old Donna was sexually inhibited most of her life by what she describes as having “large pussy lips,” an opinion that was formed by watching porn. “Most of it showed these perfect little pussies, and I was like, ‘Why doesn’t my pussy look like that?’ There wasn’t much diversity in porn, especially in the 1990s,” she says.

Donna tells me her embarrassment over her vagina made her go to extremes like “tucking in her pussy lips.” “It sounds so stupid but I really felt self-conscious, especially when being eaten out,” she explains. “What was I worried about? That they were going to choke on them or something?”

A convo with her ex-husband, however, was a revelation. “He said that men could care less about how big a woman’s pussy lips are. They only care if they get to get in that pussy.” Donna was shocked: “I spent most of my life being SO scared to show my big fat pussy and it turns out that no one cares but me!”

Not surprisingly, issues related to weight are one of the biggest things women are self-conscious about, even while some men lust after stretch marks, pot bellies and cellulite. (A study released last month indicates that women think men prefer a much thinner body than they actually do.)

To that end, Kolleen, a 38-year-old in L.A., struggled to overcome an eating disorder in her early 20s and a small weight gain after giving birth to her second child has brought back feelings of inadequacy — despite having a husband who is constantly telling her how beautiful she is. She sometimes feels frustrated that he’s not validating her feelings, but she recognizes that he just doesn’t feel the same way she does. “I know he doesn’t see me the way I see myself, but I want him to understand that it still upsets me,” she says. “However, he does make me feel incredibly sexy. The other day he told me it should be illegal for me to wear shorts when he’s trying to work. So I guess it’s a wash!”

Although body image is something women have to work on themselves, James does think the men in their lives can have a positive impact. “I encourage men to react non-defensively,” she says. “With time, patience and reassurance, men can do wonders to support a woman in accepting her body — flaws and all. For instance, if she’s struggling to lose the last five pounds she gained while pregnant, kissing her belly and telling her how amazing she is for what she did to create their child can help her accept — and even appreciate — her curves.”

This worked for Brianna, a 22-year-old in Indiana. She has a scar on her chest from open-heart surgery she had when she was a baby, and she’s always been embarrassed by it — until a boyfriend sensed her insecurity and proudly showed her his scar. “I was a teenager and what boys thought of me was my biggest concern, so it was nice to hear a guy tell me it didn’t matter,” she explains. “At the same time, I was kind of pissed that I’d spent so much time trying to hide it for no reason.”

Still, the interaction inspired Brianna to let go of other obsessions, such as the need to have zero body hair. “I’m not saying that some guys aren’t weird about it, but pussy is pussy. I’ve never personally heard of a man turning down sex because their partner had too much bush,” she jokes.

Speaking of hair, Kristy, a 34-year-old in Vegas, says her husband Roland can’t get enough of the fur covering her body — which, as with Kolleen’s husband, isn’t always a good thing. “Today we were sitting in bed when he rubbed my face and said I was his fuzzy cutie,” she says. “I know he’s just trying to make me feel better, but I’m still grrr about it.”

Ultimately, though, she appreciates that he pushes her to not give a fuck. “If I could finally see myself as the hottest 2.5-inch nippled, fuzzy bitch, maybe I could be that sexy badass he knows I am 24/7,” she continues. “I just need to get over my own bullshit and try believing his ass for once.”

As for Roland, he refuses to validate his wife’s shitty opinions about herself: “Our image of masculinity and femininity have more to do with capitalism and religion than they do with reality.”

Now, that’s a Wife Guy.