Sometimes, a single image can spark a week-long stream of thought and argument in my easily excited mind. I’ll ruminate on the subject, argue with myself, cheer myself on, put myself down, and finally, it all builds until it spills out as a blog post. This time, it was this image which showed up in my Instagram feed from an outdoor clothing company I follow, Back Country Native.
Now, I want to make it completely clear I have NO beef with this company. I’m all for encouraging women to get get outdoors and if they want to look all dolled up while doing it? More power to them. But this was my thought process:
Oh, that’s a cute tank. And LipStuck, that’s clever. I’m going fishing with my girls next week. Maybe I should wear a cute tank top. Wait. Wait. What is wrong with me? Why do I care what I look like when I’m getting slimy worm guts under my nails and swatting at flies surrounding a muddy farm pond? Why does one need to look sexy while fishing? Why all this pressure?
Sigh. Maybe I spend too much time studying and engaging with the world of media images and their effect on women. Or, maybe my eyes are finally completely open to the subtle and not so subtle messages we woman are served every day. Maybe Income across as a jealous old biddy who just wishes she could look sexy in a little tank top. Or, maybe I’ve finally matured with enough confidence not to give a flying crap.
I think as a society we’ve fallen for a devastating lie. That to be sexual, you have to look sexy. That to enjoy physical intimacy with a partner you have to first engage in some commercially sponsored mating ritual of lipstick, lacy underthings and unnatural skin tones. Sex should smell like the satin-lined shelves of Victoria’s Secret and should look like the tingly scenes of a romance novel.
This is all complete and utter bull crap. I’d be willing to bet that if you asked the average woman what makes her feel sexy, her mind would immediately think of the ways in which society says you should be sexy. Lingerie. Stilettos. Real or foam supported cleavage. But if you asked her to dig a little deeper, beyond how she’s been trained to respond, she’d give you a different answer. Maybe it’s as simple as a long, hot shower and brushing her teeth. Maybe it’s a quiet house with no little children under foot. Maybe it’s a glass of moderately priced red wine. Maybe it’s a wink from her husband when she’s standing at the oven sauteing onions. Or maybe, sadly, she doesn’t know. She’s never thought it could be anything other than what Cosmo told her, and she translates her sexual dissatisfaction as a lack of desirability.
This makes my heart sad. Sex is a beautiful gift from God that shouldn’t be commercialized or trivialized or scandalized. In a healthy relationship, both partners should feel like their needs are met, both physically and emotionally. Rather than increase a woman’s desire to be intimate, I feel strongly that these images we’re sold by society have us caught in the lie of superficial sexuality. Our sexiness, we’re told, is found on the surface, when really, it’s deep within our beautiful souls.
So, with all of this ruminating in my mind, I came across this post from writer Robin Korth. She bravely exposes her recent encounter with a man she’d met online, and his shocking rejection of her mature body:
On Monday evening over the phone, I asked this man who had shared my bed for three nights running why we had not made love. “Your body is too wrinkly,” he said without a pause. “I have spoiled myself over the years with young women. I just can’t get excited with you. I love your energy and your laughter. I like your head and your heart. But, I just can’t deal with your body.”
I felt my heart lurch. This woman, who felt completely at ease in her own body, had made herself vulnerable to a man who’s been completely fooled by the notion that “good” sex can only be made by young bodies with skin of high elasticity.
Sigh. When will we wake up as a society? When will we realize that we can’t ingest a steady diet of porn and expect to be physically, emotionally and spiritually satisfied? And by “porn” I mean all of those things which exist to sexually entice, even those romance novels and steamy scenes in made-for-TV movies. All of it. Eat a steady diet of fast food and tell me what happens to your body? Does it taste good? Does it give you a quick fix? Absolutely. But it’s not healthy. It’s not sustainable. And it’s worth seeking out something better, even if it’s a little more work and a little more investment.
I recently heard a startling statistic. That 94% of sex scenes on TV and in movies are between non-married partners. I don’t know where this is attributed to, so perhaps it’s completely off base. Anecdotally, though? I think it’s fairly accurate. This sends another harmful message. That long-term commitment and red-hot passion can’t go hand in hand. That monogamy means monotony. That if you want a really fun roll in the hay, you’d better wander off the farm.
This isn’t helpful to marriages, especially when the demands of raising young children overshadow any notion of getting all hot and bothered. Do we compare ourselves to others because we’re unsatisfied, or are we unsatisfied because we compare ourselves to others? I think it’s a little of both. And as women, we’re especially vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy, which often makes us shut down rather than put forth an effort and face the fear of rejection. We also often view our husbands through hazy lenses, rather than seeing them for who they really are. Perhaps we parade around in high-priced lingerie only to be let down when his eyes don’t bug out all “AWOOOGA” like a cartoon character when he spies a sultry female. We assume he’s no longer attracted to us, when in reality, lingerie just isn’t his thing. Or maybe he had a crappy day at work. Or maybe he’s perfectly happy with you just the way you are in your birthday suit. But it’s hard to strut around au natural when a lack of confidence means you awkwardly skirt around the room so he can’t catch a glimpse of your dimply backside.
So how can we unhook ourselves from this illusion of superficial sexuality? It starts with confidence. In ourselves, and in our marriages. And it also involves a daily choice to not consume the unhealthy images we’re served. Because when it comes down to it, a woman who’s secure is far more attractive that one who may appear “sexy” on the outside, but inside is crumbling like the walls of a poorly built foundation. Want to look sexy while fishing? How about learning more about the sport and getting so lost in enjoying the moment of reeling in a whopper that you don’t even notice the way he’s smiling at you from down shore.