What Size Sexy?

what size sexy

Recently the results of a national survey indicated that “losing weight” is the number one way Canadians would improve their sex life.

That seriously bums me out.

As a sexuality educator and advice columnist, I’ve spoken to countless people searching for ways to add a little more sizzle to their sex-capades. Heck, I’ve been sexually monogamous for seventeen years. My partner and I have had to help each other out of a few ruts over the course of our relationship. Sex can be very good…but sometimes there’s room for improvement.

In my experience, self-exploration – both mental and masturbatory; open, more explicit communication; and the introduction of new techniques and/or activities are all pretty effective ways of cranking up the heat on the sexy times. And yes, feeling good about your bodies helps. A lot. Confidence is a powerful aphrodisiac. When you’re comfortable in your own skin, well…someone’s gonna want to get on that!

But body-confidence is not the exclusive right of thin people.

Confession. I am and always have had a relatively thin body. I’m also cisgender, able-bodied and youngish by certain standards. So while I’m certainly not immune to the pressure and scrutiny many of us feel around our physical appearance, I have to admit that I am speaking from a place of privilege. The oppressive, fat-phobic attitudes in our society do effect me but usually in an indirect way. I’m rarely told that my body disqualifies me from sex or sexiness. But I know that others are. And that? Is not on.

I don’t blame people for thinking weight loss is the key to better sex. Our society – in particular our media – teaches us that weight loss is a universally positive outcome. We’re also told that slender-bodied people are entitled to happiness, success, love and satisfaction and that they are the standard that we must all aspire to. It’s a head trip, to be sure.

The messages are subtle, insidious and built into everything from fashion magazines to Facebook ads. We’re assaulted with the unrelenting message that sexy looks like something – or more accurately – someone very specific and that if you don’t look like that, you don’t qualify.


Also? Nonesense and shenanigans!

Sexy isn’t about achieving a certain weight or having a specific type of body. It’s about you embracing your sexuality. It’s your body. You’re allowed to feel good about it if you want. You have every right to experience physical pleasure if that’s what you choose. You deserve to experience touch and intimacy if it makes you happy. You are totally allowed to be naked and flaunt what you’ve got in front of your partner(s). Because you own that shizz…literally. Your body belongs to you. So if you want to be sexy, you go right ahead and be hella sexy right now!

And I know, it’s about a million times easier said than done. Too often we’re shown the same commercialized, artificial version of sexuality that’s repetitive, limiting and only validates the experience of a chosen few. But the truth of sex is that it’s a diverse and and varied human expression, experienced by diverse and varied bodies.

As Sally says, you’re already pretty. And I say you’re already sexy. Losing weight won’t make you a better sex partner. Accepting your body? Might just do the trick.

Image courtesy puuikibeach.
_ _ _

Already Pretty contributor Nadine Thornhill is a sex educator and blogger at Adorkable Undies. She is also a burlesque performer, poet and playwright, living in Ottawa, Ontario – Canada’s national capital. Her writing tends toward subjects such as clitorises, feminism, vibrators, body image, gender politics and non-monogamy. She is a passionately committed Scrabble player and lifelong klutz, having sustained 16 concussions to date.

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26 Responses to “What Size Sexy?”

  1. Hope V.

    I love this article and it is so right on the money. We need to love the body we’re in RIGHT NOW even if we’re trying to improve it.

  2. Lara

    Yes! Not only what size sexy, also what age! I’m so tired of seeing few, if any women my age in the media, and if we do see them, they are rarely allowed to gracefully show their age. We are not all 22, or 17 or even 40 anymore. And we are still stuck on the idea that age (and weight, for that matter) is a not a bad thing for a man, but it is for a woman, although that is starting to change (think men’s hair dye commercials).

  3. Abby

    I totally agree with you here. Weight loss is not the key to a better sex life. However, I will say that working out and eating better is a good way to improve your sex life. When I work out, the endorphins kick in making me feel good, I feel more powerful, stronger, more attractive. When I eat more veggies/fruits and less fried food, I feel more energetic and alert (and you know, energy and staying awake are useful for an active sex life!). Those two things are tied to weight loss (although I’ve been within 5 pounds of the same weight for the last 7 years regardless of eating/exercise habits…), so maybe that’s why people have a misconception about the relationship between weight loss and sex?

    • Galena

      I agree with this completely; I was actually about to make mostly the same comment before I read this and realized I didn’t need to!

      Personal anecdote: my husband had to have his gall bladder removed 6 months ago, so has since been on a low-fat diet. He lost weight from that, plus from being sick before being diagnosed, and he got weak and just felt sickly. So he started working out and stretching (soon yoga too!) to regain some strength and feel better. I’ve been eating healthy with him, and working out a bit because I’ve seen the amazing improvement in him (both body and mind, he’s much more relaxed and happy now!). So I’ve lost a bit of weight as well. Our sex life has improved drastically, just because we’re in better shape and can last longer and incorporate different methods than were physically comfortable when we were more out of shape. So we definitely don’t believe you need to be thin to be sexy, but at least in our case losing a bit of weight and gaining a bit of strength/endurance from working out has made some unintended amazing changes to our sex life. [And I am definitely not thin! He is at this point, as he’s lost 80 pounds over the course of 9 months due to his illness and subsequent diet change, but I am plus-size.)

      • Nadine

        Great point!

        Good health, nutritious food and light exercise can lead to significant improvements in your sex life.

        • kb

          however, they don’t always lead to weight loss. or even very often in the long term.

    • kb

      except eating right and exercising doesn’t always lead to weight loss.

    • Mander

      Hmm. While you are doubtless correct in mentioning that improving your health behaviors can also improve your sex life, assuming that your health was somewhat compromised in ways that can be improved by changes in diet and exercise to begin with, it strikes me that this comment is an example of the insidious nature of fat prejudice.

      I’m not accusing you or anyone else of a deliberate judgement, but I do think that there is a far greater tendency to link “is not thin” with “is not healthy” than we sometimes realise. This in turn reinforces a sort of “healthism” (there might be a better term for this), or the notion that people who are sick, disabled, or choose to indulge in practices deemed to be unhealthy — whether that is being sedentary, eating fast food, smoking, or shooting up hard drugs — are people who are not entitled to feel good about themselves. Other people have addressed this far more eloquently but my point is just that it is very easy for this kind of bias to worm its way into our thinking without us even realising it. Goodness knows I still do it all the time myself.

  4. Andi

    Love this! I’m plus size and feel excellent when my partner admires my more ample parts! Feeling good about yourself is 90% of great sex and intimacy.

    Great post!

  5. katie

    I so loved this post. I constantly feel that being comfortable with my body means being smaller, i.e. “I must lose weight so that I can feel comfortable with my body.” It’s not like I don’t know the fallacy of that thinking, but it’s hard to internalize, and I appreciate any reminders that I’m sexy just the way I am (which my wife keeps telling me!).

  6. Sarah

    This is so, so true. What’s really sad (and insidious) is that the message that sexy=thin is so pervasive, it’s possible to absorb it without even realizing it. I am plus-size and I love my body, but as I’ve aged I’ve become a lot more self-conscious when it comes to sex. In my twenties I was a body love warrior, but at some point as I turned 30 I started to doubt my sexiness and question whether anyone would find my naked body attractive. It doesn’t help that I had major surgery last year – I have some really awful scars now, which makes it even harder to see myself as sexy!

    The really crazy thing is that I DID lose weight at one point in my early twenties because I thought it would make me more desirable to men. It did not. It made me hostile, angry, bitchy, and awful to be around because I LOVE FOOD. I realized then that it was a fool’s game to think losing weight would change my life. Yet 10 years later I am caught up in the same exact mindset. That’s what I mean about how insidious it is.

  7. anna

    loved this! and can i just say? i had that same idea for a long time, that losing weight would help me feel better in bed. then i lost weight. and i felt…EXACTLY THE SAME. i just had to find some other animus on which to project my anxieties. obsession over weight loss is, to me, a scapegoat and whatever problems i envision it solving almost always need to be solved in some other way. usually through difficult emotional work (no wonder i look for the easy way out…).

  8. Lainie

    Great article! We are bombarded with specific ideals of what is considered a sexy woman, and at the same time EVERYTHING in our (U.S.) culture is over-sexualized.

  9. Olga

    I will say, I had a hell of a lot more flexibility and range of movement when I was thinner. There are positions I cannot get into now because my excess flesh gets in the way, or things I have to do differently to accommodate my size, and that does get me down because the sex I have now is just not as much fun.

  10. Eliana

    I learned a new word–cisgender. How very useful. I see that you’re a scrabble player, this explains your great vocabulary. Great article, being plus sized and 50+ I find it very pertinent.

    • Marla

      It isn’t an infrequently used word – it’s a word that is used heavily in feminist/queer/trans circles. And sadly not very many other places, since trans-exposure is somehow non-existent. So what I guess I’m trying to say is… make use of it! 😉

  11. Nomi

    I agree with this article in principle, but being old & fat I can’t even imagine the concept of sexy applied to myself. But then again, when I was young & skinny, I mostly couldn’t either. Fortunately, my daughters do not seem to have this problem.

  12. kate

    I appreciate the sentiments of this post. But the image that says “Body confidence is not the exclusive right of thin people” is obnoxious. I’m sick of the insinuation that thin women don’t have body issues that are just as valid and meaningful as women of all sizes. Why do people that promote positive body image for all sizes feel they have to make judgments on thin bodies in some way in order to achieve their goal?

    • Nadine

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks first for reading and for commenting. And thank you also for bringing my attention to what may have been an oversight in my writing.

      You’re 100% right that people of any size can and do struggle with body image. You’re also right that those struggles are as real and valid. As I mentioned in the post, I do have a thin body. And I am not immune to insecurity…far from it. It really bothers me when people make comments about thin people like “They need to eat a sandwich” or “They look anorexic”. It upsets me that one of the euphemisms for larger women is “real”. To imply that anyone isn’t real – especially because of their size or shape – is awful.

      I realize may not have been clear in the post. I don’t think that all thin people have body confidence or that the ones who do, shouldn’t feel that way. What I have noticed is that – with some exceptions – the media almost depicts “sexy” as slender and youthful with unmarred skin. I didn’t mean to imply that people who are thin and youthful-looking need to go away or no longer be considered sexy. I would like to see a more expansive, inclusive model of what sexy looks like. I neglected to mention that inclusive means people of all sizes…thin people too.

      Again I apologize if I was inadvertently critical of thin bodies or made you feel badly.

  13. M-C

    That survey is so sad. In great part because it’s so untrue. I prefer a bit of cush myself, if I have a choice (ie their intellectual qualities don’t dim the physical part totally). If only because there’s more chance to have a relationship whose sensuality extends to food, always a plus in my book.

  14. Rach

    Bravo! What an excellent post! I thank you sincerely for including this message. I get way caught up in the ‘head trip’ that happiness is only deserved if I’m thin enough for it. It’s SO STUPID. I really needed to read this.