How to navigate casual sex if you don’t love your body

Words by Ruby Staley

Because you deserve to enjoy sex.

Sex is arguably the most vulnerable a person can be. So, for those of us who aren’t yet in a place where we feel fully comfortable or confident in our skin, having sex can be a horribly uncomfy experience. And there’s an extra layer of awkwardness when you factor in having sex casually, with people you may not know well or with who you haven’t established a solid foundation of trust.

The casual dating scene can be daunting enough as it is – all the clumsy first dates, regrettable one-night stands and awkward friends with benefits situationships – and that’s all without having to worry about how you’re being perceived physically by your partners.

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Now, this is not to say that casual sex can’t be great. Of course, the relaxed nature of such interactions has the potential to help us understand what we like (and don’t like) sexually and can up our confidence in the bedroom. However, many of the benefits of casual sex usually only come about when you’re feeling your best and at your most relaxed.

And that’s what we should be aiming for. Not to be a certain size or possess a certain look but to feel calm and comfortable going into it. Because sex should be fun, and it should be enjoyable. And no matter what it might consist of, literally everyone is capable of having good sex.

Although I’ve had my fair share of casual situationships and one-night stands while navigating some self-esteem issues, I enlisted an actual certified sex coach, the wonderful Georgia Grace, to weigh in with some juicy advice on feeling more confident while sleeping around.

How does our self-esteem impact our experience of sexual pleasure?  

The way we feel about ourselves can have a significant impact on how much pleasure we feel. Often my clients will identify that if they’re not feeling great about themselves, they are less likely to want sex, be seen naked, allow a partner to go down on them and see them at certain angles or ask for what they want.

It’s also really hard to be present when you’re not feeling confident – all of your awareness goes to thinking about your body and how it looks, smells or tastes. These intrusive thoughts take them out of their body and the present moment and into their head and [the] worst-case scenarios.

Is it important to feel attractive during sex? Why, or why not? 

This is a really individual thing. For some people, sure! And I think it’s pretty human to want to feel attractive. There’s no shame in that. Most people want to feel good about themselves. When my clients speak about their most fulfilling and memorable sexual experiences, a common theme emerges: it was exciting because they felt good about themselves whether [due to] feeling confident [or] liking the way their body felt or looked. But feeling attractive isn’t important for everyone. That’s normal too!

Attraction is also subjective. Of course, we are influenced by social, cultural [and] patriarchal ideas of attraction but everyone will have different turn-ons, we all have a different definition of a fulfilling sex life. It’s actually a really useful question for everyone to think about: what does fulfilling sex mean to me?

What’s your advice for someone who’s shy and not overly confident who wants to enjoy and get the most out of their casual sex experiences?

Take a step back for a few moments of self-inquiry and reflect on your ideas about attraction. When do you feel most attractive? What do you find attractive in others? What has informed these ideas? Are there any thoughts that are no longer useful? What can you do to redefine attraction? Then ask yourself, “What’s getting in the way between me and feeling confident?”. What can you do to practice this? Even the most sexually confident people have moments where they feel a bit shit. It is normal.

Develop some strategies that work for you, whether that’s consuming sex-positive and body inclusive content, engaging with resources that showcase diverse images of sexuality, sex-positive affirmations, speaking about it with people you trust or a professional – you don’t have to do it on your own! I worked with Normal to develop an online video course that has a whole topic on sexual confidence, it’s a great resource for anyone who wants practical, evidence-based support.

Can loving your body start in the bedroom?

Absolutely! Pleasure, whether it’s through solo or partnered sex can be a powerful way to reclaim your body, to be present with how it feels and to learn about your body’s pleasure potential, rather than just focusing on how it looks. Also, when you build arousal or experience orgasm, your body releases feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin – a sure-fire way to feel good!

Any tips for feeling more comfortable in your skin in a sexual setting?

Practice! These things don’t happen overnight! Engage in daily moments of pleasure, mindfulness or practices exploring sexual confidence. This could be saying one sex-positive affirmation each morning, keeping an erotic journal and writing about things that turn you on, reflecting on past sexual experiences, mindful masturbation practices, listening to podcasts or reading books. It’s an ongoing process, but my god it can be fun!

You can keep up with Georgia Grace here.

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