It’s not uncommon to be matched up in the bedroom with someone who has body image issues. Sometimes they’ll be upfront about it. Sometimes they won’t, but you can sense it anyway. If you’re attracted to your sexual partner despite their insecurities, there are some things you can do to make sex more enjoyable for them — even if they’re thinking about their “imperfections” when the clothes come off.
In the following list, I use she/him pronouns because I am a heterosexual cisfemale, but insert the pronouns work for you. Everyone deserves great sex. Here are some ways to help your partner get out of their head, and into the moment.
1. Unless she specifically tells you otherwise, keep the lights on.
If clothes are coming off and sparks are flying, and then all of a sudden you go to turn the lights off, tons of negative thoughts can be triggered in your partner’s head. Why doesn’t he want to see me? Am I that grotesque? Obviously, bright lights aren’t exactly a real mood-setter, but if there’s a way to dim the lights and still keep them on, go for it. First, it’s super-hot when you can see what’s going on. And second, if you express to your partner that you want to keep the lights on specifically to see her, you’re letting her know that you’re attracted to her — even if she wonders how that’s possible.
If she asks for you to turn the lights off, respect her wishes, or perhaps offer a compromise — like turning the overhead lighting off but keeping a small lamp on at a low level. Express to her that you want to see her, and you might give her a boost of confidence that will make the entire experience more fun for both of you.
2. Take your time.
Take your time with her. Her mind is racing a thousand miles a minute, now that you've seen her naked, and there's a chance she's not present in the moment. Take your time with her so she can feed off of your energy. Kiss her slowly, touch her face, gently tug on her hair — before you even make your way down to her breasts.
Many women with body image issues are most self-conscious about their stomach, so when you get to her waist, hold on to her tight and bring her closer to you. Don't just go for the gold right away. Explore her body first, and bring her back to the moment.
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3. Touch her. Everywhere.
You can't take your time forever, we all know. Eventually, you'll have to have her. You can't wait any longer. Before you do, make sure you've touched every part of her body. There's something deeply sensual about a partner touching the parts of you that you've spent your entire life hating. You can't read her mind, you can't tell what she's thinking, but read her body language.
Does she try to cover her stomach? Move her hands out of the way and kiss it. Does she pull the sheets up over her thighs? Rip them away and grab them tightly. Every woman wonders what her butt looks like during sex, so make it known that you're loving every bit of it. Every bit of her. Touch, squeeze, kiss, caress every part of body. There's no way that she can stay in her head forever if she's experiencing such passionate body contact.
4. Talk to her.
But don't expect her to talk back. If you tell a woman who despises her body that you think she's incredibly sexy, she's going to need a moment to process that. First, she may question if you're just saying that because you want to get laid. Second, she will take it in and believe it, for a moment, before deciding that you're saying it just to get laid. If you pair your words with actions that show her how sexy you think she is, perhaps she will take your statements at face value and soak them into her soul as she so desperately needs to do. But that may mean she doesn't have words for you. Yet.
Tell her how much she turns you on, how beautiful she is, how great she is at reading your body, and maybe consider this an offering, something you won't receive in return. But know that it's a huge deal, and you're definitely heightening the experience for her.
5. Touch her afterwards.
Very important. When it's all said and done, perhaps she will have left her self-loathing behind for a few moments as you both breathe heavily and recover from what was hopefully a wonderful experience. But don't leave her hanging. I don't necessarily mean you have to spoon her or cuddle. But lay a hand on her stomach and kiss her arm. If you do spoon her, put your hand directly on her outer thigh or her butt, and kiss her back. Stroke her hair.
Give her the reinforcement she's probably craving but feels ashamed to ask for. Let her know that you're attracted to her, whether you're engaging in sex or you're just lying naked in bed. This is what sets you both up for more connection in the future, and better sexual experiences the next time, and the next time, and the next time.
As a sexual partner, it is not your job to help a woman through her body image issues. You're not a therapist. You're not a life coach. But as a person who loves to have a mind-blowing sex, you will definitely benefit from taking time to make this person feel irresistible.
When both partners feel sexy and empowered, sparks are guaranteed to fly, and that's the kind of sex I know I want to have. If you read back through this list, you'll see that nothing requires that much extra energy — these are things you might have done anyway. However, the awareness that comes with your actions will make your partner feel like her needs are being met, even if she didn't express to you what those needs are. And that makes you an excellent lover.
This article was originally published on Ravishly.