Lubricating The Hard Parts: Body Insecurity and Sex

Q. I’m recovering from some serious body-insecurity issues which had a bad impact on my sex life with my husband. We take care of ourselves (and help each other with that, occasionally), but we’re both wanting to get the sex back in. Unfortunately, I feel like my insides have shrunk and sex hurts a lot more than it used to, so it ends up being frustrating. Most lubricants seem to sting (I think it might be the glycerin). How can we ease back into things without getting too frustrated?

A. First off poodle, let me congratulate you on climbing out of the pit of body hate and insecurity. If we had a dollar for every woman (and trans woman and trans men and everyone in between) who feels bad about themselves, we would be able to buy out all the shit that makes people feel bad about themselves, and set it on fire. We live in a culture that economically thrives on making you feel anywhere on the scale from incomplete to down-right shameful. I sometimes wonder how we actually get by without throwing ourselves all lemmings-style off a cliff somewhere. Seriously. We concentrate on only one type of body, one type of experience. You must be the pretty, thin, white girl, not too pretty, so as to not be intimidating to men and oversexed, but not too plain. You must have a smile on at all times, you must fit into these jeans, you must have smooth, straight hair, you must weigh under this amount. You must wear nice skirts and dresses, because you should not dress for yourself, you must dress for those watching you. You must cater to the appetites of the “Acceptable Women For The Demanding General Public Peanut Galleryâ„¢ Bullshit.” You do not just hear it from men; you hear it from your friends or parents “concerned” for your weight or from random commenters who feel entitled to tell you what they think of your looks. So you gather everything you have and shove it all into one, tight, neat, tiny, little perfect box if you can pass some of the criteria, and if you can’t because of your race or weight or visible disability, then you are cast out into the land of untouchables. You do not ever cross these lines, because if you do, you are fat or ugly or other and even if you are within this tight, neat box of lived experience, you are most likely, still not worthy. If you are like most, after going through this beating down process, you begin to take it out on others, hoping the judgment will somehow soothe the inner critic. It does not. Nobody wins. Nobody prospers. Nobody just gets by.

Now, I won’t rail on the media for too long, but this is the everyday fight and it does take its toll. If we are even slightly alike, you and I dear reader, you have felt the dark spot. The dark spot is that tiny, tiny, tiny, little dark hole that resides on the right ventricle of your heart, that amazing, beating muscle of yours. But given the shit that life just throws at us, that little spot, can grow and eat out all your insides. It floods your eyes and your ears, it eats out your spirit. It’s a cannibal and it eats out everything you have done and everything you can do and replaces it with internalized self-hatred. You are slowly killing yourself everyday, wondering why the poison you are drinking is not making everything better. You hate yourself and for good reason. Look at you. What’s wrong with you. Your body is a failure. You do not deserve love.


Now, repeat the following:

My body is not my enemy. I am worthy. I am worthy of everything I hope and desire. I am worthy of love.

My body is not my enemy. I am worthy. I am worthy of everything I hope and desire. I am worthy of love.

My body is not my enemy. I am worthy. I am worthy of everything I hope and desire. I am worthy of love.


Now, that might have been a little much, but anyone who has ever dealt with internalized self-hatred, body dysmorphia, and insecurity, knows that these things do not go magically away. It takes the work of undoing, of unpacking everything you have ever been told. You do the work until the little dark spot, which has overtaken your vision and your mind, shrinks back down to being the little spot on your right ventricle. It will always permanently be there, only growing if you feed it. Some days it will weigh heavier than others. Some days it won’t seem like its there at all. But you my love, seem very right when you say that your insides have shrunken. They were probably eaten. So let’s see if we can’t help you get back to the place of feeling good.

Let’s take on lubes first, since that is an easy solve. It’s good you are using water-based lubes, since they are less likely to irritate you. However, if you are becoming irritated, it could mean that you either have a sensitivity to glycerin (do soaps and other cleaning products bother you?) or that you are feeling tense while having sex, thus creating a bit more. Water-based lubes do absorb into the skin, so if you and your partner were having sex, and you were not feeling especially into it, you are more than likely not wet, and his penis is causing you slight tears, which the glycerin is agitating. Now, the good news is, there are a bevy of lubes out there that you can sample. If you are not using condoms, you could try an oil-based lubricant, which normally eats through latex. My specific advice with oil-based lubes is to make sure to pee and give yourself a nice little wash, post sex, as oil-based lubes are more likely to cause UTIs and yeast infections if left sitting on your lovely bits. Silicone-based lubes are also an option – they are-badadada-dah-hypo-allergenic! They are also not water soluble, thus require a bit more clean up, but last longer than water soluble lubes. The only downfall is, silicon based lubes can’t be used with silicon sex toys; it will actually dissolve the surface of the sex toy and make it more likely to catch bacteria. Now, the last one you can try is an organic or natural vegan lube. I know some folks out there might be rolling their eyes (is everything organic these days?) but not only are they latex-friendly, glycerin-free, and water based (as well as a smattering of all sorts of ingredient-free descriptions), they are pH balanced to mimic a vagina. So you know after sex, where you get that little burn? That’s your vagina trying to bring itself back to normal speed. Putting stuff in your vagina, whether it’s a sex toy, a dick, or lube, can sometimes mess around with your pH – nothing to fear and your vagina certainly knows what it’s doing. But this way, there will be a little less come down and we all know coming down is the worst part.

Now, as for the easing back into sex. It’s hard. I won’t lie. I think you and your partner will more than likely be carrying some internalized pressure to make sex this completely amazing thing. I think you especially have those pressures (nothing like a description of a shrunken inside to see what mind over matter can do sometimes). You don’t need to relax to chill out. You need to feel the feelings you are. What about this is causing you pressure? Does it feel threatening? Are you harboring some resentment against your body about not only going through the insecurity you did, but now, being a little vulnerable after doing so? Try and go through those nasty feelings that are lying in the back of your head. It isn’t pleasant, but it will bring you to a headspace where you might understand better why you body feels like it’s caving in on itself. You might be able to recognize that you are in some ways, still blaming your body for “failing” when really, you are recovering from a huge fight, and are just a little bit wounded right now. You need extra care. You need you or your partner to just lavish over your body for a bit. It might sound a little hokey, but leave sex by the door right now. Start somewhere and build up to the sex you want. Take a shower together. Hang out naked together. Fool around but don’t have sex. Build up and up, until you feel yourself going, “I want to have sex,” because I think right now, you want to have sex, but you also feel like you should have sex because you are “better.” You are still climbing a tall ascent that at least, is out of the darkest pit. So take your time and work towards the sex you want, not the sex you think you should be having. It will only work that amazing little heart muscle you have to a stronger, more resilient muscle.

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2 replies on “Lubricating The Hard Parts: Body Insecurity and Sex”

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again now: best lube I’ve ever tried is coconut oil. One of the only ones that never stings – and I tried a lot of water- and oil-based lubes. YMMV, of course, but worth a try (or jojoba, or grapeseed).

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