Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ribbon Cutting Time — How Sex Shapes Our Body Image and Self-Esteem

There’s an epidemic going on, of young women who hate their bodies, including those who starve themselves and cut themselves. I wonder about the connection between this and a girl’s first sexual experience. How does sex shape our body image and self-esteem?

I’m quite sure there is a strong connection.

I’m working with the parent of an 18-year-old girl who is contemplating having sex for the first time. This is also her first boyfriend.

Part of my style of life coaching is to empower my clients to become the CEOs of their bodies – to make choices based on what works for them. If their body was a company, what are the most profitable and successful decisions that will ensure their health and vibrancy now and in the future?

Having sex for the first time is a significant life passage. Yet I know too many women who would describe their first experience as rushed, impulsive and without any planning; somewhat unconscious and without pleasure or passion. This is not a healthy legacy to pass on to their daughters.

What daughter would want to take over a sick company?

Is this any way to run a company?

Is this any way to foster a healthy relationship with one’s body and sexuality?

A woman’s first sexual experience is equal to the “ribbon cutting” of a new company – would any business owner allow their grand opening ceremony to be less than perfect or to let it go by without a celebration?

My client, the mother of this young woman, has a very unique relationship with her daughter. They already talk openly and bluntly about what is happening sexually in her daughter’s relationship. This is rare compared to most other parents, who only discuss sex in terms of contraception, if that.

Even before this, they started early by discussing body awareness, being open with nakedness and never criticizing the physical body (even when the mom felt fat). Menarche (the first menstrual cycle) was also discussed openly, and the changes in her body were celebrated and explained. And so now, as this young woman considers sex for the first time, she feels completely comfortable to discuss this with her mother. It’s not a taboo topic. Sexuality is not associated with shame, rather it’s embraced.

I asked my client, “If no one, i.e., your daughter’s peers and their mothers, would ever know that you orchestrated your daughter’s first sexual experience – what would you do?”

She answered without hesitation: “I’d book her a room at the Ritz Carlton and give her additional money for clothing that made her feel sensual. I would tell her to honor her body and honor his body, and to give and receive lots of pleasure.”

I suggested that she ask her daughter a similar question, “What needs to happen in order for your first time to feel ideal?”

She reported back her daughter’s answer, “I don’t want to have sex in a rushed way, and then have to go home and be all alone, feeling disconnected. I don’t want to have sex quietly while someone’s parents are upstairs. I want it to be special.

She wants to honor her body and allow this experience to be as meaningful as it should be. She already instinctively knows how to take care of herself. The problem is that cultural norms will or may supersede this. Even her mom may supersede this due to her own guilt around endorsing this first experience.

As a life coach, I want to challenge my clients – and all of you – to break paradigms and to think outside of the box. How can we support our young women to honor and respect their bodies? They’re having sex anyway, how can we turn it into the meaningful experience that it should be?

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