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Body Positivity / Sex

I Thought Body Positivity Was The Key To Sexual Healing. It Wasn’t.

"I needed to repair my connection to pleasure without the crutch of body positivity."

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Written by Akhir Ali.

Photo by Emily Allen.

Prior to our contemporary moment’s general embrace of body positivity, thicker girls and women weren’t encouraged to love themselves. They were taught to make themselves smaller, physically and emotionally. There weren’t curvy women on-line happily sharing their bodies, affirmations, and lifestyles with thousands of followers. Instead, “thinspo” circulated Tumblr and thigh gaps were worshipped. The few thick women on screen were often portrayed as funny or ill-fated, but rarely sexy, intelligent, or charismatic. Meanwhile, young white women pranced around mainstream television in size 2 jeans and were celebrated for it. This was the early 2000s. I was twelve and weighed 199lbs. 

When my burning desire for a nonexistent belly overpowered my sense of security, I decided to do what the media blatantly advised and what scrutinizing family members seemingly implied: lose weight. At my request, a loved one lent me one of her old girdles and I wore it under my uniform for the remainder of middle school. This same person also taught me how to hold in my stomach to disappear its natural roundness. I contracted my abdomen while I ate, while in class, while I read, until I literally forgot how to take a deep breath. My classmates and family members commented freely on my appetite, which matched that of my father’s, so I reduced my food intake and exercised incessantly. All my efforts did result in weight loss. By time I reached high school, I had lost sixty pounds. However, my self-perception was so distorted that I could not truly register the size difference. In my mindseye, I remained the dejected, overweight twelve year old.

I sometimes catch myself pinching my hips and belly with an air of disapproval and frustration. So, I must make a conscious effort on a daily basis to speak kindly about myself and look lovingly upon my body. I must say: I love you, my body. 

The year I could see my ribcage rippling beneath my skin, I decided to craft and cultivate a mental health regimen that could awaken within me the fierce spirit of self-love. I started simply with an incantation–“I love my body”–, until the words filled my mouth. This affirmation, in addition to meditation, a nourishing diet, journaling, therapy and compassion, restored the battered connection between my mind and body. Of course, healing is an uneven evolution. My relationship with anorexia and body dysmorphia no longer defines me, but at twenty-six years old, I still have anxiety about eating. I sometimes catch myself pinching my hips and belly with an air of disapproval and frustration. So, I must make a conscious effort on a daily basis to speak kindly about myself and look lovingly upon my body. I must say: I love you, my body. 

My inner monologue of body positive empowerment seemingly worked. I did things that I would have never done without the self-assurance and confidence my refreshed mindset insisted I had. I danced naked in clubs. I ate a burger without panicking. I unleashed my breasts at a nude park. I sported a bright orange two-piece at the beach–without a cover up! These were small, but powerful testaments to my healing journey. Invincible, I used my acquired skills to dispel any and every problem that shored up in relation to my body, including pleasure. 

Don’t like having sex with the lights on? I love my body. What about broad daylight? I love my body. Experienced mild self-rejection after climax? I love my body.  Experienced anxiety before cumming? I love my body. Squirting? I love my– I’d stumbled upon a place where those words were foreign. 

A lot of people with vaginas would be thrilled to learn that they could squirt. For some, this is a major feat. The olympics of cumming.

A lot of people with vaginas would be thrilled to learn that they could squirt. For some, this is a major feat. The olympics of cumming. The opposite reaction, equally well known, is one of shame. Online forums house endless stories detailing one’s embarrassment after squirting during sex. My experience aligned with the latter. When I first squirted while masturbating, I sat in bed paralyzed by shock, bombarded with feelings of disgust. I felt unnatural. I felt alien. I stared at my vagina like it was a strange, disembodied organ. I stared at my vibrator like it had betrayed me. My powerful, strong, unequivocally positive inner monologue of self-empowerment and self-acceptance? Quiet. Drowned out by the thick, sticky overwhelm of shame. 

My romantic partner was not supportive. When I explained to her what happened and what squirting is, she nearly shuddered. Her face contorted. Immediately, I felt transported to middle school, reliving the pains of perceived abnormalcy. Unhealthy behaviors resurfaced. Similar to the way in which I began strict dieting and brutal exercise routines as a child, I found myself attempting to monitor my climax. I had a new mantra: Please don’t squirt. I tried to control my pleasure the way I had controlled my body.

I wanted to believe that loving my physical form translated into an unabashed acceptance of my pleasure. I wanted to believe that body positivity could absolve me of my sexual guilt. Squirting shattered the illusion, revealing the distinction between body and the pleasure my body experiences. One could no longer obfuscate the other. If I went without acknowledging the unique landscapes of body and pleasure, I would have continued to silence my internalized sex-shame with body positive proclamations all under the auspices of healing. I needed to repair my connection to pleasure without the crutch of body positivity.   

Again, healing is an uneven evolution. When I decided to sit down with myself and investigate the source of my sexual guilt, I knew I would consciously spurr a perpetual shift in selfhood. I prefer this to stasis. As I was in-between therapists, I didn’t have anyone professional with which to discuss my sex life, so I journaled. Masturbated. Read Angelina Grimké. Then, I journaled again. Rinse the vibrator and repeat. Each time opening myself a little more to discovery both sexual and intellectual. 

My journals eventually unfolded and became this article which further unraveled and became this call:

Vagina-having persons, fellow squirters, who cum in unexpected ways to meet the depths of their ecstasy: your orgasm is artful design. Your prismatic pleasure is wavelength beyond body and mind. Indulge in your pussy-power. Desire yourself above all. 


About The Author

Akhir Ali (she/her) is a writer from Washington D.C. who writes fiction, personal essays, and queer erotica. Her work centers contradiction, disembodiment, and intimacy.

Follow on IG: @khikaichy


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