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Photo by Dornika Kazerani

Peter rocked underneath me as the wheels of his bed squeaked across the hardwood floor. He pressed the sides of his face into the pillow while I rested my palms onto his chest for stability; bouncing and grinding to our own euphoric rhythm. The touch of his fingers graced my back and paused at the crescent shape of where my lower spine meets my ass. When I rocked up, I could tell he was navigating a place to put his hands in the front of my body — grabbing at my tits and hips but shyly moving away from the squish of my stomach. I stopped.

“Fucking grab my belly.”

“Oh, sorry. Most people don’t like that.”

There wasn’t a part of me that could be upset or offended in that moment. In truth, I appreciated the sentiment. How many babes had this guy been with that had all gently pushed his hand away from a gut or a roll for fear of presumed disgust? It was enough for him to adopt the non-move and completely ignore my entire midsection completely. This is a pretty common occurrence in my sex life: I get naked, my date gets naked, we fool around, the grabbing starts, my belly gets zero attention, I question why. It’s frustrating, to say the very fucking least.

I’ve had a belly since I could remember; a round, spacious, convex piece of luggage that deliciously hugs my midsection and provides the most restful sleep to so many dog heads. It’s a source for a lot of past anger and present power and, hopefully, a peaceful future. During sex, it grazes the sheet covers and rests on top of my partner’s body. Sometimes it gets scrunched when there’s more aggressive bending. It’s so pretty and feminine, and makes all my underwear look so good. It wants you to touch it.

My younger sexual self found a lot of ways to hide and contort my bare belly out of the sightline of my lovers. I thought of it as my one major fault. I thought to myself, maybe if I changed my position enough (never cowgirl, always in a t-shirt, forever in an elongated stretch) I could trick my partner into thinking they were fucking a slender, petite person. I’ve swatted away plenty of hands before I was fully comfortable with having my stomach acknowledged by the same person who was entering me. Ironic.

We have been taught through advertising, film, tv, social media that to be bigger is to lack value. We engage in core conversations with friends and casually throw out how fat we feel without acknowledging the bodies in the room. We have yet to see a plus-size person on camera in a movie or series where their weight doesn’t dictate their storyline. And we certainly haven’t seen many real moments of plus-size women simply loving their body without there being a major controversy about it. And this, friends, is why we can grasp the grasp; why we feel ashamed to have a fold when we get on top. We are all scared of being fat because we know what the world does to fat people. So when your partner grabs that layer between your nipples and your genitalia, it’s a reminder of allllllllllllllllllllll of that because it actualizes that part of your body that is treated with zero value.

This is a damn shame. The belly is more erotic than we give it credit for. It moves, it has giggly bits, you can rub your genitals on it, and make amazing kinky marks to a wider canvas. If you’ve never dripped hot candle wax across a belly and watched it slowly move down the sides, you have not yet lived. The belly is — at risk of sounding sentimental — our core. And when we accept it as this erotic piece of our sexual lives, it removes all the stigma of how it typically gets treated.

This is, of course, a difficult act. How does one ignore what society deems as unattractive to then transition it into an available spot for a lover to caress? The majority of my twenties was spent actively working to be better to my body. It’s not an overnight process to erase the trauma of heavily-induced diet culture that destroyed my self-esteem and my, now, relationship with what it means to have a visible belly. Now that I’m in a good place to enjoy when a lover has a grab, it doesn’t fill me with dread like it used to. In fact, it’s a major turn on.

The piece of this that actually does send me into a body-positive spiral of fury is when my body gets treated as a fetish rather than a body someone is trying to enjoy. The amount of times I’ve been messaged asking if Rob, 37, Upper West Side could feed me while he jerked off is just too many for the average straight-laced dating app. My body is not a neutral body, and for some reason that means it never just gets to be. It’s questioned, judged, and analyzed anytime it walks or runs or eats or sits or puts on clothes. Because of this, people find it 100 percent acceptable to open up with, “I’ve never fucked a fat girl before” instead of, “Hello! I also like true crime!”

I know. There are so many sides to this. First, it’s about feeling comfortable enough to have someone look, touch, grab your belly. Then it’s about finding a babe that’s into you as a person and them not being terrified to do it. THEN it’s navigating dating creeps that only see you as an object to conquer. This is even more reason to not hide your belly during sex or at the beach or in life — the more people that see your belly, the less stigma it will carry.

There’s just something about letting go of your insecurities (even if it’s for a short period) and being super confident about the one thing everyone tells you you’re not suppose to love — there is power in radical self-acceptance, and it allows us to have hotter, less timid, sex. Aren’t we all done carrying around the proverbial weight of what it means to have actual weight in our midsection?

So, please. Touch it. Grab it. Simply acknowledge the fact that have an entire erogenous zone laid before you ready to be rubbed. And if you’re not sure, ask! And if this is your first time interacting with a hot babe with a belly: just embrace it. Much like gliding a tiny spoon across the top layer of chocolate mousse, it’s a decadent privilege that you are lucky enough to explore.

Laura Delarato is a writer, video producer, artist, nude art model, body image activist, and sex educator based in Brooklyn, NY . . . she also very aware of how intense that sounds. Her art and essays have been featured on BeautyCon, Ravishly, People, Allure, NBC, LunaLuna Magazine, Travel + Leisure, and Revelist — and she can be seen modeling for Blink Fitness, Dia & Co, ASOS, Target, PlusBKYN and Gwynnie Bee. Laura also teaches original workshops for Fusion Academy, The Pleasure Chest, Babeland, and Brooklyn’s yearly Sex Expo. Her work is deeply planted within body politics, fitness, sex education and plus size representation. During the day, she is a branded video producer and writer at Refinery29; specializing in body positivity, confidence, fitness, and representation. She is also the face of R29’s 67% Project where she creates content and speaks to the importance of plus-size community and body image — as well as a face of R29’s 29Room’s Creative Spirit campaign and merchandise.

Follow Laura on Instagram where she posts about body acceptance, erotic art, and wellness.