plus author of Big Big Love
--- by HANNE BLANK
From Radiance Spring 2000
amps and vixens, sirens and femmes fatales, come out, come out, wherever you are! Everywhere you look—from everyone’s favorite prime-time diva Camryn Manheim to Days of Our Lives’ saucy schemer Patrika Darbo, to luscious Star Jones, to zaftig model Kate Dillon, well-rounded, well-padded women are showing up in the spotlight, and boy, do they sizzle! It’s not just because they’re famous. They—and countless thousands of other plus-size women who’ve learned to embrace their sexuality, sensuality, and sex appeal—prove that not only are we, as big women, sexy to other people, but that more and more, we’re seeing ourselves as sexy, too.
The big secret about being sexy, the thing that diet center ads don’t want you to know, is that sexiness actually doesn’t have anything to do with what size you are or how much you weigh. It’s about who you are and what you do: the way you think, the way you act, and the positive vibes you put out. Sexy is as sexy does.
Learning to be sexy and to be comfortable with it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to slay all the many little trolls that lurk under the bridges you have to cross in the process. I still have bad days when I just can’t quite muster up the enthusiasm to actually smile at the chubby broad in the mirror. But for every moment you learn to be sexy by doing sexy, for every hour you learn how to sail through your world on your own deliciousness, you vanquish a whole lot of those pesky little trolls.
It’s good to remember that being sexy or feeling sexy isn’t always about having sex! Sexiness can be about sex, most definitely! However, feeling sexually self-confident and secure in your sensuality will stand you in good stead in almost any arena of your life. Feeling sexy makes you feel good about yourself, and that makes you a happier, healthier, more confident person whose joie de vivre shines like sunlight through a gorgeous stained-glass window. And that’s infectious, it’s appealing, it’s captivating, and it’s sexy as all-get-out.
It is true that the sexier you feel and act, the more in control you are when it comes to keeping your sanity, health, and dignity in the often difficult territory of romance and relationships. Knowing you’re attractive helps you remember, for instance, that you don’t have to “settle for what you can get” if someone who really isn’t your cup of tea asks you out or propositions you. Asserting that you deserve to be treated well and remembering that you don’t have to “compensate” for not being thin by giving in to whatever a partner asks for can help keep you from everything from boring dates to unsafe or unwanted sex. In fact, knowing that you are a sexy, desirable person lets you go after what you want in the realm of sex and relationships.
The question isn’t whether to let your sexy self shine, but how. It’s usually more a matter of getting comfortable with the sexy side of yourself than anything else. But how do you move from feeling conflicted about letting people see your sexy side to a place where you can be unapologetic and happy about being a big beautiful bombshell? The following are some of the techniques that have helped me and many of the students in my seminars and workshops on sexuality and sensuality for men and women of size.
I’ve Got a Little List
Like Gilbert and Sullivan’s Lord High Executioner in The Mikado, start out by making yourself a little list, a list of old, ugly thoughts about size and sexiness that you can do without. Because of what we hear from family, friends, and society, women of size can carry around a lot of self-destructive, abusive thoughts about their body size and desirability. So take a sheet of paper, and write down every hurtful thing that ever made you feel you weren’t sexy or lovable or didn’t deserve to be.
This can be an emotionally wrenching thing to do. So at the same time that you write down all the negative things, write down—on a separate sheet of paper—exactly what you wish you’d said in reply. (See my book Big Big Love: A Sourcebook on Sex for People of Size and Those Who Love Them, Greenery Press, 2000, and Radiance (Summer 1998) for examples of snappy comebacks to inspire you.) When you’re done, take the two lists and reread them. Then burn the list of hurtful things, and keep the list of comebacks! You never know when they’ll come in handy.
There’s one other list I recommend. I think of it as the “love letter list,” and it holds all the things you like about yourself and all the compliments you get from other people. It might seem a little conceited and silly at first, but when you’ve had a bummer of a day or a lousy date, it’s nice to have a reminder that you’re yummy. I keep my list on my computer, which makes it easy to reread, edit, and add to from time to time.
It’s okay if the list starts out small. My own list began with only five items, but throughout time it’s expanded quite a bit! It includes things that might seem foolish to other people, but which I honestly do like about myself—like the fact that I think I have sexy earlobes, because they’re so sensitive to being nibbled on.
Everyone’s had at least one of those supposedly magical outfits—that pair of “thin” jeans that you keep in your closet for ages because it’s supposed to inspire you to lose weight. Well, as we’ve all figured out, owning tiny clothes isn’t going to make them fit. On the other hand, having something that does fit you, right now, looks good on you, and makes you feel like the sexiest thing since Marilyn Monroe will boost your whole outlook far more than those tiny blue jeans ever did!
Reclaim the “inspirational outfit” trick by using it to help you feel your most confident. It doesn’t matter what clothing you choose—a feather-trimmed peignoir, a leather biker jacket, a frilly garter belt and stockings, or a stunning business suit—as long as it makes you feel like the world is your oyster. Something as inexpensive as a pair of pretty panties or a fire-engine-red bra could be a fabulous start. Wearing something sexy for yourself under your street clothes can put a wiggle in your walk and a smile on your face.
Don’t be too surprised if you find yourself feeling more and more fond of being dressed in your sexiest best. What’s not to like? It feels great and it’s lots of fun. As you get more comfortable with strutting your stuff, you can even get a bit outrageous if you want. These days I feel pretty comfortable going out in seamed stockings, heels, a miniskirt, and a low-cut, shimmery blouse with flirty cutouts over the midriff!
Obviously sexy clothes aren’t for everyone. They aren’t always my style, either, but they can be huge fun when you’re in the mood. You’ve got nothing to lose by wearing clothes that look and feel great, no matter what style you prefer. After all, when you’re a big woman, people are going to look—so you might as well feel good about what you give ’em to look at!
Shake Your Groove Thang
I’m a firm believer in the restorative powers of putting a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip. Dancing is a fabulous way to experience your body as sensual, sexy, and expressive. Although any sort of movement helps combat those feelings of living only from the neck up, dancing is special because it lets you express your feelings so immediately—a lot like sex!
Don’t let the fact that you don’t know how to do any formal dance steps stop you from having fun dancing. I don’t know the merengue from a Maserati, but I love to dance anyway. Move any way that the music moves you. You can chair-dance to avoid strain on your hips or knees, or dance by wriggling around on the floor or bouncing on the bed. All you have to do is put on some music that makes you want to move . . . and then move!
Feel the music flowing through your entire body. The more you’re able to feel connected to and rooted in your own body, the more things you do that make you feel that way, the more you’re going to feel just how sensuous and sexy that body can be. As Bootsy Collins used to say, “Free your ass and your mind will follow!”
Get in Touch
Part of enhancing your ability to make joy in your rounded sexiness is learning how to accept and enjoy touch. Being massaged, whether by a friend or a pro, is great and feels wonderful. Self-massage can be even better for improving your sense of really living inside your body. Many of us avoid touching the fat parts of our bodies, or touch them only to put on clothes. Why not develop a more loving relationship with yourself?
Stroke and massage your stomach, your thighs, your breasts, arms, and hips—as much of your body as you can touch. Some parts of you will be firmer, softer, jigglier, sturdier, or more delicate. Get to know them all. One of the benefits of having a bigger body is that it has so much personality and provides so many pleasant sensations, both for the one being touched and for the one doing the touching. One man I know says that he loves big women because “they have such sweet softness in places that thin women don’t even have.”
Pay attention to how your body feels when you move, too, particularly when you are doing things you enjoy. Feel how your body sways, enjoy how your arms and hips swing, and savor the ways you can “dance,” even when all you’re doing is walking down the hall.
Take a Look Around
Very few people in the world are really magazine-cover beauties, but an awful lot of people in the world are sexy. Becoming conscious of the wide range of things that can be attractive helps open your mind to how your own sexiness expresses itself. What might other people start noticing when they give you The Look That Says Yum?
Don’t forget about compliments! Does someone you know have a fabulous smile, a devil-may-care sense of humor, or a wonderfully quirky sense of style? Compliment him or her. What goes around comes around, plus it’s a fabulous way to flirt. Tell some charming gentleman that he has lovely eyes, or give him a long, slow smile. No matter what your gender, it’s hard to resist feeling good when someone makes it clear that they think you’re delightful, and doesn’t it feel a little devilish to make someone else blush?
If you’re not getting what you want, particularly in your sex life, it might be a good idea to try asking! People are often reluctant to seek out what they really want. Sometimes you might feel that you don’t deserve to ask, let alone actually get, what you ask for. Truth is, you do deserve to have pleasure and happiness in your life, and learning how to ask for what you want is a crucial part of learning how to handle your own sexuality. Most partners are actually relieved and even turned on to be told what their lovers like and want (being a mind reader is hard work, and guessing wrong isn’t too satisfying for anyone).
The hard part is asking. At first it might feel selfish, a little demanding even. So get a little practice! All it takes is a bottle of lotion and a friend with whom to trade foot rubs. While your friend rubs your feet, your job is to give him or her constant direction about where to rub, how hard to rub, and when to move on to the next place. If the person giving the massage doesn’t get any instructions, he or she should stop and just sit there and hold your foot. It’s up to you to direct your friend to touch, knead, rub, and stroke in the ways you want, and it is up to you to figure out how to ask. Don’t worry about being too demanding: after fifteen minutes or so, you’ll trade places! You’ll learn a lot about how to ask for what you want and about how it feels to be asked for things in a respectful, equal way. You must admit, this is a pretty enjoyable way to find out that asking doesn’t mean being demanding, and that expressing your preferences and desires may not be so scary after all.
No, you may not always get what you ask for, but when the worst thing that can happen is that someone says no, you’re in pretty good shape. As Mick and the boys sing, “You can’t always get what you want / but if you try sometime, you just might find / you get what you need.”
Knowledge Is Power
When it comes to confidence about your sexuality and your expression of it, nothing is as helpful as a little liberal education. Knowing what’s possible, what intrigues you, what turns you off, and what you might want to try can help you feel sexier just by giving you better tools—terminology, ideas, and resources—with which to negotiate your sex life.
Reading good erotica is an excellent way to understand your own sexuality! It’s not the place to go for reference or for clinical questions and practical tips, but erotica can let you get more in tune with your own sexual energy and desires. Look for some of the well-edited, intelligent, women-oriented anthologies, which include the yearly Best Women’s Erotica (Cleis Press) and Herotica (Down There Press), and enjoy some leisure reading (see also Radiance, Summer 1999, on erotica).
For more practical questions, you’ll want to consult one of the numerous excellent resource books about sex. My own book is currently the only one on the market that deals specifically with sexuality as it affects people of size, and it includes a lengthy resource guide. Look for some of the excellent general books about women’s sexuality, for example, The New Good Vibrations Guide to Sex (Cleis Press, 1997).
Knowledge really is power when it comes to tapping into our wonderful birthright of self-confidence and feeling good, which goes along with being smart, sensually vital women. When you learn that sexy is as sexy does, you increase your control over your life in many ways, including how you use your zaftig sex appeal. Be playful and charming, flirtatious and self-affirming, and enjoy yourself. Let your inner sexy self come out and play. ©
HANNE BLANK is a Boston-based writer and historian. The author of Big Big Love: A Sourcebook on Sex for People of Size and Those Who Love Them (Greenery Press), she publishes Zaftig! Sex for the Well Rounded, is a contributing editor for Scarlet Letters: A Journal of Femmerotica, and is a columnist for the Boston Phoenix and Clean Sheets. Her work appears in venues as diverse as Zenpride, Anything That Moves, the Sonoma County Independent, Paramour, and Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, and is forthcoming in the anthologies Best Women’s Erotica 2000, Sex and Single Girls, and The Elvis Presley Reader. She maintains a pied-ŕ-terre in cyberspace at www.hanne.net.
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