We've all been there. You're gearing up for an afternoon delight, but with the lights on and the sun shining, you find your mind racing instead of your heart. If sex has you worried about why your (insert body part here) looks so (insert unkind self-criticism here), you've got a lot of company, finds a recent study.
Researchers questioned men and women in long-term relationships about whether they get distracted by their own body parts during sex. Participants were also asked how they thought their partners viewed their bodies. No big shocker here: Both men and women were distracted by negative thoughts about their own bodies, with women frequently citing their breasts and bellies. What is surprising — and let's be real, pretty sad — is that women's sexual satisfaction was also inhibited by worry about what her partner thinks about her body.
"Focusing your attention on negative feelings about your body diminishes your ability to enjoy sex," says lead study author Patricia Pascoal, a sex therapist and PhD candidate at the University of Lisbon. In other words, while you're busy sucking in your tummy, you're missing out on an opportunity to connect with your partner. It's also important to remember that just because you think your partner is critical of your body doesn't mean he is, she says. "Communication is key."
"At any age and with whatever body you have, you have the potential for pleasure as long as you open yourself to that," says Debby Herbenick, PhD, research scientist at Indiana University and author of Sex Made Easy.
Here, five ways to get out of your own head, and into the sack — even with the lights on.
1. Give yourself a reality check. Even Cindy Crawford famously said she wished she looked like the Cindy Crawford on magazine covers. "We are surrounded by images that are not real women," says Herbenick. "If you catch yourself thinking 'I wish I looked like that,' remind yourself that she doesn't look like that either."
2. Do some sweat prep. "Thin isn't everyone's ideal," says Herbenick. "A lot of people feel attractive when they're flexible enough to get in a certain position or when they feel strong or fit." Exercise to feel good — whatever that means to you — and you'll feel better about how you look in any situation. (Time to get busy: Four workouts that can improve your love life.)
3. Put matter over mind. "Remember that the mind is the biggest sex organ," says Herbenick. "When your mind strays, focusing on how your partner's hair smells or how the sheets feel against your skin can help keep your mind in the present moment." Keeping yourself in the moment also has the happy benefit of enhancing arousal and making orgasm easier, says Herbenick.
4. Set the scene. You wouldn’t throw a dinner party without setting the table, so do whatever it takes for you to feel a little sexier. Even the sight of a neatly made bed—with the pillows actually on the bed and not heaped on the floor next to it — can do wonders. And don't forget candlelight. A little clichéd, perhaps, but having candlelight in your boudoir will cast a sexy — and flattering — glow, says Herbenick.
5. Dress the part. Batman's not so brave without his bat suit, so take a page from the caped crusader and arm yourself with some gorgeous undergarments. "Wearing lingerie can make women feel super-sexy and help overcome worries about perceived body flaws," says Herbenick. There's nothing like a little lace to give a gal some gusto.
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