Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pillow talk: Confidence and self-love equals beauty

Body image is always changing as a social construction and society keep piling on unrealistic ideals of beauty and attraction for both women and men. Communication researchers would explain the societal expectations of beauty with a concept called social comparison. Social comparison as it relates to social expectation is easily explained when advertisers alter an image of a person so much that the person becomes almost unrecognizable from the photo.

TV and movie stars are chosen for many roles based on looks, so many of the people we see regularly in TV and films are highly attractive. We then compare ourselves to these people and the unrealistic body standards. With constant reinforcement of this comparison, society has created a culture in which many people feel bad about their natural appearance.

This not only affects self-esteem and morale, but it affects your sex life as well. A study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine by Yasisca Pujols, Cindy M. Meston, and Brooke N. Seal found a link between body image and sexual satisfaction in women.

“Among nonclinical populations, several body image variables, particularly poor body image during sexual activity and body part dissatisfaction, have been linked to lower sexual efficacy, lower sexual assertiveness, and poorer sexual esteem among college-aged women,” according to the study.

Not surprisingly, a similar study by Robin Milhausen, Andrea Buchholz, Emily Opperman, and Lindsay Benson found the same link of body image and sexual satisfaction in men. Men with a better body image were seen to have more sexual satisfaction.

Being confident in yourself and your body is scientifically shown to enhance your sex life and encourages sexual satisfaction, but we don’t live in a culture where this self-confidence is easily attainable. It’s hard to love your body when you are shamed into hating it.

Both women and men fall for society’s obsession with looks. Plastic surgery has been around for a long time, making alterations and minor adjustments that wouldn’t be necessary if our capitalistic culture didn’t demand a certain appearance and shun those who don’t conform.

Plastic surgery has been taken to another level with labiaplasty and penile enhancement surgeries. While these procedures have medical purposes in cases where part of the genitals are causing discomfort or pain, when they are used for purely cosmetic reasons, they add to the body image insecurities many people face.

No person or society should determine how someone should look, whether it’s hair, odor, weight, scars, or general appearance. The only person who gets to decide what to do with their body and how they feel about it is the one who inhabits it. 

Men and women alike shouldn’t have to feel pressured to change their body for the pleasure of someone else or feel invalid because of their natural appearance. Showing a little excess weight, body hair, odor, or scars is seen as an abnormality and unattractive, when in reality, the purest and most natural form of a person is the most beautiful.

As human beings, we have a right to pleasure, confidence, and freedom when it comes to our bodies. Until we recognize and respect these rights of everyone and learn to recognize our individual beauty, nothing will change about society’s ideal body image.

Taylor McAvoy


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