NU prof: Positive body image leads to better sex

    Body comfort means more smooches. Photo by Steve Punter, licensed under the Creative Commons.

    Positive body images lead to more sex, more orgasms and more comfort with trying new things such as undressing in front of a partner, sex with the lights on and comfort initiating sex for women, said Northwestern psychology professor Renee Engeln-Maddox during her talk Objects of Desire: Women, Subjectivity, and Sex.

    Engeln-Maddox began her talk with the popular Sir Mix-A-Lot song “Baby Got Back” streaming through the classroom speakers. Though she said she saw the song as a means to make women feel good, it still objectifies women.

    Engeln-Maddox stressed to the audience of 30 people (the majority of which were female) that women should not objectify their own bodies as much as they do. And, she said, women objectify their bodies more than men do. Women tend to overanalyze when men are looking at them.

    “The more you’re looked at by others, the more you internalize things,” she said.

    When men tell women they are pretty, women start thinking about how they look. Then they think about how they are supposed to look. Women go from being told they are pretty to “cataloging” their own thoughts about their looks. The more someone hits on a woman, the more self objectified she becomes.

    Here’s the shocker: Men do not hold looks as highly as most women think. Rather, they focus on a woman’s self-acceptance and find that sexy, said Engeln-Maddox. Essentially, women are stressing over their looks and analyzing every curve of their bodies for nothing.

    Weinberg sophomore Lauren Kahn said Engeln-Maddox “did a good job emphasizing the split between mind and body that girls feel all the time and aren’t even necessarily aware of.”

    Engeln-Maddox said women make it difficult for men to give compliments because they are easily offended or they overanalyze the compliment. Women want their men to love every part of their bodies; meanwhile, the same women are cataloging each and every flaw and hating their own bodies, making it difficult for men to compliment at all.

    Because women are overanalyzing every body feature, she said, they are decreasing their satisfactions from sex. They are too focused on their body shame and anxiety. Body shame and dissatisfaction leads to selfconsciousness during sex, leading to less arousal and less pleasure.

    Cathy Muskett, a Weinberg freshman, said she felt that every woman could relate to Maddox’s talk.

    “As much as women want to be complimented and want to feel beautiful, at the same time it just makes you point out your own flaws to yourself in a way that it’s really almost counterproductive to the whole point of a compliment in the first place,” she said.

    She learned that women need to create a positive body image and maintain it for themselves rather than for men.

    Muskett summed up the talk best by saying, “I judge myself by how I feel and that leads to happier lives and better sex.”

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