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How to have great sex even when you don't love your body

Marianne Kirby is a writer and maker in Orlando, Florida. She is the coauthor of the fat acceptance book, "Lessons from the Fatosphere " and can be regularly found stirring up big fat trouble all over the Internet....

You don't need a 'perfect' body to have great sex

Struggles with body image don’t disappear just because we’ve entered the bedroom, especially not when it comes to sex. And while one of the central messages of the body acceptance movement is that you don’t have to wait until you’re thin to get living, sometimes it’s not easy to navigate having a great sex life when you’re still not sure about your body.

Struggles with body image — and approximately 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies — can make getting naked tense and fraught with insecurity. None of that lends itself to getting turned on, much less getting off.

So what comes next? Are you supposed to put your sex life on hold while you learn to love your body?

Absolutely not. Body image issues don’t just disappear even when we’ve decided to work on body acceptance. Even if you’re flying around the world and wearing sleeveless dresses, the idea of getting naked with someone might give you pause — and that’s totally valid.

No matter whether you’ve sworn off diets for the rest of your life or you’re a lifetime Weight Watchers member, you deserve to have great sex if you want to have great sex. When body image issues get between us and a satisfying sex life, it’s easy to get mad at our bodies. But there are alternatives to punishing ourselves. Here are three straightforward things to practice that should help you have awesome sex whether or not you love your body right this minute.

1. Masturbate

Only five percent of women masturbate more than four times per week, compared to 20 percent of men. And as women get older, the frequency with which we masturbate seems to drop off, with the number of women who report not masturbating at all increasing. (You can check out more data in handy table format here.)

What does this mean for women who might not love their bodies? It means missing out on a prime opportunity to learn what makes our bodies feel good.

Take the time to learn what really gets you going, without the pressure of a partner being in on the game. Set aside some regular time to spend with yourself and make it a habit. Women who masturbate regularly report more satisfying sexual relationships overall.

Maybe it’s knowing what you like so you can clearly communicate that to a partner, or maybe it’s having more confidence in your body as a source of pleasure. But either way, masturbation does a body good.

More: 6 Self-loving sex positions

2. Practice being naked

There’s nothing wrong with wearing something sexy (however you define sexy) to give yourself a boost of confidence in bed. But if you’re absolutely depending on clothing to keep you covered while you do the deed, it might be time to air yourself out a little bit and practice being naked.

It’s absolutely true that being naked feels different. When our flesh isn’t contained by our clothes, it shifts and moves in ways that can be startling. Dance around your bedroom without any clothes on (this is especially fun prior to masturbating) and get used to your body.

This is called normalization — it’s the process by which something becomes normal. You can also think of it as exposure therapy, quite literally! Just spend some time hanging out with your naked self and make friends with the feeling of it.

3. Communicate about your comfort zone

Even if you don’t see what your partner does when you look at your body, remember that they’ve been looking forward to getting all up on that. You’re awesome and your partner knows it. (At least they’d better — please don’t have sex with people who don’t think you’re awesome.) The sex you have should be mutually satisfying, so don’t be ashamed to speak up about your desires and preferences.

Let your partner know what you like and what you don’t. This might mean a talk beforehand with a long-term partner about what you’re dealing with, but it might also mean some dirty talk the first time you’re hooking up. Whatever the case, talking about what works and what doesn’t means you’ll both be more likely to enjoy the proceedings.

More: 9 Things that affect your ability to orgasm

If you’re shy about your belly, remind your partner not to grab it and move their hands to a different area. If you’re not ready to put your body on display while you ride your partner, suggest something else — maybe reverse cowgirl instead. Know what your boundaries are and don’t be shy about enforcing them. You and your partner will both have a better time for it.

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