I Post Pictures Of Myself In My Underwear, Or Is There Something Inherently Wrong With Seeking Sexual Attention?

I DO find sexual attention immensely validating, and that plays into everything from the way I dress to my choice of career.

Apr 30, 2013 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

I am not a self-Googler. Not because I'm not vain as hell, but because I'm simply too sensitive and take things I read about myself way, way too personally. I pretty much learned my lesson after the time I interviewed an MMA fighter and consequently found a lengthy thread on an MMA forum dedicated to the myriad ways in which I was unacceptably unattractive.

I will never forget exactly how many months at the gym and how many Crest whitestrips they speculated it would take for me to be halfway bangable. (In retrospect, I'm bouyed by the fact that at least they thought it was an attainable goal!)

But somehow I recently stumbled across a little hidey-hole corner of the Internet in which some people were discussing my life and persona in great detail and before I could stop myself, I had absorbed the criticisms therein, chiefly that I am annoyingly desperate for sexual attention.

"Well, that's true," I thought to myself.

It's a criticism I've received before. For the most part, ya'll are sweet as pie to me, but the stray mean comment I've received has been along these lines.

My response has generally been, "Yes, you're right." I don't need you to tell me I'm attention-seeking any more than I need you to tell me I have daddy issues. I've been pretty open about the fact that I DO find sexual attention immensely validating, and that plays into everything from the way I dress to my choice of career. I'm very aware that I have a tendency to lead with my sexuality and that throughout my life, it has functioned as something of a shield for me.

But, as someone pointed out, being open and aware about something isn't the same as working on changing it.

I was thinking about all this yesterday when I posted a photo of myself in my underwear on Instagram. It was a spontaneous decision. I was trying on clothes at Joe Fresh and after Instagramming a photo of myself in a dress, I snapped a second photo of myself in my bra and panties.

I liked the way I looked. The panties I was wearing were high-waisted enough to cover the frownie face of loose skin over my belly-button and my FUPA, and the application of a filter erased my stretchmarks and cellulite. Overall, I wasn't showing any more skin than I would be in a bikini. Without taking much time to think it over, I pressed next and published the image to my 2,400 Instagram followers.

image

My caption was "Oh why not."

And look, there's something about posting a photo like this at a size 14 that is empowering as hell. To show a body that does not fit the media definition of what a sexy body is supposed to look like and call it sexy, and to have its sexiness affirmed by those who see it. And in fact, most of the many comments that poured in were from women applauding my chutzpah.

But what if I were a size 4? Is it OK to show your body, not as a political statement, but merely for the sake of showing it and having it appreciated?

Is there something inherently wrong with seeking sexual attention? Is my enjoyment of it something I need to "fix"? I asked around and got a variety of answers:

"Everyone wants to be desired & thought of as desirable. People who shame you for a natural desire are the ones in the wrong."

"Waste of time, sexual attention is fleeting. I try to be creative and produce as fulfillment rather than fleeting male gaze."

"I think everyone gets validation from somewhere. It's either men or friends or career. And all of those can be good and all of them can hurt you so none are better than the others. People are just different."

"The only thing I cant come up with is that it doesn't seem healthy to seek validation outside yourself."

"No. We have basic human needs. But I think it's important to be cognizant of the reason why you're doing it."

That last response seems to make good sense to me, so let's examine my motives.

Partly, I'm just very, very open about my sexuality. There's a thin line between privacy and shame, and I've already had enough shame in my life. I spent my childhood and adolescence stewing in it -- ashamed of being overweight, of being a "sinner" with sexual feelings and urges in my Southern Baptist community, of living in a dirty house, of my bedwetting, of "letting myself" be raped.

Today it's easier for me to be open and unapologetic about who and what I am than try to navigate my secrets. Perhaps I've overcorrected. But time and time again, I find that when I expose these secrets to the light, even the ones I think are most horrifying, shame shrivels up and dies. 

Partly I'm rebelling against the misogynistic and sex-negative culture I grew up in -- the one that taught me that women's bodies and sexual desires were sinful, that virginity was the most valuable gift I had to offer. I still live in a world that considers the word "slut" to be a scathing insult, that makes adultery and premarital sex an offense punishable by death in some cultures, that tells us to keep our legs and our mouths shut.

In that sense, my sexual attention-seeking is coming from a place of confidence -- I think I am sexy, do you think I'm sexy, too? 

But let's be real. I'm also a recovering sex addict who was baked in an atmosphere of trauma and neglect. Not only were there a lack of sexual boundaries in my childhood home, but I had a father who tempered his emotional distance with leering and innuendo. Sexuality became a defense mechanism and sex itself a way to self-medicate.

There are times when I find myself using my sexuality as a shield because I don't feel like my brain and my personality are worthy of attention on their own. I sometimes regress to that lonely, self-loathing 13-year-old who first realized that sex was an easy way to get attention and that attention was close enough to affection.

When that hurt little girl is driving my adult body, that's when sexual attention-seeking becomes not wrong exactly, but not where I want to be. It's OK for me to feel validated by the attention of others, but not to be incapable of validating myself.

I will probably always have to navigate carefully in this area. But for all my baggage, I love sex -- It's a vital, thrilling part of life, one of the greatest pleasures humans can access. I desire and I want to be desired. My sexuality, for all the bad and good reasons, is a large part of who I am, and I've grown accustomed to being honest about who I am.

So for now, I err on the side of openness, on the side of celebration. I pay attention to what I'm doing and why I'm doing it without beating myself up about it. I show you mine and welcome you to show me yours.

And God willing, I'll continue to avoid the feedback.

 
 

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