How do I maintain my own sexy self confidence when my partner has more sexual capital in society than I do?
Dear Sexy Girl in a Boring World,
So, I thought long and hard about this question because I too have walked a mile in your shoes. My former boyfriend is a blue-eyed stone cold fox type with a Down Under accent (read: ALL the sexual capital). I found myself becoming pseudo-agoraphobic while we dated because leaving the house with him meant dealing with people flirting with him in front of me and fielding unwelcomed commentary from all kinds of people. Like the one time we were walking off the train and this woman stopped us and told me to “keep doing whatever you’re doing to keep him.” I just smiled politely, but let’s live in the imaginary retaliatory world in my heart for a second where I would have read her so fast she would have gotten whiplash.
Well, that was fun to think about. Now, back to you.
So, here’s my advice, which is more about the core of confidence than about the performance of it:
Offset emotional work
It’s A LOT of work to be in a relationship, especially with someone who has more privilege than you do. You’ve got to communicate more, teach them stuff and also manage not to stab them in the face while you patiently do the aforementioned. Feeling sexy is a lot about feeling safe. It is your partner’s job to help make you feel safe in your relationship. This includes doing the work of off-setting the emotional labor of dating them. If your boo has more privilege, they have to do more work. I’m thoroughly convinced that this is how relationships with complex power dynamics can survive. Don’t feel bad about expecting this. If they want to date you, then they have to understand that there may be more work involved because you’ve had to interface with more cultural stigma.
Center YOUR needs
A lot of times we get caught up in how we can “prove” to the outside world that we are good enough to be with our partner. Rather than getting caught up in that game, take those resources and focus them inward. What do YOU need to feel good when you’re with your date? One of the hardest things about dating someone who has more privilege is that there are TONS of things that they do all the time that they don’t think twice about, but that are way far out of your comfort zone. If going out to “da club” is fine for him, but you know it’s just going to turn into some weird experience where you’re dealing with people trying to blow him every time you go to the bathroom (oops.. projecting: yes, this has happened to me, girl). Then, just say no. You’re not limiting your relationship. You’re honoring your boundaries.
Do something witchy
I’m a HUGE fan of sexy rituals. You can spend an extra 10 minutes rubbing lotion all over your body and experiencing how good you feel. You can get your moan on in the shower while soaping up. You can write a sexy story about yourself. Or find something that reminds you of your hotness that you can touch or look at when you’re having a hard time remembering that you’re a babe. This can include things like a super hot selfie, a pair of cute undies, or a bundle of your partner’s pubic hair (yes, a bundle of pubic hair has been gifted to me)!
Turn processing into foreplay
Processing doesn’t have to involve crying for 8 hours while you burn sage. It can be something easy like a compliment-offering session. Or maybe you try on hot outfits while your partner talks openly about their desire for you. Or you can totally do decompression time where you process some feels and their job is just to listen and affirm your experience.
Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, MA, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.