Before things start getting intimate and intense, I always make sure that the lights are turned off. So, when I’m about to have sex, I pause the make-out sesh and run to the light switch. I do that even when I’m drunk out of my mind. That is how important and instant my need is for it to be dark or environmentally-conscious. I used to rationalise it by telling myself that ‘turning off the lights will heighten my other senses’, . I’m sure you’ve heard of sensory deprivation. Hence, I was just enhancing and making the experience more pleasurable. But in reality, I just didn’t want him to see my naked body.
My naked, vulnerable and imperfect self starts panicking about all my tiny flaws. “Is he repulsed by my body hair? What does he think about all the blemishes on my back? I can’t let him go down on me with the lights on!”
The first time I kissed someone, it was in the dark. I was so turned on and the kiss was morphing into a steamy make-out. So, he starts to put his hand under my shirt, but my alarm bells go off. I tell him I’m not comfortable with it because it’s my first time. But I was just conscious of the body hair on my back. I thought it was unattractive. I was scared of rejection. So, I would always make sure that I shave all over before any sexual activity so that I ‘feel’ attractive. But I could still not bring myself to keep the lights on during sex.
I don’t even switch on the lights to go to the bathroom in the middle of sex
Even after 4 years of an active sex life, I feel embarrassed when I have to stand naked or walk to the bathroom. I hunch down and use my hands to cover my body and tell him to look away while I do so. My naked body has too many places that are unmonitored. What I mean by this is that, when you’re wearing clothes or even underwear, only a part of your body is uncovered, so it’s easy to monitor how those parts look. But when I’m naked, I feel exposed to how I truly look, an amalgamation of raw beauty and clearly visible flaws. Maybe even a window to my deepest insecurities. And I knew that it would really break me if I was judged when I felt at the peak of my vulnerability.
I know this shouldn’t be the case but I only started feeling confident about my body when one of my partners complimented it. He told me how attractive I was and that I had a great body, which took me a while to believe. But it still boosted my confidence and hushed down the judgemental voices in my head.
Keeping the lights on during sex leads to a deeper connection
One afternoon, my partner and I decided to have sex and I don’t know how I agreed because it was bright inside. He first told me to be okay with sitting naked, “Let’s just casually lounge but no clothes allowed” he said. It felt like a workshop on getting comfortable in your birthday suit. We sat there opposite each other, completely naked, sipping wine and talking about life. It normalised being naked for me. I felt less objectified by myself and I felt comfortable with his gaze. With the lights on, the act felt so much more personal and we could finally see each other. He wasn’t just a silhouette and I didn’t feel like I was having sex with a shadow.
Having the lights on during sex can create deeper connections between partners according to Dana Weiser, Ph.D., an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Texas Tech University. In an interview with Women’s Health she explains, "With lights on you expose yourself more to your partner and create the opportunity to generate even greater trust and get to know one another even better,". “It can be extremely sensual because one gets to make eye-contact and see the reactions to pleasure you’re giving them”, she adds.
“What if he doesn’t like what he sees?”, Thoughts that make it harder to enjoy oral pleasure
Also, watching my partner confidently walking around the room naked, further normalised nakedness. One of them was so comfortable with his body and I was in absolute awe of his self-esteem. I asked him how he was so in tune with his nakedness. It was as if being naked and clothed was the same for him. He told me that he’s so familiar with it, with his body. He told me about his observation reaching sexual pleasure. “When you feel uncomfortable or insecure about your body during sex, it can reduce your chances of reaching sexual pleasure.” He said. And it struck a chord with me, because when the guy is pleasuring me, I’m never present. My mind is preoccupied and my eyes are following his gaze rather than immersing myself in the gratification I’m getting.
I’ve often experienced a strong genital appearance dissatisfaction which makes it impossible for me to enjoy any form of cunnilingus. I hate having even the dim lights on during oral sex. “Why are you closing up your legs?” my partner asks with a concerned look. “I’m just too conscious, I can’t do it.” I say asking him to stop. It’s such a strong mental block that even my partner cajoles me, I’m unconvinced.
Beginning a journey towards body positivity and sexual satisfaction
A research study by Vanessa R. Schick and colleagues explained the relation between genital appearance dissatisfaction and sexual satisfaction. The results showed that a poor body satisfaction and genital appearance dissatisfaction has harmful consequences on sexual satisfaction. College women are less likely to experience sexual satisfaction if they have inhibitions about the appearance of their body. They’re also less likely to engage in sexual risks because of how it might make them more self-conscious.
I think I have a long way ahead of me to reach complete body satisfaction. For now, I’ll lead with the advice of Adina Mahalli, a certified relationship consultant and sexual health expert at Maple Holistics. In the same interview with Women’s Health, she suggests, “Start with the lights dimmed — not fully on, but not fully off either — or in natural light, so something like morning sex or an afternoon delight. Dimmed light sex can set a more sensual mood than having the lights on full, while still allowing both parties to see everything that is going on.” Dimmed lights it is then, be right back, going to order some mood lighting from Amazon!