January 30, 2008

Q&A: I’m Afraid I Am Too Large To Be A Good Lover

Q&A from a female reader who is self-conscious about her weight and her ability to please her partner, who accepts her current size.

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Question: Here is my problem: I`ve been with my partner for over a year now. We are very happy together. I believe everything is going just fine except in one main area – THE BEDROOM. He satisfies me in every way possible but I don’t think I’m doing the same for him. He`s 5’7 and weighs 145 pounds whereas I am 5’6 and weigh over 250. He likes the way I am but I don’t think I can fulfill his needs in the bedroom like a smaller person can. What can or should I do besides lose the weight which I’m already doing. Please help me.

I am so sorry to hear that you’re not feeling like you satisfy your boyfriend the way that you would like to. Many women and men of all shapes, sizes, and ages worry whether they are “good enough” lovers. And being thin (or rich, tall, brunette or freckled) does not have anything to do with being a good partner in bed.

It is true that our body shape, size, weight and other features may play a role in sexual expression. For example, a woman who has large breasts can probably engage in penile-breast play in a way that a smaller breasted woman physically cannot. People who are very flexible can get into all sorts of sexual positions that less flexible people may find daunting, uncomfortable or even impossible (but pretzel-like positions are not necessarily satisfying; they’re just different). If a person is heavier than his or her partner, then the partner may find it uncomfortable to be on the bottom. Then again, if you’re quite skinny or bony, your partner may wish for a little extra “padding” so as not to get jabbed by one’s bones. None of these characteristics make for “bad” or “good” sex – they’re just examples of how our bodies may affect sex.

All of us are going to find that our sex lives are, at least in part, influenced by our bodies. That’s okay, though, because there are typically ways that you can adapt sex to meet your wants and needs. Less flexible people can choose the positions that are most comfortable for them – and honestly, even the most flexible people usually wind up in missionary, woman-on-top or rear entry (the three more common positions). And intercourse isn’t the only means of sexual expression: there is oral sex (giving and receiving), sensual touching, massage, shared bath time, anal pleasuring, breast play, using sex toys together, and mutual masturbation, among others.

In other words, yes bodies play a role – but they are not everything. You may have noticed at one time or another that you could smell your partner’s underarm odor; that doesn’t mean that you need a less smelly guy. Your boyfriend is several inches shorter than average; his height, however, doesn’t seem to be a problem for you. Why? Because you like him, you’re happy together and – as you said – “everything is going fine.” Besides, as you also said, he likes you the way that you are. If he likes you, then what is standing in the way of you liking yourself? A ridiculous culture that airbrushes human beings and makes them look impossibly thin, smooth, and free of wrinkles and cellulites and perpetually 18? That’s not even human! Don’t let that stand in the way of your relationship, your pleasure or your potential for intimacy with your partner. Instead of focusing on what you think is missing, try to make the most of what you like and enjoy about your partner and let him know that he is good sexually. Your response to him with your self and your body’s response are important.

Our culture gives women and men an enormous amount of pressure and pretty constant messaging to look a certain way. These ideas are hard not to take to heart. It sounds as though a part of you already believes that thinner women may be better than you, at least in the bedroom. When these thoughts cross your mind, try to focus on what you – and your partner – value and love about who you are. Women and men of all body types can have not just good, but really fabulous, relationships and sex lives. You can learn to please yourself and your partner in the bedroom and to feel good about it. Consider reading a book such as The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex to learn more about sexual exploration, communication, tips, and techniques. You might also like reading, and feel reassured and even excited by, Big Big Love: A Sourcebook on Sex for People of Size and Those Who Love Them. If you would like to talk to someone about the way that you feel about your body image, talk with a trusted friend or connect with a counselor on your campus or in the community. If you have questions or concerns about your weight, whether in regard to your relationship or for health reasons, check in with your healthcare provider or a registered dietician.

Originally published January 30, 2008.

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