Is negative body image killing your sex life?

Is negative body image killing your sex life?

Our perception of our bodies — whether positive, negative, or complicated — is intimately tied to our sex lives and sexual satisfaction, especially for women. I was interviewed by the folks at Bedsider about how negative body image can impact women’s sex lives…and what we can start doing to turn that around.

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Empowering Clothes for Girls: Keira's Kollection

Do we (as a society) want to encourage girls and teens to be strong, confident, and intelligent? If you look at some of the clothing available, you'd think to the contrary. Gratefully a new company, Keira's Kollection, is doing something about that!

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker, Sexologist

Dr. Jenn releases EBook on Sex!

Ebook on Female Sexuality by Dr. Diana Hoppe & Dr. Jenn.I'm proud to announce the release of my first ebook, with my co-author Dr. Diana Hoppe. Dr. Diana is a board certified OB/GYN, and we've merged our perspectives on women's sexuality to write Am I Normal? A Woman's Guide to Female Sexuality. We think all women could benefit from reading this short ebook, but it is specifically targeted to younger women from 18 - 30 years of age.

Chapter one explores the history (and herstory) of women's genitals, and chapter two teaches you the low down about down there. In chapter three you get to take the time to reflect on your own sexual journey. Chapters four through six guide you through the messages you learned about sex and gender growing up, body image and self-esteem, and sensuality and masturbation. Each chapter is followed by a worksheet to guide your journey through exploring your own sexuality.

This is available through Amazon Kindle, and also in a variety of other formats through Smashwords. Please let me know what you think!

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker, Sexologist

Miss Representation FILM REVIEW

When is it going to be enough?” a high school girl asks, choking back tears.

She’s referring to the incessant presence of negative body and beauty messages in the media, and the consequent impact on teen girls. What happens when girls and women repeatedly learn to self-objectify and that their primary value is in their appearance, youth, and sexuality? We end up with a society where only 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives are women, only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media are held by women, and 65% of girls and women have disordered eating behaviors.

This is the message of the 2011 documentary Miss Representation. From the Oprah channel to college campuses and community groups around the country, this documentary has been raising awareness and eyebrows since last fall. The overall theme is that by presenting messages about women in such limited ways, mainstream media contributes to the low numbers of women in leadership and influential positions. Many Hollywood stars, political leaders, and media experts shared their observations, including Condoleezza Rice, Geena Davis, Lisa Ling, Katie Couric, and Jennifer Pozner. This documentary included men in the dialogue as well, and addressed the impact of limited gender roles on women and men, such as socializing half our population to be emotionally illiterate.

How did things end up this way? My take-away from the movie regarding this negative state for women are three-fold. First, it is well known that media and ads are designed to make consumers feel anxious and insecure. This is what sells their products. The airbrushing and Photoshopping of female bodies creates impossible body standards. When this is continually combined with the importance of beauty, youth, and slenderness for women, you’re going to end up with a bunch of girls and women who feel insecure.

Second, most decision makers, whether in a media outlet or a political office, reflect and replicate the world they grew up in. They do this without questioning their assumptions about the way things are. However, when the majority of people in decision-making positions come from similar backgrounds, that means only a limited view of reality is presented in the mainstream media. With shocking statistics of how many positions of power are held by men, it makes sense why there are so few positive and powerful role models for girls.

Third, when you study the language and attitude used to describe and discuss male politicians versus female politicians, the trivializing of female politicians seems to belie an underlying discomfort with women in power. When a person feels that their power is being challenged, they often fight back, through bolstering themselves and trivializing their opponents. It would seem that empowered women are threatening to the status quo. You don’t have to look far to see how women in power are often critiqued or downright attacked for their appearance, clothing, or sexuality.

Miss Representation posits a compelling depiction of the state of affairs for women in leadership, and the context for girls learning whether they are worthy to be leaders. It’s a wake up call when we realize that one of the prominent “powerful” female stereotypes in movies, video games, etc., is the “fighting fuck toy.” The documentary concludes with a call to action to women, girls, and their supporters to use their consumer voice, voting voice, and personal voice to step up as leaders and recognize their internal strength. One young woman, 14-year old Julia Bluhm, has recently taken this to heart. She protested and collected 84,000 signatures to convince Seventeen Magazine to stop airbrushing and Photoshopping the shapes of their teen models. Next month, in Seventeen’s August issue, we will see their new look and presentation. If we speak up enough, we can make a difference.

(This was originally posted as part of the Love & Sex Blog at Pacific San Diego Magazine.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sexologist, Sexuality Speaker, College Sexual Health Speaker, Sex Therapist

DVD Review of Beauty Mark: Body Image & the Race for Perfection

Contemporary Sexuality, December, 2011, Vol. 45, No. 12

In this documentary, psychotherapist Diane Israel chronicles her personal journey with obsessive exercising and eating disorders. Throughout her troubled childhood and years as a champion triathlete, she was terrified of becoming fat. Her journey to understanding attractiveness and love brought her face-to-face with America’s cultural ideals about beauty and competition. In “Beauty Mark,” Israel offers cultural commentary from experts, including Eve Ensler, Naomi Wolf and the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign research group. In a bold and touching conclusion, Israel brings her narrative back full circle to her family to share their perspectives.

I had mixed reactions after my initial viewing of “Beauty Mark.” Based on the documentary description, I expected an academic study of body image concerns and how the media creates or exacerbates these. However, this was Israel’s personal tale of body struggle, competitiveness, family dysfunction and transformation. The story went in many directions, without depth of explanation. And, although the conclusion with her family was heart wrenching and brought tears, I was left wanting more. What happened next? What can we do about this? Gratefully, I found the DVD bonus feature, in which Israel shares details of her life two years after the filming. This quenched my need to know how she was dealing with her family and personal demons and what is working for her in recovery.

With such mixed feelings, I showed the DVD to my Women & Health college class. My students are primarily women with an average age of 21. Their anonymous written feedback was overwhelmingly positive. My students were touched by Israel’s story. They thought the mes- sage was personally valuable for validation and hope. They also found it educational for college women overall. We did not have time to view the bonus feature, yet only a few students voiced a sense of incompleteness. They specifically wanted to know how Israel helps her clients with their body image concerns.

Israel concludes there is no single factor to blame for her self-loathing. This realization and her acceptance of herself allowed her to return home. I think this is a powerful and thought-provoking documentary for high school and college students. The final message, with a shift from blaming to acceptance, by way of courage and compassion, is a lesson for all.

Beauty Mark: Body Image & the Race for Perfection By Diane Israel, Carla Precht and Kathleen Man. She-Art Production. DVD, $250.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, College Sexual Health Speaker