So, we get back to my place and both know where things are going. But the moment we begin, my mind starts to race. I’m thinking: He’s going to wipe off all my make-up. He’ll see my acne. Oh god, what about tomorrow morning? He’ll probably be horrified and make an excuse to leave.
Let me tell you, the whole thing wasn’t that climatic. As I lay there, I realised I’d let my self-consciousness about my acne affect sex.
Have you ever experienced this? When you’re so concerned about what you look like and what the other person is thinking during sex that it ends up ruining the whole thing? Put your mind at ease, because you’re definitely not alone. It affects way more people than you think. It’s just that no one’s talking about it.
In the past when I had sex, I was so in my head. The pressure to “perform” or have “great sex” is usually already weighing on our minds. But then add on the insecurities and the low-self-esteem and you’ve got a cocktail of self-doubt, priming you for a less enjoyable experience. Or at least not as pleasurable for YOU as it could be.
So what is low-self esteem in the bedroom? Let me introduce you to your sexual-self esteem
What is Sexual Self Esteem
Sexual self-esteem describes how you view yourself in relation to your sexuality. It’s how you feel about your body, your sexual confidence and how perceive yourself intimately with another person.
A person with low sexual self-esteem might not feel sexually attractive and feel self-conscious about what they look like. They might think they don’t ‘perform’ well. They may feel shame or guilt around anything in the bedroom. Or maybe they question their worthiness to experience pleasure.
Having acne, along with other factors such as past relationships, sexual abuse or embarrassment, sexual pain, weight, skin-colour and age, all impact a person’s sexual self-esteem. Imagine sexual self-esteem was a thermometer, with factors such as acne gradually lowering the temperature by a degree. It keeps going down based on your other perceived feelings around sex. Conversely it heightens with your self-confidence, higher self-esteem and positive experiences around sex.
The reality of low sexual self-esteem
Multiple studies have also shown that women who have lower body self-esteem had more dissatisfaction around sex compared to women who were more positive about their body image. Especially if a woman was concerned about her appearance during sex . In terms of acne specifically, studies have also shown that women with acne have a significantly lower sexual quality of life compared to non-acne participants .
Similarily, a 2019 UK study showed that one in five adults (20%) said their sex life has been negatively affected by their body image in the past year. 15% said their relationship was affected .
The studies show what we intuitively might already know: low sexual self-esteem and body confidence = less sexual satisfaction.
why does acne impact sex so much?
Do you ever notice that when you don’t feel good about yourself, having sex is probably the last thing from your mind? When you have lower sexual self-esteem, fueled by factors such as acne, it dampens your sex drive or desire for intimacy . When my acne was at it’s worst, I had ZERO sex drive. It made me so embarrassed and self-conscious that the thought of having a partner stare at my face made me want to roll over and cry.
Not only that but DURING sex get’s affected too. When you’re too busy thinking about positioning yourself in a certain way, what your face or body might look like, or whether your partner is enjoying it, you end up removing yourself from the moment. It prevents you from experiencing pleasure or reaching orgasm due to the distracting thoughts in your head. Thus less satisfaction.
Studies have also suggested that people with low body-satisfaction may choose to have sex with someone they’re not really interested in, someone who lacks respect for them, or participate in riskier sex (e.g multiple partners and/or without protection) [1,5,6]. They feel “lucky” to be wanted by a person or fear rejection because they think they’re not good enough (I am ashamed to say this was me) .
And it’s not just you that’s affected. It also impacts your sexual partner. When I was dating my ex, I didn’t want to have sex. I tried to minimise affection so he wouldn’t wipe off my make-up and I would avoid staying over. My self-consciousness about my skin ended up affecting our relationship – it made him feel like HE was the reason I didn’t want to be intimate.
So, what’s the one thing that is standing in your way of fulfilling sex? Your own head.
How to stop acne ruining your sex life?
How can you get out of your own head, improve your sexual-esteem and reclaim pleasure?
- Practice on yourself first: Practice being in the moment and focusing solely on pleasuring yourself. Find out what works for you without those distracting thoughts in your head. Think of it like meditation – getting out of your head and into your body (but way more fun 😉). Your next challenge: bringing that same level of presence into the moments you share with a partner.
- Talk about it. Communication is key!! You don’t have to go disclosing your deepest vulnerabilities to a one-night stand. But if you’re in the dating/relationship stages, you NEED to talk about how your insecurities make you feel. They won’t realise your insecurities around sex without you laying it out on the table (unfortunately your partner can’t read your mind). And unless you’re dating a complete a**hole – in which case this is a major relationship red flag– they are going to be so understanding of your fears.
- Build up you own self-worth: How you love yourself is how you allow other people to love you. You want to feel loved, accepted, worthy, enough? Then you have to feel it all yourself first. Build up your self-love meter: whether that’s using mirror affirmations, writing down 3 things your grateful for about yourself, or taking yourself out on a solo date. Do whatever it takes to remember that you are enough. Because you cannot expect someone to love you the way you want, unless you love yourself first.
- Don’t assume: stop assuming you know what’s going through your partner’s head. We’re often our own worst critics. But guess what? Your partner isn’t spending any time fixating on the things that make you self-conscious. Seriously, they’re not even thinking about your acne! So, let go of those worries and enjoy the moment with them.
- Don’t posture and perform during sex: porn or any on-screen sex scenes give us impressions of what sex should look like. Even more specifically, how our bodies and skin should look like to be desired or to have hot AF sex. But these are unrealistic. It’s forcing sex into something it’s not and it’s ruining the reality of sex for both men and women. Great sex happens when you are vulnerable, raw, authentically yourself and being fully present with your person. No sex rooms required – unless you’re Christian Grey or it’s totally you’re thing (then I love that for you!)
- Work with a therapist: talking out your insecurities and getting down to the delving into the root causes behind these emotions can be a massive game-changer.
- Do what makes you comfortable, especially at the beginning of a sexual partnership: want to have sex with the lights off? Do it. Do whatever will make you feel more comfortable and less in your head.
- Positive affirmations during sex: an exercise from More orgasms please: why female pleasure matters suggests swapping negative thoughts with positive ones. For example: “my scars are ugly” countered with “this person is with me because of WHO I AM”
You deserve to have an amazing sex life. But it all starts with getting out of your own way. Not letting how you feel about your acne affect your relationships or your pleasure in the bedroom. It’ll take time (it did for me) but slowly and surely your sexual-esteem thermometer will rise. You will start to remember what a badass, amazing woman you truly are, and no amount of skin issues can ever take that away from you.
Sending BIG love!