How do you get past body image issues and shame when you’re getting sexual?

With Dan Power and Elizabeth Wood from and Cathy Vartuli from


Cathy: In life in general and especially in the bedroom, body image and shame can really crop up and lock our flow and our sexuality and our feeling of desirability. We have some amazing people here tonight and we’re going to talk about their best tips for getting past this.

Elizabeth: Yep. I’m Elizabeth Wood. 

Dan: I’m Dan Powers with

Cathy: I’m Cathy Vartuli from

Elizabeth: There was one thing that I wanted to point out is that the body image issues are not only affecting women, but they are beginning to affect men just as equally.

Cathy: More normal.

Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s a really important component that a lot of us women don’t realize is happening to the men. I want to put that out there. Anyway, we actually have some good tips. 

Dan: We think they’re good tips anyway. One of my favorite things to do is what we call a body tour. With every partner that I’ve had in the past probably ten years, we will, especially near the very beginning when we’re getting together, we will actually stand in front of each other and talk about my body from head to toe. The value of this is there are certain parts of my body that I might have a little bit of shame about or a little bit concerned about. I definitely know my partners have had stuff like that, but when it’s out there in the open and it’s looked at and talked about then it just kind of goes away.

Cathy: You go over your body first and then they go over their body. 

Dan: Yes.

Cathy: A lot of the shame is so toxic when it’s silent and we’re kind of taught if we pretend it’s not there … For a long time I pretended I wasn’t big because then it wasn’t true, but it was so awkward and now I drop into almost every conversation when I meet someone that I know I’m a big person. There’s just this sense of, “Oh, okay. We all know it. We don’t have to pretend.”

Dan: Yeah.

Cathy: Yeah, that’s brilliant. I love that.

Elizabeth: The body tour is definitely one of our favorite things. Just talking about it. Getting it out in the open.

Dan: You can do it clothed first as well.

Elizabeth: If it’s more comfortable. It’s sort of, for me, like when we did it, some of it was my nonsense. A lot of it is what’s trapped in our head when some of those things are the most beautiful parts about us. When that sort of, I’m calling it “my nonsense,” when that was out, my shame was out on the table to be looked at or witnessed and appreciated, when I was appreciated by my partner in that state of vulnerability, it actually brought the intimacy between us way deeper.

Cathy: Well, because you’re being your real self and they’re being their real self and instead of trying to pretend to be two models from a magazine and not owning ourselves.

Dan: We don’t have to airbrush ourselves in our minds.

Cathy: So few of us are, even the models on TV, they don’t really look like that. When we can say, “I have a pimple here and it’s okay. Oh my gosh, I found I didn’t pluck very well and I have a hair sticking out here,” we just be there anyway because the magic is in the touch and the presence not in whether there’s a stray hair or not standing out.

Elizabeth: I know. I agree. Do you have any good tips for us?

Cathy: For me, it was a lot about realizing I kept thinking I had to be perfect. I would date someone or have sex or I would enjoy myself, I would allow myself to be present and enjoy a touch when I hit a certain milestone that I never was reaching. I had to be a size 2 and perfectly fit and even if I had gotten there, I’m sure it felt like I couldn’t have any pimples or gray hair. There was always something that was blocking me and it was really just an excuse. For me, it was saying, “Wow, I can wake up at 92 and say I never got to experience that.” Go out there and be connected with people and say, “I’m bringing me as I am. I have some pimples. I have some stray hairs. I have some fat that our society says is not nice, but my body still is amazing.”

Actually, our society tries to control us by saying things are bad that a lot of us have. I’ve had lovers that have said, “Wow, I love how much your skin is really soft and there’s a lot of it to play with and you’re really squishy. It’s fun. There’s no bones to rub up against.” Different people like different things. If we could just bring that.

Elizabeth: Be with people who really appreciate who you are and what you bring. Just your joy and your laughter and your personality and your whole beautiful body. If they recognize that, that’s a good partner for you.

Cathy: If you can, let go of the shame. A lot of the people, it isn’t the things that we’re ashamed of, but the shame itself that doesn’t feel good. When someone’s really shameful, literally filled with shame, it’s not really comfortable to be around them because they’re not owning part of themselves. It’s not necessarily the fat or the pimple or the stray hair or the gray hair or whatever it is you think it is, it’s the feeling you have about it. When you own all of yourself that’s pretty sexy.

Elizabeth: It’s pretty hot.

Dan: Very sexy. Leave us your tips for how you do shame below in the comments section. We’d love to hear that as well.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Bye.