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Your Sexual Health: Sexuality, Body Image and Beyond

The society we live in thrives on posters. Whether it’s our nationality, religion, or ethnicity, we love to categorize ourselves. No doubt it divides us, but it also allows us to build relationships, explore our interests, and meet people of the same type. It helps us make the journey from what we are meant to be to what we want to be. Your personal identity is an amalgamation of a number of individual sectors. In this article, we explore one of these sectors, i.e. sexuality.

Quite a few of us think sexuality is a never-ending term. However, sexuality goes far beyond who you choose to have sex with. It includes your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors toward others. It’s how you understand your body and your relationships. This understanding can be influenced by many factors such as your beliefs, desires, and gender. Because sex is made up of so many components, our perception of our sexuality is constantly changing and unique. It may seem confusing now but stay with us and we’ll get you covered.

sex vs sexuality

It would be hard to believe if you said you weren’t confused between the two. To err is for humans, after all. But today, in the twenty-first century, ignorance is no longer bliss. So we’ll get straight to the point. What is determined at birth is your gender, while your sex life depends on who you are physically and romantically attracted to. To understand the difference between these two wraparound terms, let’s take a reverse approach.

You must have come across the term LGBTQ+. Here, L stands for Lesbians, G for Gays, B for Bisexuals, T stands for Trans community and Q stands for Queer, an umbrella term for anyone who does not identify with heterosexuals. Queer can include asexual, pansexual, or interrogative. Wait, did we lose you? Let’s simplify it.

Keep one thing in mind as you read ahead, the sex assigned to a baby at birth, called birth gender, is male or female and is based on the baby’s external anatomy. This means that if the baby is born with a penis it is considered a male and if the baby has a vagina then it is considered a female. We will use the terms “female” and “male” in the same way to make it easier for you to understand.

Lesbians

Females who are physically, emotionally and sexually attracted to females.

Gays

Males are attracted to other males in a physical, emotional, and sexual way.

bisexual

Females or males who feel physically, emotionally and sexually attracted to both females and males. Duplication can have varying degrees. This means that a person cares about males and females but tends to one of them more than the other. This interest may also take different forms. For example, an androgynous individual may be attracted to both males and females but only have sex with one of them.

transgender

The word trans has its roots in Latin where it means “across” or “on the other side”. Thus, transgender people represent people whose gender is on the other side. Having said that, those who do not conform to their gender at birth or are male or female at all call themselves transgender. This means that a trans person is identified as either male or female at the time of their birth by looking at their genitals but they do not fit into their specific gender. Either they feel belonging to the opposite sex or they do not belong to both sexes.

Transgender people are generally classified into two categories

  • AFAB Appointment of a female at birth
  • AMAB Male at birth

Another word that originated with transgender people was Siskinder. Cis in Latin means on the same side. Thus, people who consider themselves with the birth gender are of the cis gender.

asexual

People with little sexual or physical attraction to any gender are called asexuals (Ace for short). Asexuality differs from abstinence in that a person chooses not to have sex regardless of their desire or motivation. In the case of asexuals, there is no desire to engage in any sexual activity at all. However, asexuals may be emotionally attracted to members of the opposite sex or even the same.

Pansexual

A person who is physically, emotionally and sexually attracted to all genders. General sex can also be referred to as “gender blind” since gender is not a determining factor for them to be attracted to someone.

Now that we have our lexicon with us, let’s go back to the LGBTQ+ acronym. Now, L, G and B are sexual orientation or sexual orientation while T is gender. To get it right, remember that a lesbian is a female who is identified as female, agrees to her “sex at birth” and is attracted to another human who is also identified as “female”. Likewise, the androgynous male resonates with being ‘male’ and feels both ‘female’ and ‘male’. But in the case of transgender people, they do not agree with the “birth gender”. The trans male was designated as “female” at birth and vice versa.

Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff. There are a few cross-gender brackets such as Cisgender, Transgender, Polygender, Omnigender (person who recognizes traits of multiple genders) and non-binary (people who don’t recognize traits). Cisgender is divided into female or male. Transgender people separate themselves as transfeminine and transfeminine.

That was to deal with sex. Now let’s talk about sex.

Sexuality – strong, untamed, warm and free!

We’ll start with the most important aspect of sexuality, which is self-definition. Everyone has the right to determine their sexual orientation. Your sexual orientation should make perfect sense to you first and only then should other people matter. Second, comes the fact that sex is dynamic. Different parts of our lives may interact with each other in confirming or confusing ways. This is completely normal. Exploring your sexuality plays a significant role in determining your mental and social state. Our level of awareness, acceptance, and enjoyment of our own bodies and the bodies of others, and our ability to possess and express the need for intimacy (emotional and physical) with our partners also fall within the realm of sexuality.

Sexuality is personal and diverse. While many of us have it easy, some have a hard time defining our sexual orientation. Discovering oneself and being able to relate it to their gender identity is a very liberating experience. As already mentioned, you may also have different sexual orientations at different stages of your life. You may or may not be attracted to males, females, or both, at some point in your life or at another. This is completely normal. Although there are terms to describe sexual orientation, you should not focus and try to pressure yourself into a category. You will have figured out eventually.

As we make our way through this maze as we explore our different identities, there are many obstacles that we must overcome. One such limitation that we must break through is body image. In the next section, let’s talk about body image and its relationship to gender.

sexy body

We all know that a slim and fit body is healthy. However, the obsession with certain body types today goes far beyond that. We imagine body images that are not only difficult to achieve, but have long-term harmful effects on our health. In order to look a certain way, we sometimes change our diet by forgoing necessary nutrients along with convenience foods. This leads to deficiencies and causes diseases. Societal pressure on body image also affects our self-esteem and morale. At its worst, this preoccupation with the body and outlook turns into what is known as body dysmorphic disorder. People with body dysmorphic disorder have a distorted image of themselves and worry excessively about a perceived flaw in their appearance. Body dysmorphia is usually accompanied by a deep shyness about the shape of their body.

While the pressure for gays to look one way cannot be overstated, the gay story takes another route.

Do you think you are sexy?

Research shows that gay (gay and bisexual) men experience an increased level of body dissatisfaction. Objectivity theory is a plausible explanation for the trend seen among these sexual minorities. The theory posits that gays and bisexuals have the added pressure to appear “desirable” with a lean and muscular body. This pressure stems from the fact that men, regardless of their sexual orientation, focus more strongly on physical appearance than women. Thus, gay men trying to attract men have to work harder. This reification results in the constant observation of one’s own body, evaluating the individual’s physical appearance rather than caring about what he feels or does. Thus, pent-up dissatisfaction and self-doubt may lead to mental problems such as anxiety disorders and depression.

In general, women have more negative body image than men with up to 80% of females reporting dissatisfaction with their bodies. However, there is a much lower drive for a thinner body in lesbian (lesbian and bisexual) women than in heterosexual women. It has also been observed that gay women invest less in their bodies, such as dieting or exercising, than heterosexual women. Moreover, lesbian women prefer a perfect body with much more fat than heterosexual females.

Furthermore, a recent study indicated a higher drive for masculinity among lesbian women than among heterosexual women. While discontent sounds better with lesbian females, it’s not quite as good. Females, regardless of their gender, are constantly subjected to public scrutiny for looking a certain way.

Anxiety and body image are closely related to sexual health. Individuals who are unhappy with their appearance may find sex difficult and worrisome, as attention is focused on their bodies rather than the experience. Preliminary data suggest that dissatisfaction with the body may negatively affect the quality of sexual health among homosexuals. However, it also hints that physical dissatisfaction may act as a remote risk factor for HIV transmission through impaired sexual self-efficacy, and thus sex without a condom in pursuit of pleasure.

sexy and you know it

Conclusively, what matters is your love for yourself. It may take a while to be okay with the fact that you’re not like the other people around you or your preferences differ from theirs and that’s okay. Take your time acknowledging the differences. Remind yourself every day or often that you love who you are and that’s all the validation you’ll ever need. The most powerful thing anyone can tell us is what we tell ourselves. All you have to do is figure out who you are and then do it on purpose. Remember, they can’t scare you if you scare them first!

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