Body Image and Sexual Health
Body image is an important part of your sexual health. People
who feel comfortable in their bodies are more likely than others to
make healthy sexual decisions, like protecting their health by
using condoms. People who feel comfortable with their sex organs
are more likely to be comfortable talking openly about sex with a
partner. People who feel ashamed of their bodies, including their
sex organs, may not feel confident and strong enough to make
healthy sexual decisions.
What Is Body Image?
Body image is how you feel and what
you think when you look at yourself. It's also how you
imagine other people see you.
How you feel about your body and all of its parts - your build
and your legs, nose, stomach, the color of your skin, and the color
or texture of your hair, for example - plays a role in your body
image. This also includes your sex organs - the vagina and vulva,
breasts, or penis.
What Can I Do to Improve My Body Image?
There is a lot you can do to improve your body image, even
without changing your body. Remember, body image is not about how
you look, but how you feel about the way you look.
Some people choose to change the way they feel about their
bodies. Many times, talking with a person you trust, such as a
friend or family member, about the way you feel can help.
Professional help from a therapist may also be useful. Talking
about your negative feelings and developing new ways to think about
your body and your self-worth is a good way to address a negative
Think differently about your body. Pay attention to the times
when you feel bad about your body. Did you just weigh yourself? Did
you just read a magazine? Did you just talk to a friend or family
member who is negative about her or his body?
Tips for a Positive Body Image
In a world that is constantly showing you narrow definitions of
beauty, how can you maintain a healthy body image? Here are some
Remember that health and appearance are two different
Accept and value your genes - you probably inherited a lot of
traits from your family members, so love those traits as you love
Keep a list of your positive qualities that have nothing to do
with your appearance.
Surround yourself with people who are supportive and who make
you feel good about yourself.
Treat your body with respect and kindness.
People may choose to change their appearance in many ways, for a
variety of reasons. If you want to change the way you look, be sure
to have realistic expectations. If you have a negative body image,
it is important to deal with the mental and emotional aspects of it
in order for any physical changes to be truly successful.
Some people choose to make lifestyle changes, such as adopting a
specific diet and an exercise program, or change their bodies in
other ways. Often, this can be a healthy choice. If you are
planning to make a considerable change in your lifestyle, it can be
a good idea to talk with a health care provider who can advise you
about the healthiest way to do so.
People also change their looks in other ways, such as coloring
or processing their hair, or using products to change the
appearance of their skin. Some changes can boost your self-esteem
and body image, and some changes may not be as effective. The key
is to have realistic expectations about how much changing your
appearance can change how you feel about yourself.
Anatomy and Physiology of Sexual Function
Masters, William H., M.D., and Virginia E. Johnson.Human
Sexual Response.Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1966. This
one's a classic. Some of the details have been disputed in recent
years, but it's still about the best overall reference for this
Masters, William H., M.D., Virginia E. Johnson and Robert C.
Kolodny.Human Sexuality, 2nd ed.Boston: Little, Brown
and Co., 1985. More of the same, with some later information.
Sex and Disabilities
Heslinga, K. with A.M. Schellen and A. Verkuyl.Not Made of
Stone.Springfield,Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1974.
Kroll, Ken and Erica Levy Klein.Enabling Romance: A Guide
to Love, Sex, and Relationships for the Disabled (and the People
Who Care About Them).Bethesda,Md.: Woodbine House, 1995.
Written by a married couple. Kroll has a neuromuscular
Male Sexual Dysfunction and its Treatment
Goldstein, Irwin, M.D., and Larry Rothstein.The Potent
Male: Facts, Fiction, Future.Los Angeles: Price Stern Sloan,
1990. Lots of material on causes, prevention and treatment of male
impotence. Written for the general public.
Medication Effects and Side Effects
The PDR Family Guide to Prescription
Drugs.Montvale,N.J.: Medical Economics Data, 1993. A
layman's version of the PDR(Physician's Desk Reference), which is
used by doctors.
Griffith, Winter, M.D.Complete Guide to Prescription and
Nonprescription Drugs.New York: Berkley Publishing Group,
1996. Frequently updated.
For Children Approaching Puberty
Madaras, Lynda.The What's Happening to My Body Book for
Girls(andfor Boys).New York:NewmarketPress, 1988. Separate books
for girls, boys. Suitable for teenagers and older children.
Psychology, Spirituality and Humor
Reynolds, David K., Ph.D.Playing Ball on Running
Water.New York: Quill, 1984. A psychotherapist's perspective
on modern neurotic problems. Uses principles of Japanese
psychotherapy to guide readers.
Norris, Kathleen.The Cloister Walk.New York: G.P.
Putnam's Sons (Riverhead Books), 1996. Life in a Benedictine
monastery, through the eyes of a woman poet.
Callahan, John.Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on
Foot.New York: Random House (Vintage), 1989. A humorous,
excruciatingly truthful account of a young man's struggle to
recover his equilibrium after a spinal cord injury.