HomeBiological aspects of sexualityHuman reproductionWhy women feel inadequate about their bodies

Why women feel inadequate about their bodies

Given women’s dislike of genitals, many of the terms for the female genitals come from men and are considered obscene by women. Rather than refer to explicit anatomy, most women prefer to gesture and make vague references to ‘down there’. We can use ‘pussy’ for girls as the equivalent slang to ‘willie’ for boys. A woman’s clitoris is much less evident than a man’s penis. Men are, in any event, more intent on penetrating a woman’s vagina.

A girl has a vulva, including clitoral glans, labia and vaginal opening. The mound at the front covered in pubic hair is the mons pubis. From front to back there is first the clitoris, next the urethra (opening for urinating), then the vaginal opening, the perineum (bridge of skin) and the anus at the back.

Women buy magazines that display women’s bodies. Women compete with each other to attract male attention. Women are not interested in male nudity. What have they to gain? A man needs to be erect (which is totally up to how attractive he finds a partner) before anything can happen. When he is erect, it makes no difference whether a partner is aroused or not. He just needs a woman who is amenable to him demonstrating his arousal cycle.

A woman’s sexual role focuses on what happens before intercourse. She needs to attract a man and arouse him sufficiently so that he wants to have intercourse with her. Men like to admire their lover. Heterosexual men get used to the admiration being one way. A woman accepts male compliments but she feels no obligation to return them. She accepts that a man needs to be attracted to her. But also, she is not aroused by observing male nudity.

Women approach sexual encounters from a social perspective. They focus on their looks because they know that men admire good-looking women. If a man makes little attempt to keep in shape, wear fashionable clothes and maintain an attractive image, a woman may consider this to be disrespectful. Heterosexual men should respect women’s desire for an attractive partner.

Humans get competitive when comparing themselves with others. Women compete with each other over looks. So a woman is just as likely to judge other women foremost by their looks rather than their achievements. In general, we tend to assume that more is better than less and that big is better than small. A man is not sexier because he is more responsive than average. Nor does having a bigger penis than average make him a better lover. Similarly, a woman is not sexier because she is more attractive than average.

Advertising uses images of semi-nude and seductive-looking women to promote products of all kinds. High budget movies, digital photography and the internet, promote images of women that are enhanced to maximise attractiveness. Women feel under increasing pressure when they compare themselves with these unrealistic images. We cannot all look the same. We are meant to be unique. Brazilian women have surgery to have their breasts enlarged. Japanese women have surgery to increase the size of their eyes. Rich women around the world diet, have face lifts, botox and liposuction.

Attractiveness is defined in terms of fashion and is not absolute. The emphasis on young women is not down entirely to men. Indirectly women reinforce this prejudice because of the drive young women have to attract a mate. The way our bodies are viewed depends on our reproductive capacity. A woman has a limited period when she is fertile. After that, she may be less desirable to men. A man does not have the same limitation. As long as he can get an erection and ejaculate, he can still have children. Even an old man may have the resources to support a younger woman with her family goals.

Women assume that men are looking for all the glitz and glamour that women appreciate. Most men simply want a woman who is attractive and willing to offer intercourse. Male sexual performance is crucial to intercourse. A woman’s performance relies on providing male turn-ons such as faking her arousal and orgasm. Some men expect this as a matter of course. A woman’s use of sexual behaviours contributes to her attractiveness. From a sexual perspective, men admire a woman’s sexual attributes rather than her personality and pretty face. Many men prefer a plump woman to a thin one. Men often like a partner with fuller breasts and larger buttocks because these aspects of women’s bodies are a natural male erotic turn-on.

Some women claim to orgasm from nipple stimulation. But the female nipple, like the male nipple, cannot provide an orgasm when stimulated. Women routinely touch their breasts with no sexual response. Women do not have orgasms from breast feeding. Men can enjoy nipple stimulation because they experience whole body tumescence when sexually aroused. In societies where women routinely show their breasts, men are not aroused by them. It is only when men associate nudity (including breasts) with sexual activity that they are aroused on seeing them. This explains why in the past (when everything else was covered) men were aroused by a woman’s ankle.

A woman who is flat-chested may feel just as insecure as a man who has a small penis. Finding a partner has much more to do with matching personalities than being stunningly attractive. It’s about appreciating what we value in another person and about valuing the love another person feels for us. We cannot all be blessed with amazing looks but, hopefully, we have other qualities that compensate. There is someone out there for each of us.

According to some estimates, over 40 million women have some problem with sexual desire and excitement. But if there are tens of millions of women complaining that their libidos aren’t up to snuff, who are the normal ones? (Joan Sewell)

Excerpt from Learn About Sexuality (ISBN 978-0956-894748)