More often than not, the internet is flooded with airbrushed images of models, actors and celebrities at-large celebrating their flawlessness. We see the taut muscles which shape their abs, their hair glowing against the sunlight as they sip on their iced lattes, a top designer has probably sponsored their outfit of the day (aka OOTD) whose price alone might very well exceed what some of us earn in an entire year. While social media has virtually brought us closer to our stars, it has made their so-called perfection glaring, and at times blinding to the naked eye.

Although Sonam Kapoor tried to placate many a self-doubt in an article, “So, for every teen girl leaning into her bedroom mirror, wondering why she doesn’t look like a celebrity: Please know that nobody wakes up like this. Not me. Not any other actress. (Not even Beyoncé. I swear.)”, young girls and women are still constantly waging a war with their bodies.

One of the first ramifications of this is how we perceive our own sexuality and how we choose to make ourselves available and accessible to a partner. Because it is not just popular media, with its prude and antiquated portrayal of women well into the late 2000s, even mainstream porn frequently propagates a specific myth about the physicality and sexuality of women. We are meek, submissive creatures sprawling our lithe, fair bodies – as the object of pleasure, not the recipient.

And especially in India, there is a horrifying amount of shame attached to women who know what they want in bed – and otherwise. Remember the wanton Sakshi (played by Swara Bhasker) in the 2018 Veere di Wedding whose husband wanted to divorce her just because he found her masturbating?

While I know of ample women, who have gone ahead and done something (just because their partners wanted it) which they clearly didn’t enjoy;  many of us are also finding power in the word ‘no’.

I’d like to believe that reclaiming sexual agency starts with how we look at ourselves. For most of us, our body is not our canvas, our source of income – our mind is. So, we need to cut ourselves the slack of constantly feeling insecure about the curves and ridges and stretchmarks which anyway make us unique. What we should instead aspire towards is maintaining good health

Let me give you an example. About three years ago, I joined the gym with the singular quest of losing my belly fat. Soon enough, I realized I wasn’t interested in losing weight as much as I was in getting physically stronger, of being the person who held her plank in the class for the longest time, of finally transitioning from a half to a full push-up.  I also realized that I don’t have the mental strength to ban carbs from my diet, because life is too damn short to give up the one true pleasure in my life: food.

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American sexual educator Pamela Madsen explains how messages received in our growing up years about our bodies can have a life-long impact, “We weren’t necessarily overtly abused or neglected; we simply grew up in a culture where what we looked like was carefully measured and judged. We learned quickly that how we felt inside was not perhaps how the world saw us. For many women, this message delivered at a very young age.”

With the likes of Kim Kardashian promoting ‘appetite suppressant’ lollipops and Cardi B swearing by ‘detox tea’ which helped her lose post-pregnancy weight, if we are looking at some celebs to be our role models, we are probably barking up the wrong tree.  This is not say that they don’t have their own insecurities, but at some point of time, we need to shut down the outside noise and focus on what we love about ourselves, what we think makes us sexy or desirable.

As the great poets of our time, LMFAO, would say, “I got passion in my pants and I ain’t afraid to show it, I’m sexy and I know it.”

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