New Year, New Pleasure
By Luna Matatas
It’s easy to get swept up in new year resolutions about attaining a ‘better’
body in 2021. Wanting to change your body doesn’t have to be attached
to feelings of not good enough and not worthy enough. You might want to
feel stronger, more flexible or many other reasons. There is nothing
wrong with this desire and we can meet this desire in us with curiosity.
What if instead we used the energy of the new year as a muse for
shedding what no longer served us last year? What if we made more
room to feel pleasure in our bodies? What if feeling good wasn’t
dependent on how we feel about our appearance?
How diet culture shapes us
The diet industry is one of the most profitable and biggest ‘failed’ (most
people who go on diets do not sustain long term weight loss) industries
ever. Diet culture is built on the premise that there is an ideal type of
body that we should all be working towards attaining, regardless of things
we can’t control like age or genetics. Diets are seductive because we are
told that if we work towards these goals we’ll get everything in life that
we want. Diet culture is predatory.
The standards of beauty that we are shown through fitness, fashion, diet
and celebrity cultures are rooted in white supremacy, fatphobia, ableism,
misogyny and more - another way of categorizing the value of certain
bodies over others.
Your appearance is probably the least interesting thing about you as a
person and the most inconstant thing (we are all aging!). Imagine if we
weren’t told our value was determined by our appearance? The problem
with diet culture is that it doesn’t only restrict our food, it puts restrictions
on our pleasure. Pleasure doesn’t expand when our energy is busy
We may not be able to dismantle these oppressive industries tomorrow,
but we don’t have to take them to bed with us and we can inspire each
other to take up more space.
Making Space for Pleasure
Intellectual rejection of diet culture isn’t enough - we have to reclaim the
energy and space lost to diet culture conditioning and rediscover our
authentic desires. Check in with yourself:
- Are there certain things you are waiting to do, try or wear?
- Are there ways that you’d adore yourself with words like cute or sexy that you’re saving for a future version of you?
- Do you get stuck in your head when your body is presented with pleasure...for example, another person’s touch, your favourite food or a beach?
Shame reminds us of all the ways we are deserving of the things we
desire. It confuses our desire and trains it in disappointment. The tragedy
with shame is that it consumes us and anchors us in the past or the
future. Try coming back into your body with daily practices like:
- Movement for fun (e.g. dancing, short walks, stretching) - you can work out or move your body for reasons other than shrinking it!
- Journaling - prompt yourself to check in with which parts of you aren’t feeling good enough - what do they need?
- Sensual self care - baths, scalp massages, self-massage
- Mirror work - meeting your own gaze in the mirror and smiling at yourself
- Practicing what makes you feel strong - emotionally or physically
- Put energy into a new skill or hobby - what sounds like fun? What would bring you joy?
- Play more, perfect less - diet culture is about an unattainable perfection, what brings out your playfulness?
- Curate your space - what colours, objects and textures make you smile in your space?
- Curate your online spaces - follow more accounts that show beauty, joy and sexiness beyond conventional beauty standards; follow fat, POC, disabled and older influencers.
It’s reasonable to feel and internalize the pressure of external validation
based on standards of beauty celebrated by big industries; like thin,
white, young, able bodies. It’s almost impossible to escape the messages
that conventionally attractive people have better lives - media shows us
‘attractive’ people getting love, relationships, companionship, celebration,
better treatment, fashion, etc. These are powerful motivators to be
dangled in front of us. And unlearning them is tough because we have
been taming and editing ourselves for years in hopes of these diet culture
dreams coming true.
Body liberation movements focus on freedom from the standards of
beauty normalized by diet, fashion and fitness industries. Pleasure is
revolutionary because it gets us joy in this moment, right now, in this
body. Whether you’re on a diet or not, pleasure is your right and one way
you can take up space in that pleasure by tuning into your desires. Try:
- Exploring erotica - can you feed your erotic imagination stories that inspire arousal in you without images?
- Dressing up for masturbation and delight yourself - put on a colour you like, nipple pasties, lingerie, harnesses - anything that you would get ready to do if you were having sex with another person.
- Getting into the feeling of sexy with a sensual playlist - what songs make you close your eyes and want to sway or grind your hips? Make a short playlist of 4-5 songs that you can put on when you wake up, or before bed or even while you’re in the shower.
- Discovering a new erogenous zone on your own or with a partner - try a butt plug, nipple clamps or a vibrator on your perineum.
- Communicating about your fantasies and desires - articulate (talk about or text) where and how you like to be touched, describe your fantasies and how you want to feel erotically, and practice talking about what your turn offs and boundaries are.
- Exploring cannabis and sex - some people use weed and sex to get out of their heads and into their bodies, to inspire erotic creativity or to create new sensations in the body
Getting to know yourself without the propelling power of diet culture can
be scary and frustrating. Think about what you’re making space for,
where your diet culture energy can be redirected and have self-
compassion for the parts of you that still want to be accepted and
attractive according to diet culture. Those parts need your tenderness,
the same way someone you care about might need comfort if they were
feeling frustrated or scared. Find a community that you can practice self-
acceptance with online or offline and remember this work isn’t linear, it’s
layered. Focus on your progress and celebrate moments of you feelin’ yourself!
Luna Matatas packs over 10 years of experience internationally and locally in health and sexuality education. As a self-identified pleasure pusher, Luna facilitates inclusive, judgement-free and safe spaces for people to be curious about their fantasies, sex lives and bodies. You can learn more about Luna at lunamatatas.com.