On Facebook today, Marilyn Wann shared an article on CNN.com about the health benefits of touch. She added “If being fat makes a person ‘untouchable,’ then that’s a powerful confounding variable for claims about weight and health.” I definitely agree, and of course media don’t present fat people as worthy of physical contact particularly of a sexual nature. However, I think we do need to recognize that sometimes we shield ourselves from anticipated rejection by shunning the desire for touch, which is in and of itself unhealthy. It’s not always that no one wants to feel the tactile pleasures of your body. We have to open ourselves up to receiving the sensory experience of intimate touch, which requires us to feel safe not only with a partner but with ourselves. Unfortunately, society doesn’t make this an easy job.

Reading the article, you can see that it’s not just sexual touch that’s beneficial, which to me offers hope that you can begin to appreciate how it feels to let that touching in without having to immediately immerse yourself in a situation that you find uncomfortable. When you’ve used the defense mechanism of bottling up the desire to be touched for so long, it takes time to reintroduce yourself to it. It doesn’t matter if you’re partnered or not, things like getting a neck rub from a friend, hugging family members or petting a dog can clearly be done without the need of a romantic relationship. Since this column focuses on sex, I want to point out that in the article, the author mentions that solo sex is beneficial as well, which is my number one way of connecting with my body.

I suggest that any fat girl get down with masturbation. Not only do you connect in a tactile way with the pleasure centers of your body, but the endorphins and other chemicals released make you feel so damn good, it’s impossible not to eventually come to find pleasure in your body automatically. It teaches you what you like and what you don’t, which is enormously beneficial when you have sex with a partner. You know exactly which spots do what, what fantasies enhance the experience, and you learn how to exist as a sexual being. Honestly, I was a lights-out only girl before I started regularly masturbating, and now I’m totally comfortable with the lights on because, basically, I’ve seen that shit before. And when you find pleasure in your own body you care less about what negative things the person you’re about to have sex with is thinking about your body.

Masturbation is not a cure-all for your body image issues. It’s part of a healthy self-esteem diet that includes other more cerebral aspects of fat acceptance. It’s important to note that the defense mechanism of avoiding touch isn’t an invalid coping method, but it’s one that ultimately harms us. It’s an insidious consequence of our fat-negative society, and when we recognize that, we can work toward changing our attitudes towards touch.

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