Sex with Men Hoping to Feel Beautiful

0_21_450_SexAddictionBy Anonymous

Imagery is powerful. I remember my mother watching Marilyn Monroe movies and looking at her pictures in magazines. She bleached her hair and styled it like Marilyn’s. Mom dressed in high heeled boots and miniskirts and wore the style of make-up that graced magazine covers. My father loved it. I saw the attention men gave her, especially at parties. Looking back I see how the ideal of the perfect woman had a huge impact on the psychology of my mother. And me.

Although beautiful, mom lacked self-confidence and self-esteem. She gave up on her dreams to pursue the love of a man through beautifying herself. She became a submissive woman at the beck and call of the men in her life. No surprise, she married eight times before age thirty.

I watched men walk all over my mother, treating her like a trophy wife in front of their friends. But behind closed doors they demeaned and objectified her. I grew to dislike men, yet followed in her footsteps. It began in elementary school.

In elementary school super cute girls wore bows in their hair and cute dresses with knee high boots in white patent leather. I was plain looking and had a poor self-image, partly because of experiences with my mom. But also because I looked nothing like the ideal images that surrounded me on magazine covers.

At the same time, I felt uncomfortable wearing glamour styles and dressed more like a tomboy. I covered my body even though looking back, it was rockin’! I still got attention from boys, but not the kind a girl wants. I was one of the guys.

My low self-esteem carried over into my teen years. Mom made comments about my body and told me I better be careful or no man would want me. I’d never had weight issues until my mom made me painfully aware of it.

I looked in the mirror and saw things that weren’t there. I wasn’t fat, but I thought I was. I wasn’t ugly, but I thought I was. I thought my friends were prettier than me. Funny, my low self-esteem made me less attractive.

With poor body image and low self-esteem women don’t reach their full potential. I didn’t. My life goal: attracting a man. I dropped out of high school. I dropped out of college. I had sex with many men hoping to feel beautiful, adored and loved.

I recently took a photography class and learned the secrets of Photoshop. The instructor showed an un-retouched photo of Cindy Crawford, highlighting the roughness of her face, acne, arm fat, and a “thick” waist. He then showed how they thinned her waist, removed the arm fat, elongated her chin, and gave her a flawless complexion for the magazine cover.

I sat in disbelief. None of the images we see in Playboy, Vogue, Glamour,
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, Shape or InStyle are real images. Men are made to
believe this is what women should look like and they view women who don’t
harshly. Women and girls also believe these images are true representations of
beauty and glamour.

They aren’t.

But I hadn’t known that.

Hopefully the future will see new media sprout up portraying real women without airbrushing and manipulation. Let women embrace who they are so they can be strong and healthy. I want to get to that point in my life. I am still dieting and still struggling with poor body image.

One day, I will embrace myself for who I am and not worry about what I eat. One
day I will have the confidence I need to make my way through this second half
of life with a great career and a great love of myself. I wish that for all
women.

This piece was written by a student of mine. I asked if I could publish it on my
blog. She requested anonymity.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on February 17, 2014, in body image, feminism, psychology, sex, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. This same sense of needing to feel “beautiful”, plagued me my whole life too. I’m nearing 50 next month and am much happier not feeling that intense need to feel pretty all the time. It’s very liberating! Growing up in a lower middle class family in the 60′s and 70′s, none of our Mother’s worked outside the home. For the most part, we all just wanted to be stay at home Mom’s. To be attractive all the time, was just the means to an end.

    • Beauty is so often such a huge part of women’s self-esteem that it can trump just about everything, Sex, nourishment, our spiritual and intellectual life. It’s very sad. Interesting that age may be able to free us from this trap if we get stuck in it.

  2. It’s so odd how early all of this starts but I can remember being nigh obsessive about “exercising” when I was as young as 2nd grade. I was a tiiiiiny little person but I still felt like I needed to be careful of how much chocolate syrup was in my milk and that I was quick to run around the block. I can’t trace back where that came from because my Mom was incredibly practical and not the least bit vain… TV, maybe? It’s pretty alarming to think about, really.

  3. I never tried to look good for men. I always wore that clothes which looked apt for my body and even I feel comfortable in. Who doesn’t like attention but I always tried to be what I am not what others wanted me to see. !

  4. I loved reading about this writer’s journey toward awakening!

    So much of what women and girls feel about their bodies is a reflection of how those around them felt about their own bodies and then passed that down. Hopefully, as today’s generations of women get clearer about how their worth is about so much more than what we look like or whether we are desirable, tomorrow’s girls will have less baggage to contend with.

  5. As a female, even though I always remind myself that I do not have to make myself look good for men, I still can’t help to do so. When I do not have any make up on my face or if I do not wear clothes that look good on me. I would feel like I look very messy and others will look down on me. I will be in a bad mood on that day and therefore, I will spend a lot of time on making myself look good. No matter how hard I try to tell myself that I look good just the way I am, I still do not have the confidence to go out without putting a bit make up on. I think it is because the gender role of our society, female are suppose to look good and be attractive to men, so if female do not look good, that is our problem.

  6. I relate to this. Especially where you say that you didn’t gain weight until your mother’s comment. The same thing happened to me when I was a pre teen. Now im obese as a result of trying to be beautiful. I learned also that loving yourself is what will make you the MOST BEAUTIFUL so hang in there because its not your fault.

    As we learned in our women’s studies classes imagery has been created my men for millennia. Its roots are set in a male dominated world. Women become classified into categories like “sex object” or “invisible women” often in old mythology from around the world. Todays versions of classification (a male trait says our text book) are “BEAUTIFUL” women and “THIN” women, and this is damaging to a young brain. Simply we think we need to look a certain way because it becomes tied to feelings of love, partnership, friendship, or general acceptance.

    We develop our self esteem from the views of our culture. Our bodies are “cultural constructs” meaning that our meaning comes in part from the assumptions and stereotypes around us. Often that includes objectification. The imagery in our culture uses our desires against us. Its unfair and is often just to make money. They create a need then sell us something that can help that need. But often we do more then buy products from beauty companies.

    If our sense of ourselves and how we feel is influenced by imagery, then we can expect to change that by changing the imagery (women’s realities, women’s choices. p 31). So it wont always have to be that way.

  7. Growing up in Los Altos I saw a lot of young lady’s acting like this in High School. So many of the girls cared about the labels on their clothes, how it fits, and having the top designer on everything. And looking back, those were the popular girls who would be dating the football players, or the popular guys. And girls who didn’t wear the best labels or dressed a little differently were made fun of, or just completely ignored. Its not fair for women to conform their looks just so a guy will like them a little more. Hell half the time guys are lounging around in sweats, or clothes that don’t match but most women don’t stop talking to them, or think negatively about them. Its a trend that needs to stop. Women should be able to dress how they want for the reasons they want too.

  8. Growing up, my mother would always point out that I’m not thin or I’m not this or that compared to other girls. Although she pointed it out, she always told me that being pretty or having a coca-cola bottle figure was a bonus or something “extra”, and they weren’t mandatory to have. She always told me what’s important is that you have good morals/intentions and intelligence. I learned that the lack of physical attraction should not devalue a person.

    Recently in my English class, I was assigned to read Steve Craig’s “Men’s Men and Women’s Women”, where he categorized commercials into four types of advertisements. Two of the categories, ‘Men’s Women’ and ‘Women’s Women’. For Men’s women (How men perceive and expect of women), women are thin, pretty, and submissive. Women are viewed as supports of men, not leaders of men. For Women’s Women, he explained a Weight Watcher’s commercial where this woman is the “Ideal woman” because she maintains her attractive appearance so that she can please her husband. By pleasing her husband, he will not divorce her, therefore, he will stay and help raise their children. A woman who maintains her attractive appearance = a healthy family.

    Women think that by only taking care of their appearance, they can feel loved. There’s more than appearance, and it’s individuality. Love yourself before you love another.

  9. I can relate to feeling ugly and fat when many people have told me that I am not. I always told myself that I wish I could be the eyes of someone else so I can see my self from a different perspective. I always wondered why I couldn’t be as pretty as other girls, I have similar traits. When I try out clothes I think are cute, I end up getting frustrated because they don’t look so good on me. But why do I care so much about my appearance? Then I realized I just want to blend in, I shouldn’t have to go through the struggles of looking a certain way because the media tells me to. It’s all about confidence and how you carry yourself. Someone can have a pretty face but it doesn’t mean much of anything if she has a toxic personality. As the saying goes “looks attract but personality keeps”, I wouldn’t say its completely true but for some people it unfortunately matters.

  10. I feel that most woman can relate to this. I also fell for the “Comso” lie. Spending hours on my hair and make up. I wanted to be blend in, be like everyone else. The more I tired to be like the girls on the cover of magazines, the more I disliked me. It took me a long time to realize that I like to be a little different. Where is the beauty if we all look the same. I grew with my mother telling me that I needed to dress more feminine if I wanted a boyfriend. I always tell “If he doesn’t like me the way I am and how I dress, which was comfy casual, then its not meant to be.” To this day she calls me and asks if I’m seeing anyone and if I respond with no, the first thing she asks me is if I’m wearing any make up. Gee thanks.

  11. What is true beauty? Throughout, my whole life, I’ve critise myself that I’m not beautiful and that I’m fat and how I have nothing to offer to find someone. But I have to say the American way of being beautiful is bad but not as bad compared to an Asian culture.the Asian culture, every female must be petite and skinny, not only that has to always dress up but must have a girlish personalities such as sweet, soft spoken, obeys her elders and husbands, boyfriends, fathers and have to be pale skin. Being pale is true beauty. When going to Taiwan, I see females would find many ways to stay out of the sun and use many different sort of products to be pale unlike how in America, having tans is the huge thing that must be done. So even by gaining a slight weight, my own family will tell me how fat, I’ve gotten that forces me to self starve myself that now I realized that it destroys my own immune system and my body.

  12. Growing up I wasn’t too concerned with my body image and the way I appeared to others. I was in dance class most of my life so I did not worry about gaining weight or acting girly. As I started getting older my mother told me that I should be more lady like with my appearance meaning, wear lip gloss, paint my nails, and wear dresses. This was something that never interested me until I was older. Now when I dress up it’s for my own self-esteem and not to please a man or anyone else. Sometimes we just have to dress up to remind ourselves how beautiful we are and prove we still got it!

  13. Gabriela Regalado

    I agree with this article women are very judgemental and insecure because of what the media percieves women to be. And many women still believe that only her looks will get her a valid apot in society. Every image is photo shopped the first time i saw it i was shocked as well. I love to look good and eat healthy because its my choice. As far as allowing the media to lower my self esteem no.

  14. This article caught my attention in the specific section where the writer spoke about the adolescent and teen years she experienced. I too went through the same thing with my mother doing her best to please the men around her and it caused me to do just the opposite and fell more self conscious about myself. I too like the writer was a tomboy who covered up and although I felt like one of the boys I still got a lot of attention from them. I never saw myself as pretty or even worthy of having boyfriend/ finding a man so it made it hard to establish meaning relationships with the men in my life. I too now have seen how the media has distorted our images of ourselves greatly and have been happy to see some of the women in the spotlight standing up against airbrushing and showing us their natural selves.

  15. The blog addressed on a lot issues that I think almost every girl goes through. I read it in one of sociology classes that women in patriarchal societies were seen as objects like you mentioned. Women have always been associated with body while men have been associated with mind. This notion has made women feel and be manipulated by men for years and years that even today men objectify women. Not only this, the new staggering representation of women through media has created even more problem. A typical woman portrayed in the media is slim, slender, perfect, smiling, carries flawless kin, etc. All these traits have made women feel lower self-esteem and in turn less confidence. To feel beautiful women not only let themselves be toyed by men but also use tactics like plastic surgeries, and body art to feel attractive so that they can appeal to men.

  16. Reading this story brings up how I was pressured to remain in a “naturalness” state was a part of my upbringing, something my parents embedded into our moral and standards. Having long hair, no makeup or shaving was hard on an adolescent growing up in a time where it was normalized to “cover up”. This was uncomfortable when I begin to develop, I wasn’t prepared mentally for the cruelty of others. My only wish is that my parents were more aware of how society was taking an affect on my self-esteem, but then again not every parent can have all the answers. Being able to relate to someone whose name I will never know is uncanny, but confirming that women have been trained to be an ‘object of desire’ is interesting because it can only be controlled by our own actions (p.95 Women’s realities, Women’s Choices). It is up to the women in our future daughters, sisters, etc. lives to guide them to realize that it is okay to be natural, and even though others might not agree, it is how you feel about yourself that counts.

  17. There are so many women out there that will have sex with men just to feel beautiful and wanted. If they only knew that it is so powerful to get the love of one man instead of the intimacy of many men. Unfortunately, most men will leave you once you are not a challenge for them anymore and that usually means that you have either slept with them or denied them too much so they will leave you. It leaves women wanting for more so they try and find the next man to give them what they want. We need to tell our daughters how a man is supposed to treat you and we need to teach our sons who to treat women the proper way. I don’t know if this is something that will change in the long run because people as a whole are not full of self-esteem or self-confidence. This is probably where we should start with people.

  18. Interesting topic, but hard to discuss because it depends on the woman background, feelings, and personality. I believe that beauty is purely physical and biological (chromosomes etc), and it has nothing to do with sex. A woman can feel beautiful in a lot of ways such as having a lot of men trying to date her or having them tell her that she is actually beautiful. At least, as far as I am concerned, these are the ways that make me realize that I am attractive, beautiful, cute etc. I do not need to have sex with men to feel beautiful. In fact, notice that some men sometimes have sex with women they do not find attractive or beautiful. However, in some cases, it can be a way to feel beautiful.

  19. I could relate to this, at first I always wanted attention from guys. I always tried to find ways to make myself look more beautiful, had some low self-esteem, and didn’t eat much. I couldn’t stop looking at magazine and other celebs on how their body is so nice. I wanted to look like them and look hot. After being a push over to some guys I realized I didn’t like how my life was going and they treated me like an object. So I knew I had to draw the line there, I left those guys and stop wearing a lot of make up. I knew I only wanted to be in a serious relationship only if the guy accepts my natural beauty and treat me right. Even though it’s hard you need to have a good heart with a good personality and someone would love you for who you are, not how you look.
    A lot of women today try to look good for guys but yet they know they don’t like the result. From what I observe today a lot of females are buy brand names and high end products just to show they’re worth something or show off that they’re “rich”.
    I’ve also seen girls with a lot of make up on like they just baked a cake. Those type of female usually tend to be called a whore, slut, hoe because they’re seeking for love through their looks. I hope that some females would embrace their natural beauty along with putting themselves on the right track to success, not dropping out and giving up on things to impress someone. Impressing someone the best way would be, being confident about yourself and down the road someone would find that attractive in you. Also you’ll be unique in your own way instead of being the same as other “fakes”.

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