I Look Sexy, But I Don’t Feel Pleasure

Laci Green explains self objectification.

Laci Green explains self objectification.

I recently talked about “spectatoring” — watching yourself have sex instead of enjoying pleasure.

After surveying my women students I learned that three-quarters spent at least some of their time in bed distracted by how they looked. Most worried that they weren’t “hot” enough. And most also said that their concerns harmed their sexual experience to some degree.

But some women did think they were attractive. In fact, when I surveyed students about the last time they had sex, one young woman replied, “I think I looked pretty good.”

She was talking about how she looked, not how she felt. As if sex, itself, were all about how you look for someone else’s pleasure, and not how you feel for yourself. In fact, when my students talk about “being sexual” they are sometimes actually talking about looking sexy. And if you Google a synonym for “sexual” the word “voluptuous” pops up. But “voluptuous” is a look, not a behavior or a feeling.

This fits with a concern that women can end up eroticizing male sexual pleasure as if it were their own. If “he” is turned on by how “she” looks, then she is being sexual — even if she’s not the least bit aroused.

Distracted, trying to look good

On the other hand, trying to look attractive may simply be distracting, as these women explain:

It’s more stressful because you’re consumed by your appearance instead of your enjoyment. Trying to be perfect is very distracting.

All I can focus on is how I look instead of the romantic connection. I’ll constantly position myself to look more appealing. So I can’t focus on my pleasure because I’m worried about what he’s thinking. (When in reality he probably doesn’t even notice.)

In the best case these young women may be enjoying themselves, and how terrific they look. They may gain a self-esteem boost as they relish their “hotness.”

But they’re not actually enjoying sex.

And when women are distracted, their partners are missing out on pleasure and connection, too.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social 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. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 22, 2019, in body image, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I think that as time goes by it is getting very stressful to be a woman. There is so much editing in videos and images on social media like face book, snap chat, twitter, instagram that women compare themselves to this image that we see when we open up our devices. We start believing that we are the only ones with flaws and we over think everything. I am not surprised by this post because anywhere we go we subconsciously compare ourselves to others. I have done it myself at the gym where i know is a place where we go to better ourselves. We over think and some how put ourselves down.

  2. Great post, and fascinating because I think people generally are self-conscious and it is really sad if women feel stressed by appearance instead of enjoyment. Once nice thing about getting older and also being with someone for a longer period of time, we know perfect doesn’t exist and become very at ease with each other.

  3. Well that is very interesting to have new information about what sexuality actually means. Women are too concerned about the way they look that they don’t feel the pleasure they are suppose to feel. But what they feel is joy for pleasuring someone else by looking good for them. Nowadays appearance is very important to women in our society which we see in magazines where models appear. In the topic of sexuality, women feel the need to show how good they look to please others and they feel the pleasure of that. Women need to learn that we aren’t the cause of men’s pleasure but we are the cause of our own pleasure. Learning how to pleasure ourselves will help us figure out the deeper meaning of sexuality. To me sexuality meant that you had to be sexy and feel sexy but now that I have read all of this and have reflected on what sexuality means to me now.

    • It can be surprising to realize how pressure women can put on themselves to look good, because we associate sexuality so much with women’s looks. But then it has to be ironic and opposite effect of blocking pleasure.

  4. I found this blog post to be very interesting because I think that a lot of people can relate to it but I think that women find it most relatable. Sex can be such a vulnerable act that people are always concerned about how they look, sound, ect but in reality no one is paying attention to those things. I think that a lot of people would have a lot better experience if they just let themselves enjoy the moment instead of being preoccupied by other things. Most of the time a woman’s partner thinks they are “sexy” when they are having sex because that’s how the see them and part of the reason why the engage in the act of having sex. I also think that if a woman feels sexy and confident while having sex it can be so much more enjoyable for both parties because confidence adds a whole new level to sex.

    • Yep. It would be better for both women and men if we didn’t put so much pressure on women to look good so that they could focus on their pleasure instead of how they look. Which can be hard to do in this culture.

  5. I think that women behaves naturally like that and just don’t realize when it becomes too much. Women are creatures that like having compliments from men in general. On the bed is pretty much the same thing. The compliment the man would have in that situation will just be this time: “the fact that he is turned on by the woman in front of him”. And women have an eye for that in certain positions. It eventually gets awkward when they realize that because that’s when they try start focusing on how they act. They stop having good sex at that moment.
    Again, certain positions allow that distraction to happen because the partners are very close to each other.
    Another factor that I think can explain that would be the lack of self confidence. Some might have physical faults, or something that always push them to look a mirror basically. Most of the time, when a girl is good looking, compliments on her beauty bothers her because she feels like that is the only think that she has that make her stand out. On the other way, a girl that doesn’t often receive compliments tends to search for that compliment through actions and words.

    • It’s not natural. You don’t find it in every culture. And while 2/3 of the women I surveyed said it could be a big problem it wasn’t a big problem for 1/3. We are all a mix of our personalities, social experiences, and culture, so you find cultural patterns and individual differences.

      But it’s a big reason why nearly half of American women have low or no interest in sex. If you are worried about how you look then sex isn’t very fun, and then it gets tiresome. And women not enjoying sex is not good for women or men.

  6. Being “sexy” or sexual has dramatically been altered due to societies norms, as well as how media has brained washed us humans to believe a certain type is sexy. In many instances in media you will see either a victoria secret motel or a man who has rick solid abs. Media has set the standard of what sexy looks, and makes individuals insecure because they do not fell like they fit the standard. Therefore people will have that thought at the back of their minds and will draw their focus. Each individual fights their own battles of insecurity, and in this example women think more about how sexy they look, than about the pleasure they are receiving. Not allowing the experience to be unforgettable. But reminded about the standard society and media has installed into our brains. At the end of the day, women should not worry if they look sexy or sexual, i am 100% sure that their significant others will not mind.

    • I think you are right in most instances. Women feel tremendous pressure to look good in bed because of how they are bombarded by sexy woman images in our society. But most men – particularly, the good ones I think you are right in most instances. Women feel tremendous pressure to look good in bed because of how they are bombarded by sexy woman images in our society. But most men – particularly, the good ones — won’t care. They will just want their lady to be loving the love.

  7. Some think looks have very little to do with a person’s sexiness; it’s more about attitude.

  8. It’s called being female. My most recent girlfriend, when I’m at work I see notifications on Facebook and she’s at home making selfies and uploading to Facebook. Every time she has a shower and gets out the hair dryer she live streams drying her hair. Every time we got in the car she is starting to make selfies for upload. If we go to some amazing new place or location, I can’t tell if she actually cares or not, because she’s busy making selfies and posing this way or that way. Even just walking down to the shops she has to stop 2 or 3 times to make a selfie under a tree, or outside the shops or whatever. Is there any man who exhibits this behavior? Not that I’ve ever witnessed. Women are born to be forever thinking about how they look, and men are born to be always looking. That’s how it is. You can say it’s bad or whatever, but in some perverse way, this is biological reality that makes us happy. So women when having sex are thinking about how they look. If it were not so, they wouldn’t be happy at all. They’d be making selfies in the back garden instead.

    • Well it isn’t about being female. It’s about being socialized to be female in our culture. Some women learn to stop doing this. And some women simply don’t do it. But it’s very harmful for women sexuality because they aren’t enjoying themselves and it is a big part of the reason why nearly half of American women have no or low interest in sex. And that’s not good for men, either.

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