The media frequently contact Relate for comments and advice. Sometimes the stories they impart are a touch sensational and the advice is added on as an afterthought.
So, when you’re asked to comment on a piece headed ‘Sex every day for a year’ you start to question whether you should get involved.
But when one news channel reported on US author Brittany Gibbons having sex every day for a year, it raised some pertinent points about our self-esteem.
Brittany said that, as a result of her self-afflicted task, she not only felt better about her body, but learned how to communicate better with her partner.
Clearly, body confidence is a big issue. Surveys from commercial product companies (advocating use of the type of products they produce, of course) found that only 20% of women in the UK like the way they look and 48% of UK men desperately want to lose weight.
Whether having sex every day to fix it is a solution – or just an eye-catching headline – is open to debate.
Hence, the media outlet approached a couple of ‘experts’, including Relate’s relationship counsellor, Denise Knowles, who offered some ‘balance’ to the story.
Not surprisingly… having sex every day is not for everyone, she said.
She pointed out that the US author had something that not everyone does – the option to have sex every day with a supportive husband who wanted to help her develop body confidence.
She was in a safe relationship, where she could say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, state her needs, and be vulnerable. In this unique circumstance, then ‘yes’, said Denise, ‘perhaps sex could lead to body confidence.’
But we certainly could not take this experience and then state ‘sex every day builds body confidence’.
(You could sense the journalist’s hopes had been dashed.)
Pushing yourself to have sex every day for a year, regardless of what your body and mind really wants, could, in fact, have some dangerous consequences.
Sex every day with, for example, various partners and strangers, especially if you have a traumatic past involving some sort of sexual abuse, could lead to shame, feelings of worthlessness, dissociation from the body, and depression.
(No, come on now, you’re killing a good story here.)
It could mean we push ourselves to have sex just to ‘keep the record going’, instead of listening to ourselves and recognising our needs in each moment, which is so essential if we at all suffer from low self-esteem.
It all comes down to the individual. If you are with a loving partner or partners, and it’s something you’d decided to do for fun, it might lead to better connection, and improved sexual confidence, but you’d both have to be wanting sex at the same time, and prioritising each other’s needs – rather than just ‘ticking off a day on the calendar’.
Sex with random people is more likely to cause issues with confidence than increased confidence.
Any big declaration you intend to have sex every day for a year with many different people is far less likely to be about body confidence and more likely to be a sign of deep-rooted issues, such as trauma, sex addiction, or histrionic personality disorder.
Focusing on just sex is probably not the answer, said Denise. Obsessively fixating on sex as the solution to your body confidence issues isn’t going to work. Often, self-esteem runs far deeper and is more complex.
(Not quite what we had in mind.)
“People might be focusing on their body when there are other areas of life that might be problematic,” she says. “Rather than focus on the negative, think about what you do have.
“If there are parts of your body you’re not happy with, take a good look and think about the parts of your body you do like. Maybe you have nice skin or nice legs.
“If you don’t like parts of your body, don’t focus on them every day – the negative – because it’ll bring you down…
“It’s not all about your body. It’s about who you are as a person.”
(Wished we hadn’t asked her now.)
Be careful what you wish for, says Denise. If you become dependent on having sex every day to feel better, then how are you going to react if the sex starts to wane?
Instead, she recommends improving your lifestyle, diet and exercise routine.
“The issue here is making the decision to do something different – recognising that ‘I want to do something good about this problem’ and seeing it through.”
If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about self-esteem, why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.