Let’s Talk about Sex, Baby: Sex isn’t just about hormones, you know…

-Written by Akanksha Mahajan

Sex is a fascinating subject. For some, it’s a physiological act meant for reproduction. For others, it’s a means for pleasure. It can be a simple escape, or the purest form of intimacy. And yet, it’s a topic that is never meant to be spoken of, at the risk of appearing crude and vulgar. It is this stigma that has caused numerous health disparities, from mental health issues to undiagnosed health conditions. 

So, in an effort to normalize it, let’s talk about sex, baby.

As far as I am aware, everyone’s talking about the Netflix series “MISMATCHED” right now. Although I don’t really feel like going into much of the details about that but there was something that I felt was really hard-hitting. There was this character, Simran, who was really conscious about the way she looked, and somewhere deep down, she had a really negative sense of herself and her body image because of which she always felt an extreme amount of fear whenever her partner touched her and when they were almost at the verge of breaking up, she started starving herself to the point of breaking down until she finally felt like having that perfect shape and she texted her boyfriend saying, “tonight’s the night…”, only to find out later that he was cheating on her, unfortunately, but that is a different story and I am not delving into that right now.

So, my point is that sexual behaviors and sexual desires are regulated by various factors other than just sexual hormones. Because whatever goes on in our heads has an obvious impact on our physiologies, right? And one of those factors is body image.

So, first of all, what is this body image?

A person’s emotional attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions about their own body are referred to as their “body image.”

Body image is about what a person thinks and feels about their body, including how they perceive and experience their size, shape, and weight.

Positive body image is associated with acceptance and bodily satisfaction, whereas negative body image is often associated with a sense of contempt or the desire for a different body.

Studies have found that women are likely to have a more negative body image as compared to men because women are somehow programmed to believe, ever since their childhood, what an ideal body shape of a woman is supposed to be like. Have you ever seen a non-skinny-looking Barbie doll? Another research on popular children’s cartoons found that overweight characters were more likely to be portrayed as dumb and unhappy than underweight characters, and that female characters were four times more likely to be underweight than male characters to be[1].

The influence of social media in the contemporary era has further added the fuel to the fire.

Women’s perceptions of their bodies can have a significant impact on their sexual desires. Although males can also experience body consciousness, as far as research goes, it rarely affects their sexual experiences in the same way that it does in women.

A poor body image is directly linked to a low sense of self-esteem. Studies have found that low self-esteem often has an influence over indulgence in risky sexual practices among adolescents, especially females[2]. Another study found that girls who reported being sexually active had lower scores on measures of self-esteem[3]. Of the girls with low self-esteem in seventh grade, 40% had sex by the time they were in ninth grade.

However, a higher sense of self-esteem and body image is obviously not a guarantee that a teen won’t indulge in risky sexual practices, a comprehensive sex education is undeniably, the need of the hour.


  1. Klein, H., & Shiffman, K. S. (2005). Thin is “in” and stout is “out”: What animated cartoons tell viewers about body weight. Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 10(2), 107-116.
  2. Victor Enejoh, Jennifer Pharr, Bertille Octavie Mavegam, Ayodotun Olutola, Haruna Karick & Echezona E. Ezeanolue (2016) Impact of self esteem on risky sexual behaviors among Nigerian adolescents, AIDS Care, 28:5, 672-676, DOI: 10.1080/09540121.2015.1120853
  3. Orr DP, Wilbrandt,ML, Brack CJ, Rauch SP, Ingersoll GM. Reported sexual behaviors and self-esteem among young adolescents. Am J Dis Child. 1989;143(1):86-90. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1989.02150130096023

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