Sexualizing the self

Sex on Tuesday

Photo of Khristina Holterman

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My go-to move when I want a guy to finish is to flip over, shaping my body into that arched-back, head-down form, knowing the view from behind will leave him cumming faster than any other position. It’s almost programmed into me — to turn over when I’m ready for it to end. 

I was astonished, however, when recently, as the guy I was fucking was pounding away from behind me with no end in sight, admitted, “I can only come if you go on top.” 

What? My ass wasn’t his biggest turn-on? He wanted to see my face, caress my entire body and look into my eyes as he came? I’ve had a lot of meaningful, emotional sex, but never had I felt so sexually appreciated as a whole. 

I was 12 years old when I was told for the first time that I had, in these words exactly, a “fat ass.” Playing four square at recess, as middle schoolers do, I was suddenly yanked off the blacktop by an eighth grade girl I’d never really spoken to. She had super confidential, juicy news to tell me: After seeing me in the grey leggings I was wearing that day, a boy in my grade had told her that I had (for lack of a better seventh-grade-boy term) a big butt. 

Confused, initially, I took this as an insult. But gauging my disappointed expression, the eighth grader quickly reassured me that this was a compliment, and in fact, the best possible compliment. She was even jealous. 

The bell rang for class, and though years later my thoughts of the rest of that day are now a blur, I will never forget that moment during recess. 

I’d never thought about my butt before. It was just a part of my body — a strong muscle that helped me run fast in cross country, score in soccer and destroy my competition on the middle school four square courts. 

But now it was something else: an object of attraction that, unbeknownst to me, was grabbing the attention of my male classmates. 

Things were immediately very different. It’s not that I’d never felt male attention — I had a few elementary school “boyfriends” — but I’d never gotten such physical attention. My face was acne-ridden and my mouth was crammed with braces. As was the case with most of my classmates, I never thought much about my looks or insecurities. But suddenly, boys acted differently toward me. 

Blinded by female jealousy and male infatuation, I would be lying if I said part of me didn’t enjoy it. I was excited. People found me attractive, wanted to kiss me, even make out with me, something I hadn’t done yet. And low and behold, the first boy I made out with was the one who told the eighth grade girl about my “fat ass.” He liked me — well, at least a part of me.

Who am I to complain about having something people value? I mean, if you got it, flaunt it, right? 

Still, it’s sort of sad how sexualized we are from such a young age — how much I was led to believe by boys throughout middle school and high school that my backside is where my worth resided. 

I began to believe them, too, hating the parts of myself that weren’t winning me stares. My face, hair, even personality didn’t matter. I had one thing prized in our Kardashian-crazy era, and I would let it be used by others.

In a sense, I allowed myself to become a sex object for men. You can say there’s empowerment in reclaiming parts of yourself that have been objectified, but to me, it felt more like hyperawareness than admiration. 

Part of being hyperaware of your body from a young age comes with an underlying sense of hatred. I hated feeling eyes on my body when my shorts rode up a little too high or getting texts from my older brothers to delete bikini pictures because they looked “suggestive.”

It’s especially confusing when you’re praised for the same asset that you’re judged for. As much as I feel lucky and happy with my body, I also hate how it can be critiqued. Being hyperaware of my butt as a sexualized object when I didn’t want it to be only left me feeling insecure and embarrassed. 

And it didn’t help that when I started having sex, guys always wanted to finish from the back. How can you not internalize the preferred view of others? 

As ridiculous as it sounds, it took that one guy asking me to finish on top to realize there were other aspects of my body worth appreciating sexually. Feeling seen in your entirety, as a whole being, is liberating. 

No one’s to say I’m going to swear off doggy style or reverse cowgirl for the sake of hiding my bottom half. But let’s be honest, if the guy I’m fucking would rather hold my face and see my whole body than shove my face into a pillow while finishing, he’s more likely to expect a round two.

Khristina Holterman writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected]