Body Image and Feeling Sexy


Body Image and Feeling SexySix weeks ago, I attended CatalystCon East—a conference held in Washington, DC designed to spark communication, acceptance, and activism in the field of sexuality. It was literally a life changing experience. I have long struggled with body image and low self-esteem. I decided that if there was anywhere in the world that I would possibly accepted for who I am and not shunned due to my ample curves, it was this conference. I promised myself that I would try, just for that weekend, to see what being confident felt like. Well let me tell you – it was incredible. I was approached and appreciated by men, women, trans men and women. I was kissed by two people that I liked and found attractive. I was fortunate to meet the members of Life on the Swingset and had the opportunity to build a Blanket Fort with them. I met people that understood my sense of humor, appreciated my ideas, and enjoyed spending time with me. It was a breakthrough. No slouching to hide my stomach. No baggy clothes to hide the bulges. I was finally accepting and, dare I say, LOVING my body. It felt phenomenal.

This past weekend I went to visit one of my friends who own a photography studio. She did a photoshoot for me so that I would have professional photos for my website. We had a blast! Naturally I brought the vulva puppet so that she could be featured in a few of the pictures. I sat with her after the shoot and watched her retouch the pictures to edit out shadows, dust, and other tiny details that the naked eye would not normally see. I learned that the camera sees everything–every wrinkle of cloth, every speck of fuzz, and every single imperfection on the subject’s body. I was a bit worried as I saw some of the photos. I felt some of that newfound confidence slip away as I looked at my stomach bulges. I was tempted to ask her to photoshop them away. That is what they do in magazines, isn’t it? She replied calmly, “I could do that, but then these photos wouldn’t be of you anymore.”

She was right. She showed me how easy it is to completely reshape someone’s body in Photoshop. A few clicks of the mouse and pounds vanish. No bulges, no cellulite, no stretch marks. Then I started thinking about it. That confident girl who attended CatalystCon was not Photoshopped. She wasn’t perfect. She was just me, and me was pretty great. I decided not to remove the imperfections. I decided that if my curvy body was enough to keep someone from dating me, or even hiring me as a presenter, then I was probably better off. The confidence is what’s sexy, not the body. I looked back at the pictures and saw myself smiling and happy, not caring about the camera, just enjoying the experience. That was sexy. That was genuine.

    I kept the Photoshopped picture as a reminder that anyone can have a “perfect” body with a few clicks of a mouse. Those images online and in magazines are the product of experts who spend their days hiding real bodies and creating fake ones. When we look at photos of models and celebrities, it gives us a false idea of beauty because those photos are not real. Beauty comes from confidence, and confidence comes from loving ourselves as we are–not how we think we “should” be. It’s a daily struggle. Confidence takes practice, but it’s worth the time it takes to develop.

Body Image and Feeling SexyBody Image and Feeling Sexy


Ashley Manta is a feminist sexuality educator, certified consulting hypnotist, and sex-positive pleasure advocate. She has given presentations on topics including sexual violence awareness, positive body image, and sexual empowerment. You can find a list of programs on her website or you can follow her on Twitter @ashleymanta


  1. So happy you went with the pics that reflect who you are… not some notion of what the media says we should look like. I am going to share this with my Curvy Girl Lingerie page. You have inspired thousands! Thank you. And thanks to Hercules for sharing this on Facebook.

  2. Hi Ashley

    That was a very good read. The topic of “Does being in the lifestyle make you more aware of your physical appearance?” came up in a group that I moderate and I thought that your article was perfect to introduce to the group,

    • Tyrone,
      Thanks! I’m really glad that this article could be helpful to your group! If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

  3. Ashley- as a woman who has struggled with weight and body issues my whole life, I hear you. Attitude and self-confidence is what allowed me to begin my journey away from bored suburban wife and mother to the zaftig poly goddess I am today. I have been so thrilled with the amazing people who accept and desire me AS I AM – not as the size 4 I will never be.

    Congratulations on making such progress on your journey. You are a beautiful woman! Welcome to the party.



    • Goddess Violet,
      Let me congratulate you on your personal journey as well! In some ways it can feel like we’ve been through the gauntlet, but there are many wonderful supportive people waiting on the other side to welcome us with open arms! I’m so grateful that we can support one another!
      High Five!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! I see women everyday that are trying to live up to the standards in magazines and punish themselves by not buying anything new until “they lose weight”. Thank you for posting your beautifully natural photo next to a very distorted photoshop photo to drive home your point. I will be reposting on my page!

    • Hi Jill!

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m looking forward to seeing more of the awesome clothing to come from Jill Alexander Designs! Now I have a new place to shop 🙂 Let’s definitely stay in touch!


  5. It is wonderful to hear women excepting themselves! We are all beautiful no matter the size. The media should not decide our self worth according to our size. I love your attitude! 🙂

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