Woe Is Me! “My Boyfriend Bodyshamed Me During Sex. How Do I Stop Feeling Insecure?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“A while back, my boyfriend and I decided to have sex for the first time. Since both of us were virgins, I mentioned my insecurities and told him not to expect anything seen in porn. But during sex, he made subtle bodyshame-y remarks that reinforced my insecurities and affected me emotionally. When I confronted him about it, he admitted that he expected me to have more curves and apologized saying it was stupid of him to expect the kind of body he grew up seeing in porn. Ever since then I have lost trust in him and don’t feel confident in my own skin, although he has not repeated making such remarks till now. I’m not sure if I should brush it off as his lack of experience in being with real women or continue to be angry with him?”
— Debating second chances
RN: I think you can feel two things at once: anger, for how he made you feel, and understanding, for how he’s been influenced by mainstream porn. It’s up to you to decide which feeling takes precedence over the other — if I were you my instinct would make me hold on to the anger. It’s also incredibly damaging to hear these comments during your first experience of sex. It’s also telling that he didn’t apologize to you — instead, he subtly offered a backhanded admission of his actions that put the onus on you and on porn, but not on himself. That right there is a red flag that disqualifies the inclination to dismiss this as simply being a matter of lacking experience. And while women look a certain way in porn, so do men — but that hasn’t led you to bodyshame him. You should demand an apology from him and understand how he made you feel.
DR: I think a great way to feel less insecure is to show your boyfriend the way out of your life. Evidently, he’s either an entitled brat, who thinks he has the authority to remark on your body which, he probably believes, exists primarily for his pleasure. Or, he’s an entitled — and controlling — brat, who is trying to puncture your self-esteem to address his own insecurities. It’s called negging; if you haven’t heard of it, look it up.
The bodyshaming you endured may, to some extent, have indeed resulted from your boyfriend not having experience with real women in bed. But even so, it’s not an excuse for his behavior. And your anger is absolutely valid. I’d add that I also think it’s alarming that he deems it okay to pass negative comments on the body of someone he seemingly loves — that too, in a moment of vulnerability.
Since he has apologized to you, then depending on the quality of the apology and whether he shows genuine remorse, you could consider giving him another chance. If it was subpar, well, I guess, it’s time to take the trash out?
AS: It’s obviously okay to continue being angry with him. However, at the same time, I think that if you both have a good rapport you should take this moment to establish some solid ground rules to guide him and you to more respectful sex, which is very important for a healthy relationship. You will realize going forward how helpful boundaries are, and how important it is to define them, at times. It will hopefully also help you to trust him back with most things. Being suspicious and unable to trust, ultimately, takes a lot of effort, and it is better to not have to keep one’s guard up in front of their closest persons.
PR: Okay, so it doesn’t seem like he has really owned up to his mistake, nor realized the consequences of his actions. He is seemingly not letting go of his expectations from watching porn and has only half-heartedly apologized. I don’t think that is okay by any means, nor should it be excused. Definitely do not brush it off; if you do feel like it, though, you can give him another chance to really listen to you and understand his mistake. If he still keeps his half-hearted apology, asks you to “calm down” about it, or say that it “isn’t a big deal,” you know you’re not with a person who can create a safe space for you.
Confrontation can always be a pain — really hope you’re able to tell this person off!
AS: I’m glad you confronted him then and there, instead of repressing how his remarks made you feel. But don’t put the pressure of having to be okay with this on yourself, just because he seems to have apologized at the time. You don’t have to excuse his remarks. Neither should you have to justify the bodyshaming — even if it is stemming from his lack of experience with other women.
As for the insecurities, therapy might be able to help you find that lost confidence again. You can try addressing this with him too — if you feel this relationship is worth salvaging and if you think he truly understands how his unwarranted comments on your body have made you feel. But keeping in mind how deeply this has affected you, eventually, you might want to ask yourself whether this, or any relationship, is worth your self-esteem.