On feeling sexy.

A patient I was speaking with the other day made an observation that I think bears repeating. She said, “I realized that I was not allowing myself to feel sexy or act sexy because I was scared.” More importantly she said, “I don’t think I even realized I was doing that.”

She had a difficult time telling me why she was scared. I think it was hard for her to figure out herself. What it came down to though was that as a married mother of 3 she felt like being sexy was not so appropriate. She said to me, “I don’t know… maybe I’d lead some guy on, do something I shouldn’t, get raped… who knows? I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think that’s what I was thinking.” She also disclosed that she felt it was disloyal to her husband.

The truth is, I get it.

We get married or we get into a permanent relationship, we settle down and we feel like it’s not okay to flirt, to check out the new guy, to be playful in our sexiness. We get so many messages that if something goes wrong it’s the women’s fault and we just don’t want to be another statistic. But I don’t think we always realize the price that gets paid when we shut down the “sexy part” of ourselves. When we turn off the teasing and the flirting and openness to sexuality, it seems to get shut down across the board. Our psyche doesn’t do a very good job of saying “no flirting with anyone else…but it’s okay to flirt with the boyfriend.” We just go into flannel jammy mode and the longer that goes on the harder it can be to access our sexiness.

The patient tried an experiment. She started “loosening up” a little. No, she did not start a fling and run off to Europe with a new boyfriend. She just held eye contact with a colleague a bit longer than usual, smiled at a stranger on the bus and told her husband about a crush she had on a professor for a long time. And she found that it made a big difference in her ability to access the sexy side of herself when she wanted to. She was more playful with her husband, more likely to think about sex and her husband got a total kick out of the story of her crush. Their sex life got better.

So, don’t shut down your sexy side in an attempt to be the perfect wife, girlfriend or mother. The perfect wife, girlfriend and mother has a sexy side — and a wide open smile.

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