Cathy Vertulli (CV): In life in general, and especially in the bedroom, body image and shame can really crop up and block our flow and sexuality and our feeling of desirability. We have some amazing people here tonight and we’re going to talk about their best tips for getting past this.

Elizabeth Wood (EW): I’m Elizabeth Wood

Dan Powers (DP): And I’m Dan Powers with Beyond the Bedroom.

CV: And I’m Cathy Vartuli from the Intimacy Dojo.

EW: You know, there’s one thing that I wanted to point out is that the body image issues are not only affecting women, but they’re beginning to affect men just as evenly.

CV: More and more.

EW: Yeah, and so that’s a really important component that a lot of us women don’t realize is happening to the men. So I want to put that out there. But anyway, we actually have some good tips.

DP: Well we think they’re good tips.

EW: Yes.

DP: One of my favorite things to do is what we call a body tour. With every partner that I’ve had in the past, probably, 10 years, we will, especially near the very beginning where we’re getting together, we will actually stand in front of each other and talk about my body from head to toe and the value of this is that there’s certain parts of my body that I have a little bit of shame about or am a little bit concerned about and I definitely know my partner’s have had stuff like that, but when it’s out there in the open and it’s looked at and talked about, then it just kind of goes away.

CV: So you go over your body first and then they go over their body?

DP: Yes.

CV: Yeah, a lot of the shame is so toxic when it’s silent and we’re kind of taught that if we pretend it’s not there, nobody– like, for a long time I pretended I wasn’t big. Like, because then it wasn’t true, but it was so awkward and now I drop into almost every conversation when I need someone that I know I’m a big person and there’s just this sense of, “Oh, OK, we all know it, we don’t have to pretend.”

CV: Yeah, that’s brilliant, I love that.

EW: Yeah, so the body tour is definitely one of our favorite things. Just talking about it, getting it out in the open is–

DP: And you can do it clothed first, as well.

EW: First, if it’s more comfortable. And it’s sort of, for me, like when we did it, some of it was my nonsense– a lot of it is what’s trapped in our head. When some of those things are the most beautiful parts about us and so when that– I’m calling it my nonsense, my shame. When that was out on the table to be looked at or witnessed and appreciated, when I was appreciated by my partner in that state of vulnerability, it actually brought the intimacy between us way deeper.

CV: Well because you’re being your real self and they’re being their self and that’s– instead of trying to be two models from a magazine and not owning yourselves.

DP: And we don’t have to airbrush ourselves in our minds.

CV: Well so few of us are, like even the models on TV, they don’t really look like that. So when we can say, “I have a pimple here and it’s OK,” and, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t pluck very well and I have a hair sticking out here,” and we just be there anyway. Because the magic’s in the touch and the presence, not whether there’s a stray hair or not sticking out.

EW: I know, I know. I agree. Do you have any good tips for us?

CV: For me it was a lot about realizing– I kept thinking I had to be perfect. I would date someone or I would have sex or I would enjoy myself, I would allow myself to be present and enjoy a touch when I hit a certain milestone that I never was reaching. Like, I had to be a size 2 and perfectly fit. Even if I had gotten there, I’m sure I’d feel like I couldn’t have any pimples or grey hair. Like, there was always something that was blocking me and it was really just an excuse and for me it was saying, “Wow, I can wake up at 92 and say I never got to experience that,” so it’s worth, like, just go out there and be connected with people and say, “I’m bringing me as I am. I have some pimples, I have some stray hairs, I have some fat that our society says is not nice, but my body still is amazing,” and actually I think that a lot of those things are not– our society tries to control us by saying things are bad that a lot of us have.

EW: Right.

CV: And I’ve had lovers that have said, “I love how much your skin is really soft and there’s a lot of it to play with and you’re really squishy, like, it’s fun. I don’t have to– there’s no bones to rub up against,” so different people like different things and we can just bring that.

EW: And be with people who really appreciate who you are and what you bring. Just your joy and your laughter and your personality and your whole beautiful body. If they recognize that, then that’s a good partner for you.

CV: And if you can let go of the shame– a lot of people, it isn’t the things that we’re ashamed of, but the shame itself that doesn’t feel good. When someone’s really shameful, literally filled with shame, it’s not really comfortable to be around them because they’re not owning part of themselves. It’s not necessarily the fat or the pimple or the stray hair or the grey hair or whatever it is you think it is, it’s the feeling you have about it and when you own all of yourself, that’s pretty sexy.

EW: It’s pretty hot.

DP: Very sexy.

CV: Yeah!

DP: So leave us your tips for how you do shame below in the comment section, we’d love to hear that as well.