In pre-pandemic times, I had a ritual of checking myself out in the mirror before heading out the door. Damn, I’d think. I look good. Other than the occasional bad self-esteem day, I can honestly say that I was feeling myself. Fast-forward to 2021 — not so much. After more than a year of living in loungewear, my hair a mop of split ends, I miss the sexy energy I once oozed. Sure, Hot Vax Summer is on the horizon, but we have a few months yet, and our return to the wild will likely be gradual. How can I feel sexy again in the meantime?
It’s a fraught question. We’re in a pandemic, after all. People are still dying of coronavirus, and those of us fortunate enough to evade contracting it might be out of work or simply tired of it all. Wanting to feel hot again can seem trivial, if not insensitive. For help with sorting out my conflicting feelings, I turned to Kaile Videtich, a sex-positive, queer-affirming therapist in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They shared their thoughts about why you might be feeling less-than-sexy lately, why it’s ok to want to feel horny for yourself again, and how to do so, regardless of your gender identity, sexual orientation, or relationship status.
As far as why you might not feel as hot as you did in the Before Time, much of it boils down to the disconnectedness we’ve been collectively experiencing, according to Videtich. “We are human beings that are vibrant in relationship to other folx,” they tell me. “That sense of internal sexiness, feeling horny, feeling in myself authentically is very much impacted by relationships,” and being around people who can illuminate that sexy self, whatever that means to you.
And Zoom doesn’t cut it. Videtich cites Resmaa Menakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, which describes the power of co-regulation. According to polyvagal theory, this phenomenon occurs when nervous systems in the same physical space interact with each other to promote enhanced emotional balance. In doing so, you can be vulnerable, and "tap into that sense of trust and connection with somebody else, which is what we yearn for," Videtich says. “It doesn’t work to the same degree when you’re on a screen."
The thing is, I live with my S.O., who presumably thinks I’m hot — so why don’t I feel like I am? Videtich tells me it’s because “we all live embodied polyamory, but we don’t actually acknowledge it,” which made more sense the more I mulled it over. Simply put, we need other relationships, not just the one with the S.O. we bone on the regular, to remind of us who we are — that is, what exactly makes us so sexy. Now more than ever, the pandemic has challenged the notion of “The One” who can satisfy all our needs. While I love my boyfriend, being with him — and only him — at all hours has reminded me of how much I need my friends and everyone else, too.
The more people you connect with, they explain, the more boundaries you can draw around yourself — that is, the more you can delineate how you’re similar to and different from others. All of this is to say that you feel sexy when you have a strong sense of your authentic self, and a lot of that stems from being with other people.
If, like me, you feel guilty about wanting to be horny for yourself again, Videtich suggests breathing and reminding yourself that you do have needs. “This sense of being vibrant and being present to yourself, no matter what situation you’re in — we all need that,” they say, whether you’re in a war, sick with COVID, or privileged enough not to be in either situation. If you miss feeling desirable, it’s not because you’re selfish. It’s because you’re human.
Here are Videtich’s tips on how to awaken the baddie asleep inside you:
Get to know your body again
Although it might be difficult if you’ve experienced trauma, Videtich recommends “[finding] that safe person and/or that safe place to reconnect with yourself physically, with your body.” That might look different for different people, but it can be as simple as taking more mindful walks, Videtich tells me.
Really notice how your feet feel on the ground. Rest your hands on your thighs, or place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Explore the possibility of tolerating your own touch as you move through your day-to-day life. It’s about being able to say to yourself, “Hey, I notice you. I see you. I welcome all of who you are,” Videtich says.
Cozy up with reading material that can lead you to insights about your body and your relationship with it. Videtich suggests Sonya Renee Taylor’s book, The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love as “a great way to start the process of trying to understand how to love yourself, how to go back to that sense of self-authenticity, reconnecting to this radical part of you that loves you, all of you, no matter what society says, no matter what other people say.”
Check out educational sources that remind you that your body is amazing and that it needs sexy time, they add. If you have a vulva, they suggest exploring the educational platform OMGyes and watching instructional videos on how to engage in self and partnered pleasure.
Discussing your relationship with your body with others can remind you that you’re not alone in whatever you might be experiencing, Videtich says. Find a support group where you can talk about the difficulties of connecting with yourself, your excitement and anxieties related to stepping back into society, and any shame about wanting to feel sexy again. Videtich notes that Grand Rapids Pride Center has a number of virtual support groups. If you’re a cisgender woman, they suggest Down to There’s free guide on how to talk to your friends about sex.
Spend time in nature
Nature can afford you the quiet and stillness that make it easier to hear your thoughts. “Slowing down and watching the water brings me into a state of calm and helps me to connect with nature and therefore also to illuminate what’s going on within me,” Videtich says.
They recommend reading adrienne maree brown’s book, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, which looks at nature as a reflection of a healthy society and how we can learn and grow from understanding how nature moves and changes.
Many of us have spent much of the past year-plus alone, swimming in our anxious thoughts. Videtich’s advice reassures us that with some mindfulness and self-compassion, we can learn to be in our bodies again, too.
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