By Gabrielle. Image of me and Mara by Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit.

This is a post about body image, but we’re going to get there by talking a little bit about sex — which I know I don’t really cover on Design Mom. So I’ll leave most of the conversation after the jump, and can you skip this post if it’s not your style. : )

I’m going to start the conversation with a new-to-me term: spectatoring. I first read about spectatoring on Shannon’s blog, and her post led me to watch the video above — a TEDx talk called The Sexy Lie. It’s very, very good. I hope you watch it.

mara and gabrielle

Spectatoring is when, instead of enjoying your time in bed with your partner, you mentally run down a list of all your body flaws, and assume your partner is thinking the worst of your body.

Having a negative view of my body hasn’t been a big issue for me. I like my body. I like the way it looks. I like the way it moves. It’s dependable and rarely if ever betrays me. Outside of being paranoid of my flat chest (to grow up in America with a flat chest, is to grow up thinking you have the pox), I’ve generally been confident about my body. And even my flat chest has turned out to be just fine.

So I was pretty darn shocked to realize that I am for sure guilty of spectatoring during sex. And that I had a long list of body criticisms that I assault myself with.

When I realized it, I felt a range of emotions. I was ashamed, not of my body, but that I engaged in something so harmful — because I know better. And I was mad, because I can remember times where I didn’t shut the spectatoring up, and instead let it ruin my night (and Ben Blair’s night as well). Sex is one of my very favorite things (as I’ve mentioned probably too many times here on Design Mom – hah!), so I was upset when I realized I was sometimes letting spectatoring harm my sex life.

I’ve been coming to terms with how often I’m engaging in spectatoring, and of course, my thoughts now turn to: How do I stop? How do I make sure I don’t continue this harmful habit?

And my thoughts also turn to curiosity. Have you ever engaged in spectatoring? Do men ever spectate? Or is it a distinctly female thing? And for anyone reading who is in a lesbian relationship (and cares to share her thoughts), does spectatoring happen double time in your relationship? Or does spectatoring only happen in relation to men?

I’m also especially curious if there are any women reading that have never engaged in spectatoring, or have completely overcome it. Because I’m looking for healthy models to learn from!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. — Although my tone is fairly light-hearted here, I think it’s so important for women to talk openly about enjoying sex. Really, truly.