How to practice body positivity? Top tips from Ruby Rare
Ruby Rare, with her brilliant pink hair and her fabulously body positive Instagram feed, is a force of nature. And she has just gone and topped off her amazingness with the launch of her debut book, Sex Ed.
Sex Ed is a practical guide to sex. Her quirky but frank take will have you all wishing that this is what they’d taught you in class…
We’ve known Ruby, and she’s a #RealMooncupUser of course, since her incredible work with Brook sexual health charity for young people, where she went on to manage the “Let’s talk. Period” campaign, seeking to end period poverty in England.
So we couldn’t be happier to bring you this extract, where Ruby invites us to delve into the complex world of bodies and our relationship with them. Smashing down the deep-rooted societal pre-conception that our bodies are not good enough, Ruby gives us her top tips to broadening our ideals and befriending our bodies. It’s time to celebrate the things bodies are capable of so that we can, in turn, be more confident and inclusive in the way we talk about, and experience sex.
All bodies are beautiful – an extract from ‘Sex Ed’ by Ruby Rare
Let’s say bye to our genitals (don’t panic, we’ll see them again soon) to focus on the rest of the body. This is not a book about body positivity. But it’s impossible to talk about sex without considering our relationship to our bodies.
Bodies are brilliant. I try to spend as much time as possible celebrating the weird and wonderful things bodies, my own and others, are capable of. My path here has not been straightforward, and there continue to be hurdles along the way, but I’m hoping that this book will help you to take a few more steps on your own path to seeing the beauty and power in all bodies.
The impact that a challenging relationship with your body can have on your sex life is huge. In order to connect with someone else’s body, I believe you need to be able to connect with your own, and that’s rarely a topic we receive guidance on as we’re growing up. It’s not just about exploring solo sex and generating pleasure for yourself, it’s about looking, really looking, at your body, and fostering a sense of love and gratitude for it.
Our economy is based on selling products to improve ourselves, and this can revolve around the idea that your body isn’t good enough and therefore needs to be improved. It’s an ongoing task to remind yourself that you are in no way lacking, and this is particularly difficult if your body differs from dominant cultural norms. We focus on size a lot, but race is just as much of a factor here, with the bodies of people of colour being othered in mainstream media and large sections of the body positive movement, which is still overwhelmingly white.
I’ve spoken to countless people who avoid certain sex positions because they are worried about how it will make their body look, who choose only to have sex in the dark because they are scared to be seen by their sexual partners, and who even believe they are not worthy of experiencing pleasure because of their appearance. While it’s OK to be in a place where you need less focus on your body in order to tune into your sexuality – I’ve been there myself – remember that your pleasure is always valid. There’s work to be done to shift the perception of bodies, our own and others, so we can all experience an increase in confidence when it comes to the sex we have alone or with others.
I’m a big believer in celebrating nudity in non-sexual ways. In 2018 I co-founded Body Love Sketch Club, a body-positive, clothing-optional life drawing class, with my dear friend Rosy Pendlebaby. During the class, participants pose as well as draw to build a deeper relationship with their bodies, Life-drawing spaces have the power to provide a different perspective on how we connect with the body. We’re rarely invited to pause and really look at other people’s bodies, or sit still for long enough to feel into our own. The class isn’t about being the best at drawing or the most body positive, it’s about reconnecting with your body and a reminder to treat it with kindness.
For me, the aim of body positivity is to befriend your body.
Ruby Rare’s tips for befriending our bodies
Your body is your ally, it’s the vessel that carries you through all the incredible and challenging and wondrous moments of human life, and we need to learn to sit with the body, to take time developing a forgiving and empathic friendship with it. Just like a friend, our body is going to piss us off sometimes. We’ll feel let down by it, it may not act the way we want it to and will throw us unexpected curveballs; we may sometimes wish it were different. But I hope these feelings pass, and what lies beneath the frustrations is a deep-rooted friendship.
A few tips:
- Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel shitty about your body. Actively follow accounts that celebrate diverse, happy bodies.
- Learn to have a sense of humour about your body. Bodies are weird and hilarious, and the more time you spend laughing about that extremely thick chin hair or the way your belly gurgles, the less time you’ll have to be so critical.
- If you’re having a bad day with your body, fill an A4 page with a stream of consciousness, listing all the things you are unhappy about. As soon as you’ve finished, turn the paper over and challenge yourself to fill that side with all the ways your body makes you happy. This can be anything from the way your eyelashes curl to the fact that your blood pumps oxygen around your body. The first time I did this it took me a long time to fill the page with nice things, but I felt a huge sense of relief, pride and perspective when I was finished. And after making this a habit, I now find it far more difficult to fill a page with negative thoughts than with positive ones.
- If the relationship you have with your body is impacting your mental health, if it’s stopping you from doing the things you’d like to do or is creating a sense of dysmorphia for you, please seek help.
- I’m a very naked person: my ideal outfit is naked and over-accessorised. It’s absolutely OK if you are not a naked person — whatever makes you feel powerful in your body is great – but if you feel like it, spending time on your own naked can really help you to relax into your body.
ALL bodies contain beauty within them. This isn’t about a sugar-coated body positivity, a fashion campaign using a size 12 model instead of a size 8 model. We’re at a moment in time where beauty ideals are shifting slightly, and while it’s refreshing to see the acceptance of body types beyond the models I grew up seeing, as a society we still have a hell of a lot of work to do around broadening our ideals of beauty so that no one is excluded.
I encourage you to think hard about how you can re-programme yourself to genuinely see that every person, every body, contains value and a personal flavour of beauty. A lot of people’s appreciation of bodies has a cut-off point, which still perpetuates negativity. Its OK not to be attracted to something/someone, but you still need to appreciate the beauty that others see and experience. There’s no easy answer to feeling confident in your body. It takes patience, dedication and, most importantly, kindness. Try not to be disheartened if you slip back into viewing yourself critically. This is a really challenging thing to face and change, and the path to accepting and loving your body is not a straightforward one. There’s no rush, take your time, don’t give up — you’re doing great.
Buy Ruby’s book:
Sex Ed is available to buy at Waterstones now.
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