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 By Kim Tranell, REDBOOK. 

Body confidence comes from within 
“In my twenties, I sought out pretty vapid, sex-based relationships that were designed to boost my body-confidence. I thought that the more men who wanted me, the better I’d feel about my stomach or the size of my chest. Then, at 33, I started performing burlesque for fun. Once I realized that an audience of both strangers and friends could appreciate me with all my flaws on display, I didn’t need those pointless relationships anymore. After a year of performing, I found my current boyfriend, who loves me unconditionally. The sex is amazing because it’s meaningful, and I realize that loving your body – not being a certain weight or specific body type – is what makes it attractive in the first place ” – Lisa, 36, in a three-year relationship 

His libido isn’t a reflection of my sex appeal 
“A few years into our marriage, my husband’s sex drive seemed to fall off. I was wanting it way more than he was, and of course, I attributed that to him not finding me attractive any longer. So I decided I’d stop initiating, because the last thing I wanted was pity sex. But I eventually learned that keeping my wishes to have sex to myself only made me angry with my husband, and bottling up theories about why he might say no – ‘he thinks I’m fat’ or ‘he thinks I’m annoying’ – only made me feel bad about myself. I now accept that making a conscious, discussed-about decision to have sex isn’t any less valuable than the hot, spontaneous kind of sex that I imagined all couples engage in all the time. He can’t read my mind, and if he’s too hungry or tired or just not in the mood, I can’t take it personally.” – Mer, 30, married four years 

Being true to myself isn’t boring 
“Throughout my twenties, men I’ve dated have asked what my bedroom fantasies are, and I’ve always felt wildly unsexy admitting that I really don’t have any. I like sex and am always up for trying a new position, but I don’t have visions of him dressing up like a sailor in the bedroom or screwing me in public. I convinced myself no man wants to hear that – how boring! So I tried a few classic fantasies on for size, but I always felt like I was lying to the guy and to myself. My big moment was admitting to my serious boyfriend that my sexual imagination is not wild and crazy. And you know what? Since being able to feel like I can be myself during it, sex – without crazy toys or forced dirty talk – has been better than ever.” – Marissa, 28, in a three-year relationship

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