Ask Bex

Ask Bex – Feeling Unattractive and Boundary Violations

Hi Bex,

Lately I’ve been feeling unattractive, a combination of self esteem/image issues and the fact that I can’t take a decent selfie to save my life. I worry that most of what I have to offer a potential partner is in how I act and what I say, but am concerned that my appearance concerns make it so I never get that far. What should I do? 


Blue in Green Bay

Oooofff, Boy do I know this feel. As someone who has always felt fairly comfortable and even confident in my appearance, this is something I’m only encountering recently in dating, and it is rough. I’m going to suggest to you the same thing I suggest to everyone who is self conscious about something when it comes to dating – own it, and don’t just own it, lead with it.

Now, I’m not saying to fill your dating profile with self deprecating diatribes about your own body, but people can tell when you’re hiding something, trust me, and it makes them not want to trust you. They notice if you have a clever Snapchat filter in every one of your pictures, or don’t have any pictures that show you from the chest down, and knowing you’re hiding something makes your profile seem way less appealing. When curvy people show off their curves, or a nerd fills their profile with obscure comic references they’re signaling for the people who want exactly what you have. The goal with online dating isn’t to be as widely marketable as possible, then you’ll just wind up with piles of trash messages to sort through, the goal is to find your audience and make sure you appeal to them. Like they say, why be everyone’s cup of tea when you can be one person’s shot of whiskey?

If your strengths are in your personality, then find places that highlight that. Grindr and Tinder are all about the pictures, but a place like OkCupid gives you the chance to flesh out your profile. The singles bar on a Saturday night might feel like a meat market, but your Thursday night D&D group loves your creative problem solving.1 Instead of focusing on the things that you feel make it harder for you to date, focus on the things you feel you have to offer a potential partner. Make a list, and then look for opportunities to flex those particular talents.

Look for ways to showcase them on dating profiles but remember show, don’t tell. If you say you’re funny I don’t believe you, tell me a joke, if you can’t find a place to slip a joke into your profile then you’re not funny (and that’s okay!). Look for events centered around your interests, Meetup is  a fantastic resource for this, and meet folks there where you will be able to bond with them over shared interests. You’re not going to these places just to troll for ass, or pretend you’re there for friends and then pull out the friendzone card, you’re there to make connections. Maybe those connections will build into relationships, maybe they’ll get you in touch with people will turn into relationships, maybe they’ll just give you lots of opportunities for fun, or maybe you’ll just learn how to make killer pastries. Either way, what have you got to loose?

Appearance may be the easiest way to initiate attraction, I can still remember the first time I noticed my Sir across the room and thought “Well, hello there” but great relationships are built on more than that and it wasn’t until we spent two hours on the patio that summer night talking about video games and butt stuff that it even occurred to me I might be interested in more than just a hookup with him. Put yourself in situations that showcase your strengths, give people a chance to see the things you feel good about, and you’ll find the people who want exactly what you’re bringing to the table.

Hi Bex

How can I get my partner to stop touching me in a way that I hate? I’ve tried correcting them, but no matter how much I remind them, they always revert back to this one way of touching me.

Touchy Subject

Okay, wow, I have some Feelings about this one, and they’re going to be pretty harsh so I’m sorry.

This person has forfeited any right to touch you at all anymore. When they continue to touch you in a way that they know doesn’t feel good to you they are saying that their desire to touch you in this way overrides your right to comfort and pleasure. They are saying, at best, that they can’t be bothered to remember what you like, and at worst, that they just don’t care. They are saying that they believe your boundaries are not important or worth respecting.

When someone says that, you listen. This is a red flag. This is a blood red tarp stapled to their fucking forehead. Do not ignore this.

When you first encounter someone touching you in a way that doesn’t feel great, a gentle redirection might be enough. “You know what, I loved that thing you were doing with your fingers before, can you go back to that?” “You looked so hot with your tongue on me, I want to feel that again.” In the moment feedback can be hot, low pressure, and makes it clear exactly what part didn’t feel great.

If they don’t respond to that, it may be worth bringing it up outside of the situation. “Hey, I’ve noticed you keep doing X, and it makes me really uncomfortable, can you do Y instead?” I recommend offering an alternative to the kind of touch you don’t like, because they might feel lost and not know how to tweak their technique in a way that would feel okay, but you don’t have to tell them why it makes you uncomfortable unless you want to. You deserve to have your boundaries respected regardless of if you have a “good” reason (or any reason at all!). You might not want your feet touched because you’re ticklish, or because it reminds you of a trauma and triggers your PTSD, either way, you deserve to have that boundary respected.

If they ignore that? Then the next time they do it you put your pants on and remove yourself from that situation. Full stop. I am not above giving a grown ass adult a time out for that kind of behavior because they need to understand that it is beyond unacceptable. I’m not in the business of telling people to end relationships, because I have stayed in some fucked up dynamics for a whole slew of reasons, but I truly don’t believe this person has the right to go anywhere near your body until they learn to respect your boundaries.

Have a question for a future Ask Bex? Email me at BexTalksSex (at) Gmail (.) com!
  1. Remind me to tell you the story of that time my bluff modifier was so high I managed to convince all of the other players that I wasn’t pick-pocketing one of them, I was just “saving them from the dragon hiding in their backpack. Really!” []

About Bex

Bex talks about sex, a lot, and feels this is the only way to reduce the stigma and lack of education surrounding it. When they're not trying to save the world, talking about sex to strangers, typing frantically, or sticking things in various holes they are usually indulging the other facets of their geekery.

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