Writer and body image advocate Laura Delarato spent her pandemic lockdown writing the body positive book about sex that you didn’t know you needed. My Pleasure: An Intimate Guide to Loving Your Body and Having Great Sex helps bridge the gap between loving yourself and having better sex. Laura and I chat about loving your body, finding pleasure in everyday life, and breaking a few big sex myths.
Most books about sex and body image aren’t made with men in mind. Intimacy isn’t something guys are usually encouraged to discuss. After reading the book, it seems like you wanted My Pleasure to work for everyone.
Good! That was my intention. I see what we teach women and think everyone needs to feel included. We all deserve to feel intimacy and to be able to connect with potential trauma that is trying to come out when you’re being sexy with your partner. [I wanted everyone to] look at the book and say, “this is for me.”
You explain early on that this is not a book about specific positions or “3 tricks for mind-blowing sex.” It’s more about better knowing yourself, your wants, and your needs to get to that point. Again, it’s not something people are encouraged to discuss.
Most of us grew up like that – it’s how we were raised! I got into this world back in 2009 when I was in grad school and the stock market crash happened. I was trying to figure out how to transition my career, and I worked at the Pleasure Chest in the West Village in New York. You’d get paid more than your full-time salary if you did workshops there. It was an incentive for me to learn about the products and practice public speaking as a workshop presenter.
You could do a workshop on sex toys, blowjobs, or strap-ons – literally anything. The thing that would happen is that you’d prep for these workshops, and you’d want to give everyone all the tricks, only to find that there are really only three tricks, and the rest of it is just talking to your partner. I had all this knowledge in my brain for ten years and thought that maybe if I wrote this book and started with how you talk to yourself and talk to your partner, you could more easily get to those three awesome tricks. So I wrote a weird book about it [laughs].
So much of sex is cerebral and about connection and chemistry. The book focuses on ways to unlock and understand a lot of that. You get the reader thinking about why they do the things they do and why they like the things they like.
Look, everybody goes to Pornhub. Their traffic numbers don’t lie! If we all sat down and looked at the four or five terms we searched for, it could tell us a lot about ourselves. So much of it is about control, giving up control, or taking away control. Where did that happen in our lives? How do those experiences in the past inform what we want now? It’s so fascinating to me that we take it for granted.
You also write about the negative ways media, movies, and film have traditionally portrayed fat bodies and how that affects us.
There’s so much around culture and how we treat and portray other people that reflects how we feel about ourselves. I grew up between two different worlds. I was born in the Bronx and raised by my grandparents, who were Catholic. When I was 14 or 15, I moved from their house to Nelson County, Virginia, where confederate flags were a common thing, and I lived with my Mom, who I hadn’t lived with forever.
So, I’m navigating this relationship with my Mother, and I’m in this very southern world. I’ve got this Catholic Bronx guilt and then this “the devil is inside of you” southern world. So much of my experience growing up was: If you like anything, don’t. If you like yourself, don’t. If anything feels good, you’re bad. I carried so much of that into my 20s.
I see my book as my own version of breaking out of it and as a love letter to anyone who got out of it or is trying to get out of it. It’s like, hey, it’ll be okay. There’s this book in stores and on the internet that can help.
You discuss how important it is to consider how we see ourselves and feel about our bodies. Something as simple as looking at your own body naked can help you feel more comfortable with yourself. You also talk about dealing with bad body image days. It’s something everyone deals with.
I don’t think anyone can escape from having a bad body image day. I think the focus should be on how we get through those days. [Some people think] to do all this work, you have to love your body forever. That’s wild, and that’s not going to happen.
This book doesn’t just talk to one specific type of person or one set of bodies. No one gets a hall pass through Love Yourself 101 – we all have to go through it.
People might not realize that experiencing non-sexual pleasure and focusing on self-care can help have better sex.
We live a life where we have to advocate for our bodies all the time, [and really work for] the things we want. We live in a world where the idea of asking for anything for yourself or doing something to make yourself more comfortable is almost looked down upon.
The idea that you feel good about yourself or want the room to make decisions about your body is this uncool thing for some reason. While sexual pleasure is amazing, just being mindful of the little things you want is as important. One of my pleasures is getting up early and going on a long walk to my favorite Italian bakery to get something fun that reminds me of my family. Then I’ll eat it on my walk home.
It’s just that I did something for myself that will make me feel good for the rest of the day. The moment you start introducing these pleasurable things into your life, you’re building a skill that helps your brain understand that you need things that feel good. You’re building a muscle that can advocate for your body, ask for a second opinion, talk to your partner about things, and ask for the pleasure you want.
We don’t know how to advocate for ourselves. We go through sex education and learn from videos we see on the internet, but we’re not talking about certain things we should be. We aren’t taught how to communicate our needs, and then you’re here and naked with someone, and you don’t know how to advocate for yourself.
There are a lot of myths around sex, and you dispel many of them in your book. From stigma around sexual preferences to outdated ideas around toys, people have a lot of mistaken ideas related to sex.
When I worked at the pleasure chest, couples would come in, and there was always one person who would say something like, “I want my partner to have something like this, so they don’t find me to be obsolete.”
There’s this narrative about sex toys that they just completely erase a human being. It’s a complete myth that if our partner wants to use a sex toy, we’re not good enough. When we logically think about it, biologically, our bodies and genitalia respond to different stimuli at different times, so it’s natural to be curious. It’s also okay not to be curious about them.
Another myth that always kind of murders my soul is when people joke about women “oh, it was like throwing a hotdog down a hallway.” That one tells me that we don’t teach correct biology in schools because that’s not how things work.
Sex toy technology is incredibly smart today. We see toys become less gimmicky and more focused on real bodies and pleasure. Sex toys are weird and wild and interesting, but the ones that really put human bodies in mind are so cool.
There’s a great chapter about sex toys in the book. You cover everything from materials and safety to the best toys for specific needs. People don’t always consider these things because they’ve been told sex toys are taboo.
I get why people get caught up on it. If we don’t have sex education that connects pleasure, the only thing we have is whatever we have access to. Sex in TV and movies. How many people bought a rabbit because of sex in the city? The rabbit doesn’t even work for everyone. How many of the things we see in sex scenes don’t translate to real life? We skip over consent, pleasure conversations and focusing on what feels good.
Even porn, which is sexapalooza, usually isn’t having that conversation. We need to start explaining that most of what we see is fake, and someone wrote a script. Porn is great, it’s super fun, but it’s not ALL great. It’s something I wanted to get across in the book.
Since we’re on myths, there are quite a few about penis size. The world tells men that bigger is always better, and if you’re not huge, you’re not worthy. You’re also told you are supposed to know how to please a partner immediately.
First off, that’s a complete myth. Your penis is just relative to who you are in your body. It’s just there. When we break away from the idea that penis size equals pleasure, I think you find a world that opens up your sex life. Honestly, when it comes to penis size, all of your sizes are great.
Popular culture likes to tell plus size people that their bodies are unworthy and that they can’t have great sex. Do you have any tips to help bigger folks have better sex?
It’s fun to experiment with positions, regardless of size. You can’t tell me that a person who is 6’4 isn’t going to have a problem having sex with someone who is 5’2. That 6’4 person will have a hard time sitting on a plane! It’s less about body size and more about experimenting and figuring out what fits and what works.
For example, if you have a thicker butt or a belly and want to penetrate your partner? You can try sex furniture, pillows, and different angles. It’s something that everybody else gets to try, so why can’t we try it too?
I think it’s about experimenting with what works for you, because we do that in every other aspect of our lives.
What about the myth of the “perfect body.” Is there such a thing?
Who has the perfect body on the planet? Lizzo. Lizzo has the most perfect body on the planet. She is the coolest person, and I think the way she dresses and everything she does is just the coolest thing to me.
The idea of perfection is based on what we’ve been told to like, but it’s really about our own personal preferences.
We’re told the perfect body is what we see on billboards, on TV, in movies, and on the cover of magazines. It’s what we have access to and what we see.
To change that, maybe I adjust who I see in my Instagram feed to see more people who look like me or some who don’t. Maybe it’s looking at myself naked more often and getting more comfortable with seeing my own body. As I see more of these things, it can change what I see as “perfect.” Now I dont need to compare myself anymore, and I’m not going to strive to get to this one specific body type.
I agree with you; seeing bodies like your own makes such a difference.
Do you spend much time on Tik Tok?
No, I don’t.
I get on TikTok, and I see women who look like me who are so confident in their bodies, and the community around them is so rich, beautiful, and kind. I also noticed that on TikTok, there are TONS of big guys. There are these really beautiful communities there that give us access to many different points of view.
I guess I need to be spending more time on TikTok!
It’s a black hole, and you’ll get sucked in!