Behind The Sex: A Look Into Fucking For Validation

A dick appointment to feel attractive? Sounds familiar

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels

Shagging to feel better about yourself is something you’re probably going to do at least once in your life. It’s driven by the need to feel wanted, desired and self-assured, because in a world where women are constantly pitted against one another, getting attention from a man feels like an accomplishment. Whether it’s from past trauma, a bad break up, poor mental health or a hard time (no pun intended), seeking sex to feel validated is almost normal. Society tends to dehumanise women for engaging in sexual activities, proclaiming us as ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’, but if we refuse we’re seen as prudes.

Men perceive women as two archetypes: a chaste, maternal Madonna figure, or a promiscuous, slutty Whore, which can be simply put as the woman they bed and the woman they wed. This ideology forms the entire gamut of a socially constructed way of life, from men slut-shaming and throwing derogatory terms at women who dare to fuck and date, or alienating and abusing the women who deny entry to their beds. Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychodynamic psychology, coined the term Madonna-whore complex and stated that “where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love.” Basically saying that men saw women as either saints or sluts aka Madonna or whores.

Women are made to naturally feel guilty for the number of people they’ve slept with, their reasons behind having sex and seen as undesirable for not having sex. “Women are socialised to second-guess themselves because the standards for what a ‘beautiful’ woman should be are practically unattainable,” explains Tatyannah King, a Sex Blogger and Educator. “We can’t be too big, can’t be too skinny, can’t have too much body hair, and we’re expected to maintain an image based on what’s ‘in’ or fashionable at the moment. So naturally, if a man is showing interest in us sexually, it makes us feel self-assured because of the compliments and recognition we’re receiving, especially when we’re in a vulnerable position.”

She tells me that women seek validation through sex because there is a motivational theory (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) that explains how esteem, love and belonging are essential components of human motivation, along with the physiological needs, such as safety, and self-actualisation. “It’s a basic human need to feel validated, especially through intimate relationships, and often, sex is a part of those intimate relationships that make people feel desired, needed, or empowered.”

*Reina, 24, tells me after she had broken up with her boyfriend of four years (when she was 21), with whom sex wasn’t really part of the relationship by the end (and about a year before hand). “He had been the only person I’d ever really been with in any romantic context. I was suddenly newly single in my final year at uni — so, ya know, I felt like I had a lot to figure out,” she says. “Sleeping with people was a real moment of discovery for me. Tinder opened the door to loads of really attractive guys, who were all game to get together and who were always really pleased to see a naked girl in their room.”

She goes on to say that there was nothing she didn’t love about the fact that they fancied her — as she’d thought she would struggle to pull. “Throughout the process there were definitely ups and downs, I found myself in a pattern of getting a date lined up when I needed an ego boost or to relax whilst stressing out over my dissertation or my university work, or just when I was thinking I looked a bit meh and actually I wanted someone to literally want to sleep with me — thus proving that I wasn’t looking meh,” Reina confesses. “Sex had transitioned from something my ex had been really uninterested in and made me feel really distant from, into being something I could get easily and whenever I needed it.”

“And, somehow,” she says. “I did need it. It was quite confusing at the time, but I just saw it as fun and my so-called ‘body count’ suddenly got a lot bigger in times of stress, then stagnated when I calmed or when I was feeling content with friends and myself.”

King says that contrary to popular belief, “getting under someone new doesn’t help you heal from the last person.” It increases an ever-going cycle of constantly chasing after the next man to make you feel special in ways that the last man couldn’t, which leads to more insecurities and a lower self-esteem overall because you’ll never be fully satisfied.

For Reina, she says that sex was great for three reasons:
“1. It’s fun and makes you physically feel good (usually)
2. It felt like a ‘eff you’ to those past feelings I had about myself
3. I forgot about any and everything worrying me whilst doing it.”

“I realised I was using sex for validation several months into the pattern, when it was pointed out to me by a friend,” she then tells me. “We were both camped out doing our final pieces for our degree and he could see me texting a guy I had slept with a few times, and basically just asked me why I do what I do. I didn’t initially think it was any different to picking someone up on a night out, and was quite offended that he saw it as different, but actually, when I reflected on it, it really was far more calculated?

“Realising it made me feel bad about myself for the longest time. Probably didn’t help that I watched Fleabag around that time too and related too hard with her character’s obsession with sex when she was feeling down or needing a boost. Now, I actually feel really content to understand that side of myself. I don’t regret my choices or my experiences and I know what to look for in patterns of my behaviour — even now that I have a new boyfriend. I still find myself tempted to use sex for comfort, which is super one-sided.”

Reina explains that she doesn’t think sex as a tool to validate yourself is necessarily uniquely bad, “I think it’s just as good or bad as any other form of self-validation sourced from external factors. It’s just a lot messier and at times riskier than other forms.”

Asa Baav, a female coach, matchmaker and founder of Tailor Matched, says that “when we seek validation through sex, it often stems from us not being able to give ourselves what we really need, emotionally. We may suffer from a negative view of ourselves and we are likely to question our worth and what we deserve, so instead we seek external validation, recognition and acceptance to fill the void.”

“Often, when people say they want sex,” she continues. “They actually mean that they want a connection, to feel something, to perhaps escape whatever is going on for them, even if it is just through a one-night stand or keeping a sexual relationship that actually makes us feel empty in the long run.”

Validation means to prove the accuracy (aka the truth) of something. So to prove something through sex, usually that you’re worthy or desirable, is to leave it up to someone else to show you that you are.

“The bottom line is this: We will always create in our lives what we deep down believe we are worthy of, often on a subconscious level,” Baav says. “We might say to ourselves ‘I am worthy of love’, but when it comes to letting a new person, or your current partner, in, what do your actions tell you about what is really going on?”

She goes on to explain, “If you can’t give yourself what you need, you are telling yourself that I don’t have ‘this thing’ within me and therefore you look for it in other ways and through this, you reaffirm what you believe is to be true about yourself.” Baav hits home with her next words: “That we can only be loved, accepted and recognise when others tell us that we are.”

The initial hit from getting male attention can feel good in the moment: from feeling wanted, sexy, desired — it makes us feel good about ourselves. But the thing is, this is fleeting and short-lived, leading to bouts of loneliness and poorer self-image.

Baav proposes a challenge, “I invite you to check in with yourself and ask:

· What does sex validate for me?

· What keeps me in this place?

· Where am I settling?

· What do I actually want?

· How can I create this in my life in other ways, and more importantly not from any external validation but instead from within?

“We all have that critical inner voice telling us so many not helpful things. It may sound something like ‘I will never find love and I be the forever single’ or ‘you can’t find someone who really loves you because you’re unlovable’. Many of us have trouble knowing our own value and believing that anyone could really care for us.”

Usually, our mind has the power to trick us into believing what it tells us, these made-up stories. The critical, negative thoughts may be constantly present, but they’re comfortable in their familiarity, so sometimes it is to let them go. Believing the negative thoughts only drags us down a rabbit hole of darkness, of choosing to use other people to validate our self-worth and self-image.

“Here is the good news,” Baav exclaims. “You can re-write your story at any point. Start by getting crystal clear on what you want, the stories you are telling yourself about why you can’t have what you want. Through this awareness you can then start to challenge these negative thoughts and choose to act in line with what you want and what you need instead.”

“Seeking external validation is always a losing game,” she points out. “Why? Because as we construct a life around external validation and acceptance, without that person, that compliment, that sexual encounter — how will we feel? Over time we may also find ourselves finding it hard to set and keep boundaries, perhaps you often say yes when you want to say no, maybe you break promises to yourself or find it hard to put yourself first?

“Every time you cross your own boundary, give in to someone else’s wants instead of you own and abandoning your needs you send a signal to yourself saying ‘what I want and what I need is not important’. This starts to form what we think is our identity, or as some people would describe it we feel like we are losing ourselves and who we really are.”

To move away from requiring male attention is to remember that receiving attention from someone doesn’t necessarily mean they genuinely care about you on a deeper level. “Sometimes women are under the impression that if she gets attention from a man, then she’s automatically superior in some way, whether it be due to looks or personality,” explains King. “However, attention in general is initially superficial and fleeting, so it’s important not to let it go to your head.”

The key to not seeking male attention starts with a mindset change because the root of the problem is the false idea that someone else insinuating that you’re valuable will automatically make it so. The truth is that no one on this earth determines your worth except you.

While casual sex is all well and good, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking part in it — no matter what society or people may say — it is also essential to understand your own reasoning behind it. Sure, we may want to occasionally just feel desired and feel better about ourselves, who doesn’t? — But it becomes an issue when that is always the reason behind swiping right on Tinder or Bumble, when you’re out on the prowl at bars. Letting other people validate your self-worth is harmful and will only worsen the way you see yourself; you need to be able to find that acceptance and desire for yourself, by yourself. Otherwise it’s just going to be an endless cycle, of letting men do it for you.

And god knows men have enough power as it is.

Originally written for Head Above The Clouds publication

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