Why The Difference Between Sexy & Sensual Is So Important For This Plus-Size Woman

Sarah Sapora is learning to love her body — and it's a journey she's proud of.
The 38-year-old writer says that she is on a "journey to be happier, healthier, and more badass from the inside out," and even though she has lost weight over the last couple years, a big step in that journey is feeling powerful and sensual in the body she has now.
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That's part of the reason Sapora posted a photo of herself on the beach, in a very sensual pose with a man, to Instagram. But she also posted the photo so that other women who look like her could possibly see it and recognize themselves.
"It’s a given that this photo will turn into fat-shaming memes, misunderstood by those who see it without the perspective of my story," she wrote. "I don’t share pictures for them. I share them because somewhere there is a woman who needs to see a body that looks like hers. She needs to see a woman who is daring to EXIST in her imperfect, in progress-beauty. She needs to see a larger woman comfortable with a man holding her hips, her stomach. She needs to see cellulite and stretch mark and skin that is visible."

How do you feel feminine and empowered when everything about your body is considered "wrong" to so many people? I am 38 years old. I wear a size 20. My health journey is leaving my skin slack, laying over growingly strong muscles. A year ago, I made the choice to commit to my health and wellness, including the relationship I have to my body and self-worth.  As hard as it is, I've learned I have undervalued myself for years. Have you ever allowed others to treat you less than you know you deserve? Given them permission to do so because you simply didn’t believe that you merit a higher standard? In finding my authentic power, I am turning self-actualization into awareness of my own feminine, sensuous energy. For me, the idea of "sexy” is surface level. It’s an outfit that someone else approves of. It’s a label some strange guy throws on you when they stare at your cleavage. But sensuous? That starts from a feeling you have inside about who you are. It’s a given that this photo will turn into fat-shaming memes, misunderstood by those who see it without the perspective of my story. I don’t share pictures for them. I share them because somewhere there is a woman who needs to see a body that looks like hers. She needs to see a woman who is daring to EXIST in her imperfect, in progress-beauty. She needs to see a larger woman comfortable with a man holding her hips, her stomach. She needs to see cellulite and stretch mark and skin that is visible.  They key to happiness and growth is to not be ashamed of where we are. We need to know that beauty doesn’t expire after the age of 35. We need to accept that bodies that are changing shape have looser skin. And that looser skin is just skin. It isn’t something to be ashamed of. We need to know that bodies are allowed to be sensual in their varied shapes and sizes. People who are outside the social norms need to feel worthy; when we don’t feel worthy, we are less likely to feel we deserve positive change. To dream and work towards self-improvement. To take a chance and do something that benefits them from the inside out. **So many more pics and the FULL STORY on my blog. Link in bio. 🙏**

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Sapora is very deliberate to use the word "sensuous" to talk about this photo, rather than the word "sexy."
There's certainly nothing wrong with feeling sexy, but for Sapora, "sexy" doesn't feel right. She shuns the idea of being "sexy" as it relates to how other people see her and her plus-size body.
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"Sexy is something that's external," she tells Refinery29. "That's [someone else's] perception of how you relate to others. It's an easy and fast label, especially for plus size women who come with body curves that are treated in a certain way."
"I found that I wanted to uncover more. It wasn't making me feel my worth or empowered," Sapora says.
Sensuality, she says, is something that starts from the inside. It's all about how you feel and how you take control of your sexuality.
"This was about my sexuality and my strength," she says. "This is about standing in my sensuality."
As a larger plus size woman, Sapora says that she has often felt fetishized for certain body parts.
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"Having a large ass. Or larger chest. Or shapely thighs. These are the parts of plus size women that get talked about," Sapora wrote in a blog post about the photoshoot. "These are the 'acceptable' parts of our body. Except… I’m more then these parts. And I’m more than 'acceptable.'"
This photoshoot was all about taking her power back.
And while the image does involve a thin, conventionally attractive man (a model named Keith, and good friend of Sapora's), it isn't about him.
"Keith is auxiliary to me," Sapora says. "It was very important to me to show a woman who was not being sexualized by the men, but woman who was in control of her sexuality."
This image clearly captures that.
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It's your body. It's your summer. Enjoy them both. Check out more #TakeBackTheBeach here.
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