An Interview with Laura Delarato – A Sex Educator & Body Image Advocate
Laura! We’re such big fans of yours & we’re honored to feature you this month. Can you give a brief overview of your work in the sex positive & body positive spaces?
Yay! I’m honored to be considered! Well, I’m Laura Delarato, I’m 33, and I’ve been doing sex education and body positivity work for the last 10 years. I started as a sex educator in my early 20s, and slowly introduced body positivity into my work as a way to tackle my own body dysmorphia. I write about sex, wellness, plus-size bodies for many different publishers, I have created workshops that range from sex toys 101 to kink exploration to busting fat sex myths, I have spoken on many podcasts and panels on the topics, and I am a massive advocate for inclusivity in my 9-5 occupation as a creative director for branded content. I merge all of this into my personal Instagram account where I try to be honest about my experiences and how I’m feeling day-to-day. Also, I have a cool, weekly newsletter called 1-800-HEYLAURA that allows me to speak on different topics for my followers. I want to be the woman that made a generation of womxn stop hating themselves, and I do that by constantly building and making and creating positive work in these spaces.
It’s currently Masturbation May! Can you speak a little bit about how masturbation has aided you on a journey to self acceptance and/or self love?
Masturbation has so many benefits from stress reduction to better sleep, but it’s also so transferable to how we treat ourselves in our day-to-day. Solo play has allowed me to be comfortable asking for what I want in sexual and professional settings, and has given me a strong sense of self-worth each time I pleasure myself. Also, I have to literally touch, stretch, move my body with each solo play session; making it easier for me to feel connected to my physical-self. Really, it’s such an important addition to self acceptance.
Do you remember your first “self love” sesh? What was that like and how did it make you feel?
Oh gosh. I think I was 14 or 15 and I had no idea what I was doing! But intrinsically I understood if I kept going I would get to the other side of a building, orgasmic plateau. I was a really inquisitive teen and read everything I could about sex and pleasure — specially on Gurl.com (RIP). For context, at that time in my life I was right at the beginning of a very bad eating disorder and was feeling incredibly low about my body. So when I discovered masturbation, I remember being like “Oh, I have found something here that makes me feel great.” And it's been a love affair and self-discovery tool ever since!
Before the pandemic, you had been talking so much about the importance of owning space as a fat person in the fitness world, which we really loved. Can you talk a bit about how lockdown has impacted your thoughts and feelings about fitness?
Being inside during this time has made it extremely difficult to stay motivated to workout and move. Outside of the fact that I have to make space for my bedroom, work area, and now personal gym, we’re all experiencing a collective trauma tied to many emotions and an overwhelming sense of dread every time we turn on the news. I know that working out makes me feel good, so I give myself little goals for the week to keep my brain in the place I want it to stay. One thing that has been nice is that before all of this it would take so much internal back-and-forth just to get me to run outside, but now I’ve been more apt to put on spandex, a mask, gloves, and run. It allows me to not feel so trapped, and with fewer people out I don’t worry as much about my forever fear of running in public with a plus-size body!
Can you explain the difference between being “body neutral” & “body positive?”
Absolutely! Body Neutrality is a concept that our worth in this world has nothing to do with our appearance, that our bodies are a vehicle to experience the world and get us from point A to point B. It’s really all about asking yourself what your body needs without considering how it will look. Body positivity suggests that everyone should be able to love and accept their body no matter how popular culture has skewed beauty standards. Both are great, but both have their downfalls. Body neutrality allows for us to go through the world not being so conscious of our appearance and takes in every moment to be aware of how we feel from food to working out to clothes, etc. But body neutrality is helpful when you’re in a body that is deemed neutral and doesn’t challenge most isms in order to freely walk through the world. Body positivity is great at giving each individual person the tools to love themselves, but it fails to recognize that people have bad days and bad body image days. Instead of only learning about how to love yourself, we need to also learn how to handle the days when we don’t. It is up to the individual to create their own definition, to subscribe to one, the other, none, or a blend of each!
Do you have any advice for people who might be struggling to connect with their bodies during this incredibly stressful time?
No matter how we spin it, things are weird and scary and no one knows what tomorrow will be. Take this time to show yourself some grace and be kind to yourself when you can. When I’m having a hard moment connecting to my body and its needs, I will stand perfectly still, close my eyes, and just listen to what’s going on. Maybe my back is hurting from sitting on a couch with a computer…I will do some stretches. Maybe I miss being outside with my friends . . . I get on a video call. Maybe I’m feeling disconnected with what my body looks like . . . I’ll wear clothes that connect me to my actual body. Maybe everything is racing so fast that I can’t keep up . . . I’ll go for a run to calm myself. Of course, it takes some practice to truly listen to yourself and then follow those cues. Now that we have some extra time, this is a great opportunity to slow down and focus on what you actually need instead of what you’ve been told you need all this time.