I want to speak to those readers who are struggling. The ones who are hungry by what some would call choice. The ones who stay on the treadmill to placate the brutal taskmaster in their heads, who run that extra mile so they won’t stay up all night berating themselves for being lazy, or get up early the next day to run two extra miles as punishment. The ones who, on top of feeling all the things they feel about themselves – because eating disorders and disordered eating are never really about bodies and they’re even less about food or exercise – are feeling guilty. Feeling feelings about their feelings, as the wonderful Jaclyn Friedman would say. I want to speak to you, the ones who feel like bad feminists, who feel like they ought to know better because they read Feministing everyday.
You’re not a bad feminist. You’re not a bad anything (well, I don’t know, you could be truly terrible at the oboe, but I have no way of divining that from here). You’re human, and you’re hurting, and you need to go get help for that.
But that hurt doesn’t make you a bad feminist. It makes you living proof of how powerful sexism is, and how necessary feminism is. And that hurt that you’re feeling right now, when you put it behind you, will make you a more effective combatant in the fight against sexism. It will endow you with empathy, and compassion, and a visceral understanding of the effects of sexism on our culture. But before you can do that, you need to forgive yourself.
There is no such thing as a perfect feminist, just like there’s no such thing as a perfect body. I can tell you from personal experience that trying to be the perfect anything, and trying to be two perfect, contradictory things at once, will rip you apart.
My boyfriend and I have recently discussed trying anal for the first time together. I’m perfectly happy to try it apart from a few concerns, most of which I’ve found answers and explanations to in response to questions already asked by other users. But there’s one issue I’ve not come across: it’s quite personal and frankly I’ve never spoken to anyone about it, ever, not even my partner. I know that pubic hair grows to quite far down past the vagina, but I seem to have quite a lot of hair around my anus. It’s something I’ve tried getting rid of by shaving but I can’t reach it all. I’ve never waxed, but I’m considering it because I wouldn’t want to have a hairy bum while trying anal. I don’t know if anyone else has this or if it’s even safe to wax around there, but I’d really like a solution because then I think I’d be more comfortable not only about anal sex but also about my body image anyway.
Hi, I’m a girl who is very insecure about her body. But there’s another thing… I have a boyfriend. I feel like it’s time to go farther, but at the same time I don’t want to because of my weight. What should I do?
I’m answering your questions together because although they’re different questions on the surface, what they come down to is the same thing; an underlying feeling of needing to change your body to be able to participate in sexual activities.
I don’t have easy solutions for you two. But I’m not going to give you advice on the best way to wax, or whatever super-quick-weight-loss diet that’s trending right now. That’s not because I just feel like being mean and don’t want to answer your questions; it’s because I just don’t think those are actually real answers, or good answers, to these kinds of issues.
Vee17: you could absolutely wax the hair around your anus if you so desire. The somewhat-infamous Brazilian wax includes the hair in question. But, I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you a much cheaper option. It’s also a lot less painful! And you can even do it from the comfort of your own home!
First, some facts! Despite what images or narratives in contemporary media may lead us to believe, it’s very common for pubic hair to include the anus area. Most people have at least some there. In Not Everything You Wanted To Know About Puberty (But Pretty Darn Close), it is made clear that pubic hair “usually covers the mons, outer labia, the area between the buttocks and some of the inner thighs”. If you have the idea that you’re the only woman in the world with a hairy butt-crack, I can guarantee you that you’re wrong.
Also remember that when you say you wouldn’t want a hairy bum during anal sex — or feel like you shouldn’t or can’t participate in sex because of your weight — there are plenty of people who do just that. People have anal sex with hairy bums all the time! (And we can also be very sure that historically, most people of all genders who have engaged in anal sex have done so with hairy bottoms.) There are also people who are (or are perceived to be) overweight, chubby, fat, or whatever else they identify their weight as, who participate in whatever kinds of sex they want and they — and their partners — don’t mind one bit. In fact, they find it enjoyable and awesome! As enjoyable and awesome as someone who doesn’t have a hairy bum might, or someone who is seen as slim or of average weight!
I’m not going to dictate what you should or shouldn’t want to do with your body hair. We are all absolutely allowed to have our own preferences around our body hair maintenance, but it’s also important to dig into and question why we might feel the “need” to perform a certain kind of body hair maintenance — and from the way you stated your concerns here, it sounds like you may be thinking about hair removal as a “need”, a requirement, instead of as just a “want”.
theinsidelife: it sounds like you may similarly be thinking of your current weight and sexual activity to be mutually exclusive. What I mean by this (and as I said, the reason I linked these two questions together) is that you both seem to be approaching your respective sexual wants as unable to happen with the way your bodies currently are. With the mindset that changing your body is a “need” instead of a “want”.
If you find yourself feeling like, to be able to participate in a certain activity, you need to change something about your body, it’s time to stop and delve into those feelings. Because changing your body isn’t going to be the answer, especially if sex is something we do to express ourselves and where we are being ourselves.
Read the rest of volunteer Jenn’s debut to advice at Scarleteen here!
Matti McLean once hated his body so much that he stopped eating in his last year of high school.
Now he’s advertising the beauty of the human form by transforming it into a work of art.
Through the Human Canvas Project, established last year, McLean uses his paint brushes to capture both his subjects’ figures and personalities.
Using music, discussion and individual colour choices, McLean tries to tap into each person’s individual character and use the body as the canvas it’s painted on.
McLean, also an author and actor, says his art shouldn’t be confused with ordinary body painting.
“One of the biggest things that body painting tries to do is disguise the body, while I’m trying to show who the person is behind the paint,” McLean said.
McLean’s subjects begin the creative process by picking out a playlist of ten songs along with up to five colours they like. McLean then gets to work bonding with his subject before applying his trademark swirls, strokes, and dabs showcasing what he calls the subject’s inner beauty.
Subjects are sometimes hesitant to display their bodies, McLean said, adding he understands their reticence all too well.
The artist struggled with his image and sexuality in high school, ultimately leading him to abuse his body and drop 45 pounds in six months.
“A lot of gay men struggle with eating disorders, I didn’t like who I was and took it out on my body,” he said.
McLean overcame his self-esteem issues and began the Human Canvas Project as a way to document his close friends and the way that he saw them on the inside.
Read the rest here.
A reminder which might sound silly, but it comes up often enough with so many of our users, we think it bears reminding.
It is NOT “weird” or unusual for bodies to have:
• hair (or not)
• ripply or jiggly bits
• pokey or sharp bits
• bits that are firmer and bits that are not
• zits or ingrown hairs
• scars or stretch marks
• dry or ashy bits or oily, slick bits
• wrinkles or lines
• parts we think are awesome
• parts we don’t think are awesome
• parts which work really well
• parts which don’t work well, don’t work at all, or work differently than they used to or than someone else’s parts do
• parts that look symmetrical or “proportional” and parts that don’t
• parts that meet an ideal right now and parts that don’t; parts that met ideals of the past or will in the future and parts that don’t or won’t (because beauty ideals change a lot over time, much like bodies do)
• parts that look different than they used to, and look different now than they will later
• parts that are bigger or smaller than someone else’s parts
• parts which feel like they define us and parts which feel counter to our sense of self
In fact, what would be unusual for adult bodies or those becoming adult bodies would be for at least some of those things NOT to be part of your body. If you feel certain you are the only person you know with any of these things going on, you’re truly mistaken. These are bodies, people: this is how they really are.
You all already know that how bodies look in magazines, TV or movies isn’t usually how bodies look in real life. The same goes for bodies we aren’t looking at very close up, under all kinds of lighting, or under the kind of microscope so many people apply to their own bodies.
So, if you’re worried your body isn’t okay because of any of these things, or because someone else won’t accept them, please try and know and accept that bodies with this stuff are what real bodies of real people are like.
You need to make peace with that yourself, and so does anyone else who wants to be with your very real body. And that’s often a process, something we do through life, not something we can have conflict with and then magically be 100% cool with just because someone said you should be.
Obviously, you or anyone else can choose not to make that peace, and to strive to only have or be around bodies that don’t have these things, but avoiding them forever is going to be awfully tricky to manage at all, quite lonely, and make living life in your body — and for the people around you, living life in theirs — seriously uncomfortable.
P.S. The word proportional is in quotes, because even though a lot of folks use that word like it isn’t something arbitrary, it’s totally arbitrary. What someone thinks of as “in proportion” or not is cultural, individual and often based in the beauty ideals of a given time, the works. But there’s really no one right set of proportions, nor any one way the whole world thinks of, or always has, of proportionality with bodies.
I’m sitting here with my mouth hanging open in shock. Good shock. All because I’ve read the report from the Body Image Inquiry. I knew it was released this week but I wasn’t expecting much as truth is more often than not bypassed when profits are involved. But Reflections on Body Image, co-authored by MPs and the Central YMCA, is incredibly enlightened and if the recommendations made in the document are taken seriously this will be the biggest step forward in public health since the smoking ban.
The report, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image after a three-month public inquiry, makes some powerful recommendations and the biggest stride forward lies in the report’s acknowledgement that overeating is as much an eating disorder as anorexia and that eating too much and its effects , including obesity, are not a lifestyle choice and overeating can be the result of dieting.
The Body Image report concludes:
- According to experts there is no evidence available that diets work in the long term.
- Girls who diet are 12 times more likely to binge eat (a direct acknowledgement that dieting is a contributor to obesity not a solution to it).
- More than 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost (a result of the binge eating I’d expect).
- Getting rid of dieting could wipe out 70% of eating disorders (including the binge eating mentioned above, a side effect of which is often obesity.)
So here they’re saying getting rid of dieting could largely reduce obesity. If this is the case, then wouldn’t it be rational to conclude also that dieting has been a big contributor towards obesity?
Isn’t this amazing? To have this even nodded to in an official report is great news. The damage done by dieting can no longer be totally ignored.
Yes, there will now be an enormous effort from the weight-loss industry to counteract this report (keep your eye out for the coming crowd of news stories on the dangers of obesity and the glamorous after shots of women who have lost half their body weight by sticking to ‘not a diet but a lifestyle plan’), but there’s no stopping the slow dawning on the public that dieting is likely to give them the opposite to what it promises.
Read the rest at the Huffington Post here (H/T to Jaclyn for this one)
QUESTION: Do penis enlargement surgeries alter the function of the penis?
Some penis surgeries can result in significant scar tissue that can cause painful erections or even a shortened erection, which is the opposite effect men who choose enlargement surgeries are going for.
As such, many surgeons will refuse to perform such an procedure on men who are anywhere close to the average range of erect penile length, saving them for more unusual cases in which men have a penis that is so small that intercourse is difficult or impossible to achieve.
Besides, researchers have found that pleasurable, satisfying sex is linked more to a couple’s psychological connection, and to their relationship satisfaction, as well as sexual technique, than penis size.
Truly, penis size is only one small piece of a more complex and, I think beautiful, picture of sexuality.
Breasts are both part of the reproductive anatomy — in that they are how those who choose to feed infants that way do so— as well as part of the sexual anatomy — in that breasts are often sexually sensitive, as well as a common part of many people’s sexualities and are a part of the body which is frequently interpreted as sexual by those attracted to people with breasts. For some, breasts, like the vulva, are often also a part of their gender and sexual identity, and a common source of body image woes and worries.
(They also tend to frequently be the hapless victims of very bad puns, as will be evidenced in this piece more than once. My apologies.)
For those of you with breasts, just like your genitals, they’re not just sexual, and during many times of your life or a given day they won’t be at all, an issue that those who breastfeed often are made to struggle with, since breasts being presumed as primarily sexual creates problems when it comes to being able to breastfeed, particularly publicly. In fact, it’s safe to say that our breasts as sexual are a secondary function, and that the primary function of breasts is for breastfeeding, even if we never use them for that purpose.
Find out more about breast shape, size, breast health, brassieres, sexuality and breasts and more here.
The other day, for no apparent reason, I got the idea that it’d actually be kind of fun and empowering to think of my average vulva as my super, big, GIANT vulva.
I suddenly found myself wanting to say, and quite loudly, to no one in particular, “Yeah, well check out my BIG VULVA!”
Thinking about it some more, I came to the conclusion that “big vagina” somehow has a better ring to it, though, likely because however incorrectly it’s often used, it is a more commonly used term, and it’s that part of the vulva which women are so often told or think must never, never — oh, the horror! — be anything but as tiny, as small, as diminutive as possible. It’s still overall seen as much more okay to have a big labia than a big vagina, and big clits often seem to be seen as fine and dandy, mostly because they’re perceived as being like big penises.
You might wonder what on earth would compel someone to somehow get fixated — and in a way that makes her feel giddy and silly and very excited and more than a little powerful — on BIG VAGINA.
Often, activists who do serious and emotionally challenging work can, when pushed to the work-limit, become slap-happy at times. Plus, I work in sex, which while it is certainly important, and absolutely very serious in some ways, is in just as many ways, something ungodly silly which people do. My partner is used to these occasional bouts of sex-geek-goofy by now, so, while it certainly created a moments pause — and also a question as to if I had been drinking — my greeting him when he arrived home by jumping into the room and bellowing “BIG VAGINA!” was not the surprise it might be for someone else’s partner.
This does NOT mean, by any means, you should discount what I am about to say, or dismiss that ultimately, I’m quite serious about all of this. But you are allowed to laugh, and in fact, I strongly encourage you to do so, because way too many people take the size and appearance of their genitals way, way too seriously, and it is really messing y’all up for no good reason.
So, let’s break down genital size, have a look at what might really be going on with all this too-big, too-small stuff, and see if — even if it’s only for a few minutes — we can’t entertain the idea of thinking about it all differently than we might have before, okay?
Read it all here. (Where you can also see unofficial Scarleteen pug-mascot Sofia help out with a little perspective.)