Pubes; Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Ah, pubic hair what a wonderfully uncomfortable topic! So uncomfortable in fact that I can guarantee that at least one person scrolled past this post and let out a big “EW!” in annoyance. But regardless we’re talking about this, it’s happening.

Tragically, I realized that everyone in my circle of friends had decided to liberate themselves from the shackles of pubic hair before a pool party. It was the summer going into my freshmen year. We were all changing when a snarky blonde and my worst frenemie cried out, “Oh my God, you don’t shave?!” Wait, what? I just got these though. I looked down at what puberty had thrown my way and felt completely humiliated. However ashamed I may have felt I also remember being unutterably pissed. I had waited for womanhood and now that it had arrived I had to go back to being twelve? That’s like going out and buying spike heels and the second you put them on everyone around you is shaking their heads and saying, “No. Take them off; flats are totally in this year.” So I picked up a razor and bid womanhood adieu because I’m a spineless lemming.

Okay, so yes it may seem awkward or ridiculous to discuss these things but they actually carry quite a significant role in women’s lives. Doctors in the 1960’s used to shave women’s vaginas before they gave birth because women’s (not men’s) pubic hair was seen as unclean. Excuse me, but what the fuck does that even mean? This naturally occurring hair on my body is somehow dirtier than a man’s? So dirty in fact that my child can’t pass through it? This is just one example of how the medical field has medicalized women’s bodies leaving them “othered”. A term used most often when a dominant culture or group looks at another and says, “you’re different than me therefore you must be wrong and we must fix you.” So there it is, white-male OB/GYNs were tired of looking at bushes all day so they made up a reason why they didn’t have to. Perfect, as if it’s not already agonizing enough to heal from giving birth, let’s throw razor burn into the mix!

The 1970’s brought with it disco, cocaine, and of course an explosion of pornographic films. It’s as if everyone was just tired of fighting after the civil rights movement and made a unanimous decision to just say “Screw it” and start a party. More pornography meant a greater visual of the vagina which it was decided had to be altered to be more ascetically pleasing. Throughout the decades as the popularity of pornography grew so did the notion that hairless vaginas were beautiful and more desirable than ones covered short and curlies. This phenomenon expanded so much so that now it even affects men. Ever slept with someone and feel like there was something missing that you couldn’t quite put your finger on? Yeah, it’s because like anorexia more men are adapting this catching trend as well!

So what does it all mean? Well, whether we like it or not rejecting pubic hair posts two problems. One being, that we are altering our genitalia to resemble that of a pre-pubescent child and two, that we accepting that our bodies must be changed in order for us to be beautiful or presentable. When we make the claim that being bald is brilliantly sexy, what we’re actually doing is sexualizing children. Seriously, I’m sure Nabokov’s character Humber Humbert would have been absolutely enthused by the idea of grown women running around with baby vaginas. Sexualizing children doesn’t stop at Holister or Abercrombie, where young girls are being prompted to buy miniskirts or bikinis in order to impress their male counterparts; it stays with us into adulthood. Women are constantly being forced to adopt trends that may seem harmless now but actually began under some very degrading circumstances. Patriarchy has medicalized our bodies countless times throughout history but the fact that this practice has roots in pornographic film making makes it even worse. That’s right ladies, when has porn helped us out? I mean really. Is anybody else tired of hearing “Can I cum on your face??” Um, no and you just completely ruined the moment.

Now, I get it. Letting it grow poses some problems too. The number one problem being that it is seriously uncomfortable. Or perhaps you’re afraid to be categorized by your partner as “that weird art girl” or the ever popular “feminazi” I get it. At least get educated about your body before you decide to alter it. Know exactly what it means before you pick up your razor, and above all else if you choose to shave, shave it for yourself not for your partner, because I’m sorry ladies but if you’re man has a serious problem with hair then it’s time to accept that he’s probably a pedophile.

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Let’s Talk, Girl Talk: Vaginas

Essentially, The Vagina Monologues is about different women and their relationships with their vaginas. It’s creator Eve Ensler interviewed hundreds of women and asked them questions like, “If your vagina could talk what would it say?” and even “What would it wear?” Of these testimonies some were chosen, blended, or rewritten to represent the differing views between society and women about their “down there’s”. After seeing this performance at Ohio State the other night I felt inspired to investigate my own relationship with my down there.

To me, vagina was never a dirty word, and it certainly didn’t sound like some shameful disease. Although I have always reserved a quiet disdain for the words “pussy” and “cunt” I always thought that vagina sounded beautiful and even exotic, rather than medically necessary. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that I had  a vagina until I was forced into sex education in fifth grade. I can still recall our science teacher’s shaky explanation of intercourse. She stood uneasily beside the projector with her left pointer finger and thumb forming an “O” shape while she slowly jabbed her right finger through it. “See class, the penis goes inside the vagina just like this” All of the girls in the class just sat there with a confused look on their faces. I leaned over and whispered into my friend’s ear, “Where’s that hole supposed to be?” she whispered back and said, “The middle one.” We both stuck out our tongues in childish disgust. Until that shocking revelation I believed that all my vagina was, was a chubby, hairless triangle between my legs. I stayed away from my fat little pouch until I was forced to deal with it. I had started my period for the fist time in the eighth grade and it was now time to woman-up and learn how to use a tampon. I sat on the toilet for almost an hour listening to my friends cheering me on and shouting out directions from outside the bathroom, as I tried desperately to understand why that damn thing wouldn’t go up my vagina. It took three hours to figure out that it was because my vagina was not up but back. 

I really never understood the concept of hating the look of one’s vagina. A young man had exposed himself to me in the park by my house the fall of my seventh grade year so I knew what a penis looked like, and after seeing how gross they were I thought vaginas might as well be masterpieces. In the story, Because He Liked to Look at it, the character explained that she was so disgusted by the sight of her own vagina that she imagined there was furniture between her legs. Who taught us to hate the aesthetics of our perfectly personalized vaginas?  It’s yours, and it’s the only one you’ve got so you should love and honor it.

I was still pondering what my vagina would wear when I was shaken back to reality by the words of the next character. She was a Bosnian woman who had been captured by four soldiers who had raped and tortured her for six days. As she told her gruesome tale I squeezed my legs tightly together as an effort to protect mine from invaders. It was then when the burning started between my legs and I realized that I was mourning for her, and what she had lost. I swallowed hard and shifted uncomfortably in my chair as I listened to her explain that the soldiers raped her with a rifle and that on the sixth day of  being raped part of her labia fell off in her hand. Her vagina was destroyed and so then, her heart was as well. This wasn’t even the most horrific rape story I’ve ever heard. Indigenous Guatemalan women raped with machetes as a response to their political upheaval, Women in Eastern Europe who have been kidnapped and forced into prostitution in other countries, and the gang rapes of young girls IN THIS COUNTRY are among the one billion tragic stories of the nameless and voiceless victims of sexual violence.

I know my vagina. I know how she looks, and what she likes, I know how to take care of her. I never feel a disconnection to my vagina, that is of course when I’m alone. When a man comes into the situation that’s when I lose her, abandon her, and hand her over because she no longer belongs to me, she is his. I don’t even notice it’s happening, really. I always enjoy the beginning but then the fear sets in, and it grows and gets loud. It screams inside my head until I start panicking, that is not my partner…he’s in me and I don’t know him…I’m not safe here…I’m not safe…and then I tell him to stop, and he does and it’s over and I’m embarrassed and ashamed and he feels like he did something wrong when he didn’t. I used to block all of this out, but since I finally acknowledged my trauma my thoughts have become more powerful.

That’s the thing about vaginas, they’ll hold inside whatever it is you place in them. That is to say, they will hold shame, pain, and sadness, just as much pleasure or desire. This is why they must be taken care of, respected, and loved. If my vagina could talk she’d say, “STOP, take me on a date, like me and love me before you touch me”, “Don’t call me pussy, I’m no pussy…I’m more powerful than you think!”, and of course, “I am not a whole that was created for your penis, I am my own proud, perfect, separate entity and your bullshit is drying me out like a desert.”

I’m a Barbie Girl, In a Barbie World

If you’re a girl, and you grew up in a time before Brats dolls but after Cabbage Patch Kids then you probably played with barbies. If you didn’t, I’m sure there was still one left to lie alone at the bottom of your toy box along with glitter and broken crayons. As girls we are taught how to be a number of things like polite and punctual. We are told not to hit, or scream and fuss when we don’t get our way. Most of the things we learned as little girls were shown to us. Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of posts devoted to race and ethnicity. As women we have collective struggles and stereotypes which we are constantly fighting. However, there are also battles that are specific to our racial identities. To start things off, I will be writing about what I know best, white girl problems.

When I was in the second grade I went to a Catholic elementary school in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. It was the kind of place where moms drove suburbans and minivans and prided themselves on their home baked goods. I remember that these mothers were constantly at war with each other over school functions. They competed relentlessly for top positions in the PTA and scowled at each other’s cookies at school dances. Naturally, we followed in our mother’s footsteps and created groups of our own. White women are bread to compete with each other. We allow the ones who are like us “in” and spread nasty rumors about others in order to keep them out.

Besides the pressure to constantly compete with each other we also face demands concerning our image. I always played with barbies, not because they were being shoved down my throat by the media, but because I genuinely liked them. I actually played with my barbies until a rather unhealthy age but we won’t get into that. I was however, always a little disturbed by the concept of Barbie, with her pearly white smile forever stuck to her face. Mostly because she didn’t look like me. She had long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She looked like my friends, she looked like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, but not me. These images were what was being defined as beauty and I looked nothing like them.

The pressure to be and look a certain way can be overwhelming for young girls especially when paired with our incessant need to compete. Although rates for eating disorders among women of color are on rise it has been reported that white women still occupy the majority of those who struggle with anorexia and bulimia.  Magazines that typically cater to young white women slap a thin, long haired actress on the cover along with text that reads, 101 Ways to Get Sleek Summer Abs! which is of course placed right above, 50 Sex Tips To Please Your Man! Which further perpetuates the link between thinness and sex appeal.

After the fifth grade I moved to the upper middle class suburb of Worthington. The pressure not only to be thin and desirable but to also be dressed from head to toe in expensive clothing was unfathomable. Every girl, regardless of her age, donned anAbercrombie  tee shirt and an overly flirtatious attitude. A characteristic that is not unique to white women is the idea that heterosexuality is a norm that cannot be questioned. Barbie dates Ken, just as the female Holister models can be seen gushing over shirtless boys in the posters that hang inside their stores. Transitioning from a private school where we all wore the same clothes, to a public one where what you were wearing meant the difference between which group would approach you first was difficult. In private school, my cousin and I would run off behind the gratto and pray to the “Virgin” Mary for boobs and boyfriends. In public school I was expected to have both of these and know how to kiss a boy. Pink and glitter had been replaced with thongs and lip gloss.

The pressure to be thin, to be blonde, to only kiss boys, and to wear expensive clothing effects women of all ethnicities and from all classes. The difference is that for white women these standards are especially directed at us. All of these images in the media are white, it’s no secret that we live in a racist society but from this racism and these colorless standards of beauty grow limitations which encourage sameness. A high competitive drive is the result of low self esteem. We are unable to love each other because we are jealous and afraid of the girls who possess what we want. White women in the United States are not taught to love themselves, they are taught to love Barbie or the image of a supermodel plastered to a billboard. Rather than being encouraged to love what we have, we are expected only to aspire to what we should be.

Let’s take this knowledge and grow from it. Let’s not allow the same mistakes to be made when raising daughters of our own. Instead of forcing them to wear pink frilly dresses and to only believe that love can only happen between a man and a woman, let’s show them that there are many different possibilities for them. It may sound wild to some, but introducing the idea that men can love men and women can love women to little girls is an important concept. Most importantly we must teach them to love their bodies and themselves and set good examples by doing the same. Let’s break the cycle by encouraging high self-esteem, love for the collective, and that there is beauty in difference and uniqueness.

The Boys Who Cry Love.

They all love to say that women are complicated. We’re moody, or we’re hot and cold. What happens when it’s the other way around? Remember back if you will, to a really great first date. The first time he kisses you and you feel that sweet sickness deep in your belly. The phone calls, the uncontrollable smiles you can’t bare to hold in as you wait by the phone. The sheer rush of a wonderful new crush. There is no greater feeling than this, but sometimes it goes south and turns sour. I’m talking about the boys who cry love. The ones that stop shy of committing but still won’t let you go. Dates turn into late night phone calls and clarity becomes foggy and confusing.

For a long time it felt like every time I started to fall for someone it wouldn’t work out. I would get my heart broken, cry into my phone and walk wearily away. But one would always come back. This gave me hope and every time he strolled back into my life I would take him in with open arms and believe that this time, it really would be different. After our first initial break up I swore that I would never go back to him. Of course I caved, I’ve always been weak when it comes to penis. After not speaking for months he called me late one night asking if I wanted to “play nintendo”. Right, like I don’t know what that means. I was drunk. I scrambled out of my friends bed and while she was in the bathroom I ran out with out a word. My goal was to cross the entire campus in half the time, turning a 20 minute walk into one of 10. I was making great time, but unfortunately I was walking in the wrong direction, away from college and deep into the hood. Long story short I was picked up by a police officer and “Officer McNasty” insisted that he deliver my stumbling body to the front desk of my boy’s dormitory himself. This wasn’t the only time that I humiliated myself in the name of love either.

There was another time when I took an especially degrading walk of shame across campus after spending the night with him. It was the day after halloween and I was wearing a tiny black cocktail dress and spike heals. When I had entered his building late Friday night it was unusually warm, when I left on Saturday morning it was freezing, a shocking 36 degrees to be exact. It was also a game day and I just happened to be walking past the insanely crowded OSU stadium. The sidewalks and streets were flooded with all kinds of blood thirsty buckeye fans. They were ready to take their drunken pride and angst on someone, so there I was. “Shake that ass for the buckeyes baby!” A stumbling meaty man screamed. Stares were coming at me from all directions. Mothers were covering their children’s faces, protecting their eyes from the whore that walked before them. Heads were shaking, people were cheering, and snide comments were being hurled at me unrelentingly. At my horror, someone even began to film me with their camcorder. Needless to say I crawled into bed and didn’t come out for the rest of the day. The only haunting thought still left in my head was, “Why couldn’t he have given me a sweatshirt??”

Ah, but still he refused to commit to me. I wasn’t the girl he would bring home to mother, only the girl he allowed in his bed. Before too long I became lost between the sheets. He continuously teased and tempted me with love only to reconsider it and shut down the idea completely. Am I a fool for love, or just masochistic? If I’m both I know that i’m not the only one. We’ve all struggled with boys who cry love before, so what are we doing and why are we still hanging on? It may be a couple of things. If you’re dating the wrong people who string you along and break your heart, it’s because this is who you’re attracting. I attracted sleazy boys, because wasn’t a complete angel either, nor was I alright with myself.

It’s really very simple. If I don’t love myself, how then can I expect someone else to love me? We chase the men who don’t know what they want, because we don’t really know what we want either. This is also why we insist on chasing the ones who treat us badly. We don’t feel like we deserve to be treated well because frankly, we don’t care about ourselves. A common problem with both men and women seeking relationships is the reasoning behind why we are seeking relationships. We tend to think, “I’m lonely and unhappy, I need love to make it all better.” No, you will never find a healthy long lasting relationship if you are treating your spouse as a crutch. It’s important to understand that the qualities we are missing within ourselves are often what we expect our spouses to either distract us from or provide for us. I used to fall for guys who told me that they loved my body because I didn’t, and I got a high from the self esteem boost. Now that I love my body I am no longer reliant on being told that I’m beautiful. This eliminates the men who are only looking at my body, and leaves the men who are more interested in getting to know me as a person. No one who has any self worth would dare begin a relationship with someone who is self deprecating.

The boys who cry love will stop their whining as soon as you stop demanding it. Don’t look for love that you don’t deserve. Instead work tirelessly at finding true love within yourself. Rather than putting all your eggs in one basket keep some for yourself. If you fall madly in love with someone and they decide to leave, as hard as it is you need to know that you will be okay with out them or anyone else. As soon as you become your best self all of the dogs and shaky love affairs will fall away leaving you with the potential for a truly great relationship.

The Art Of the Great ‘O’

“I seriously remember laying there like, ‘This is sex?'” I giggled into my coffee and looked over at the dumbfounded look on my friends face. It’s no secret that sex at seventeen is more comparable to some awkward naked handshake than anything pleasurable. No young boy really knows what he’s doing, but of course we are expected to lay there and pretend that they do. If you are one who insists on saying that sex was always good (even in your teenage years), then you’re lying. But what if you’re in your 20’s, 30’s, or even 40’s and you’re still pretending to climax? It’s time to share my thoughts on the truth about faking it. Ladies, get ready for a little girl talk.

Whether you’re laying there bored and desperate for something interesting to stare at, or wondering if he knows he’s on your hair, you’re not having fun. Take solace in the fact that you’re not alone, we’ve all been there. Reflect back to these experiences and allow yourself a moment to gag. At the same time think about why you weren’t enjoying yourself, I mean really think. It’s always a possibility that it was just bad sex. However, there are also a slew of other factors that need to be considered when that final finale never happens.

Unfortunately, there is still a tremendous amount of shame that revolves around female sexuality. Sometimes this shame never leaves you. It can settle in the back of your mind and discourage you from enjoying yourself. Other times it can come from a place of discomfort, either with your body or your partner. You could be so distracted with negative thoughts about the way that you look that you’re not even paying attention to how you feel. You may not be treated the way that you really want to be. You could explain what you would like from your partner, but if you’re too embarrassed or uneasy to share than there’s really no point. Cosmo can give you 101 Tricks to a Great Orgasm, but it’s not going to help if your problem is all mental. A woman’s body is not a machine and we should never treat it as such. Young women often jump or are pressured into sexual experiences with out discovering their own sexuality. The same “girly” magazines that tell you how to climax also promote degrading, self-sacrificing ways to Please Your Man. Society isn’t allowing us to sit with ourselves and ask what we want from sex. Women are conditioned to give which can make it extremely hard to receive. Not every woman has this problem but I know that there are a lot of us out there who need to establish a relationship with both our bodies and our partners.

For God’s sake masturbate. Learn your body and how you want to feel. Know every function, tick, and button better than anybody else. This will not only raise your self esteem and love for your body but it also help seize any sexual shame you may have felt prior. If you are unable to climax from casual sex, then stop having it. Don’t force your body to do something that it doesn’t want to do. You are allowed to wait and establish trust and love with someone you are interested in sleeping with. How can you enjoy a situation that you were unable to make a full decision on? Sex can be a gift for yourself as well as a shared personal experience with someone else. It is the exchange of something beautiful and natural that should be enjoyed. It is an act beyond the physical and has the ability to tug on your mind and heart.

Self love is the best love and it is the key to establishing a satisfying connectedness with others. Every woman has the right to feel good and be happy with her sex life. If you have yet to enjoy yours fully, there is nothing wrong with you. Orgasms are not just a physical reaction. Remember that your body is often smarter than you are. So love, trust, and know yourself fully in order to allow someone else to do the same. Ladies, I encourage you to enjoy yourselves because you want to, rather than feeling forced to pretend. After all, no ones going to applaud you for your performance. If they did I would have already won the oscar for best actress.

The Girl in the Mirror: Learning to Love Your Body

The very first time I can recall feeling inadequate about my body was in preschool. I must have been about four years old when I caught my shadow on the sun lit concrete of North Broadway playground. I stopped running with the other girls and turned to look at what I saw. I had a baby tummy protruding underneath my jumper. I didn’t like my shadow. My chick tummy didn’t resemble the flat sexy stomach of Jasmine or Ariel, so I sucked it in and ran after my friends. I remember the day I stopped loving my body so vividly. All it took was one glance at my shadow to completely change the view I had of myself. I remember the day I lost my chubby cheeks too. I looked in the mirror and gazed at the face looking back at me. I loved that thin looking girl. I danced around my mother’s bedroom in my Lion King dress happy to be thin because thin was a beautiful thing to be. My uncomfortableness with food and my body stayed with me through most of my adolescence. Before my 10th birthday I went to Limited Too to find the perfect ensemble to wear for my big party. I found what I thought at the time was the most beautiful shirt I had ever seen, but it didn’t look right on me. So I starved myself down to 45 lbs in order to look “good” in it. Granted I was probably 3 feet tall when I was 10 but it still wasn’t pretty. Believe me, I was all head. I looked like a walking tooth pick with a peach on top.

My struggles with body image didn’t change until the end of my teenage years. This is mostly because the messages I was receiving had only worsened. I didn’t look like the girls on T.V. and in magazines. The only places you usually see dark haired, hairy women under 5ft tall is in Lord Of the Rings, so I really didn’t stand a chance. I was unbelievably ashamed of my body. The first time a boy made me feel sexy I fell for him hard, too hard.

It has been said that the average American woman is 5’4 and weighs around 140 lbs whereas the average model is 5’11 and weighs about 117 lbs. There is a huge gap between what we actually look like and what we’re told is beautiful. Young girls aren’t stupid. We are able to make the clear connection that men find these supermodel images desirable. So naturally we crash diet, overexercise, and develop overwhelming resentment towards our bodies all in the hope of becoming society’s idea of the “perfect” girl.

Your body is a living organism that requires love, respect, and connection. It knows when it’s being abused and absorbs that pain like a sponge. Duality between mind and body distances you from authenticity and self care. If you’re not loving your body then you’re not loving yourself. Lacking self love and confidence can set you going on a damaging cycle. Once I began to understand that I was the only one who noticed my flaws I was able to grasp the stupidity of it. Practicing yoga and meditation helped me establish clarity and connection within myself. By coming into my body I realized that every bump, bruise, scar, and mole were pieces of my puzzle; and that made it beautiful.

Here are 5 things to help you love yourself more fully.

  • Begin every morning with meditation: Practice by either laying on your back or sitting on your bed. Close your eyes and breathe slow full breaths and let your belly fall soft. Establish silence and spend 3-11mins in sync with your breath. Notice your body. Imagine it completely covered in white light and healing energy. Allow it to heal you.
  • Thank your body: Along with meditation make sure to spend silent moments studying your body from head to toe and thank it for everything it’s given you.
  • Give yourself 3 compliments everyday: Stand in front of your mirror completely naked and say three things that you love about your body
  • Practice I AM THAT I AM: When you start to think negatively about your body place your hands over your heart and recite: Everyday in Every way I am getting better and better, God and me and me and God are one I am – and repeat anything you need or desire to feel, for example: I am beautiful, healthy, and strong. Then close with: I know this is the truth and I am thankful for that truth. So it is.
  • Surround yourself with positive people: Close relationships should never drag you down, they should only uplift you. If you are surrounded by people who speak negatively about the looks of themselves and others it shows that they are insecure and will be unable to offer you the support you need.

I still struggle with my own reflection and it’s a constant process. I had allowed my fears and insecurities time to grow and fed them regularly with negativity. This is why it will take time to make a full positive change. The importance of beginning this transformation is undeniable. We need to teach our sisters, our friends, and our daughters how to love their bodies. 7 million girls and women struggle with eating disorders and body dysmorphia in this country and we have to make a change. We brought our bodies into this world. They are roadmaps of our lives and we will leave them behind when we go. Let’s make a fresh start and give ourselves the love and respect we deserve.