Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Body Image and Sex

Becoming a woman is a bit like becoming celebrity, only more traumatic. This is either a fairly agreeable, or vastly unpleasant experience depending on what you look like and how popular you are. You go from being an uninteresting skinny child, more or less left to your own devices, to suddenly being incredibly fascinating to everyone the moment your breasts and hips start to appear.

Three months ago you were just a kid, blissfully unaware of the storm awaiting you with the onset of puberty. Nobody cared if you had hairy legs or short fingernails, chubby ankles or even if you were a girl or not, but now all of a sudden everyone has an opinion on you. From your split ends to your unpainted toenails and everything in between, suddenly everyone you know (and plenty of people you don’t) wants to tell you exactly what’s wrong with you. Magazines are full of pictures and articles and adverts of how you should look, your mother is tutting at your stretch marks, your aunts tell you how easy it will be for you to give birth with those hips, boys at school shout obscenities about your vagina across the playground. It’s all very stressful.

Then there are the body changes. Boys – a bit of extra hair and a deeper voice do not a dramatic pubescent transformation make. Try growing a pair of boobs (it hurts) and going home from school one day to discover your pants are full of blood (yeah, that hurts too). I think it took me about ten years to get used to the shock of getting an unrecognisably new body in the space of about three months. Granted, the transformation isn’t as a dramatic or fast for many girls. I was envious of my peers’ girlish bodies with their tiny pert breasts and slender hips, but perhaps they were jealous of mine too. I couldn’t do the things I used to do, like climb trees and dance and run about, without my new body getting in the way. It was like it had betrayed me.

It is against a background of all this drama and bleeding and trauma and pressure and tits and image and advertising and probably some awkward lights-out fumbling teenage sex that we emerge into our twenties. It is unsurprising then, that girls carry some insecurity into our relationships, specifically surrounding our bodies and exposing them to the critical eyes of others. I’m certainly not saying that guys don’t have insecurities too, but there isn’t quite that same intense pressure that we are under, to be perfect. Once the clothes come off and presumably there’s been some snogging, so many of us have this nagging feeling that we aren’t up to scratch. That scar, that spot, that stretch mark, that bit that wobbles a bit too much, that bit that doesn’t wobble enough…it’s a minefield.

And it can stop us from actually enjoying the experience - inhibition about our bodies gets in the way of good sex. Don’t you wish you could just laugh about the whole thing, not care anymore? Not that it isn’t easier said than done, it took me years to get over feeling inhibited and self-conscious about some aspects of my body. I’m certainly not all there yet either. But I’ve learned a valuable lesson along the way too, in that how you feel about yourself is what others see. People pick up on our carefully hidden insecurities.

Once you get over worrying about your flaws, you’ll realise no-one else really cares about them either. I once asked a male friend about whether guys are actually bothered about a bit of extra wobble, prominent ribs or boobs that are slightly different sizes whilst in the throes of passion – he said this: Woman, we’re so stoked to be having sex with you at all, we couldn’t care less or even notice. All we’re thinking is – this girl wants to have sex with me, she has tits and a fanny – awesome.

Not delicately put, but you get the idea.


Twitter: @lucyetlapin
URL:   http://aliceetlapin.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

A shocking look at beauty - Body Issues

What would you tell your 16 year old self? - Body Issues

My first challenge of 2012 was to read more. I didn’t want to read a gushy novel that ended happily ever after, I wanted a book that would educate me. After trawling the book shelves of a well-known book store, I came across a paperback lodged in with the diet books. The book was called ‘Living Dolls The Return of sexism’ by Natalie Walters. I know people say ‘never judge a book by its cover’ but this cover just appealed to me, It was clever, naughty and bold all at the same time.  As I began to read this book  alarm bells rang ‘This is a feminist book…’ but I couldn’t put it down.  It intrigued me how the author was entwining so many powerful subjects all into one little book.  Gender discrimination, the glamorisation of the sex industry, sexual abuse, prostitution, sexualisation of young women and pornography are only a handful of the subjects the author Walters touches upon. The book was so enlightening, detailed and truthful.

One subject discussed and seemed to crop up a lot throughout the book was how ‘…artificial images of feminine beauty are held up as the ideal to which women should aspire’ pg 3  as a body conscious girl this subject really stood out to me.  We see it every day in today’s culture young girls and women aiming to be like their celebrity ‘role-models’.  The thing that shocked me the most was Walter describing how these fascinations of ‘aspiring’ to be like an artificial representation of femininity start at a young age. Starting with their Barbie dolls to the female heroines of the silver screen.  I nearly spluttered my tea when it went on to talk about the ‘sexualisation of Disney Princesses’ and how our little girls are being made to look ‘sexy’( but that topic can be for another day). 

It made me realise most of us from a young age are tied into an over vigilant regime of dieting and grooming to fit in with these ‘artificial role models’. But why?  We should be concentrating on more important things with our bodies and getting to ‘know them’ not plaster them in fake tan, hair extensions and cosmetic surgery and create this ‘plastic disguises’ to ‘fit in’. Girls (and guys) , can you honestly hold up your hand and say you know your own body? Do you know every lump and bump?

Just recently a colleague of mine has just been diagnosed with melanoma and she has created a blog to share with others about her battle ( click here to visit her blog http://www.lynnmasson.blogspot.co.uk/ ). While reading Lynns inspiring blog I came across a video that’s called ‘Dear 16 year old me’ It is a moving video to help teenagers become aware of skin cancer and how to potentially avoid it.

You might think I am going off on a tangent first talking about my book about feminism and now talking about skin cancer but bare with me. Combining Walters ideas of women starting at a young age ‘aspiring’ to be like artificial representations of femininity and this video on Lynns blog brings home a sense of realisation. We shouldn't focus on these artificial images of beauty like celebrities/glamour models because there's more important body related issues to educated ourselves with. We should concentrate on our 'natural' body, get to know it, not 'conform' our bodies to look just like these 'fake' representations. Young girls and guys should be encouraged to know their bodies, celebrate them and not plaster and hide them in cosmetics. If I was to tell my 16 year old self something I would say 'Don't be upset that you don't look like the skinny girls in the magazines, your body is beautiful, look after it. There are much worse things in life than worrying about your body hang ups. If your that worried talk and ask questions about them, don't cover it up and pretend its all fine. xx PS Use liquid eyeliner... it lasts longer'

So that's it... from a new years resolution developing into a reality check I have come to the conclusion that we should 'get to know' our bodies, give them regular checks, ignore the airbrushed size 0's in the media and celebrate our natural bodies because at the end of the day you only get one.  

Food for thought... what would you tell your 16 year old self?? 

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Curious Case of Hair Colour - Body Issues

I have always dyed my hair every colour under the sun (please see embarrassing photos below), but until I decided a couple of years ago to go back to my natural state of blonde I truly didn’t realise the difference that hair colour has on how people treat you.
I find being a blonde to be a negative hair colour, as a lady I want to be treated as one but as a blonde I find that most of the men I encounter like me because I’m blonde, blue eyed etc... not because I’m alright to talk to and am moderately intelligent.
I want to find out whether this is true for all hair colours, in the matter of all things LYYB it simply wouldn’t work without an experiment, so I have dyed my hair red and my eyebrows to see if I evoke different reactions and as ever at the end I will some up my findings. I’ll also be speaking about previous hair colours I've used in the past.  

Red Head
I was a red head for a couple of months, dying your hair red is a massive effort, It runs out so quickly and costs a small fortune to keep looking lovely, so is it worth it?
I think although superficially the hair looked fabulous, I think what I felt inside was not so good, I did get what I suppose you could class as more positive male attention. Gentlemen started to approach me more, I could even go as far to say the calibre of men I was attracting were of a higher standard. The conflicting mental issue that I was having was because I started to feel like people didn’t like the real me. The real me is blonde. If men are treating me different because of a hair colour then surely they’re not as amazing as I first thought.
I have to say that even women I encountered during this time treated me differently, as a blonde I find women can sometimes come across like they hate my guts... as a red head not so much... I didn’t realise hair colour made this much of a difference. It was like all of a sudden I became less of a threat. 

Black Head
When I was younger I had black hair... SHOCKING. People used to think because I dyed my hair black I must’ve been an Emo or a Goth. You’re wrong. I dressed quirky, but I always have regardless of hair colour. People felt the need to brand me with a label so they could deal with my ever changing strange look.
I was once told that I couldn’t have a job unless I changed my hair colour from black to something more natural because I was deemed ‘unapproachable.’ Which is ridiculous, I was a normal eighteen year old.
Don’t even get me started on how people used to treat me, girls my age thought I was a weirdo and boys my age pretty much thought the same thing. All this because of a hair colour?

Blonde Head
As I stated earlier I sometimes find being a blonde has a negative impact on my life.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that do honestly assume that because of my hair colour I must be an idiot. I’m clearly not. I’ve found it to be a nuisance at times when I want to blend in, when I lived on my own I would constantly be harassed by men shouting such creative things as ‘Hey Goldilocks you can sleep in my bed’… I think that’s my personal favourite. Having blonde hair is like an invitation for abuse... blonde jokes, misinterpretation, perverts and people honestly believing due to hair colour you’re a slut.

I do however believe through all this negativity you have to be yourself, so after having black, red and blonde. I’ll stick with the blonde this time and wont be so influenced by the way that people treat me.
If you don’t like the blonde hair... You know what to do.


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The only way is LYYB

For our April articles LYYB has decided to tackle some of your body quarrels, as ever our LYYB co-founders are game to try anything, talk about everything and experiment on your behalf. Our ladies and gents at LYYB are concerned by an ever growing epidemic of orange skin, false body parts and strange hair, this look combined as we understand it is something that originates from a TV mock drama called ‘The Only Way Is Essex’, if you are unfamiliar with this program it consists of some almost wealthy people from Essex telling each other to ‘shut up’ and fall out, then make-up and then probably fall out again.

LYYB wanted to investigate how programs such as TOWIE have affected people's body issues, when the people on these shows have all had plastic surgery, are all head to toe in fakery and seem more bothered about what they look like than what’s on the news.

Emma and Gemma are as per usual our Guinea-pigs in this experiment, we gave them a TOWIE make-over that neither will forget in a hurry, we’ve asked them to document; how much, how long and how they felt during the fake-over, we’ve supplied some wonderful photographic evidence and we want our readers to decide which is best... The Only Way Is Essex? Or The Only Way Is LYYB?

Has fakery taken over or can natural beauty still prevail...

Emma: Gemma and I spent a total of about £30 each on; tan, fake hair and fake lashes, now spending £30 on that doesn’t sound a lot and we by no means bought expensive, the scary part about the cost is that would be £30 for one night, you couldn’t reuse most of the products we purchased because they simply wouldn’t last, I don’t even want to think about the cost if you went to a salon and got all this fakery done professionally! In total the time it took me to get tanned up to my eyeballs, apply the buckets of make-up and slap those eyelashes on was 2 hours, I couldn’t spend every Saturday night getting ready for that long, the terrifying thing is that people wear this stuff everyday... how much time are they wasting on looking like an umpa lumpa. Now the truly horrendous part of the experience was how I felt all tantastic... I felt like I wouldn’t be able to behave like myself almost like i’d stepped into another person’s shoes, maybe it’s something you get used to, but I certainly couldn’t go out and have chats with people about what books i’m reading or the economic crisis, people would think i’d banged my head. Maybe that makes me a terribly shallow person that I see someone dressed like that and instantly think ‘well she hasn’t got much between the ears’, but surely there is an element of an intelligent human being thinking ‘I don’t want to spend this much money or this much time looking like this.’ I do like looking good, I am notoriously bad for spending all my money on clothes and shoes, however I am intelligent enough to say no to some simply ridiculous trends. I also can’t help but think what picture these people paint for the younger generation, that we should all be tanned, toned and spend time worrying over what we look like to enth degree? When the simple fact in my mind is that yes you should take care of yourself, you should take pride in your appearance whatever that means to the individual but I don’t think promoting this look that can only really be achieved successfully if you have buckets of spare time and cash is healthy.

Gemma: I was quite excited about this little challenge. Having a performing arts background I always jump at the chance to ‘dress up’. My initial thoughts were dressing up TOWIE was going to be easy... I was wrong. Not only did we spend the majority of saturday shopping for all our TOWIE supplies it took us god knows how many hours to prep and ‘apply’ until we had achieved the full look. I do take my hats off to the girls who have this crazy beauty regime, the amount of time and effort that goes into this ritual is epic!! I know as girls we should celebrate our natural beauty but while applying my fake tan I enjoyed the feeling of creating a persona. The fake tan acted like another layer of skin which made me feel a little less shy about my body. Maybe the girls who dress TOWIE do it to mask their inner body issues!? Maybe caking their bodies in fakeness allows them to create a persona that makes them feel confident?! hmmm. I did enjoy the ‘dress up’ but I am not sure it would make me feel ‘confident’ on a night out. Yes the fake tan made me feel a little less self conscious but combined with the mountains of make-up, fake hair and tight dresses it just made me feel a little bit silly. I would be too busy worrying if my hair piece/ eyelashes/ boobs have fallen out or if all my make-up is still on instead of just enjoying my night out.

So will Essex win your votes or will LYYB’s natural looking lovelies win in what can only be described as the ultimate face off... it’s up to you to decide...

To cast your vote simply comment below the post TOWIE or LYYB and we’ll collate the votes and share your views at the end of the month.

The Only Way Is LYYB x

Monday, 2 April 2012

Ask a Chap/Bird - April Body Issues

As all of our April articles are about ‘body issues’ we thought perhaps our Ask a Chap/Bird question could somehow tie in nicely. LYYB has a rather personal question... to shave or not to shave? Yes we mean down there... and yes gents we mean you too! It’s come to LYYB’s attention that when it comes to body hair it’s not just ladies who have it in all different shapes and sizes... we know through scientific research *cough cough* that men do all sorts of strange and wonderful things down there to, the question is chaps and birds what’s acceptable or does it really depend on the person? When it comes to first encounters is it better to have too much or too little? Do you wax, shave or pluck? We’re interested...