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.