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CW: mentions of childhood bullying and body shame
See the image above? That’s the side of myself I’m happy to show to a certain part of the world. While we all get to have boundaries and decide what we share with others, my decisions aren’t just about limits or privacy. It’s about the way I see my body and the shame I feel about it.
I am a white cisgender heterosexual (mostly? sort of? maybe? hetero) college-educated woman living in the United States. What do I know about stigma? Not much, when you look at the way majority groups treat minority groups throughout the world. But on a small scale, I know the power of shame and stigma about my body.
Told I was gross, fat, too big, too much, disgusting from the age of seven or eight at school (kids are a joy, aren’t they?), I believed them. How could that many people telling me the same thing be wrong? It seemed to be a consensus opinion among my peers for literal years. Clearly, they knew something about me others didn’t. When my father compared me to a whale, those words became a secret I refused to share. The shame and sense that he must be right was simply too great.
At the same time, adults told me that I was “mature for my age” and unlike “anyone else” my age. More code that I was different somehow. That my body said something about me.
When I look back at those days, I was the “victim” (I use that term loosely) of the too-early onset of puberty. Zits and boobs at age eight, period at age nine, shaving around age 10. And I had massive growth spurts during those times. I topped out at 5’6″ before I left elementary school — and have stayed roughly that height ever since.
I wasn’t fat (although, if I was, why did that have to be a bad thing?). My curves ripened at a too-young age. Before I could understand them and long before I would ever appreciate them. My family had no idea what to do with a voluptuous 11 year old (there’s nothing you do with them other than raise them like the child they are). I was born into a family of late bloomers, and they were stunned.
To say my relationship with my body is warped is putting it lightly. I’ve always seen myself through the lens of someone else — my peers and classmates, the adults in my life, the culture at large. And it always pointed to one thing — shame. Don’t show your body or you’ll be laughed at or found wanting. Don’t let others see you. Don’t let yourself be vulnerable.
There’s a scene in the horror movie Carrie where her mother screams, “They’re all going to laugh at you!” I’ve never related to anything so hard in my life. Even after I left that school and those bullies, I carried that fear around with me for many, many years, long into adulthood. Every time I’ve ever gotten naked with a man I care deeply about (not every man I’ve ever fucked, by the way) I’ve cried — to myself or in front of them. The shedding of clothes left me vulnerable, more than I thought I could handle.
It’s something I still work on. Easy to do these days with a partner like John Brownstone. Harder to do when contemplating other partners in the future.
I say all of this to say that sharing the picture below is difficult for me. It scares me, makes me feel vulnerable in a way I don’t like. I feel like I’m handing the mean people of the world ammunition with which to hurt me.
Because for all my butt selfies, cunt shots, and boob pictures, I rarely share my entire body with the world. I show the bits and pieces of myself that I like (from the angle I like, in a lighting I like, with a filter I like). I’ve curated myself to (falsely) insulate myself from the painful memories of a past that shaped a long ago future.
But I’m ready to show stigma the finger, in partnership with Hot Octopuss and their new DiGiT finger vibrator. The things that stigmatize and shame us are deeply personal, but we’re also never alone. And we don’t have to be silent about it, or accept what the rest of the world thinks of us. We are more than the sum of our parts, and our parts (whatever they may be) don’t have to define us.
This is my mom-bod, my submissive-bod, my bod. This is who I am, in the flesh, so to speak, and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have always hated my stomach, hated the bulge, hated my shape. But it’s mine, and he loves it, and with a little bit of help, I’m learning to accept it. I’m not always body positive towards myself, but I am often body neutral — not caring either way about the shape, size, or weight of my body.
Which, I think, may be better. Why spend so much time thinking about my body when I can think about everything else in my life?
For more information, go to showstigmathefinger.com to learn how others are saying, “Fuck you” to stigma in their life.