By Nadine, Already Pretty Contributor
Right off the bat, a major TMI warning. This post is – at least in part – about my nether regions and also my boobs. A public discussion of my private parts may seem a bit off topic on, but as they say on Law & Order, if you’ll grant me some leeway, I will come to my point.
I recently made a surprisingly difficult confession to some of my colleagues at school. We’re all human sexual students so, as you might expect, my classmates tend to value the sex-positive, body-positive approach to life. There’s a lot of focus on acceptance and inclusivity and loving ourselves (pun intended) as we are. I subscribe to all of that in theory, but in practice I struggle, sometimes mightily, and sometimes the mandate to love myself feels like a lot of pressure.
Which brings me back to the confession and the TMI. I told my pals that I don’t particularly enjoy the look of my vulva. I love, love, love the way it functions, sexually. I also really like the way it feels. I enjoy touching down there, even in non-sexual ways. I just don’t like what it looks like. And what’s more, I’ve never felt especially motivated to change that perspective. The great thing about having a vulva is that I don’t have to see it unless I choose to.
It was a difficult admission for me to make, because I often equate self-love with “I like the way my body looks”. But the truth is, I don’t. Not all of my body and not all the time. I’m grateful for my body. Thus far I’ve been blessed with ability and reasonably good health. My body allows me to enjoy food, affection, sex, and play. And there are aspects of my body that I do find very visually appealling. But do I love them more? I don’t think so.
When I spilled my big vulva secret, one of my classmates pointed out that there’s a tendency to equate femininity with beauty. Now, on the one hand I think there can be great value in beauty and visual aesthetics. But on the other hand, I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with that idea that love – for others and certainly for ourselves – is dependent on the perception that one is visually beautiful.
When I said what I said about myself, I immediately got defensive. I was afraid my confession would be misconstrued as body-shame. Moreover, I was afraid that maybe it meant that deep, deep down I was harbouring some shame and body-hatred. And even though my friends were supportive and accepting of my feelings, that evening after school, I came home, stripped down and crouched over a mirror. And when I did, I found the reassurance I needed. I peered at myself. No shame. No disgust. No thoughts of how maybe my vulva makes me not-as-good as someone else with prettier parts. In many ways, it’s one of my favourite parts of me and I really, truly love it. It’s just not quite my style.
Already Pretty contributor Nadine Thornhill is a sex educator and blogger at Adorkable Undies. She is a new resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, having recently moved from Ottawa, Ontario to pursue a Doctor of Education in Human Sexuality. Her writing tends toward subjects such as clitorises, feminism, vibrators, body image, gender politics and non-monogamy. She is a passionately committed Scrabble player and lifelong klutz, having sustained 16 concussions to date.