Wednesday, 16 September 2009


Sorry for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks. I've been trying to write this one for a few days now but I keep thinking of new things to add. Unfortunately it's not one coherent post, more like lots of little bits all put together, but there is a theme- body image and bodily autonomy.

I've been reading various books, blog posts and news articles over the last week or so, including a book about sexuality and consent as well as some bits from the Guardian. Some of the stuff I'll talk about here is old, some is new, some is ongoing.

So yeah, lets talk about bodies.

Caster Semenya is already an award-winning sportswoman, aged 18. Recently, she won a race (she is a runner) and people began to comment on her appearance. Caster is quite masculine-looking; her facial features are quite androgynous, and she doesn't really have any breasts. Of course she is also muscular, but the same can be said of many other female athletes. Basically, Caster was accused of being a man running in a race for women. She has been sex-tested for this reason, and alleged results have been leaked. They say she is intersex. Apparently, she has no internal female reproductive organs and has testes instead of ovaries, which are giving her a testosterone level three times as high as that of a 'normal' woman.

Even if those results are correct, that does not give anyone the right to tell Caster who she is. Any advantage she gains from the extra testosterone is not enough to justify calling her a man or insisting that she should have her medal taken away and that she cannot compete- a man has 50 times the amount of testosterone in his body that a woman has in hers, three times the normal female level of testosterone pales in comparison doesn't it? Not only that, but at 18 years old we are all working out who we really are. To go through that process in the spotlight would be bad enough without strangers trying to decide the basics for you. Caster has been raised as a female, has female genitalia, and feels she is a woman. As far as I am concerned, she is a woman.

Interestingly, she had a photoshoot for a magazine where she looked very much like a normal young woman. So much for 'hurr that's obviously a bloke'.

Maybe she won't be allowed to compete after all- if that has to be the case because of a condition she has then that is sad, but I accept that's what has to be done. But whatever happens to her sporting career, nobody has the right to tell her she is a man. She is not. Intersex does not mean male unless you identify as male. Your genetic gender is not the only thing that decides who you are.

Jon also knows that. Ever since he was little, he knew he was a boy, but on the outside he wasn't. At 16, he is going through the process of changing from a female body to a male one, although he has chosen not to have operations to give him a penis. Does the fact that he hasn;t got a willy make him a girl? No. Physically, it used to, but now that he's having hormone treatment it certainly doesn't, and what about his mental state? Again, Jon's genetic gender does not determine everything about who he is. He feels male, he looks male for most purposes, so he is a man- at least, well on his way to being a man, he is only 16 so even being born male wouldn't make him a man at this stage.

Now for some slightly different issues.

Body image is a bit of a sore point for a lot of people- it's well known that this affects women but we mustn't forget about the men. Both sexes can suffer from eating disorders and body dysmorphia (where you think you look much worse than you actually do). Michael Jackson was a good example of how anyone can have these problems if they have been led to believe they're not good enough. People from all walks of life feel they will be happy if they just get rid of that last half-stone, or have bigger boobs, or have a smaller nose, or a bigger penis, or a tighter vagina. The worst thing about this is the narrow standard of beauty we're expected to accept nowadays. Not everyone is blonde and tanned. Not all women have measurements 36-24-36 or smaller. Not all men have a six-pack. And yet we're all supposed to aspire to that. Fuck that.

One specific aspect of this that really gets on my tits (no pun intended, surprisingly) is body hair. The current trend, apparently, is to be completely hair-free apart from whatever grows on the top of your head. There are 14 year old girls all over the internet telling each other to shave off all their body hair because hair is 'gross'. I understand that puberty is pretty weird and sprouting hair and lumpy bits is odd, but really? hair is gross? The worst bit is that these girls (and it is mostly girls) tell each other that it's necessary to shave your pubic hair because pubes are dirty and boys won't like you if you don't have a completely bald fanny. I find that very odd- if that's someone's personal opinion, fine, I have no problem with other people doing what is best for them. No, what weirds me out is the assumption that all men insist on hairless vaginas and that body hair of all kinds is disgusting.

Body hair, although it can look bloody horrible sometimes, is not disgusting. Get rid of it if you want, trim it, tidy it, keep it clean, but don't freak out over it. We all have personal preferences, but nobody has the right to decide what anyone else does with their body. By all means ask someone nicely, if you have sex with them, but I bet if you're shagging someone their leg stubble or monobrow is the least of your worries.

I actually think my body image is fairly good. I am a bit on the hairy side, but tough. The hair on my upper lip and lower arms is so fine that half of you lot probably never even noticed it. My leg and armpit hair grows overnight and it's black, but I've come to the conclusion that letting things grow slightly isn't the end of the world. I have better things to worry about, and it obviously hasn't put the gentlemen off that much. I have nice boobs. I have long legs that are pretty toned, which is weird thinking about what a lazy cow I am. My body isn't perfect, but it's functional (mostly) and it's a decent body to carry myself around in. The state of my pubes... well sorry to over-share, but yes, I've got some. They're tamed, because I don't want Ed to suffer, and it's more practical for me. When you're as hairy as I am (again, sorry for sharing too much) you do have to have a basic routine to make sure 'Aunt Flo's visit' is as easy as possibe. And also that you don't get blinded by your own monobrow.

I'm not even going to start on abortion or sexuality, I'll be here all day and you've all heard me go mental about those subjects... like the time I yelled at a pro-lifer in town for trying to give me an anti-abortion leaflet... yeah.

Basically what I'm trying to say here is that you and only you should have control over your body. You're wearing that bag of meat and gristle, you should be able to choose what happens to it. The thing that defines who you are is YOU. Not 'the media', not famous people, not those twats in school who called you fat or ugly. You. Remember, that also means you don't have the right to decide for somebody else either.

Don't want an abortion? Don't get one. On the other hand, if you do feel you need one, don't let anyone talk you out of it- get advice, get professional help, but make the final decision yourself.

Don't like sex that's with people of your own gender/the other gender/with more than one partner/on your own/kinky/vanilla/outside of marriage? Don't have it. If people are enjoying their sex lives, it is not your business to judge. Like some or all of those kinds of sex? Knock yourself out. Just be safe and always make sure there is enthusiastic consent. 'I suppose so' or doing it because you don't want to lose him/her is not healthy. And use a condom please (or other contraceptive method of your choice, assuming you're not trying to conceive- and by the way, the withdrawal method is fucking retarded).

Want a tattoo/piercing/green hair? Then get it. Want implants/a nose job? Then get them. Want to remove a patch of hair/grow it/make it into a pretty shape? Then do it. But always make sure that's what you really want to do, think about the outcome and question your motives. Doing something to yourself in order to please other people is not going to work out if it wouldn't make you happy on its own. If you wouldn't consider it as part of your life if a particular person wasn't around, maybe it's not a good decision. Or maybe they just inspired you. Whatever, you make your own mind up.

I'm sure there is a lot I could have said here, but that's enough for now. Comments as usual please, I'd prefer it if we didn't end up with an argument about how I'm a fag-enabler or a baby-killing liberal. Somehow I doubt it's going to go that route, but you never know!

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