Through the ages women’s bodies have been controlled, lusted after or judged by society. Many attitudes we have today about women’s bodies particularly women’s sexual bodies are remnants of the past and it is helpful for us to stop and think about this so we can identify what beliefs are impacting our well-being and what perspectives and ideas can better serve us.
The last workshop in The Blossom Guide Program is ‘Perception of Female Bodies’ this is one of my favourite sessions and I got to do a lot of interesting research for it! For example, in Ancient Greece which was the first civilised society ran primarily by men, they believed that women’s wombs wandered around their body and referred to it as like an ‘animal living within an animal’ not meaning to be derogatory but rather that a living thing with its own mind was living within another living thing. They believed this wandering animal is what caused women to be more emotional beings, and what caused us to be ‘hysterical’, this seems like such an absurd idea today! Yet not too long ago in Victorian era England (late 1800’s) again Dr’s who were primarily men still believed strongly in the notion of ‘hysteria’ which referred to women who were ‘neurotic’ and in todays society perhaps would mean somebody who is suffering from clinically diagnosed depression or anxiety. Yet again Dr’s firmly believed these ‘issues’ where caused in the ‘nether region’ and started treating women ‘down there’ it is believed Dr’s were in fact bringing women to orgasm and this in turn would cure their neurosis. This may sound strange but it is incredibly significant as this was happening in a time when society believed women were not sexual and did not enjoy sex, the ideas were purely medical. It was also at this time that the first vibrator was invented by Dr’s who were treating women for ‘hysteria’, pretty unbelievable these are the origins of what you would consider a modern-day sex toy!
So why am I writing about all of this, there were many strange ideas about women, their bodies and sexuality for a very long time it was only in the 1940’s that a scientific sexual survey started to prove that women did have orgasms and enjoy sex, an idea that would have challenged the cultural normative idea of women wanting to get married and have one partner whom they could have children with. By the 1960’s, the swinging sixties as many of your grandparents will remember! The cat was well and truly out of the bag and young people started challenging conservative ideas about women and women’s bodies, here we saw women wearing bikinis to the beach, miniskirts and becoming louder and prouder about their bodies and sexuality. It is also when widely available birth control became available in Western Countries in the form of the contraceptive pill, which highlighted societies relaxing attitude towards women’s sexuality and perhaps sex out of wedlock.
Now, this is a brief timeline and even though our ideas about women’s bodies started to shift many stereotypes and ideas were still prevalent for example just because women had access to the pill did not mean women could behave in the same sexual manner as men and if they did, they would still generally be stereotyped as a ‘slut’ or a ‘loose woman’. Even when I was in high school in the early 2000’s both young men and women said horrible things about women’s bodies, I heard time and time again that if a woman had lots of sex they would end up with a loose vagina, something that is medically just not true. I also heard things like ‘vagina’s smell’, ‘periods are disgusting’ ‘girls shouldn’t have any body hair’ etc etc, how do you think such constant messaging makes us feel about our bodies? Generally, not good, and like we must do things like remove hair or use vaginal washes in order for our bodies to be clean or acceptable, which again is simply not true.
So, what does this mean for young women today how can you feel good about your body, primarily your sexual body while still navigating a complex sexual landscape. How can you feel comfortable and secure in yourself and not self-conscious shielding yourself from unwanted judgement or ridicule, we have all seen a teen movie where some poor girl gets her period in her white one piece at the pools right in front of the popular group! Firstly, you need to know you are normal your body and your vagina are perfectly fine, there is nothing wrong with you and in fact being a woman is so damn great our bodies, cycles and abilities should be celebrated. In order to become comfortable with our bodies we need to increase our self-awareness, you can do this in your own time when your comfortable and take it slow. I would suggest that you grab a mirror and look at your vagina (or what specifically is known as the vulva as this is the outer part). We don’t see other vaginas in day to day life, we don’t see our Mums or other young women’s, they are not on TV and perhaps the only time young women see other vaginas is through things like Pornography or explicit content online which is really unhelpful as you will generally be seeing bodies that have undergone surgery. So, after a nice bath or shower, in the privacy of your bathroom, take a few deep breathes, place your feet hip width apart grab a mirror and have a look at yourself. The idea is not to be shocked by what you see or approving in an aesthetic way, no its to be accepting, comfortable and understand this is your body, what it entails and what it looks like. Perhaps it will take you a few goes, or perhaps you will feel uncomfortable at first this is totally normal.
It may take us a while to become fully comfortable with our bodies particularly in a society that promotes perfectionism as the ultimate goal yet I truly believe we can change how we feel and perceive ourselves through true self-care! Here are my top tips shared in the workshop
· Wear clothes that fit you properly
This may sound simple but it’s so easy to go for ‘vanity sizing’ and to squeeze into too tight jeans because they look good or the number makes you feel good. Wearing too tight clothes can cause health problems and they generally can just make us feel uncomfortable therefore we can’t be our best selves in that moment. (I actually went up a jean size this year and its been oh so liberating!)
· Go for natural materials when buying undies
I know Cotton on Body may have the cutest knickers in pastels and fluro’s but usually these ‘fashion’ undies are made from synthetic fabrics which are not the best for our bodies and don’t allow our vagina to breathe and be healthy. Natural fibres like cotton or organic bamboo will leave you feeling comfortable and fresh all day long therefore better about yourself. (I actually now get excited when it’s a bamboo undie day!)
· Create a self-care ritual
Don’t just on products to look a certain way that’s so superficial and one dimensional, the way we treat our bodies can do so much more for us. For example, maybe you will have a bath and scrub your body every Sunday night, when you get out you will slowly moisturise your whole body before putting on your PJ’s and hoping into bed. Slow intentional, mindful routines like this can make us feel so relaxed, good about ourselves and show us we truly care about ourselves deeply that’s why we make this time, rather than rushing around and quickly shaving our legs, bikini line or something like this.
My favourite thing is a grapefruit body scrub and then a really rich Frankincense and Sesame Body Oil, delish 😊
· Wear the right size bra
Again, so simple, yet so powerful. Make sure your wearing the right size bra this is good for your posture and overall comfort throughout the day. Also, you don’t need to wear pretty or sexy bras everyday as these are generally not designed for full support a good quality t shirt bra (again good fabrics) will make you feel so secure and fabulous
· Think good thoughts
Get to know your body and think good thoughts about it. Know that your body is unique to you and it needs you to love and accept it, no one else! If you feel comfortable, and confident this will also help when you enter into interpersonal relationships
This has been such a huge topic to cover in one blog, so thank you for journeying with me and I hope its been informative, a little entertaining and helpful. Remember your ideas don’t have to change overnight yet becoming more open, going on a journey and committing to truly caring about yourself is so powerful! If you have any questions or thoughts please always feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy yourself and your body
X x x x
If you would like to learn more about your period and menstruation cycle, I highly recommend Lucy Peaches fantastic Fringe Festival Show ‘How to Period Like a Unicorn’. I learnt so much about women’s cycles I had never heard of or considered and it really changed my perception and overall respect for my body. Click on the link and scroll to bottom of page which will state the underage date 😊