I couldn’t decide on a title so also consider this to be “Where are the Matriarchs?” and the “The Boob Rant.” I am no stranger to sexual repression; I grew up in a religious household that was influenced heavily by two major religions. Combine that will small town mentality in the heart of conservative Alberta, which is Canada’s equivalent to good ol’ Texas… and you have the makings for strong sexual repression norms.
This is sexual repression from a female perspective. Where talking about anything remotely associated with sexuality was considered taboo. That includes undergarments, periods, sex drive, private parts, boobs, and extends to include the entire female body for the most part. You may think that is a bit of a stretch, but to ask about anything like a stretch mark was just not done! Taboo – not spoken! There are so many things wrong with this model that I just want to scream.
This creates a massive lack of knowledge. I grew up not knowing anything about my body. Is my vagina supposed to look like that? Are my breasts normal? Because they certainly don’t look like the La Senza models I see on TV! You see yourself in a mirror and you have no concept of other bodies in relationship to yours. Sure, you could go into the swimming pool change-room – but you are generally taught to avert your eyes as staring is rude so I would just hide in a changing stall. It is like standing at a pool after closing and the cover has been placed over it. There is such potential for shared knowledge yet it is locked under the veil of decency and modesty. Instead, women grow up thinking their breasts are abnormal, their vaginas are ugly, and their bodies are scarred. Not all women, but many women. We take what we know of ourselves and we measure ourselves against what we see of other women. If we only ever see other women in push-up bras, with makeup on and fully dressed then HOW we ever to know that what we see naked in the mirror every morning is not sub-par?
I grew up thinking something was wrong with my breasts (and my entire body really). They weren’t all perky and round and that is what young girls are supposed to have. It is not until the last couple of years that I have learned that breasts come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I learned terminology like pendulum – when breasts naturally hang down (different from sagging), and splayed – breasts that are heading in opposite directions. I learned about high breast root – where breasts start higher on the body. I also learned of ‘shallow’ where most your breast tissue stays close to your chest. Think of cookie dough flattened out. Most importantly, I learned that OTHER women have these sorts of breasts. I was not made of spare parts – which was my childhood joke, the one you tell yourself and laugh about but it really stings – I was just another set of breasts in a sea of wonderful and ever different breasts. Why did it take nearly 26 years to learn this?
Thus, my question. Where are our Matriarchs? Where are the women with vast pools of knowledge to tell us that stretch marks are completely natural parts of growing up and you can rub certain oils on your skin to help the skin increase elasticity? That you are not doing something ‘wrong’ if you get stretch marks on your hips or your thighs or your breasts. Where are the older women who tell the young women what to expect for their first period… who celebrate the passage into ‘the blood years’ and who take the sting out of cramps with herbal remedies and chocolate? Where are our guiding mothers to tell us our breasts are perfectly natural and help us not just find a bra… but find pretty bras that actually fit and come with matching underwear. Things that make young girls during unstable times feel better about change. Maybe for the next generation there will be some…
My own personal experience has made me a very big fan of things like Bare Reality. 100 pairs of breasts and all of them different, unique, and beautiful. This kind of project and any like it help normalize whatever breasts you are packing around because they show that breasts come in all different shapes and sizes AND all those shapes and sizes are just fine. Screw one beauty ideal! I like this, because it helps women like themselves. Sure, not all women have trouble liking themselves but many women have insecurities and self-esteem issues contributed to by sexual repression. Now, this also helps men. If we have such a skewed idea of what beauty and normal is, I am not surprised that men’s expectations are a little skewed as well (or very). It is very demoralizing when you are about to go to bed with someone and they comment on your body in a way that makes you want to crawl into a little ball and not come out for weeks. Been there, done that. “Why aren’t your breasts perky… you are young” fuck off. “What are these silver lines on your skin?” they are stretch marks *sniffle* “You are lying, you have a lot of sex. I can tell cause your vagina is loose.” I hate you… and me. *sob* Men need to know that women’s breasts come in different shapes and sizes. They need to know that women’s bodies are not these perfect canvases devoid of any marks except the occasion sprig of teenage acne. They need to know that vaginas come in different depths and sizes too. They need to know this BEFORE they have sex – BEFORE they get married – BEFORE they get their wife pregnant and get to see her breasts change and her body change for themselves – BEFORE they can hold a woman up to an impossible beauty standard and make her feel like fucking crap for not fulfilling it.
Sexual repression creates dangerous situations when you cannot rely on the ones you know and love to help you. Do you know how hard it was to get a dildo (given this was about 12 years ago) when you are under the age of 18? I asked a guy I only knew over the internet to send me one when I was just 16. He put it inside a teddy bear to get it past my parent’s mail inspection. There was more to that agreement, potentially dangerous stuff, that parents never want their kid doing. But that is how it is when you cannot go to your own family for help for. It is stupidly simple too: “Hey, I am fucking frustrated… have been for years, I need this.” Parents should not expect teens with thriving libidos to simply go without – I don’t care how fucking religious you are. Moreover, I am not just talking boys; this is from a female’s perspective. Get the damn girl a dildo or a vibe if she wants one – I do not care if she is under the age of 18 and a virgin and blah, blah, fucking blah. Virginity is just a fucking social construct used to suppress women while men have all the fun fucking anyway. It reinforces the taboo.
And while I am at it, what the fuck is with this societal belief that men are ‘sexual animals’ and women just want foreplay and cuddling. I recently saw one of those annoying pictures that said The Women’s Remote (image included for reference). Note that the arrow for sex is DOWN. This is one of those little things sneaking under the surface that constantly reinforces the taboo around female sexuality. Women do not have the same freedom that men do to just go and have sex without stigma. A woman who enjoys having sex becomes a slut or a whore because a ‘real woman’ does not enjoy such things. Oh, fuck that! Another one of those things shoving women in a bottle and telling them what they should and should not get from sexuality. She should NOT enjoy it. It SHOULD be a burden. In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it was considered the marital debt. Funny enough, in most of Chaucer’s writing about breaking of the marital contract, it was generally the wife going up a tree or rigging up some stupid trick so she could screw some guy. I love how Chaucer plays with sex – but different topic for a different day. It is easier to keep women from having sex if you tell them that they will not like it, that it will hurt, and that they are whores if they engage in sex outside of marriage. Talk about societal CONTROL. We have a right to have as much sex as we want and enjoy every second of it. We should be able to have sex with who we want, male or female, or what we want… hello toys. NO REPRESSION.
Back to sexual repression and safety. This is a more familiar story with condoms: younger teens who cannot ask their parents or another adult for condoms will just go without. Safety becomes a very big issue when sex is a taboo topic that you cannot address with those who supposedly want to keep you safe.
I write a lingerie blog. By doing so, I am breaking many societal taboos. Firstly, I talk about undergarments, specifically bras and panties but other styles of lingerie as well. For most of humanity, lingerie is intrinsically tied to sex. For some reason woman’s foundation garments – the things that prop up her boobs and create a barrier between her and her pants – are somehow elevated above a standard piece of clothing and become this holy grail of lust and desire. I’m sorry, but we wear these things every fucking day (except when we don’t). Why the fuck are my underwear prized more than a guys’ pair of underwear – if mine are going to be a sex symbol then a man’s should receive the same status! Same garment – just different genders. It is that whole fucking gender thing again, where women get turned into objects of desire (hello, person here), and thus their undergarments become an extension of that.
Years of sexual repression has not helped either. When I was in my teens, I got in trouble for having my bra strap showing. That one still boggles my brain – it’s a fucking strap. Everyone on G-d’s green earth knows a 16-year old girl is wear a bra so why the need for such bloody secrecy? Many of us know the rules: never wear a black bra under a white t-shirt. In addition, if you want your bra to disappear perfectly, you also never wear a white bra underneath a white t-shirt; you should use a bra that is more skin-toned. Why these obsessions with pretending our undergarments do not exist? Moreover, OMG… the looks a heavy chested woman gets if she goes braless – people think we are back in the 60’s. Well peeps, I have gone braless while running errands and the world did not end! Anyone speechless yet? *sarcasm* For teenagers this is toxic. I have heard so many stories of girls literally grabbing bras off the rack without understanding anything about fit. Poor fitting bras, bands that rode up, cups that overflowed, and straps that dug in did nothing but increase the hatred and dislike girls felt for their breasts and changing body. The same ‘let’s hide it’ mentality goes for visible pantie line – the bane of a woman’s wardrobe. As the line goes “with modern technology, there is no excuse for VPL.” SO? With our knowledge of what every woman wears – underwear – there is no need to hide a pantie line. It is not like someone is going to see the line and go “OMG you wear panties!!! I NEVER KNEW!” Now, if you want to get rid of your VPL or wear a nude-bra for aesthetic value then by all means – it should be your choice. That is my point: YOUR CHOICE. Every woman should have the choice. I personally love the look of a black bra under a white shirt but I do not like VPL so that should be my prerogative. I also love straps peeking out of in multiple directions so do not tell me to hide my straps. This all reminds me of one of my favourite Lenoard Cohen songs… Everybody Knows. Everybody knows that woman wear underwear and bras so let us get past this 16-year old boy masturbating in his closet with PornHub on his iPhone secrecy to do with lingerie.
I also break some serious social taboos on sexual repression by using photography of my own body to both artistically and accurately represent lingerie on a non-standard model size body. The whole – I photograph myself in lingerie – defies society’s desire to keep the female body under wraps. In addition, I do not fit into society’s definition of model-worthy material. I am short, I average a size 12 – 14, and my skin is marked with signs of having lived and grown (scars, stretch marks, etc). Do I care? Yes, actually, I do. However, not nearly as much as I used to care. I consider the blog personal therapy in many ways: I am learning to love myself.
The blog is really about me and about other women. It is therapy for me and it is geared towards sharing reviews with other women. I know how hard it can be to shop for lingerie online. Over the last few years, I have lived off blog reviews to do my own personal shopping because stores just do not carry my size or my preferences. My blog is giving back to the community – trying to help other women find good reviews that can guide their buying and give them a positive experience with lingerie, which is a very personal purchase for most women. We all need positive experiences like that – there is nothing so tear inducing as receiving a bra in your ‘size’ that doesn’t fit no matter what you do. You start to feel that there is something wrong with you. I want you to know there is nothing wrong with you – it is, and always will be, the bra’s fault. That is just fine. Try a different style.
My blog and others like it serve a greater good. It has been proven repeatedly that one of the greatest cures for phobias, racism, sexism, and any system of belief that is built on ‘differences’ and propagated by distance and cultivated by fear – is exposure. Increased exposure to the female body, to breasts, to stretch marks, to imperfections, to the female sex drive, and to lingerie will desensitize men and women. That does not mean we will not care – it means we will deconstruct the taboos surrounding the female body (and feminine undergarments) and be able to invest more time and energy into enjoying them.