'ugghh mine is ugly, it's all stretched out because I had a baby...' I hesitated with my response, feeling uncomfortable and unsure of what to say. Then I finally responded 'oh please! no way! All genitalia is beautiful...!' but I wasn't sure I even believed what I had said. I was not sure why I felt so uneasy about the answer I had given her.
A number of months ago a friend sent me a text saying:
U kno wat? I've got a really pretty vulva. Ppl I've fucked told me, so I looked myself and I think so too!
LOL!That's amazing! I love when ppl love their vulvas!
I felt a strange sense of ease in agreeing with her about beauty, because we are supposed to love our bodies, it's normal. Right? These two separate conversations got me thinking about my own genitalia, and you know what? It is ugly and I don't always feel comfortable engaging with it. I was fooling myself writing all these wonderful words to describe some imagined flawlessness about my body, that I really didn't believe. It is discolored, my labia minora are two different sizes, and even worse sometimes its aroma catches me off guard like '...shit is that me?', sometime its itchy, has sores and bumps. Not cute. And you know what? I am learning (reaaalll slowly) to be cool with it being ugly. Mainstream narratives of self-love make me feel like I have to love myself in a very specific, kind of glazed over way. I have to learn to ignore my uglies and convince myself that they are in fact beautiful. Or else something is wrong with me. When I do not love myself at all times I am somehow deluded by false media representations, misguided and have a distorted view of reality. I need help. But nah, a more robust narrative of self love needs to be present and locating it in the many many ways that we are taught to feel undesirable/unworthy.
Coming into self love happens in so many different ways, whether in the reality of ascribing gender to genitalia, coming from body and gender dysphoria that can make our relationship to our genitals really fucking hard, for aesthetic reasons that suggest genitals should be and look a certain way, the locating of honor and worth to sex and genitals, navigating the realities of HIV/STI stigma or whatever else, thinking that beautiful=good and ugly=bad is a super narrow framing of self love that totally ignores the contexts that influence the complexities how we live in our bodies. However we work towards finding a sense of solidarity, peace and love with our bodies is always real and always valid. We should all be allowed to experience our bodies as we naturally do and have supportive spaces to talk about those realities - the hard, the wondrous, the pleasure and so on. To my friend who thinks their vulva is ugly, I am sorry for trying to convince you otherwise. Don't worry I am right there with you. Your vulva is ugly, my genitalia is ugly and it is what it is. Why not hold space to honour all the ways we feel about our bodies instead?