I Don’t Love My Body And That’s Just Fine

CW: Mention of rape, suicide

Yesterday I went to the gym. I do this sometimes, with varying degrees of purpose. Mostly I do it these days to ward off a desire to murder myself. I’m also hoping to gain upper body strength for the day I need to punch a Nazi. I recently had a nightmare that I missed an opportunity to land a fist in Trump’s face as a result of a non-functioning arm. I’d like to avoid making that a reality.

Honestly, though, I probably wouldn’t step foot in a health club if shrinking wasn’t an occasional side effect of exercise.

So it was particularly cutting be on the elliptical, open OkCupid, and see this:

fucker

The first thing I did was try not to cry. Because fuck doing that in front of other humans.

The second thing I did was ship that screenshot off to my equally feminist besties. Initially I did this in pursuit of validation and comfort. Then I remembered that one of my comrades possesses a CIA-worthy penchant for gathering intelligence on people against their will and using very little information.

“Girl,” I wrote, “you’re good at detective work. Help me find his email address so I can ruin his life.”

“Where is he from?”

“His profile says South Korea.”

“Well,” she said, “That’s not helpful. I’m pretty sure I can only do people in America. I can catfish him for you.”

While catfishing might have been mildly amusing, it didn’t seem enough. I did something else, and I posted the following on Facebook, accompanied by the above image:

“I received this gem of a message while at the gym today. I don’t know this person, he is nothing to me, but still, when you have spent most of your life feeling unworthy and unlovable because of your body, this shit stings.

Ordinarily I would delete, block, and move on with my life. But this wasn’t simply someone lashing out for my refusal to acknowledge them. This perfect stranger in another country went OUT OF HIS WAY today to send me a reminder that I’m taking up too much space. That twinge of sadness and self-loathing gave way to white hot feminist rage.

So, I did the only logical thing. I played along. And I got his number.

+821027326084

He has Whatsapp. Do with that information what you will, Facebook.”

Ohhhhhhhh man, did my friends (and some strangers) come through. This dude threatened to have all of my electronic devices shut down if I refused to call a ceasefire. Which I guess is a thing he can do because he’s banging the ghost of Steve Jobs or some shit. (Just in case you’re worried, I didn’t tell anyone to stop and all of my vibrators remain in working order.)

I received a number of comments on that thread in the vein of “you’re perfect and amazing,” which is always lovely to hear, even if that wasn’t the point, and even as difficult as it may be for me to internalize and believe such whacky ideas. (Also, neither of those things and fat are mutually exclusive.) There was, however, another common theme in these responses that, while understandable, is misguided. And fucking exhausting to hear.

It’s the, “Don’t think about him, he’s not worth your time or mental energy.”

Look, I get it. This sentiment is not false. But it puts the onus on me not to be affected by hurtful messages. I already feel bad enough for feeling insulted by something that shouldn’t be an insult in the first place. (Though it’s not my fault that the word “fat” is weaponized.)

It probably surprised quite a few people to see me use words like “unworthy” and “unlovable” to describe myself. I’ve worked very hard to cultivate an air of badassery and not-taking-shitness, so I can see why someone like me showing even a sliver of vulnerability might be confusing or unsettling to some (not the least of whom is me… just ask my therapist).

But here is a fact: not hating myself is an uphill battle.

And that’s not my fucking fault, either. When we talk about women and our hatred for the meat bags we inhabit, we call this “body image issues.” As if these problems are born and reside only within us. As if they are something for us, individually, to work through. To get over.

Let’s set aside for a moment the cultural messages hoisted in my direction every day. It’s easy to say that because an advertisement isn’t directly addressed to me, it’s up to me not to internalize the message that I am not thin/beautiful/whatever enough. Happiness, after all, comes from within. (A bullshit argument, but I’ll concede the point for now.)

But that’s not all that’s happening in my world.

My freshman year of high school, I got my first cell phone as a birthday gift. One day shortly after that, I sat in the car with my mother and noticed I had a voicemail from a blocked number. I wondered if it might be whichever boy I happened to be crushing on at the time.

Instead, it was a voice masked in gravel that said, “Hello, fat ass, go die.”

As I’m sure was the intention, I grew quiet. When mom asked what was wrong, I said, “Nothing. I’m just tired.”

I never told her, or anyone, about that voicemail.

I’m supposed to love my body even when someone tells me it doesn’t deserve to be alive.

Here’s another story I’ve never told anyone:

After I was raped my freshman year of college, (and well before I had the ability to call it anything other than a one night stand gone awry) I spent a fair amount of time on my assailant’s Facebook page, trying to make sense of it all, and to find evidence that he was a good person. A few days after that night, an obituary-style post appeared on his wall, poking fun at him for sleeping with “bulbous women.” It was clearly about me.

I didn’t have sex for three years after that. My first foray into sober sex happened even later.

I’m supposed to love my body even when someone tells me it’s not even good enough to be violated.

A few years later, I stood in the basement of a pirate bar in Madrid, G&T in hand, trying to avoid the advances of a dude I simply wasn’t feeling. When he finally gave up, his smiley friend approached me, and got his mouth close enough to my ear to say, “You know, you are really pretty. But if you lost a little weight, you’d be perfect.” I looked down at my drink and imagined what it would look like in this fucker’s face. And in one of my most regretted life choices, I decided he wasn’t worth wasting the Hendrick’s on. Instead I simply I wished I’d never learned Spanish.

I’m supposed to love my body even when someone tells me, in no uncertain terms, that it’s inadequate.

This is why someone like me, someone who carries herself like a fierce warrior goddess, someone you would call a “strong woman”, can use words like “unworthy” and “unlovable” to describe herself.

This is how it’s possible for the words “you’re beautiful” to feel false even coming from a man who’s been inspired to put his hands over every inch of me. This is why, in the absence of hearing the words, “you’re beautiful” from the last man I shared a bed with, I have spent the last two weeks wondering whether his recent aloofness is a result of the puckered flesh on my ass that my jeans had been camouflaging. This is why, no matter how many times I do it, undressing in front of a new person presents a unique and terrifying challenge. This is why I have never come during my first encounter with anyone. This is why it injures me each time a person I date who “doesn’t want a relationship” magically finds himself in one a month later with someone much thinner than me.

The “love yourself” rhetoric just adds another layer of shit for me to feel bad about. Because I fail at it, daily. Hourly. And just when I get to a point where I think, “hey, maybe this is the shape my body wants to be, and that’s OK,” some cum stain reminds me that it never will be.

So, if I tell you that I’m feeling insecure and like a hideous sea witch, the right answer isn’t “ugh, stop, you’re beautiful.” If I show you an abusive message from a rando on a dating site, the right response isn’t, “it’s not worth your time, forget about it.”

It’s not my responsibility not to think about this shit when it happens. It’s your responsibility make this world one where that shit can’t happen.

 

I Missed You, I Promise

I’ve been a very bad slut, my friends. By this I mean two things: 1) I’ve been bad at being a slut (i.e., not sluttin’ it up enough) and 2) I’ve been bad at telling you about my slutitude.

I’m back home in the U.S. now, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do on this bad boy. Most of my days being back in America have consisted of trying not to cry in supermarkets at the overwhelming selection of yogurt, and remembering to smile and ask the bank teller how he’s doing because if I don’t I’ll be a horrible gremlin. It’s been a rough transition, but my mood has stabilized a bit and I’m starting to feel like an American human again.

First off, I’m sorry. Sorry for not writing to you since Scotland. Since we last spoke, I covered around 3,000 miles (~4,800 km) of Europe, kissed one more boy, and wanted to kiss dozens of others.

When I began this blog I had the hope, but not the expectation, that I’d gain a following. Yet I’ve done exactly that. Which is damn cool, so thanks. However it’s also terrifying. You’re a small yet loyal group, and many of you are my friends. Good friends. And I feel I owe you an explanation.

I wish I could tell you the lack of updates between then and now is owed exclusively to all the fun I was having. It’s not. The truth is, after I published the last update about my graveyard tryst, I experienced a mild meltdown.

This was nothing debilitating, to be sure, but I did panic about what this whole thing meant about me. What did it say about me as a person that I was sharing all of this information? What did it say about me that I wanted to share this information? It felt exhilarating to be so open about the details of my sex life, but it also made me deeply vulnerable.

And really, that’s the curse of being a slut: in the best of times it’s liberating and just plain fucking fun. At the worst of times it’s thankless and even isolating.

But still, it’s one thing to do it, it’s another to talk about it, and it’s something else entirely to publish it on the goddamn Internet. My internal regret monkey had a shit fit the day after I told you all about that blow-job.

If you don't get this gif, go watch Inside Out, then come back so we can be friends bc right now we can't.

If you don’t get this gif, go watch Inside Out, then come back so we can be friends. Because right now We. Just. Can’t.

Except this time it wasn’t over impulse-purchasing another vibrator that I really didn’t need. This time it was because I’d revealed to everyone with an IP address that I’m some sort of deviant. (Regret monkey’s words, not mine.) Not for gettin’ down, but for talking about it.

In the search for the origin of this fear, I traversed a long cold road through a land of judgment and things I’ve learned about being a woman. I wanted to know if this fear was grounded in any sort of empirical truth. Is it inherently, objectively wrong to share the details of my slutitude with friends and perfect strangers alike? As I Magellaned my way down to the depths of that nasty, drippy cave of a place where I store all the ways I’ve been socialized, I discovered that, no, prolly not. In fact, it might even be good for me and for other people. I probably learned this bullshit from a lot of somewheres.

When I got home I had lunch with my mother. She said, “I read your blog. Even after you told me not to.”

“Oh god,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said, “I should’ve listened to you.”

Indeed she should’ve. This morning I mentioned I was going to update it today, and she released a noise of abject horror and told me to please not bring it up again. I suppose that conversation didn’t help matters and probably has something to do with the struggle I’m facing at this very moment to birth this heaping pile of confession.

This fear was born from a giant womb of shame. It was born from myths I should’ve unpacked and gotten over in Women’s Studies 101 but that still sneak up and haunt me when I’m trying to get off or, like, write about them. Stupid shit like, “women’s pleasure is secondary to men’s.” Y’know, that stuff.

But then there was stuff that’s still eerily true.

Things came up like about how women are meant to be the gatekeepers of sex. I started thinking a lot about this and how much this has damaged me. (Please bear with me while I work through this shitty heteronormative view of sex/relationships and totally ignore a spectrum of sexuality for a second, sry, brb.) The idea that women are the ones who get the last word on whether or not sex happens at all.

“You’re a girl,” even some of my most well-meaning dude friends will say, “You can fuck whenever you want.” As if boobs are some sort of all-access pass to bang town. (They’re fuckin’ not, btw.)

Then there’s that awful joke/analogy that tries to explain away the double standard by saying, “A key that opens every lock is a great key, but a lock that can be opened by any key is a damn shitty lock.”

ew

What was/is bothering me the most, I think, is that I buy into this, try as I might to fuck as freely as I damn well please. Because here’s the thing: women may still the gatekeepers to sex, but men are the gatekeepers to relationships.

What I loved most about traveling was that it took the pressure off dating and the hookup scene entirely. This was good for me in a lot of ways that I’m sure I’ll cover at some other point when I get into the nooks and crannies of the dates and non-dates I partook in on my travels. (This shall be reserved for future, happier updates.)

I allowed myself to truly not give a fuck about the outcome of any social interaction. Because I’d be on my way to another country in any given 48-hour period. There was no time for attachment. The future was off the table. When I’m settled in a place, part of me is always hunting for someone to enter a pattern of “binge-watch Parks & Rec, fuck, repeat” with. And in those times, I worry about being too “easy.” I’ve hushed my libido on first dates to preserve my chances at securing a second. The worst part? That shit works.

So, maybe I get to decide when and where the pants come off, but I’m not the one who gets to decide if I’m worthy of meeting the parents. (For the record, I haven’t made it that far with anyone. And it’s damn hard not to wonder whether that has to do with my “carefree” attitude.)

I’ve decided from now on to always bang on the first date (provided I want to, that is) until I meet someone feminist enough not to give a fuck. Because anyone who would care is not someone I’d want to date anyway.

And even though I have to contend with this double standard from the people I fuck, the reason Slut Town is such a lonely place is because most of the judgment and slut-shaming I face comes from other straight, cis women.

To be fair, no one has said anything negative to me, or to my knowledge even about me. In fact, the general response to this blog and the way I conduct my affairs has been incredibly positive. Many people say, “You’re awesome.” A few have called me their hero. Nearly everyone laughs. This probably has something to do with my impeccable delivery. But I think most people laugh because the way I conduct my affairs is a bit absurd. Laughter is* born from a betrayal of expectations. That’s why we laugh out of discomfort just as we laugh out of joy. My friends will probably argue that they do expect this sort of thing out of me. However, being a slut and open about it is disruptive in a way. Therefore, it’s funny.

But I digress; the judgment I’m talking about tends to come in the form of sharp glances. It’s the sort of understated malice girls get really good at when we learn that we’re supposed to be nice to each other and we’re supposed to compete with each other. This judgment comes in statements about other women. Things like, “She has no self-respect.” Every time one woman calls another a slut with venom on her tongue, it poisons me. It poisons everyone. Because even though they’re “not talking about me,” that’s exactly what the fuck they’re doing, whether or not it’s their intention.

And you know what? This steaming pile of shit is still wrapped up in a white bow of privilege. Because even through all of this, as a cis white woman, I’m allowed to be more than my sexuality (if I’m seen as having a sexuality at all). While I’ve had a handful experiences when I felt exoticized, I’ve never once felt like I was reinforcing any stereotypes about my race by being sexual or being open about my sexuality.

You know what else? I don’t know what the hell to do about it. Except to keep telling my story with as much brutal honesty as I can. And fuck, if nothing else, it’s entertaining. And entertainment is useful. I have to believe that.

P.S. Update on the Crypt Keeper: He texted me a couple days later at 4AM with the following: “I’m sorry. I’ve been a dick because I thought I’d never get the flat to myself to fuck you but now I’m sitting here alone realising** I could be fucking you right now…”

Isn’t that romantic? I wonder how many goats his family has.

 

*I have no idea if this is true, but I’m trying to remove “I just think” from my lexicon.

**British spelling for historical accuracy

There Will Be Blood

897126-cherry-pie

As I enter my eleventh month of celibacy, I’ve received a scathing reminder that I am (still) not pregnant: menstrual blood. Praise Jesus, y’all. (And here I’d like to bid adieu to those in the live studio audience who are put off by periods. See you guys at the next post.)

To whom can I write to request a menstruation waiver? I think I (and lesbians worldwide) should be exempt from this event until I resume sexual activity. Because this thing is giving me absolutely no new information. At least when I’m getting laid regularly I have something to look forward to. When it shows up late I tend to miss it. If it shows up early, well, it’s a tad inconvenient, sure, but I’ll still graciously clear the coffee table and rustle up some snacks for my unexpected guest.

Now it just shows up like a friend who just can’t take a hint. Just like, “Hay gurl hayyy. Let’s eat ice cream and cry and poop like seven times in a day! Oh, and while I’m here can I ruin your fave panties? Thanks!” It’s like, read the room, Period. No one wants you here. No. One.

If I have to get it, can’t I at least excrete something fun? Like glitter. Or cornflakes. I’m going to start a Change.org petition to get periods amended. Who’s in?

By the way, if you’re new here you might be wondering why someone who calls themselves Train Slut hasn’t banged in nearly a year.

It’s self-imposed. Generally.

Last year I was getting it on pretty regularly with a dude I was sort of in love with I guess? It was the first time I’d ever slept with someone I liked and it turned out to be a bit of a mind-fuck. When it went south I went out with and subsequently boned one guy who was great on paper. It wasn’t bad but it was like every other casual partner I’d ever had: boring. Plus I was still hung up on this other dude and I was determined not to let the thing that made me get over him be another person. I put myself on a two-month ban and decided I wanted to wait until I found someone I could get excited about. Then two months turned into six and six into nine and I decided to go for a year. At first it was a matter of drive and desire. Now it’s turned into sheer determination and stubbornness. Just to say I did it?

andy

But you know what? Dry spell notwithstanding this has been one of the best and most productive years of my life. I did the Camino! I got into grad school! I started a blog!

However there is a piece of me that is terrified that I might not bang before my birthday and I’ll have spent all of 25 not having sex. There’s another piece of me that’s terrified I will never bang anyone ever again.

Maybe I’ll start taking applications, just in case.