Bodies are assholes.
Anyone who says different is lying.
They hurt and they hunger and they exhaust and they NEED endlessly. Oftentimes the best that they give us is that they’re not actively asking for anything and so we can ignore them.
I’ve been reading Come As You Are.
One of the themes that has come up over and over and over again is that every body is perfect and beautiful just as it is, and in order to have better sex lives and less stress and less angst, we just need to learn to love our bodies.
Guess what Emily Nagoski: my body isn’t perfect and it isn’t beautiful, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been duped by a shitty culture (which I have been, but that’s a separate issue).
Let’s give an example.
I currently take a stimulant medication every morning. If I don’t take that medication, approximately 50% of the time my body will simply decide it NEEDS sleep somewhere between 2 and 5 p.m. It will sleep for 3-15 hours. Even if I sleep for 5 or 6 hours, I still sleep for a full 8 overnight. None of this has any correlation with sleeping less at night: I get more and more consistent sleep than any other person I know.
I miss appointments. I flake on friends. I skip important tasks. I miss out on time with my husband. It fucks up my life. It’s unpredictable, it’s a huge pain in the ass, and it absolutely is not perfect or beautiful. It’s annoying and frustrating and loses me money and time and opportunities. It makes me angry and sad. I do not like it.
Or another example:
I have chronic headaches. So far nothing in my life has been able to get rid of them for good. I manage them through massage and chiropractic, but that’s expensive, so mostly I manage them by trying not to get too stressed out, and Ibuprofen, and ice packs. It doesn’t work well. Last month I had a low grade headache for three weeks straight (sometimes it was more than low grade).
I am in pain a significant percentage of the time. Nothing about that is beautiful or perfect. It sucks and I wish my body were different.
In some strands of feminism and body positivity there’s this impulse to say that our basic state of being is one of joy and happiness with our bodies, as if all dissatisfactions come from culture. It’s a kind of weird version of the naturalistic fallacy: if we just accepted our natural relationship with our bodies we’d all be so happy!
Do these people not have bodies that exhaust too easily or create random pains? Do they not experience the frustration of a body that can’t do the things you ask it to, or that randomly decides it’s going to behave differently today than it ever has before (hey thanks ocular migraine that appeared once a month ago and has never come back)?
Embodiment is the way that the world acts on you and it’s often not pleasant. It’s sweat and stank (and hey Emily? Not liking butt stank doesn’t mean that I’ve internalized cultural messages about disgust and shame around sex, it means that sometimes bodies sweat and create bad odors), it’s being too hot or too cold, it’s hangovers and sore muscles. It’s all part of living as a body and it’s a hugely mixed bag.
A lot of the time the most we expect out of our bodies is that they’ll shut up enough that we basically forget they exist. Times of active physical pleasure are not the norm. Maybe that’s part cultural, but it’s also because it takes time and effort to create physical pleasure. It takes resources. It takes self-awareness and knowledge of your own body. It’s WORK.
My body isn’t perfect, and I don’t love it. Right now I accept it. I may never love it. I definitely will never think it’s perfect, and I don’t actually even know the point of thinking that it’s beautiful (what a useless value anyway). Acknowledging the reality of our frail bodies, dealing with that reality is far more radical and body positive than pretending it’s all sunshine and roses.
Saying that everyone can and should love their bodies can have some serious unintended consequences, from further alienating disabled folks and those in chronic pain, to creating a new standard of perfection that says if you don’t love yourself you’re not living up to the standard. For some people, it can even go so far as to feel like it’s your own fault if you feel bad about your body. Even though we live mired in a world of sex negativity and body shaming and absolute bullshit, somehow you personally should have the astounding ability to stop listening to all of that, ignore any real frustrations you have with your body, and live in perfect harmony.
Nah, that ain’t it.
Bodies are hard. Being embodied is one of the hardest parts of being a conscious being. It doesn’t really make sense and none of us really get how this part of us that we think of as us fits in with this meatbag that we’ve got.
So fuck my body. Fuck yours too. Sometimes they’re assholes. But fuck them in the way that you’d say it to a friend you love but who sometimes does the absolute worst things. Fuck my body in the most complex way I can imagine the word fuck. Let it fuck. And let it fuck up.
Have the relationship you need with your body.