For some reason, when you become intimate with people, they often feel like they have a right to say critical things about the way you look. Men have often felt this way about my body over the years: making comments about my weight, the various places in which hair grows and whether I remove it, the way I dress or carry myself, my use (or rejection) of make up. As if our intimacy constitutes a contract which grants them the right to correct me. Or perhaps, more kindly, like they believe I will welcome the opportunity for self-improvement that they’ve so thoughtfully opened up. Please, for the love of infinite fuck, understand this: I will never welcome these comments. You should never say these things. Your negative comment on my body is never welcome. My body is my body. If you don’t like it, don’t fuck it: that’s the deal.
CN: weight, body image.
It might shock some of you to hear this. Surely someone who cares about you should get a bit of leeway to offer suggestions? You see this issue crop up in problem pages sometimes, when people write letters to ask how to let their partner know they don’t find them attractive because they’ve put on a bit of weight or stopped wearing make-up or shaving their legs/face/any other thing. They protest that they’re only doing it because they want their partner to be their best self, and that it’s done out of care and kindness and love.
I don’t buy that.
Perhaps you’ll think me a bit inflexible but… I don’t think it’s ever acceptable to voice a negative opinion on someone else’s body unless they have specifically asked you for feedback in a way that means you will be letting them down if you lie. If I ask you a direct question, and urge honesty, then fine. But in absolutely no other circumstance should you ever comment negatively on my body.
Have you considered being prettier?
Throughout my thirty-seven years on this planet, I’ve had many comments and critiques from people I’ve loved (and even people I’ve merely briefly got naked with) about my body, my hair, my clothes, and my general state. Many. I remember almost all of them: they’re stamped indelibly on my mind.
Maybe you could get your hair cut more often? I hate it when you wear those shorts. I prefer it when you shave this bit. Your bum is a bit spotty at the moment. I just can’t get over how massive you are. You look so much better now you’ve lost weight/had your hair cut/sorted out your PCOS hair. Have you considered bleaching this/shaving that? I’ll pay if you want to get more laser hair removal. Just don’t wear the boots with the heels next time. Why don’t we go shopping together so we can pick you out some nicer clothes? It’s not that I don’t like you I just prefer more petite women. I was dancing with another woman and when you turned up and I saw you I just felt so disappointed. Maybe we should both lose a bit of weight. The great thing about smaller women is you can put them up against a wall and fuck them.
Not all of these moments can be summed up in a single comment. Once, a guy bought me a sexy bodysuit-type-thing and nagged me to try it on despite my extreme terror and discomfort. After a little cajoling and confidence-boosting from him, eventually I acquiesced. Downed a few cocktails for courage and put it on. Then, once I’d finally bitten the bullet and donned this slinky, too-small number, as I was wearing it and literally dancing for him, he scrunched up his face and said ‘nah, it’s not working: take it off.’
When these things happen, I am usually so desperate to please that particular man, or so hurt by his critique, that I never quite manage to articulate the only answer that will truly give me peace. But I think right now I finally have that answer. Here goes:
This is my body. If you don’t like it, don’t fuck it.
No matter how intimate I am with you, or how much I love you and treasure your opinion in other areas, I will never need to know that you’ve picked up on something about my body that you believe I should change. Ever.
Your temporary aesthetic pleasure is never more important than my life
I live in my body all day, every day. Being happy in one’s own body is one of the most fundamental components of a contented life. Body confidence, or even just body comfort, is a solid brick in the foundation on which the rest of my happiness can be built. You get to look at my body, sure. You might get to touch it or kiss it or stick your dick in it. If I’m lucky you might bend it over the sofa, splatter it in jizz and then feed it McDonalds, but you don’t have to live in it like I do.
I want to be able to embrace and love my body no matter what it looks like, and what it does. After all, short of finding some new technology that allows us to download our brains into brand new vessels, I’ll only ever get one. This is why it’s such a surprise to me when people – especially people with whom I am intimate, people who I thought cared about me – think it’s a good idea to critique it.
My body is mine. It is more completely and thoroughly mine than anything else on this planet. I live here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In a society that is constantly telling me it is wrong in some way – too fat, too hairy, not curvy enough in the right places, too saggy, too spotty, too marked or lined or weathered – it’s extremely difficult to cling to any precious pride in it for more than a few days. Feeling at home in my own body is a difficult thing to achieve and I work extremely hard to manage even the odd fleeting glimpse of contentment.
There is not a single second of any of my days in which your negative opinion on my body will be more important than my own basic need to feel comfortable in it. Ever.
The guy with the bodysuit who scrunched up his face might be surprised to learn that I still see that face sometimes. I can conjure it instantly. My brain churns it out against my will, any time I have to put on sexy knickers or try to take a nude selfie. That face is there whenever I try to be sexy, likewise those comments. Every time. They pop up in my mind to chip away at whatever temporary happiness I’ve found, so no matter how hard I work there’s always more to do – excavating my confidence from beneath the rubble left there by destructive men. The thing these guys don’t seem to understand is that their opinions hurt not purely because of my body: ‘fixing’ whatever issue they think they’re clever for spotting could never hope to solve the real problem. Because the problem for me is not my body. The problem is these men – men I have fancied, men I have loved, men I have often considered to be my friends – caring more about their temporary aesthetic pleasure than they care about my actual life.
In the moment it hurts because I feel ugly, but that hurt can be soothed with time and work. The long-term pain comes from knowing that I put my trust in a person who would value their fleeting gratification over my long-term mental health and happiness. Someone who thinks that my body’s capacity as a fun receptacle for their cock should outweigh its value as my 24/7 home.
Everyone’s allowed to have an opinion, surely?
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course, but you don’t have to tell me what it is. When it comes to size and shape and hair and style and clothes and any other thing, we all have tastes and preferences about the people we might want to bone. There’s a huge sidebar blog post that I might write some other time about the line between preference and prejudice – which in itself is fuzzy-as-fuck and I suspect often nonexistent. But right now I’m not going to shit on any man for having an opinion. Let’s pretend that’s all it is – an opinion. Some people like orange juice with bits, and some prefer smooth: some like women with curves and others prefer us to be slimmer.
You’re entitled to your opinion, but you don’t need to say it out loud. You especially don’t need to say it aloud to a woman who demonstrably doesn’t fit what you’re saying you want. What is the purpose of that? To change me? To hurt me? To keep me on my toes?
There’ll be people reading this thinking ‘OK, GOTN, but what should I do if I find this particular thing about you unattractive? If we’re in an actual relationship then surely I need to tell you! Otherwise how will you know?’ To which my reply can only ever be:
This is my body: if you don’t like it, don’t fuck it.
When we are together, you have two options: fuck me, or don’t. There isn’t a third option labelled ‘fuck me, but at the same time tell me how you’d prefer me to be different.’ That is not on the menu, my friend! If you don’t like my body: just go.
I mean this, by the way. I really mean it. It stands whether we’re casually fucking or deeply in love. If you believe you’re entitled to comment on my body in ways that will break my heart and trash my confidence, I would genuinely rather you just… went away. We all look like shit sometimes, so I don’t mean ‘torch a long-term relationship off the back of a fleeting gross-out because I have spinach in my teeth’: I mean if you find yourself frequently looking at me and thinking ‘she’s ugly – I should say!’, then go. Please for fuck’s sake: go.
The ugly I can live with. You feeling the need to tell me? I cannot. Go.
If what you want is a partner who meets certain standards of conventional attractiveness, you need to understand that I am not for you! Go have your opinion about shape or size or hair or wrinkles or skirts or skintight, silky black bodysuits with a woman who fits the criteria you care so much about. But please leave me alone.
It took a long time to fill the cracks in my self-esteem, and as you can tell from this post there are plenty more that could do with a layer of Polyfilla or six. It’s bizarre that some people think that they can add new cracks willy-nilly and expect me to be pleased with the opportunity for self-improvement. Even harder to compute that anyone would get with me specifically and think ‘yeah, this woman – this angry ball of unfeminine chaos and slobby horn and ambivalence about clothes and proud ‘fuck yous’ to the idea that she should shave her armpit hair? She must be desperate to hear my opinion on the ways in which her body deviates from societal standards of female beauty!’
Do you think I don’t know how I’m ‘meant’ to look?
Please take whatever negative comment you wanted to make, write it down somewhere on a piece of paper, and study it carefully. Consider that you’re planning to say it to someone who has had a far more intimate relationship with her own body than you have, for the best part of forty years. Ask yourself: is this something that I am likely to have just… not noticed? Or is it, in fact, more likely that I too have noticed this way in which I deviate from the norms of conventional attractiveness which are hammered into me every single day?
Perhaps I noticed and decided that I personally prefer the opposite. Perhaps I noticed and the expense, time, or effort involved in addressing it just didn’t feel worthwhile. Perhaps that particular thing is something I am consciously embracing because when I try to find men to fuck, this bodily ‘flaw’ and it’s ‘mentionability’ helps me filter out men just like you! Maybe I hate it just as much as you do, but I didn’t want to get trapped in dealing with it forever so instead I spent my energy on laying my sadness and self-hatred about it to one side in order to… you know… live my life.
This is my body. If you don’t like it, don’t fuck it.
That is the deal. There is no third option where you get to fuck me while also trying to hurt me into becoming hotter.
It’s baffling enough when dudes I’m casually shagging believe our intimacy allows them to give me this feedback, but ‘baffling’ turns to ‘genuine shock’ – like ‘jaw-to-the-floor, utterly speechless, almost fainting with shock’ – when men who actually know me, who say they love me, choose to nudge me towards gendered conformity. DUDE. Have you not been paying attention over the course of our relationship/friendship/torrid affair? Why are you wasting even a second of our precious time on this planet trying to tell me to ‘be more of a woman‘ as if I – a woman who has made a career partly out of ranting about the ways women are policed and judged and shat on – wouldn’t have noticed? How can you not recognise the irony of what you’re doing? When you tell me I’m too fat or hairy or scruffy to match up to societal expectations of ‘femininity’, what on Earth makes you think that I don’t already know?
If you don’t like my body, don’t fuck it
You want a conventionally attractive girl? Go find one. But if you chose me? Take responsibility for your fucking choices, my love! If you chose me then you chose a girl who wears jeans and jumpers and trainers because they’re comfortable. Who doesn’t shave her armpits because she hates the ingrowing hairs. A girl who applies eyeshadow with one clumsy forefinger and whose haircare routine is usually based on buy-one-get-one-frees. A girl who’s is sometimes fat and sometimes sad and sometimes broken and always – always – an absolute clusterfuck mess. Someone who is aggressively and consciously not trying to be pretty because she used to try so hard and still no one asked her to dance at the fucking school disco and she doesn’t want to take that pain again.
You want a hot girl? You came to the wrong fucking place.
So before you say something critical of my shape or my clothes or those hairs that grow on my neck because I have PCOS… consider just shutting the fuck up. And while you’re up there, muse upon just how precious and rare it can be to find joy in one’s body. Ask yourself how often you feel comfortable in yours, and how incredible it feels to achieve that fleeting happiness which comes when you’re properly content in it. Now understand just how cruel it would be for someone to whip that away.
This is my body. It is what it is. Our intimacy does not constitute a contract whereby I have to meet certain standards of conventional attractiveness in order to keep you happy. Because this is still my body. If you don’t like it, don’t fuck it. That’s the deal.
Understand that in order to get out of bed in the morning and smile at myself, naked and flawed in a mirror, I have already had to process and discard a hundred comments just like yours. Loving my body is hard hard work. But if I’m here with you, clad in lingerie or naked or dancing to Green Day in my knickers in the middle of the living room, I’ve done that work! Physically, by using my body and looking at it and forcing myself to appreciate what it does, and mentally by focusing on the nice things people say and the good things about it rather than letting the bad shit filter through. I’ve worked for this state. I’ve put the graft in. I found myself a tiny bit of confidence and joy in this fucked-up wreck of a body that stands before you.
What could make you think, for a single second, that the temporary pleasure you might get from fucking it gives you the right to snatch that joy away?
This is my body. It is what it is. Sometimes I’ll love it and sometimes I’ll hate it and most days, with any luck, I won’t have to think about it at all. It’s a vessel that carries me through life, and I need it far more than you do. So if you don’t like what you see here: please go.
As I said at the beginning: “I don’t think it’s ever acceptable to voice a negative opinion on someone else’s body unless they have specifically asked you about that thing, in a way that means you will be letting them down if you lie.” You might not believe that yourself. You may be reading this and thinking ‘God, I used to want to fuck Girl on the Net but it sounds like she’s actually a bit ugly/messy/fat/hairy/less-conventionally-attractive than I’d like, I don’t want to fuck her any more!’ and if so… good! Great! Wonderful! Take yourself out of the running! Bow out! Step back, take a seat, and be gone! If you read this and think I sound unfuckable, you should not try to fuck me. I’m not hurt by the knowledge that any individual man wouldn’t fuck me – it’s a big, wide world and there are plenty of you to woo – I’m hurt by the men who consider me ‘not good enough’ yet try to fuck me anyway.
There will be men who are baffled by this post. Who reckon it’d be easier for me to just shave/lose weight/wear make-up/buy better clothes/BECOME PRETTY, but what those dudes don’t get is that if what you want is a pretty girl, then I do not want you!
If you believe that being intimate with someone means you have a right to tell them how to change their body to please you, that’s your prerogative. Go find someone else who believes that and critique each other to your hearts’ content. But leave me alone.
Leave me in peace.
Leave me, I beg you, in tact.