Feminism. Art. Porn. Sex.

Sum of our parts
March 18, 2010, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Feminism, Sex | Tags: , , , ,

After years of good intentions, I’ve finally started reading Naomi Wolf’s famous “The Beauty Myth”. Here’s a quote from early in the book that I related to my own personal experience:

“Since the fourteenth century, male culture has silenced women by taking them beautifully apart: The catalog of features, developed by the troubadours, first paralyzed the beloved woman into beauty’s silence. The poet Edmund Spenser perfected the catalog of features in his hymn “Epithalamion”; we inherit that catalog in forms ranging from the list-your-good-points articles in women’s magazines to fantasies in mass culture that assemble the perfect women.

– Page 59, Culture. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. 1990.

Reading this brought back another pleasant memory I have about a “friend” I had in my teens, Dickwad McGee. Remember him?

A little story…

Once upon a lovely, sunny, small town day a group of friends were hanging out together at a water park – Myself, my girlfriend Kate (not her real name), Dickwad and his sidekick. Let’s call his sidekick “Lumpyballs”.

Kate and I were wearing bikinis so Dickwad and Lumpyballs saw this as an open invitation to comment on our bodies. “Nice ass” said Dickwad as Kate and I ascended the stairs to a waterslide. Lumpyballs, being Dickwad’s biggest fan, started making the same comment. It became a recurring gag for them.  I can’t remember how I reacted, but I remember feeling both uncomfortable and… well, honestly? A bit flattered. I wasn’t a girl who got out a lot, I wasn’t used to compliments of any sort.

Later during lunch, Dickwad came up with what he obviously thought was an awesome question – “What bits of Jessie and Kate would you combine to create the perfect body?”. After some serious discussion, Dickwad and Lumpyballs eventually came to the conclusion that my tits and her arse would make a killer combination.

At this point, I was pretty mortified (and feeling insecure about my arse) but I hadn’t yet learned to be angry.  Not really. Wasn’t this the sort of conversation guys always had in movies? Wasn’t I flattered by the attention? Hadn’t I felt sexy and bold in my brand new bikini? I didn’t really know how to respond, I think I said “Fuck you.” in a joking manner but otherwise my memory is a blank.

These days, I hope that if I were faced with such a situation again, I would be angry. I hope I would show my anger.  Now I know I’m allowed to dress and feel sexy without having to face dehumanising scrutiny of my body.

Eventually, I broke off my friendship with these guys and am probably forever a bitch in their eyes.  Good.  I’ve realised something; Dickwad and Lumpyballs always knew that Kate and I were never going to be sexually interested in them and this made them angry. The things they did and said to us were their way of asserting power over us. Sadly, it worked. Happily, not for long.

22 Comments so far
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Hm I think a lot girls have had this sort of experience. Maybe some guys have too? I’m not sure.

Today I decided to go for a swim at the local pool since I don’t have access to the gym (I’m visiting a different city atm). I was feeling pretty good about since it give me a chance get my swimming skills up. But as I was walking to the pool I started to feel a little bit awkward, what if people (pervy guys) start staring at me and making comments? I usually don’t have this problem when I go swimming because when I go I usually go with someone else (usually my partner) and no one bothers me, but when I go out alone, say for walk sometimes guys like to make comments and I thought it might be the same at the pool. Luckily it wasn’t but I shouldn’t have to feel this way.

Comment by Kitty

Yeah I hear ya on that one entirely. I always feel far more self conscious and vulnerable doing stuff like that alone.

The only stories men have told me about being hooted and hollered at have been told with pride, but I’ll admit I’ve not discussed this subject with many men.

I’d be interested to hear if any men have had similar conflicted, uncomfortable experiences to what women face in these situations.

Comment by Nio

Sadly as my tits and arse are virtually non-existent, I haven’t been through this. Though I imagine it would be awesome.


I imagine this would be something that is likely more common with guys who wear speedos when going swimming. I also suspect this is, perhaps even just subconsciously, also the reason that most guys choose to wear the less figure-defining attire when swimming.

In an unrelated note, though it is possible to post here using an iPhone (as I am now), you might consider installing the WordPress iPhone plugin, which automatically formats your posts to a more suitable layout when people visit it on an iPhone.

Comment by Lus

Um I’m not so sure that the speedos thing would make a difference and I’m also not sure that men would chose not to wear them for fear of sexual attention from females. But maybe I’m wrong…

Cool idea about the iphone thing, how do I do that? Cheers!

Comment by Nio

Really interesting story, Nio. Really kind of cements the points you’re making – particularly for people like me who’ve never been put into that situation.

The only mildly similar thing I’ve had in the past has been having a female friend of mine in highschool reach over and pinch my bicep and tell me to flex. It wasn’t like I was being objectified; more like this was going to be some kind of masculinity test. Which I refused to humour her in.

I HAVE been hollered at before, but you’re right – it was never BAD uncomfortable, or at least not ALL BAD.

Actually, one time I was working the drive-thru window at McDonalds, and this cougar-style woman in her 40s came through in her car and asked my manager if she could buy me. That was just sort of embarrassing, but then this woman kind of put me on the spot and was murmuring quietly at me that she was serious and if I knew how ‘pretty’ I was. I just kind of winced and shook my head in a “That’s enough” way and eventually she drove around to the next window.

That made me feel really uncomfortable. I think because when you work the drive-thru you’re kind of trapped in this glass box, and in the Maccas outfit you’re already kind of infantilised if that makes sense? Like, even though I was 21 or 22, being in that shitty job, stuck in my glass box and being leered at by this older woman and her cackling friend in the passenger seat really made me feel kind of trapped and on display like it is when you’re a kid.

Comment by Wes

I agree with the comment below. I think your experience in the drive-thru comes pretty close to what it feels like and I think that comes down to the reversal of power in this situation. This women was displaying her power over you to her friend, a bit like Dickwad did to us.

Interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Nio

I’d like to thank you for sharing too. I think people should be aware that men can made to feel like this too.

Comment by Kitty

I think experiencing these kinds of things as a woman is very different from experiencing them as a man due to existing power structures. A woman has more to fear. Interestingly, Wes’s experience comes very close to what a woman might feel – trapped, infantilized, and on display.

Comment by Gore Gore Girl

Yeah I entirely agree with you, a woman does have a lot more to fear. But Wes’s experience certainly does come close and I think that’s due to the power structure in that situation. It’s interesting.

Thanks for commenting, I got a little gushy because I really dig your blog!

Comment by Nio

Aww, you’re too kind! Your blog is great, y’know.

Comment by Gore Gore Girl

Oh thankyou, means a lot!

Comment by Nio

Nio that was all a long time ago, me and Dickwad are happily married now and we forgive you.

Comment by Lumpyballs

You should have said the perfect man contains none of your features. Which happened to be true :)

When a woman shows she’s attracted to you that’s 10 times more sexy than just me being attracted to her, yet culturally the focus is on the later, and when you consider sex takes 2 this is out of step with reality and is unbalanced. I think this has evolved because you can see a mans erection but a womans erection is inside her body and so her desires are unannounced. This evolved cultural bias leads to the situation where beer belly 3 chins feels qualified to tell a beautiful woman her breasts are too small :) ha ha

My hopefully helpful suggestion for people like Lumpy and Dick is to imagine the women in your consensual fantasies are attracted to you or have fantasies where your being ravaged by women :) After a few years, or even months that can counter the cultural bias and bring about a rebalancing of your perception and place less emphasis on the exact dimensions of a perfect woman (statue) and more on the qualities of a living responsive partner. Anyway looks like everything turn out fine between you guys.

Comment by Jake

You know, I remember thinking that I could absolutely break them down, were I to comment on all their body features. They were pretty large guys with pretty large body issues. But I’ve always believed that it’s lower than low to shoot someone down by commenting on their “flaws”, especially when I believe people should be able to be comfortable in their skin no matter their shape or size. It would feel like I was playing their stupid game.

Besides all that, I was young, dumb and still worried about hurting their feelings or making them uncomfortable. Like so many women, I’d been socialised to be overly nice, to worry about other people’s feelings over my own.

Comment by Nio

Yes my lovely little Dick means everything to me.

Comment by Lumpyballs

Oh I wouldn’t want to do that either, but I don’t know why but I imagined them to be good looking and I got the impression they were thick skinned and insensitive and so the rebuttle would be taken as a joke.

Comment by Jake

Interesting, What gave you that impression?

Comment by Nio

I’ve been reading back to find out exactly why. I thought Dickwad was Dickwad McGee from your like a virgin post, where you 1st introduced him by saying you thought at one point he was totally cool and I think from the words totally cool at that point my imagination just made him goodlooking :)

Comment by Jake

Nio, I think I need to hear the story about how you dumped dickwalds friendship, I think that will give me satisfactions!

Swimming costumes haunt my happiness! I was about 13 or 14 in bathers around at my grandparents swimming pool for some family occasion, this was very common as we spent most of the summer around their pool. My body was in the middle of doing the puberty thing and I wasn’t skinny like a kid anymore. My grandmother noticed this and made a joke to everyone and then everyone made fat jokes (my mum and dad and aunty and brothers) it was so humiliating and I never swam in that pool again. My grandfather was the only one who didn’t partake, he told them all to leave me alone and for this I have special love reserved only for him, I’d give him a kidney if he wanted one, I’d give them a kidney ONLY if they needed one.

I really can’t stand be objectified in public spaces when going about my everyday business and I feel so stupid when I think about the things I’ve let slide because I didn’t want to be impolite. I shall tell you about a disgusting man in a park next time we catch up!

Comment by justaperfectday

Oh! Well I wish I had a good story about that but I think I basically just called them assholes on MSN, blocked them and refused to hang out with them after that.

And oh my God, that story makes me want to slap everyone who laughed at you – hard. Poor teenage you! I remember my own parents commenting on my puberty puppy fat and yes it was humiliating. I don’t know how it is for guys, but when you’re a teenage girl, puberty really is a horrible experience. Not only is your body doing things you never gave it permission to do but suddenly everyone’s talking about it.

You can tell me your disgusting man story and I’ll tell you about the young boys in America who were following me around, slapping my arse and calling me “titroll”. Wahey! We can work up enough angry rage to hold onto that no jerkarse will ever get away with such reprehensible behavior ever again!

Comment by Nio

“Now I know I’m allowed to dress and feel sexy without having to face dehumanising scrutiny of my body”

I love that sentence, it’s such an important point that I wish women would realise sooner – in the quote you used earlier there was a mention of women’s magazines and their habit of publishing content that isn’t exactly inspiring confidence in girls and young women… even right through to our political leaders, daft public commentary is made that implies a womans value is in her looks or sexuality. Feminism is still important & I’m glad I’ve found your blog to read your thoughts on it.

Comment by Kate

“even right through to our political leaders, daft public commentary is made that implies a womans value is in her looks or sexuality.”

Yep. Though I don’t agree with everything I’m reading in “The Beauty Myth”, I’m depressed by how much of it is still so relevant today.

Thanks a lot for the awesome comment, I’m glad to have you reading my blog!

Comment by Nio

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