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Navigating the Minefield of Sex, Body & Gender

November 12, 2009

privacyA friend of mine asked me today to write a more in depth blog post about pubic hair: how people groom, shave and wax, do girls do it more than guys and stuff like that. I figured I should poll some friends and ask them if they 1. altered their pubic hair and 2. what methods they use. Perhaps I over stepped some boundaries when I sent quite a few people the following facebook message:

Hey, 

I’m doing a very informal poll for an article I’m writing on pubic hair and it would be very helpful if you could answer these questions for me. 

  1. Do you alter your pubic hair on a regular basis?
  2. If yes, do you trim, shave, wax, etc?

Olga

Most people responded with very short answers that contained a yes, or a no, and the method used. One friend sent me a fabulous account of all the changes this habit has undertaken in her life and another asked whether it was confidential and suggested I might be more forthcoming with details in further messages. I agree, I didn’t really put much thought into my email, and I have to admit I pretty much copied and pasted the first message I sent out, which happened to be to a friend who wouldn’t be bothered by the directness of my approach and would automatically know it was for this blog.

I’m lazy. It was taking much too long to individually message everyone with a personalized message, although I’m glad I didn’t send out a mass email, I’m sure the responses wouldn’t have been so forthcoming in that case and I might have had a few people upset with me. It has come to my attention, as of late, that I’m a very direct person and I generally dislike having to explain or justify myself. Trust me, when I say that this doesn’t always make everyone happy, but for some reason I continue to take it for granted that I don’t have to explain or justify myself. 

I discovered a number of things while going through my list of friends and picking out the ones who would be graced with my invasive questioning 1. there are some people whose grooming habits I just don’t want to know about, ever! 2. I need more friends or I’m going to have to start polling strangers on the street and 3. I thought girls would be more forthcoming with their answers, but I was wrong. 

This is indeed a “vaginocentric” blog and I understand that the way in which I approach this subject, “in such direct and carnal terms”,  is not every one’s cup of tea. One of the things I have struggled with while writing this blog, is the fine line between talking about sexuality (especially in a feminist context) and making assumption about gender in the process, which is something I would like to avoid, “since there are of course a large number of things beyond sexuality that determine femininity, feminism, and gender”.  I just haven’t quite figured how to do that yet. 

It is very difficult terrain to navigate. Most of my posts contain a fair amount of let’s say, a confessional style of writing, which in-of-itself is full of assumptions and can’t always be all inclusive no matter how hard I try, since I cannot negate the reality of who I am. Let me tell you, that when addressing all the subjects that I have been writing about, I become very aware of the minefield that is language. I identify as a woman, and I have a cunt, which I associate with my identity, but it is very difficult to express that in way that is not alienating to people and/or women who don’t have one, because everyone has a right to that identity. I mean, right there, was that something very insensitive to say? I don’t know and the use of this kind of language is something that concerns me. What is the best way to approach the subject of sex, body, and gender? Is there one or do we need to create a new language?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz permalink
    November 12, 2009 10:51 pm

    Hmm… Sometimes I wince a little at my replies to your emails cuz I’m just so fucking honest. Honestly, I love talking about my pubic hair. It’s like a hilarious little biography about a seemingly innocuous but ever present aspect of my life. I couldn’t just give you the goods without a context. Every bit of my lady parts has, what I think, to be a thrilling history. Still, I sometimes stop and wonder if I should be so blatant and open. Will it ever come back to me?

    My post about the coloposcopy haunts me. Sometimes I wonder if someone will just google it and find me and judge me. But I wanted to stay open about it because I think it’s something we shouldn’t be ashamed of. In fact, women, get your pap tests!! If it makes at least ONE woman out there get herself checked out, I’ve achieved something great.

    Still, some people are shy to discuss their personal lives. Especially their sexual lives. Friendship does not imply full disclosure. And while remaining true to yourself and being direct is one thing, if you want to reach out to people and allow them to reach out to you, a softer approach might be more useful.

    For one, tailoring e-mails is always good. Tailoring an e-mail is making something NOT spam, which we are bombarded with all the time. Or, at the very least, making that mass e-mail more approachable. Like… “I will be beginning a series of surveys for my blog [link to blog], would you be interested in participating? [Enter brief summary about the kinds of surveys in question] and ALWAYS make 1. confidentiality clear and 2. the option to opt out of certain, disquieting questions easy as pie.

    Oh and get it out of facebook. That shit isn’t owned by you but them and they can access that stuff. I’m sure there’s a polling tool on wordpress. Just use facebook for word of mouth.

    Just a thought 😉

  2. November 12, 2009 11:30 pm

    In my books, there’s no such thing as being too blatant and open (which you know from our many conversations at work), unless it’s my parents. Kidding, almost.

    You make a good point about tailoring emails, and it’s definitely something I will do in the future.

    You’re blog post was amazing, if that helps.

    I was thinking today, how it’s strange that in high school people tell you not to care what others think, but then when it comes to establishing your life, getting a job, having a career, etc the focus shifts into, especially nowadays with social networking sites like facebook and twitter, be careful of what you put into the world, because people will judge you for it. What happened to not caring about your image? Was that all bullshit they only spouted to those of his who didn’t fit in to make us feel better about what others thoughts of us by telling us it didn’t matter?

  3. Kathleen permalink
    March 18, 2011 8:59 pm

    Pubes. What not to be straightforward about?
    LOL, I wouldn’t worry about. I’m sure all of your friends still love you regardless of your forwardness.

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