What is a Body Supposed to Look Like?

I just had an OMG moment when I was going through Google Reader.  I have OMG moments fairly often when I’m reading Sociological Images, but this article in particular really spoke to me, and this excerpt was especially enlightening:

Think about how rarely you actually see a new (near-)naked body that is not a model or the equivalent (actress etc).  With new sexual partners, perhaps.  And if you’re straight, this is (probably mostly) going to be the body of the other sex.  At the gym perhaps?  But you’re not supposed to look, so you probably don’t look closely.  I realized when I saw this video (it probably lasted all of two minutes), that I had never really seen women’s bodies outside of the mass media. I didn’t know what women’s bodies looked like.  And I had been comparing my body to that of actresses and models.  I realized that day that things about my body that I thought were horrible deformities were completely normal.  Even though the bodies in that video were all different, they were also very similar, and my body looked just like theirs in some cumulative way.  From that point on, I knew I wasn’t gross.  A simple lesson.  And so important, but a really hard one to encounter in a powerful way.

I guess I don’t want to get too personal, but as a woman who has sex with other women… well, you’d think I’d be smart enough to connect the dots and draw some conclusion about the fact that I have never been with a woman who had a body that you would see on the pages of a magazine.  Maybe – duh – that means that most women don’t look like that (not that I’ve slept with “most women,” but you know what I mean).  You know, it wasn’t even something I had considered – it had never even occurred to me to compare my partners’ bodies to the bodies we see in mainstream media, so why did I automatically assume that that was the standard to which my own body should be judged?  And furthermore, all of those diverse bodies that I’ve caressed, held, tasted, and teased – I’ve thought them all beautiful.

I don’t think it’s until someone gives you a set of diverse bodies to look at and points out to you that you’ve been judging yourself based on a body type that is atypical that it really hits home – even if you’re not heterosexual and have seen a lot of women in various states of undress.


About Megan E. King

Supahfat, queerfabulous, feminist, writerly-type. Cat person. Loves dirty bass lines.
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