Let's Get Naked - End Censorship of the Female Body

The larger scope of the issue stems with the long held taboos of women’s bodies and biological capabilities   Photography by Megan Leigh

The larger scope of the issue stems with the long held taboos of women’s bodies and biological capabilities Photography by Megan Leigh

I posted the artwork in the image below on my Instagram page, and I got such a great response both in the comments and via direct message. I wanted to expand on this topic and shed more light and education onto female censorship, the importance of having a relationship with your natural form and how this can facilitate love for yourself in ways you might not have considered previously. 

I will start with my own epiphany about nudity and how our society and culture shapes the ways we think about the naked human form. 

While in Iceland, I visited an established natural hot spring where you are required to get naked in the communal showers before entering the water. I was gripped with such a deep panic, what I really about to strip naked in front of strangers? I noticed another woman strip down with ease and without worry, like it was the most natural thing in the world. It was in that exact moment that the breath was metaphorically knocked out of me. . . I realized that it was the most natural thing in the world. You can read the full story here

Artwork by Melodie Perrault

Artwork by Melodie Perrault

As women, were we born knowing that we would merely be seen as an object? An accessory? Something to collect? In our culture, the over-sexualization and censorship of the female body is incredibly dangerous. Based on a 2010 report by the American Psychological Association (APA) on the sexualization of girls in the media, exposure to media among youth creates the potential for massive exposure to portrayals that sexualize women and girls and teach girls that women are objects. In a study conducted in 2008, researchers at Wesleyan University found that on average, across 58 different magazines, 51.8 percent of advertisements that featured women portrayed them as sex objects.  When women appeared in advertisements in men’s magazines, they were objectified 76 percent of the time.

Censorship of the Female Body

When you hide something, you build up a natural curiosity, right? It is why we surprise our loved ones with gifts, it is why we feel anxiety on the day we know we are getting our test scores back. In this same way, the very act of concealing something from public view makes it seem like it’s wrong. You build up curiosity; you are effectively creating hype and hysteria even if what you are hiding doesn’t warrant it. Such is the case when it comes to censoring women’s body parts, menstrual cycles and biological capabilities.

The issue lies within the fact that social media platforms are censoring based on gender, and therefore reinforcing dangerous cultural narratives. Social media's response is a reflection of the way society as a whole views these issues. When a photo is removed for a woman breastfeeding, it is being reinforced that this is something to hide, that it is unnatural. When a photo is removed of a topless woman, it is being communicated that female breasts are meant to be viewed for pleasure and entertainment only. When photos of pubic hair sticking out of bikini bottoms are taken down, we are being told that body hair is shameful and dirty. They are advocating that as women we are meant to be shaven, covered and hidden. 

"I'm so fuckin' sick and tired of the Photoshop" - Kendrick Lamar, and me

I know that media perpetuates the image that we are to be polished, perfect, ageless, hairless, shiny, fit, beautiful objects. You are allowed to be saggy, hairy, menstruating, squishy, unwashed and naked and none of that makes you less beautiful. None of that makes you less feminine. None of that makes you less human. None of that makes you less than whole. 

Poem by Rupi Kaur

Poem by Rupi Kaur

I do agree that modesty empowers some. It empowers me in certain situations, like when I wear a business suit or even a maxi dress. I am not here to tell you that one or the other should make you feel a certain way. We are all at different points in very different journeys. I honor and respect your journey. Consider this, though, our minds are programmed to assume that when I say nudity or modesty that I mean something sexual. Sometimes that is true, and I will get to that. But mostly, I just want you to feel empowered and comfortable in your most natural state of being, naked, vulnerable, open, perfect. Ask yourself how you feel about nudity and modesty and then dive deeper: why do you feel that way, is that how you really feel or what someone told you? There is no right or wrong, just leaning in, listening, learning. 

My body is my home

Nudity is our most natural state. A body is just skin, just a body. I see my body as my home, my protector. What happened to me in that Icelandic locker room can happen for you, too. We can decide to shed the layers of our clothing but what you might find is that this enables you to shed metaphorical layers as well. What has it done to us, mentally, growing up being told that our bodies are merely for viewing, for pleasure - pornographic? We need to take back our right to love our bodies for exactly what they are - a body.

“To know someone deeply  is to know a universe  contained in skin.”  ―  Victoria Erickson

“To know someone deeply
is to know a universe
contained in skin.” 
― Victoria Erickson

Nudity Can Be Sexy

Sometimes, though, nudity is about feeling sexy and bringing back your power in that way. If you want to sexualize your body then that is YOUR choice, not one that should be made for you. In fact, I would encourage spending more time naked. I explain this in my eBook in greater detail but essentially I found that the more time I spent at home naked and sleeping naked, the greater my connection to my sexuality became. I just genuinely felt sexier spending more time being naked. You just can't expect to accept the gaze or the touch of someone else on your body, if you aren't comfortable with it yourself. 

I want to challenge you! Choose something that is a part of your typical routine, and then do it naked. This can be a yoga practice, stretching, cooking a meal, brushing your teeth, sleeping - whatever you would not typically do naked, choose that and try it out for a week. See how you feel, check in with yourself emotionally, write about it. You might just find that you have been able to connect with yourself (and with a partner) on a deeper and more meaningful level. 

My Experience with Menstrual Cups and FAQ

My experience with menstrual cups as well as a Q&A - Pin to read later!

My experience with menstrual cups as well as a Q&A - Pin to read later!

Have you seen or heard about menstrual cups? Maybe you already use one and love yours, this post isn’t really for you. But if you have seen them and are curious to know more, read on!

I have been hearing more and more about menstrual cups over the past year. One menstrual cup, if properly cared for, can last up to ten years! Think of all the waste you are eliminating by switching to a cup! AND all the money you will be saving. AND all of the time you will be saving by avoiding a bathroom break every other hour. You will no longer have to worry about things like toxic shock or unwanted chemicals sitting inside your body.

 I was always skeptical to try menstrual cups and never looked into it any more than a passing conversation. I read a couple of blog posts about them that piqued my interest. As I become more and more of an environmentalist, I realized I couldn’t ignore the issue any longer as I emptied trash can after trash can during my monthly periods. I was skeptical about making the switch mostly because I have an IUD and had read somewhere that you shouldn’t use a menstrual cup if you have an IUD because it could dislodge it. After doing more research and talking to real women that have IUDs and use menstrual cups, I placed my order.

My Personal Experience

I read many articles about different brands and decided that I would order the MeLuna. They didn’t send me a cup for free or anything like that, I paid for it with my own money. I know that my cervix sits up high, so I went with a larger cup. (*edit* I wanted to clarify that the only reason that I know that my cervix sits high is because my OBGYN told me) I also decided to get the Classic in purple and with the stem handle. The stem is about an inch long but because my cervix sits so far up, I am really glad I opted for this. You can cut it, if its bothersome for you or choose another of their handle options. I love how you can easily customize the MeLuna. I am really pleased with my purchase! I may end up getting the more athletic (firmer) material in the future because I did notice that when I worked out vigorously, I had some leaking. But, it wasn’t enough to bother me so much that I am going to order another any time soon.

I boiled the cup before I used it for the first time and that’s all the cleaning that I did. I also read in this same blog post that you should pee on your hands as a method of cleaning. It makes sense, because that is the same advice we get about having sex. Go pee when you are done! That is definitely a tip I would suggest to you. Sure, you are literally peeing on your fingers. But I would rather pee on my hand and wash it than have to deal with an infection. As far as placement goes, there was definitely a learning curve. I had to play around with how to fold it. I read that you should do Kegel exercises to get it in place, and that is a tip I would definitely recommend. I also do some squats once I get it placed just so it gets shimmied around properly. This might sound excessive but it isn’t that bad. I did have a minor freak out one morning when I couldn’t get it out, but I learned that I just needed to be a little more aggressive and less dainty with my removal. I would advise gripping it from the base of the cup rather than the stem. It’s easier to control that way. I didn’t really clean it beyond rinsing it off with hot water. I’m not really what you would call an overly hygienic person but for what it’s worth, I’m also never sick. Do with that what you will. . .

Store your cup in a bag like this, not something airtight!

Store your cup in a bag like this, not something airtight!


Q&A

I asked you guys on Instagram if you had any questions and got lots of feedback! Below I will list some questions that I had as well as some questions that you all asked of me.

Is it messy?

Kind of. I definitely would say it’s more messy than tampons. It’s about equally messy to a pad on your heaviest day. Women are often taught that their bodies are gross, especially during this time. Your period is one of the most natural things in the world. Yes, you will be getting up close and personal with your vagina. Yes, you will probably get some blood on your fingers. In my opinion, this is a wonderful exercise in self-love and acceptance.

Is it painful or uncomfortable?

It can be, if it isn’t the right cup for you. Or if it isn’t placed correctly. I had a couple of moments of uncomfortability but after taking it out and putting it back in, I realized it was just placed weird. The cup should not be painful for you, if it is, I would recommend getting a smaller cup. I have read that The Diva Cup is often not the right cup but the one women in the US most often purchase. They only come in one size, and for this reason, I recommend MeLuna or another company that has more options in sizing.

Can you wear it for a long time?

Totally! It depends on your flow but even on my heaviest days, I was only changing it twice! I wouldn’t recommend leaving it in for any longer than 10ish hours though. Check with your particular brand and see what they recommend.

Can I wear a menstrual cup and practice yoga?

Apparently, yes. I practiced 3 hours of yoga with mine in without any issues or leaking. The cup works by creating suction (kind of like when you were in elementary school and would put a cup over your mouth and chin and it would stick there for eternity) so you don’t need to worry about getting upside down and leaking everything as long as it was placed correctly to begin with.

What am I supposed to do when I am out in public?

Admittedly, I haven’t had this issue yet. Because I was only emptying it twice a day, this was easily avoidable. If you find that you will have to empty it in a public bathroom, I would recommend carrying a water bottle with you to rinse it off or just use the sink if you don’t care to.

Do I still need to wear period panties?

I would, at least for the first couple of months with the menstrual cup. Once I get into a tried and true rhythm, I may not ever have to own period panties again! But for now, I don’t want to accidentally ruin my good ones.

Is it worth the hassle?

In  my opinion, yes. And it isn’t really a hassle once you are used to it. I am lazy AF and the menstrual cup was made for lazy people. I spend so much less time thinking about my period because I can go so long in between having to empty the cup. I also feel like I have cut down SO significantly on the waste that I am putting out, that alone is worth it to me. I had a horrifying experience with a tampon once and thought I was going to die, so the fact that I no longer have to stress about the chemicals being leached into my body is amazing.

Lastly, I certainly recommend doing your research. Find what you think will work for you, give it at least 2 cycles to really get into a groove. If after that, it still isn't your jam, at least you can say that you tried.