Toronto
3 min

Is your pussy pretty enough?

Queer women are uniquely critical of their cunts

I just spent three days at the cottage with five other queer women, and I realized something on the drive home. Certain kinds of honest body talk constitute a dying art in our culture. I am grateful to still have people in my private spaces who can normalize my shame even as they call me beautiful.

I wasn’t raised to discuss my pussy. Little girls are not generally encouraged to giggle about their pussies at sleepovers, to compare them or grab at each other’s crotches for sport. I feel like there was a time when we were headed that way; we read about it in women’s studies — the speculums and the communes and the Carolee Schneemann performances. But 20 years later what have we got? It hasn’t stayed cool to talk about what doesn’t seem “right” about our pussies. If we’ve learned anything it’s that we are expected to love them, to consider them fabulous just for existing. But I have never believed in unconditional love so why would I make an exception for my pussy?

Most women I know take their bodies pretty seriously. I can’t wear that, I haven’t shaved…. Don’t take my picture ’cause I’ve got a zit on that side…. It follows, I guess, that we take our pussies just as seriously. We don’t flash them out the bus window, pee in shared stalls or brag about their supernatural powers (well, some people do).

I am meeting more and more women who secretly think there is something abnormal about their pussies; the shape and size of them, how they look when they’re aroused, how symmetrical they are, if they ejaculate (or not) when they come. What do we as feminist, activist, well-versed queer women all think a pussy is supposed to look like? Where did the dialogue fall apart?

How much time do straight women spend considering how their pussy measures up to their best friend’s? I suppose if their boyfriends watch a lot of commercial porn they have some pretty ridiculous standards to contend with. But it feels sometimes like everything on a queer woman’s body is directly measured — against her partner and against her experiences with other women. So it makes sense that queer women have a unique, and uniquely critical, relationship with their pussies.

I am recognizing more readily that queer women haven’t escaped the beauty myth at all. We just apply it differently. It’s the anti-beauty myth for us — don’t admit you hate your facial hair, your little boobs or your pussy. You’re supposed to love it, or not give a shit what you look like! Just because. Well no, we’re not going to show you how to do that. That’s so 1970s.

Why can I accept that my fingerprints are completely unique, that my eyes and my nose are amalgamations of a tumultuous history that deserves my love, and yet subtle differences between my pussy and someone else’s are magnified, scrutinized and inexcusable? Can you imagine people saying, “Oh, you have your grandmother’s pussy!” I can’t make my eyes blue any sooner than I can make my clit smaller or my lips less full. And I really love my brown eyes.

In some ways it seems like pussy power is old news, like we all know we’re different and beautiful, and friends are like flowers and all that shit. But if so then why do so many women have such a love-hate relationship with their pussies? Why do some of us still get self-conscious about the source of our pleasure? Queer equals feminist and feminist equals liberated and maybe we talk less about certain issues now because they’re not the issues feminists are supposed to have.

I’m not saying I don’t love my pussy. I view it the way I view so much of my body. I love what it can do but not what it looks like. I want to love what it looks like.

I came out thinking there was something wrong with my pussy, something indelicate, too wet or too dark. Sleeping with other mixed women and women of colour was monumental in helping me get over the sense that I was somehow flawed. It’s like every piece I struggle with; I can do the work, read the books, see the therapist but until I see hard evidence of my own normality none of it really sticks. It’s funny, isn’t it, how especially as artists we all want to be original but we don’t want there to be only one of us in the world?

A friend of a friend has naked playtime with her little girl once a week. They make puzzles, bake or read stories, and they do it naked. She is showing her child a safe context for experiencing her pussy without bathing it, having sex with it, flaunting it or criticizing it. I only hope it isn’t too late for me to gain the awareness of her seven-year-old; that my pussy is just another part of me, worthy of love and humour, and capable of propping up a book.