"Sex with a woman taught me to love my body"

Paisley Gilmour
·5-min read

From Cosmopolitan

It was a lazy afternoon and my boyfriend Joe* and I were lying in bed, having just had sex. He’d been idly stroking my leg, but suddenly sat bolt upright and leaned over to the bedside table to grab a pen. Resuming his original position, he started scribbling on my leg. Across my calf, he drew a razor, and beside it were the words “SHAVE ME”. I looked up to see him beaming. “Now you won’t forget to shave your legs again,” he said. He thought he was being funny, but his words wounded me, cementing everything I had thought about myself and my body since I started having sex, eight years before.

That was with Alex*, an older stoner guy who would take me back to his mum’s, where his bedroom walls were covered in posters of big-breasted, tiny-waisted women. They would look down on me while we had sex, their hairless, slender legs spread to reveal perfectly pruned, tucked-in vulvas. I’d lie there, counting the ways in which I wasn’t them.

Photo credit: Stocksy
Photo credit: Stocksy

My boobs were barely-there tiny. My labia didn’t look anything like theirs. Even when I did shave my legs or armpits, the thick, dark stubble was back within hours. My thighs were athletic and muscular. I couldn’t even begin to compete with those women and Alex did nothing to reassure me – he didn’t compliment me, and we never talked about sex and whether I got any pleasure from it. So I made sure we did it at night, or with the lights off. If it was during daylight hours, I’d keep my bra or T-shirt on.

I’d hoped with Joe it would be different. We’d been best friends for years before we got together. But he only reinforced how I felt: that my body was wrong, and either needed some serious attention or to be hidden indefinitely so as not to cause any further distress and alarm.

And then, aged 29, after years of covering up and fumbling around in the dark, I slept with a woman.

I carried my hairy, small-boobed, chunky-thighed shame with me long after Joe and I split. It seeped into the fabric of my sexual relationships with men and had me doing the hands- over-the-tits shuffle to the bathroom after sex on countless occasions.

And then, aged 29, after years of covering up and fumbling around in the dark, I slept with a woman.

While I’d spent my early to mid-twenties thinking I probably wasn’t straight, I’d never really explored it. I’d casually dated women between long-term boyfriends, but nothing serious. So, when I got a girlfriend and we started having regular sex, I was again consumed by awkwardness and uncertainty. But, unlike my first time with a boy, with Megan* it was all about communication. We talked constantly about the sex we were having; what felt good, what felt even better. And with that came a closeness and intimacy I’d never had with a man.

When I undressed, she’d unashamedly look at my body in a way no one ever had, with affection and warmth.

From day one, without fear of appearing "too keen", she told me all the things she loved about my body. I’d stopped shaving my legs and armpits, and, to her, my body hair was a turn-on. After sex, she’d gently run her fingers over my hairy calves and say they looked so good it had inspired her to grow hers out. She’d grab my thighs, saying she liked how toned and strong they were. When I wore a top with no bra, a smile would spread across her face as she complimented the way my nipples poked through. When I undressed, she’d unashamedly look at my body in a way no one ever had, with affection and warmth.

Photo credit: Stocksy
Photo credit: Stocksy

A straight female friend once said to me that she couldn’t have sex with a woman because she’d be too quick to compare her body with theirs, that it would make her too jealous. That thought never once entered my head. Megan had always hated her body, too, from her wide hips to the soft, stretchmarked skin of her breasts. To me, she was delusional. I loved every inch of her. It was during these moments when we’d lie naked in bed, talking about our innermost insecurities, that I realised just what it meant to admire the parts of her that she wanted to hide. If I could look at those bits and feel only fondness, maybe the things I hated about myself were worthy of love, too.

Now it pains me to think about all the time I spent covering up, being cruel to myself and holding my body to account, using the standards thrust upon me. The parts I used to conceal are now the ones that my partners are most into. And to Joe, who drew that razor on my calf years ago, please know that I didn’t “forget” to shave my legs. I chose, and continue to choose, not to.

*Names have been changed

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