Words || May Thet Naing
He looks up at me and asks if I’m a virgin. Not necessarily. I’m just nervous because it’s my first time having sex with the lights on. While I am absolutely sloshed at this point, I am very aware of the fact that my partner is stone cold sober. It is a strangely reflective experience. What happened to the good old days in Year 8 – when boys would happily beat their meat to a saucy shoulder pic over Kik, and still say thank you?
I’m jolted back to the reality of the situation when Patric – without a ‘k’ – notices the scarring on my body. He pauses and asks why my stomach has been “butchered up”.
In early June, I underwent surgery for the removal of an ovarian cyst. It was a super routine procedure, and having previously undergone brain surgery for the removal of other tumours, it wasn’t something I was unfamiliar with. This doesn’t change that my post-surgery body is something I’m gravely disgusted by and have been struggling with. Even months onward, my body is still bloated, swollen and sensitive in areas I had previously taken for granted.
Navigating this new space is very strange. Validation I seek from partners is often knocked back, and this is often a result of the way my body now looks. The relationship between body dysmorphia and sexuality is hard to navigate and come to terms with. In particular, unpacking the compulsive behaviours that are associated with body dysmorphia – whether that show itself as hyper-sexualisation or substance abuse. In my case, I often over sexualise myself as a means of coping with my body dysmorphia. This over sexualisation is more so about validating myself, than it is about feeling genuinely attractive and confident.
Confronting and acknowledging my compulsive sexual behaviour, and its transformation into impulsive or reinforced habits, has been a difficult journey. Especially considering that body dysmorphia is strongly associated with various mental health comorbidities, a phrase which notes that one mental health variation in the root cause of several smaller mental health variations. It demands my attention, evoking shame within myself, and often seeps itself into the different aspects of my daily life
I see my psychic more often than I see my psychiatrist, and we often chat about why I feel the need to over-compensate by agreeing to acts I normally would not be okay with. Is it the loneliness? Is it the validation? Is it because the only thing sloppier than me on a mid-week bender is the way I give head?
All too often, I’m at the local heritage park with a boy who doesn’t ever plan on bringing me home to his parents. He uses his skateboard as a pillow, my hands are covered in fruit juice, and I’m trying to remember how the grapefruit technique was meant to work again. The forecast for this Tuesday evening in our beloved Hills Shire Council is 22℃, slightly cloudy, with an 80% chance of head from yours truly.
We’re twenty minutes in, he’s having a ball and telling me that I’m “at least a 6 out of 10”. So you must know that I’m having a great time, because if a man can’t give me an orgasm then the least he can do is provide me with self-depreciating validation. Fast forward a fortnight, and as per usual, we’re not talking anymore. After the first four or five times he called for a raincheck, I think I’m starting to finally take the hint that he was perhaps not too keen on me.
The point of this story is not that I won’t get a text back, rather his comment is something that I will carry with me for a while. My inner monologue swings from “Am I a 6 out of 10 in good lighting?” to “What about if I had long hair?”. The chances of another tumour appearing means that my hair needs to be kept at a conveniently short length, yet another way in which my body doesn’t fit the ideal.
Of course it is also important to acknowledge that much of my body dysmorphia isn’t openly visible, and pop-culture has provided me with enough outlets to ‘fix’ and ‘alter’ myself. The scars of my brain surgeries are covered by my edgy bangs, and the scars of my ovarian surgeries are covered by clothing. However having to schedule in my waxing, anal and vaginal bleaching in before a dick appointment gets tedious. Especially because most of my body dysmorphia isn’t openly visible, and is strongly related to my sexuality and sexual interactions. These spaces provide a medium for my flawed body to be seen by another person.
My body dysmorphia is only worsened by colourism in our society, particularly with dynamics within interracial relationships. The one and only time I had sex with another brown person was indescribably liberating. Especially given how popularised pornography is, everyone wants pink tits and even pinker labia. The pigmentation on my body is not only normal and natural, but also not subject to change to appease the masses. Colourism literally and metaphorically has me bleaching away my melanin for sexual validation. The pressure to have lighter private parts is both a racial and cultural issue that’s prevalent and sustained within coloured communities as well as externally.
If I’m honest, finding healthy coping mechanisms to foster self-love and body-appreciation has been the most difficult part of having my body torn apart by Dr Frankenstein. This may sound like a quote from a basic fitspo account, but looking and feeling healthy and confident in my own body has never been a higher priority. I’m learning to do this in ways in which I don’t find myself crawling back into bed with or buying drugs for Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John to learn their holy gospels.
These boys don’t have a verified badge on Spotify, but I swear the SoundClout™️ I’ve gained purely by association is great for my personal branding. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself and my darling mother as I video call her while climbing out the first-story window – of yet another emotionally unavailable white boy – feeling somewhat more attractive than I was when I climbed in.
Despite the great strides society has made in terms of gender equality and body representation. It sometimes feels like society has just gotten more creative in building hoops to jump through, especially for women of colour. So moving forward, I’m making a pact with myself. Instead of scrubbing my skin until it bleeds, this “6 out of 10” will be committed to acknowledging, addressing, and working on the different intersecting aspects of my body dysmorphia one step at a time.