Anon

My parents made me feel ashamed to have a female body. So much so, that every time I took off my clothes to get into the shower, I felt like I was committing a crime. I feel disgust and shame. When I feel depressed, I skip having a shower because I find my body repulsive. Puberty was awful, I still hate the way my body grew extra lumps, hair and started bleeding because it made my parents suspicious of me. My mother was terrified and upset about my body changes at ten years old and wondered if my body was malfunctioning in some way. They thought I was ill so they sent me to the doctor. The doctor said:
“That is just a problem that all girls have growing up.”

My breasts, menstrual bleeding and discharge, normal female bodily processes, were viewed as “problems” by a medical professional.

Ever since I was little, I was told to cover myself up because my parents said that people could be arrested for taking their clothes off, also that women could be raped by men if the women wore bikinis and didn’t cover their arms.

At the beach, a male relative said that I had to cover my non revealing swimming costume wearing self up with a towel before I could talk to him.

“Put a towel on for goodness sake!” he’d shout as I came out of the sea: “People could be watching you.”

I watched in bewilderment as he would cover his own eyes as he shouted at me: “I can’t look at you if you don’t have a towel on.”

“But I’m wearing a swimming costume.” I said.

“It makes no difference; you have to put a towel on now. I don’t want to get arrested for looking at you. It’s rude if you don’t wear a towel. There are nasty men out there who could attack you so put your towel on now.”

“But I have a male swimming teacher at the leisure centre and he talks to me when I’m wearing a swimming costume.”

“Well he shouldn’t.”

“But how am I supposed to learn how to swim if he doesn’t talk to me?”

“Put your towel on and I’ll buy you an ice cream.”

So that was that. When I was a child, all disagreements were usually solved and dismissed with ice cream. My male relative never did anything inappropriate too me, but he insisted that my arms should be covered at all times when he talked to me because he didn’t want people to get the wrong idea. Oddly he just talk to my male cousin, who was just wearing swimming trunks, without panicking.

My family were not religious, but members of my family became very upset if any of the female members had uncovered shoulders. If our shoulders were uncovered, we were told to “cover yourself up”. I have seen old pictures of female family members wearing knee length dresses and other clothing. Their shoulders were always covered up. So when a younger female member of the family wanted to wear a strappy top or bikini, older family members would throw fits and call it “rude” then say that the younger member would be vulnerable to attack by lecherous nasty men unless she covered herself up. There were so many awful rows in the house between my parents and the younger female relative whenever they did not agree with her fashion sense: if she wore a skirt that was too short, exposed her mid-riff or did not cover her arms.

I have always hated my female body thanks to my family, but I don’t need patronising messages from a soap company.

My family would ask me what I had studied at Secondary School in PSHE. When I told them, they were horrified and told me to stop talking about “rude things”. They said that such things should only be discussed in doctor’s leaflets and not at school. My parents were angry with me simply telling them what I was being taught at school. They told me off for trying to discuss topics in PSHE with them. I was told at school that I could discuss PSHE topics with people I trust such as my parents. Lies. My parents were useless to talk to because they were terrified of rude stuff and told me off for telling the truth about what we were taught at school.

PSHE was useless, Biology Class was useless and my parents were useless. The lack of knowledge left me vulnerable and naive. Did not know what “fingering” was because it was never mentioned in PSHE or Biology class. I was too busy doing academic work and I wasn’t keen on teenage films so I didn’t know what it was until I was in my late 20s and men talked about it then. I was horrified that they thought that women women would enjoy this activity because it seemed useless reproductively and potentially pain causing. I got As in Biology Class so I felt betrayed and bewildered that no one had ever taught me about this or female anatomy properly before.

One of my parents said that love was basically selfish, joyless procreation between two people that hate each other and want each other’s money. He said that reproduction and female body parts were “rude utter filth”. He also said that living with a reproductive partner was a chore and that all women become whining “old bats with saggy bits” when they get older. He said that women were moaners and “know alls” who wanted to spoil men and boys’ fun. He also said that children were ungrateful, greedy and not worth the effort. He said he wanted sons to take him fishing so I felt guilty for having a female body and not being keen on fishing.

For English class, we had to write down what we thought romantic love was. I wrote “selfish, joyless procreation between two people who hate each other and want each other’s money” and discussed it in my discussion group. They all looked at me like I had just landed from Mars. All of their words about “commitment”, “bonding” and “affection” seemed alien to me because all I ever saw were my parents arguing and saying that the other one smelled bad or was “worse than useless”.

My male relative kept asking me if there were any “rude bits” in the love poems I did for English homework. I tried to tell him about metaphor, but he said that sounded like a rude word so he got upset and angry. He said that I should be studying more Maths and not “rude” love poems or PSHE at school.

I feel lonely and sad because I feel like I missed out on something emotional and social in my youth because of my parents attitudes to relationships, women’s bodies and “rude” topics.