Dating A Woman Made Me Feel Less Awkward About My Bodily Functions

When I was nineteen, I started living with my boyfriend. It was my first serious relationship, and I was all too aware of my bodily functions. I would carefully wrap my used period products in toilet paper, then slide them inside empty toilet rolls to hide them from his sight. Every inch of me would be religiously shaved in the morning, and I meticulously applied make up every day, even on weekends. “I just like wearing it,” I’d tell everyone (including myself).
You might think that this was due to my age. I was barely out of high school, he was my first boyfriend, and I was immature. But when that relationship ended and, within a year or so, the next started, the internal pressure to present as a clean, polished, perfect form of myself remained. When I eventually moved in with this new boyfriend, I continued to hide the evidence of my period and to speak only of it in euphemisms — think: “sorry, it’s, you know, that time,” whispered with a grimace of apology. 
For a long time, I thought this was normal. I thought that being in a relationship and sharing intimate details like that was akin to “letting myself go.” I couldn’t imagine a world where you didn’t try to time poos to only occur at work or when the other partner was asleep. Once, when hanging with him and his guy mates, someone dropped the term “after grog bog” and we all laughed. My partner eyeballed me, saying, “You don’t even know what that means.” I told him that of course I did. His face contorted. “Don’t admit that – that’s gross,” he said.

I read quotes by men that told me that to truly be feminine, a woman must retain some mystery.

Growing up, my idols were Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly — delicate, poised, and the epitome of class and femininity. I read quotes by men that told me that to truly be feminine, a woman must retain some mystery. What I knew this really meant is that women needed to hold back the unpalatable parts of ourselves. Men didn’t need to know that women farted, bled, burped, pooped, or peed. Even our sneezes, apparently, needed to be small, delicate, and cute. Once, I sneezed at work. A male coworker turned to me and said, “You’ve got a very loud sneeze for a woman.” I was mortified.
Then I dated a woman.
We were the epitome of a WLW (woman loving woman) stereotype — we fell hard and fast and it wasn’t long before we spent 85% of our time together. My straight friends always tell me that it must be so much easier to date a woman. Truthfully, it's not easier; it’s just different. But what it did teach me was that it was okay to be “gross” in a relationship. That, in fact, what I considered “gross” was just internalised patriarchal norms and not really “gross” at all. 
To discuss our periods felt normal, because we both experienced them. And as I spoke frankly about it, and found that she continued to love me, I recognised that these things shouldn’t make me appear or feel any less attractive. If she could hear about my period and still love me, why couldn’t a man?

We both sweated and stank and rotted in bed and talked frankly about our bloated stomachs. There was this unabashed freedom because there was no feminine mystique to uphold.

If you trawl the online sphere, there are countless articles about the “gross things women do that men don’t know about” — and unsurprisingly, the majority of the items of these lists seem to pertain to things that happen to our bodies during our periods. This is because of course, there is a deep-rooted societally ingrained shame around menstruation and the problematic idea that monthly bleeding is inherently “dirty.” Men don’t want to know about it. Society, in fact, doesn’t really want to know about it. And so we end up with people who still think they need to hide their period from their partner right into their mid-twenties and beyond. 
Then, of course, there was body hair. In my straight-presenting relationships, I kept every inch of me as smooth as I could. The first time I’d been too tired to shave the day before and my pant leg rode up, brushing my ex-girlfriend with my leg stubble, I apologised. She told me not to be ridiculous.
We both sweated and stank and rotted in bed and talked frankly about our bloated stomachs. There was this unabashed freedom because there was no feminine mystique to uphold — she existed within the same body subjected to the same societal standards, and in that mutual understanding we felt free to drop our guards. We knew those standards were fake, so why keep up the pretence with each other? And learning that love and, well, bodily functions, could co-exist was fundamentally eye-opening. 
I’m not, of course, saying that a relationship should be a den of farts and burps and poop talk. (Unless that’s what you’re comfortable with, in which case, you do you.) What I’m saying is that prior to my relationship with another woman, I had been living a half-existence in my relationships, in constant anxiety about the very normal ways in which my body functioned. 
On TikTok, there’s discourse around the queer woman gaze versus the straight gaze and the ruthless beauty standards that seem to apply to heterosexual relationships, but not so much in WLW relationships. Consider men's denigration of the very normal pouch of belly fat, contrasting with queer women expressing delight over the softness of other women. I would argue the beauty standards go beyond the upkeep we put into our external presentation in straight-presenting relationships, and into the ways in which we even try to twist our internal processes into meeting some arbitrary standard of feminine purity.
With another woman, I saw what comfort could be in a relationship. We didn’t need to hide the ways our bodies worked. When the relationship ended, I realised it was a comfort I wasn’t willing to give up going forward. 
I speak frankly about my period to my current partner. I also don’t hide when my body bloats, or when I burp or sweat or whatever else. Because these are normal things my body does that I can’t control and we deserve to be able to live in our full glory within our own homes. 
“There’s such a thing as being too comfortable,” I see people say online. “You need to keep some mystery!” An older man once boasted to me that in fifty years of marriage, he’d never heard his wife fart. I’d imagine she’d probably heard him fart many times. I also wondered at this odd point of pride, that he could so openly declare that his wife had never felt comfortable enough in front of him, well into their sixties, to perform a normal human function?
Listen, let women be gross in relationships, okay. Let them also talk about periods and have body hair. (I’m separating these two from being “gross” because I think they need to be removed from the umbrella of even being associated with “grossness.”) When society cautions women against being "too comfortable" or admonishes the absence of "mystery," it's crucial to challenge these notions. It's time to let go of the outdated narrative that women should hide their bodily functions, and embrace each other, warts (and farts!) and all. 
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