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Am I Sympathy Porn?

Am I sympathy porn?
This question sits on my shoulder and sometimes floats to the back of my head when I’m sat alone in my flat. It’s a question most won’t give me answers too and if they did I wouldn’t believe them. 
Last year I posted a photo of my ileostomy bag on the Internet and although it was partly an act of defiance to society and to help others it was mainly cathartic. I didn’t want my physical to be a secret, this new thing that I was totally in love with but hated at the same time. 
The most known term is ‘colostomy bag’ and was one in which I had spent hours scrolling through the search results of on Twitter. I think I had the idea that seeing what people wrote would make me ‘stronger’ but all it did was reiterate the point I already knew. The thing I had on my body was a punch line. A joke that even the most liberal of people forgot was offensive. 
I balanced out my self harm searching with a bunch of ‘inspirational blogs’ that showed others displaying their bags and talking openly about their disease. No one made jokes in the comments section, everyone clapped and cheered at their bravery.
The blogs were cathartic but I felt like I was clutching at straws. The context is making them compassionate, I thought, in another situation they would squirm and tell some one to shut up when the bag was mentioned. 
I question my cynicism often. I’ve been brought up in a society that teaches you to second guess yourself when judging others, which is my heaven and I swim in it mostly. However I wanted to drown myself in the idea that everyone was pretending that they were not repulsed by me. It felt like a safer place to be, though a much more degrading one.
My first contact with the concept of a bag was in jest, at school, possibly an insult to another, I don’t remember the words. What echoes with me is a boy I was ‘seeing’ just after being told I needed one, joking he should call his band the ‘colostomy bags’ to his slightly more intelligent band mates and expecting a resounding laugh. Which he got. Why though? I questioned in my new bubble, why is this thing I might have to have funny? I can’t remember anymore…
I continued googling, searching for people saying horrible things about colostomys, almost getting angry when I saw someone raising awareness in the feed or in an article interrupting the flurry of Donald trump/ Hilary Clinton colostomy jokes. No. I needed to see the reality. What people really thought of it all. Give me more hospital nurses complaining about the bag they had to change today. Give me more vomit emojis.
I asked my boyfriend. I almost begged for him to tell me how people really viewed me now. He would give me sincere thought out answers that would just wash over my head, because how does he know? He’s in love with me. Love is blind right? I held onto that cliched phrase and twisted it’s meaning with all my strength. 
My Twitter habits moved to the tabloids. Kidding myself that this was a step away from self sabotage. ‘Girl wears ostomy bag and still has sex’ one read. ‘Girl bravely displays her ostomy in her underwear’ possibly not verbatim but you would excuse my power-phrasing. Everything was about sex. The looming unavoidable subtext that having an ostomy= not being sexual anymore. 

I did subconsciously know that reading the tabloids was still my way of solving my twisted mystery. I had previously refused several offers to be in the tabloids myself, getting slightly proud of the attention at first only to see the words ‘have you got any pics of you in your bikini’ sprawled across an email from a reporter. My crop top and joggers aren’t enough to show the severity of my condition apparently.
It wasn’t the fact I was being sexualised this time. It wasn’t my feminist anguish raging inside me and laughing at their ignorance. It was the need for me to be sexualised in order to PROVE I was sexual. In order to reinstate something that I had apparently lost. I hadn’t lost it. Id gone to sleep in an anaesthetists room and woken up in recovery. Did they suck the sex out of me? Did they remove the part of my brain that makes me so desperately want to pro create at such an inappropriate age with no where near enough money to support a child? I never signed for that. I should have read that contract…
I had already spent most of my late teens early 20s learning the ropes of sexual empowerment when it comes to being a female. I don’t need to look like models, I don’t need to be skinny, I don’t need to be a prude, I don’t need to flaunt it. It was my choice. Anything I do with my body is my choice and it doesn’t define whether I’m sexy or not. I’d got this down to a T, laughing at the stupidity of sexist headlines with everyone else and their grandma.
But now my body played by different rules. My body was no longer automatically sexy, it had to be shown off and sensationalised in order to even be considered. Like I was on a freak show podium. IS SHE SEXY STILL? YOU DECIDE!
All of a sudden I had all these messages to navigate and ignore, navigate and ignore but with no one to guide me. Should I be happy they’re using my body as a way to make this go viral? Should I be grateful they think my body juxtaposes nicely against the bag of shit sitting on my stomach? 
I honestly didn’t know. Where was my ostomy bag wearing Lena Dunham when I needed her? Where’s my sitcom about a funny 20 something girl who has sex with lots of men, buys copious amounts of dildos and also happens to have an ostomy bag? Where’s my liberation gone? Who took my liberation? Sulk.
I continued to obsess over this subject of my own body and what it now meant. Could I celebrate something which was essentially my bodies garbage sitting on my stomach, could I make it sexual*? No.
No, I couldn’t.
*i even laughed as I wrote that
So it wasn’t sexual liberation I needed, it was liberation of my very literal shitty situation. That what I had was not sexual, but that it was on my body. That it never would in any way be sexy, to me or to my partner. And that was ok. It was something that had joined my very being, the body that I’d loved, the body that I’d checked out in the mirror a gazillion times, the stomach that I was proud of. It had just come along for the ride. I slowly started to mentally separate my bag from my body, rather than try to give it a place, rather than try to understand who I was now. I decided my bag was that friend that bores you to death but always remembers your birthday so you keep them on board.
My bag is attached to me physically but it is not my body. My intestine sticking out of my stomach is now just another ‘private part’ and one that will never be sexualised. And there’s something slightly cool about that. An ACTUAL private part. My own one, one that doesn’t have sexual connotations to it. One that you didn’t suddenly realise was sexual when you heard boys at school saying vulgar things about it because theyd just discovered porn.
And now my body is back, and so is the checking myself out in the mirror and dancing around naked in my flat, my bag coming along for the ride.
It’s just there on my body, doing its thing, no sexual connotations, negative or positive. Not demoting the already liberating love for my own body, not making me any less proud of who I am. Or any less smug about my great butt. 
I no longer scour Twitter search terms unless I feel like being a keyboard warrior that day and the tabloid newspapers are getting better but still pop up from time to time, but now I laugh at their ignorance, at the fact they’re trying to make something out of nothing. I laugh like I do daily mail headlines. Oh how I laugh in my condescending liberal manner.
I no longer search for what my body now means, I no longer try to desperately place myself in amongst the messages. I no longer even worry whether I am right or wrong about this. I no longer need a 20 something sitcom to liberate me.
And though the message has not changed much; ignore the media/ fuck em/ do your own thing. I’ve discovered, that in some ways, I’ve become my own slightly less cliched 20 something sitcom character. And she’s liberating as fuck.

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