Body Fluids: Abjection/Contamination (now with working links!)

There’s been a lot of writing lately about breastfeeding. Well, what’s new? It seems that every few months a lot of writers have to get all het up about breastfeeding. And normally I just read what everyone has to say and keep my opinions to myself. After all, I’m not you. I’m not in your life; I can’t second guess your decisions. I assume that you’re informed and that you’re making the best decisions for your family. Who am I to judge that? But, over the last several months, and particularly because of the latest round of breastfeeding pseudo-dialogue, I’ve been thinking of writing a response. Specifically I want to address the idea that women who think that nursing is “icky” deserve all the guilt anyone can heap on them for completely ruining their babies’ lives by subjecting those babies to myriad ailments due to their own immaturity and selfishness. Because if you were to ask me what I personally feel about breastfeeding (not what I think about others breastfeeding, but about myself breastfeeding) in one word, that word would be “icky”. And then there would be an emphatic "No!" and then maybe “ug” or even simply a gasp of horror. And I consider myself fairly eloquent. Give me enough space and time and I can explain. But not everyone is so comfortable expressing themselves in words.

So, I’ve decided to sort-of put my .2 in. Not to give advice, but to share my thoughts and experiences. Because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to feel the way I do, and I want to provide a different view. What I’m writing is going to be intensely personal and while I don’t want to sideline the dialogue by offering The Trump of Personal Anecdote, (see the #1 Science Myth in this post) I do think that my anecdotes will relate to more people than myself, and so I think they should be heard. Besides, ickyness has nothing to do with science, and the choice to breastfeed or not has only little to do with health concerns and risks. Bear with me; this is going to take more than one post and will involve extensive mental wandering. I’ll link them all together when I’m done and hopefully then they’ll all make sense.

Because of the nature of the breastfeeding debate, any comments I get on the following posts that are hateful, nasty, and/or simply needling will be deleted. You can feel free to disagree with me, you can feel free to express that disagreement in my comments, but you must do so respectfully and with a mind to dialogue over ranting/accusing. Thank you.


Bodily fluids gross me out. Seriously. Not just a little, but a lot. To the point where I will have to fight to keep from retching if I see someone drooling (Babies and toddlers excepted. Preschoolers and up NOT excepted), or that little string of saliva that sometimes attaches to a person’s teeth or lips… and it stretches as they talk to you… and you’re supposed to not say anything… oh, god, I’m going to lose it as I type this…

Even my own bodily fluids can push me past composure. For example: I hate to floss because sometimes the floss will flick saliva on my face. Not to mention the fact that it gets on my fingers; I can’t stand any sort of body fluid on my hands (this does not include certain fluids from a certain person, I am fine with those, but it took a great deal of work before I met her to get to that point). In fact, I’m so bothered by my own body fluids, that I’ve begun to suspect that I keep myself in a permanent, slight state of dehydration in an attempt to reduce my bodily fluids and make them more manageable.

Remember my post about sex a few days ago? That line I repeated about mucus membranes? I really did say that. Because the fluid that gives me the most problems in terms of disgust factor when I feel it coming out of my body is the lubrication I produce when sexually aroused. Let’s just say I am capable of producing quite a bit. And I hate it. I hate the way it feels. I hate that I have no control over it. I want to wash it off, hide it, deny it. Body fluids – all body fluids – are disgusting, dirty, contaminated and because of that being profligate with them is irresponsible and rude. Believe me, I’ve gotten much better than I was, slowly having altered my perception of some body fluids. But this is still my default reaction.

I thought for a long time that it was because of how I was raised. My entire family is more than a little germ phobic – with the strongest of our germ paranoias centering around saliva. I mean, seriously, all it takes to get a bowl of dip, or any kind of food, really, is to suggest that you may have double dipped. The suggestion doesn’t even have to be verifiably true. You don’t even have to have gone anywhere near said food. The suggestion is enough for the family to treat the entire bowl as contaminated and avoid it like the plague.

But recently I’ve begun to realize that there’s something more going on with me and my strong feelings about body fluids and contamination and betrayal. Something akin to abjection -- a violent rejection as a way to preserve the integrity of the self. Indeed, my reaction is so violent, so personal, so blind, that I think it must be rising out of the subconscious, and I begin to think that it must be the remnants of some old defensive mechanism. Especially after I read in several sources that one symptom/indicator/result of childhood sexual abuse is a phobia of body fluids.

to be continued...

Posted by Trista @ 1:57 PM

Read or Post a Comment

You are so brave to talk about this. I think you are certainly right about your phobia, and it makes sense that you feel so strongly. Being disgusted by bodily fluids is also a way of distancing the self from being human, if that makes sense.

Defense mechanisms are awesome. Really. They are to be awed. Especially the gnarly ones. They truly did protect us when no one else did. I mean when they become harmeful and expired they MUST be let go of, but not without honoring what a great job they have done, and replacing them with something loving.

Am I making any sense?

Anyway, I like you and your defense mechanisms. ANd I know you do not want to pass these fears on to your kids, so I have total trust that you will face them, gently.

P.S. breast milk is so completely amazing (I am still nursing my son and he is almost 2), whist being a little gross to me, even though I don't have a fluid phobia. I mean milk comes out of your boobs. It's weird.

Posted by Blogger charlotte @ 3:56 PM #

I want to say thank you for sharing, but after I typed it three times I kept thinking that it sounds like what a 7 year old would say & that is not what I mean at all.

I really mean: thank you. I have some issues of my own left over from a childhood trauma and it is really frustrating how those issues paralyze me still.

I am looking forward to where you take us on this...

Posted by Blogger Calliope @ 4:06 PM #


I have the body fluids problems too. I hate spit. I also have the double dipping problem. YUCK. My family knows this, and they just seem to double dip, just to make me gross out. Saliva starts digesting the dip, yuck.

I share a drink with one person, the person whom I also have unprotected sex with. I only share fluids with those that came from my body or I have sex with. Otherwise, keep your fluids to yourself. This weekend, my sister reached over for my drink, and I asked her to please no drink my drink. She got all huffy.

As I sit here pumping, it is rather gross in a way. Seroiusly, there is NO way I would wash someone pump. I just bought my own brand new pump, rather than take the offer of a used pump offered to me by a couple of friends.

Weird thing is, I CAN handle body fluids if I am wearing gloves. When my brother cut his leg open, I grabbed gloves before I would apply direct pressure. My mom gave me grief about this, but seroiusly, I could not have touched his blood without it.

Anyway, you are not alone in the body fluids hang ups. I too want to see where this is going.

Posted by Blogger WendyLou @ 4:21 PM #

Oh Trista - you could never be a nurse! I don't mind blood and breastmilk, but I feel like vomiting profusely when a patient is sweaty and I have to touch them. Yuck! Sweat! And I'm happy to suction the mucus plugs from peoples lungs, but washing their dentures? DISGUSTING! Saliva is REVOLTING!
Everybody has their quirks about this stuff I'm sure. If someone finds breastfeeding triggering for them then surely no objections can be made. (BTW - your family phobia suggests that you have inherited these attitudes from them. Do you have any memories of abuse? I agree that abuse can cause triggers around heaps of things that are considered "normal" by others who haven't experienced the abuse and that this could be a trigger for you, but your family attitude suggests otherwise) I just think it gets ridiculous when women won't breastfeed because "my husband wants them to himself". Urgh!

Posted by Blogger mermaidgrrrl @ 5:17 PM #

I can't wait to read the rest! This is very interesting, as usual. :)

The thing about BF that I have the hardest time with is pumping. It.Is.So.Strange!!! I'm much better with it as a fluid when I can't see exactly how it comes out of my body.

And, much like a car wreck, I watch it compulsively.

Posted by Anonymous Liza @ 7:24 PM #

Sooo....that giant tub of drool I've been collecting for you as a housewarming gift would be inappropriate to present when I come to visit I take it? Dang.

Posted by Blogger Plimco @ 8:46 AM #

I must say that I have struggled with this issue for years. And everyone that I have talked to about it keeps saying that its from childhood abuse, but I was never abused as a child, I just cant stand bodily fluids, to the point that I have trouble being intimate, and I refuse to be near kids.
Everyone finds it funny, tho, that I love it when I come home and let my dogs lick my face, even tho we all know what they were doing 5 minutes before...
However, I must say that it feels good knowing that I'm not a freak for getting sick at the thought of any fluid being omitted from any part of my body...

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 10:57 PM #
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