Penguins in Pain: A tale of two thighs

Written by Maggie Hayes.


Thank god summer is over.
I know, I know. Don’t get me wrong, I love long, warm, sunny summer days just as much as you. But, as a woman, bits of it are really difficult.

No, I’m not talking about having to look really ‘pretty’, although I do love being able to chuck on a hoodie and a hat post August and be done with it. No, I’m not talking about being jeered at by men because I may have chosen to wear a skirt and not cover my legs. And I’m not talking about the constant daily need to shave just cos I’m a woman, innit.

But I am talking about legs. In particular, the tops of legs. The one, two, rub, rub. ‘Ouch that bloody hurts’. I’m talking about: The Chafing.

It was the night of a big event, top glam, top to-do event where all the glad rags go on. It was also a lovely summer’s evening and I was almost ready. I’d showered and chosen my dress. Then a pain I’d had all day came back. I looked down and there on the tops of my thighs were two nearly identical red marks. I touched them and they were super sensitive. I remember walking back and forth in front of the mirror and it continued to hurt. I can’t walk about like this.

I rang one of my best pal’s and said ‘So I’ve got a problem, like a women’s problem.’ A chuckle that was reassuring, not humiliating, replied. I described the pain and she said, ‘Yep’. She knew what I meant. We went on to discuss various options and I plastered Sudocrem all over the culprit areas and ripped a pair of tights so they could just cover my thighs.
At the time I told my male best pal that it was women’s things, sorry.


Now, I will unashamedly put on a pair of shorts and enjoy the comfort it brings me.
And now, I talk about it more. Because it does happen to so many of us. Because being ashamed of it just makes the pain worse. Because you spend time fretting and avoiding stuff.
After living in Spain for a bit, I started to speak more about this as there were, y’know, more of those sunny days, so more of the chafed thigh situations. I remember a group of us had gone to Madrid for the weekend and I openly told the girls I had to put shorts on under my dress and look how bloody comfy I am! There was a group nod and utterance of ‘yes’, isn’t it the worst, that pain.

We all had our techniques and sat there sharing them. I’d never really done that before. So it wasn’t just me and my best pal? One of the girls didn’t have it and we all scorned at her but in a ‘ha, we’re the majority’ kinda feel. It was all in good humour. It was a relief to share, to laugh and to not be caught up by what it means about my weight, my appearance.

A particular comment struck me from that conversation. One of my pals had been on a ‘teen girls’ holiday’ and on the hotel’s telly there had been an advert for a special kinda thing to put on chaffed thighs. One of her friends had commented ‘ewww, imagine being that big, you’d have chafed thighs’.

Laughter pursued.

My pal told me that as she laughed what she was really thinking about was how she would apply a similar cream without the others seeing.

People think it is due to body size but I’m not so sure. I know that it happens to women of all shapes and sizes. Also, so what, piss off with the fat-shaming. My thighs are maybe quite big but I also grew up playing football every day so go figure. Back in Madrid, we spoke about how ‘nah, it happens to all of us’ and how actually, it’s probably nothing to do with size particularly but just something that happens when you wear skirts. It happens to women everywhere. (Another reason for me to hate wearing skirts!)

So this is for the women out there who have to endure the chafing – may you enjoy less of the infuriating, less of the sensitivity, less of the pain as the winter nights draw in.
For women who aren’t affected by this – give your sisters some love and support [and cream]!

Lads, if you’re waiting for a woman to get ready, yes, she may just be late without good reason, or she might also be desperately slathering cream on in order to be able to join you on a big glamourous night out without walking like a penguin, like a penguin in a lot of pain. A penguin in agony that is just really hard to explain.


Maggie Hayes is a Londoner who loves the North, India and Spain having spent a lot of time in these places. She’s taught English abroad and been involved in campaigning professionally. Without naming any stereotypes she is in her own words an ‘angry radical feminist!’ Hear more from Maggie on Twitter at @maggieannehayes.


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