The reason I put my hand up to be involved in this project, besides really liking the concept, was in part due to my own personal experiences and feelings around sexuality and ideas around what feeling comfortable in my own skin means to me. Art nude photography was one medium that changed my perspectives on nudity and how I felt about my own body, and was something that provided me with a type of freedom that I hadn’t felt before.
I think people often see me as a quietly confident person – and in many ways, I suppose I am. However, I feel like this can also be an issue for me as I think that sometimes what people see as confidence, is actually just me hiding my insecurities much better than others might.
One thing that I used to be extremely insecure about was being naked. I never disliked my physical appearance, and I never thought of myself as unattractive – in fact I quite liked my body. But I also never thought of my body (or me) as being overly ‘sexy’ or ‘desirable’. One thing that used to frustrate me about this was the fact that I was still quite sexual in the sense that I always enjoyed sex and was always confident with what I was doing in the bedroom….until the lights came on. I spent about 3 years – two of those in a long-term relationship, only ever having sex in the dark. Or occasionally hiding under a sheet or wearing a t-shirt. I think that at the time I felt as though being naked in front of someone else, especially someone that you were intimately involved with, meant that nakedness had a direct link to sex and desire. Therefore, if I was naked in front of someone, then I was sexualised. I should be embodying sex and desire. But in my mind, my body wasn’t doing or saying that. I’d say this mindset was partly influenced by the world around me – friendship groups, media and it’s false expectations, and the fact that if I was to be called ‘sexy’ at the time, it was generally with the expectation that sex would be occurring soon after – it was never because I was smart, or passionate, or driven. ‘Sexy’ was just code for ‘let’s get it on’.
This is when Burlesque came into my life. Burlesque taught me that my body was a piece of art, a story, a form of expression, and something that was completely my own. I could choose to share my body with an audience if I felt like it – but the focus wasn’t even on my body. It was about the creative process, the story, the tease. And yeah, perhaps you’ll get to see my boobs at the end of it but guess what…that’s because I felt like whipping them out, because I think they’re neat. Even when I started Burlesque, it was a year before I ever took a bra off on stage. Even now I like to create the occasional routine that doesn’t involve clothes removal, because in my mind Burlesque is about creative expression, dance and celebration of individuality. Not sex. Burlesque definitely helped me feel comfortable with myself and the skin that I’m in, but it wasn’t until I did my first art nude shoot that I really understood what it felt like to embrace that feeling.
I put my hand up for my first art nude shoot because I wanted to challenge myself. I felt like something was still holding me back, and I figured this would be a good test and push of my boundaries. I chose the project because I knew of the photographer and his work. He was well regarded in the art nude community and I knew people who had worked with him. I was still extremely nervous going in to it because in my mind I still felt like there was a risk. I didn’t want this to confirm what I secretly feared - that the naked body is nothing more than a symbol for sex. To my delight, I was totally wrong. Not only was the process surprisingly freeing and enjoyable (the photographer was amazing and someone I am still extremely happy to work with to this day), but the end result was beautiful. It had meaning, and it had depth. In the same way that I had more meaning and depth than just a naked shell made for pleasure. After this, I started doing more shoots, and started to enjoy the feeling of just being in my own skin. Naked, content, and confident in my body. Shedding the layers that I wear day to day to keep up appearances.
Now I can’t imagine life without being naked – skinny dipping, walking around the house nude on a hot day, frolicking with friends and celebrating our bodies for what they are. Whether I’m naked in my own company, whether it’s an intimate setting or simply a skinny dip with friends – it’s an amazing feeling. And being naked in front of others and for that to be acceptable to them, is something I really love. I don’t feel shame about my body any more, and I don’t feel like I have anything to hide. In fact, these days I often get told that it’s hard to keep clothes on me!
I know that this isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. People draw confidence from different aspects of their life, and people experience things differently. I don’t expect everyone to like Burlesque, or Art Nude photography, or having me get naked in front of them. I think what I would say is perhaps don’t knock it too much till you try it. It might not be for you, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not for me, or the next person out there. Find what makes you happy, find what makes you feel comfortable with your own body and your own sexuality, and embrace it.
I have created a new category here on my website!
I thought I would just pop a quick blog in here to let you know, this will be where all of my landscapes and nature images will be posted.
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When I spoke to Belle about what she wanted her story to be for this project, our conversation had a lot of roots in the societal issue of slut shaming. I have gone and done my own research post-shooting and this is what I have derived to be the most important points on this very dangerous mindset.
One point Belle and I brought up frequently while chatting, is the absurd amount of dickpicks that we both receive online. While these …gestures? may seem playful and harmless to some, it comes from a place of misogyny. Now, I don’t want this whole post to just be buzzwords, that is not my intention, but I know I am right when I say that the people that send random models/girls online their genitals, it comes from a place of wanting power and it is assault, even if it is online. These men want you to feel uncomfortable, they want you to give them a reaction, which is why the best thing you can do is block, I love blocking people.
Now onto the more physically dangerous side to this, I want to talk about ‘A Woman’s Responsibility.’ Women are told to protect themselves from rape, rather than Men being told not to rape. This means if a woman is blackout drunk, the man knows it and proceeds to act upon the woman sexually, it’s rape, not sex. Sex is about pleasure, rape is about power. The idea that it is a Woman’s responsibility to prevent rape herself in itself has good intentions but overall it is a dangerous mindset to have as it leaves the woman open to victim blaming if something does happen that was out of her control.
This brings me to victim blaming. This stems from the ideas of male ownership over women and virginity myths. The idea that regular girls are different to sluts (Hayley G Hoover) is where the issue of respect comes into play with rapists. In their mind, a woman who isn’t monogamous and has a lot of sexual partners doesn’t deserve respect and therefore they do not need permission to violate her. Of course this is bullshit and it sounds awful when broken down like this, that is because it is awful. Misogyny is still rampant! Small remarks and actions make the world of difference to how woman are viewed and treated every day.
The modern day woman seems to entertain the same sexual freedom as a man, sure we see it in the music videos and on our instagram feeds but it is still making men and woman uncomfortable. Majority of rape doesn’t come from a shady masked dude lurking in an alleyway, it comes from ‘normal’ people with these dangerous ideals. 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. (RAINN) https://www.rainn.org/statistics/perpetrators-sexual-violence
Although the world for women was looking up there for a while, in recent times I feel there is a backlash against feminism, and for this reason we need to fight back harder against the double standards in our society. Our feminism needs to be intersectional, all inclusive of trans-women and women of colour. It needs to look out for our women with disabilities, mental and physical. We need to look out for each other.
WARNING: NSFW SELF PORTRAIT IMAGES.
TW: Mental Illness, Bipolar, Self-Harm, Invalidation.
"Love is drowning me, but I can't come up for air without pulling the plug."