It's my beauty and my body, and I get to decide what do with both.
It feels incredibly wrong to say that out loud or in print.
Growing up, it was a lesson carved deep into my psyche that it wasn’t something you could say about yourself.
It was for other people to tell you you were pretty or beautiful, changing to sexy or hot as we got older, but attractiveness was not something you got to claim for yourself. If you were anything but self-deprecating about your appearance, you were — gasp! — egotistical and vain.
We received many of these messages on the schoolyard, where girls who were aware of their good looks were looked down on, called names, and dissed behind their backs.
I learned well that you were supposed to put yourself down, and I did a whole lot of it. And then when people didn’t tell me I was, it never occurred to me that I was pretty.
I look back on photos and see that I was really cute, but I had absolutely no idea — and besides, it was brains that really mattered. On television and in movies the "beautiful people" were always bitches or douche canoes, while the smart, shyly-unaware-of-her-looks girl was the one you cheered for.
Pop music goes as far as to explicitly lay out that not being aware of our beauty is what makes us beautiful.
(Why yes, I do take life lessons from One Direction songs.)
As a society, we’re obsessed with beauty. We’re all encouraged to strive for the perfect face/body combo that others will crave, but we’re not supposed to do so obviously, or acknowledge and appreciate what we’ve already got.
This mixed message is not only directed at those of us with internal genitalia, but at the penis-havers as well.
How many times have you heard a woman say with disgust disguised as humor, "He takes even longer to get ready than I do!"
The pressure to be perfectly coiffed with only 5% body fat and sculpted everything is increasingly present for men, though endless sitcom pairings of schlubby guys with stunning sex-kitten wives indicates the emphasis is still incredibly one-sided.
That one-sided emphasis carries over strongly to many kink and swinger lifestyle settings where the expectation is that women should dress up in specified sexy ways, while the men are not subjected to the same expectation. It’s one of the things that actively turns me off from attending many events at our local clubs.
I love themes and costumes and dressing up, but the difference between sexy schoolgirl and the male equivalent — usually nerd or rebel — is something I find extremely off-putting. I’m willing to put on that get-up for a partner I know will get off on it, but not because it’s mandated.
I love to be sexually objectified — where and when I ask for it to happen.
I am a huge exhibitionist, and love to share pics with my partners and fuck buddies and lucky friends (and often, the internet). I love to dress up in sexy clothes and lingerie for my dates but I’m doing it all because I choose to, not because I’m told to or expected to. I’m presenting myself as an object in those moments for my partners (or my Instagram followers) because it feels good to me.
I’m opting-in to objectification in that situation.
Even as I feel good about the sharing I do and the comments I get, I’m incredibly conscious that there is much backlash against women who share a lot of selfies.
There are so many articles calling out selfie-culture, particularly directed at women. They must be vapid, vain, shallow, and incapable of succeeding by "real" metrics if pretty selfies are the best they can do, right?
In a recent interview, Canadian Olympic athlete Adam Kreek (and sexist jackass) called out Canadian Olympic athlete Eugenie Bouchard for not being committed to winning — based on her love of selfies, interest in fashion, and general social media presence. She’s in the gorram Olympics, but she uses Instagram too much for his tastes, so clearly she’s not serious about being a "real" athlete.
I scrolled by so many posts on Twitter and Facebook saying she should set a better example for young girls who should see that modesty is the way to show that you have worth beyond all of that superficial beauty stuff and shameful sex stuff.
Doesn’t Kim know that only the patriarchy is allowed to share and commodify her beauty and body?
Dictate if her ass is perfect or if she’s gotten too fat or thin?
Who the fuck does she think she is to claim her body, beauty, and sexuality as her own?
I hadn’t been a person who thought highly of Kardashian until that moment, because I'm also heavily influenced by all the cultural negativity against being famous for being famous, especially among people who value brains over looks.
Seeing her owning her image for her own personal use, to be objectified as SHE saw fit — I was suddenly on her team.
And it helped me come to terms with my own bias and shame with regard to seeking the attention I do from people in my life through sexy photos.
It’s my beauty and my body ... and I get to decide what to do with it.
Speaking of, I look super-cute in these undies as I write. I’m gonna go snap some selfies.
This article was originally published at Life on the Swingset. Reprinted with permission from the author.