Welcome to Project Naked

Project Naked is about empowering women to talk frankly about their bodies. This is a positive space where women can share their experiences, stories, and what they love or, unfortunately, despise in an honest and safe place.

Keep scrolling down to read stories that women have sent us, and you can access the site menu and archives using the menu tab in the top right corner.

We believe women’s bodies are incredible – from the multiple orgasms to the fact that some of us can make and deliver babies, and we are fighters; we have strength – whether we know it or not.
We live our lives in these bodies; every day we carry them with us. It’s not just how they look (as important as that can feel!), it’s how they work as well. It’s what they’ve lived through and how we experience life in them.

We want to be clear that Project Naked is an inclusive space. “Women” obviously includes trans women, whatever stage you might be at in your transition and whether or not you’re out publicly. We’re also open to hearing the stories of others who experience gender-based oppression – genderqueer people, those who were assigned female at birth, and those who are read as female but don’t identify that way. This is by no means an exhaustive list! We publish all relevant material that we receive, and we want to be able to share as wide a range of stories as possible.

If you would like to send us a story, an experience, a photo, a poem, a rant… then we would love to hear from you. We will put up all submissions body related – positive, negative, long or short. Have a read through the posts for inspiration, start writing down your thoughts and feelings; whether you send them in or not it can be a very cathartic experience doing so.

Every body has a story. What’s yours?

Submit your story using this contact form, or using the details below.

Or email us at projectnaked@gmail.com – let us know if you prefer to be anonymous, or if you have a blog you’d like us to link to.

You can also contact us on Twitter @project_naked

“Periods were imbued with the mystery of the adult world – a strange and slightly frightening thing which I both wanted to experience and was a little horrified by.”

I don’t remember when I first learned that menstruation was something shameful. Certainly it was before I bled for the first time at the age of 13. Periods were imbued with the mystery of the adult world – a strange and slightly frightening thing which I both wanted to experience and was a little horrified by.

I remember being about 9 or 10 years old and being at my friend Vanessa’s house the first time I found out what periods were. Her mum had bought her a book and we were reading it together. I distinctly remember saying, “You bleed from THERE?! It would be bad enough if it was from your thumb or something!” A week later my own mum bought me a book – it was called “Have You Started Yet?” and she had picked it up in the sale section at the library. The book itself was quite old fashioned, illustrated with bad pop art and containing references to the type of sanitary pad you had to clip onto a belt. I remember the awkward conversation which started with the words, “Have you heard any of the other girls at school talking about periods?” and my mortified silence. It was not my mother who instilled this shame in me, but somehow I already knew that this mysterious blood which would start coming out of me one day was something a little disgusting.

I remember being on a hillwalking trip with the Guides – I must have been about 12 – and, in the dorm of the basic SYHA hostel where we stayed, the slightly older girls talking about periods. One of the girls had unexpectedly got her period (although not her first) and Captain had had to take her to the chemist to get pads and painkillers. These girls, just a year or two older than I was, seemed part of an adult world which I was a little jealous of, but also a little scared. Their talk of cramps and pains and blood was alien to me, and while I was at that age where I so badly wanted to grow up, this whole business of being a woman sounded difficult.

When my own first period came, I didn’t tell my mum. I knew where she kept the pads and I knew how to use them, so I just put one on and went about my day. Strangely, I don’t really remember how it made me feel. Embarrassed, I think. I have often felt a little guilty about the fact I didn’t tell my mum right away, wondered if it made her sad that I didn’t tell her. I was always a child who didn’t like to cause a fuss. I remember even as a very young child not wanting to bother people with things, being kind of embarrassed to admit personal things about myself. I don’t know where that comes from. I have always been in some ways an anxious sort of person, who would rather sort things out for herself than ask for help.

I have always been quite lucky that my periods are not much of a trial. They were fairly predictable, from the days in my teens when I used to mark the dates in my diary with crosses, to this day when I record them in an app on my phone (aside: The app I use is called Clue and I love it – it lets you record all sorts of different data from your moods to the heaviness of your bleeding, and it doesn’t come in a twee pink colour scheme full of flowers and other dubious visual metaphors for vaginas. And it’s free!) My cramps have never been debilitating, or my bleeding inconveniently heavy. So although menstruation was something I, like most women, was a bit secretive about, a little ashamed of, at least my period wasn’t something I approached with dread each month. The dirty womanliness of it was something society taught me to hide, but at least the experience itself wasn’t too awful. I know that makes me lucky.

Period sex wasn’t something that really became a part of my life until I was an adult. Although I lost my virginity at 16, I never had a steady boyfriend as a teenager and had only had sex a handful of sporadic times until I went to uni. At 18 I went on the pill for the first time, and it gave me spotting for the first 28 days and then settled down into a clockwork-regular cycle. I’ve always liked this aspect of the pill; I find the bleed comforting. I have friends on forms of contraception which – in their cases at least – stop their periods entirely and they love it, but I’ve never liked that idea. I find something reassuring in the bleeding. Firstly, of course, was always the comforting knowledge that there was no foetus growing inside me. But I think it also just feels natural. Somehow it wouldn’t feel right to me not to bleed, even if it’s the artificial bleed during my break each month.

At 20 I got my first properly serious boyfriend. I was still awkward about the idea of period sex at this point, not because of any particular experience but just because of the idea that people found it disgusting. It has never been that I was disgusted by the idea myself, more the fear that the man I was with would be grossed out. As I’ve got older, I’ve realised they mostly don’t particularly care, but I’ll come to that more in a bit.

When I was with this first boyfriend, I decided to get the contraceptive implant. It seemed convenient – no pills to remember, for years. So I had it put in, watching in fascination as the doctor shoved the huge needle into my anaesthetised arm (I have never been squeamish about this stuff and I always like to watch when they take blood or give me a jag – weird, I know).

The implant made me bleed every day. Not a lot – it was like the very last day of my period, every day. The doctor had said it could take up to six months to settle down with my body, so I kept it in to see if anything would change. But it didn’t. For months and months, I didn’t have a proper period but had spotting every day. And I hated it. It felt so unnatural. I had the implant taken out, watching again as this time they sliced my arm open and pulled out this tiny wee stick which had had such an effect on my body. Having proper periods again was a relief, and I went on the pill again for contraceptive purposes. I could bleed every month again, in the way that felt right for me.

So, period sex. I said as I’ve got older I’ve found that men don’t care much, and that’s pretty much true. But it’s only half true. Every time I’ve got into a sexual situation with a new man for the first time on my period, there’s this awkward moment where I feel the need to say, “Just so you know, I have my period, and that doesn’t bother me, but I thought I should let you know…” And it really doesn’t bother me. I’m not grossed out by my period. I have enjoyed non-menstrual bloodplay during sex in the past, so the blood aspect is actually kind of sexy. There’s something extra animalistic about the blood smeared across sweaty skin, about being so caught up in the pleasure of sex that you don’t give a fuck about the mess.  So I’m more than happy not just to fuck on my period, but for them to go down on me, to kiss them after, to taste my own blood on their lips. It’s sexy in and of itself, but it’s also sexy because they have embraced my body in all its bloody glory.

I’ve found that, while most men are happy to fuck you while you’re on your period, most aren’t as enthusiastic about oral sex, even those who normally love it. And I’d never want a sexual partner to do something they weren’t comfortable with so I would never force it, but I wonder where that comes from. Men are socialised with the same disgust of menstruation as women, but stronger because they don’t usually have to live the reality of it in their own bodies. So I understand, but I wish more of them would be prepared to give it a go.

The first time I was with a man who truly didn’t give a fuck about it, it was a revelation. When I told him I was bleeding, and he still put his face between my legs – and I mean fully, joyously, not a genteel dipping of the tongue – and came up with my blood all over him, it was one of the sexiest things I’d ever experienced. He didn’t find this disgusting. He found it sexy and dirty and erotic, and he embraced this aspect of my womanhood. He didn’t just deign to put his dick in me even though I was bleeding; he fully immersed himself in sex as he would have at any other time of the month. I was 23 by this point and I genuinely hadn’t thought that was possible. It remains an example of what I expect from a truly fulfilling sex life with future partners.

At the moment I don’t have a steady sexual partner, and I decided to stop taking the pill. It had been years that I’d been on it and, not needing it for contraception, I thought I’d see what it was like without it. My first real period after stopping felt great. It was heavier and more painful than my bleeds on the pill, but – in a way I hadn’t expected – I enjoyed the feeling of my body actively doing that, not just letting down blood because of how my hormones were being regulated. I liked the sensation that this was all me.

Don’t get me wrong – I think hormonal contraception is one of the greatest inventions of all time. Giving women the power to control conception is probably the single biggest factor in allowing us all the other freedoms we have in the West today compared with even 50 years ago. I am so incredibly grateful to have the range of contraceptive choices that is available to me as a woman in Scotland in 2016. But I have also enjoyed not being on the pill any more. I’ve found my sex drive has increased (actually kind of an inconvenience sometimes when you’re single…) and I still like the feeling that a “real” period gives me. A sort of comforting feeling that all is as it should be.

I’m not sure what I’ll do the next time I’m in a sexual relationship where we’re going to stop using condoms. I know the implant isn’t for me, and I have doubts about the injection for the same reasons. I have realised that I think I prefer not being on hormonal contraception, but I don’t love condoms so if I’m in an exclusive relationship I prefer something else. I’ve been considering the coil, but a lot of women say it makes their periods more painful. I’m not sure how that would change my relationship to an aspect of my body which I’ve always quite enjoyed. But I’m happy to make compromises to not have to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, which would be the biggest of all possible inconveniences. So I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it and make whatever decision feels like the right one at that stage of my relationship with my body.

I think perhaps that is the thing I’ve always liked about my period – that it makes me feel a connection to my body. It makes me think of my body and consider what it will feel about something. It can make me present in my body. And the older I get, the more I try not to be ashamed of it. I try not to be coy about it. I try to present the fact confidently to men I’m about to have sex with. Because I don’t think it’s disgusting or shameful, so I shouldn’t bow to the fear that others will.

by Hannah, age 27

SINCE WHEN IS REMOVING YOUR BODY HAIR LINKED WITH RESPECTING YOUR BODY?

I came across AYQA through a buzzfeed post and felt it completely necessary to share her illustrations and her message.

We live in a society where woman are made to feel like they don’t have a choice on what to do with our body hair — we are expected to remove it all and if we don’t we are ‘weird’ ‘disgusting’ ‘dirty’ ‘smelly’ etc etc the negative words go on and on — we DO have a choice. And that choice should be normalised and respected.

Ayqa has illustrated these amazing drawings in an attempt to normalise body hair.

Let us wear our body hair with pride! Or not, if you choose to remove it. Do what you want with your body hair — it is YOUR CHOICE after all.

Find out more or purchase a print here — Ayqa’s Art

‘This is a call to accept all body hair’

I tried to grow my armpit hair a couple of years back and managed a week before I had a mini freak out and shaved. I felt guilty, then I tried to not think about it “i prefer them shaved anyway” I would tell myself.

Then about 6 weeks ago I joined a gym and my temperamental shower broke, which was good timing as I could just shower at the gym- but shower without all my products and razors… When the hair started coming in I thought, well at least it’s winter, I don’t get my pits out a lot… Now it’s been a few weeks and the hair is long and soft and I love them more and more each day. My usual sweat patches around my pit area, which would sometimes come through my coat (!), have stopped, I don’t smell as much (as far as I can tell/smell) and I’ve come to the realisation that FUCK IT. Why the fuck was I shaving anyways? Cos I thought it was prettier? To stop myself from feeling embarrassed or ashamed in a tank top? and who the fuck was I shaving for? Before I’d have said ‘me’ but now I feel I am the proud owner of two hairy underarms and I won’t shave them for anyone.

So having recently come to this realisation, today I came across this post “I just want to be a hairy girl and for that to be OK” and felt it really expresses how I feel (and more) and I want to share it because it’s powerful and an important message we all need to be aware of.

I just want to be a hairy girl and for that to be OK
Minahil Mahmood

Women – we all remember the first time it was brought to our attention that something wasn’t right about our body hair. Whether it was in the sixth grade when your crush was yelling, “Ewwww, you have so much arm hair!” in front of the entire class, or when you were at home watching hair removal ads, questioning why we had to have these products, or watching every female role model in your family get rid of theirs.

Disclaimer: It’s 100 per cent OK to remove your body hair if that’s what makes you happy (I would never say otherwise), but it’s hard to avoid questioning what society would be like if we weren’t forcefed this clean-shaven concept since childhood. What if every ten minutes you didn’t see a razor commercial with an unusually happy woman sporting a pair of clean-shaven legs? What if there wasn’t an alarming amount of products at every drugstore telling you to cut/shave/burn your body hair off regularly? Our perception of body hair on girls has been so twisted that it’s almost impossible to tell if it’s a personal choice that truly makes us happy, or another way we try to conform and fit in.

It’s difficult to tell if we actually want to get rid of our body hair or if we’re just trying to get by without shaking up the whole world’s view of us. From our lovers and partners to fellow women and random glares on the street, it’s hard to be carefree about your body hair while avoiding negative backlash.

Many myths about body hair have been used against women to make them feel dirty and inferior. It’s funny when people claim that having pubes is inherently dirtier than a clean shave, when in reality those hairs are there to protect and keep bacteria away. In fact, a huge reason why women became obsessed with a more clean pubic shave stems from the porn industry. Women with pubic hair were always seen as more mature which equated to sexiness. In 1974, a magazine calledBarely Legal (yikes!) was published, which popularised the fetishisation of young women, a major reason why women suddenly decided to go bald down there and appease the idea of what men may want.

There is virtually no health-related reason for women to have to remove body hair, only personal choice. What about society’s opinion of our anatomy makes body hair unhygienic on women but not men? In a perfect world, it would have been left at individual preference, but body hair on women has become something so taboo, that girls as young as ten years old old feel the need to get rid of it. I was 11 when I first shaved my arms, but it never just stops there. As soon as you realise that there’s something people hate about it, you hate it too and you hate your body for creating it at all. Suddenly your eyebrows look too bushy, your armpit hairs are too thick, the little hairs on your knuckles are ‘unfeminine’. It goes on.

“What if every ten minutes you didn’t see a razor commercial with an unusually happy woman sporting a pair of clean-shaven legs? What if there wasn’t an alarming amount of products at every drugstore telling you to cut/shave/burn your body hair off regularly?”

Over the past couple of years, the internet has given young women a platform to display their true selves and pictures of women with body hair have swept the net. Whether it’s self-love or memes mocking hairy girls in love with their bodies, the conversation started happening. This feminism-centred movement, pushing the normalisation of girls with body hair gained traction and was something young women born after the 80s could relate to. But the movement has gone in cycles. Another reason women started shaving was because body hair became a symbol of feminism, which was seen as ‘manly’ and intimidated the male ego. I found solace in this internet wave for a while before quickly realising that even in a community that accepted body hair on women, there were certain standards you had to meet.

My first issue was only ever seeing pictures of white women with very thin blonde pit hair. I didn’t find it very groundbreaking and found it hard to relate to. I felt that women of colour with thick, dark body hair were rarely ever seen as cute feminist babes making statements, as if the sight of thick, dark hair undoubtably made people even more uncomfortable, making girls of colour feel the need to hide away and continue conforming.

This is a call to stop hiding. This is a call to stop conforming. This is a call to make amends with ourselves. This is a call to accept all body hair. No matter where it is or who it’s on. Let’s start by giving a platform to women who refuse to conform, let’s give platforms to trans women who don’t give a fuck about gender norms. When you see a women sporting some leg hair, instead of thinking ‘Did she forget to shave?’, just assume she loves her body hair. Let’s change this narrative that women who don’t shave don’t care about their looks. Let’s look within ourselves and try to unlearn everything we have been conditioned to believe about body hair on girls. I love your bushy eyebrows, I love your sideburns, I love your happy trail and back hair.

first posted here -http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/28857/1/i-just-want-to-be-a-hairy-girl-and-that-be-ok

“I had lost a considerable amount of weight and despite being able to fit comfortably into a size 8-10 I hated my body for not being able to protect me against infection, vulnerability, moodiness and a loss of friendships.”

The other day when working on a piece I came across a really interesting quote, “Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening” (Lisa M. Hayes).
I found myself reflecting on this, what other people say to or about us can have a profound effect on our confidence and our self-perceptions. Why should what we tell or say about ourselves be any different?

My body and the perceptions I have of it have changed dramatically over the years. Puberty, illness and fashion have all played their part.
When I was younger, I stressed over my frizzy hair and crooked teeth. Now, at 27 I barely give them a thought.
I remember the days when everyone wanted to have Jennifer Aniston’s haircut, you know the one, the one with all the layers that beautifully framed her face.
I got that haircut, but it didn’t change how people, or perhaps more specifically, men, perceived me. It didn’t make me more beautiful, or sexy or attractive because ultimately that comes from within. It’s a cliché, but it’s a fact. The more confidence you have on the inside permeates the skin and radiates on the outside. Your body is a shell that needs to be nurtured and cared for, while simultaneously nourishing your mind.

My body has seen me through many incidents and events. When sexually assaulted at 18 by a close friend, my body felt dirty and damaged. However, no amount of bathing or pampering could heal me. It was my mind and soul that was injured. It is not the scars on my body that people notice, it is the way I flinch when approached or touched without warning.
I threw myself into running, and took up self-defence classes at university. I wanted my body to be ‘strong’, to resist harm. I had relationships with emotionally unavailable men and convinced myself that my body was responsible for their inevitable demise. I told myself that I was disgusting and that I needed to change my look. When my look didn’t change, I cemented my relationship with Dairy Milk, gained half a stone and ‘proved myself right’.

After a string of destructive relationships, I moved to Edinburgh for a Masters. I decided I would live alone, ensuring full independence and threw myself into studying while working nearly full time.
In January of 2012, a curved ball was thrown. I was given a life-changing diagnosis that was the beginning of a whole new body ‘image’.
Due to the medication, my weight fluctuated, my skin and hair became dry and I had to ensure I wore make up constantly so I didn’t scare anyone.
In the summer of 2013, I was told that I was harbouring a growth the size of a grapefruit. The grapefruit, as it became lovingly known, was responsible for the biggest change thus far. Two months after its removal, I had lost a considerable amount of weight and despite being able to fit comfortably into a size 8-10 I hated my body for not being able to protect me against infection, vulnerability, moodiness and a loss of friendships.

The truth remains though. We should not be focusing so much on what others say or how they may perceive us. Let’s build up and congratulate ourselves. I look at myself each day, now with a short, dark pixie crop (watch out Emma Watson and Carey Mulligan!) and despite still feeling a sense of sadness at how it would be nice for my stomach to resemble jelly a little less, I look at my face and focus on how I am still smiling, my eyes convey mischievousness and warmth to all they rest on and how my legs still have the ability to walk up Arthur’s Seat, to run marathons, or perhaps more importantly (or realistically) to wonderful coffee shops and eating places that host a variety of wonderful conversations and incredible people. These are the things, and the people that matter. Your body will inevitably change and alter but find a way to love it regardless.

– by an anonymous woman, aged 27. The author asked me to include a link to EWRASAC, an organisation in Edinburgh which provides support to survivors of sexual abuse. If you would like to support their work, you can find details about how to donate here.

“It’s hard to explain how pain can feel like pleasure.”

Content warning for discussion of consensual BDSM, specifically spanking and caning.

I went to a Torture Garden event in Edinburgh last weekend. For those that aren’t aware, Torture Garden is a club night with a fetish element and a strict, sexually charged dress code. I’m not really involved in the fetish “scene”, having only really explored that side of myself privately, but a group of friends were going and I decided to join them.

There’s something wonderful about the atmosphere created by a club full of people who’re into kink. Everyone is there expressing a side of themself that they don’t usually show to the wider world, and everyone there is mindful of the importance of consent. There is something incredibly freeing about being able to walk around a club in a fishnet dress, everything on display, and not feel that anyone is creeping on you. All around you are people being led around on leashes, people half naked, people cross-dressing, and when people stopped me to compliment my outfit I never felt like they were really complimenting my tits. It’s funny that an atmosphere so openly full of sex and sexuality should feel so much less frightening, so much less full of harassment, than your average, fully-clothed club night.

I am someone who has explored her share of kink behind closed doors. It has by no means been a part of every relationship I’ve been in, but my hottest sexual memories are of blood play, of being tied down and degraded, of being spanked until there are bruises. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not the kind of thing I would usually engage in on a one-night stand, but in the right situation it’s never been anything but enjoyable. There is pleasure – for me – in surrendering control, in giving into sensation for its own sake, and in pushing the boundary between pain and joy.

One of my friends was there with a guy from her work. Lining up for one of the playrooms upstairs, she asked me if I would like to be caned by him. I hadn’t really come there with the intention of getting involved, but in that atmosphere it felt right. I watched him cane another woman in front of me and I knew that I wanted to do it too.

When it was my turn, he asked me if I’d done this before and I said yes, in private. He put his hand on my face and looked me in the eyes. He said, “I’ll start slowly, with my hands. Say ‘red’ if you want me to stop. ‘Orange’ if you want to slow down. Ready?” I felt an instant trust. I felt safe. This is one of the things that a lot of people don’t understand about BDSM – when you submit you’re giving in to a fantasy of surrender, but you retain all the control. Whenever I want it to stop, it stops. And part of the fun is discovering that I can take more than I think I can.

I knelt over the table and he clipped a chain around my neck. I was so aware of my body. More aware of my body than of the fact I was in a room full of people, chained to a table, arse in the air. Aware of every sensation as he whispered in my ear for me to tell him how bad I’d been, to ask him for my punishment. I became someone else, or maybe I became a pure form of myself. I felt free, chained to that table. As I counted aloud the strokes of the cane and thanked him, I was lost in my body, lost in taking direction. Lost in the anticipation, in the sting of wood on skin.

It’s hard to explain how pain can feel like pleasure. Maybe it’s all in your head, in the context. It’s not like I enjoy stubbing my toe or burning myself making coffee at work. The pleasure comes from having the freedom to just experience the pain – to feel it as a sensation, not as a jolt of warning. Psychologically, it’s in the joy of letting go. You don’t have to make decisions, you don’t have to be strong. You’re submitting, but you’re in control of everything.

When we were finished, he lifted me off the table and set me down on my feet. He kissed my cheek and hissed in my ear. I leaned against the wall, my heart fluttering, my hands tingling, my skin stinging. I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt light and giggly.

The skin is bruised beneath my clothes now. A vivid canvas of pink and purple, vicious-looking welts and dark bruises. I can’t stop admiring them in the mirror. I get a little twinge of pleasure when I feel them as I sit down. A spark of a memory.

I love the feeling – physically and psychologically – of these bruises. I love knowing that they’re there, secretly, while I’m at work, or running to the shop. I loved every second of having these bruises put on my body, and I love looking at them now.

I suppose the point of this piece is to highlight the fact that there are many different ways to enjoy your body. There isn’t one “right” way to explore your sexuality, as long as everyone is consenting. It doesn’t make me less of a feminist to enjoy consensual submission, any more than someone would be a “better” feminist because they enjoy dominating men. Embracing my sexuality in a trusting, consensual context is a feminist act.

By an anonymous woman, aged 26

NSFW photo after the jump

Sunday;

‘Be more like a woman!’

It’s been said.
All that I am not has been summed up in one little sentence and I have to deal with it.
I’m trying to smile the pain away.
Somehow.
Nervously I’m searching for a cigarette, hope, dignity.
I shouldn’t be on this earth.
Not today, not tomorrow.

Tuesday;

‘You are becoming worse each day!’

‘Thanks, I know and you are a fucked up arrogant selfish little shit which is interested in superficial people and superficial relationships.
Excuse my existence, I won’t bother you again with my appearance.’
That’s what I should have said.
But I didn’t.
Instead I just laughed with you at myself, about myself.

Wednesday;

Going home. Talking to mum.

‘I thought you were a pretty girl and shouldn’t be alone.’

Apparently I’m not and thanks for telling me.
Great support.
I wish you all the best.
I’m out of here.
And I cannot even tell you to fuck off.

shared with permission from Journal [unfinished]

“I have never felt so lacking in agency as I do out in public here, because clearly my agency doesn’t matter to them.”

Last week I hit a teenage schoolboy in the face. Now, that’s a way to get your attention. Except what I was trying to do, at the point when this happened, was to not get any attention, to walk unnoticed through the streets of the city I live in. You wouldn’t think that’s too much to ask, but here in Cairo it is an impossibility.

Put your phone in your bag, grab your keys, one last check in the mirror to make sure you’ve not got toothpaste around your mouth again. As you walk out of the front door and lock it behind you, you feel your shoulders start to hunch, your eyes fix on the floor, lines and knots of tension spread down from your neck. Step out into the streets of Cairo; your body is no longer your own.

Harassment here is a well-documented phenomenon. There are even those who believe the increase in reports of harassment since the revolution is a positive sign, that it shows more openness and a willingness to talk about it. This means in theory that the problem might be one minuscule step along the way to being solved. Be that as it may (and for what it’s worth, from my three years of living here I don’t see any progress at all) – these reports and the articles and the discussions cannot cover what it feels like to walk down the street in this country.

Impossible to explain the effects of the staring, the nudging and pointing, the jeering, the honking of car horns. The way you shrink inside yourself. The depression or the incandescent rage, depending on your mood and how much sleep you’ve had. This overwhelming feeling of how DARE you. What makes these people think that my body is something to be commented on, shouted at, gawked at?

I have never felt so lacking in agency as I do out in public here, because clearly my agency doesn’t matter to them. It doesn’t matter that I am an actual person, with thoughts and feelings and a reason to be walking somewhere; all that is totally irrelevant. To them I am just a body. All-too visible while my ‘self’, for want of a better word, feels like it is fading. It wears you down, this assault on your sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

I cannot offer explanations, and to be honest by this point I can’t be bothered to. Unsympathetic as it might be to say it, I don’t care why it’s like this anymore. I just wish it wasn’t. I shout, when the effort isn’t too overwhelming, and give the finger a lot, just hoping that even among the laughter and jeers some part of the message that this behaviour is not OK goes in. I am not optimistic about attitudes so ingrained changing.

So this brings us back around to the teenage schoolboy, who I hit in the face because he grabbed me in the street. It was 8:30am and I was walking to the swimming pool, a half-hour walk in the early-morning cool which in another city would be a pleasant way to wake up. Not here, however. I always have to run the gauntlet of a group of 50 schoolboys hanging around on the street, and on this particular occasion one grabbed me. Pushed by a friend, dared, by accident, on purpose? Quite frankly, I don’t give a shit.

While writing this I was all too aware that it is perhaps not directly relevant to the message of this blog, but the experience of daily harassment has made me more aware than ever how our bodies can so often be viewed as detached from us as people, and how this treatment can affect how you see yourself, how you carry yourself, how you react in different situations. I never thought that my refrain would be ‘just leave me alone’, but now the ability to walk down the street, going peacefully about my dull daily life, seems a necessity to keep the relationship with my body secure.