Living In

I was brought up in a culture and a house where looking in the mirror, liking your self was not okay. It was vanity. It was too close to sinning. Any child’s desire is to be loved, accepted and so I learnt to blend into the background. At the same time my family would remark on my weight seven or eight, and the concept of fat came from their words. So I didn’t live in my body, I looked at my body through their words, their eyes. I was called a highland cow, I was jeered. It wasn’t all bleak, summers free in Ireland, I forgot about the adult world and was building straw bail houses in fields, talking to contemplative cows and feral cats with kittens in the shed.

I hit puberty early with ignorance and shame. Covered up. Hid. Rolled down my shoulders, hunched my breasts. My grandmother poked me between the shoulder blades. Slouching makes you fat. Used toilet roll to block the blood from leaking. It wedged like a brick in my pants. The male gaze in our family wasn’t safe. Sexual awakening was accompanied with sexual assault. All of this meant loving my body wasn’t even a formed thought for me, let alone a feeling or simply just being in the world.

Living in my body meant living with shame, guilt and fear. Lumpen heavy dragged down. A source of shame to my family. Not pretty, sylph-like and adored but shy and bookish. I felt a quiet defiance though. Then they called me a bull. It’s your star sign they said. More names. I said nothing. My mind was the way out.

I was happy being an outsider – not with the popular crowd who tottered up town on a Friday night to feel grown up dating older men. I was one of the lads, still hiding my body, and I learnt boy language. Safer than trying to be a girl. I was the one they practised on till they moved onto the real thing. I didn’t mind. My body wasn’t there. I wasn’t really there, I observed. I couldn’t feel anything – but then I had stopped living in years ago. Clitoris? Orgasms? Masturbation? No idea. Our sex education in a catholic school was a creaky video of a woman giving birth. We watched it in the school library amidst posters of grey looming tombstones engraved with AIDS KILLS, and embarrassed passers by. More shame.

Curious at 17, I went to the public library and hired the proper sex education video to watch in one of their study booths – I couldn’t take it home. Mid throws of ‘the sex scene’ with mild murmurs from the woman I actually felt tingles, there was a knock at the door my poor studious neighbour -turn it down I’m trying to work. Oh the burning redness on my face.

I left home for polytechnic and never moved back. I had relationships. Had sex. Felt little. The first time I did a friend showed me where my clitoris was and an orgasm (courtesy of his ex-girlfriend—thank you Alison!). The joy. I struggled to share it with the boys I had relationships with all the same. I was still ashamed of my body.

Twenty years on, interspersed with 10 years of two relationships littered with sexual, physical and emotional abuse and I left my body for much longer, I am here. Living in. I have learnt that loving my self is the only place to start with love. How can I ask any one to love me or expect to be able to love them fully if I don’t love me? If I don’t love my heavy loose breasts, my scars, my crinkles, my smile, my belly that gives me my laugh and furrowed brow? Our culture teaches us an arrogance, some cringe factor about these sentences even, let alone the actuality of it. Poetry, writing, music and art have kept me alive, been my backbone.

This image was taken by my lover who I feel emotionally safe with, who I can fuck with abandon, happiness and can cry with. In the fells outside naked with the sun on my topographic stretch marks and white skin, I am free like those summers in Ireland as a child. My nerve cells and I have reconnected. I am a woman with my feet firmly planted, my shoulders level with a quiet defiance that got me through, my stride is one I love and I can dream a future of my own making. My eyes are bright and open, my heart is whole, beating, I can love with my head up and most of all I feel alive.

living in

Michelle Blog – donkey

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“When I engage in kinky sex, I am not being oppressed. I’m not “letting” a man do anything to me – I’m participating, consciously and actively, in something I want to do.”

Content warning for explicit descriptions of kinky sex, including spanking, play piercing, and blood play. Includes mention of misogynistic slurs, but used in a consensual context.

The other night I had one of those one night stands that was totally worth the effort. Sitting at home on a Saturday night after a busy shift at work, I got a booty call from someone I used to fuck a while ago. Initially I said no – perhaps out of a reluctance to revisit the past, perhaps out of internalised slut-shaming; I don’t know – but I changed my mind pretty much immediately and said yes, out of desire for some purely uncomplicated sex, and walked over to his at 1am.

His company was easy, despite the time which had elapsed since we last saw each other, and we ended up having the kind of dirty, sweaty sex that I’d almost forgotten I even needed in my life. Hair-pulling, dirty-talking, arse-smacking sex. He fucked me while calling me a slut, and I left in the morning feeling powerful, sexy, and totally respected.

Some people – still, in 2014 – see some kind of conflict between enjoying this sort of sex and identifying as a feminist. Some particularly misogynistic men see it as somehow “proving” that women don’t really want respect. But, for me, there is no conflict at all. Woebetide any man who sees fit to call me a slut or smack me on the arse in my everyday life – but in bed, with my consent? Bring it on!

When I was twenty, I was with my first proper boyfriend. Although neither of us was having our first sexual relationship, the relationship we had together was one with a lot of space for experimenting with various kinks. We explored many things which interested both of us, and by most standards it was a sexually adventurous relationship. I called him Sir when we fucked, and he called me his dirty little whore. We did a lot of bondage and playing with pain, and I loved looking at the welts the riding crop left on my backside, admiring them in the mirror and tracing them with my fingertips, feeling proud of my pain tolerance. We made our own porn, and experimented with play piercing (the practice of piercing yourself or someone else for the sensation, rather than to have a permanent piercing – I hope it goes without saying that sterile needles should always be used, and that you should either wear gloves or be with a trusted and tested fluid-sharing partner if you’re going to give this a go, but you can never give too much sexual health advice!) Perhaps the hottest sex I’ve ever had in my life was the time that Sir tied me up in the shower and spanked me before piercing his own cock and covering every inch of me in his blood while he called me a whore. Penises bleed a lot, by the way. The bathroom was covered in bloody handprints and droplets and bumprints just from two thin needles through his glans, and it was immensely sexy and satisfying.

I did these things and more not because I secretly long to be subservient to men, but because they gave me pleasure. Engaging in consensual violence and humiliation was never, for one moment, about hating myself or losing my autonomy. Quite the opposite. I love the freedom and escapism of choosing to surrender aspects of control, while retaining the ability to make it stop at any time. I find the transgression of it erotic, and would never want anyone to call me a whore if I believed that’s what they truly thought – about me or about any woman.

That escapism is something I need in my sex life. Not every time I have sex, but some of the time. Surrendering to the pleasure of sensation and losing myself in this fantasy world are absolutely feminist acts for me. I feel no shame about enjoying being consensually degraded by a man during sex. As long as the situation is emotionally healthy for you – whatever that means in the context of your life right now – and the acts are consensual, go ahead and have whatever kind of sex you enjoy, whether it’s kinky and rough or sweet and loving (and it may surprise some people to know that sex can be all of those things at once).

Bodily autonomy is a central tenet of feminism. The right to contraception, and to an abortion. The right to have sex on your terms – and the equally important right to NOT have sex, whether that means right now or always. The right to dress as you please without fear of attack, and without being judged in the awful event that you are attacked. The right to control what happens to your body is hugely important for everyone, but especially for women, whose bodies in our society – in all societies – are so often seen as the property of men.

So when I engage in kinky sex, I am not being oppressed. I’m not “letting” a man do anything to me – I’m participating, consciously and actively, in something I want to do. It is only an illusion of losing control, and consent is key. My body is my own, and remains absolutely my own through every second of choosing to submit during sex.

There is nothing unfeminist about enjoying whatever kind of consensual sexual relationship you like. There is nothing unfeminist in choosing to surrender control within the fantasy. It is my body, and that can be my choice.

I am a trauma survivor

**TW: child abuse, sexual abuse/rape, self harm, suicide, mental health issues -depression, anxiety, violence, sex**

My relationship with my body is just that – a relationship. It’s a negotiation between what I can do and what my body can do. Sometimes my body is like my best friend, and it looks out for me and protects me. At other times, it feels more like my body and me are an old married couple that bicker and throw tantrums and sulk at each other for not being good enough. I am a trauma survivor. I dealt with pretty bad emotional abuse for most of my childhood and adolescence. Even after managing to escape the people who inflicted that abuse on me, I perpetuated these abusive behaviours in my behaviour and my interactions with people. I am living with the consequences of this trauma now, and part of where I carry these memories is in my body.

I have depression, which comes and goes but often brings fatigue with it. Fatigue is the hardest to deal with of all my problems. It makes walking from my bedroom to my kitchen look impossible. It means that I can’t carry a light bag because my arms and back end up actually painful. It means I might want to go out and see my friends, but I’m worried that I won’t be able to walk all the way there and all the way back. Fatigue means my muscles often hurt and simple tasks like walking can be painful. I am lucky enough that I have enough money now that if the worst comes to the worst, I can get a taxi home from the bus station – but it wasn’t always like that, and I’ve learnt through necessity that my body can do things it is 100% sure it can’t do, if there’s no other option.

I have anxiety, most of which is a direct result of emotional abuse destroying my confidence, and I feel that in my body as well. Overwhelming anxiety starts by stealing all the feeling from my legs, so that they’re numb and shaky and heavy. My tummy starts going round and round like the alarm light on a police car. Low level anxiety, which is with me most of the time, can manifest itself by blotting out my bodily functions. I won’t get hungry or need to go to the bathroom if i’m in a situation that is potentially stressful (like staying at a new friend’s home) – this is my body protecting me from the anxiety these activities can trigger. I might not even notice that I’m panicking, until I’ve realised that I haven’t eaten anything all day and still don’t feel hungry.

Incidentally, my fatigue is actually pretty good for my anxiety because sometimes I just have to sit by the side of the road for half an hour – and necessity makes it easier not to care that people are staring at me. If I’m too exhausted to have many emotions, reason kicks in and reminds me that it really doesn’t matter what random people on the street think about me.

Depression and anxiety are the mental consequences of my experiences. There are physical consequence as well. My abusers taught me that nothing I had was really mine, including my body. While I was living with them, there was nowhere that couldn’t be violated without warning. No privacy and no safety, even within my own body.

This came out into my relationships with other people as well as in how I dealt with and felt about myself. I started having sex when I was 14, and looking back I can recognise almost all my adolescent sexual experiences as non-consensual and abusive. Now, I’m trying to work through all of the sexual abuse I’ve dealt with and exploring ways to actually want and enjoy having sex. Being present during sex is a challenge because I learnt to have sex by dissociating and zoning out. My body automatically tries to shut that whole area down because I’ve learn that it’s wrong and that it hurts and that the best way to survive it is just to shut it out and let it happen. But I don’t want to feel that way anymore, and I’m making efforts towards allowing my body to feel sexual and for that to be a positive thing. Trying to actually be in my body during sex means that I’m more likely to have anxiety and find it difficult not to panic, but I’ll take that because it means I’m making progress. Allowing myself to experience sexual attraction is also hard because that’s one of the things my body decides it’s not worth experiencing – but my brain is pretty sure that it is, now that I’m only sleeping with people who only want fully-consensual, mutually enjoyable sex.

My body is intrinsically wrapped up in all of my trauma issues; it is also a key part of my healing. The worst of my abuse was over by the time I was about 14, and I started recovering by forcefully making a claim over myself and the environment around me. I wallpapered my bedroom with pictures cut out of metal and rock magazines. The entire room was black and ugly but it was finally a space that was mine. I dressed my body in corsets and skinny jeans and eyeliner – and when I got abuse about looking ridiculous I felt proud inside because I knew I looked shit hot – I’d chosen this outfit with care! The claim I staked over my body was somewhat violent – partly because the clothes I wore and the music I listened to got me attacked by strangers on more than one occasion, but also because my tendency to self-harm (present since I was a child) became a regular and defined habit. I don’t think self-harm is healthy, but I know that it was positive for me because it was the first time I’d really been able to stake a claim over my own body. Because my abusers at this point were also people who loved and cared about me, I was obligated to keep my scars hidden from them – and they became my first secret, the first thing that was really and truly mine. My body also demonstrated its remarkable capacity for healing by swallowing the scars time and time again – keeping my secret with me.

I moved out of that house as soon as I possibly could. Living away from there for the first time was an eyeopener – until recently, I didn’t even recognise a lot of what happened to me as abuse because it was presented as so normal. My mental health issues are my body reacting to being safe. I am no longer in a crisis situation, and my body is beginning to let some of that in and deal with it. That’s why I’m considerably less able to function on a day-to-day basis than I was when I was a teenager. I’m forgetting some of my coping mechanisms because I no longer need them every day. I used to be superb at hiding my emotions and thoughts (I could have a panic attack without anybody around me noticing) and now I can’t do that – but I’m working to see this as a positive thing because it means I’m surrounded by people who are going to be ok if I have a panic attack. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m surrounded by people who are going to everything they can to help me if I have a panic attack..

I am still learning that all of the things I learnt as fact when I was growing up are not fact. It’s beginning to sink in, after four years away from home, that I can do whatever I want with my body and my life. I have piercings and tattoos now, and some of my tattoos are ridiculous and anaesthetic and my family Do Not approve and I’m yet to explain them to anyone without getting a sort of disbelieving sneer in response – and my reaction is to shove two fingers up at them and remind them that nobody gets a say but me! Now I can put write a note to myself on my mirror, and know that nobody is going to come in and look at it without my permission. I can leave my diary lying on the floor of my bedroom. Hell, I can leave my diary lying on the floor of my living room because nobody would even dream of opening it! I can walk out of my room with fresh self-harm marks, and the only reaction I will get is people who care about me and want me to explain to them how I want them to help me. I can lie on my bed and kiss someone, and not be required or expected or obligated to have sex with them, and even though I still have difficulty feeling that that is true I know on an intellectual level that it is. I’m just waiting for my body to catch up.

My depression in high school made me want to not live because I couldn’t envision anything remotely worth living for. I expected to get married and have children because that was what I’d been taught inevitable happened, and I would probably have a job – but none of this held any particular emotional or motivational appeal for me. I didn’t have any dreams or hopes because I couldn’t envision anything giving me a positive life experience. I went through phases where I didn’t particularly want to die, but I sure as hell didn’t want to stay alive and I’d fall asleep at night praying I just wouldn’t wake up. But now, I’ve worked out that there are things I want to do – and I mean want with a burning passion that occasionally keeps me awake at night because I’m so excited about doing them. Now, I want to live so badly that even when I’m going through a bad depressed period and beyond experiencing emotion at all, I can remember that those feelings and wants exist and feel sure that I just need to hold on and work through the depression and when I come out the other side, all of the good things and good people in my life will still be there waiting for me.

annonymous 

“There is joy in exploring bodies together.”

I’m twenty-six, and I’ve had sex with around thirty people, maybe more depending what you feel counts as sex. I was only in relationships with a handful of them, many of them one night stands, occasional things with friends, or short (often very short) flings. And I’ve never felt like a “slut”, or like I’m doing something wrong.

Just over a month after I turned sixteen, I lost my virginity to a boy I’d met that same night at a party. He was also sixteen, and a virgin too, and we got along, flirted, and had sex. (Funnily enough, I had sex again with this same boy once more, three years later.) It had never been important to me that sex be “special”, although if that’s your thing, great! I don’t remember feeling especially nervous or like something especially momentous was happening, although of course I texted my friends immediately afterwards.

In retrospect, I was lucky to have a group of quite sex-positive friends, although of course we were a mess of hormones and had our share of poor decisions and fights. We didn’t slut-shame each other, we swapped masturbation tips and passed around dirty books (how retro is that?) I also benefited from access to very comprehensive sex education, and we were generally, from the start, aware and diligent about contraception and STI prevention.

Sex for me has always been something I’ve entered into easily. Funnily enough, I find the whole process of flirting supremely awkward and have major anxiety about rejection, so I tend to never make the first move, but if things are going nicely and I’m open to kissing them, I’m probably open to having sex with them.

I find it’s a good ice breaker. The moments after you have sex, especially good sex, there’s no more awkwardness. You lie there all sweaty and just look at each other and laugh. Sudden your bodies feel like they live easily together, because they’ve worked together. Sex when you’re in love is different and wonderful, but that doesn’t make casual sex worthless. It can be life-affirming and joyful and, most importantly, pleasurable. I’ve had wonderful sex with people I barely knew, or casually and intermittently with a friend I feel a sexual connection to. There is joy in exploring bodies together.

I feel no shame of my body when I’m having sex, not that I normally do otherwise. I don’t feel exposed or afraid. They think I look beautiful, or they wouldn’t be there. Your partner doesn’t care, whether it’s for a night or a lifetime. All bodies are beautiful as you explore them and make them moan at your touch.

Of course I’ve had bad casual sex. Not everyone is good at sex, and even those who are can’t be good all the time. Maybe your bodies just aren’t a good fit, or it’s just boring or unsatisfying. But most of the time, the experience as a whole is still fun. There is still joy in kissing someone, in holding someone, in admiring and being admired. You relate on a different level when you’re naked together. Sex should be laughter and pleasure and joy. It doesn’t have rules, except to respect everyone’s consent. It’s revealing and intimate even with a stranger. It can be full of beauty.

Perhaps I am promiscuous by the standards of society, but I can honestly say I don’t regret a single one of the people I’ve slept with. I would probably have been with many more if I was capable of being more forward. Of course there are people I wouldn’t go with now, but they’ve all been a part of who I am. I wouldn’t change it, I wouldn’t take it back, and I will never, ever allow anyone to shame me for it. I had sex with those people because I wanted to in that moment. That’s what matters. Have sex how you want to, on your terms. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you need to be with more or fewer people, or enjoy a certain kind of sex. It’s not boring to have vanilla sex, any more than it’s wrong to consensually explore the dirtiest kinks you can imagine. Sex is a different experience with every new person, and that is wonderful.

There is no such thing as a slut. Have all the funny, sweaty, joyful sex you like. Use a condom, get tested, and be safe. Respect other people’s boundaries, and your own. Explore and enjoy.

Carol Rossetti – WOMEN

This is one of the reasons I love facebook and can’t quite give it up because I come across amazing things like this from the various pages I follow. This is the amazing work by Carol Rossetti, so simple yet so powerful! I wanted to share on the blog because I felt it so fitting and something a lot of woman will relate to. Also the illustrations are just too KICK ASS not to share.

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Posted with permission. Please go to http://https://www.behance.net/carolrossetti to see more of her amazing work!

“My lovely, ridiculous body.”

I could tell you all about the day I realized I was fat. I went home, locked myself in the toilet, wept. I could tell you that I kept that up for about three days a week, for about seven years. I could tell you all about the blowjobs I didn’t want to give, to boys who were happy to let me suck them off but wouldn’t touch me in return.

I had never had anyone touch me sexually until I was nineteen. I had, however, given, oh, probably thirty blowjobs?

The boy who said the thought of me naked made him felt sick. The many, many times my mum dragged me to the gym. The way that, to this day, I eat sugary food in private and cry afterwards.

But then, when I was 21, I was diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosus. A rare autoimmune disease that attacks the vulval skin, until it lacerates and comes off. It can stop normal intercourse, can make the clitoris scar over and disappear, and it has no cure.

I may well take steroids for it for the rest of my life.

But!! It has changed me. It has helped me. It has made me love my body, love what it can do, love its well parts, the way they work.

Lichen Sclerosus is an illness that responds to stress, to psychological duress. And so – I think, I caused it, by hating this lovely, lovely body.

Steroids make me fatter. They make my face swell up. I don’t like that.

I do like the fact that when this illness is under control, I am blessed with a functioning cunt again.

I do like:
*learning mindfulness
*properly negotiating sex using words – finding partners for whom my condition is not a difficulty.
*lovely long masturbation sessions
*walking with my strong legs.
*dancing with this lovely, faulty, imperfect, friendly body.

Loving your body is a hard thing. It exists as the physical token of all that you are, and that is hard – we all want to be the best, shiniest token, when in fact most people are looking at our personality.

So, there are days when I am in so much pain I can’t walk. Or days when steroids give me bad Cushings syndrome. Crying days, lonely-till-I-die days, why am I still not thin enough days.

But mainly? There are thank heavens for my body days. My lovely, ridiculous body, capable of giving – and now I am older, receiving – so much pleasure.

Anonymous woman -age unknown

“Sometimes I think my body’s forgotten how to feel, or chosen to forget.”

Sometimes I think my body’s forgotten how to feel, or chosen to forget. I don’t remember any more what it feels like to want someone. I think my heart is too scared. It’s frightened of breaking, so it locked itself away.

I love my body. I think it’s beautiful, and resilient. It heals itself, and it makes it possible for me to make it through endless nights at work. It puts up with my smoking. But sometimes it feels like no one else will ever love it again. I don’t mean the guys at work who look me up and down, or end conversations with, “You’ve got great tits, by the way”, or who put their hands on me. Those men don’t love my body. They don’t want to revel in my body, to lick the sweat from my skin and the blood from my cunt and find joy in the way it makes me shiver. And sometimes I’m scared that no one will love my body the way he did. Like that man who didn’t love me as much as he loved drugs. The first man who didn’t just not mind fucking me if I was bleeding, but who’d put his face between my legs and make me come, and kiss me with my blood on his lips. Who loved the hair under my arms, who would inhale its scent and lick the sweat from me while he fucked me. The first man who loved all of my body, and who didn’t make any part of my womanhood seem disgusting, or something to put up with. He was the twenty-third man I slept with.

I haven’t seen him in a year, except awkwardly, in the smoking areas of clubs. He was wrong for me and I don’t want him now. But his existence reminds me of everything I’m scared I won’t find again. I’m scared that when he broke my heart, he made me lock it away against my will. I’ve forgotten what it feels like for my body to want someone, really want them, because wanting means risking disappointment. Wanting means eventual betrayal, and broken hearts. Wanting leads to sadness.

And so sex is something I want in an abstract way. Sometimes I have sex because it’s there, because I want to feel skin on mine and arms around me and a cock inside me. My body wants sex but it doesn’t want them. I hardly remember what it feels like to look across a room at someone and just ache with wanting them. I’m scared to let sex make me feel something that isn’t physical, because my feelings are so dangerous. I long to be able to share my body again in a mutual way, to want his pleasure as much as I want my own, to look into someone’s eyes instead of keeping mine shut or looking away because somehow, eye contact is more intimate than fucking. My body is scared to feel because my heart doesn’t want to break.