Russell

See Russell’s full set (and well over 100 more!) by subscribing at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Hi, I'm Russell, I guess. Here's some things.

Written on the Fletch

when i was cupid
    lying lonely in my bed
i shot an arrow
    through my bedroom window
and through the window
    came an arrow

it shot me straight in the heart
    my heart goddamnit!

how terrible!
how beautiful!
how it was you all along

(trigger warning, btw)

doc says there's no cure for "sex is like giving someone a handshake and watching them twitch out in ecstasy"

with my lips i scrawl every harbored fever of passion
    against the cool smoothness of her neck
        until it flows that sweat heat and heaves her breath
    lifting her breasts next—boys only 
        want one thing—to the cusp of my tongue
            which patiently ticks in harmony
                to the patterned beauty of her gasping lungs

i pull away to brush my hands along the gorgeous fullness of her
    sliding firm fingers beside her strong hips
        so that light tickle fickles up her nerves—keep your boy
            away from my daughter—as my kisses scale up her skin
                her soft toes crinkle against stubbled remnants
                her aching calves quiver to balming lips
                her thick thighs spread under hot breath

when she grabs the dick i never wanted
    and begs it inside i comply
and wonder when any other part of me will be touched
    or if my mascara meant—you're such
        a fucking perv'—anything
    or if i didn't shave close enough
        or if i shaved too close
or if my waxed legs still inspire no desire
    the way hers do in effortless moments
        when they drape over the mattress corner
            and someone all on their own comes up and kisses them
and i noticed she grazed my chest once
    her painted nails against—you don't make
        me feel special—its flatness and matted fur
            but maybe it was more in reach?

and the trespass of myself into the—you have
    to protect her purity—feels like nothing still
(after all those teenage years cutting
    for disappointing—after all the lord done
        for you—by slipping purity rings
            off unforgivingly idle hands
and it still feels like nothing still—at least you weren't
    slut shamed—not a single thing)

and i want to cry
    but i laugh: so i'm still a man aren't i
and i splurt out chuckle after chuckle
    hoping they'd sound like giggles
        (they never do)

and every partner always shyly sweetly asks "why are you laughing"
    and i always think why am i fucking
        but i say it's just because i'm the nerd boy
            who never thought he'd be worth a woman like you
        instead of it's not you it's
            a history of—my therapist says you
                have intimacy issues—everything at once

(but i really just want a good fuck don't i
    and i shake to think it'll never be you
and maybe i oughtta cum early so this all stops
    and maybe i oughtta play terrible in bed
        so i don't have to play the untouchable toucher
            but i remember the final slams of their bedroom doors
                and you deserve a good fuck too
                    because you've got what i don't

but couldn't i have a different body
    if not one with a womb to nurture
        then at least one that feels you right

and am i fucking in gratitude for the moment of slender purse strap
    hooped over my shoulder when you went to the bathroom
or the teddy bear socks you let me wear
    in the pillowed fortress of your room
        with the blinds shuttered)

and she leans back into the fuck
    and convulses like she were speaking tongues
and i watch in curious senselessness
    like becoming an apostate all over again

Yeah, so that's sex. Or, it was up until a few years ago when I decided I wanted to do a shoot. I'm not sure to what extent it still is. I think I wanted to prove to myself that I could figure out how to feel sexy, but I don't think I did. I did feel like I looked sexy, sometimes. I think it's probably just hard to feel that way when your feelings around gender and sexuality are intense but transient or surreal or absent. Or that purity culture just necessarily fucks you up for life, and the best you can hope for is to prevent your hypothetical future kids from having to deal with that shit. I definitely enjoyed the experience of being photographed like this, in a kind of innocent and giggly awkward way.

Or, I think 25 year old me wanted to see more genderfluidity represented and 28 year old me just wants to sleep but felt like I owed it to younger versions of myself.

Maybe I just wanted a photo album to look back on as a 70 year old and be like "Yeah, I was hot and dumb and fucked up."

Anyway, this is something I've written a bit more recently. I think it's an optimistic outlook on aging and love.

Match

As I hold a candle before you
    its scent unlabeled
        yet familiarly discoverable

I tell you
    oh how these candles once simpered
        enlightened me to dulcet smiles
        in flickers of pale light
    between our simmering eyes

I tell you
    oh how these candles once whimpered
        hummed up a graying line
        to soothe me through the night
    amidst our whispered goodbyes

I must warn you
    my teeth are more resin than ivory
        their crowns are coming in next week
            and next month
                and probably many more times
    my heart murmurs rather than coos
        it twitters unabated
            regardless of pates
    my lungs skip breaths
        it has nothing to do with you
            they just do that now
    my eyes may only capture you
        the way photographers capture big foot        

My brain too 
    has a cavity
        where festering memories burrow
        excruciate my nerves
        and mutate undecodably
but it is also
    a deep well
        of earned workarounds
        to horrendous truths

My heart cannot follow a love
    if to hell we veer
but it beats like a war drum
    when omens draw near
My lungs cannot chase a love
    whose cold feet send them aflight
but they hold steady and calm
    through the trials of a fight
My eyes cannot behold a love
    with unbridled adoration
but they will study our flaws
    and offer seasoned navigation

As I hold a candle before you
    its scent fading
        yet hopelessly young

I ask you
    would you like to take
        your worn matchbook
            and be a little brighter
                with me?

(But what about my teeth, you ask?
    Oh no
    those are fucked
    I was hoping you forgot about them)

Thanks. Have fun out there. Be good.

If you like what we do and want to help ensure we can keep doing it, please hit that subscribe button and help us keep going, or Contact Us to book your own shoot!

Isabella

Check out the rest of Isabella's set, and well over 100 others, by subscribing at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Hey there!

Writing this turned out to be so much harder than I thought it would be. I’ve been trying to figure out for days what I would like to share about myself and my views about sexuality/sexiness.

First of all I’d like to tell you that I’m half Swedish and half Chinese. Most people don’t believe me when I say that I’m half Chinese, but I’ve never looked Swedish enough to not constantly be asked “Where are you from??” either. I’m very proud of my Chinese heritage, but to have had that part of me constantly questioned has definitely been detrimental to how I view myself.

I’ve always struggled with my own identity, growing up I never really felt like I quite belonged anywhere and that has stayed with me into adulthood. My struggle with my identity very much also extends to my body image, I’ve never been able to look myself in the mirror and think “I look really good” or “Yeah, I’m a sexy mother*cker!”. Struggling with bpd, depression and anxiety for more than half my life has also taken its toll on my body and self-image. I have a plethora of self-harm scars scattered over my body and I generally don’t like to look at my naked self very much because of that and I hate talking about it even more, so writing this here is difficult. But it’s time I start being more honest and open about that part of me.

For most of my life I have had zero self-worth. I’ve never thought I’m good enough, not when it comes to my looks or my brain, it also doesn’t help that I constantly compare myself to others and how awesome they are. Being happy with myself and my body has been a struggle to say the least, but lately I’ve been trying to do some things to push myself out of my self-deprecating comfort zone ever so slightly and this photo shoot has been one of those things. Seeing myself as sexy has never even crossed my mind, most of the time I feel like a unshapely blob that sometimes manages to put a nice enough outfit on. What’s funny though is that when it comes to romantic interests I always only think that they want me for sex, that that’s the only thing of value I can offer them. That, along with my complete lack of self-worth and self-loathing and a whole bunch of other fun issues, has made my relationship with sex a bit complicated. Sex is something I can enjoy, but it has also very often left me feeling empty and has many a times made me feel even worse about myself. For a long time when I was younger, I would often let the other person’s wants and desires completely override my own and very often at the expense of my own pleasure as well. It made me push beyond boundaries I really didn’t want to cross and all because I often thought I didn’t deserve any better.

A few months ago, I finally worked up the nerve to tell my best friend that I didn’t just love him to the moon and back platonically, but also romantically (can you believe he feels the same way??! I feel insanely lucky) and we decided to pursue a romantic relationship with each other. I dare say that this is the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, there are still many ups and downs much thanks to my mental health issues, but for the first time I’m finally breaking out of my hardened shell and communicating my thoughts, feelings and wants with a partner and that very much includes sex. I’ve known for a long time what kind of things I’m sexually kind of in to, but I have finally found a partner I feel completely comfortable exploring that with and it feels so freeing. Finally, I’m not almost solely engaging in sex with just the other person’s desires and pleasure in mind, I’m also keeping my own pleasure in mind and daring to communicate that to my partner. We’re having fun exploring each other’s kinks and our own at the same time, who knew sex could be this much fun? This has really taught me how important open and honest communication is to having good sex, it’s not easy but definitely worth it in the end.

I hope that someday when I look at the photos Braden took I will be able to give myself a break and not pick apart everything I think is wrong or ugly about the way I look and just see a beautiful woman trying to navigate the confusing landscape of being alive.

 

If you like what we do and want to help ensure we can keep doing it, please hit that subscribe button and help us keep going, or Contact Us to book your own shoot!

Amanda

See Amanda's full set (and well over 100 more!) by subscribing at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Hello, friends and enemies. I'm Amanda, she/her, queer, 29, clearly a Slytherin. My major interests are jazz music, 30s-40s fashion and makeup, medical history, and graveyard symbolism. I struggle with perfecting tart recipes and major depressive disorder. I'm studying to be a death doula, because I strongly believe that everyone has a right to their agency and their identity at the end of life, and in death. And if anyone needs a buddy for museum road trips, I'm all in. 

This process was harder than I thought it was going to be. While the experience of getting photographed by Braden and dressing up in fancy lingerie was nothing but positive, I struggle a hell of a lot with body image. Despite being extremely pro- body positivity, and finding people of all shapes, sizes, genders, whatever to be sexy as hell, I can never find a way to turn that gaze onto myself. To me my body is a collection of spare parts smushed together. It's a barrier that stops people from seeing me, or getting to know me and the good qualities I have. Especially not when, like the last few months, I'm at the bottom of a depression pit. 

Which is why it's probably not spurprising that when I first opened the proofs, I scrolled through briefly, closed my laptop, and went to have a long sob. 

"I'm going to drag the whole website down", I texted a friend. "All these gorgeous people, and then my mess." I couldn't see past my perceived flaws and my fresh self-injury scars. Hell, I couldn't even take the time to appreciate my rad tattoo. 

I had to put the pictures aside for a while, and I was dreading opening them back up to choose my favorites. So when I opened them again, one eye was closed and my hands were shaking. And then...I loved them. The more I looked, the more those spare parts coalesced into a fuller picture. I could see myself, confident or poised or wistful or mysterious or confrontational or happy. I caught myself thinking "I look beautiful". 

And then I cried again because, y'know, it was that kind of catharsis. 

One of the prompt questions is 'what makes me feel sexy?". I'm still not sure, but I've got a better idea now. It's probably an uphill battle, but I've got these photos as ammunition. I can look at them and see a beautiful, sexy woman. And what's more, when I look at them, I can see me. 

 

 

Check out Amanda's entire set (and well over 100 more!) by supporting us on Patreon! You'll get access to all past sets, and you'll see all future sets a week early!

Brian

Check out Brian's full set by backing this project at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

My name is Brian. He/him pronouns. I am a straight Taiwanese-American male, an avid dancer (nowadays into fusion), and I find quality, evidence-based data to be quite…tantalizing. Let’s chat about some, hmm? 

While research on the subject is relatively limited, the concept of “racial preference,” similar to that of unconscious bias, is based on the idea that our current perceptions of the world and the people around us are based on our past experiences and exposures. Included in these experiences are those that we seek out and recognize as being influential to our perspectives, as well as those that we don’t even notice, the “background noise” so to speak. Our perspective is always changing, whether we recognize it or not, and we are rarely the same person every single day.

Amidst the turmoil of this constantly shifting world, it is not unreasonable to believe that we gravitate to that which is familiar. It has recently been demonstrated that infants as young as three months old will prefer a caretaker that is of the same ethnicity as them…but only after previous exposure to others of that ethnicity. Along that vein, Car-Haim et al. (2006) demonstrated that a group of infants of Ethiopian descent at an adoption center did not show ethnicity-based caretaker preference when equally exposed to Caucasian and African caretakers. Now, this data is based on eye tracking (a fairly common technique for evaluating attention in young children), but I don’t think it would be too far of a leap to say this also applies to other methods of eye catching. Might one develop a “racial preference” in romantic and sexual attraction, simply based on differential exposure? And if there is a lack of exposure to a certain racial group, wouldn’t that factor into “preference?”

You probably see where this is going. Of course, this is a blog post, not a place for me to simply quote research that I hope you look up and evaluate for yourself (as one should for all scholarly referenced articles). This discussion barely skims the surface of the nuanced cultural interplay of race and preference. But simply being aware of just how nuanced it is might serve as a starting point.

Perhaps my personal anecdote will provide more context for why I bother with all this jargon about racial exposure and preference. As an Asian-American, born in the United States, growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, the majority of my own “Asian” exposure was actually from mainstream media. And how does mainstream media portray my specific demographic: Asian men? As this site is about body positivity and embracing one’s sexiness, let’s jump to that. For Asian men in American media, “sexy” is not the first adjective to come to mind. Oftentimes, it doesn’t even come close to making the list. In fact, a fun challenge is to name a Hollywood movie with an Asian male as a romantic lead. Any thoughts?

Asian men are often invisible, or if portrayed, desexualized and consistently represented in the “socially awkward, model minority” roles. Whether this image exists because American media portrays Asian males as such, or if American media simply reflects the stereotypes of its followers…well, it’s a chicken-or-egg dilemma. Stereotypes often reflect some degree of truth, but if every single exposure is in the form of a reductive stereotype, it creates a certain kind of identity trap. As it did for me. As long as I was an Asian male, I could never consider myself “sexy.” After all, that is the message that was provided to everyone, myself included. 

 “Oh, I’m just not into Asian guys.” 

“Wow! I didn’t know Asians could dance!”

“You’re really cute, for an Asian guy.”

Hearing these themes repeatedly from a young age is, quite frankly, developmentally stunting. A compliment is not reassuring when shrouded by the qualifier of being Asian, and suggests that being Asian is inherently disadvantageous, at least when it comes to attractiveness. Without role models and representation, one can begin to feel lesser and excluded, simply due to the immutable fact of their race. 

But wait! What about Taiwanese pop-stars? Isn’t there representation *back home*? 

The problem is that Taiwan isn’t my home. I’ve visited on occasion yes, but even then, my own family members often comment on how American I am, sometimes not even speaking with me in Mandarin. When I contemplated joining the Taiwanese Student group as a freshman in undergrad, I was made uncomfortable with comments that I was “really white.” 

So, neither white enough to be considered an “American,” and not Asian enough to be considered Taiwanese. It’s a bit of an identity crisis at times, but also a unique position that I’m learning to be more comfortable with (it’s a work in process, and also why I was not brave enough to do this alone – shout-out to Eric for his magnificent support in this endeavor!)

TLDR; representation is important. Diversity in representation is important. A Taiwanese guy might be a nerdy, introverted techie and a bit awkward in the social setting. *And* he might be the witty, flirtatious fellow who is the charming life of the party. There shouldn’t only be one mold.

Is that why I am doing this? Of course, it isn’t that simple. I’m also not going to deny the fun and confidence one gains when being a model for a photoshoot, a first for me. But I do hope that I offer another perspective. Or maybe just offer a bit of hope.

For me that is saying something, as hope is not a metaphysical concept I indulge in regularly. It causes one to strive for impossible goals, to persist beyond what is practical. And yet here it is. 

My hope is that we can cut the qualifier in the compliment “You’re sexy, for an Asian.” My hope is that one will also no longer feel reduced to their race in comments “I think Asians are sexy.” My hope is that, bearing in mind our own biases, for we all have them, we can simply say, “I find YOU sexy.”

Side-note: It would be remiss not to emphasize that the inverse of what I discuss is just as debilitating. Considering an individual to be attractive, solely due to their race, is no different that choosing to reject someone due to their race. Any of those reductions are painful and insulting. Additionally, I can only speak specifically about my own individual experiences, and my own personal struggles are not intended to diminish the struggles of any other individual or group.

 

Oh hey you’re still reading. Awesome! Well here are my sources. I hope you read over them and don’t just take my word for the data. Evaluate and double check everything!

Chien SH, Wang JF, Huang TR. Developing the Own-Race Advantage in 4-,6-, and 9-Month-Old Taiwanese Infacts: A Perceptual Learning Perspective. Frontiers in Psychology 2016; 7:1606.

David J. Kelly, Shaoying Liu, Liezhong Ge, Paul C. Quinn, Alan M. Slater, Kang Lee, Qinyao Liu and Olivier Pascalis.  Race Preferences for Same-Race Faces Extend Beyond the African Versus Caucasian Contrast in 3-Month-Old Infants. Infancy. 2007; 11(1): 87-95.

Kang Lee, Paul C. Quinn, and Olivier Pascalis. Face race processing and racial bias in early development: A perceptual-social linkage. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2017 Jun: 26(3): 256-262.

 

 

Check out Brians's entire set and help us keep the lights on at Hella Positive by supporting us on Patreon! You'll get access to all past sets as well, and you'll see all future sets a week early!

Eric

Check out Eric's entire sexy set by backing this project at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Weak. 
Effeminate. 
Quiet. 
Nerdy. 
Passive. 

Not sexy. 

The classic narrative of the Asian man in America. Yet, the supposed "positive" stereotype that Asians are born intelligent also traps Asian men (and women), who fail to achieve the pinnacle of STEM fields, into years of insecurity and shame. The "model minority" affirmation pushed by white America was never intended to recognize the hard work of Asian Americans, but instead is a back-handed slap to other communities of color. And then there is emasculation and fetishization. What better war propaganda to motivate young men to fight in Asia, than to advertise the men as weak, and the women as easy? My Asian brothers and sisters live with the consequences of this post-WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam BS. While the plight of Asian women has found some level of allyship among the feminist community, Asian men are still largely left to fend for themselves.

And it shows. We are expected to fulfill our stereotype in order to find acceptance in white male society. It is a generational pressure that our parents adhered to, so well in fact that they pass on their world view and strategy: think brilliantly, work tirelessly, be submissive. If we deviate, we fail at integration in their eyes and risk being endlessly questioned by society and family alike. And even when we achieve exactly what society expects of us... Asian men still cannot be leaders, cannot be assertive, and most certainly cannot be sexy.

This photoshoot is my rebellion against the limits placed upon myself and my Asian brothers. I am sexy, all the way through. I am sexy when I’m caring and affectionate, and sexy when I’m powerful and charismatic. I am sexy when I’m owning my profession, and sexy when I’m relaxing with my friends. To my Asian brothers: you are not a stereotype. You ARE sexy, creative, charismatic, or whatever the hell you choose. Let's destroy this narrative together. Today, I'm choosing to do it one photo at a time.

️Oh and my name is Eric.

 

Check out Eric's entire set and help us keep the lights on at Hella Positive by supporting us on Patreon! You'll get access to all past sets as well, and you'll see all future sets a week early!

Cecil

Check out Cecil's full set at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

My name is Cecil; I'm a relationship anarchist and butter enthusiast. I use they/them for my nonbinary self, and all of that is, maybe, part of why I used to spend a lot of time escaping photographs. I don't think I had a sense of how to express my own sexuality or sexiness till a few years ago, but I'm making up for it exponentially now.

Here's a memory of eighth grade: a locker room, my crush, and a purple, satiny, molded plunge bra. I'd had daydreams about kissing older girls, too terrifying to act on. Dreams of being a boy, whatever that meant. Dreams of being an alien, a swiss army knife of body parts. Heap the shame on. Bury my nerves.

I have a few things to say to Past Me, including "look, it's okay to like pretty things," and "hello, you're queer!"

I've come around from my oversized jackets and my brother's hand-me-downs, a complete spin into frilly, soft, and bright. I love clothes, don't own pants, spend a lot of my time naked. Sometimes putting clothes on just makes me more self conscious. Figuring out how to source bras and dresses that flattered me was so monumental and so sweet. Knowing I still can't find them in a store to try on, nor can anyone else of my shape and size, is bitter rind. But I do love the feeling of skin brushing against fabric, and I only touch things I want to touch now. One of my partners wears a lot of velour and corduroy; we keep having the delicious problem of needing to get halfway back out of our clothes once they're on.

I think I'll always feel divorced from my body in some way. I creep further over that border every day, in tendrils, on days when I feel comfortable or capable, when my eyes dart over my reflection and see someone familiar. Tattoos help so much. It's strange being a nonbinary person under the trans umbrella and wearing what feels like very gendered and binary underwear; it's less strange marking my body up, giving it borders, highlights, nonstandard main attractions.  

I'm at my most smokin' when I see my gender recognized. There's a reason why my first tattoo was a favorite artist's enormous genderfuck design, why I periodically go to a party with abstracted pronoun magic sharpied all over my arms. There's no point in getting naked if it lets anyone reduce me to my body shape, my parts, my assignment.

I've had the joy and honor of cloaking (and revealing) myself in a Noel’le Longhaul’s tattooing. I don't go a day now without taking a walk in my body-as-architecture. I inhabit myself with a glow. See my insides on my outsides, my own grandness. The vast expanse of myself scares me less. My tattoos are some of the first things (and sometimes the only things) people notice about me. I love it that way. I love these choices I have made.

Dante

Check out Dante's full set (with a surprise guest!) at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Howdy droogs! My name’s Dante! I’m a cishet polyamorous performer living in Chicago, and respond to both he & they pronouns.

What I lack in body positivity I’ve always made up for in style!

My fashion sense is cinematically influenced. My speech is theatrical. My physicality is musically motivated.

My favorite feature has always been my hair, even though it’s taken some sweet time to accept its waviness for what it is (I’ve always envied the simplicity of straight hair). Since I can thank my mother for my hair, eyes, cheekbones, and high forehead (and blame my dad for my nose, body hair, and temperament) I prefer to keep it long out of gratitude to my mother for being a crux of sanity in my life. No matter how bad my body dysmorphia is or how low my self-esteem may be, I’m always confident about my hair.

Speaking of confidence, it’s been been a daunting task over the past couple of years to own my androgyny.

My attraction to women and my comfort level for primarily men’s clothing run contrary to my movement/speech patterns and how my vibe on the inside is somewhere between “Fae As Fuck” and “Genderlessly Cartoonish”- at least by gender binary standards. And if you’re reading this I’m confident that we both agree that the gender binary can get fucked anyhow.

So I present as “he” and I'm sexually attracted to women, but I feel genderflux in my heart- and my brain is still trying to catch up to the feelings I’ve been running with.

 

Check out Dante's entire set and help us keep doing what we do at Hella Positive by supporting us on Patreon! You'll get access to all past sets as well, and you'll see all future sets a week early!

Charlotte

You can see Charlotte's entire set by backing this project at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Okay, so, apparently nothing in me actually wants to write out a blog post, so instead I'm going to send Braden a Facebook message about why I can't seem to do this, and he can use that instead.

You can call me Charlotte. I'm 27 years old, female/she/her, far more straight than I ever want to be, and a relationship anarchist, though I only worked that bit out a week ago, and in practice, I may as well be monogamous.  

Sex has always been A Thing. I was raised in the kind of religious household where so much as thinking about sex is the worst sin, and having it will ruin your life. I suspect that this was more from experience than from doctrine, but it was the message I got nonetheless.  

After a long relationship with someone who respected my feelings about (and fear of) sex way longer than was probably healthy for him, I finally realized that I just didn't agree with what I'd been raised to believe. I set out to find a person I could trust to explore sex with me.  

When you're 24 years old and still a "virgin", this isn't exactly easy. When I finally got over the upbringing that taught me that I'd be a failure if I ever had sex outside of some eventual marriage, I faced a world that judged me for having gone so long without it. There was a guy who fetishized taking my virginity who didn't believe me when I told him I wasn't interested. There was a guy who all but threatened to rape me, and then swore he never would have if he'd known (because something about that makes it okay, apparently). There were plenty of people who wondered what was "wrong" with me or assumed I was going to judge them. Then, finally, I found him.  

We'd met a year before, lost touch for a while, and when I texted him out of frustration, he was on a plane less than two weeks later. He flew from Salt Lake City to Seattle just to spend the night with me, because he'd been there too and he wanted me to have a good time.  

I did. We spent the night talking about everything from Walt Whitman to the war that ended Yugoslavia, having all the sex we could sex without a certain body part that was eliminated from the proceedings after we realized we didn't have condoms and didn't want to walk two minutes to the store to get them. The night was amazing; a couple months later we met up again, and then decided to try having an open, long distance relationship when he moved abroad at the end of the year.  

Armed with someone who liked me and supported me, I was able to confidently move through the world for about three months before the shit hit the fan.  

Over the next two years I left my job thanks to pervasive sexual harassment. I landed unenthusiastically in a relationship with a young man who told me he'd rather not have sex than put any effort into making sure I enjoyed it, who threw a fit when I started considering antidepressants and said I should use pot and change my life instead. I finally got a seemingly amazing job and left the relationship, only to find out after 6 months that I'd been hired as a scapegoat for the emotionally abusive company president to blame when things went wrong. I didn't manage to find a way out until the night I wanted to kill myself, and when I finally managed to get help and be diagnosed with PTSD (you try finding a sex-positive psychiatrist who accepts Medicaid when you're terrified of authority), a friend's parents, who I'd known since I was a young child, were found dead after an apparent domestic violence incident. As if I needed one more trauma, one more reason not to trust men.  

As I floated through the world of trauma and flashbacks, self-medicating with pot and alcohol to get myself through to my next appointment, all while desperately searching for a job so I wouldn't lose my home as well, I couldn't shake the thought that was such an obvious throwback to my childhood, that none of this would be happening if I hadn't ever shown an interest in sex.

Thankfully, I had an amazingly solid relationship at this point, someone who held my hand through all of it, someone who was in an open relationship and left the door open for me to spend time with others if that's what I wanted or needed to heal. Given our eerily similar, still tender wounds, and our mutual desire to keep power equal between us, we both knew that at some point I would.  

For two years, I was so far from the idea of wanting to date that I couldn't have been bothered. When I started to out the slightest of feelers, all the men I met were scumbags all over again. I got two manifestos of everlasting love from two people who were offended that I'd never been interested, that left me scared to let anyone too close. A couple old flames promised to come around but couldn't ever actually find reason to try. Everyone was untrustworthy, uninterested, or too far away, until finally, for the first time since everything started to fall apart three years ago, I found someone who was enthusiastically all of those things. Once again, I was powerful, sexy, in control of my own body in a way that feels so foreign to me. I finally remembered what it was like to feel safe, and not ashamed of wanting sex.  

For all of three days.  

And then he, too, decided he couldn't deal with the effects of my past.

That... That was my yesterday.  

I've been waiting for the right moment, a moment of feeling strong and powerful like I know I can, to write something to accompany these photos about how it's possible to overcome struggles and love yourself and have satisfying sexual relationships in spite of the world being against you at times. Yesterday was going to be the right moment, and then, in a moment, I watched it all come apart. Today is the worst moment, one where finding a person I feel safe with feels impossible, where I'm focused on the raw percentage of the pictures Braden and I took that I felt made me look nothing better than awful, a moment where I look at the world around me and the people who are happy with their lives for more than a week at a time and wonder how it's even possible.  

There are all kinds of feelings that come with sex, and these, my friends, are mine.

Ren

Check out the full set and help support this project at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

My name is Lauren, Ren is good too (and preferable). She/her/hers. I am a goofy and chaotic awkward queer femme person who most identifies as something like demi-pan or demi-bi-sexual. I am usually almost completely monogamous. I enjoy dancing, drinking, playing board games and d&d, watching movies, travel and spending time with my friends, as well as meeting new ones.

I recently broke up with my long-term partner and was feeling a bit lost after. My anxiety has been terrible and I’ve been feeling pretty low for the past couple months. But I’ve been taking the time to figure out how to be my best self, and what is important to me. I cut my hair, now I’ve dyed it purple, and have plans to get more piercings and my first tattoo (things I’ve wanted to do for a long time but was told were not attractive). I’m making steps to be who I want to be both externally and internally.  I scheduled a shoot with Braden to try and connect with my sexy side. It is usually hard for me to get out of my head due to heightened anxiety, and it did take me awhile to open up / be playful with the shoot (which is what I wanted). But Braden was great at throwing out ideas and going with my suggestions. My favorite shots are probably in the shower because I was just being silly and being myself. I felt most confident during those shots and I think that shows.

I’ve never felt very sexy. I’ve carried a lot of guilt with me all my life, and have for a majority of time been disconnected with my sexuality and my body. I’ve always been an extremely giving person even at my own expense, and have had to learn to ask for things that I need and walk away from people who take advantage of that. It was only over the past couple years that I really started to explore my sexuality and let myself be OK with however I felt and however I wanted to be. I feel sexiest any time I can get out of my thoughts and just be in the moment and confident with me, when I am surrounded by people or friends at a dance or a concert, or when I am wanted by a partner…

I’m still learning who I am and what I like and what I want and how to be present and confident and connected to my body… It’s been a process and I’m still working towards owning my identity as a slightly kinky, very loving and sexual person, letting go of any guilt and just being kind to myself and learning to love myself first.  

Check out Ren's entire set and help us keep the lights on at Hella Positive by supporting us on Patreon! You'll get access to all past sets as well, and you'll see all future sets a week early!

Delica Tessen

Check out the full set and support this project at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Eliza Grace / Delicatessen/ Choreographer/ Burlesquer/ Director/ Producer

Sexiness is a state of being, a mentality, I’ve taken a lot of time to play in and familiarize myself with. Walking onstage, knowing you’ll take your clothes off for 100+ stranger can be a gulp, as the music starts, knowing there’s now way out of it, hoping that Venus smiles upon you for those three minutes.

The more I settle into it, the more I realize that the conventional, socialized representations of sexy just don’t do it for me any more, nor do I think that’s really what “does it” for most of us. Sure, a great ass or a sexy dress can be amazing, but is it really that thing that’s sexy, that’s creating the hightened state? These days, my answer is generally “no”. There can be a great ass and still no “UMPH”… or on the other hand, some body I’m told is not supposed to be beautiful, can suddenly captivate me and make me drool conspicuously!

When my friends have come up to me, shyly admitting they just don’t feel sexy, and how do I do it, I tell them - fully aware of the cliche- you can’t BE sexy until you FEEL sexy. And I can’t feel sexy for anyone else until I feel sexy for myself.

For most women, it can be downright painful to step in front of the mirror and not airbrush away the flaws with your imaginations or picture yourself “5 lbs thinner” or however else you want to be. Since stepping into my burlesque wonderland, I’ve realized that the only way I can turn on that magic onstage, or at a dance, or for a lover, is if I can really love myself, and find some part of myself deeply sexy.

Lately it’s my killer rock climber shoulders and forearms

Sometimes, it’s my cleavage, sometimes it’s my smile, sometimes it’s the curve of my calves in an amazing pair of heels. One way or another, I have to stop saying “what if” and just actually LOVE MYSELF to get that feeling of sexiness to flood in.

For those people who come to me, asking these questions, I try to make it very clear: sexiness is incredibly powerful. Once you know how to turn it on, it will garner you a lot of attention. You need to know how to turn it off when you don’t want that. I call it the “Buick -Porsche” game. I can walk down the street, imagining myself as the ugliest car, and I become virtually invisible. Or I can feel like the sleekest, fastest machine, and everyone will stare. Having some methods of protection are a way to control that energy, to direct it at specific targets, or to know when to lower the volume if a situation feels unsafe.

Recently, I was talking with a new friend who’s just starting to step into her sexual confidence as a dancer, willing to be a little more daring or seductive from time to time. I could see how exhilarating it felt for her to not be so cloistered or shamed in it, but also how it terrified her to draw that attention. When she asked me how I navigated those more burlesque-y spaces, I told her it’s all about creating your container. Once you know how to turn it on, you have to know how to give it out, or who you’re giving it to. Sometimes it’s not for the whole room - just one person. Sometimes it’s only for yourself it there’s an amazing song you want to solo to. Since the partner dance world doesn’t have a lot of practice with those teasing mini strips being brought onto the social floor, you have to know how to read the room - is it appropriate here? is there anyone who will make me feel uncomfortable? is there someone who would feel especially honored that I want to shower with this? Make a decision, and if someone steps into your space that you’re not inviting to witness this, you have every. damn. right. to say “this is not for you right now”.

Lastly, I want to take a moment to reflect on the ways it seems that sexually empowered or confident women/ femmes in a given social world can be pitted against each other, often without any action on our parts. It’s so common that men can feel at odds with multiple attractions, and thus have to rank us, creating tension or competition. Especially in the dance world, where men who dance well and are not creepy as hell can seem a scarce commodity, it’s easy to feel like we’re in competition for a limited resource. To that I’d say - if we could just do away with the competitive bullshit and acknowledge each other for being badass, glorious beasts, we might all feel sexier, and safer, because we could share resources and knowledge.

Sexiness is incredibly powerful. When you own it, people just can’t fuck with you the same way. Some men are truly terrified of not being able to manipulate a women with some shame around her sexuality. Some women are jealous. To all those our there, wishing to claim little more of their sexiness, know this: Your sexiness looks like no one else’s in the history of the world and no one can take it away from you. IT’S YOURS to give as you choose.

Check out Eliza's entire set and help us keep the lights on at Hella Positive by supporting us on Patreon! You'll get access to all past sets as well, and you'll see all future sets a week early!

Lady Murasaki

Check out the full set and help support this project at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

My name is Lady Murasaki. This is obviously a moniker that I borrowed from a badass lady, Murasaki Shikibu. She terrified men. Murasaki Shikibu was so revolutionary that she forced her father, a prominent member of the government, to teach her Chinese, which was a “forbidden” language to women because it was taught only to gentry and men. Through her unconventional education, she revolutionized Japanese literature during the Heian Period, and wrote Genji no Monogatari (The Tale of Genji). Even today, The Tale of Genji is still one of the most influential pieces of literature and pop culture in Japan. Murasaki battled gender roles and societal constrains, but she cut down every one of her opposers, and blazed a new trail for herself and her voice.

I’m a woman, and like Murasaki, I’ve been at war with my body and society’s constraints of “what my body should look like” for nearly my entire life. I’ve struggled with never being enough—not skinny enough, not smart enough, not worthy enough for love, not pretty enough, just never enough. I’ve mostly been in monogamous relationships with men who don’t love themselves. I’ve had men look at me in a bikini and tell me, at 120 lbs, I was too fat and I needed to go to the gym to lose weight. I’ve had people tell me my arms are too big, my thighs are covered in cellulite, and my belly is just too large; how could anyone love me when I wasn’t skinny and my belly sticks out? Currently, I’ve gained over 30 pounds, and I’ve struggled even more with feeling sexy—as if my playful eyes, my joyous smile, my kindness, and my fierce loyalty were all based on the scale and diminished by my belly fat. Slowly however, I’ve been learning to embrace my inner child, to sit with her and tell her she is beautiful because she is a strong.

Now, although I am far from perfect, I realize that feeling sexy is cultivated from appreciating and celebrating what your body can do, instead of focusing on what you believe you should look like. My curves, my rock-hard muscles under my soft belly and my thick thighs, have carried me through anxiety, anger, loss, fear, pain, isolation, and darkness. I am sexy because I am strong; I am sexy because I embody a warrior goddess, and like Wonder Woman, I am an Amazon in my own right. After I took my entrance exam for medical school, I bought myself the sword I used in my photoshoot. This sword hangs above my bed to remind me every day that I walked through my fear of not being enough; if I faced it once, I can face it again. I am sexy because, despite my fear, my weight gain, and body dysmorphia, I still dare greatly and try to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I am sexy because, when people tell me I’m not skinny enough, I will swallow my insecurity, and wear a bikini anyway.

At the precipice of fear, when the white raging waters of doubt threaten to drown me, I still choose to jump. I am sexy because I am brave. Maybe one day, I can love myself and truly understand why I matter. Maybe one day after my showers, when I look at the steam laden mirror and trace the lines in my belly, I will feel the self-love my inner child hungers for; I will accept myself and see my value the way I always should have seen it. I hope that by seeing my body today, people will be brave enough to love themselves the way they always should have; and create a sexy revolution one bold word at a time.

Check out Lady Murasaki's entire set and help us keep the lights on at Hella Positive by supporting us on Patreon! You'll get access to all past sets as well, and you'll see all future sets a week early!

Katie

Check out Katie's full set and help support this project at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Hi there!
My name is Katie and I’m a lady from the land of sunshine!

Like most people in their mid-twenties I had to learn some difficult lessons recently. I had to learn the hard lesson that if you live by someone else’s idea of what YOUR life should be, you’ll never live your own life and you’ll never be happy. Perhaps like many, I come from a very high pressure family, where if you don’t have that degree, or this life plan or accomplished this or that, in their eyes you won’t amount to anything. So the past year of 2017 was a tough one, I thought I was pursuing what was my own ambition and dream in becoming a naval aviator. It took until I almost signed away 10+ years of my life to realize it wasn’t my dream and I almost threw away 20 years of my passion. Which is music! I’ve been playing piano for nearly 20 years and guitar for just over 12. Those are my main instruments that I have a degree in, but I can actually play 7! Music is in everything and anything I interact with. You can probably find me skipping around and humming everywhere or noodling on various instruments. Right now I have my own little studio of badass students. I love bringing up the next generation of musicians to unleash into the world.  It took me realizing I was being pressured and swayed into something uncomfortable and noticing the complete discord that I felt internally that something was terribly wrong. For the first time in my life I stood up for myself and said “No.” and walked away. I promised myself from that day forward I would live unapologetically me. So yes! I can pop wheelies on my motorcycle in a tutu if I want! Or shred in a biker bar in my favorite summer dress and no one will ever tell me that I’m not being appropriate or that it isn’t right. Because it is right! You know why? Because it’s who I am. And that’s okay.

Growing up was kind of hilarious development into becoming who I am today. My mom likes to say I got hit with double-whammy stubborn since both of my parents are basically oxen. Boy, was she right. A good example of me both being as stubborn as a rock and having my own ahem “style” is my progression of clothes. My parents gave up REAL early trying to wrestle me into their fashion ideas and I promptly left the house in rain boots, little jean shorts and a flannel. The boots eventually evolved into Star Wars shoes and later into standards such as keds. I was repulsed by dresses and skirts until I was almost an adult. I hated when people said that I couldn’t do things just because I had a dress or a skirt on. So I used to hide every skirt or dress my mom or grandmother tried to bring home. I think I even buried one in the yard at some point. (sorry mom). However, as I started to grow into who I am today I loved the freedom of dresses! What were these silly people thinking. There’s so much freedom to move! No restriction that pants usually cause! I started dancing when I turned 18 and discovered the awesomeness that is a swirly skirt and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever looked back. Around 20 I started riding motorcycles and on top of playing guitar I realized I wasn’t the most outwardly “girly” person but I loved being a bouncy ball of sunshine. I think I thrived on that opposing image, of leather jackets and guitars with sundresses and lipstick. It was in these “opposites” that I found and embraced myself only recently.

Attractiveness was a hard concept for me. People started commenting on my body pretty early on, which left me with a confused notion on what was attractive. Most people commented on my weight because it took me longer to lose the baby cheeks. I started riding my bike over 10 miles a day starting in 7th grade and in high school although I wasn’t aware of what I was doing, I was giving my lunch to my friends whose familes couldn’t afford lunches. I knew deep down I was really giving my lunch away because I was struggling internally with an eating disorder. My father knew I was giving my lunch away and started packing a second lunch. I just found more and more hungry people. It wasn’t until I was in college when I realized that this wasn’t normal and definitely not healthy when I almost passed out at a dance. It had been three days since I had a meal other than coffee. That’s when I decided healthy is beautiful. I had a lot of help from very supportive friends that made sure I was consistently eating and I ran and went to the gym just about everyday and pretty soon people stopped commenting on my weight and instead started saying things like “look at those arms” or “Those are some strong calves” and so on. It was in a very important turning point where I realized that I suddenly also found myself attractive and proud of the journey it had taken to get to a point where I was proud of the work I put into my body and there were things I actually liked about myself. To this day I think my favorite feature is my green eyes and my little cutie booty.

Doing this post and working with Braden was wonderful, he is an incredible artist and human. He allowed me to step out of the little bubble and shell I had built for myself. He helped me embrace and celebrate what I loved about me too. I encourage everyone to take moments out of their day and appreciate self as well. Thank you very much to this very talented artist and to this community! Cheers.

Check out Katie's entire set and help us keep the lights on at Hella Positive by supporting us on Patreon! You'll get access to all past sets as well, and you'll see all future sets a week early

Ada

Check out Ada's full set by backing at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Okay, I'm honestly hoping that this is a first for Hella Positive Pinup: I'm a Beauxbatons.  For those of you who are not Potter-heads, this won't matter.  For those of us who are, we don't all have to fit into a Hogwarts house!  Part of why I say I'm more of a Beauxbatons student is that my erotic self enjoys feeling elegant, lady-like, romantic, and a little exhibitionistic.  Just like the Beauxbatons students' entrance in Goblet of Fire, I love feeling all eyes on me, preferably while I'm dancing in a tailored vintage dress.  On the other hand, my erotic self can be equally silly, scrappy, and mischievous.  Whether that means embodying a succubus or a flouncing fairy sprite, I love not taking myself too seriously.   

When not channeling witches, demons, and fairies, I'm a ciswoman who responds to she/her pronouns.  I’m mostly androphilic (attracted to masculinity), though the more I've played with cishet couples the more I've gotten to explore my attraction to femininity as well.  Right now I'm enjoying a solo non-monogamous lifestyle, though at some point I'd love a monogamish partnership.  I'm a sucker for chivalry, but I melt over anticipation and and domination.  My ideal partner is someone who holds the door, but isn’t afraid to tackle me to the ground and give me a good spanking when I deserve it.    

My favorite aspect of my sexuality is my Core Erotic Theme (read “The Erotic Mind” by Jack Morin).  For those who haven't been nerding out about sex for the last several years, let me explain: our CET is a pattern that emerges in our hottest fantasies/experiences and, fascinatingly, often traces back to a childhood wound.  By eroticizing our wounds, we gain control over them and use them for pleasure, healing, and growth.  As for me, I had one neglectful parent and one smothering parent.   So it follows that my CET includes both being the focus of someone’s attention (the opposite of neglect), and having that someone take their time and exercise restraint in their approach until I’m ready for more (the opposite of smothering).   

My CET leaves so much room for creativity and exploration, that my erotic life gets to constantly evolve.  This year, I started modeling with several sex-positive and body-positive boudoir photographers, and it's one of the most empowering things I've ever done.  I recommend it (and especially HellaPositive!) to anyone who could use a major confidence boost!

Check out Ada's entire set and help us keep the lights on at Hella Positive by supporting us on Patreon! You'll get access to all past sets as well, and you'll see all future sets a week early!

Lauren J

Check out Lauren's full set by supporting this project at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

I came of age in a deeply repressive environment, having grown up on a conservative religious cult in southwestern Pennsylvania. My rebellious nature kept getting me into trouble as I found subtle ways to express myself. I would alter the length of my skirts to look more flattering or clumsily apply black shoe polish to my lashes with a toothbrush. Yep, that’s right, I’m the original flapper. Except this was the 2000’s not the 1920’s! My dream was to go to college, which is what finally got me kicked out of the cult.  Suddenly I was on my own, juggling as many jobs as I could to put myself through school. I struggled with low self-esteem and constant self-doubt throughout this transition. It’s been difficult but rewarding to transform myself into the proud, sexy, independent woman I am today. 

It’s only recently that I started really owning and enjoying my femininity in more ways than just physical appearance and style. I identify as cis-gender female and use she/her/hers pronouns. I am primarily attracted to men, and love the interplay between masculine and feminine. But I have a fiercely independent streak, which causes me to be in my masculinity at times. I want to soften those edges and allow myself to open up more around others, especially men, and not always feel I need to do everything on my own.

I approach all my relationships, not just romantic ones, with pure intention, love, and trust. I’m authentic, down-to-earth, and affectionate. My long-term relationships have been mostly monogamous or monogamish.  Having experimented with non-monogamy, I don’t feel like I need that to be happy in a committed relationship so I guess my ideal relationship style is pretty traditional, mostly monogamous, with an occasional playmate but that would be something we’d do together as a couple.  I feel like this post is reading like a personal ad, ha! But I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want in a romantic partnership lately so I guess this shoot was just perfect timing. 

I often hold back from fully expressing my sexuality, flirting, or wearing sexy, revealing clothes. It’s partly because of my upbringing on the cult, and partly because I’ve been afraid of my own power.  I want to shed this fear as I grow into a more confident version of myself. I feel my sexiest when I’m taking care of my health and staying active, but it’s also about having a clear mind, not just a bangin’ body. I like to savor little delicious moments, like riding my bike across the city when the streets are quieter at night, feeling my skirt fluttering gently across my legs in the breeze. Slipping into my favorite jeans and heels to go out on a fun date. The way I feel when I walk out onto the smooth dance floor wearing my favorite silk romper and heels, or a flowy dress that swirls when I dance. My favorite part of me is my brain, but my booty is a close second! One of my partners once referred to it as “The BOTUS” (The Booty of the United States). I’m ok with that. :)

What I want people to see in me is my spark, my radiance, and my commitment to myself. I recently started doing some transformational work around self-love and allowing myself to have everything I truly desire. As I do this work of “turning up the volume on my inner voice”, what I want to share with the world is how important it is to really listen to yourself. It’s so easy to let fear or limiting beliefs block out this inner voice. It was such a gift to participate in this photoshoot because it shifted the way I see myself. I feel these pictures capture the real quirky me, while embodying confidence and femininity simultaneously.  Thank you to the wonderfully talented Braden for not only being an all-around amazing human, but for creating this unique space which is so accessible and real.  What an incredibly unique way for people to declare their self-love to the world, or, if they are struggling with that, to share that too. Thank you to this community of friends, supporters, dancers, lovers, and visionaries, especially to everyone who has shared their incredible stories so openly. I’m so moved and inspired by all of you! 

Zoe

Check out Zoe's complete set at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Hi! I’m Zoë.

I’m a professional musician / starving artist, a fire dancer, and occasional DJ living in a big weird house full of queer folks in Washington, DC. She / her pronouns (amateur-nouns unspecified). When forced to pick a genre my music mainly falls into I grudgingly admit to being in the ‘Sad Lesbians With Guitars, And Feelings To Put In You’ genre; and people generally immediately know what I mean. So, that’s a helpful shorthand! 

I’m a witchy queer femme poly sub variety of human (though having switchy feels lately, too! Confusing!). I presently have one local sweetie with whom I am in a D/s dynamic, a wonderful sweetie that lives in Baltimore, and a new sweetie who lives in Philadelphia with whom I’m presently engaged in a nearly endless exchange of flirts. 

I spent most of my life identifying as a lesbian, but these days I tend to favor the term ‘queer’ as I feel it more accurately represents my present day identity and my spectrum of attractions to a wider variety of female, femme, genderqueer, and non-binary humans than I tend to feel ‘lesbian’ covers. 

‘Queer’ is a term I’ve resisted on and off over time, but these days I feel better about the whole “reclaiming” it thing; and that we’ve mostly “taken it back”, having got past a lot of my experiences growing up as a EXTREMELY NOTICEABLY QUEER kid in and around parts of the DC region’s LGBTQ+ community in the 80s & 90s and having had that term be weaponized against me and my various people, usually followed by physical violence to round out the emotional violence.

The 10-15 people I see most often have in the last year or so taken to calling me ‘Squid’ or ‘Squiddie’ as a nickname largely due to the combination of my general status as a known cephalopod enthusiast, my pink dreadlocks, and my tentacle tattoos. My band-mates, and several former romantic partners still refer to me as ‘Panda’; mainly because they saw me clumsily stumble, roll, bounce, and miraculously emerge mostly intact from my 20s, while often having serious panda-eye from falling asleep still wearing heavy eye makeup after a night/several consecutive nights of making increasingly regrettable life decisions. 

Music is my life, my love, and my work. It’s the language of my soul, the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, that keeps me going, and gives my life form, shape, and purpose. I am very lucky to have had the successes I’ve had and to have developed the audience I’ve built in recent years; and to be able to continue to pursue doing the thing that I am best at which continues to be what gives me the most satisfaction and weird new adventures in my life. 

I’ve been a socially and physically awkward human from as far back as I can recall. I *love* talking with and learning about people just as much as I am constantly convinced no one actually wants me around and is only humoring me for any of a variety of reasons my brain chemistry seeks to convince me of. I somehow manage to say just enough of the right things to be clever, funny, and entertaining, and just enough of the wrong things to have caused a surprisingly wide gulf in people’s opinions and experiences of me over the years. 

I absolutely thrive on sensation (touch, sound, and taste, most intensely) and human contact in general; but always seem to somehow manage to project some flavor of shyness or awkwardness. And yet... when people are first encountering me or have only had limited interaction I’m constantly told I’m intimidating AF or “too cool to talk to” (hahahaha that’s adorable. I am a huge nerd.)

Being the Manic Pixie Dreamsquid that I am; all the above combined with body image stuff, mental/emotional health weirdness, serious difficulty with face-blindness and name retention, and early-life genderfeels struggles, all of that combines to form the Voltron Of Awkwardness which roars and shoots lasers from its face and chases people away just as often as I manage to actually keep anyone around long enough to get close to. 

It is safe to say I have very rarely through much of my life actually felt sexy, attractive, or that my presence is desirable in any way. Except, oddly, for when I’m on stage and in front of dozens/hundreds/thousands of people. If I’m singing, playing music, spinning fire, DJing, etc., I somehow tap into this magical space where I radiate something entirely different; and people who meet me in one context are often surprised by the dramatic difference between Stage-Me or Get Shit Done Me, and Day-To-Day Me. 

As someone who’s never been particularly comfortable with their body, being naked or semi naked in a room just with any of my partner(s) was hard enough for most of my life; let alone even entertaining the possibility of PEOPLE I DON’T KNOW SEEING ME OMG WHYYYY WOULD I DO THAT. 

Then I fell into the Burner community, and over time found my way into other communities (especially the Kink community at large, but specifically in the Mid-Atlantic region) and spaces that encouraged and lovingly challenged people to find ways to be and and to express themselves in more radical ways, more authentic ways, and ways that challenged an individual to surpass the (often mostly arbitrary) limitations imposed on themselves by *themselves* or from the words, thoughts, or actions of people in their lives.

I should note: nakedness, despite persistent media stereotypes, is not really a major component of nor the point of the majority of the community’s experience at Burns. Being authentic and being yourself, however, very much is. And to some people, becoming comfortable in their own skin can involve becoming comfortable *with* their own skin at Burns and other such events. Taking your clothes off in front of people may not seem that radical, but it’s A BIG DEAL for many. If you’d told me 10 years ago that by the time I was in my 30s I’d regularly be doing fire performances (at all, let alone) in various states of undress in all manner of places and venues, or that I’d be posing naked in front of cameras, or other such things...well, I’d have had a pretty hard time believing it! 

I look back on the first Burn I attended at which I was comfortable enough in my own skin being topless and running about in cute tiny underlovelies, and recall talking with several friends of mine about the experience they’d had with finding the things in that community and in themselves which let them not feel like they were committing a crime just by having a body. Those conversations stuck with me, and so has an ever increasing sense of comfort with my physical shape. 

I’m constantly told by people about my physical features that I think look too “masculine” at worse or strongly “unfeminine” at best, only they’re all saying how hot the things I see negatively make me. It used to be I couldn’t see myself as attractive *at all*, and there were definitely those in my life I mistakenly let get close to me that reinforced those thoughts; but a good number of friends and housemates and romantic/play partners over the last 6-7 years have done wonders at de-programming that shit by constantly finding ways to challenge my (mis)conceptions about my looks, my personality, and my value and place in their lives. Nowadays I almost actually catch myself defaulting to *not* thinking negatively about myself. Maybe one day I’ll get all the way there. Every year that passes I get better at seeing the things I like about my body instead of the things which I don’t.

Over the last 2-3 years, having to be photographed and videoed and interviewed and all that so often, and performing to ever bigger audiences and having my name and my creative endeavors out there in a muuuuch bigger way than I ever really expected has forced me to re-evaluate a lot of things about my life and myself; not the least of which is that a lot of really great people *do* actually like me, appreciate my work, my personality, and yes, would totally hit that! Who knew?! (Apparently everyone but me.)

The thing that most makes me feel sexy is the look in one of my partners eyes when they watch me perform my music. The perfect mix of desire, deep engagement with and emotional response to the words and sounds I’m channeling, support for me and my life path, and pure love. It tells me everything I need to know about how they’re thinking, looking at, and experiencing me; and often strongly suggests how else they’d like to be experiencing me! 

For example: one of the hottest things that’s ever happened in my life was shortly before my (now ex) wife and I started getting serious, she came to see me and my band performing and basically spent the entire show dancing and just absolutely nonstop eye-fucking me from the balcony of the venue we were playing; and it was all I could do not to get lost in her eyes while trying to perform. Damn near everyone in the extremely crowded room seemed to pick up on i;, including my band-mates, who gave me no end of shit for it! 

My favorite part of me would have to be my fingers. They are the means by which I turn pretty sounds into emotionally charged experiences for people (and yes ok, fine get out the gutter, y’all... but sure... that, too). 

Anyway that’s a lot more than I set out to say (as usual!) but I hope you have enjoyed this long strange trip into the space between my ears, and that you enjoy Braden’s absolutely gorgeous photos! It was so wonderful getting to work with him for Hella Positive Pinup. I’m so excited to be featured on the site and I’m grateful for the ways in which this experience has helped me move even further along toward being able to see some more of what others say they can see when they look at me.

Salmalin

You can see Salmalin's entire set at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

These days I go by a lot of names, but you may call me, Salmalin. My relationship with sex and sexy things has always been complicated. My relationship with beauty and attractiveness even more so. When I hit puberty I realized many things at once.

1 I would never be tall. For some reason I always found the tallest people to be the most attractive. The taller, the more powerful and elegant, the more adult and sexy, the beautiful and gorgeous. My doctor told me around 12 that I, would never be taller than an average 8th grader. I was devastated.
2 My body was going through changes I didn’t ask for. As much as I admired my mother as a person, I don’t think I understood that one day being a “girl” meant becoming a “woman”. It was distressing, and frustrating to find myself changing in ways that didn’t match my “boy” friends. I guess I didn’t really see a difference between them and me.
3 Pain was going to be a big part of my life. In, so many ways.
4 I had little to no sexual desire and was confused by the preoccupation of friends wanting sex/sexy things
5 Finding opposite gender attractive= normal. Finding same sex attractive= unusual. Finding that sex nor gender having no bearing on attractiveness, absolutely odd to other humans. It was so, obvious. Pretty people are pretty.
6 No one dates black women

It, was a lot to handle. Since then people have tried to label me in many ways. Queer, non-binary, bi, pansexual, Gender Fuck, Gender Fluid, woman who takes low amounts of T, Trans*, woman, mostly straight,  and this is just around my gender and sexuality. In my own head, I choose to not label myself and just be, me.

Shortly after entering puberty, I started being attacked with messages about myself specifically about my body and it’s sexines and beauty. My body was a weapon that would ruin the lives of men. That I was destined to become “another statistic” following the stereotype of young black women. I was not smart enough to know if someone loved me and would, get pregnant and ruin my life and the life of those around me. I was shamed for wearing the same clothes I wore the summer before. I was forced into bras and dresses and shamed for having any signs of having a period, ever.

Time went on and I started to be tortured by a man near my age who lived with me. He degraded me, caused me physical pain, tied me up, and threatened me with knives and violence. All the while these things happened telling me I was weird, unattractive, and not good enough. He’d whisper to me that I liked it. In the end he raped me. In therapy we found it probably wasn’t the first time I’d been assaulted.

I got out of that situation and found myself… in an odd position. Feeling sexy feels dangerous. Feeling feminine feels, odd. I feel ugly and ignored but desire to explore love and polyamory. I’m unsure if monogamy is right for me. My kinks are often echos of my past, with my consent and yet, minor issues trigger me.

So, naturally with all that I decided getting undressed in front of a veritable stranger would be the best time to force me to figure out what sexy meant to me. I don’t do things half assed. After my shoot I realized some important things. For starters, I haven’t healed. I found my sexiness in my vulnerability. I thought I’d want to look like model, the sexiest of sex bomb. Turns out that I my hesitation was beautiful. That my attempts to find internal peace were striking. My nerves were sweet as I tried to push past the old memories.  

Today I struggle with my health and the effects of that. One being weight gain. It’s hard to feel sexy when you feel so upset with how you look, and honestly, I’m still struggling with it.

For me, sexy means a great deal of things. Sexy mean powerful. Owning my own power is a beautiful thing, as beautiful as giving it to someone else. Sexy means feeling proud of your body. Sexy means being yourself. Even if you dislike something about yourself, be it temporary or forever you also can still be sexy.

As a black person I’ve felt the weight of my skin and now I find it incredible. I know that dating as a black woman will always be hard so I need to love my skin even more. My skin is soft, caramel brown and I love it. I wish I could show it off MORE often. I love the space between my shoulders and the bottom of my sternum. I love my eyes and the versatility of my hair. I love how i can express myself with my hair color even being told, I could never pull it off. I think but butt will only get better in time and overall my carefree attitude is the way I am attractive.

It can be hard to feel sexy when you struggle with various things, be that mental or physical health, but you can always find it in the little things. Spending time with yourself and acknowledging what YOU like about yourself, can get you far. If you can’t think of anything asking a trusted friend (even better one you find attractive) and asking for what you need can be helpful.

Moxie

Check out Moxie's full set and support this blog at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

Moxie is my name, and being non-binary is my game. They/them respectfully but
that’s a new thing for me so sometimes I still respond to she/her (kind of like my
other name [some people still call me Emma, but that number is dwindling by the
day]). I’m a polyamorous human living my best life in Chicago with some of the
best people in the entire world.


Being non-binary struggling with BDD means some days are harder than others to
love myself and to think of myself is sexy, especially when I don’t know which
way I fall on the femme v. masculine spectrum; some days I feel incredibly femme
and I AM ALL WOMAN. HEAR ME ROAR. And then, there are days where I
feel so masculine that I want to be on an Old Spice commercial, riding a majestic
horse on the beach while smelling like your grandfather. Look down. Now look
back up; you’re still reading my blog. Awesome.


Now most people who know me when asked to describe something “sexy” about
me will 99.99% say it’s my booty. People have even written POETRY about it, so
you know it’s legit and I get it: it’s a good booty BUTT (hehe) it sometimes fucks
with how I see myself how and it doesn’t help that I was sexually exploited at a
young age because of it. So sure, I like my booty but no, I don’t define it as my
sexiest ASSpect (I swear I’ll stop). What I find most attractive about myself is a tie
between my jaw line, and the muscle definition I am beginning to see now that I’m
working out more and they both have something is common:

STRENGTH.

I feel at my most sexy when I feel strong (or when I see that strong, defined jaw
line in a window passing by. UNF.) and that strength can come from a really good
round at the gym or struggling through tough choreography and absolutely nailing
it after the umpteenth time. Or when I lay myself bare and vulnerable to someone,
like one of my partners, friends or sometime a stranger. I find such strength when
we can admit when we need help or feeling weak and I’m finding more and more
strength within myself, and from the community I’ve created around me, including
working with Hella Positive Pin-Up because there’s not just one kind of sexy.
Everyone is sexy, and we should all celebrate our own brand of sexy; with or with
out clothing, with or without gender, and most importantly, with one another.

Juliana

Check out Juliana's entire set at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

My name is Juliana! I’m known to some people as Jules so whichever works for you. I’m trying to live my best life in the very sexy and sinful city of Las Vegas. I use she/her pronouns but do fluctuate across the spectrum in terms of how I express gender and sexuality.

It took me a lot of thinking about what makes me feel sexy and everything I thought of had one thing in common: being in control of my body. I’ve had my fair share of medical issues that made me feel like I didn’t have much autonomy when it came to my own body. As I gained that back I picked dancing back up, cut off all my hair, and started getting tattoos.

I think everybody expects me to say my legs are physically my favorite thing about myself but it’s actually my eyes. They’ve been a defining feature of mine ever since I was a kid, yet I’m still not quite sure what color they are. My favorite part of myself in a more abstract sense is that I somehow attract other awesome people. I don’t mean for that to sound like I’m trying to inflate my ego but I’ve surrounded myself with some of the most incredible, loving, hilarious people that I’m lucky to call friends and family. I don’t know how I did it, but I did it and I’m okay with that.

I’m really grateful for how much open dialogue I am able to engage in now. I grew up in a conservative Catholic environment where most of the things that lie of the spectrums of sexuality, relationships, and gender were never shared with me. From a young age I knew that I didn’t quite fit into the neat boxes that people expected me to and didn’t know what to make of it. I think that can be said about a lot of people. I’ve been very fortunate that a lot of my education around sexuality, gender, and relationships have come from these people that didn’t fit in that came before me and have created a discourse I’m now able to participate in and learn from. It’s safe to say that all of the people that felt empowered to come before me in the Hella Positive Pinup shoot are my inspiration for participating.

Mingus

 Check out Mingus's full set at  https://hellapositivepinup.pixieset.com/ferrets/

Name: Mingus
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Relationship style: Business-casual
Position: Accountant

HI MY NAME MINGUS AND I WANTS A TREAT PLEASE.

I BELIEVE ALWAYS BE THE SEXY IS MOST IMPORTANT. SEXY IS LIFESTYLE FOR ME.

MOST IMPORTANT THING TO LIVE SEXY LIFESTYLE IS MUST BE A SHAPES LIKE A NOODLES. ALL NOODLE ARE SEXY EVEN A LINGUINE AND A FETTUCINE AND A FARFELLE AND A LASAGNA AND A RAVIOLI AND A MACARONI AND A SPAGHETTI. ALL FERRET IS A NOODLES AND ALL FERRET IS A SEXY NOODLE.

PLEASE SEND A TREATS FOR MORE SEXY PICTURE THANKS YOU IN ADVANCED.

Kevin

 See Kevin's full set at  http://patreon.com/hellapositive !

See Kevin's full set at http://patreon.com/hellapositive!

My name is Kevin, and I am a straight person who responds to he/him but has never felt much loyalty to or inclusion by a tribe of maleness, or even to normal modes of gender, though not because of principle or ideals. I'm a choreographer, performer, lindy hopper, contemporary dancer. 

I'm sure I'm not the first to say that the idea of feeling attractive or sexy, either in general or to someone specifically, was an entirely foreign concept growing up. I think what friends I had and I assumed IF someone liked you, it would be despite your physical body and because of some abundance of virtue of some kind, a concept I now understand as a root in "nice guy" or "friend-zone" mentalities. 

As I grew up and eventually became someone who is attractive to at least a few people, most of the things that partners remarked being attracted to on myself had nothing to do with fulfilling a "male" ideal at all, so even today I find it somewhat odd to consider myself male. 

I feel my sexiest, what I feel as sexy, when I'm dancing and grooving, and investigating the sensations of my body; or really, when I feel joyful. Training with Batsheva and Gaga have both opened doors to explore the sensations of pleasure that come from fulfilling our desire to move. 

I also feel sexiest when I give to my partners in some physical kind of way, during sexy times or otherwise. Experiencing your effects on them and their effects on you is pure, but in a good way.

I think my favorite parts of my body are currently my shoulder blades, but I'm told my butt is the fan favorite. Lots of squats, plies, and jumps! 

I believe, firmly, that sex and sexiness are integral parts of who we are, and while some people might seem naturally or obviously sexy, many (including myself) have lots of trouble believing and accepting our bodies as the vehicles for that sexiness. As a dancer in NYC, the amount of pressure and neuroses I have about my body are likely much greater than are obvious to those I teach or perform for/with. 

We are only given one body, the body we take with us until we move on, and accepting that is probably hard for any of us, even if we might seem to have won some genetic lottery that indicates otherwise. When it comes down to it, wanting to feel sexy, to feel empowered, to feel attractive comes down to a desire to be loved as we are. Doing this photo shoot with Braden was one of the hardest things I've done emotionally because it was one of the most vulnerable. We agreed to keep all photoshop and touch ups to a minimum as an exercise in accepting the body as it is, at that moment. 

Hopefully the honesty and vulnerability come through! Enjoy!