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When I was around eight and first beginning to have sexual fantasies, I took a long hard look in the mirror and made a conscious decision that I’d better get used to spending my time with books, because an imaginary world was the only place I would ever be able to enjoy the kind of sex I wanted to have.

No one would ever want me, I thought. Not the girl with grandma glasses, frizzy hair, and a lisp, the girl who was picked last for every sports team. I came of age in the era of heroin chic, and I believed in my heart that my fleshy thighs placed me irrevocably in the category of people who would only be able to realize their desires inside their own heads. There was a period of disordered eating, but even after that, a deep sense of dissatisfaction, a sense that I would never be good enough.

Then, in college, when I started attending swing dances, I had a revelation: the dancers I couldn’t tear my eyes away from didn’t have hollowed cheekbones or flat bellies; they were irresistible because of the way that they moved. They were entrancing because they were good at something. Through dance, I first began to connect with my body as something capable of bringing me – and others – pleasure.

My newfound sense of joy in my own presentation blossomed into full-blown high femme: smoky eyes, contouring, vampy lips, highlights, blowouts, nail polish, perfume, body wax, body lotion, body glitter. I love it all. For me, being femme isn’t about needing to meet anybody else’s expectations of beauty; it’s about that delicious sense of control, about having absolute power over what I get to see when I look in the mirror. I like putting on new faces. I like having a vision of how I want to look and making it come true. My vanity is my place to experiment with glitter and shimmer, neon and duochrome. When I go out, sometimes my favorite part of the night is getting ready. For me, being a feminist femme means making makeup itself into a type of drag.

And I have language now for the kind of sex I like to have, which matters: I’m kinky, a sub who sometimes tops women, bi, in an open relationship with a man and a lady lover and lots of wonderful sexy friends. I am incredibly lucky to live a life that includes dungeons and orgies, impact play and role play, strap-ons and shibari, leather and latex, cuffs and collars, chains and canes.

The core of my sexuality is about being on display. I like being looked at. And that’s why the photos from this shoot of me looking at my reflection in the mirror seem so perfect. It’s like I’m putting on a show just for myself to enjoy.

But it was the photos of me on the roman cross that hit me the hardest – because the truth is, I still do have body image issues. There isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t think about the shape of my stomach. And those photos, the roman cross photos, made me tear up because for once, I look exactly how I want to look. I look strong.

These days, the thing that makes me feel sexiest in my own body is waking up in the morning, running my hands under the sheets down to my hipbones, flexing into a bridge, and feeling the little vein running along my lower abs. Weightlifting has made me feel more comfortable with my dykier side. I wear less makeup these days, and more sports bras. That’s the irony: now that I’ve altered my body with breast implants, botox, keratin treatments, dermatology, epilation, and muscle building, I feel good presenting just the way I am. Because being fit can be femme as fuck.


1 Mostly about the Greek pantheon, especially the story about Hephastus catching Aphrodite and Ares in flagrante delicto by throwing a net of ropes over them and leaving them bound together for all of Olympus to come see. I didn’t have language at the time for things like bondage or exhibitionism, but I knew that I liked the idea of desire so overpowering it could hold even gods ensnared.