I am a ciswoman and an ally. I have often thought about what it means to be a women, but it occurs to me that I have never really tried to define my sexuality. For a long time I was sure that everybody was like me to some extent, that they would get sexually attracted to or fall in love with people regardless of gender or sex. I could label myself as pansexual, but more that that I feel like an ally. Because I have never lived through the struggles that my lgbt+ friends have.
My body has been sexualised for most of my life. I have what some people might call a “commercially perfect body”. A body that fits well into a stereotypical and normative view of female beauty. I have lean legs, a small waist and big boobs.
I entered puberty quite early, with a heavy flow and exponentially growing breasts. But it was not the changes to my body that confused me, it was the realisation of how my body affected other people. That some people would gaze at me and comment about my physical attributes that I had never before even thought about.
In high school, friends started to introduce me as “Rita with the big boobs”, and I could not make out whether or not that was a good thing. They stuffed their bras with extra pads and pulled down their spaghetti tops so that they would show the just the brim of their laced edged lingerie. While I did my best to show off my shape without being too “slutty” or “vulgar”. It made be proud to have something people was jealous of, but I also knew that compliments about my body would inevitably be a bad thing.
Female role models and family members talked about this type of affection as something bad and unwanted, something that you should avoid at all costs. Compliments about one’s physical attributes were sexualising and objectifying. Which stood in stark contrast to becoming a strong and independent woman.
I ended up in a limbo between being the “good girl” with high ambitions and being a teenager in search of my own identity. I wanted to be sexy, I loved the attention and I had fun experimenting with styles and makeup. But the attention always made me feel conflicted, delighted but always with a hint of shame. The shame expressed itself in different ways. I wore fitted clothes, but did not show my cleavage. I washed my thongs by hand a hung them to dry in my closet because I was sure that my mother would not approve of my choice of underwear. I even found myself turned off by some sexual positions because i thought of them as demeaning.
One specific moment that made me reflect about these thoughts was when my boyfriend at the time proclaimed that it was sexy when girls did not themself know that they were sexy. I was upset because I realized that I could be sexy in the eye of the male viewer, but not on my own account. Because that would be perceived as slutty and provocative.
As I reached my twenties I was naturally drawn into the world of burlesque. It was a place where I was allowed to create my own beauty. Where I was free to say “I know I'm sexy” Where I suddenly did not “ask for it”.
Burlesque and nude photography is not only something I love doing, but it is a way for me to keep in charge. It is a way for me to be sexy when I want to be sexy, instead of being sexualised without my consent.
I love that body positivity is a core value in the scene. But I'm worried that it sometimes gets confused with the ideal of natural beauty. I feel sexy without makeup and other products. But what's even more tantalizing to me is to enhance my look with eyeliner, lipstick and a well fitted dress. Because when I create my look I create me. And I don't think it should be viewed differently if you have tattoos, cosmetic surgery or in any other way enhance your body. Because I think every person should be in charge of their own view of beauty and how they want to achieve it.