Delica Tessen

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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.

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