I have to confess that sometimes when people ask me what photography studio I write for, I pause for a second. “I write for a boudoir photography studio . . . called the Art of Seduction,” I explain, but why is it that I have that microsecond of hesitance?
We’ve already gone over the stigma that boudoir photography unfortunately still carries around even today in such a liberated society. But is that it? Is it simply the fact that I feel I have to do the separating from “boudoir” and “photography” as I speak to strangers or extended family members? Why do I feel the need to pause and examine whether the person I am talking to will “get it” or not?
It comes down to this. Why is it that as a culture, we women need permission to express our sensuality and sexuality? To help tackle this question, I once again looked towards the internationally celebrated non-profit TED, whose message is to get “ideas worth spreading” out to the general public. My first discovery was this absolutely stirring talk led by S Factor’s founder Sheila Kelley called Let’s Get Naked:
Now, I was floored by this speech, and I was originally going to use it as material for an article on S Factor — as you may or may not know, Art of Seduction is not far from the Chicago S Factor pole dancing studio, and we have been partnered with them for a while. But then I came across yet another TED speech that discusses the power of seduction in our lives, and the two videos operate so beautifully that instead of letting them stand alone (which they obviously do), I wanted to present them to you hand-in-hand, as partners in the same message. (Keep following this series of articles, and we’ll get to it!)
If you’ll take the time to watch Sheila’s talk (which you just have to!), you’ll see that she identifies in all women something called an Erotic Creature. Most of us have her locked away, stuffed down into the shadows of who we are, for fear of outside judgment or of overexposing who we truly are. Eroticism at its core is a vulnerable thing to share with others, after all.
The First Offense. Sheila also explains that every woman has suffered from a “first offense.” What this is is the moment you were told by an external source that your body, as a female, was somehow less valuable than a male, that there was something about it that was inherently “wrong.” For Sheila, it was the moment her neighbor, Mrs. Doyle, yelled at her (at age seven) for being outside topless, just like the Doyle boys (seven and eight years old), on a hot day. (Sound familiar? To me this incident is awfully similar to our Woman of Strength Kiana.)
From that moment, Sheila learned that she had to cover herself. And the Doyle boys learned it was okay to see their own bodies as something to proudly display, whereas hers (and other girls’) was not. She explains that every woman experiences a First Offense, and it takes place in situations like being told to keep your legs together, your hemlines low, or in the double standards that a man can sleep around and be a stud, but a woman who does the same is a slut. Your First Offense sets off a cascade of further offenses that shape the way you live your life as a woman.
And let’s be honest: We feed into our own offenses by looking in the mirror and making faces at our pooches, by criticizing the parts of our bodies that don’t conform to what we’ve seen in society to be desirable. By doing so, we subconsciously tell ourselves that we are never enough, that it is not okay to be who and what we are.
So as a culture, we have all learned that women, simply by virtue of being female, all have to repress something inherent in us. Yet this is the very reason why horrific things (not just social stigmas) happen around the world. By snuffing out the flame that makes us female, we disrupt the harmony in the world that balances out the energies that make this world go round.
What is this flame? I call it feminine spark. Women by birthright were given the magnificent gift of being able to give life. Our power comes from the Erotic Creature — this is why something like boudoir photography or pole dancing could be seen as either something objectifying or as something empowering.
In fact, Kelley explains that historically, women used to get together and celebrate themselves with fertility dances — movements which then over time evolved into what we now know as the striptease or as pole dancing.
When a woman objectifies herself by believing her sexuality is her ONLY power — rather than the root of it — then she allows the world to do the same. It’s when she apologizes for her body that she sends a message of disempowerment out there. This is when she hides it by over- or under-eating, “mini-manning” (trying to be just like the guys to prove she’s worth something), or lives in dissatisfaction with her body, which is supposed to be her temple. (After all, don’t we all take great care of the things we love?)
But once she taps into her Erotic Creature that feeds her inner power? She realizes she can do absolutely anything — that is when it becomes true feminine power.
Stop apologizing. Let go of shame or embarrassment for your body! (Here at Art of Seduction you hear us say, “Chest up, booty out” like a mantra.) While your body is not WHO you are, it is the only vessel that carries around your spirit — and you are far more magnificent than you can even imagine. Take pride in your body and don’t let anybody, especially yourself, tell you it’s not beautiful. Own your feminine power.