F4TF: naked

badge F4TF

The questions:

Are you at ease being naked? Do you feel more comfortable clothed or unclothed? Can you explain why you feel this way?

I’ve always been more comfortable clothed than unclothed. I recall one summer day when I was 5 years old, I was in the yard with my dad and I complained that I was too hot. He suggested that I take off my T-shirt; a little girl’s torso at that age is indistinguishable from a little boy’s torso, so no big deal, right? But even then I knew that girls and women don’t take off their shirts and I felt uncomfortable with it so I didn’t.

Eventually I internalized the notion (picked up indirectly from my mom) that a female body is at risk and invites real danger, and when that body is sexually mature, the risk is even more acute. Therefore, showing one’s body is dangerous. Breasts, as the most obvious sign of a girl’s sexual maturity, were especially problematic. When I was in high school, not only could I not bring myself to wear snug-fitting tops, I didn’t understand how other girls could. I was utterly baffled. If I had to go swimming, I would wear a one-piece bathing suit and feel self-conscious until I could hide myself in the hot tub.

I found it tremendously difficult to work up the nerve to try a belly dance class, but I’m so glad I did because it taught me to feel more comfortable in my body. One of the reasons why I originally gravitated to this particular style was that it was quite a bit more covered than most. After 9 years, I performed my first solo (in a slightly different style) and I had complete creative liberty with my costume. I wore a long, full skirt and a decorated bra top. I felt uncomfortable and exposed; it wasn’t easy, but I did it and the world didn’t end. Here’s a photo from that performance:

dance

Belly dance and figuring out the sexual shame issue have helped a lot, but the nude photography that I do for the blog has taken it to the next level. Like many people, I tend to regard my body critically. Using my body as a subject for art (yeah, I’m going to call it art) makes me look for the good stuff rather than fixating on the “bad” stuff. And simply spending time nude or topless for my little photo shoots has made me more comfortable with nudity. I used to ban Wolf from the room with dire threats, but now I just get on with it because I know he won’t interrupt.

I still skew modest, but I routinely wear clingy clothes and wearing a bathing suit is no longer a big deal. I’m OK with walking around the house briefly while nude, as long as I can’t be seen through the window. Wolf and I have sex with the lights on. I’m much more comfortable than I was.

 

Gawan: nudity

When we arrived at our destination it was past bedtime and we were both drained. Immediately upon entering the stuffy space, I crossed the room to the air conditioner and turned it on, willing it to work. It did, thank goodness. We discussed sleeping arrangements and then crashed.

The next day, after a leisurely late breakfast, we headed out to explore the neighborhood and get the lay of the land. Upon our return to the room in the mid-afternoon, Gawan stripped nude without preamble.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that. I hadn’t spent any time imagining the scene, but it seemed that I had a kernel of an expectation — that this particular first would likely apply to both of us at the same time, and would have been preceded by kisses, caresses, meaningful looks, etc. Yet this nudity was unilateral and businesslike.

We had been out in sunny, hot and humid weather, the room air conditioner barely up to the task, and we were tired and sweaty. Eventually I twigged: he wanted to cool down faster, he’s very much at ease with his body, and whatever his criteria for feeling comfortable being nude around me, they had already been met. (Newsflash: nudity doesn’t necessarily mean sex.)

Despite the impression that this blog may give, I’m not actually in the habit of wandering about the house naked. But following Gawan’s example, I quickly got into a routine of stripping down to bra and panties to cool off after being out in the heat. After having a shower, I didn’t bother dressing or even trying to conceal the important bits with my towel, and not just because the towel was small enough to make such an effort essentially futile (unless held to my chest vertically, in the Japanese style).

I was also aware that there was really very little of me that Gawan hadn’t already seen either on the blog, or in a handful of images that I’d emailed. That was a little odd, and another first for me — that such thorough exposure had happened before I decided that he might be more than a friend and well before we ever were in the same space together. But it also helped me feel like it wasn’t that big a deal because, in one way, I’d already made the decision to be nude in front of him quite a while ago. (I suppose the oddest thing for Gawan may have been seeing my naked body with my head attached — the nude photos were headless, and the full body photos were clothed.)

It turns out that I’m much more comfortable with my body now than ever before, and that’s mostly because of this blog. The nude self-portraits have gotten me into the habit of looking for positives instead of flaws, and kind feedback, especially from the Sinful Sunday community, is tremendously encouraging.

I got used to my own casual nudity in Gawan’s presence quite quickly, and I developed an easy familiarity of the sort that I would ordinarily associate with a long-term relationship. My level of comfort with being naked shows that my change of attitude in that respect may be fundamental. And that’s a good thing.

why I post photos of myself

When I first started posting photos, I couldn’t really explain why I chose to do so except at a superficial level. I had an example in Hyacinth’s blog (the first sex blog I followed), and in particular the Boobday posts, in which other people submit their sexy (though not always bare) photos. Although I gave the matter a lot of thought, it wasn’t a particularly analytical process, which for me is unusual. I really didn’t know why I wanted to, just that I did. So I went ahead and started posting. It felt right and still does.

Now that I’ve been posting for a while, I have a little more insight into my motivations.

My body image has been somewhat out of sync with reality, and I definitely had self-esteem issues when I was younger, not all of which are completely healed. I tend to look for flaws in the mirror — but it seems that I look for beauty through the lens. And when I look for it, I start to find it. Without my ever having set about it deliberately, photography has become an exercise in mindfulness and gratitude for my body.

When I post the photos to my blog, I start to get a little bit of distance and see them more objectively. It’s even better when people comment, because they often draw my attention to things I didn’t notice or think of. I really enjoy getting those different perspectives.

I like to create and share beautiful images. I’ve always had an artistic eye but I’ve never had an outlet that I found so satisfying. I like line and form, proportion and balance, negative space. I like value contrast but not color contrast — I prefer black and white, and when working with color, I like an almost monochrome palette.

I’m also enjoying photography as a way of exploring my sensuality — on both sides of the camera.

Of course, it’s a bit of an ego stroke if someone finds me attractive. This, in conjunction with an internally motivated improvement of my opinion regarding my looks, which in turn is reinforced by my partner’s compliments, all act together with the result that I now actually feel sexy. I’ve never really felt that before — I never allowed myself to because of my (now defused) fear of sex. I feel like I’m now fully inhabiting my body in a way that I never have before.

Yet all of these things are things that I figured out after posting photos for the better part of 6 months. So what was the original motivation?

Simply that I wanted to, I think, and nothing more complex than that. But my understanding of that notion has deepened.

In an earlier draft of this post (which I’ve been trying to write for months), I wrote “I’m not an exhibitionist, but…” But then it was pointed out to me that posting the photos is a kind of exhibitionism. This simply hadn’t occurred to me; I didn’t identify with the term, which is sometimes defined as “a person who behaves in an extravagant way in order to attract attention.”  As a sensitive introvert, behaving extravagantly for attention is the polar opposite of how I behave. It can also be defined as public or semi-public exposure, and while I’m sharing the photos publicly, I’m taking them privately: I don’t want people’s eyes on me. I just wanted to put a few photos out there.

So, hi all. I’m Zoë and, I suppose, I’m a reclusive exhibitionist.