I often feel torn posting pictures of boudoir sessions on my public photography page when I know many people are somewhat-to-very offended by nudity. In the past I've lost page likes and deleted numerous comments ranging from elderly women insinuating we're all sinners to very nasty bashing. I hesitate booking outside locations because I know some people would NEVER feel comfortable allowing such debauchery to be taking place inside their establishment (although I do have to say the businesses I dealt with were very open-minded and gracious).
At the same time, I enjoy boudoir photography the most. Not because I'm a perv getting off on pictures of my clients, but because there is immense satisfaction hearing another woman building herself UP rather than tearing herself down once she receives her photos. In a day in age when women cringe before looking at a photo of themselves with one finger ready on the 'delete' button, this is awesome. I spend a lot of time talking with clients beforehand. What are they insecure about? What do they love about themselves? What type of photos are they looking for? The vast majority of women are extremely nervous, and somewhat hesitant to say they love anything about themselves. But when they do finally say what they want to accentuate, they're very confident in those aspects. They love their hair, or their backs, or their backside. Some women have gotten the pictures done with nobody in mind - they had no significant other to share them with. Most women said their significant other loved their bodies, but they had a hard time seeing what there was to love. How heartbreaking is that? If you're a woman, it's heartbreaking because it hits close to home. Having had my own photos done a couple of years ago - it's a very stressful event. It's nerve-wracking waiting to get the pictures back, wondering if you made a complete ass of yourself and will end up throwing the pictures away. I'm on the other side of the lens now, and it really is a journey for a lot of women, just like it was for me. It's huge. Seeing yourself painted in a light where you are viewed as beautiful - man, that's amazing.
One of my favorite artists is Michelangelo. He had an amazing understanding of the human body. Look him up sometime. I'm not being condescending - really find out about him. He knew the human body and used that knowledge to create some of the best artwork the world has ever known. Was he a sinner? Probably. His work was also good enough for Rome, but I'm not going to sit here and discuss religion and its views on the human body (although that's enough for a couple of blog posts). I know art is subjective - so not everyone likes Michelangelo. Not everyone appreciates how aesthetically beautiful the human form is. Fair enough. I'm not here to convince anyone of that.
I do, however, find some views to be incredibly harmful to women and hypocritical. I respect that some people think a woman's body should be kept under wraps, except for her significant other. I respect that, but I completely disagree with it. I was raised with strong emphasis on my intellect, and I am eternally grateful for that. I will agree that no person, woman or man, should place their entire self-worth in their appearance. I think most of us can agree on that. But should we take it so far as to make a woman ashamed that she has a body? Ashamed that she has breasts and an ass? This is where I start to get angry. One side of society thinks women are sex objects. Another side thinks lady bits are dirty. So what is it? Do we allow men to own our bodies for their own purposes, or do we pretend we don't have one at all? Or do we play the nice middle ground - where we don't have one except when it comes time to give it to a man?
I don't know about most women, but I own my body. It's mine. I dress it how I please (which honestly these days is mostly for comfort) and when I do dress it up, it's for me. I know my husband likes it (and if you're cringing here, this blog post isn't for you), and I like that he likes it. But you know what? I like it. I like how certain tops and pants fit me. I like my hair some days (other days it's pretty terrifying, but that's besides the point). I like how my photos from my own boudoir turned out. I like that my photographer and stylist saw those things in me. I won't look like this forever, and no, that's not a bad thing. But I know I'll look back on those photos one day and I'll think what a pretty woman I was. Yes, I am smart, and kind, and strong, but I am also beautiful. And I also have a woman's body.
Now that I have girls of my own to watch grow up, I think about these things more and more. I emphasize their own unique qualities daily. I encourage them to develop their minds and explore their interests. But I will never pretend that they aren't human beings with human bodies. There will be a day when someone notices them. And I want more than anything for them to have a healthy relationship with their bodies so they will know what to do and not have all this confusing BS thrown their way. They don't need to be ashamed. They don't need to pretend. And no man, NO man, owns the rights to their bodies. The same goes for my son. He owns no woman. He should celebrate and love whoever he is with - not possess them or feel threatened that they are their own person.
Perhaps having kids put a lot of this into perspective. Women have a lifelong battle with their bodies and their relationship with it. When I think of how I want my children to feel about themselves, I see more clearly how I should be thinking of myself. It's not an easy road to travel with people throwing rules and expectations at you from all different directions. Hopefully one day women will be in charge of their identities… until then I'll be in charge of mine and encourage others to do the same, one pretty picture at a time :)