When I was sixteen, a series of nude photos of me got sent around several of the local high schools by a guy in the grade above me. They made their way around my workplace, my dance studio and back to my parents.
I had total strangers tell me I had ‘destroyed my future’, that I’d never get a decent job and that no one would ever love me because of what I’d done. And for a long time, I believed them.
I watched a documentary recently called Audrie and Daisy, which was about a teenage girl who committed suicide after video footage of her being sexually assaulted got circulated around her high school. It broke my heart. Something in the story resonated so deeply with the part of me who knew what if felt like to be at the centre of unwanted attention. The girl who thought that somehow it was her fault, that she’d never be able to escape the things she’d done and that her past decisions would limit her future potential.
Watching that film, I knew I had to share this part of my story.
This post isn’t a statement about victim blaming, slut-shaming or whether or not we should be sending nudes (sorry mums and dads). This post is for every girl who has had her trust broken or her right to privacy compromised, every girl who has been told that she should have ‘been more careful’ or ‘have some self respect’, for every girl who has been conditioned to believe that she can’t be a ‘good girl’ AND a sexual being, and for every woman who feels held back or boxed in by what she’s done or what has been done to her.
I was reading up recently on the Madonna/Whore complex. Basically it’s a theory that says women can be divided into two categories; the girls you sleep with, and the girls you marry. For anyone who doesn’t think we need feminism in the twenty first Century, this bullshit is Exhibit A. I grew up believing that because I was curious about sex, enjoyed it and pursued it freely, I would never be ‘marriage material’. I settled for being treated like absolute shit in relationships because I thought I had to ‘take what I could get’ when it came to guys. I had everyone from my parents and the media to strangers on the internet telling me that ‘good girls’ didn’t sleep around or express themselves sexually, and that if I wanted to get married, have kids and a respectable career one day, I’d better look after my reputation and keep that side of myself locked down.
The idea that I could be both an NRL cheerleader AND the Prime Minister of Australia never occurred to me because all the movies I watched and grown ups I listened to told me I had to choose what kind of woman I wanted to be. Did I want to be known for my body, or my mind? Did I want to be respected for my intellect or remembered my ass? I now know – thank God – that women are multi-faceted creatures with a supernatural depth that transcends all the labels and limitations the world seeks to place on us.
To some, this will all be common sense. To others, it will be a freaking revelation. Because this is the kind of small-minded rhetoric that still gets peddled around dinner tables and classrooms in small towns around the world. Why do areas with the lowest populations have the highest suicide rate? Because this kind of mentality permeates the culture; labels, reputations, singular identities and two dimensional realities.
This is why women repress their sexuality, this is why girls pigeon-hole themselves with limiting beliefs about who they are and what they can do. This is why a teenage girl would rather end her life than live with the aftermath of her assault. (FYI, the whole masculine identity thing is also a total mess and we’re gonna deal with that in another post).
It’s time to break down the walls we’ve built around ourselves; the shame, guilt and the feeling of being ‘held back’ by decisions we’ve made and the labels we received because of them. Here seems like a good a place as any to start.
My darling girl,
I don’t give a shit how many people you’ve slept with, I don’t care if you sent naked photos of yourself in confidence or posted them online for the world to see. I don’t care if you did it to get attention or get back at your ex.
You are a miracle.
Your brilliance cannot be boxed, no one can measure your magnificence, and no identity the world can project upon you will ever come close to capturing the reality of Who You Really Are. You can be the Madonna and the Whore, the Prime Minister and the cheerleader. You can be the ditz and the domestic goddess, you can grace the cover of FHM and be president of the P&F. You are worthy of the BEST this life has to offer. You deserve the greatest happiness, the most expansive joy and the wildest success. You deserve to be loved, adored and appreciated for both who you are and what you do.
Your past – the things you’ve done, and the things that have been done to you – have no bearing on the kind of future you can create for yourself.
I am living proof that no matter how far ‘off the rails’ you think you’ve travelled, life goes on. And not just ordinary life; amazing, breathtaking, blissful life that leaves you overwhelmed with gratitude and in awe of your Creator.
I don’t share naked photos anymore. Not because I think it’s immoral or dangerous, but because I don’t crave the attention like I used to. I got really honest about why I was doing it and it was always to satisfy the cravings of my ego rather than the desires of my soul. As I move into this new space of self love and deep reverence for my physical form, the exhibitionist within me is expressing herself in a more conscious way.
I’ve found a way to bare-all that’s much more fulfilling; it’s writing posts like this. I prefer baring my naked soul because I know this is the stuff that can be of service. You know what’s better than being told you have a great ass? Being told that your words made someone’s day, that your story gave someone hope, that your authenticity inspired someone to chase their dreams. Showing up and being seen for who you really are, that’s the kind of vulnerability that fuels the connection we’re all craving, that is being naked.