Heather – USA

I really enjoyed doing this photo shoot because it reminded me how much I enjoy being naked, especially in nature, and it made me appreciate my body more.  I have been photographed, painted and drawn naked by friends, lovers, and for art classes, so I did not feel much trepidation about being photographed.  I felt extremely comfortable with Erica.  After the shoot I felt relaxed and had a renewed appreciation for my body and also for photography.

My feelings about my body are very much tied to sexuality.  I am not sure if that is a good thing, but that is just how it happened for me.  As a child (age 4) I was molested for over a year by two neighbors a young man aged 14 and a young woman aged 17.  It was extremely traumatic for me, especially with the boy/man as he was sadistic and would threaten to kill me or my brother or dog if I told anyone.  He also said that I was “ugly and disgusting”, while molesting me, so obviously he had a lot of trauma himself, but at the time I really took it all in and was very hurt by it.  I also numbed out and “left” my body and I think I have struggled ever since to really be here, not just in my body but on the earth as a human.   This has led me to connect with many different forms of healing and art.

What ended up as the most healing thing for me were my subsequent intimate relationships.  I have been blessed with boyfriends and a husband who were extremely loving and appreciative of my body in every way, not just sexually but my appearance and my spirit.  That, more than other healing modalities/therapies, really made me appreciate my own body and my own self. I feel most comfortable being naked in sexually intimate relationships and probably least comfortable being clothed and at a party.

I feel regretful that my first experience of my body was so external, coming from what someone else told me about myself.  I wish my earliest memory of my body was coming from a place of enjoying it from within myself, like feeling the sun on my skin or smelling a flower or dancing.

Another more current experience I have had with my body relates to my weight.  I have spent most of my life 30 pounds lighter than I am now.  Four years ago I took an antidepressant for two years and gained 30 pounds as a result, which has not come off, even though I am no longer taking the medication.  That has been really difficult for me as I feel kind of “out of place” in my own body and a bit more self-conscious than I have been in the past.  That is still an ongoing process for me.

Traveling has really affected me in a myriad of ways.  Related to body image, it has shown me how many different body types there are and that what is beautiful or sexy in one culture is different than what is beautiful/sexy in another.

I find it sad that American culture really uses women’s sexuality to sell US stuff, and so we end up participating in our own oppression.

I realize that being born in the 70s, I am a part of the first time in recent history that women, who have traditionally been valued for reproduction alone (i.e. not for their minds or spirits and not allowed education, voting rights, creative work outside of creating children, or independence outside of family), are, in a societally condoned way, stepping out of just being mothers and really seeing who we are.  In that old traditional type of society it makes sense that only a firm young fertile body would be considered beautiful because fertility is their sole purpose. I think now, beauty standards and how we as women value ourselves and are valued will change for the better.