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But I Thought Feminism Gave Me Self-Esteem…

Apparently I don’t have very much self-esteem. At least not the way my therapist defines it.

I suppose she’s right. I’ve done a lot in my 31 years yet I rarely give myself credit for anything. I second guess almost every decision. I am constantly arguing with the voices in my head that aren’t really mine. Yet simultaneously getting confused sifting through the words echoing in my brain – are these my values or someone else’s?

Upon reflection, it would be accurate to say I am insecure in that I do not feel secure in myself. Because a lot of my time and energy is spent sorting out what IS myself and what is not. Even very basic things can sometimes consume me to the point where it stops me from doing what I want to do. I question what I want and whether I should want it, constantly looking for a reason not to take the very next step – the step that, a few steps back, I was aching to take. I am often pining for some time in the future, yet when that time comes I am terrified, frozen, unable to move. Then I pine for another time down the road. Until the tension gets so uncomfortable I take the damn step as I’m half-averting my eyes away. Sometimes I laugh that it was so easy. Other times I question whether I should have taken the step at all and worry endlessly about whether I should even be here. And I pine again for another time that will somehow be different, a few steps ahead of the one I’m struggling with. Up there, it’ll be easy.

It does get easier. Yet this is hard to acknowledge. There are starts and stops to personal growth. ’Ignorance is bliss’ isn’t accurate, though at times I reminisce as if it was. In ignorance I assumed it was all me. Now, even if I am insecure, I know deep down that I must be okay because I’m no different from anyone else. If I see value in other people, that logically means there is value in me. I love the ‘new age’ (though its more like super old) concept that we’re all connected, as if we’re each different manifestations of the same life. The same need to live that implores me to get out of bed every morning does to you, though it may look different (I have to pee, I’m hungry, my kids are screaming, my dog needs a walk, I’m late to work). Before I had this idea, the logical conclusion is that there was something wrong with me and other people were therefore better. Now from this perspective, if you’re a cool person then I must also be a cool person deep down (though you and I both may not act cool sometimes). This makes intuitive sense to me. It feels like one of those truths about the world. At least for now. And it operates to temper too much finger pointing at myself. Oh I’ll go at it with myself for awhile, but there IS an end point. There are increasingly happy breaks before it creeps in again.

It is hard to admit because I thought I was past these insecurities. I thought my time studying feminism somehow melted it all away when I decided whatever I read about that supposedly subordinated women, I’d just do the opposite. I decided I wouldn’t preoccupy myself with silly ‘women’s issues’ like beauty and babies because I’d be enacting patriarchy in my own life and no way in hell was I going to do THAT. And somehow by NOT doing things I read were cultural expressions of sexism and misogyny I would be free. Looking back it was actually more silly to think all my problems could have been erased by diverting my attention away.

Where feminism failed me was in developing my own sense of self worth. Feminism was paraded as empowering yet became another external metric to measure myself against. If only I could erase the impact of the patriarchy on my life, all would be okay. Almost all of the attention in feminist writing was on the ways we have been put down by a male dominated system. Which I do not disagree with, at least not in entirety (I now believe the problem is more an oligarchy than patriarchy, though those oligarchs have usually been men; nonetheless, men suffer under existing social conditions too, we all experience gender-based social pains). Yet I did not learn the many ways in which it was okay to be feminine, and okay to be a woman. I did not learn to be embodied, that is, to be present in my physical pleasures and pains. I was not taught how to establish healthy boundaries. I did not delve deeply into myself and my experiences to discover my unique gifts and the value I bring to the world. I mostly learned how the world suppressed them. And in reaction I tried to suppress anything that might have contributed. But in the process, I suppressed parts of myself that needed healing in exchange for false bravado. Just because someone yells something doesn’t make it true.

Those parts, and others pushed down far far earlier in my life, are now being stirred up. I’m feeling things I haven’t felt since I was a teenager. What was underlying my 10 years on anti-depressants (ages 14-24). Processing old, old emotions that feel fresh and new. My insecurity is at a high, though that isn’t necessarily new, I’m just finally looking at it. The form is much more overt.

I have so many rules in my mind, and my emotions are constantly getting set off when I break one, yet the ‘real me’ (the spiritual me, my soul or higher self) exists on a plane where those rules don’t make sense. Self-esteem, I’m now seeing, is about listening to that part of myself and trusting it. That’s what I’m learning to do.

Edited: September 5th, 2014

The “Elusive” Female Orgasm: Where Does It Go? Why Does It Hide?

Difficulty experiencing female orgasm is common, though many women feel all alone.

I can orgasm just fine on my own. What prevents me from doing it with someone else?

The above is an excerpt from my favorite blog, a post about female orgasm, or lack thereof.

Though I’ve understood I’m not alone in my challenges, this is the first time I’ve heard of someone with a similar problem. Most sex advice assumes if women aren’t orgasmic with their partners they aren’t at all, and the solution is to learn how to female orgasm through masturbation. But making the “leap” from solo to partner orgasm isn’t straightforward. The writer continues…

I don’t know what that means, or how to fix it, or whether “fixing” it is the wrong approach. Sometimes, when I realize we’ve worked so hard to get there yet again and I know it’s just not going to happen, I experience what I’ve come to think of as the “reverse orgasm,” where sex ends with a panic attack and a painful mental storm of self-recrimination, disappointment and despair.

Even though he comforts me and says all the right things, this is a moment of relative solitude. It’s just me and my orgasm, not happening. Once again. And if I cease to work on it, am I settling for less, yet again?

I know I don’t want to leave my marriage, and I know there are no simple solutions. Vulnerability and trust and belief in my self worth can’t happen overnight.

I’m not sure what the solution will be. But learning to talk about it, having the courage to write about it here and be honest about this vulnerability, is a big part of it.

It IS brave to talk about it. I know because its why I started this blog. Because I knew other women/couples must feel the same frustration. I figured if nothing else I’d at least write about my experiences, and maybe it’d help someone else to know they’re not alone. But now I’ve got “proof” I’m not, and I know that my struggles haven’t just been mine – they’re shared by women all over, many who would never go there, let alone write about it publicly.

I don’t have an answer to the “problems” of female orgasm. I’m still working on it myself.

Edited: July 11th, 2012

How Making Porn Has Helped My Self-Esteem

Stereotypically, porn stars have low self esteem. But then, so do most women.

The first time my husband took naked pictures of me, I felt so self-conscious and afraid of looking stupid that I disassociated during what would have been really hot sex after. We’d been together a few months and he wanted to paint a picture of my naked body. That was pretty much the biggest compliment anyone had given me, so of course I said yes. But I wasn’t prepared for how, well, naked I felt. How exposed. How vulnerable. I was amazed when I saw what he did – I saw my body, in some ways for the first time. I really saw it how he did. It was beautiful.

It wasn’t enough to undo years of hating my body and my appearance. But it was a start.

Its hanging in our bedroom.

Fast forward about 7 months. After hanging out with naked women on his sets several times, observing the openness about their bodies and sexuality, I knew there was something for me in this lifestyle. I had a list of logical reasons why I should do porn, and plenty more why I shouldn’t – but none of that mattered. I inexplicably needed to do it.

I hated watching my videos at first. I needed to, to write descriptions, something I also felt awkward about. I’d lectured about sex to hundreds of college students, but my own sexuality, and my body, were largely hidden. I’d been hiding in my body, as if it were a robot housing my soul, merely existing on this planet.

Today I enjoy watching. I’m still my own worst critic, cringing when the dialogue gets awkward, but I’m fascinated by seeing myself. To view my body from angles I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. To really look at my pussy, up close and personal. To see how my face looks when I’m turned on. To watch myself suck his cock. To see what he sees when he fucks me. It still feels naked, vulnerable, but I don’t feel anxious about it so much. I enjoy it.

My rise in self-esteem and body image isn’t because I get naked and guys want me, though that certainly happens. At first I viewed my fans emails as suspect – I didn’t quite believe them, nor did I desire the false sense of worth that arose from their compliments. It came from seeing my sexuality, in all its weirdness, and understanding WHY they like me. It came from admiring my own beauty, parts I never saw as attractive until I saw them displayed for the world to see. The camera becomes a mirror for how I am, and in time I’ve come to like what’s reflected back.

A woman doesn’t need to take her clothes off to feel good about herself. But when a woman deeply desires to get naked, the experience of knowing that need, accepting it, and acting on it – in spite of logic that says she ‘shouldn’t – that’s where the self-esteem comes from. That’s where nudity and sexuality can be liberation. It isn’t this way for everyone; for many, it would be the exact opposite. But I can only speak of my own experience. I no longer feel ugly. I don’t daydream about plastic surgery, like I did in high school. I don’t avoid certain sexual positions because of how they make my body look. I don’t worry about my weight – I care more about my health. My body has become a source of pleasure that I’m learning to love, appreciate, and respect. All thanks, in part, to porn.

Edited: June 27th, 2012

The Beauty of Masturbation and the Human Body

Masturbation can be beautiful.

Says the woman who was so ashamed of it, she’d get it over ASAP then immediately switch to another task… as if to pretend it hadn’t happened at all.

During masturbation recently, I set an intention with myself – to give myself love and receive it. Cheesy? Totally. Important? Absolutely.

What could be more beautiful than allowing yourself to feel love for yourself? Most people walk around putting themselves down as if its the latest tween wave beat – or worse, as if they’re South Park’s Kyle, diagnosed with a condition called “being a cynical asshole.” How often do people compete in a whining competition about whose life is worse? Get one woman in a group to complain about her body, and most the rest will jump on board. And Jesus Christ, I never realized how insecure men are about their penis size until I made a YouTube video about it, which only spawned MORE emails to double check their size is okay. Its almost rare to meet someone with high self esteem; it can seem most everyone’s insecure and not doing that well hiding it. Sometimes I can fall into that category too.

We’ve grown up in a culture that finds the “natural” body disgusting. This taboo is partly why body functions – farting, burping, spitting, sneezing, vomiting, shitting, pissing, and even laughing and crying – have become sexual fetishes to some (in another culture others would probably still enjoy them, but for other reasons). This emerges from a long history of religious puritanism, public health campaigns of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and modern medicine rooted in the questionable “germ theory“.

We are blessed that our bodies are set up for pleasure. Yet if we despise the body for what it “naturally” is and does – then we also shut off the possibility of appreciating what it allows us to experience. Perhaps many people feel bad about sex and masturbation because they don’t believe they deserve it. Or worse, that its overindulgent, narcissistic, too much. Its not necessary. They don’t let themselves feel all the pleasure that’s in their bodies. Then they’re surprised it doesn’t work out so well with a partner…

I’m talking about myself, and I’m talking about people who email me about their sex concerns. Since masturbation is self-pleasure, it may be the ultimate expression of self-love, if only we’ll allow ourselves to feel it.

Edited: June 24th, 2012