Last night I happened across a conversation asking about how being a boudoir photographer affects your own sexuality, or how your sexuality affects your boudoir work, and it really inspired me to take a deep look at myself and really try to understand how the two connect for me.
Shooting boudoir is like being a Doctor to me, when I see clients nude (or nearly nude) regardless of gender, it does not affect me in a sexual way. I don’t look at them while they are changing (if they opt to not use the bathroom), and I don’t look at their body unless I’m looking THROUGH the camera, in which case I am only looking at angles, light, shape, etc. None of it is sexual.
I naturally compartmentalize my work from my regular life in that way. I fully admit that I enjoy watching adult videos, or looking at adult photos. I think they are a great way to help get into the mood or to change things up a bit. However I have never once looked at a client or their photos in that way. When I am in the studio it’s very clinical to me, same when I’m editing.. I look for under eye circles, stray hairs, dust/lint on clothing, body lines that seem uneven, skin tones I may want to fix, exposed nipples the client may want covered, etc.
I can direct a client into a sexy pose, create an image and know that it is a sexy image, however, it doesn’t affect me the way it will it’s intended recipient.
I don’t know how much of this comes naturally to me, or how much of it is a result of my history.
I struggled for a long time with my own sexuality/sexual being… My first marriage… that relationship started when I was 16, it was dysfunctional and abusive and lasted until I was 22+, In recent years I’ve begun to recognize that while he and I “experimented” and had an active sex life (Nothing was off limits… including bringing in other girls… including strangers, my best friend, etc.) NONE of it was about me… It was all about him manipulating me into believing that I WANTED those things.
When I got pregnant for the third time, that’s when things changed.
Before I got pregnant, I wasn’t able to consent to things we were doing because I was using alcohol excessively to escape from how miserable I was. The minute I got pregnant with my first child at 16, my ex took over every aspect of my life. I never had a chance to have any sort of control… he cut me off from my parents and siblings, everything was about him and what he wanted. By the time this happened 4 years later I was so miserable with him I was a drunk… I was drinking constantly just to escape how terrible things were… so when he started trying to put ideas into my head about what HE wanted, it was easy for him to manipulate me into thinking that what HE wanted was actually what I wanted.
When I got pregnant… I had to stop drinking… He lost control and became unstable… I had to leave to protect myself and my children (This was my third pregnancy… we had 2 toddler boys and it was a Twin pregnancy where one of my twins died… and my husband didn’t care… he left me off to the side by myself to grieve our lost child and hope that our remaining twin would survive)
The fact that I stopped drinking changed everything. I started to recognize that the life I was living was NOT healthy, for me OR my children, and that my husband was mentally unstable.
I ended up leaving after having to have him involuntarily hospitalized for threatening suicide and then once he was released he manipulated his therapist into believing he was perfectly fine and didn’t need medication or therapy. The day I left he threatened to kill me if I slept with another man while still pregnant with his child.
I did sleep with another guy, before I gave birth. It was an act of rebellion. It was my “last chance” to go against him, and I knew there was nothing he could do about it… It was a terrible sexual experience but the fact that I did it was enough for me. After that, I was finally able to see myself as someone who existed WITHOUT him… and worked on trying to figure out who that person was. One of the things I did was try to start to lose weight. I bought a Carmen Electra aerobic striptease workout video and decided to give that a shot… (I’ve written some about this before)
It was a no-go. I was SO uncomfortable with MYSELF that I couldn’t even WATCH the video, let alone TRY it! In all the years I was with him… all the sex we had, all the crazy things we may have done… I didn’t know how to BE sexual… I didn’t even know what I wanted out of a sexual relationship!
It took me MONTHS before I was able to do the workout moves… and over those months I started dating…. After awhile, I finally got to the point where I was using those moves any time music played… I started dating an amazing guy and I let myself explore and learn about what I like and what I don’t like.
The guy I started dating that summer is now my husband… we have an AMAZING sex life that is mutually beneficial, we are able to communicate when we have an interest in something or want to look more into something new, etc.
I do this work because I have BEEN that woman… The one who is insecure, uncomfortable, doing things JUST because HE might like it… not because SHE might like it… And my GOAL is 100% of the time to have her experience what I experienced when I was finally able to try out those Carmen Electra aerobic striptease videos…. HERSELF!
The session I had Yesterday was one of those rare days where I get to experience the FULL effect of that transformation… my client cried just looking at the back of my camera… after struggling for months over scheduling conflicts and almost chickening out last minute, but yesterday was one of those days where everything that has gone wrong was all worth it for the final outcome… She finally saw herself as beautiful… saw her greying hair as gorgeous highlights in her dark hair, perfectly framing her face…. all of her insecurities became BEAUTIFUL when she saw her images, and I cannot wait for her to see the rest.