This is a more personal post than usual, and triggering for body/eating issues. I probably wouldn't be writing it if I wasn't slightly tipsy, so apologies in advance if it's TMI. It also got kind of long, but I've found this unexpectedly hard to write, and I've already spent hours fussing with it, so I'm just going to go ahead and post or I'll never get to bed on time.
Last year, for various reasons, I changed my contraceptive pill. Most women do this a few times before their hormones settle down and they find one that suits them. It sucks, but you get used to it. I'd been on the same kind of pill since I was 14 - I'd originally been prescribed it to treat acne (I told you I was an awkward kid) but I'll admit the excuse came in handy when I started having sex.
To cut a long story short, the new pill had many exciting side-effects, one of which was to make me lose weight.
Some of you have commented on how good I looked last year. I'm 5'8", broad-shouldered, naturally muscular and my healthy weight is between 10 and 11 stone (that's about 140 - 154lbs). Between June 2008 and Jan 2009 I went below 9 stone (126 lbs) for the first time since I reached adulthood. Even during my eating disordered period while I was at university (which, for those of you who have noticed my scars, was almost entirely a replacement for self-harming when I made myself stop doing that) I never lost that much weight: every period of starvation was followed by a binge, I was on this other contraceptive which kept a layer of healthy fat on me, and my weight just didn't go that low. So, now I'm recovered and eating more or less healthily, suddenly having my weight - against my wishes, against all the work I'd done to learn to love myself at 10 and a half stone - spiral to the lowest it had ever been .... well, suffice to say it messed with my head.
People liked it though. People said I looked good. I got cross when friends said it - they should know better - but when strangers on the internet said it? Well, it reinforced my impression that however sexy you're perceived to be, you'll always be even sexier if you're thinner. Every time someone compliments a photo of me at my thinnest, part of me cringes at the thought that they'd prefer it to a photo of me at my fattest.
I'm not talking about a big difference here. Let's put this in perspective:
At the moment I'd say I'm bit bigger than the second picture (which isn't recent - it was taken a couple of years ago)¹. But not much. No big deal, really. Only a few pounds in it. Big fuss about nothing, yeah? Yeah. I know.
Anyway, the various other side-effects of the new pill proved to be unliveable with, so early this year I switched again. As predicted, I put on weight. I schooled myself carefully: as a feminist I understand that being normal-sized is fine, that it makes no bloody difference to my attractiveness, that it shouldn't be a problem. I'm quite good at controlling my emotional response to things, so I've managed to successfully persuade, bully, and make-believe myself into being fairly body-confident since the weight gain. But despite all those good thoughts, there's a persistent twinge of regret that I didn't make more films during my accidentally-skinny phase last year.
I came back from holiday on Monday better slept than I've been in months. The permanent bags under my eyes have lightened. My skin's clearer than it's been in ages. I feel buoyant. And I've put on more weight.
These days I make a point of not having scales at home, but I used to weigh myself obsessively, and can make a good guess. I reckon I'm currently pushing the 11 stone mark. Which is fine. It's not fat. I'm a size 12. I have at most a 28" waist and 42" hips. That's fine, you know? Not supermodel skinny, but still on the slender side. My body naturally waxes and wanes. That's cool, and these days I refuse to diet or try to affect my shape in any way other than staying generally fit and healthy. But despite knowing all this, I'm struggling with it emotionally. I have a run of shoots lined up for my new site this autumn, and - believe it or not - strong-willed, body-positive, feminist me is feeling insecure about making sexy spanking videos at my current size.
I know, right? It's ridiculous. I know it's ridiculous. I would tell any friend saying the same thing, with love, that they were being ridiculous. Half the women I fancy are bigger than me. I would never, ever, tell anyone else that the size I am now was too big - sometimes sticks in my throat at the very idea. It's wrong. But ... part of me, the insecure, hypocritical part of my brain with the double standard, still, knowing it's wrong, feels fat. I can talk about social conditioning until I'm blue in the face, but I can't quite seem to eradicate that feeling. Not completely. I find myself staring at photos of the thinner spanking models in the industry - including dear friends - and feeling inadequate in comparison.
Augh, guilt, I shouldn't feel this way, more angst. Etc. It's embarrassing, honestly. And I know it's irrational and silly: not only, objectively speaking, am I not fat, but if I was, that would be fine too! My feelings aren't irrational because actually I'm not fat (with the implication that if I was fat I'd have a point): they're irrational because size has - should have - nothing to do with sex appeal. If I put on loads of weight suddenly, will it - should it - make any difference to my spanking career? I'll still be my usual dorky, over-thinky, kinky self, my boyfriends will still find me hot, I'll still get off on being spanked and making spanking porn, and hopefully you'd still get off on watching me be spanked.
But I know I'm not alone in having this residual, deep-down self-doubt underneath the confidence, and I think it's important to talk about this stuff publically. If I'm going to make body-positive spanking porn I think these issues need to be acknowledged. I suspect that many of you reading this know how I feel, and I think that's indicative of something deeply wrong with our society.
You'll be pleased to hear there's a happy ending to this story. Someone anonymously commented on my recent Bodies and Politics post with a link to The Judgment of Paris, a site celebrating the beautiful plus-size models which are so often ignored by the fashion industry. It's a celebration of femininity, sexiness and style: and all of the women are gorgeously, glamourously bigger than me.
I only had to look at these pictures for ten minutes before I felt better about my current shape, empowered to make spanking porn at size 12, size 16 or whatever size I happen to be, my positivity about the range of human beauty wholly renewed. I guess that proves how susceptible I am, stompy politics notwithstanding. But it makes me wonder: if other people are half as easily influenced as me, what effect must the skinny-focussed ethos of fashion, advertising and porn have on our culture as a whole?
I seek out body-positive representation in the media anyway, but this week I'm particularly delighted by public celebrations of normal-sized beauty. Such as this photo of Lizzie Miller (which I'm sure I saw attached to an article about Karl Lagerfeld's offensively off-the-mark statement about curvy models, but I can't seem to find the page now):
(Originally posted in Glamour magazine.)
See, I know in theory that being true to myself, being comfortable in my skin, being happy and confident and feeling sexy and relaxed, is far more important than a few pounds here or there. Right now, I'm trying to put that theory into practice.
I was telling a friend about this today, and she started telling me about a TV show called Mad Men. Set in the 50s, many of the female characters are cast according to the body shape that was considered beautiful in that era, which makes them far curvier than most actresses these days. Normal-sized women are shown as normal - not one "big girl" as a quirky character in a group of skinny women, but sexy characters with beautiful curves.
I haven't seen the show, but as a Firefly fan I was delighted to discover that one of the sex icons in Mad Men is played by Christina Hendricks. She slimmed down to play Saffron, the petite seductress and con-artist in Joss Whedon's show. But she's completely gorgeous as voluptuous 50s flirt Joan Holloway:
The upshot of all this is:
a) Next time I catch myself feeling bad about my figure, I should just look at eye candy of beautiful non-skinny women until I get over myself, and;
b) I'm going to go ahead and make lots of spanking porn without worrying about my shape.
The latter is still a work in progress. I'm still feeling irrationally nervous about posting new pics. I'm combatting these nerves in my usual way - by writing about it (at length, apparently - sorry about that), and by booking lots of shoots, so take that, self-doubt! Most people won't be able to tell the difference anyway, or won't care if I have a flabby tummy - you'll mostly be looking at my bottom anyway, right? But if you do find my fuller figure less appealing, please be kind enough to keep your opinion to yourself.
In the meantime, I'll keep working on that confidence thing, because I'd far rather post hot spanking photos than angst about boring body issues.
1. I had to hunt quite hard for a picture showing me at my biggest, and part of the difference in this shot is posture anyway. It's disappointing to discover that despite my political stance, I have very few pictures that show off my current shape. I'm cool with my big hips and bum and thighs, but I strongly prefer photos which accentuate the narrowness of my waist. And when I'm shooting I always hold my tummy in, so there are very few pictures of me where, for instance, my belly looks as rounded as it does in the mirror. Partly that's good posture, but partly it's unnecessary shame at having a round belly. I think it's sad that I don't have any nice photos of me celebrating the fuller phases of my natural body shape. I hope that the shoots I do this autumn will change that.
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