[Editor's note: Please welcome The Other Zoe to the Playpen writing team! Stay tuned in the next few weeks for more introductions from Playpen's writing team. You can also get to know more members of the sex blog writing team.]
Empowerment, Objectification and Defining one’s own space
I first came into contact with the adult industry when I was asked to write the erotica column for an online publication based here in my home town. I was an aspiring editor at my first “real job” and had never written anything of the sort, but they said it was part of the editorial job, so I started using my imagination.
Unfortunately though, the site was fairly hetero-normative and not very empowering not just for women, but for anyone. While I enjoyed the challenge of leaving my comfort zone and exercising my creative muscle to get people off, after a while I just felt it clashed with my personal views and for the same reasons it got a little boring.
I’ve always hoped I could get back to contributing to the adult industry on a more ethical and inclusive platform. So, here I am.
A few years ago I started identifying as a feminist and not too long after as a sex positive feminist. What this meant was that I finally had a name for the unease I felt whenever I was treated differently for being a girl/woman or was expected to sit down, shut up, or be ashamed. It was very liberating to know I’m not alone.
Feminism has also helped me ultimately to realize that I can also define my sexuality for myself. No one can tell me what is I have to find attractive, what is shameful, what I should take pleasure in. The Other Zoe is meant to be kind of an exercise in defining and expressing that sexuality.
When I was not so much younger, I just did not like the idea of being feminine and I had a fixation with making myself smaller. It may have started when I was 12 years old and my mother told me since I started my period, I shouldn’t drink coke, because the sugary soft drink would make me fat.
I hated the idea that I had matured into a “young woman.” It intuitively felt restrictive. I had to cover up now, I had to watch my weight. Being a woman, meant that all at once I had the ability to become invasive and offensive, in this case through my size. So I rejected the idea of conventional femininity, but also constantly worried about my body image as do so many women. In a way, I might say I worried about taking up too much space.
As a teenager and a young adult I had my share of relationships and for the most part enjoyed sex, but I understood it as a given, that my body was up to scrutiny from boys and later men. I understood that it was up to me to make sure that I was not to hairy, too heavy, etc. (Later I also made the very pleasurable discovery that too heavy or too hairy have very little bearing on quality sexual encounters, but that’s another story…)
When I met my current partner online, in his first few emails he mentioned his particular sexual preferences, which are really nothing extreme, but still of a visual nature. Being a liberated woman and a sex positive person, and also a person that hadn’t gotten laid in months, I wrote him that I’d be more than happy to oblige, but I ended up being shyer about it than I thought I would be. You see, even though I was rather uninhibited sexually by that point, the idea of my body being the visual focus of attention still made me sort of uncomfortable. But, wanting to be a good lover to a man who turned out to be a wonderful partner and also to expand my horizons a bit, I wore the costumes, stockings, garter belts and let him film our lovemaking. It was actually watching the first “home video” that proved to be the bigger task.
At first I said he can film us, but that I wouldn’t watch, because it would be too embarrassing for me to see myself during sex, but curiosity got the better of me. I’m not sure what this says about me as a feminist, but the first thing I thought was, “hey, my figure’s not so bad from this angle,” but the second thing was “this is hot.” It was completely arousing to watch my body in action so to speak, giving and receiving pleasure.
We have accumulated quite a collection of home movies now and it has also been an empowering experience that has helped me feel more comfortable with my body. This isn’t to say I’ve become some earth goddess or femme fatale parading around in stiletto heals, but I don’t constantly check my reflection in shop windows either.
Its great to feel beautiful, sexy and desired but it was more than that. Its more: look at what my body can do and feel instead of just see how great I look. Sure, in a way it can be seen as objectification, I get to be an object of desire but also a subject of pleasure.
Overall its given me agency and a kind of creative control over my sexuality. I do my share of “directing” our videos and sometimes picking out a little something I think I’d look and feel hot in, whereas at first I just saw these things as something I did to please my partner.
Objectification, in the negative sense of the word means your less worthy of respect for the sole reason of being attractive. How often it is that we hear a man comment on a woman’s looks and sensuality only to put her down in the same sentence.
Respectful visually stimulating expression says you are hot because you have the power to arouse and you are choosing to use it. Negative objectification means you’re desirability is intrusive and you shouldn’t really take up any space, positive objectification means have all the space you want.
At age 26 I’m still discovering myself and what it means to take up my own space and exist as a woman in the world, trying to define my own terms as I go along. I have a few stories and thoughts I’d like to share and I’m happy to have found a platform to do it. I hope to entertain and to maybe even to occasionally inspire and empower.
I believe firmly in the healing power of self-expression, as it had a healing effect on my body image and as other forms have had on other aspects of my life. Art reflects on experience and tells the stories that are hardest to tell, raises awareness and brings people together. That’s why along with some personal and of course personally political experiences I would also like share with you some artwork that I find inspiring, interesting or just plain arousing from a sex positive feminist perspective.
I’m Zoe, a pop culture editor, blogger, and electronic music geek living in Budapest, Hungary. Got a question or a tip for me? Email me!