1.How do you feel about being a woman?
I feel angry about being born a woman – extremely angry for a long time. In a similar way some people argue they didn’t ask to be born into their family, I could say I’ve wished many times over I wasn’t born a woman. Men have a privilege that they don’t even appreciate because they weren’t born women – and as nice as some of them are, or as hard as they try to understand – they are NOT women. They can only imagine what we go through with, and they should never ever say, “I understand”. They never will.
For instance, I cannot go around bare-chested. Also, I get asked why I don’t smile more, do this or wear that to look prettier (so I can be more attractive for their benefit – for fuck’s sake). It’s projected onto us that that’s what we want – compliments for our looks – “Everybody loves compliments”.
When we are reduced to what we do to please or how we could better attract men, it’s as if everything else doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. Forget about our dreams, and aspirations like saving the world. It’s telling us: we are just not as important, deserving and capable.
Men haven’t been told for most of their life growing up that they were too loud, too rough, too boyish, too excited, too, too, too.… Men don’t constantly need to worry about whether it is what they said (verbal), how they said it, wore, or even stood (non-verbal communication) that caused them to be stared down, followed, leered at. I’ve examined my actions and behaviour a million times over and I can tell you: I never once did anything to deserve the hostility and harassment directly at me. Ignore them, other women say. All men are like that. Why? Why do we have to constantly feel unsafe, scared, second-class, and hate being alive – forget about being a woman. I’ve hated being alive hundreds, if not thousands, of times by the time I was in my 20s because I was born a woman. This was no way to live. I didn’t ask for this.
As a result, I’ve internalised everything that’s happened to me as a woman – self-blame, self-hate, and hate for men-at-large for a long time. I hid, shrunk myself, and played small so that I didn’t have to feel scared. Afterall, women are the ones who are physically smaller, will have difficulty fighting a bigger person, and been warned their whole lives: Don’t be raped. I’ve always wanted to but have not done backpacking around the world – because women get raped. Also, don’t be too big, too loud, too this or that – because nobody would want me. I must toll the line. I must play the game – sit down, shut up, and look pretty.
I didn’t have women role models (who obviously had different parents and life circumstances) who were told to dream as big as they wanted or strive for the sky. Nobody had to tell me to limit myself. I limited myself because this was what everybody was saying with and without words – and there was no other way to be. Any other way didn’t make sense. Is it any wonder I hate being a woman?
2. How did you feel about your vulva/ vagina/ genitals growing up?
I feel anger about being told nothing about my genitals other than don’t touch them. I discovered masturbation at five, and just because I could orgasm doesn’t mean I know the parts of my anatomy. I didn’t know how to pronounce vagina even past my teens, and I didn’t know what a vulva was even past my 30s. I feel anger, and disappointment at a system that has failed its people.
3. What is your relationship with your vulva/ vagina/ genitals now?
I have looked at and felt around my genitals often, especially to check for its health. I feel appreciation for my genitals being a source of pleasure, and as a gateway into my body. I have a very sensitive body and vagina. I’ve come down with bacterial infection in the vagina (not the same as a sexually transmitted infection) every single time I’ve had unprotected sex.
As such, I’ve made a vow to my vagina that I will only allow deserving people inside – and that’s part of my contract of loving myself. It’s alright that I have less sex than I used to, and no, I am not choosing to celibate for the sake of it. I masturbate when I want to, and no, I’m not shutting down my sexuality. I don’t regret my sexual behaviour and choices when younger. It is when what we do doesn’t feel good anymore that we learn and recalibrate. I’m conscious about my sexuality, and what I desire – deep connection, and there’s a difference with those who shut down their sexuality.
4. What role does your vulva/ vagina/ genitals play in your sexuality?
My genitals are part of my body, and sensitive as they are, they are only one source of pleasure. I see my whole body as a source of pleasure. And being a sensuous person, I enjoy touch and intimacy often way more than penetrative sex. I wish there was less fixation with just penetrative sex because ultimately, its just friction generating and rubbing – and more about the complete union of the body-mind-heart during sex.
Most of my sexual partners, however, are quite some ways behind me in getting to that level of understanding – and so they stay fixated with how hard, how long, and how deep they can go. I wish I could say get over yourself – get over the fixation with your penis, but then I stay quiet and coo about how big their dick is – because they need my reassurance.
5. What do you wish you learned about your sexuality growing up?
I wish that society, culture, religion didn’t inadvertently teach women to play small, dumb down, and shut up. All genders (men, women, and those who identify otherwise) need to learn how to shout, fight, protect, and assert ourselves – without resorting to shaming, blaming, and aggression. People who can express themselves, who are able to be seen and heard, and feel safe doing it – are healthy people.
There is a lot of judgment, blaming and shaming in relationships because of the misinformation, lack of information, or pure ignorance around sex and sexuality. This stems from the lack of sexuality education. The lack of sex ed is not equipping people with the ability to communicate their needs, wants, and desire. I wish I had comprehensive sex ed growing up – then the “forbidden fruit” wouldn’t take on a life of its whole. Maybe boys won’t grow up to be men who feel entitled and behave like assholes – period. Maybe I would have felt safe about being born a woman – and been happy to be a woman. And just maybe I would feel the same way some men feel – the world is their oyster of unlimited possibilities and opportunities.
6. What would you like to say to other women?
As much as I believe I have had a difficult relationship being a woman, I continue to work on loving myself completely, healing myself, so that I can be love. So that There’s nothing nice about being a sour, jaded, old prune!
Work on realising then letting go of whatever emotional baggage you carry with you from your childhood, puberty to adulthood so that you can live your life fully and fearlessly. It serves nobody to play small, shrink yourself, and limit your brilliance. When you heal yourself, the whole world heals.
7. How was your photo shoot?
I’ve done similar shoots before and I am comfortable with my body – imperfect as I am. Nobody’s perfect. However, it was when reviewing the photos that I realised that I would go through them critically and quickly. I realise I am quite critical of my body is reflected from the shoot and could have been more compassionate towards myself.