Twenty years hotter…

Oh, is this the way they say the future’s meant to feel?

Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?

Pulp, Sorted For E’s and Whizz

A friend’s Facebook notification popped up this week. “20 years ago today three cute 20-year-old girls were hurtling their way to Glastonbury in a VW Bug. They slept in a tiny brown tent, had all of their stuff nicked, but had the time of their lives.”

Damn right we had the time of our lives. And yes, we may have been cute in a young sort of way, but as the flurry of questionable old photos that followed showed, 40 whips the arse of 20. We’re significantly hotter now, and much much more sorted!

Ladies, in response to our reminiscing I promised you a Glastonbury-inspired photo, so here it is. Not sure this shot will ever replace the ubiquitous ‘hot young woman in wellies’ shot that adorns most front pages at some point during this weekend…

A friend wanted to create a trippy feeling photo to bring out the festival vibe. I love it, but *think* I prefer the original. What do you think?

The Sphinx

In a dim corner of my room for longer than
my fancy thinks
A beautiful and silent Sphinx has watched me
through the shifting gloom.

Inviolate and immobile she does not rise she
does not stir
For silver moons are naught to her and naught
to her the suns that reel.

The Shinx, Oscar Wilde

Sphinx

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Elust #71

The Shingle Beach
Photo courtesy of The Shingle Beach

Welcome to Elust #71

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #72? Start with the rules, come back July 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

Backyard Glory
Bra Wars
Versions of Ourselves

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Disabled characters: who do I write them for?
How Can You Think About Sex Right Now?

~ Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

Three

Continue reading

What a Lovely Pair…

FullSizeRenderI wrote earlier in the week about the Canvas Café in East London, which is based around the concept of body positivity and happiness. There’s a canvas sofa on which you are invited to write a sentence about your body. I spotted this. No, not ‘my nobs to big’ (I only spotted that as I was about to hit publish!), but ‘I like my body more since I started running.’

Oh yes. That. A hundred times over. What started as a fundraising endeavour in memory of friends and family lost to pancreatic cancer, and a bit of a ballsy ‘I’m going to do this because nobody really thinks I can’, actually ended up being something which caused a pretty fundamental shift in how I feel about myself and also what I know I can achieve if I put my mind to it. I have significantly more respect for the mechanics of my body now but I also always feel really gorgeous when I run, which is really bloody daft because I’ve seen the race day photos and caught my reflection in shop windows! And who knew how horny running makes you? Coming back from a run is pretty much the only time I’d be quite happy to have a bloke at home.

I retired my first ever pair of running shoes a couple of weeks ago. They had more than 500 miles in them and had carried me through a marathon and a half marathon. They’d pounded pavements in England, Wales, Nigeria, Indonesia, Turkey, Poland, and Germany. I’ll miss them. The new ones have a hard act to follow, but they are beautiful – I am a little bit in love with them already…

Running shoes

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Bare Reality: 100 women, their breasts, their stories

“Art has often flattered women and adhered to the culturally-desirable aesthetics of the time, from prehistoric fertility goddess statues to Botticelli, but never before has the human image been so altered and controlled.”

IMG_20150609_0001 (2)These are the words of Laura Dodsworth in her book Bare Reality: 100 Women, Their Breasts, Their Stories. The book is the result of Laura’s year-long project to strip away the media objectification, social and cultural norms, and political constraints that control women’s relationship with their breasts. It shares the stories of 100 women and their relationship with their bodies. Heralding the publication of the book is an exhibition at the Canvas Café.

The Canvas Café is an amazing concept. A social enterprise built around the values of body positivity and happiness, it is a partner of the charity Body Gossip which uses the arts and education to reach teenagers and young people. The café is quite literally a canvas, with visitors invited to write their stories, dreams and confessions on the walls. My favourite was the ambition to “at 40 look back on things I am proud of that I can’t even imagine yet.” Yes, I can remember when 40 seemed a really really old, really really far away milestone too!

Settled on a sofa (also decorated with people’s statements about body image) we watched a slide show of 100 photos. Identically shot against a grey background, in neutral lighting and with no post-production, the only embellishments we see are where women carry tattoos or piercings. Each image is captioned with a quote. Some make you smile – “I’ve got a great pair of melons”, some speak of teenage taunts – “My nickname was Fried Eggs”, some make your heart lurch – “It was wonderful that my son shaved my head for me”, and others reflect the struggle some women have with their breasts being a symbol of their sexuality and of motherhood – “At night, I use the left breast for the babies, and the right one is for sex.”

But because the quotes are short and largely out of context we mainly found ourselves engaging with the physicality of the breasts. You admire some, in the same way you can’t help admiring a really beautiful woman or man, you empathise at mastectomy scars, and you realise there is no normal. The blurb tells you participants are “19 – 101, sized AAA – K, from Buddhist nun to burlesque dancer”. Only some of these are obvious from just looking.

The real power of this project comes when you start to read the stories in the book. The women speak with brutal and disarming honesty that more than once has already filled my eyes with tears, and I have only read about 20 so far. A woman bullied by her grandfather as a child for being overweight, self-harming by 12 and denied a breast reduction at 15, she now feels guilt for hating her breasts because her partner lost both of hers to cancer. An older Jewish woman who speaks of her milk drying up overnight after her husband was taken on Kristallnacht when her baby was just one week old. How these women’s relationships and experiences with their breasts is blended so acutely with the experiences that define them is eye-opening.

And I had my own judgements challenged. Watching the slideshow we’d commented on one quote – “The only thing I see in the mirror which looks like I think it should, are my breasts.” The breasts were perfectly lovely, but I remarked about not being sure they would be the person’s best feature. My friend agreed. It was a passing comment, an observation not bitchiness, but it looks cruel written down. Last night I read that these are the budding breasts of a man in transition and I felt the guilt wash over me. For him they are the glorious outward sign that his body is becoming what it always should have been. I could have left that anecdote out – it doesn’t make me look kind, and I do believe that kindness is the greatest quality – but I think it is important to recognise that as the body positivity movement gains traction even those of us that are trying to live it and preach it can find our initial responses to others, and definitely to ourselves, tainted by what we have, for many years, been taught is beautiful.

Bare RealityLaura’s own essay at the end of the book is moving, honest and inspiring. For me the bit that stood out the most was her comment that since this project her breasts and nipples are “significantly more erogenous”, which she believes is “connected to a greater acceptance of my breasts, my body and myself as a woman”. This intrigues me. I have spoken here before about my ambivalence towards my breasts. Differently sized and with flat nipples, I just don’t think they are very pretty and until recently I have always discouraged men from paying them too much attention. At the exhibition on Sunday I was telling my friend how when lying side-by-side in bed with a new man I always try to lay on the side which means the more responsive nipple is facing upwards!

Recently, I have found my breasts and nipples to be significantly more sensitive, but I had put that down to currently having men in my life who are a bit more clued-up on the subtleties of biting and licking (I did have a boyfriend at University who in bed one night squeezed one boob and went ‘parp parp’ so I started from a low point on that front!), but maybe my physical responses aren’t just about the talents of the tongues and teeth, maybe the shift towards enjoying rather than discouraging the attention has coincided with me becoming more accepting of myself? Who knows but it’s food for thought.

Thank you Laura and all the women who shared their stories. This really is a remarkable piece of work. You can buy the book here and £1 from each sale will go to Breast Cancer UK.

Blue Moon

This month’s Sinful Sunday technical prompt is colour so may I present my Blue Moon…

As you know, I do like to share a little story with my photos, but this week I didn’t think I would have one. But then I started humming and quite unexpectedly tripped right on down memory lane. You see, I have a ridiculous ability to recall detail and I remembered that more than 21 years ago I lost my virginity with Canadian folk band Cowboy Junkies singing Blue Moon Revisited (A Song for Elvis) playing in the background. I decided to look the song up on You Tube and couldn’t quite believe the image that’s used to accompany the song and how much it echoes my photograph with the print of my wallpaper framing my blue-washed bum!

I hope you enjoy my blue moon and the song!

Blue moon 2

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The Making of The Great Exhibitionist

I enjoyed writing the story of my escapades with @Fdotleonora in New York Public Library and the ‘making of…’ theme carried through to Whitechapel Smile. People seemed to enjoy reading these little insights so I will continue sharing the fun of Exposing 40’s collaborations…

I’d had my eye on taking a picture in my local park since last summer. As I took breaks from my desk, or cut through it on the way to the pool, I would eye up its nooks and crannies – stone archways, wooded areas, an ancient maze with its escape gate, DINOSAURS! I actually had it in mind as a location for a friend whose picture I enjoy taking occasionally. I probably banged on about it a bit too much, not being very mindful of the fact that however lacking in inhibition someone is, getting up at 6am to take all their kit off in a London park might not be their cup of tea.

It turns out it’s mine.

Sunday’s photo has been on my list since before I even set up this blog, a recce shot snapped and the words written way back in early February when I was still fresh from the adrenalin rush of my ‘tits in Tiertgarten’ photo. Mid-February round a pub table and Exposing 40 was born; that night I asked my friends to take the photograph. Ever since, we’ve been waiting for a suitably sunny morning to coincide with the weekend when the runners and dog walkers would not be out quite as early as in the week.

Or so we thought.

Striding towards the park, shortly after 6.30, clutching plastic beakers of tea, it’s hard to ignore the number of people out and about. “There won’t be as many in the park,” I muse out loud, aware that I am trying to reassure myself more than make conversation. We’re bleary-eyed but excited. Three of us had chatted energetically the night before about our own personal responses to this project and the thoughts and feelings it’s throwing up as we more keenly think about our own self-image and relationship with our bodies. Ideas were born for future photographs. For me and for them.

Into the park and down to the arches. A jogger passes. We glance at each other. “What are you doing? Go back to bed you fool!” says L, not loudly enough for him to hear. I start to strip off, grabbing the sarong I have brought in case a quick cover-up is called for. My back is to the park so I don’t really have a clue what’s going on behind me. I trust my friends completely.

M: “raise your arm,” “arch your back,” “turn a bit towards me,” “stick out your chest.”

L: “you’ve got about ten seconds,” “that dog walker is staring,” “Ok, STOP. NOW!”

I feel far calmer than I thought I would. The sun feels warm. I am enjoying myself.

ShadowArchways done we start to explore other ideas. M decides the park is getting too busy and the giant rhododendron bush is a bit too scrubby for me to walk across the grass and disappear into it as she planned. Then we inadvertently interrupt a drugs deal while scrabbling round an overgrown terrace. Enough. Time’s up.

We walk towards the spot where we plan to have fizz and pastries. We chuckle at a bloke doing self-conscious lunges in a flat cap. Then we look ahead and see the sun shining perfectly on the stonework ahead.

“You’ve got to do it,” says M.

I do.

Flat-capped-lunging-man can’t stop staring.

That photo will follow in a few weeks. In the meantime I give you another arches shot. I was going to post this alongside Sunday’s image because we decided we liked them equally but somehow when posted together they detracted from each other. Did I make the right choice on Sunday or do you prefer this one?

*we now have a black and white version too!