Article and photograph by : edamame
The year is 2009. I am wearing my favorite tights, the black see-through ones with bright neon blue lines that create long spirals around the length of my legs when I put them on. I am topless; lying on my stomach with my ass on full side display through the tights and my legs propped up. My MacBook is at an angle, away from my face and any identifying markers, the Photo Booth app is open and ready to capture my body with a simple touch on the touch-pad… Yes, Photo Booth, remember? I take a few shots before settling on the one I like most. I put on a few different filters primarily to make sure my face isn’t visible even though I am looking away. This self-indulgence is a surprise gift for eb, someone I am seeing. I have never done anything like this before. I am excited. I first send eb a sneak-peek and the next day I send the photo.
The year is 2020. I dig into my emails and try to find the photo I sent eb in 2009, without any luck. I have been experimenting with taking photos of my body for a few years now. The desire to show myself has been so tempting that I have been researching the best way to do it online ever since. But the internet is a scary place! I shudder imagining scary scenarios like someone seeing my photos and identifying me. I know anonymity is a privilege these days, but in this case, I don’t actually want to be anonymous, I want the person looking at the photos to know who I am!
That’s when I realize, I made that happen for myself in 2009.
So, I reach out to eb, the receiver of my first sexy picture ever! eb and I have kept in touch all these years. They are someone I absolutely trust, hence the gift– although sending it over Gmail probably wasn’t a good idea (insert nervous laugh here!). I know eb will have these pictures because they have amazing organizing and archiving skills. I admire the detail with which they remember stories in our lives and I often think of eb as a witness to my 20s. And I am right! I hear back from eb who reminds me there are two versions of the picture, one in color and one in black and white… sigh!
I have a big grin on my face as I admire the photos. The curves look beautiful and I can feel the warmth and softness in my body as I look at the details. I like the way the unmade bed lends an intimate feel and the softness of the filters, mostly intended to hide my face, showcase my curves beautifully. Oh the thrill! I get goosebumps thinking about the experience even after all these years; the pictures have the intended effect of sharing something intimate and receiving excitement and appreciation in return. I immediately send them to two folks who I have been talking to about this over Signal, wanting to explore but wanting anonymity from the behemoth entity that is the internet. The message reads: “my first ever sexy pics” and I hear back about how awesome they are… bliss!
Getting the texts back makes me revisit my own narrative from 2009: I want to be seen; in 2020 I add to this : I want to be seen by the few folks I trust.
I realize I don’t have to be on Instagram if I can cater a “feed” to a trusted space for the few folks with whom I feel comfortable. I already have a few people in mind who share in my yearning for wanting to share photos, to want to be visible and admired. To laugh and have fun when images come out funny, share tips for lighting and our “best angles” and to continue discussions about the joy and pleasure of it all. Also, I do not feel the need to “post everyday” and at the same time have a trusted audience that encourages me to experiment.
I realize I am already doing a fair bit of experimenting over Signal already and it’s been a lot of fun! I try new angles, new ways to take pictures, make gifs and send it knowing the response will make me feel safe and seen. And I know this, because I have these conversations with my trusted folks and have been doing so over the course of months and years. Conversations about body shaming, queerness, swapping information about safe apps, being notified which app is no longer safe, to name a few.
I see this as a way of play…
When we are little we play different games with our peers, they are exciting, fun, and exhilarating. We run around, chase and be chased, hide, pretend we are statues etc, and in all of this we feel a sense of safety because we know our friends won’t hurt us. If we fall, which is always a risk with play, we either get up on our own, or someone gives us a hand and we resume playing. Sharing these pictures, to me, feels like that kind of play, where I was choosing folks and mediums that I felt safer to play and explore with. And for a bit I can give in to the pleasure and excitement that nurtures me.
As I read and reread the piece above, the hope that I felt in 2009 feels very palpable–the hope of beginning to discover various facets of pleasure over different mediums. I am reminded of a dear friend saying “nothing just happens” and revisiting the process through this writing has been a wonderful reminder. Feeling safe to reclaim online spaces in this slow and measured way cannot be done alone. I would like to thank everyone who has been with me from the beginning of this journey and continue to do so. To come to this space, I have been fortunate to have conversations about pleasure and desire with a few individuals who have taught me to be slow in my explorations. And if they are reading this, they know I am talking about them! Thank you! And thank you to the 2009 me and those pictures taken on Photo Booth that will forever be a sweet reminder of what it is that I desire.
I would also like to thank Instagram pages and their creators: @thebodyisnotanapology, @shoogsart, @renhangrenhang, and the writings by adrienne maree brown in Bitch Media.