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Shame Hurts

pennysblog_faint

I’m generally pretty adept at not letting society’s women-shaming, body-shaming, sex-shaming attitudes bring me down. I surround myself with sex positive people, and since I work from home, I don’t encounter as many closed minded people as I used to. I hardly ever see my conservative family, so that’s not usually an issue. Shame still comes from at me in a general sense, but when it’s from ignorant people I don’t care about, it’s just an annoyance.

But when the shame comes from my Mom, it hurts.

I told my Mom about my blog early in its creation. It was probably a mistake, as I was merely stroking my ego (the blog helped me get a job, and that’s initially why I told her about it.) At first she was proud, and while the topic of sex toys isn’t her thing, she didn’t condemn it. We’d discuss it from a business standpoint from time to time, and she never seemed to have a problem with it.

That is, until I started posting nude photos. It started when she emailed me this photo of myself from my blog, along with a frantic “warning” that my images could be copied & posted on billboards and in ads. I saw this as a passive aggressive way of her bringing up my nude photography, said as much about it and that it hurt my feelings, and this was her reply:

Your posting of nude photos of yourself shows a lack of self respect, low self esteem and is really a selfish act , which could embarrass you and your family should these photos be copied and posted in the newspaper, books etc……. And you think I should be concerned about hurting your feelings? This selfish act of YOURS has truly hurt my feelings tremendously….do you really feel like this is what you have to do to get an online following? Isn’t your writing talent enough? Isn’t your photography creative enough without posting nudity?Can’t you sell something besides very initimate pictures of your body? I think you have many other talents, which should be used to get work, not your body.

First of all, I am aware that my posting nude images on the Internet results in a lack of control over the images (though they are copyrighted, and I post them at low resolution, so they can’t be easily posted to billboards, etc. Plus it’s illegal to post nudes without model releases & proof of legal age.)

The real issue here though, is that my Mom sees nudity as shameful. She was fine with me talking about using sex toys on the Internet, but as soon as I posted photos of the body I was born with, I have a “lack of self-respect” and “low self-esteem.”

On the contrary, I post nude photos of myself because I am PROUD of my body and my sexuality, and I no longer feel the need to hide it.  Why do people assume that if a woman does nude modeling, exotic dancing, or sex work, that she lacks self-respect?  Why is showing a woman’s body considered so horrible? In my case, I post nude photography for artistic self-expression, and I don’t currently do it to gain followers or to make money, but what if I did? Why would that be so wrong?  What if I didn’t enjoy nude modeling, and just did it for a paycheck? How is that different from someone working a grilling 9 to 5 they don’t enjoy just to pay the bills?

It’s not. Work related to sex is still just work, it’s just stigmatized because it’s related to sex. There is nothing wrong with choosing to work at a strip club instead of choosing to work a desk job. It’ naive to assume that someone doesn’t like their job just because you don’t like it or wouldn’t like it, and it’s also naive to assume that everyone needs to love their job. Sure, it’s great to do things that fulfill you in life, but if you wouldn’t judge someone for cleaning toilets even if they don’t like it because they need to feed their kids, then why would you judge that same person for being a nude model or a sex worker?

I don’t think sharing any degree of nudity or pornographic imagery is shameful, but the particular photo my Mom was so offended by isn’t even super explicit or pornographic. It shows my breasts. It shows my NIPPLES, heaven forbid. I am deeply offended by the fact that women are expected to hide their breasts, while no one thinks twice when they see a topless man. Contrary to sexist belief, breasts do not exist to sexually temp and titillate men. Yes, the photo I posted was meant to be sexy, but that doesn’t matter. Any photos of women’s nipples are regarded as explicit, even women breastfeeding, regardless of intent, and that is not only unfair, it’s infuriating.

I’ve already written about how I don’t see being open about my body and being a talented, intelligent writer as mutually exclusive. I understand that it would be “safer” for me to not post my nude photography and only focus on my writing, but I enjoy nude photography. And honestly, things will never change if we all play it safe. I respect and admire women like Molly who share intelligent writing as well as erotic imagery because it’s a bold act, women daring to be both smart and openly sexual. I am proud to be one of those women. It comes with consequences, but so would hiding the work I’m proud of. So would going to sleep knowing that I let people with narrow minded views of the world control my life.

I didn’t expect my Mom to jump for joy at my posting nude photography. I don’t think most people want to think about their parents or children’s sex lives. But my posting nude photography does not mean I have a lack of self-respect or low self-esteem. And I think it’s (almost) funny that she considers my naked body as more offensive than me describing my sex life in detail. My body certainly isn’t shameful, and neither is my sex life.

Shaming people for their bodies and sexuality is hurtful. Shaming people because they make different life choices than you is also hurtful. Thankfully my Mom and I have been able to agree to disagree on the subject for the most part (we don’t talk about it anymore), and we still have a semi-decent relationship, but she will always consider what I do less valuable than other work (if not downright shameful and embarrassing.) And that’s part of why I care so much about being open about sex and nudity. With all of the negativity and shame that surrounds sex and nudity in our culture, we are in desperate need of strong, positive voices that declare:

Naked bodies are not shameful.

Sex is not shameful.

Sex is natural.

Bodies are beautiful.

wickedwed

*I wrote this piece in response to the Wicked Wednesday prompt “Shaming…or being shamed.”

37 Responses to “Shame Hurts”

  1. Dan says:

    Penny, the photo is art; and is beautiful and you are as well; and the man in your life, too. And your writing; the whole intent of your blog I support. As a dad, I’ve had to wonder about my reaction if my daughter came out with a sex blog; or–here’s the rub–when she finds out I’m soon to launch mine. Goes both ways I guess. Yes, parents are so fearful that their kids will grow up to make their own choices freely, become their own persons. But the reverse is true. I’ve held back in my writing fearful of the same shame you know so well and have written about, yet shame from my daughter! (She freaked enough when I told her I bought a Harley.)

    Yes, a Latin proverb for you:

    “Live your own life. For you will most certainly die your own death.”

    Indeed. It’s your art and your body. Don’t let any oldster tell you your body or your work lacks integrity. Even mom. And bless her. She does care about you.

    • Penny says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughts on this Dan, and for sharing the quote! You’re right, it does go both ways! And you’re also right about my Mom caring about me. I know she does things out of love, but it can still be hurtful.

  2. Nothing makes me angrier than family saying, “You didn’t think of us before you did this.”

    You’re right. I didn’t. Why should I? My actions have no affect on your life. And if you’re embarrassed by me, then you can kindly fuck off.

    That’s what I say in similar situations, anyway. Lol.

    <3

    • Penny says:

      I love your attitude. :) If it were a distant family member, I’d have an easier time writing it off. But I do love my Mom, so in this case I didn’t want to take the fuck off approach, lol.

  3. I can hear the tone in every word, and I couldn’t agree more. Sadly the world is narrow minded and people are not only judged, but there are consequences oftentimes as well.
    We need more brave women like yourself!

  4. cc says:

    why is the world against nudity? if there was more of it then it wouldn’t be such a big deal surely. if you’ve got it flaunt it. from someone who has personal body image issues i actually envy your confidence in showing yourself off to the world. we can go back many many years to sculptures of nude men and women, not to mention famous oil paintings. does she look at those and think about whose mum or daughter modeled for those? or enjoy them for the art they are? rant over.

    • Penny says:

      Thanks for commenting CC! I agree, if we work on de-stigmatizing nudity, hopefully it won’t be such an issue in the future. Bodies are beautiful, and those works of art reflect that.
      xxPenny

  5. John says:

    That is one thing that I am quite grateful for: my parents have two children and both of us are stubborn, driven and determined. There are many things we have done in our lives that they don’t like, or wouldn’t choose, but they know that the only thing that would change if they made a song and dance about it, is that familial harmony would take a battering.

    But that works both ways.

    My parents buy the Daily Mail – they like it but I cannot abide it. I don’t think that they should moderate their beliefs or decisions to accommodate me so, in return, I refuse to be kowtowed by anyone.

    So my blog rarely comes up. But when I was outed and told to resign from my volunteer position, I got support when I didn’t totally expect it.

    I believe shock is the biggest driver in the negative emotions. My parents have known that I write erotica for years: knowing that I run my own erotic blog is a short hop from that. If it came out of the blue, they might struggle much more. ;-)

    And as for the nudity: I’ve been to naturist resorts. The first time we went, there was a woman who had had a mastectomy. And I didn’t notice (at first). Nudity is prevalent everywhere: it’s healthier and more natural. We should embrace it! ;-)

    • Penny says:

      Yea, I can understand the shock thing. But I’d already been blogging about sex (and before that working in a sex shop for years), so I don’t think it was really a big shocker than I decided to post nude photography. (Also, it’s been a year since that email; her views on what I do haven’t changed.)

      I think that’s great that your family supported you after you were outed!

  6. Bex says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Penny. I’m sorry to hear that you have to deal with that negativity, especially from a parent. Personally I think that your photos (and you!) are beautiful and creative, and portray confidence and strength :)
    It’s so upsetting that any time a woman is nude she is instantly sexualized and therefore looked down upon.. especially when our society objectifies us in general and expects us to also objectify ourselves. Fuck double binds.

  7. Georgia says:

    I stumbled across your blog about two weeks ago and I have really enjoyed reading each new post as it has come in, but this one has been my favorite by far. I was sexually abused when I was younger and as a result had a very negative viewpoint on sex. When I started dating I had a hard time excepting and being ok with my sexuality because it always felt wrong and tainted. I have come very far since then and am extremely comfortable in my skin and sexuality now. It is so wonderful to read about a woman being not only ok but PROUD of her nakedness and sexuality. You are an inspiration and a breath of fresh air and I look forward to more posts from a seriously HOT and SEXY and equally intelligent writer!

    • Penny says:

      Thank you Georgia, I’m glad my blog and post resonated with you! Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your story!
      xxPenny

  8. Bunny says:

    I’d never let my mom know about my blog. She wept and raged or weeks the first time I did burlesque. How very cute she thinks I have since given that up. (Which I haven’t, I just go visit friends and perform when I’m there). She would literally murder me I she found my blog even without me posting my face so I can attempt to switch countries soon.

    Sometimes transparency with family is overrated and is very much troublesome. Will I probably always post nude pics online? Yes. Will I go to fetish events? Yes. Will I do burlesque? Yes. Mom will never know about it though. Sad but that’s how it must be.

    • Penny says:

      I’m sorry to hear about you having to hide your burlesque & blog from your Mom, Bunny. I don’t necessarily think transparency with family is overrated though. Of course it’s everyone’s choice, but I don’t think performing burlesque or writing about sex should be something shameful that people have to hide.

      In my case, I’ve written about/worked in the sex toy industry for years, so it would be almost impossible for me to keep what I do from my Mom, unless I fabricated detailed lies about most of my life, which I didn’t want to do.
      xxPenny

  9. Intimacy 101 says:

    When comes to topics such as politics,religion and sex, views vary widely. It’s normal for your mum to behave this way.

    My thinking is that when you look at a nude female body, you can either treat it as a form of nude art, or you can look at it a pornographical way. It just depends on each individual thinking.

    The fact is, this is still a male-dominated world which tends to look negatively at a woman’s body!

    • Penny says:

      Why should female bodies be viewed as pornographic, while men’s aren’t? (Especially toplessness?) You’re right, it is still a male-dominated world, but I hope we can all work to make women equals.
      xxPenny

  10. SilverDomUK says:

    I am sorry it was someone so very close to you who said this. It is now some years since I had any meaningful contact with my parents and siblings because I could no longer deal with their racism, ableism, politics, controlling ways etc.

  11. Lola says:

    I applaud you and all you’ve done. I often wonder what would happen if HH and I were outed and at moments I think I’d be fine with it and other moments, not so much. Friends would be cool, but family – that’s another story! But you’ve got to do what makes you happy and what is right for you! Thanks for sharing!
    Lo

  12. I’m so sorry to hear your mom reacted like that. Such hurtful words she sent you.

    My mom (and my kids, and colleagues) know I write about sex, know I post pictures and test sex toys. They know I write erotica and my colleagues even know I am into BDSM. I don’t share many details, but they know of it. None of them has reacted negatively, but even so, none of them know my pseudonym and none of them know the URL to my blog. I know there are chances they might discover it and then… well, then nothing. Because all of them know that I will not allow any of them to judge me for it. I respect the way they live their lives and I expect of them to respect me for how I choose to live my life. Thankfully, they agree with this. As for the rest of the family? Well, I will never tell them, because I know they will judge me. Oh, and just last weekend we were sitting at our usual hangout when the lady behind the bar started talking about the fact that I write erotica. Soon everyone at the bar were asking me questions – all in a very positive way. It was amazing. I can talk to my mom about my erotic fiction and tell her I am published and she is proud of it. She even told her best friend at work. I think she would love to read it too, but she respects that I will not give her the name to my blog or the name I write under.

    Mom’s don’t always have to agree with the things their children do, but they can respect that their children have to make their own choices.

    You are beautiful and you have a stunning body, as has your man. You are sex positive and I definitely feel proud to be part of the same community as you!

    Rebel xox

    • Penny says:

      Thank you Rebel! That’s fantastic that your Mom & family know about your blog and that your Mom is proud of you! I agree– we can disagree with family members’ life choices without being judgmental about it. I’m SO glad to be a part of the same community as you as well!
      xxPenny

  13. Oh Penny . . . shattering to read and completely brought me straight down to earth after I’d already written and scheduled my own post. Because reading yours, I suddenly realise I am perhaps not as brave, or open, or as strong-willed as I want to be. I agree with everything you say (and you put it so well and so sensibly and so, well . . . just . . . so rightly!!!) But unlike you, and Marie, I know I couldn’t tell my family about my lifestyle. Not because I am ashamed of it, not because I think it is wrong in any way whatsoever. But I suppose because I am scared they wouldn’t understand, or would be upset, or would in some way feel I had let them down as a daughter of my wonderful parents, or as a mother to my wonderful children. Perhaps it’s my age, perhaps it’s my catholic upbringing, (LOL!!!) I don’t know what it is. I want to say that it is not “shame”, because I don’t want to admit to that emotion! But you, and Marie and others, have certainly been able to confront and stand-up for your beliefs in such a strong and positive way . . . and that truly is wonderful and inspiring.
    Xxx – K

    • Penny says:

      I don’t think not telling your parents automatically means you’re ashamed of it, there are other reasons not to tell people, like just wanting privacy to share more openly or for safety etc. You have to do what feels right for you! You not telling your parents about your blog doesn’t make you any less brave or awesome! :)

      I don’t think nude photography or sex blogging is something that people should feel they HAVE to hide though, you know? Sadly though in our society it’s a big risk & being shamed in some way or another about it is almost a given.
      xxPenny

  14. Jane says:

    Here, here!

    I agree with absolutely everything you’ve said in this post. And you’re right. If we’re not open and honest about who we are and what we look like, nothing is ever going to change with regard to the way people view sex, sexuality and their bodies. I am nowhere near as brave as you or Molly in terms of how much I show on my blog (I wish I was!), but I do try and give as honest an account of myself, my kinks and how I look, as I can.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, lovely girl. You have every right to be proud.

    Jane
    xxx

    • Penny says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Jane! We all have to do what we feel comfortable with. When I started my blog, even as I shared sensual photography, at first I didn’t show my face or my breasts, and my openness has progressed as I felt more comfortable with it. I think having any kind of sex blog is a bold act! Your photography is beautiful, and you should be proud as well! :)
      xxPenny

  15. Molly says:

    Ahhh this is all so familiar. My Mother found out about my blog, many moons ago, due to a series of unfortunate events that led to me meddling aunt telling her about it. She was ‘devastated’ and accused me also of being utterly self and not thinking of anyone else but myself. The line ‘do you realise how much you have hurt me’ still to this day makes me shake my head. FFS, it is MY body and my life. I don’t think every action she takes reflects on me so why would the opposite be true? However she had an added weapon up her sleeve and you are going to love this one… ‘what about the kids, have you thought for a moment the damage you are doing to them?’ ahhh yes, make me feel really bad by suggesting my sex life and parenting are in direct conflict with one another and that writing about one, and posting images, makes me a lesser parent. For the record, I don’t believe it does, I actually think it has made me a better parent mainly because I am a much happier person but also because I feel more able to talk to me children about sex, prejudice, shaming, bodies, and sex positive attitudes then I think I would have done if I had never written my blog or posted images. My Mum tried all sorts of tactics to shame me into ‘going back in the closet’ they have all failed and after many years of tension we seem to have finally reached a place where she just ignores it and it is never mentioned, which is fine but the down side of that is she can not enjoy any of my achievements. When I got my first story published, I couldn’t share it with her, when i got my first paying writing job, I couldn’t share with her and both my parents are still firmly of the belief that I don’t work but sit at home ‘playing on the internet’ an opinion that really hurts every time they say it.

    I have long ago given up trying to talk to them about it but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still make me sad sometimes and I admit that there are times when I wish they could be happy for me and proud of what I have achieved.

    And as a parent. If either of my kids decided to write a sex blog, or erotica or post naked pictures of themselves I would be sooooo friggin proud I would burst.

    Mollyxxx

    • Penny says:

      I believe you when you say that your writing & blog makes you a better parent! I SO wish I could have talked to my Mom about body and sex issues growing up! I couldn’t, and so I was clueless, but even if I had felt comfortable asking her advice, she wouldn’t have been able to give me healthy sex positive information because to be honest she doesn’t have that kind of knowledge. From knowing you, I am sure that if one of your kids had a question about sexuality, not only would you be willing to talk to them about it, you’d actually know what you’re talking about!

      It is sad, not being able to share things you’re proud of with family . I’m glad your Mom doesn’t try to shame you back into the closet anymore. It’s been a year since this email with my Mom, and it’s pretty much the same for us, we just don’t talk about it anymore. I am fine with that since it’s better than her attacking me, but as you said, it still makes me sad.
      xxPenny

  16. Mia Sinclair says:

    It really is a mixed bag when you “come out” as being a sex writer/photographer isn’t it. Something that I wish I could do but it would risk so much not just for me but for my partner also and that’s not fair to do.

    You are such a brave and strong woman as are all (men as well) that are able to write and photograph freely.

    ~Mia~ xx

    • Penny says:

      Thanks Mia! You’re right, it is a mixed bad. You’re also right to take your partner into consideration; coming out with anything related to sex can have major consequences. I am lucky that my partner is completely fine with it and that it doesn’t affect his life in any negative way.
      xxPenny

  17. Flip says:

    Neither of my parents would speak to me again if they knew I had either a blog, or posted nude pics of myself on sites such as Fet, or via my blog. If they knew the dynamic of my relationship they’d be appalled, and would judge, deeming me to be even more of a black sheep than I already am judged to be.
    Nothing I do, however, ought to bring them shame, and if it did the shame would be there’s to bear, not mine….it’s them that judge, them for whom narrowmindedness is woven into their psyche, my only job is to ensure my own children never ever feel any kind of shame attached to expression of their sexuality.
    Where my parents would never ever get changed or bath etc infront of their kids, deeming the body somehting to be hidden away……I make sure it’s a normal thing for my kids, no shame attached to such basic things…..they come talk to me whilst I’m in the bath, they don’t care if someone is getting changed, they’ve been taught that there’s nothing wrong with the human body, and I truly wish more people had this attitude.

    Flip xx

    • Penny says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Flip. I think it’s fantastic that you’re working to create a positive view of bodies for your children!
      xxPenny

  18. Epiphora says:

    What rude and hurtful words, and coming from your mom, I can only imagine how much that stung. Thank you for staying strong nonetheless. I love your photos; you have such an eye for composition, and your body is so gorgeous. I also love your writing, but it is the combination of both that makes your blog so rad.

  19. Great post. I find it quite intriguing that women don’t seem to have a ‘right’ to their own bodies. I’m the opposite to you, I’m a massive prude & can’t bear taking off my clothes. Yet some people on hookup sites seem to think it’s perfectly ok to hassle me for explicit photos because ‘that’s what women on this type of site do’ – that’s a direct quite from someone who’d been badgering me for pics.
    How about people accept that grown adults are perfectly capable of making their own decisions about how they want themselves photographed!!!! Grrrr!!

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