This post was written by the fantastically amazing, Anna Sansom of The Ladygarden Project and has been reblogged from Eat the Damn Cake with her permission. This is Anna’s contribution to our Heart Project to promote positive body image and we can’t thank her enough for participating.
I was 15. I was horny. And I knew I would never have sex. I knew I was doomed to stay celibate forever because no one – man or woman – would ever find my body worthy of love.
The evidence stared back at me from the mirror: my body was ugly, misshapen, alien. At 15 my body was covered in angry, red stretch marks from puberty’s overnight arrival. My sacrificial body hadn’t stood a chance. Puberty had roughly torn my skin apart wherever it could: my hips, breasts, upper arms, the backs of my knees, my upper thighs. It wasn’t just my skin that failed to keep up with puberty’s rampage: my breast tissue ballooned, the ligaments strained, gravity won the day, and the result was long, stretched breasts. I never had pert, round, youthful breasts. My nipples always pointed down, my breasts sagged: pendulous.
Puberty dealt me another cruel blow: acne on my chest and back that left me with white polka-dot scars across my shoulders and in my cleavage.
I was 15 and my body looked like a battlefield.
I was 15 and I weighed over 200lbs.
And yet, at 15, I was horny.
Fast forward two and a half decades and I can reflect on a series of lovers. Each one found me beautiful and desired me. Each one respected me and treated me well. How did that happen?
This isn’t a story of miraculous transformation. I wasn’t the ugly duckling who became the swan.I didn’t have an epiphany that suddenly made me see my own, internal beauty (‘cos it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?). My body will always wear her scars. I currently weigh over 200lbs.
This is the story of a horny 15 year old who knew that sexuality was important to her. The 15 year old refused to accept a lifetime of celibacy (or being non-discerning about who qualified to be a lover because anyone would be better than no one).
The 15 year old who thought she’d never get laid lost her virginity at age 18. By age 18 I’d become aware that it wasn’t the sex that was important; it was expressing my sexual self that was key. It wasn’t just about feeling horny; it was about knowing that this sexual part of me was an important part of me, and a part that should not be ignored or stifled but rather explored and celebrated. By the time I was 18 I couldn’t bear to hide and deny my true self any more. I took a deep breath, looked past what was in the mirror, and stepped out onto the path that led me straight to my needs and desires.
I now realise that my acute awareness of the importance of my sexual expression was (and continues to be) a gift. When I unwrapped the gift and peered inside, I saw body acceptance.
Sometimes I forgot I’d been given this gift. I put my body through punishing diets and exercise regimes in an effort to change what I saw in the mirror. I berated it and called it names when it was too slow, too fat, too different from how a woman’s body was supposed to look.
But each time I undressed for my lover, each time I caressed my own skin, each time I made love, I remembered the gift. I remembered that I only have one body and that I can be thankful for that body and all it enables me to do. I remembered that there is nothing wrong with me: I am perfectly and uniquely “me”. And when that is good enough for me, it is good enough (more than enough) for my lovers too.
I’ve never lost my fascination and passion for sexuality. The 15 year old has matured and developed into a woman on a mission to support other women to enjoy their own bodies and their own sexuality. I want women to celebrate their sexual selves and I promote this through my blog The Ladygarden Project. I also want women to enjoy sex and their bodies now – not deferring it until sometime in the future when they feel slim/beautiful/sexy/worthy enough, or to relegate it to something that only exists in their past. I encourage women to be Sexy at Any Size through my website and workshops – supporting women to feel sexy and sexual whatever the size and shape of their body (this goes for age and stage of life too).
The gift of body acceptance is not time-limited. It’s not dependent on being a certain size or shape, or of looking a certain way. And it is a gift that multiplies. The more we use it, the more we share it, the more it grows.
One lover beautifully described the lines on my belly as being like the ripples on a pond when a pebble has been dropped in. Body acceptance has a ripple-effect. The more we accept our own bodies, and enjoy them just as they are, the more those around us accept their own bodies too.
I Heart my Belly
Bellies are supposed to be smooth and flat. Unblemished. Youthful. But by age 16, puberty had left me with deep, angry red stretch marks that criss-crossed my belly.
For as long as I have been a sexual adult, my body has been scarred and my belly has had its characteristic roundness. And I am perfectly happy with that.
“Tiger stripes,” said one lover as he traced my lines. “You’re a tiger.”
“Like when a pebble’s been dropped into a pool,” said another as she kissed my belly button.
I heart my belly.
I Heart my Boobs
For my 26th birthday I gave myself the gift of nipple piercings. I’d had an uneasy relationship with my breasts: bad PMT meant they’d always caused me more pain than pleasure. The piercings heightened the sensitivity in my nipples and helped me to enjoy my breasts much more. I designed jewellery for them and wore it with pride.
I took the piercings out two years later – it was simply the right time.
Now, with or without piercings, I heart my breasts.