When I was 17 I swore I was going to be a famous photographer someday. My parents had bought me a real camera for my birthday and I went on constant adventures to capture images that had been long looming inside my head. Many of those included self portraits. You see, I was a self-professed sad girl in my teen years and had a strong desire to capture the emotions that I didn’t have the words to verbalize yet. Photography was that modality for me.
I would dress up in my homecoming dress and take pictures of myself climbing trees. I would pin my hair back and put on dramatic makeup for posed selfies in my bedroom. However, the most monumental were the sexy selfies I took. I wasn’t taking these photographs to send to anyone—they were a form of documenting my physical self in that moment of time. In fact, I still keep the first sexy selfies I took of myself as a constant reminder that I have always been deserving of my own love.
These selfies weren’t an attempt to sexualize myself for the male gaze at a young age. They were the opposite. They were a form of reclamation from the male gaze I felt on me constantly, even at a young age. And since those first images I captured, I have kept taking sexy selfies for just myself. Sure, sometimes I take them for lovers or girlfriends. But there are certain sexy selfies that are kept just for me.
I think every woman and femme should take sexy selfies for themselves. It’s a form of expression and empowerment and reclamation of the self from a world that is constantly trying to consume us.
The truth is, I don’t always feel particularly sexy when I take these selfies. Sometimes, I take them when I’m in my deepest depression or healing from a breakup or struggling to connect with my sexual self.
The form of sexy self-portraiture has given me a boost to get through some dark times in my life. In an attempt to give you hope—here are five times in my life that taking sexy selfies has helped me get through it all.
1. After I experienced sexual violence.
I was in college the second time I experienced sexual violence. It was my first semester and I didn’t have that many friends I felt like I could count on yet. I quickly found myself in a hole of depression and self-hate. There was a huge lack of resources for survivors on my campus and I didn’t know where to turn. I was spending a lot of time holed up in my room by myself, and one day I pulled out my camera (yes, this was at a time before everyone had a fancy camera phone) to capture my sadness. When I turned the camera on myself, I started to feel like myself again. There’s a magic in being able to see your beauty again after getting your consent taken away from you. What started as a tearful selfie shoot, turned into an empowering reclamation of my sexuality.
While I’m not saying taking these sexy selfies completely cured my depression and allowed me to get over being assaulted, it did help me feel embodied again. I started to allow myself to come home to my physical being again and that was a pivotal moment in my healing process. Those photos were just for me, not for the consumption of anyone else’s eyes. And that is what started my journey of finding my power again. (Spoiler: I’m still on that journey 8 years later. Self-love is a continuous process.)
2. When I was coming out.
I had a hard time coming out to myself. I wish I could say that I was like, “I’m gay, amazing. Yes, I love it!” But alas, I process slowly and coming out was ~quite~ the process for me. I grew up in a very heteronormative bubble of the world. The only grown-up lesbian I knew of was a teacher who was rumored to be gay and everyone made fun of her. I didn’t really understand why everyone made fun of her but knew that being gay wasn’t cool. That was for sure.
I suppressed my sexuality for years. I hate to admit it, but I longed to be a ~cool girl~ and thought I couldn’t be that if I was gay. (Little did I know that the coolest girls are all gay!) But when I finally started to come around to the idea that I was most definitely not straight, I didn’t tell anyone for years. I kept it silently to myself and processed some more. Ugh, the perpetual pain of being a sad girl. In this processing, I chopped off all my hair several times and played around with my gender presentation. In that, I found a new form of sexiness that I hadn’t ever explored before. I found that I could play around with feminine and masculine presentation and still feel sexy. I know that sounds very simplistic, but it was a big revelation for me at the time.
And yes, you guessed it. I took sexy selfies to document. To this day, those photos make me feel affirmed and sexy in my sexuality. They were a part of my coming out story. They still live today on my computer hard drive and I get a little giggle out of looking back at that time in my life. I was a little-closeted queerdo exploring sexuality and gender.
3. When I was depressed from working at a toxic tech company.
When I first moved to NYC I had no idea what I was doing. I moved here on a whim because a friend was in need and I wanted to support her. But I didn’t have a job and all the money I had to my name disappeared when I paid rent. I finally found myself working in the marketing department of a technology company. It was filled with homophobic, racist and classist people. I found my haven with a few amazing people there. But throughout my time, I went to HR more than I can remember to report sexist and homophobic remarks and behavior.
I was so depressed when I was working there that I would come home from work and just zone out to the TV. Never a healthy coping mechanism, babes. One night when I went out for drinks with friends, I found myself in the most magical bar bathroom with mirrors everywhere. As the true millennial that I am, I started snapping away. And then I was really ~feeling myself~ and snapped a few sexy selfies in this magical mirrored room. These blurry and pixelated selfies aren’t the greatest photography achievement I’ve ever made, but they did start to remind myself that I am worthy of being happy. It gave me a kick in the butt to start applying for jobs and getting ambitious again. About a month later, I found myself at GO!
4. After I broke up with my first real love.
Oh first loves. Nothing more beautiful. Nothing more tragic. I broke up with my first love shortly before I moved to NYC. She wasn’t ready for commitment and I was madly in love with her. I thought we were a forever love but she couldn’t show up for me the way I needed her to. After I broke up with her, I was in a dramatic spiral and completely convinced that I would never love again. (I did and so will you, babe.)
I took some of my best sexy selfies during this time. Because to be completely honest, this girl never really appreciated the sexy selfies I took for her. And it felt so good to appreciate myself, for me. These selfies were dramatic and posed and planned with intention. I treasure them still to this day. It was a process of finding love from within after seeking it from someone else who just couldn’t give it. A gentle reminder that no one will ever love you as much as you do, babe. You are your best lover.
5. When I moved into a new space.
Most recently I moved into a new apartment after dealing with some seriously awful roommate issues. It was a breath of fresh air, but also a really difficult transition (still is). But when I finally got my new room all set up in all its witchy glory—I felt like turning the camera on once more. And so this past weekend, I did. I snapped away in my airy and newly decorated room. And I started to feel myself come home to my body again.
When do you feel most empowered to take sexy selfies? Does it also help you process big life moments? Leave us a comment on Facebook.