For the First Time in My Life I'm Truly in My My Sexual Power

Wed, 09/19/2012 - 09:40
Submitted by Carlin Ross

Last Friday I was on my FB page when Betty caught a glimpse of one of my MIMP pictures. She hit the roof. It came from a place of love. She was concerned that I was positioning myself as a "pin-up" not as a business woman and attorney.

Betty's reaction got me thinking about why now at 39 (let's just round up to 40) I feel comfortable naked in front of the camera. I've never made a sex tape. I've never posed for a picture in the buff. When I was a teenager, I used to share clothes with my mom. I liked conservative clothing that left everything to the imagination.

I grew up in a Christian Fundamentalist home. My parents loved me but they loved church more. Both my siblings went to school but I was taught at home. They said it was because I was too smart for public school. Looking back on it I was too attractive...they were terrorfied by my "sexual" disposition. I was cloistered away in an ivory tower until I left home still a teen.

I married by first real boyfriend when I was 20. He was good looking, pre-med, articulate and funny. In the beginning, he celebrated by sensuality. Ultimately - like all of my relationships - what he was first attracted to repelled him. He didn't want an independent woman in her sexual power. I endured his attempts to diminish me for 4 years until I packed up all my things and left for good.

There were a series of similar relationship arcs (attraction...connection...possession...break up) over the next decade. I remember one boyfriend positing the "Carlin" dilemna with a hypothetical. He asked me what I would do if I was in a crowded room and someone walked up and kissed me on the lips. I hesitated to answer...he jumped on me saying, "see that's what I'm talking about".

Since I met Betty, I've masturbated to orgasm on camera, displayed by vulva on network television, and posed twice for MIMP. For me, context is everything. It's about my body being mine. It's about me being able to express my sexual self without my parents or some ass I'm dating disapproving.

I'm not 22. My body isn't perfect. And that's the point. For the first time in my life I'm truly in my my sexual power. It feels fucking great. No, I'm not a pin-up. Yes, I'm insanely smart and accomplished. And sharing my sensuality doesn't diminish me as a woman. I refuse to perpetuate the madonna/whore dichotomy.

I'm thoughtful and provocative. And I take a damn good picture.

Editor in Chief & Keeper of All Things Betty Dodson

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Pin-ups versus self-determination

Wed, 09/19/2012 - 15:31

I'm older than you but younger than Betty. I remember the 'Playboy' era, when 'pin-ups' meant reduction of women to their outward appeal and nothing more. So I can understand her concern. But I now see that era as having taken place in a significantly different culture from what we have today (largely because of pioneers like Betty herself). One option for women now is to present themselves as they would like to be seen---not as anyone else wants to see them. Given the history of our culture and the fact that the tendency to objectify hasn't by any means completely disappeared , there is some danger of one's self-presentation being misunderstood. Or even taken as a continuation of the old 'pin-up' model. But I'm a believer in self-definition.

Recently I've seen the three (so far) 'Hysterical Literature' films by Clayton Cubitt. This is an artistic project that is slyly subversive right down to its title: the stereotypically proper reading of erotic literature, chosen by the women themselves, while they're being stimulated to orgasm by another woman hidden, literally, 'under the table'. It's the juxtaposition of the culturally 'proper' with the highly improper (culturally speaking) phenomenon of real eroticism. Predictably, some critics are appalled at this 'cheapening' of literature and art. But this is what good art does: it creates tension, it makes us ask questions. And it just may expose hypocrisy or thoughtlessness. When we see the women at the conclusion of the films, it couldn't be more evident that they're doing exactly what they want to do, completely comfortable with the pleasure and power of their sexuality. Maybe that's the difference between the pin-up era and now.

MIMP perpetuates oppressive beauty standards

Wed, 09/19/2012 - 12:28

Hey Carlin, love your MIMP pictures. You are so sexy and beautiful!

BUT, I checked out the MIMP site and dispite wanting to be inspired and turned on I was ultimately just irritated by the fact that the photographer seems only to be interested in steroetypical ideas of beauty. You are a slight exception on the site because you aren't super skinny and in your 20's. Which I love by the way, you are all the more sexy for it.  Where are the equally talented and smart women who don't resemble Barbi?

I think ALL shapes and sizes can be beautiful and sexy (including, but not exclusively, young and slim) but MIMP is perpetuating the current oprressive beauty standards and for me this isn't celebratory at all.

What do you think?


I would agree...there are a

Wed, 09/19/2012 - 12:54

I would agree...there are a few women who aren't "perfection" but all are beautiful.  The photographer works with celebrities who also appear in Esquire - so some of those women are actresses who make their money off how they look.

What I like about them is that there's no photoshop and the women aren't overly made up.  There's an approachability factor that I like...maybe his definition of beauty will be expanded some day. 

With my untrained eye I can't

Wed, 09/19/2012 - 13:16

With my untrained eye I can't tell that the images aren't photoshopped.
I was also under the impression that the photographer is a woman, when I realised he is a man my whole feeling towards the images changed, all of a sudden the images felt slightly exploitative. Maybe a female photographer should do a similar project with a bunch of male celebrites? Would that ever happen?

Ladi Day, I see what . . .

Wed, 09/19/2012 - 14:04

Ladi Day, I see what you're saying about the photographer's gender. History would automatically make us suspicious of exploitation. However, this need not be the case today. And aren't the women who are being photographed the best judges of whether or not they feel exploited? In any case, it's also true that people can exploit others of their own gender sometimes. That said, it would be very interesting to see the genders of the photographer and the subjects reversed.

I agree

Wed, 09/19/2012 - 14:12

Patrick, I agree that just because the photographer is male doesnt automatically mean his work is exploitative.   I also believe that women have a right to be sexual in whatever ways they choose and it's not for anyone to judge. We should be able to enjoy our sexuality and express it as we like.
I'm just curious about my own knee jerk reaction to the MIMP site and wondering if any other women have the same feeling.
I'd love to see a female photographer openly adoring the male form in the same purely superficial way in which this photographer is enjoying his subjects. I want to see the roles reversed sometimes,  especially in main-stream media. And I want there to be a  broader scope of what is labelled 'beautiful' or 'sexy'. Then maybe I could enjoy his work without any historical hang ups or feelings of irritation.

Knee-jerk reactions

Wed, 09/19/2012 - 15:33

Ladi Day, I have plenty of knee-jerk reactions of my own. In the case of MIMP, maybe we've been so conditioned by decades of 'cheesecake' photography that initial suspicion of this kind of site is inevitable. I'd like to see role-reversal here, too, for the sake of balance and just because it would be interesting. If someone knows of a woman photographer who has done this kind of photography of men, maybe she can let us know about it. A female friend once commented to me about a man she knew that he had 'a beautiful body'. At the time I was surprised. I wasn't brought up to believe that women ever thought of men in this way. My friend wasn't thinking exploitively. She was just acknowledging that she found this man sensually appealing, and I think it's just a fact that we can appreciate one another's beauty without exploiting it.

I'm in total agreement with you, by the way, about expanding our ideas of what's beautiful and sexy. I've always found a wide variety of women attractive, and I believe that conventional ideas of beauty are far too limited. If women who are heavy, or extra-curvy, or older, were photographed with the same loving care that the young models are, we would begin to open people's eyes to the varieties of beauty that are all around us.

You look gorgeous, pinups are hot and have kudos

Wed, 09/19/2012 - 15:31

The idea that if there's a published image of your beauty you can't be smart, is stupid. It's a social meme and hugely inaccurate stereotype. I agree with ladi day, I'd like to see a lot more diversity of hotness from both sexes rather than skinny women and hairless men. And the audience for sexy pics has defined what those pics are and objectified them, why let patriarchy do that and win. Lets define those images for ourselves and say we appreciate the people in them and that they're hot and respected as people by us, They're pictures of gorgeous people like Carlin. 

And what about older women and those of us who have less than

Betty Dodson's picture
Fri, 09/21/2012 - 16:33

the current "Ideal  Body?" Are we to go into hiding? Or simply long for our youth? Is there more to being a sexual woman than how we look? What about our personalities and sexuality that goes beyond outward appearencesl? As a painter of the nude, I soon learned that the so called "ideal" quickly became boring as it there was very little varitation. So all of us women who don't measure up to men's ideal of "beauty" I say we are the salt of the earth. Beauty is so very personal. People I thought  were gorgeous could eventually turn ugly due to their dispositons. While a  homely person could become beautiful due to their essence and inner beautiy. The ideal of Beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder. People I've really admired over the years always transcended their superficial facade. It's what's inside that makes a person beautiful.

Hotness isn't always beautiful

Fri, 09/21/2012 - 17:52

The patriarch model of sex is that women are the sex objects and men chase them. But that's not the reality. Women have desire and someone having desire for you is 10x hotter than if you admired that person from affar and they showed no interest in you. So someone desiring you becomes desirable and what they look like is less important and what you look like and your hotness becomes more important.

Switching roles between desired and desirer is just so healthy, it's not just the preserve of BDSM but can be enjoyed by all kinds of sex. and when it is practiced your soooo fucking free of this patriarch hetereosexual etiqutte that is like a long boring board game. It's not real. Sex is about mutual desire. and very often a persons desire itself is a big part of their hotness. 

I agree, Betty

Fri, 09/21/2012 - 19:33

Beauty is personal, and involves far more than looks. Very few people actually conform to the current cultural 'ideal', which says a great deal about how unrealistic that ideal really is. When I'm strongly drawn to someone, I'm drawn to that whole person. Appearance does play some role, but often she can be of any body type, age, or coloring. There is just a certain spark to them that resonates with me when I'm in their presence, while there may be no resonance at all with someone much more conventionally attractive. I think most of us come to a place where it's the whole person who attracts us, not the external package. The 'beauty industry' thrives because it relentlessly promotes only the most superficial values. Attraction based on a whole person can't be packaged and sold at the cosmetics counter or plastic surgeon's. There's no easy money to be made from natural, unadorned personality and sensuality. We have to discover the importance of this on our own as we mature.

Traditional beauty ideas and all aside,

Sat, 09/22/2012 - 02:04

I think Carlin looks gorgeous! Especially in the last picture. You look so comfortable and happy and in comparison to the other ladies on MIMP, like you don't care that the camera is there. Others are a little posey but you seem very natural and relaxed. As a young woman trying to get over body image issues and accept my sexual self regardless of what others think I think Carlin is a fantastic role model. She's sexy and smart and one doesn't diminsh the other.

I went through the whole MIMP

Mon, 09/24/2012 - 14:36
Reefer (not verified)

I went through the whole MIMP website. It is nothing but sexist and raunch culture for male consumption at its finest. Heh!

mimp ho hum

Mon, 10/01/2012 - 14:22

Because Carlin is so beautiful, I thought I'd look at the mimp site. I'm sorry, but these young women all look alike to me, and I found the site boring. I find young women lovely, but so are older women, women of various sizes and shapes, and nothing is more exciting than vitality. Which one can see in Carlin's photos, but I don't see it in the others.

And as Michael Franti put it -- here's to you, Betty -- "it's not how you look, it's how you shook."


Mon, 10/01/2012 - 17:23

I had a very quick look around the MIMP site. While I could find no fault with the young women themselves, I agree with Tobysgirl about how welcome a greater diversity in age, shape, size, etc. would be. If these models were at a different stage of their lives---heavier and twenty-five years older, say---they might still be beautiful and even more interesting, but it's doubtful they'd even have been accepted to be on the site. If we're not exposed to diverse people photographed with the same loving care as was taken with these attractive young women, we're missing out on the beauty to be found in the greater part of the human race. As a culture, we won't learn to appreciate that beauty if we never see it celebrated.

older women

Fri, 10/05/2012 - 16:50

I watch Betty on the videos and she is incredibly attractive. My husband is a nurse and sees many women in all their glory, and tells me some of the women our society considers quite old are just amazing and quite appealing. And I love the nurse's story of the 80-something woman at the hospital with her husband who had had a heart attack; she was worried because they had been having rough sex and was that what caused his attack?
I need to fix my Franti quote: it's not how you look, it's the way that you shook.
And another great quote from a book I proofread many years ago. The author was about to begin an affair with an Italian man, and she was no longer nubile and worried about how she would look with no clothes. He said to her, "What do you think, that I'm still a boy and only make love with my eyes?" Brilliant!

Oooh I like that last

Sat, 10/06/2012 - 16:16

Oooh I like that last comment!

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