How do you feel about your body? How do you feel about your orgasm?
These two questions focused and grounded my Bodysex experience into a tangible, personal narrative. They rang in my mind over several months, peaked with the documentary's filming, and have continued clanging since I returned home.
In tandem, the questions bounce off each other. Taken together, they intertwine, snaking into and around the other until they cannot be pulled apart easily.
Carlin and Betty asked us to send them background information and our responses to the two questions to help the team craft individualized interview questions. I sent them a couple thousand words, working out the answers as I wrote.
How do I feel about my body? Beyond the rote story I tell, or habituated beliefs, how do I feel underneath all that? And how honest am I going to be?
When I received the email from Carlin to the Bodysex participants, the first thing I did was to run an internet image search on everyone on the list. Of course I was curious about who else would be sitting in the circle. But my primary motivation in searching was to compare. How do I measure up, literally? Would I be the fattest woman in the circle, or would there be one or more other fleshy females? For reasons that are both obvious and subtle, the answer mattered to me.
Upon receiving the invitation to be part of the circle, my first internal response was abrupt. Of course I couldn't do that. Of course I couldn't be naked on camera. Of course not. No way.
Why not? came the quiet challenge. You're going to pass up the opportunity to be part of this historic and important project? Seriously? You're going to turn down the chance to do this work with Betty and a circle of other women? You're going to let your bodyshame win out? My innermost self prevailed, and I agreed. I would be naked on camera. I would masturbate to orgasm in a circle of women. Yes.
You have months to prepare, I told myself. Six months. You can pare down your excess flesh in a half-year. At very least, you can give yourself some muscle tone under the layer of padding you've acquired. I comforted myself with fantasies about the body I would create before the filming.
Then six months became five, and then it was three months away, and then it was just a few weeks, and before I knew it, I was flying to the east coast. And my body looked much the same as it had when I first learned about the project.
During the interviews and in the circle, I found that the answer to the questions changed, moment by moment. How do you feel about your body? How do you feel about your orgasm? I asked myself over and over, a mantra. The long answers I sent to Betty and Carlin captured the truth when I wrote them. That truth shifted by the time we filmed. It's shifted again since then.
On the morning of the first day of filming the workshop, the first day I would appear naked on camera, I took some notes. I wanted to have talking points, to ground my on-camera answers, to help me stay focused.
My body is a roadmap, a scrapbook of my life. The bruises, scars, stretch marks -- these give specific context of where and how I've been. I cherish those reminders.
My body waxes and wanes like the moon. Over seventeen years of adulthood, I have gained and let go of a significant amount of weight. Sometimes it's in five or ten pound increments. At other times it's been forty or even sixty pounds acquired or released. The numbers add up to make a whole other person, my wax-and-wane persona, my shadow self.
At the time of the Bodysex filming, and in earnest since, I have been actively integrating that shadow self, embracing her, absorbing her into the body in which I currently inhabit. For years I have battled her, shamed her, regretted her existence and the patterns that have created her corpus. And in so doing, I simply contributed to her shadow being.
This is not a war, I came to realize. My shadow is not my enemy. By loving her, breathing into her, welcoming her with an open heart, I find it easier to ride the wave of my constant state of flux. My body is not static. Its cycles of big and little, wax and wane, are beautiful. And I don't stop or shift them with hatred or shame.
Participating in the Bodysex circle grounded my presence in my flesh, and deepened my resolve to love what is, to love myself fiercely, without reservation.
My body is the vehicle of sensation, carrying my orgasm to me, and I float away with it in a sea of pleasure.