the moment I pressed send–{on saying yes and saying no}

I remember pressing send and feeling so many emotions well up inside of me.
I felt powerful and weak, exposed and vulnerable.
I felt beautiful and ashamed, scared and worthy.
It felt like a rite of passage to send such intimate photos of myself simply because someone had asked for them.
Like I was finally a woman.
Finally deserving of desire and lust and seduction.
I don’t know how someone else asking for me to share such an intimate part of my body with them made me feel like I was in control, but it did.
It felt like I had all of the control and none of the control at the exact same time.

Somehow, a single suggestive question in a chat room made me feel like so much was resting on my decision for an answer.
Like I should feel guilty if I said no.
Like maybe I might miss my chance.
I wasn’t exactly sure what chance I would even be missing, but the mixed up corners of my hormonal heart didn’t know how to make sense of it all.
It felt so good to be wanted.
It felt so confusing to be wanted in that way.

So, I did it. I pressed send. And the response was intoxicating.
He wanted more.
I wanted more.
But I now know that sometimes the only way to get more is to give even more away. Everything we say yes to means saying no to something else. In this case, yes to more pictures and more attention meant saying no to cherishing and protecting my body and being seen as more than just curved hips and a small waist. It meant saying yes to the desires of a stranger and saying no to practicing my own ability to decide the terms in which I want to share the beautiful shell my soul is contained within.

I did my best to soak it up.
But I was soon very confused to find that all of the attention I was being drenched in was actually taking so much more away from me.
It was like I was swimming in salt water.
I didn’t understand how something that felt so encompassing and exhilarating could actually be draining me from all of the very things it promised to give.
Soaking in this space taught me that some attention is better than others.
That some attention nurtures and nourishes, while other attention withers and dehydrates.
It slowly decays our perspective and causes us to view ourselves and our purpose through such a skewed lens.
It promises to give, but in the end, it just takes takes takes.
Until we have nothing left to give back.

So, one day I practiced saying no.
And, to be honest, it didn’t feel very good at first.
I was told something was wrong with me.
I was prude, immature, weird, unworthy.
But I realized that sending a picture wouldn’t change any of the names he called me.
I realized that my worth was being based on what I was willing to give, not how much I already am.

As time has passed and I’ve continued to grow and learn and explore my body. I have continued to find comfort and power in the skin I’m in. I’ve continued to feel sexy and desired and I’ve continued to find safety and security in sharing that with someone on my own terms. I’ve also continued to battle with past feelings and struggle with motives and reasons, almost always coming back to the understanding that any situation that doesn’t feel safe probably isn’t safe.
I’ve learned to trust my gut.
I’ve learned that there is nothing wrong with sharing our bodies with others, but there is simultaneously nothing wrong with choosing not to.
There IS something wrong with being made to feel ashamed or guilty for our choice in the latter.

I know I am more than just my body, but I also know that it’s important that I explore my body and find beauty and purpose in the way my hips curve and the way my spine arches.
We are taught at such a young age to round our shoulders and keep our eyes to the ground.
We are taught to reply to compliments with a mouthful of excuses as to why nothing positive could ever be true.
I’ve started practicing saying “thank you” with a smile when someone compliments me, rather than going down the rabbit hole of trying to prove my points as to why their compliment is incorrect.

As women, we live in such a crazy vortex. We are told to be humble and docile, we are told to look like the girl in the magazine and wake up in the morning like we are ready for a photo shoot.
We are told to be low maintenance and natural, while also always being sexy and desirable.
We are asked to share pieces of ourselves in our most vulnerable and intimate state, without asking for anything in return.
Well, I think it’s time to ask for something in return.
Respect is a good place to start.
We must demand it, because I have learned that this world does not give it freely.
But, first and foremost, we must demand it from ourselves.
We must trust our judgment and stand unwavering in our choices. We must give ourselves grace when we make mistakes, but also hold ourselves accountable to not make the same mistakes over and over again. Sometimes, the answer to the dehydration that occurs when we are immersed in salt water is to get out of the water.
Other times, the answer is finding better water.

To me, the most powerful, beautiful, sexy and desirable woman
believes that she is all of these things.
She also
knows the word yes
and the word no,
and trusts herself
in using
both.

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