Feel Beautiful: Empowerment Through Photography

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“I’m not hot enough!” 

We might not always say it out loud, and instead of “hot,” we might use the word “skinny” or “pretty” or “toned.” Whatever word you use, I know that I am not the only one who has destructive thoughts about personal body image at times.  And while I think we all know deep down that we’re being hard on ourselves, these thoughts often hold us back. The destructive thoughts hold us back from wearing a bikini to the beach without a coverup, from having our picture taken without making a silly face and from allowing ourselves to feel beautiful without hiding it.

My friend Iman Woods is a strong believer in empowering women through photography, and I knew writing this blog post for Bodybinds would be the perfect opportunity for me to do the same. I wanted to show both the women who modeled for me and the readers of this blog that the inner critic is wrong and that we are allowed to feel beautiful. But I also expected to have a hard time finding volunteers.

I was wrong.

When I posted on Facebook that I needed women to pose for me wearing Bodybinds, my phone blew up with notifications from friends and strangers who all wanted in. It didn’t matter that the modeling was unpaid, that the pictures would be posted online, that the time and location was inconvenient for many. I even had one friend drive a two hour round trip for a five minute photo shoot, and she explained it best:

“When I saw your post I thought that I could never do something like that. And so I had to.”

Posing in any state of undress is for many considered taboo, and having the pictures shared online even more so. Yet by putting on Bodybinds lingerie and allowing me the opportunity to take their picture, sixteen brave women allowed themselves to feel beautiful, and they are letting you see their beauty as well.

These are the results.

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Have you done something like posing in lingerie before? If not, is it because the opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet, or because you find it too exposed/taboo/risqué? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

And can we please give a (virtual) round of applause for the women who posed for me? You all look gorgeous!!

Nina is a photographer with a love for all things aerial and sensual, works as studio manager and pole dance instructor at Vertical Fusion, runs the Colorado Pole Championship, and was a founding #PDBloggers board member. Nina also writes at NinaReed.com.

What Your Workout Wear Says About You!

Photograph Zumba Power by Thomas Gierke on 500pxZumba Power by Thomas Gierke on 500px

Whether you are rocking neon and spandex or just happy the tank you threw on was clean, what you wear to workout says a lot about you! Lets explore…

Head to Toe Workout Branded GearPhotograph Estrada Flys by Brian Sullivan on 500px

Estrada Flys by Brian Sullivan on 500px

You take Zumba or Crossfit and you sure ass hell lift! You know how I know? It says it on your leggings, your tank, and most likely every gym accessory you own! You found your one true workout love and you don’t care who knows it. You may not have been big on fitness before you met your ideal workout, but now that you have you can be found at the gym every chance you get. Your free time is spent following all the biggest fitness stars on instagram and twitter. You’ve got a one track mind and when you decide to achieve something you won’t rest till get it! You are known for your determination, loyalty, and enthusiasm. No one could ever accuse you of being a Debbie Downer! You can often be found spreading your fitness gospel and encouraging your friends and family to join you in your workout lifestyle.

Matchy Matchy

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You lay out your workout gear the night before, making sure your on-trend sport bra perfectly matches your figure flattering capris. You take pride in finding complementary accessories, like sneakers or your gym bag. If we were to open your dresser, we’d find your workout wear laid out in rainbow order. You may not be an athlete, but you’ll make damn sure you look like one! You have a classic Type-A personality. You always dress for success and know how to make a lasting first impression. You love to plan ahead and have your day scheduled to last minute. When you aren’t busy in your high-stress job you can be found relaxing with a glass of white wine making your latest Pinterest board. Even when you are relaxing, you are planning ahead!

Neon, Prints, and Oversized Crop Tops

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Your closet is filled with aztec print legging and perfectly slouchy crop tops that allow for your neon sport bra to peek through. Your workout wear often doubles for regular street clothes and you look fab in both settings. You’ve got an eye for fashion and can mix prints like no one else! You most likely get your sweat on in fusion dance classes, but you’ll try anything once as long as the music has got a good beat. You are irreverent, cheerful, and the life of the party. When you aren’t busy learning to twerk you can be found pursuing a myriad of creative endeavors. And while you aren’t afraid to stand out in a crowd, you prefer to surround yourself with like-minded friends and achieve your goals together.

Latest in Workout Tech Gear

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If you are going to workout, you are going to do it right! Every workout wear purchase you make has been heavily research and vetted. You believe in function over form and if your gear isn’t working for you then it has no place in your life. You wouldn’t be caught dead running without your Fitbit tracking your every step and calorie burned. And while your Iphone is filled with tons of fitness apps you are easily distracted by the newest, shiniest toy on the block. You are tech-savvy and love to multitask! While taking on the elliptical, you’ll be listening to your favorite podcast and answering emails. You prefer to take on projects by yourself since few people can live up to your high standards. You are smart, driven, and always ready to take on a challenge!

The “I Just Rolled Out of Bed” Look

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Most days you are just thankful to have found a clean outfit before you had to run to gym, so you sure as hell don’t have time to care what it looks like. You might double a swimsuit top as a sports bra or rock your faded band camp tee, but you are putting in the effort to be healthy and that should be commended. See you’ve got kids, or school, or an all consuming work schedule and no time to care what others think. You are caring, supportive, and always willing to help out a friend. That might be why you have often got a million things on your plate, but you wouldn’t have it any other way. Working out is your “me time”, it is one of the only times in the day where it is all about you and your body. So while it might be hard to get your booty to class you love every minute you are there!

I happen to rock the “I just rolled out of bed” look when I am spinning around the pole, what about you? Share what your workout look is and lets us know if we got it right!

Jillian is an avid pole dance student, accessories and costume designer, rhinestone aficionado, and a PDBloggers Executive Commitee Member. She also writes at PoleGeek.blogspot.com.

On Wanting More and the 4 Ways I Found It

Creative Common Photo Credit: Bhumika Bhatia

Creative Common Photo Credit: Bhumika Bhatia

 

“I want more.”

That is what I told him. Him being my ex. When I told him, “I want more,” he wasn’t an ex. He was my boyfriend of five years. He was handsome, successful, affluent and his entire body was made of muscles. His skin was perfect. I loved his curly hair and the sound of his voice reminded me of jazz. He did all of the cooking and he did all of the cleaning. Also, sex was good. Very good. In fact, I often had to tap out after a handful of orgasms. He seemed to have an abundant well of energy and could keep going as long as I wanted him to. After weekend excursions with him, I would return home sore and tired. The “good kind” of sore. :-)

And yet, during a heart to heart about pleasure, desire and passion, I said, “I want more.”

“What more do you want?” he asked. Thank goodness he didn’t get defensive. However, I could tell he was frustrated. Frustrated because I found it hard to articulate what “MORE” meant. “Do you want to try something different? Do you want to try different positions? Is there a fantasy you want us to explore? Tell me and I’ll do it,” he said.

So we did. I told him I had fantasized about being tied up. I wanted to be blindfolded. I wanted….well, I wanted some things that might make you blush. Basically put, a part of me did want to explore fetish and perhaps kinky things. So we did it. And still I would keep insisting, “I want more.”

It took a break up, pole dancing classes, a fetish lover and an intellectual lecture on the fourth wave of feminism before I understood what this inarticulate urging of “more” inside me meant.

The Break Up

Despite my Ex having a “boyfriend resume” that highlighted the “best of the best” when it came to men on the surface level, I realized that our wild physical sex was only part of the equation. I was emotionally reserved with him because I felt like he was emotionally unavailable with me. Therefore in essence, I did not feel free. Honestly put, emotionally our relationship was a disaster and I’m sure that hampered the peak of pleasure I could possibly experience. We also didn’t have much of a friendship.

Mentally, I was still dealing with my own sexual syndromes. The “Act Like a Lady” Syndrome and the “Its Probably Better to Measure and Reserve My Wants” Syndrome which really is the “Act Like a Lady” Syndrome. Basically put, I had my own issues emotionally and mentally and they affected the pleasure I could truly attain. And also, “we” had issues of how we related to each other and that limited pleasure too. We could have had sex for a week straight, trying every position in the book and yet my orgasms would have been incomplete because I myself was not whole and the totality of our relationship was lacking. Ultimately I wanted pleasure that touched my core and not just my g-spot. I wasn’t going to get it with him. We were too committed to our emotional depravity to work towards wholeness.

Pole Dancing

I literally started taking pole dance and sensual movement classes at the same time that I broke up with my Ex. From day one, the dance studio I attended encouraged us to explore, experiment and dwell in our sensual pleasure. Up until that point, no one in my life had given me that kind of talk. I was given behavioral advice and rules on being a sensual and sexual woman. I was given warnings on who to interact with emotionally. I was told that spiritually, I should be pure.

It wasn’t until I started taking pole dance classes at S Factor New York that I experienced encouragement to explore pleasure, sensuality and desire. I was told to feel. I was told to do what pleased me to do. I was told to physically take up space. In our yoga/pilates style warm up, our instructors gave us sensual cues for our movement. When doing a spine circle or when laying down flat on our backs, they told us to use our fingers to trace our bodies. “Have a conversation with your skin,” one instructor insisted.

My classes showed me that I needed my own individual sacred space, outside of any relationships to explore pleasure and sensuality. A lover cannot be the totality of my sexual, sensual and pleasure filled life. My classes showed me that I took pleasure in movement, in a slow build up, in fliratious eye contact and in pushing my body to its limits. This related to dance but I realized I wanted those same things as it related to sex. Simply put, I learned how I wanted to experience sex with a lover through my sensual explorations in pole dance class. This means inspiration for desire can be found in the unlikely of places. Perhaps the most amazing meal at a restaurant can expose to you, clues on how you really want to explore sensuality with a partner. For those who are stuck in the “I want more” but don’t know how to go about getting the “more,” maybe you’ve got to find inspiration. You’ve got to experiment outside your comfort zone. You’ve got to look at every day experiences in a different way to show you clues as to what turns you on and what helps you connect to the people in your life.

Fetish Lover

I found him via online dating and had no a clue what I was in store for. After all the pleasantries, as a lover, he showed me a side of sexuality and sensuality that I did not even know existed. Yes, of course from the inference, he was into a fetish lifestyle. The “fetish” you’re probably imagining is right. Bondage. Whips. Clamps. Oh my! But that’s not what stood out to me. Yes, the physical exploration was exciting and different and stretched what I thought my boundaries were, but more-so than that my experiences with him pushed me towards sexual spirituality.

In order to try kinky things with him I had to learn to have absolute trust in myself and in him. I did not simply give him my heart. I shared the entirety of myself with him. I had to be open, curious and willing. Never in my life had I taken a risk like that before. And what I found when tied up and bound or when fully encased was a place of peace. It sounds crazy. I know! However its true. Through sensual play, breath play and dominance & submission, I found a stillness inside myself. A stillness that engaged every part of me. I felt as if I were everything and nothing at once. I felt and experienced a spiritually sexual “more.” I was Sheena. I was Goddess. I was Siren. I was Nothing. I was Everything. I was Energy. I was Spirit.

Intellectual Lecture

Somewhere around the time of my fetish excursions and pole dancing adventures, I attended a lecture series that explored women’s rights, women’s history and the fourth wave of feminism. The lecture was soul stirring but more-so than that, one book reference mentioned by the speaker led me on a search for even more literature that would give me the vocabulary to express what the urging growing inside of me was. I want to leave you with a few book recommendations that may aid in the next stage of your sexual and sensual evolution.

The Return of Desire: A Guide to Rediscovering Your Sexual Passions by Gina Ogden

“Instead of viewing desire as a commodity, something that we’re in danger of losing or missing out on, I’d like us to agree up front that sexual desire is energy – a sustainable resource that’s available to all of us if we want it, even those of us who may not have it right now. The key to finding desire sometimes request a deep and fearless search for yourself.”

Full Exposure: Opening Up to Sexual Creativity and Erotic Expression : by Susie Bright

” [Sex] is first and always about the capacity to create and feel, and express and connect…I don’t think anyone loves without an element of erotic tenderness, anxiety, and  sense of wonder…Your erotic comprehensive is about being alive.”

What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind by Debra Ollivier

 “If there’s one thing that French women seem to know….it’s that love and sex rarely conform to predetermined strategies, how-to ground rules, or dating dogma. As they’ll often tell you without much hesitation, finding happy trails in love and sex often involves trekking into Terra Incognita with a compass, but with a resolute openness to experiencing life in all its ravishing complexity.”

Shameless: How I Ditches the Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure…and somehow got home in time to cook dinner by Pamela Madsen

“I got it fully that we have to stand up for what we want on this earth. Others may very well judge it, condemn it, and laugh at you. This world is not necessarily forgiving. We like to think that if we follow our desires and dreams, those around us will support and love us. But it doesn’t always work that way. We have to really be committed to our own truths and be prepared for the occasional shit storm.”

Or perhaps more poignantly, this quote resonates even more.

“There was one thing I knew for sure: I was going back for more.”

Have you ever wanted “more” even when you had “everything”? Did you go on a search for what that “more” meant? What was your experience like?

Sheena LaShay is a Wild Magical Woman, Boudoir Photographer, Videographer, Writer and most importantly a Pole Dancer. She writes for SheenaLaShay.com, Owning Pink, Verizon Wireless and is the Co-President & Editor-in-Chief of the #PDBloggers.