I just did the single most empowering thing for myself since I was raped in my own bed almost two years ago by someone I trusted. I took part in a photo shoot by ‘Rory Banwell Photography’ called “Still Not Asking For It.” I posed semi nude – I was asked to wear black tape (provided) over my nipples and a black pair of underwear on – on a white back drop for a short 15min portrait session.
As soon as I arrived, thanks to Rory and her team, I felt comfortable, I felt safe, and I felt really chilled out. I didn’t even notice how naked I was because, for once in my life, nothing about this moment was about how my female body was about pleasing anybody else. I could just be. I consented to this, I know my photos will be on the Internet, and I feel enthusiastic about that. I didn’t have to look sexy. I didn’t have to pull any pouty faces. I didn’t have to be skinny, nor pose to look skinnier, nor did I feel like it. I didn’t have to be a white person. I didn’t have to be able bodied (though I am). Patriarchal beauty standards do not exist in Rory’s space. I just had to stand there exactly as I am right now, if I wanted to.
It was a wonderful thing to experience being surrounded by beautiful women, coming and going, standing relaxed with beautiful messages. No one was judged or objectified. I was complimented but I did not feel awkwardly “looked at”. We all held each other in mutual respect and chatted about stuff we felt like chatting about. I feel empowered from merely being in that environment. I felt safe, welcomed, happy, and respected in Rory’s space. I wish the whole world treated women the way Rory and her team treated me today. I didn’t have to do or say anything I didn’t want to. If I had wanted to pull out of being photographed at the last minute, I would have felt completely ok with expressing that. I found I didn’t even care about my body image issues. Being in Rory’s studio was a special moment for me; I felt like I was glimpsing into a world where consent really mattered and I saw what that would look like. It’s actually really beautiful.
Two main things I’m taking away from this today is: 1. How blissful it was to be respected and my enthusiastic, informed consent genuinely cared about. 2. I feel that one thing I can do to fight the patriarchy’s bullshit beauty standards for myself as a woman, is to simply be comfortable with my own raw naked body. In the end, it’s just a picture of me as I am now. And being unapologetically ok with that is a powerful thing.
I believe in Rory’s project and the greater message it delivers to the public. It’s an important message that needs to be heard. If you’re even a little bit interested in taking part, I recommend it. It’s hard; having a body in public space where we live in a culture that’s enthusiastic about shaming our bodies, blaming our victims, and also about profiting from our insecurities. I respect that it’s hard. But, if you’re a person of colour, of any colour, of any age, of disability, of any gender identity, of any class, a survivor, an ally who (above all) wants to do this – I feel that your participation would be valuable.