from Stop Telling Women To Smile‘s Tumblr; more about the movement here.
In my last post, I wrote about men’s entitlement to women’s sexuality; particularly how frustrating it is for me personally when men see my sexual liberation and think it gives them the right to insert themselves into it. I also mentioned how I’m making it my mission to stand strongly in my sexual liberation in spite of male dominance that aims to shrink me. (Which, can I get an amen?)
But after I hit publish, I had a thought that continued to gnaw on me for the rest of the week: If I don’t want to shrink myself, how can I go about making myself feel safe within my sexual expression?
Because the reality is that we live in an unsafe world, filled with people who can easily misconstrue the energies we give off as we’re stepping into and owning our erotic power.
I actually get messages from women pretty often about this, about how they want to embody sexual energy and practice being fully present in that, but they’re afraid that if they do, they’ll get unwanted attention—especially from men. This is a fear of mine too, and it’s really tricky to walk that line between full and open expression of my erotic expression and closing myself off to outward embodiment to keep me safe.
I don’t want my sexual energy to be cut off because of fear, and I also don’t want to be so open that it leaves me vulnerable. So in my own work in uncaging and embodying my sexual essence, I’ve had to find a kind of happy medium.
But before we get into that. . . First I’d like to just say how much it sucks that I have to arm myself against people that might harm me because of my sexual expression. It sucks that you have to do it, too.
And I wish we didn’t have to. I wish that our society could cut straight to the source (rape culture! misogyny! masculine supremacy!) rather than having it fall on us to keep ourselves away from dangerous situations.
It’s true that things are shifting; movements like Stop Telling Women To Smile are helping to bring awareness to this issue. But we’ve still got a long way to go, and in the meantime, we ourselves have to find creative ways to guard ourselves against unwanted attention, while also trying to celebrate our sexualities. That’s really hard and it fucking sucks.
But I digress.
Here are a few things that I do to help make me feel safe as I’m embodying sexual liberation outside in the real world.
1. I wear things that make me feel like a warrior princess.
Combat boots. Black lipstick. Headphones in my ears that blast Beyoncé. A smoky quartz crystal hanging around my neck to ward off negative energy and my long nails painted a blood-like color. And this long, slightly jagged silver ring that, if I was in a jam, could potentially gouge the eyes of any man giving me inappropriate stares.
All of these things have a very “Don’t fuck with me” vibe to them, yes, but it’s not just about that—it’s about how I feel while I’m wearing them. How, when I’m walking in my combat boots, I stand taller and my steps are more swift and powerful. How, when I’m wearing black lipstick, I feel tough and strong, thus the energy I give off is as such.
These things might seem small but they pack a mighty punch, because they help me to feel powerful, courageous, and in control, which helps me to stand stronger and take up space in a way that says, “I belong here.”
2. I take up as much space as possible and I walk like I mean it.
Admittedly, this used to feel counterintuitive to me. If I want to keep myself safe, shouldn’t I take up as little space as possible to sort of blend into the background? Making myself more noticeable felt like I was putting a giant red target on my forehead that screamed “Look at me! I’m here!”
But that’s just what I realized: I want to be seen. I want to be perceived as someone who is alert and confident.
By taking up space, I own my body which gives the impression that I am self-possessed, aware of my surroundings, comfortable in my skin. By walking with purpose and strength, I show that I’m grounded and in control.
So I widen my stance. I spread my legs. I let my shoulders drop down and back. I center myself into my belly and take deep breaths. And all of this combined with the armor above seems to add a double dose of “You don’t want to fuck with me.”
But taking up space isn’t just about the physical space you take up. It’s about the energetic space you take up.
I’ve mentioned before how my aim these days is to be more of a Boss Ass Bitch—someone who, by my own definition, knows her power, embodies her truth, and is a force to be reckoned with. So I make sure that not only my physical stance shows this, but also the energy I emanate.
For me, this looks like thinking about that Boss Ass Bitch energy and imagining a force field of that energy being created around me with every breath or step I take.
3. I remember that I know how to kick ass.
Last fall, I took a self-defense class with a really good friend of mine and within the first hour of the class, I began to understand that this wasn’t going to be just about techniques that would defend myself against unwanted attention.
These classes were going to be about finding my voice again, about proving to myself how strong I was, about rebuilding my inner fortitude to help me feel like I could take up space again.
Apart from the sick moves that you can learn to protect yourself, I think every single person should take a self-defense class for just those things I mentioned above, especially women. What I gained helped me to fully own the volume of my own force and power, and walking around with the knowledge that I’ve taken these classes makes me feel confident and resilient—which adds on beautifully to everything else.
4. I follow my intuition.
As much as I’d love to always be comfortable in embodying sexual liberation wherever I am, no matter the situation; as much as it would be great to live wildly without inhibitions or fears. . . there are times when that just isn’t the case.
Maybe it’s because the element I’m in suddenly jostled me into feeling unsafe. Or maybe it’s because I’m not feeling particularly grounded in my body. Whatever the reason, if something inside of me closes up, if a part of me feels hesitance or resistance to open, I pay attention to those nudges. I listen.
Sometimes that means hardening myself. Sometimes that means closing myself off to protect my sexual energy. Sometimes that means not wearing those super tight jeans because I know I don’t have the energy to make myself big against unwanted attention.
Self-preservation is important. Even more important is my ability to choose.
To choose when and how I express my sexuality, as well as who I allow to celebrate it, even if it means closing myself off for a time, is an act of liberation, too.
My sexual energy doesn’t need to be on all the time. As a sexually liberated woman, it’s my job to safeguard it against the creeps and trespassers.
And it’s yours, too.