What Are Sensual Self-Portraits?
Many of us have snapped the occasional (or frequent) sexy selfie and sent it off to incite a lusty reaction to a lover or potential mate.
But are there any positive benefits for yourself? What are the ramifications of this craze?
Today, I’m going to reveal to you how I found my sensuality through self-portraits, and how you can too.
The ‘why’ behind your Self-Portrait
Many years ago, I was an avid visual sexter. I liked taking sensual photos of myself, and sending them to an admirer gave me a much needed ego boost. Which is exactly what my issue was, not my actions, but the motivations behind them. My self-esteem was really low, and when people validated me as an attractive creature, I had a fleeting moment of happiness.
As I watched each photo depart my screen, I felt the externalization of my sexuality. Whether or not the photo was well received determined my sexual self-image. I would look at the photo first, of course, and make sure I liked it. Making sure I thought I looked sexy and was working my angles.
One day, during the moment when I chose which photo I liked best, I realized that I was actually validating myself, and I paused before hitting that send button. I was choosing to like the way I looked in a photo. After years of hating my body and viciously scrutinizing every aspect of my appearance, being able to like a photo of myself was a big deal to me.
However, the moment I pressed send, the feeling vanished. Lost into the vast abyss of another person’s recognition of my body and my sexual expression. I was outsourcing my sexual worth onto another person, a risky and unsustainable choice
Instead, I chose myself. I chose to stop sending my sexy selfies to anyone else, and start figuring out what I liked about myself and my sexuality, and why.
I certainly didn’t stop taking them, in fact, I took more. Buying myself fresh flowers and posing in a sunbeam with yellow roses all around me. Journeying to secluded nature preserves, I took topless portraits of moments when I felt happy and free.
Investing in beautiful lingerie that no one but me would ever lay eyes on, I snapped polaroids of myself, feeling like a queen in French lace. Exhausted in workout gear, I took close-ups of the sweat dripping from my curves. Lounging around with wet hair in my sweatpants, I immortalized my relaxation on film.
Discovering your sensuality
Each of these photos was a profound statement to myself, that I was beautiful and sensual in my own way. I didn’t want or need recognition to be sexual, and my sexuality could truly be just for me.
I could safely explore my sexuality and my sensual expression without any judgment or critique. Well, except perhaps my own. I was and still am pretty self-critical. Something I’m working on, and which my sensual self-portrait practice has helped me heal, and improve my self-love.
It was a safe way for me to experiment with, and reclaim, my sexuality. I don’t even know if I can honestly say ‘reclaim’, because I don’t know that I had ever really found it before. For me, sensual self-portraits helped me discover my sexuality. I was then able to feel happy sending them to partners again. This time it was a fun and flirtatious gesture. One that no longer determined my worth.
As the practice progressed, I started taking up more space.
Taking up sensual space
As the personal work I was doing on myself progressed, so did my professional work. As a Sexuality Doula, I started suggesting the practice to clients, tentatively and gently.
I was met with resistance at first. It can be extremely difficult for anyone to embrace their sexuality and sensuality, let alone to take up space with it. 90% of my clients identify as women or non-binary femmes, and in my years of experience, it can be even harder for people socialized female to take up space.
Committing to a practice of loving and celebrating yourself is profound and transformational. However, it’s called a practice for a reason. There will be days when it feels hard to make time to take your portraits. When you feel bloated and your hair is doing that wonky thing it does. You’ll try so hard to talk yourself out of it, but don’t listen. Remind yourself that you may want to take a lot before you find one you like, and try not to be so critical of yourself. You’re perfect just as you are.
Argue back to your negative self-talk. Remind yourself why this practice is important to you, and that you never have to look, act, or be perfect. In fact, your most beautiful moments are often the little in-between ones. Stepping out of the shower. Collapsing after a run. Having flour and cocoa smeared on your cheek. There is tremendous beauty in your messy hair and flushed lips.
The benefits of sensual self-portraits
All of my clients who have committed to this (which is now hundreds over the years) have found this practice transforms them. Positively improves their self-esteem and self-image, and helped them be more tolerant and loving of their bodies during sex.
They report enjoying sex (both solo and partnered) more and feeling more present during it. Feeling more confident and happy in everyday life too. Even more connected and loving to their friends, who often start up the practice too, after seeing the positive changes in their friend.
Taking these self-portraits can remind you of what you already know deep down, but have perhaps forgotten. That you are a person worthy of pleasure, love, and celebration.
That you are wonderful just as you are, and you don’t need to do anything to deserve feeling good. You have already earned the right to feel joyful and sexy in your body.
Remember dear one.