The Warmth of Women

I am so glad we decided to make a workshop at Sh! This is a special environment where women may explore their sexuality in a totally welcoming space. It is much more than a specialist sex shop; it has an ethos to reach women where they have not been touched before! It is an intimate space downstairs where we created Spirited Bodies magic within this new setting. Surrounded by dildos, vibrators, whips, paddles and lubricants we eased into poses on the pink oval couch that had a fetish feel. One of our artists was very comfortable directing poses due to her frequenting of fetish clubs; I took full advantage. Not that I am shy, but when you can see someone flowing with inspiration for ideal use of props and the angle of each limb, it is a gift for all to let that unfold. Thelma and I just tweaked some of these poses according to our knowledge of modelling, and making allowances for the newness of these models who want to try a novel experience more in some cases than have a realistic experience of life modelling.

Here are some pictures from this unusual workshop which hopefully we will try some time again.

P1010185

P1010186

P1010187

P1010188

P1010189

P1010198

P1010199

I initiated proceedings with a 6 minute pose; the average pose was 5 minutes

I initiated proceedings with a 6 minute pose; the average pose was 5 minutes

P1010201

I made suggestions to models about levels and relative openness or closedness of the body, as well as direction of limbs, and as well they found their own postures to fit with the other model’s shape.

P1010202

P1010208

P1010204

dynamic and fun

dynamic and fun

P1010206

These fabulous felt-tip pen line drawings are by Lily Lemaire

These cartoonesque felt-tip pen line drawings are by Lily Lemaire

P1010210

P1010211

Most participants came primarily to try modelling, and a couple preferred drawing, but they too had a go at posing. They said that it helped them understand the models’ point of view.

P1010213

Collection of underwear models, or a ridiculous all girl band as one of them observed!

Collection of underwear models, or a ridiculous all girl band as one of them observed!

Colourful finale pose

Colourful finale pose

Artist Khadijah likes to use oil pastels I believe

Artist Khadijah likes to use oil pastels I believe, bringing out tone more than line

P1010217

a pink feather boa connected the models

a pink feather boa connected the models

P1010219

P1010221

The costumed model presents different considerations for the artist; clothes draw attention to other features and shapes which the nude does not.

P1010220

A light touch; it is so warming when participants get into the spirit of friendly posing with each other they have not met before

A light touch; it is so warming when participants get into the spirit of friendly posing with each other they have not met before

I thought afterwards, coming into this shop for a class, these women would not be likely to be phased!

P1010223

P1010224

Pleasing parallel lines and angles

Pleasing parallel lines and angles

P1010226

While life or clothed modelling is not necessarily sexy, it can be. Above all we want to promote women being comfortable and confident in their bodies – sexually and otherwise. Often being at ease with one’s form may enhance sexual confidence, in a truthful way that is not about doing what is expected of us, or what we think we ought to do, but by being ready to sense our own desire and act on it appropriately. Being able to appreciate ourselves allows us to appreciate others more, and be appreciated by others. While the body can be a very sacred place, we easily become disconnected from it in our mentally driven lives. But if we take time to tune into what is going on inside, and learn to move our bodies however we can to enjoy them, we begin to intuit more the language of the body.

As I move from pose to pose, especially but not exclusively the quick (and movement) ones, there is hardly any time in between poses when I am working, to recover the body to its natural equilibrium, to eliminate aches and cramps. My body tells me which limbs to work as I form a new shape; more than the alternation of muscle groups (though that is part of it) its language is subtle and beyond logical. It knows I am performing a sequence, that there is a climax mid-flow of muscular tension when I will pass through a pain barrier and I will surpass artists’ expectations of what I can hold. I push myself because I am like a gymnast aiming for gold, I take my modelling seriously because I love it. It is my gym, my yoga and sometimes my dance. It strengthens my core and warms my very being. It takes me to places of trance, of deep joy and wild amusement I cannot possibly describe to you because it is so in the moment, the way it lights my smile challenging the artists to catch it! Sometimes it is tantra too and it turns me on, and if I were a man I would have to master myself quite heroically not to offend people and risk not being booked and getting a tarnished name. As a woman I can hide it if I want though sometimes my sexuality is discerned – naturally I am being closely observed, and enjoying it. That is even turning me on too; part of a pleasure loop of enjoying myself, being enjoyed by others. But it is not deemed offensive; though it affects me physically this is subtle compared with a man. Instead I am likely to wear a translucent glow and my pheromones reach the artists subliminally (or not). I am sometimes booked because I am sexy, though not in an obvious way, because that is not my style. I mean, it is pleasing to artists consciously or otherwise that I am in tune with my sexuality and I know how to handle it. It makes me confident and that is attractive. It is about my physicality and my nature. I know that life modelling has enhanced this for me. It was always there, a big part of me, being very sexy; but after becoming closeted a few years for social and personal reasons, the liberation afforded by life modelling was strong and so welcome. Now I share that as best I can with others.

Working so closely with my body and my beauty daily, I am acutely in touch with my cycle. I bring different energies at different times to modelling, from the highly charged and emotional, to the light and easy going, to the blatantly desiring, and commanding. Through meditation with energy work (visualising the flow and store of energy within the body) I aim to master better the hormonal drives in me. I have become so aware of my enslavement to a feminine cycle of emotions and desires, that I look to overcome this through deeper analysis, to channel all that powerful energy to put it to best use. Not to move beyond sex, but rather reach a higher source of sexual power, which is ultimately more feminine, unbound by time or undue strain.

I will add that there are many different types of life model and I am just one. Our individuality is the beauty of our game.

One of the women who participated on Thursday evening wrote to us the next morning;

“Thank you for a wonderful evening last night. I thoroughly enjoyed the modelling and the theme was right up my street ūüôā I am absolutely interested in modelling again in the future, I think my preference would be all women groups at least for the first few sessions since I am a newbie! I am not so keen on the drawing side as my skills in drawing are so inadequate!”

Thelma responded, “Thank you ūüôā It was an absolute pleasure and to see you ‘warming up’ to the experience. That is why I like SB – there is an indescribable feeling of fluidity, freedom and togetherness – spirited bodies, like minded embracing ‘the nude’, our nude in a practical, loving, flowing into¬†unconscious way – if that makes sense! I fully understand about the drawing side – when I draw I try and do a ‘small bit’ or part of the pose or just try and get the positions to practice¬†perspective.”

Finally the young woman wrote, “I am exploring and learning so much about myself and the world through my body and its empowering and ¬†incredibly freeing. I have always been very comfortable with my body, but unfortunately have been surrounded by a lot of people who aren’t! That can really limit who you are when trying to be sensitive to other people’s hang ups.

I am delighted to have been in the space of women who love and appreciate their bodies as they are :)”

Beautiful

Stormy Nights of Transformation

In 1987 I was 10. About this time of year there was a very memorable storm, you may recall, not dissimilar to the one on outside tonight (in London, UK). Trees collapsed, cars were smashed, gardens were destroyed, and I felt a fascination with this touch of wildness in our city and indeed beyond.

I wrote a story inspired by that night, for creative writing was my favourite outlet for self expression. In the fiction I was preparing for a Halloween fancy dress competition, which seemed fairly significant at the time, not least because my arch nemesis would be competing with me, and to me at any rate it might as well just have been me and her in the contest. I knew she was hotly tipped as the favourite; being richer and possessing finer garments standing her in perhaps better stead. I was unperturbed, and created for myself a unique costume fashioned from bin-liners, and rolled a black cardboard cone hat, adding some details by sticking on old scraps of material. Nothing fancy but the best I could muster. I reckoned further points may be scored for originality and style, the way an outfit was worn as much as the clothes themselves.

I laid my costume out before I went to bed, the night before the big day. That was the night of the manic storm, and nothing was the same after. In the morning I discovered that our back garden had been blown several blocks away and a tree fallen on Dad’s car. What more despite being apparently safe inside, my carefully crafted costume had been shredded, crumpled and broken beyond repair. I was distraught and could not conceive how this might have happened. The rest of my room was ok; it was most alarming. I thought I could no longer enter the competition and felt utterly disappointed, with a sense of void as to how this came about. Sighing and tearful I left the room to tell my Mum who was busy getting my brother ready for the day and making breakfast. There was no hope for this day I had so looked forward to.

But on returning to the bedroom I saw an unfamiliar object in my midst, positioned where I might have missed it before, high up on the cupboard. A shiney white cardboard box sat quietly and expectantly, with considerable promise. Tentatively I approached, reached for it and took it in my hands, examined it and removed the lid. What was this! A brand new beautiful black velvet and lace ensemble, complete with sparkly hat and shiney pointy shoes! I was flabbergasted, gobsmacked and temporarily frozen in disbelief. Everything was going to be all right after all. But how? Never mind that, the important thing was, did it fit? What do you think? It was the best fit since my Grandmother had stopped making handmade clothes for us because she was tracking down her first husband on the other side of the world. From the starry hat, lacey gloves, velvet frock and cape to the snug ankle boots, I was perfectly decked out. There was even a wand, but I was not sure about that and thought it might get in the way; I was a witch not a fairy, so I tucked it into my left boot. Over the moon, I set to shadowing my eyes and heightening my lips. My parents were contending with immense loss – you could just about spy the remnants of the shed and eucalyptus tree a few gardens away. The insurance line was jammed, in fact I don’t think the phone worked at all. I easily persuaded them I’d be fine on the bus.

I was still nervous even though I was better dressed in the new cloak than possibly I ever had been. I think the unexplained element of arriving in this attire put me a little on edge – not only was I not used to it, but also, part of me questionned my right to be in it. What if it was a mistake, or worse a trick? But who could hatch such a plot? I was flummoxed. Broken into by my arch-rival Gwendoline’s steely intent to trip me up and foil my desire (since our last run-in at the fairground when from high up on the wheel I poured some noxious concoction on her head)? We had been very good friends once, but she resisted strongly when I suggested we open up our friendship to others in the neighbourhood. While she might have motivation the practicalities did not support this. She could not have the keys to my home, and all the windows were tightly closed in this time of storm. The beautiful outfit could be a sign of her original devotion to me, but there would have to be a catch… Maybe more weirdly, I had been visited by fairies in the night, performing magic? Either way I barely dared entertain these thoughts further which had been lurking in my adrenaline fuelled glances on the top deck of the 43 bus. I arrived at the town hall, sounding my heels on the steps and escorted myself into the tall brick building to register my participation. What would the others be wearing? What would Gwendoline be conjuring? Could it be as incredible as my dress? As a final touch, on the way out of my house I had grabbed a broom which was scattered in what was left of the front garden to complete the look. I walked into the hall and found a place to watch others from, leaning on the broomstick nonchalantly.

The speeches and parades went by in a bit of a blur as I found it tricky to focus on the formalities. I could make out Gwendoline on the other side of the room, though really she ceased to be as important now I had arrived. It seemed that everything was out of my hands now anyway; the unusual events of the night and morning had taken care of that, and this awareness started to settle. My Mum and brother arrived shortly before the adjudication was made, and I was grateful to not be alone. This place was a little way from home so I didn’t know many others there particularly well. I just knew that Gwen would take part as we had talked about it and planned it before the split transpired. I think when the mayor or whoever he was announced my winning, I was no more stunned than I had already become accustomed to. I glowed nonetheless, overwhelmed with pride and joy to have succeeded in my special quest. Why did I want to be the best? Probably because I was tired of Gwendoline behaving like she was superior all the time. I wanted to shut her up. And winning is fun. I’m not sure if there was money, a prize or a crown, but not long after being acknowledged as the winner, I got on my broomstick, quite conscious that miracles or magic were entirely possible, and flew off before everybody’s incredulous eyes, and out through a high window!

A few months later in early February I sat an entrance exam to a girls grammar school. For the English section I basically rewrote this story as one of the titles was ‘The Stormy Night’, and that was what got me into the school I spent the next five years in as my maths was fairly basic.

It gives me great pleasure to remember the story (and the story of the story), unfortunately I do not have the original with me, though it’s possible that it is housed in my parents’ attic.

Apart from this reminisence I wanted to tell you that Spirited Bodies is going to have a break soon. We will cease events and workshops for some months as the routine has taken hold and its grip is lethal. We were meant to be less predictable, for therein lies the most potent magic. What ought to be extraordinarily remarkable occasions, were in danger of being overlooked, become commonplace in my spectrum. I don’t mean the extravaganza just gone, but the monthly sessions where in fact more new people come to celebrate some milestone, than at the recent biggie. Each of those moments deserves more attention, and the time to regard each potential participant; who will benefit most, and will the group bring out the best in each other?

Managing men has been an ongoing matter. So many want to take part, but who has the most honourable intentions? You cannot tell from a simple questionnaire, or even necessarily meeting. But the most nervous women involved and sometimes our team who are less immersed than I am pick up on energies once the nude proceedings are in action. Artists too remark of male models not in it for a purpose befitting us. Meanwhile I am so preoccupied with replicating ‘The Raft of the Medusa’, and everybody’s comfort that much that is important eludes me. And while I do all the admin and run the show, I cannot be all things to all people.

So clearly we need time to change. We have a good strong team, and we will work more as such in the coming months, refashioning the Spirited Bodies experience. Newer team members especially Thelma felt strongly that we must return to our core, what the original mission was. This was about the models’ transformation, and it was about women modelling for the first time to experience a remarkable transition towards confidence. We reconnected with the founder, Morimda to hear in her words what inspired her, and as well she took the time to join in a little.

Meanwhile I want some time away from the overwhelming admin; I want to travel a bit and get back to writing and performance. I have felt like I was doing the project more for others and no longer so much for myself as it used to be. I need to give back to me. But I know Spirited Bodies will keep calling me back too, and at the right time, something magical will emerge again. Happy Halloween fellow spirits!

If you would like to join in an all female event coming up very soon before we take our break, click here for more details on how to get involved and do not hesitate to get in touch. Making the decision to refocus our mission has freed me up to feel appropriately enthused about our final events! There are 2 more sessions at Holborn (see Workshops & Events) as well as the aforementioned new opportunity for women. In addition a small exhibition of some of the Spirited Bodies art work will be on display in the Sh! shop in Hoxton throughout November. Please note this shop is a women’s shop and men may only go in accompanied by a woman, except on Tuesday evenings between 6 and 8pm which are ‘Gents Tuesdays’. As we come to the end of this season we celebrate Spirited Bodies’ 3rd anniversary.

IMAG1324Magic shoes from a recent costumed session Thelma & I did in Tadworth!

Thelma & I being ladies who lunch

Thelma & I being ladies who lunch

On Sexuality, Disability & Mental Health; or Sustainable Living

From when I was a child, I can remember wanting my Mum to be better, wanting to make her happy. It was perhaps the strongest emotional drive in me. Long before she was diagnosed with MS, I knew she was deeply unhappy, which was expressed mainly through her anger. I wanted her to be ok. It was what I wished for when I blew out the candles, or the tooth fairy visited.

So now I attract partners, sometimes friends that I would like to fix. Habit.

Mum did get better. Not physically, but emotionally she is the most reliably happy person in the family. Definitely not angry. To be fair Seroxat has a lot to do with that, but so does my Father’s unerring loving care towards her. Truly in my experience anti-depressants have never suited a person so well. I think knowing she will never move her body again by herself, gives her conscience clear reign at accepting the drugs. Inside she is very sad at what has become of her, but that is successfully suppressed, and she shows immense gratitude for all she does have, always professing sheer joy in her state of being. As well as the suppression of pain, there is the countering effect of transformation, and I do mean spiritual. Mum knows that in the height of her youth and health, she was unable to appreciate what she had, so dogged was she by anger and lack of confidence. Now that she has lost the use of limbs, sometimes eyes, sometimes mind; she knows more keenly what she had previously, but much more than the value of these physical aids, she is now open to love in her life in a way which she never was before. Most people I know on anti-depressants still get depressed, but not Mum. They really work with her, year after year.

from a recent Drawing Theatre session I did with Paul Kindersley

from a recent Drawing Theatre session I did with Paul Kindersley

On Wednesday 7th August, Mum will be modelling with Spirited Bodies, and this time (she took part before clothed for portrait with Dad) she will be nude. She is really excited about this, saying that although she doesn’t particularly think her body is beautiful, the idea that people will spend time drawing her is very incredible and uplifting. She says it feels like a gift, and she recognises she may be a role model for other disabled people to take part in future. She may not have a wide pose range, but my Goodness can she hold still.

I still have issues on occasion about being asked to look after her. Doesn’t happen very often. I am busy in my life, the other side of London, whizzing this way and that, my parents have their routine and I don’t see them a lot. My brother and sister are much closer to home. I would resent caring for my Mother as I felt I lost a number of years due to her earlier negativity, lack of love for me. On top of this, I have in recent years felt as if I have lost my Father for the enormous task of taking care of Mum. He is exhausted and needs every bit of free non-family time for himself. So I raised this point not long ago, and now we are in the process of reclaiming that forgotten Father/Daughter relationship which may be the precedent for some of the most crucial relationships I form.

IMAG1105

Spirited Bodies is a challenge to keep flourishing – sometimes I recognise in writing the familiar spiel in emails and documents, I have lost some of the necessary passion and zeal to lift this off the ground. Become normal, ordinary, I forget how magical it is! Others in the team get judged by family for putting so much time into life modelling and this project, when before they held high earning jobs, keeping their families in the trappings they are accustomed. This is a real test on relationships, for loved ones to see past the financial value, and appreciate what it is that makes them happy. In our case life modelling and taking that further to others.

model Kayleigh

model Kayleigh

This societal/monetary pressure is a most damaging force, an unfortunate reckoner, and in this respect I am grateful for my rebellious youth which long ago set a precedent for not being expected to achieve or earn in a certain way. And I surround myself with people who understand that and do not judge me for my nude activities. It can be a harsh shock when I find myself in less than usual territory in the company of ‘normals’! But I am getting better at it.

IMAG1107

Attracting a damaged mate has opened up a new vista as I retread the possibilities of more open relationship. I am a dynamic being full of expression and desire, so a physically weaker character with whom I fell in love, cannot hold permanently my capacity. I was getting desperate, thought of splitting up – but we didn’t really want that. I entertained the idea of becoming a surrogate – offering myself for the (sexual) healing of others and my financial gain, but it didn’t quite click. I thought of exercising after long, long pause the lesbian in me, and here I hit a note. I realised my experience of cunt has been so much more limited than mine of cock, and all related hormones. I thought how empowering to feel comfortable with cunt, to know others’ and their ways, not just my own. To know them intimately. Last time I investigated I would have been on drugs or pissed; there was room for so much more exploration. And breasts – if you do not have large ones yourself, how wonderful to feel another’s pendulous pair!

Kayleigh is not my lover, but I love these pictures and wanted to use them

Of all the possibilities this seemed least threatening to my boyfriend, or most reasonable. There is also a feminist argument for it. Men remain so tightly bonded by comparison, and we women must catch up if ever we are to match status. My boyfriend is appreciative of this sentiment.

And so I found myself another lover, and what a difference it makes. She has a delicate touch, so sensual; I feel new with her and myself opening with abandon. I feel such gratitude for this amazing opportunity to be intimate with two people, and I am much more thoughtful and peaceful with my boyfriend as a result. I want to cherish him more and show appreciation for his understanding. Before he felt burdened to try to keep up with my numerous social activities which of course he could not begin to; now this obligation is shared! Both my boyfriend and my girlfriend have varying degrees of social phobia, but spurred on by the prospect of keeping up each of their sides of the bargain, we find harmony. Finally I might not turn up almost everywhere alone (despite having someone at home for me), which sometimes created an awkward impression. Now I can really keep my friends guessing!

IMAG1110

On Mental Health: (because recent events have brought me closer to the realm of mental health concerning others)

I learnt young that falling into the system could be damaging. I saw my Grand-Mother drugged in a corner, barely present, except on wild occasion as she stopped her meds, and released the wacky conversations with ghosts in the room. Decades of drugs, Electric-Shock Treatment and institutionalisation took care of her (paranoid schizophrenic) but she looked so innocent to me. She had been the first woman in her town in Lancashire to get into Oxford University where she read English, and met her husband, a colonial type of the old boys network. She had once been very intelligent, not at all ‘mad’, but something had driven her to insanity. After my Grandparents died, old family friends revealed that Grandpa’s blatant affairs had been the trigger; whilst they were living out in Africa, far from her home, and her alone with the children.

As a child I considered; if I was mad and I probably am, I never wanted any authority to get hold of me. The world is mad obviously, so I’d rather take care of myself. I appreciate this doesn’t work for everyone, and that the system though far from perfect, has moved on from ’50s strategies.

I’ve never been attracted to men of a certain class either.

I just wanted to use these lovely pictures which have no direct relation to the post

I just wanted to use these lovely pictures which have no direct relation to the post

Spirited Bodies is proud to be part of The Sex Maniacs Ball in September, which is a fundraising event for The Outsiders Trust to enable disabled people to meet partners and celebrate their sexuality. There may be a life modelling workshop, as well as a nude disco along with various other nude activities and therapies.

Nude modelling giving women confidence ~ my talk with Women on Fire

On Tuesday 23rd April I will address an audience of women at a Women on Fire event; it is part of their A Woman Cubed series. I will be speaking about how modelling nude may bring women confidence.

I will draw from my experience as well as that of some of our Spirited Bodies.

I will look at how nudity has changed in its status through history, how it has become incredibly sexualised where it used to represent purity. Indeed the naked body has been of the highest spiritual significance.  There is of course a political element; it may be convenient that a population ashamed of the natural human body is a society living in fear. In fear how easily are people subjugated and controlled? I may not have time in the talk to cover this element, but it is related.

I will discuss what is unique to life modelling; as well as the nudity, the usual silence and stillness. Shed of our daily trappings we have an opportunity to reexamine who we are.

This is a women only event.

About Women on Fire: “Women on Fire is designed to link up the women of the world who make brilliant things happen. It promotes women as decision makers, especially in the many areas that have a direct effect on the wellbeing of all life on earth. It aims to embolden, uplift, inform and inspire women in all circumstances to live their power – but without the loss of lovely, feminine tenderness.”

Women on Fire founder Judith Seelig is a shaman and change maker. She will be talking about women letting go of judging ourselves and comparing ourselves to others.

To book tickets for this free event, register here; it takes place at Kings College London, from 7 – 9pm.

Judith Seelig by Tracey Fahy

Judith Seelig by Tracey Fahy

Judith by Tracey Fahy

Judith by Tracey Fahy

Judith poses beautifully, photographed by Tracey Fahy

Judith poses beautifully, photographed by Tracey Fahy

I first came across Women on Fire at a women’s business networking conference a couple years ago. I was looking at ways to take Spirited Bodies further; we had done one event and I was preparing for the second, which was called ‘The Ages of Woman’. One of the speakers at the London Women Mean Business event mentioned Women on Fire, so I checked them out. They had a big event coming up with some very inspiring speakers from Camilla Batmanghelidjh to Polly Higgins, covering many areas of life. I decided to go to their regular meetings and stay in touch. I am thrilled to be asked to take part in next week’s event!

Related articles:

Feminine Transmission

Fire Power

Naomi Wolf & Women of the World festival, Southbank

Wolf got in trouble for revealing too much of herself in her latest book entitled ‘Vagina’. Controversy, talking about her own vagina. She says that word a lot, as well as describing its different quadrants, outer and inner labia, clitoris, G-spot and perineum. She learnt a lot about vaginas since she had a spinal injury which cost her sensation in that area, and also layers of consciousness she says. She felt sad and didn’t know why till the injury was diagnosed, then corrected and sensation returned. This made her aware of what she missed when normal use of her vagina was restricted. The incredible euphoria accompanying orgasm that added meaning, direction to her life. She got to researching vaginas and found some hidden material, which explained something of our sexist culture which loves to mock the vagina. About how there is a brain to vagina connection or relationship, and that the range of euphoria and energy that the vagina may release is immense. The clitoris and G-spot are opposite poles of an axis simultaneously capable of reaching each other. The suppression of this research speaks volumes.

It is well known and addressed that erectile dysfunction affects or is related to many areas of a man’s life, altering his performance. Naturally there is a similar relationship for women and their vaginas, but that is less discussed.

When a woman seeks out sexual pleasure and is supported by her culture in doing that, dopamine is released in her, she becomes more confident and her oxytocin levels rise. Creative hormones move her forward with positive energy. Dopamine makes a person less easy to push around, to subjugate. We have internalised the idea that women’s sexuality is ridiculous. In her book ‘Fire with Fire’¬† Wolf asserts that women are on the route to equality, and to achieve it they must stop being victims. During the ‘sexual revolution’ in the ’70s, a survey in which women self-reported, showed that 30% of women did not reach orgasm when they want to. It seems there has been a sort of plateau reached as this statistic has hardly changed in the last 40 years.

So the bottom line is female sexual pleasure makes a woman powerful, so information about how to maximise this is not popular with patriarchal systems like religion. Hence sexuality and also Love can be very subversive.

In the rape culture of war people are dehumanised, and women’s bodies respond negatively to rape reducing their chances of enjoying sex. The autonomic nervous system which leads to activation of good orgasms, is inhibited by anti-erotic impulses such as fear, stress and anger.

Wolf grew up in San Francisco around her lesbian Mum in the ’70s. She observed how her Mum’s friends became shining and integrated in a culture that supported their sexuality; she’d seen the same people previously more withdrawn, before they found their place. This was an environment which emphasized women’s fulfillment as an entitlement. It ought to be on the national curriculum!

What else did I take from Naomi Wolf’s talk at Women of the World festival on Saturday evening? That western feminists have a lot to learn from our sisters in developing countries because she reckons they are at the vanguard of feminism today, really pushing boundaries. That we ought to be kinder to each other – it’s not about judging others because they have had surgery or don’t wish to call themselves feminists. That women hold emotional trauma in at least one quadrant of the vagina and this can be released through sexual healing. None of us are heterosexual, we all respond to a variety of stimuli despite what we say (well I knew that anyway!) And finally women generally need to learn how to receive pleasure better, as this has been suppressed in favour of male sexuality for too long. I resonate strongly with this, finding it hard to really let go most of the time. On the few occasions when I have been least inhibited, either alcohol, drugs or sometimes the euphoria of love have facilitated it. But to reach that high on a more regular basis, I am still working on that.

Going to put up some recent pictures from classes I have modelled in. There is a lot more to say about the WOW festival Lucy and I were at last weekend, like how many celebrities Lucy failed to realise she was chatting up because we’d reached that point in the weekend where she could no longer recognise faces. And how everything worked out for the best despite several drop-outs, because we had so many Spirited Bodies models present to help at our stall so some were able to step in and model too. That when the plan to film the event collapsed this was a blessing because our models gave the most precious and powerful testimonials we could have imagined which might easily have been inhibited with the presence of a camera. Similarly when I asked the audience how many would like to try doing a pose there and then, about half of them put up their hands, no doubt encouraged by the models’ words. The artwork will be up soon.

I went to a workshop about body image by the ‘Endangered Bodies’ group which I also want to report on, and the last event – Alice Walker introducing her film – was the perfect finale, so moving and inspiring. We will be following up our WOW contacts for some time and learning from some of the advice suggested. Becoming a charity may be a good choice for us, but so too might a business which is a social enterprise. The atmosphere at WOW is electric with so many women on fire!

IMAG0973

IMAG0970

IMAG0989

IMAG0987

a glimpse of vagina! I think these pastels are by Jo Parmenter from the session at Richmond Adult Community College

a glimpse of vagina! I think these pastels are by Jo Parmenter from the session at Richmond Adult Community College

quick poses

quick poses

IMAG0986

IMAG0981

IMAG0985

IMAG0982

by model and tutor Hugh

by model and tutor Hugh

Docile Bodies Rising Up

First I want to thank Deirdre, the feminist sociology professor I met at a viewing of a film about a legendary life model last year. She recommended ‘The Politics of Women’s Bodies; Sexuality, Appearance and Behaviour’, a selection of essays collated by Rose Weitz. Weitz explains how historically women were expected to separate their maternal and sexual aspects, as men were unable to accept that the women they wanted to be nurturing their future generations might also have needs. To a large extent this still stands. Hence the duality, the double standard; a woman is either a Madonna or a whore.

In ‘Believing is Seeing’, Judith Lorber discusses how 1 in 2000 births are in fact intersex (hermaphrodite) but this is covered up immediately by “corrective” surgery (which turns them all into females as it’s easier) as well as by a society that doesn’t wish to acknowledge what is outside of its binary vision. Our whole idea of ‘male’ and ‘female’ is a complete farce! Intersex people frequently report feeling trapped in the wrong body, so physically and socially constructed as our lives may be. Karin A Martin describes how we become gendered bodies; what we assume as nature is not just decided by surgical tradition, or nature; but by long held cultural beliefs. In primary school we learn how to behave and move like boys and girls. Girls are taught to take up less space.

In ‘Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernisation of Patriarchal Power’ Sandra Lee Bartky takes Foucault’s assertion that our bodies are insidiously controlled by the most subtle means, i.e. by the fear inside our own minds, which makes us into ‘docile bodies’ only too willing to move to the beat of the elite; and takes it to feminism’s logical step further.

“Subjected and practised bodies”

In ‘Daring to Desire’ Deborah L Tolman debunks a myth which supposes that women are less sexually inclined than men (where did they get that idea?), by showing that teenage girls feel anxiety about showing the true extent of their sexual feelings because of fear about what others will think of them. Written in 1994 this is somewhat out of date and I would like to see the updated version. When I was popping my cherry and bursting my bubble in the early ’90s, if I held off behaving like a total nymphomaniac at all times it was because I only liked goths! Rather I was kind of picky, and liked to be in control. I felt safe in a scene which allowed my sexuality and independence to be exercised. If I thought a guy was hitting on me I lost interest; I wanted to make the conquest. I wasn’t typical in a mainstream way, but on the goth scene I was not unusual. In ‘So Full of Myself as a Chick’, Amy C Wilkins examines a West Coast American town’s goth population for their unique standards of women’s sexuality as demonstrated during the ’90s. This is comparable to what I grew up with. Women on top and in charge, up to a point, which is the message Wilkins has. Polyamorous relationships as frequently exercised by goths still favour male sexuality in the end. Women’s bisexuality is used as an excuse for allowing lesbian relations yet somehow denying women total autonomy. That was then. I am not a practising goth now but sometimes visit. Not being among them it’s hard to see where they are at. I see the younger women as triumphant as ever riding a wave of freedom, at the same time I know how age can catch up with you, and pull you down (as the drugs wear off?)

‘Designing Women’ looks at how women who undergo elective mammoplasty corroborate existing patriarchal hegemony. They are simultaneously pawns and free agents who recognise their enhanced power as women with breasts of a certain shape and size, in a culture predisposed to appreciate such. “…the hegemony of beauty is exercised less in one-on-one interactions wherein a significant other expresses dissatisfaction with a specific woman’s beauty than with women’s internalisation of the generalised other, communicated through the hegemonic gaze.”

Injuries of class; like deviants tortured publicly in the 17th century, poor women bear bodily marks of their crime to remind us what could become of us. “The bodies of poor women and children, scarred and mutilated by state-mandated material deprivation… work as spectacles… for socialising and controlling bodies…” Branded with Infamy, Vivyan C Adair

Letting go of the Internalised Male Gaze

We (women) each have a censor inside of us judging us from a (perceived) man’s perspective. Not bad since we are often trying to attract them – good to be on top of what they may think of us. One step ahead of them. Yet debilitating when taken to an extreme so that concern over our appearance and behaviour dominates our lives, taking up far too much time, and at the cost of far more important issues – like getting equal pay and decent maternity rights. And when our perception of the male gaze informs us that we must relentlessly diet or modify ourselves this is doubtless damaging for health mental and physical. Our internalisation of the ‘male’ gaze is not fictitious though – we glean it from media’s obsession. We women are not supposed to take up physical space – or by extension power space; we’re not supposed to have our own voices.

In ‘Letting Ourselves Go’, Cecilia Hartley exposes how fat women are the only real feminists. For my entire adult life I have had a body that is deemed acceptable as a woman’s; a little pre-pubescent in form but not without curves, I don’t have to diet to remain a healthy size 8, in fact I eat quite a lot of what I want. I don’t go to the gym, but I am a compulsive cyclist and if I don’t get that buzz racing round the city I start to feel restless. And I hold tricky poses day in day out because that gets me high too. Natural expression and genetics. What am I doing pushing body confidence? Sharing a good feeling; and besides it’s more than just bodily boldness; confidence spans so many realms. If I can give something I take for granted to lots of others, maybe the universe will show me what has previously eluded me.

There is so much more I could say about this thought provoking book, but I must to bed and finish reading it!

IMG_4806

The Pieta at Spirited Bodies 10; 8/2/13, photo by Gil Limor

The Pieta at Spirited Bodies 10; 8/2/13, both photos by Gil Limor

A Little Assymetry & a simple twist

Workshops are progressing smoothly and the machine rolls on steadily. I have decided to spend more time at my home (to centre my female energies!) and am reading a book about altars that women make at home. It is apparently a long tradition¬† that has helped to maintain women’s spirituality throughout masculinely charged times. Women from the oriental East, South America and Northern Europe have all arrived at similar practises as a means to survival of the soul. In church , mosque, temple or synangogue, only men have the divine connection (apart from a little leeway recently), women often being kept away from sacred rites. At home, however women are free to exercise their instinctive spirituality.

A collection of favourite objects, mementos of friends, loved ones and dead relatives; symbolic images both personal and universal, amassed and arranged to inspire deep connection. An entire room may be given up to being an altar, or there may be several altars in a house, each for a different purpose; or else a single altar may suffice. I started to realise that without being aware of it, I had the makings of a few altars in my home. On the mantle piece a framed photograph of my Mother on her wedding day, an old Chinese carved wooden box taken from my Grandfather’s office after he died, and lower down on the woodwork, art postcards from a Great-aunt, my Grandfather again, and by Klimt and Schiele – 2 of my Mother’s favourite artists. Then resting by the gas fire the walking stick from 2 of my plays, beads from (when I took over) my sister’s squat, and crystals and candle sticks on the hearth.

By the computer a postcard from my sister with a painting that my Grandmother embroidered and hangs in my parents’ home, a small plastic polar bear to remind me of someone I call ‘Bear’, and a chipped mug given to me by theatre directors of a show I starred in a few years back. Small shiney stones and pretty shells, a pressed sycamore wing and a found lamp from my first home away from home. Some people like to put the past completely behind them, get rid of the old and start afresh. That can be healthy too, but I see a value in all my experiences and relationships and want to cherish the love and warmth they have given me, may still give me through memory. In my bedroom another two altars await activation! The dressing table beckons, as does another fire place bedecked with choice memorabilia.

In this evening’s workshop I want to bring attention to the beauty of a little assymetry in poses, and as well the way a subtle twist can add the right amount of complexity.

Here are some images from last week’s workshop, by Rade, and further down are some memories from the beloved Mortlake Christmas experience courtesy of one of the models.

imaginary cards in a tense game to the left, and a woman in mourning (at a nude funeral)

imaginary cards in a tense game to the left, and a woman in mourning (at a nude funeral)

the artists are mirrored by the models in sketching poses!

the artists are mirrored by the models in sketching poses!

a selection of Mike's paintings in Mortlake

a selection of Mike’s paintings in Mortlake

a portion of The Raft of the Medusa

a portion of The Raft of the Medusa

more rafting

more rafting

the storm in pencil I think by Charles

the storm in pencil I think by Charles

The Last Supper

The Last Supper where some of the diners got to lounging

SAM_2851

International Womens Pay

Tory tenure taking hold; welfare cuts finally hit home. One way or another I cannot afford the same space I have done – and I am working more than ever. Unless you have a private income, life modelling will not likely get you more than shared accommodation. No bad thing sharing, but I gotta say, 2 years in a flat by myself is the best thing to happen to me in some time. Headspace. You come out of a relationship, something intense and all consuming and you just want to feel… yourself… breathe. A privilege to be cherished this incredible space. In the quiets of conservation land I found a place roughly decorated with old fire places. Two grand of olde family money waiting for nothing in particular cushioned my landing.

Well it gave me time to set up Spirited Bodies and now we will become a charity. This evening we gave our first presentation to ladies at the Womens Institute in SW19. I read a little from a script and we excelled at flashing tricky poses to get them drawing. “This lot need to be entertained” the president told us. In March we’ll up the game for a bigger crowd at Southbank and this time it will be political. The female body and the male gaze. Stories of transformation and try it out now if you dare (and have a vagina).

Living with people is a powerful test of relationship, and I would always prefer it to be a free choice, not one elicited by circumstance, though there are some people who would never choose well much at all so circumstance must pretty much dictate directions!

Yesterday modelling in Dulwich where they warmed the wine for extra heating I found myself missing an ex… in the most familiar way. When someone is a principal reason for one being in a particular place now. He said I must never write about him, but lately he has gone off the radar and I worry. If you are reading and you know who you are, please give me a nod in some way to say yes, I am still here ok.

It is more and more the time to care for your dear ones, with colder nights, we must share the bill.

Losing my head in my flat all alone

Losing my head in my flat all alone

a pretty trim figure but where is my mind?

a pretty trim figure but where is my mind?

like a mermaid or a snake I want to flip my powerful tail

like a mermaid or a snake I want to flip my powerful tail

birthday suit

birthday suit

irreverently languishing

irreverently languishing

behind you

behind you

sleeping on the job

sleeping on the job

I got curves

I got curves

Queendom of the Goddess

Last year a life model came to see my performance, ‘Girl in Suitcase’, and on reading related blog posts told me she wanted to discuss some aspects of my past which interested her. Specifically domination. She said the felt an instinctive affinity with this fetish world of slaves and mistresses, but had not yet found an avenue by which to explore it. Life went by for over a year and then we connected again, and it happened this time that another friend was introducing me to a club called ‘Pedestal’.

Pedestal is a club for dominatrices and slaves, a club run by women, where women are worshipped. It is my kind of club and fast becoming my new favourite club. On arrival a house-slave presents each woman with a red rose. There is a whole team of house slaves to see to mistresses’ needs and offer canapes throughout the night. Men are allowed in the club as long as they are slaves, or at least agree to the club’s ethos that women are in charge. There is a room called the Goddess Room where men may only speak when spoken to (by a woman), otherwise they must wait their turn. My friends and I were treated to back massages by female masseuses in this room. As I lay having tension squeezed out of my lower back muscles so tight from poses putting pressure on the shapely curve in my lower spine, I watched women administering consented torture to men chained to racks, frames and other devices.

There is a theatrical element to this club as guests wear some extraordinary clothes, especially shoes and get up to some bizarre practices which are clearly meant to be watched. You do not feel wrong watching because that seems to be the point. One slave wore a harness and saddle and spent the night giving rides as a donkey to willing mistresses! In a fairly large cage men lie down in a row waiting to be trampled by the dominatrixes. They even queue up lying down at the entrance of the cage so that there is a run up. Once in the cage, ropes hanging from above offer support to the women usually in high heals, sometimes stilettoes as they set to trampling.

Here is an unflattering but action-filled picture of me having fun in the cage!

http://www.clubpedestal.com/viewImage.html?event=latest&image=7

My fellow life model’s first visit to Pedestal was a definite success. We had discussed her intention which related to an overwhelming dissatisfaction with the world and humanity at present. She said this frequently made her feel violent and made her worry for her sanity. A huge sense of injustice begotten by her Father having chosen money over her wellbeing gnaws at her. She feels disgust at men in particular, perhaps abetted by knowing of the extreme levels of corruption in her own country, led by powerful men.

She asked me what she could do in this club. I said you cannot just go and punch a man in the face, but you can engage with slaves who would like to be punished. Build up a rapport with them and they will willingly, gladly let you slap, spank and beat them amongst other activities. There need not be any sexual intent from the woman though the man is likely to get turned on even if he cannot act on it. If he upsets you then of course you may reprimand him and punish him.

So when slaves approached my friends and I and asked if someone would beat them, we handed them over to our curious new friend. Soon she had a queue of men to vent her frustrations on and she was smiling too. She was a natural with a whip and managed to break more than one spanking implement! As I left the club with her, men stopped her to compliment her trampling technique and suitably harsh beatings. One of the promoters wanted her to be on his guest list in future, and she would be very welcome in some other fetish clubs too.

This club is an ideal end to the working week. I found it hard to muster enthusiasm before going, being so tired – it had been such a busy week – except knowing I would be accompanying a potential dominatrix for her 1st time and hanging out with girlfriends in a special place. When I arrived however, the uplifting ambiance and general attention to my and other womens’ happiness completely transformed me and I got right into the mood of the night. I found the most amusing slave to entertain me and my friends; he proved good company, and his peculiar yet balanced moves hailed from some background in physical theatre, he was a bit of a jester. Every woman needs a good slave now and again!

Looking forward to more fun in the dominant woman’s playground that is Pedestal, in January.

Here are some images from a job this last week to which I was accompanied by James once more (http://spiritedbodies.com/2012/10/16/arts-for-all-all-about-the-man/). He had been ill for our event in October and an evening job precludes him from joining the workshop, so necessary preparation is derived by finding one of my jobs which is happy to have an extra trainee model to draw.

James and me for a half hour pose in Sidcup Adult Education College

James and me for a half hour pose in Sidcup Adult Education College

IMAG0945

from another angle we are closer together

from another angle we are closer together

I think this was a 15 minute pose

I think this was a 15 minute pose

IMAG0948

IMAG0949

IMAG0950

IMAG0952

IMAG0953

IMAG0954

Female Orgasm & Orgasmic Meditation

TEDx SF 2011 Alive - Nicole Daedone ©Suzie Kat...

TEDx SF 2011 Alive РNicole Daedone ©Suzie Katz #4103 (Photo credit: TEDx SF)

This is about the art of stroking the clitoris, watching it, paying it 100% attention and talking and listening to our partners about how it feels. Or perhaps the art of having your clitoris stroked by someone else.

Last week my favourite club posted an event on Facebook about a talk on Female Orgasm. Basically if more women came more the world would be So Much better. If more women were turned on there would be more happiness. So a new movement spreads the message about a 15 minute daily practice which we share with a partner; a meditation that focuses on the clit and is mutually beneficial for giver and receiver . It is not something we can do to ourselves because the only way we can really let go is by entrusting another to enable us. Nicole Daedone (who came up with this ‘Orgasmic Meditation’) says it is nature’s way of pushing us to connect with others; if we could actually do everything alone we might not bother with each other. We Need to connect with others in order to feel our best.

Nicole says when women meet potential partners we are scanning and prodding for signs – we feel turned on when we receive a signal that they pay us the right sort of attention, that they take extremely good care of us. When we feel truly safe and that we are in the hands of someone who will take better care of us when we are at our most vulnerable than we would ourselves, then we may be turned on and even fall in love. At the time of orgasm a woman is technically vulnerable, she has let all her defenses down. For once she is relaxed and just enjoying being.

Someone asked “What do men get out of this practice?” Nicole asked the audience for the answer and a guy immediately responded: “They get to see someone unfold and open up in amazing ways, and just by being part of the process it affects them in a profound way too¬† – it takes both parties to a higher state from where everything is lighter.”
How does this relate to Spirited Bodies? There is the element of nudity or semi nudity involved in the practice, and the fact that it’s about loving ourselves as we are. That it may be performed with someone close to us or a stranger if we desire. It is not necessarily a prequel to sex, it can be just what it is, and that is the point. To focus just on that and on enhancing the way we are generally by a few simple techniques. It may be easier than life modelling in some ways, more difficult in others, but both can be liberating.

Before you get to try orgasmic meditation there may be several blocks. Like just being with someone, intimately. It could be that being nude with others and possibly touching in a minimal, non sexual way could open the path towards allowing orgasmic meditation into someone’s life.

The idea with Orgasmic Meditation is that it is not just for couples but for sharing with anyone you feel comfortable with. It may be between female friends or with male friends who are not lovers, just someone who will respect and appreciate the experience.