Shuttered Lens has asked The Photographer and myself whether we would be interested in being photographed for his upcoming book, I think I said "yes!" before the question was even finished.
I am, at heart, a bit of a show-off. This is filed in BDSM-speak as being an "exhibitionist" which makes it sound a bit more sophisticated and a little less gratuitously self-centered. Exhibitionism, when medicalised, is also known charmingly as Lady Godiva Syndrome, although realistically it only becomes a psychological problem when it interferes with daily life, when someone needs to do it rather than enjoys doing it. For me, it is a fetish. Would that all perverted activities were as easily separated from insanity in the minds of the medical establishment.
Where does it come from, this drive? Pure vanity, could be a reasonable answer: I like being looked at, being paid attention to - it makes me feel special and beautiful. But it's not simply that. There's a validation of what is being looked at, people are paying attention because they like what they see, and that is a confidence boost. Vanity needs a mirror, I suppose. The lens of a camera or other people's eyes. There is a thrill to being watched, but only under certain circumstances.
I'm a very specific exhibitionist: the thought of flashing in a public park full of people does nothing for me except turn my mind to raincoats and goose pimples. Although a discrete show of the top of a stocking to my partner in a secluded part of the same park is different. I enjoy being naked and semi-naked in kinky clubs and skimpily dressed in vanilla ones, because these are spaces where there is a shared understanding and approval of what I am doing. Not so subversive, after all, then. And perhaps not precisely an exhibitionist? There's an issue of consent. Not mine, but that of the onlooker. In a public place, revealing naked flesh to those who have not consented to witness it is at best a little coarse, at worse could potentially be triggering, although this might apply more to men exposing themselves to women.
When done for sexual gratification, the prohibition and the risk of being caught can be part of the attraction, although not for me, the thought of being naked in public where "normal" (excuse the quotation marks) people could see me is quite alarming. I would not feel safe - which is at the heart of my anxiety. Like fairground rides, the thrill is only made possible when fear is married with an assurance of safety.
5 weeks ago