Shaun kindly asked for my permission to post a blog that was to be a comical take on the challenges of a married man following his women friends on Instagram. He said that he speaks VERY highly of me on the blog and that he’d include rather racy pictures that I’ve publicly posted. The fact that I was getting a former pastor, spiritual leader, social media maven and awesome family guy to talk about some kind of issue of sexuality and social media on his platform excited me. That’s part of my life goal. I am changing the way we talk about sexuality, sensuality, gender norms and culture, so I was on board. Well, I still am. I told my friend that even if he hadn’t asked my permission and was going to write an expose on how “slutty” women are, I’d still be okay because the point is that dialogue. Its to reveal old notions and religious indoctrination and societal suppression that shapes how we see one another through belief systems that have been force fed down our throats. So, write away Shaun. And then he did. Check out the article here…. Me. Instagram Boobies. Happy Wife.
So I read the article. And as of this afternoon I read all 40+ conversations and I started writing notes. To date my notes are four pages, single space typed in microsoft word. I’ll spar you some of those details. I’m just going to share my thoughts as they occur and you can do with them as you will.
Whether you know me personally or not, let me introduce myself. My name is Sheena LaShay. I am passionate about freedom and self expression. Most often that manifest in creative ways, sensual ways and spiritual ways. I meditate and take silent retreats. I host art workshops and stage manage off broadway plays. And, I’m a pole dancer, an erotic mystic and a self proclaimed siren. I believe that sexuality is an inherent part of every human being. I believe in sacred sexuality, erotic mysticism and more. I know that for centuries for whatever reason, humans, cultures, religions and governments have sought to suppress, repress, deny, control and wipe out any form of sexuality they did not deem appropriate in the name of god, in the name of purity, in the name of protecting the sanctity of marriage and in the name of whatever was their fancy. I call bullshit. I think we’ve been going about this all wrong because of fear. Because we don’t know how to master our sexuality. Because we’re so used to just doing what we’ve been told. Etc. Etc. Blah blah blah.
As mentioned, I’m a pole dancer. You may have your notions about that. I honestly don’t care about your notions. But if you bother to read my Pole Dance Blog, titled The North Pole, you’d know that sensual movement has existed since the beginning of time and in many ways. And pole dancing is one of the ways I’ve learned to express that side of me. I’m also a photographer. I take pictures of many things but my favorite thing to take pictures of is women. Specifically sensual, erotic and passionate pictures of women. I am a boudoir photographer.
ALSO, you should know while many people believe sexuality is okay, they think its only ok in privacy and secrecy and in whispers. I call bullshit on that too. If adults and children can’t find healthy, appropriate ways to discuss issues of sexuality out loud without shame and fear, how can we begin to address sexual abuse, assault and violence?
So let’s talk Shaun.
1. Its called breast. “Boobies” is crap. A “BOOB” is a stupid person, a fool, a dunce, a blunder and/or a mistake. Hence “BoobTube”. I think its important we stop with the crappy names for our bodies. Its called a penis. A vagina. A vulva. Breasts. Lips. Buttocks. Use the real names. The subtle implication of referencing them as “boobs” doesn’t help anything. Using the incorrect names helps to foster abuse actually.
2. You stated in regards to me, “This lady has been a huge supporter/defender of mine online. A great person. I honestly don’t know the backstory of this shot.” First off, I AM such a huge supporter and defender of yours. I only give to TWO charities, causes or etc. One being Redmoon Theatre. Two being, pretty much whatever you, your family, your church or organization needs help with because you are one of the most realest, spiritual, religious people I know. But the second part of that sentence is important too. You don’t know the back story of the shot in question. It’s clearly stated at the bottom of the image, “Never released photo from my pole dance shoot.” Shaun or anyone, take a glance at my instagram feed. I put up an explanation of just about every image that’s on there. I put up images of my dance classes from pole dance to aerial hoop. There are food images, travel images, natural hair images and photos of my friends and family. So my photo wasn’t an “I’m alone in my bedroom and I want to play with your marriage by showing my legs.” That photo was a moment captured as I was dancing. It wasn’t even posed. I was dancing. Sort of like if you took a screen shot of any moment of a dancer on So You Think You Can Dance. Do you see what they wear on that show? Its very similar to what I was wearing. Sometimes they were more or less. So while a picture says a 1000 words and not everyone is also going to click your bio to learn about your story, if we’re going to analyze this, its proper to do it within the context. You’re not telling the whole story, so I don’t expect much from the comments.
3. If it were a shot of me in a yoga pose or practicing in a leotard at ballet class, would that pose an issue? See, while there are double standards between men and women. There are also double standards between what’s comfortable for people as a form of self expression and what isn’t. I’m sure my ballet picture or afro caribbean dance picture or yoga picture wouldn’t garner your post or the comments people are leaving. But its sensuality, sexuality and boudoir that, for some reason, makes the average person, “uncomfortable”. As a culture we have some deep rooted issues with SEX.
4. Someone asked in the comment section if they’d want their sister or mother to do it. Yes, actually. I believe giving women and girls a platform for a safe expression of sexuality is important. So while my sister doesn’t post pole dance photo shoot images on instagram, I’d love for her to take dance classes. My mother too. In fact my mother wants me to teach her to pole dance. Because its my goal to pretty much share the joy of pole dancing and teach others what its really about, I post pictures as marketing and as a way to incite dialogue. Do you know how many women have taken classes or been inspired because of the photos or videos I post. Check out “Moving Meditation.” Trust me, its absolutely beautiful, gorgeous, gracious and full of love.
5. Shaun, you called my images racy. I have no problem with the words racy, provocative, erotic, sexual and such. I LOVE all those words. The point though, is if I were dressed in drag, garbage bags, sweats or naked, some man, somewhere, single or married, would be turned on in one way or another. Should I wear a loose fitting robe and stay indoors? Should I cover my hair too? And my mouth? Some men have said my eyes and eye contact disarm them or that my smile disarms them. Should I wear a mask and not have a head shot on my About Me page too? Should I just hide in my closet and play small and pretend I don’t have a body? Should I walk hunched over and always keep my legs closed. Should I not be proud of my own beauty?
6. Speaking of posting images publicly, should a parent not post ANY pictures of their children publicly knowing full well that pedophiles right click those images on their desktop and use them to get off? I’m sure all those easter sunday dress photos that all the mommies posted of little Becky was great fodder for the pedophiles. So just as we’re questioning whether my dance photo should be online, should your family be online? Should men never post images either? Should we ban men from walking around shirtless? There outta be a law for that because let me tell you, I am a visual creature too and the site of a gorgeous man makes me HAPPY. And don’t let him have cologne on and a 5 o’clock shadow. I just love that. I love men. I celebrate them. I digress.
7. Even if you found me attractive from seeing my picture, which I am, what does that have to do with your marriage and your wife? Beautiful, sexy women and men exist EVERYWHERE. Do you never go to the beach? Do you walk down the street blindfolded? We can’t avoid each other’s bodies. So rather than shaming a woman into changing her shirt, maybe we should push ourselves to change our paradigm of thinking about all of this all together.
8. I’d also like to say there’s a HUGE difference between me posting these images on MY instagram feed that you CHOOSE to follow versus me posting them and tagging you or emailing you privately. The latter is an issue. The former, is completely my perogative and I can take full ownership and responsibility for my choices!
9. Your response made me think of two of my friends Sandy and Susan Marshall. Alexander “Sandy” Marshall is a writer, director, producer, two time emmy winner who I had the pleasure of working with. His wife is a producer, singer and firecracker who asks questions later. While stage managing their off broadway show, I shared my love of pole dance. I shared links to my blogs, my images, my videos and the pole dance shows I stage manage. Whenever a new photo pops up on facebook Sandy is quick to like it and/or make a comment. Soon after his wife will make a comment too. Then one or both of them may write me and say how sad they were to miss my last dance show. He even sends me pole dance links, that his wife sees. When I think of a great marriage…which I think they’ve been married longer than I’ve been alive, I think of them. I’d love for the two of them to write a blog post about my dance pictures.
10. You know, before I even read the comments on your blog, I read the questions. Your questions revealed more to me than people’s opinions in answer to your questions. To ask if its okay for ME to do what I want with my body, my image, my social profile is so very telling. To ask that knowing that I never asked you to follow me. To ask that knowing that I clearly state who I am as an artist, dancer, siren and such. It makes me thing of old white men on capital hill circa pre-women’s suffrage or even NOW trying to decide what was/is okay for me to think, say & do or not. I wish you had asked different questions. But I also understand your questions come with your filters and experiences. You are married. You are a christian. You are an american. So on and so forth. Your questions are coming from a culture where its customary to demonize women for their self expression. Its coming from a culture where we debate whether women are to blame for the fall of every nation. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not saying you are doing this but I’m saying the fibers that make up some of your filters…are known to do that.
11. Some of the comments said things like what they are doing is vain. Someone said, “its a shame.” Others said “It’s okay if she wants to be objectified.” Or “they are doing it for attention or affirmation.” Someone else said it shows insecurity, the need for validation and a lack of respect. LORD JESUS! All I can say is CONTEXT people. Um, the logic of it being vain to post images of yourself makes the entire culture of social media vain. We’re all narcissistic. With that same logic, writing in a journal is vain. Putting on make up is vain. Wanting your husband to tell you you’re beautiful is vain. Everything you do it vain. (SO NOT TRUE but with that logic you make it true.) But for those thinking beyond that, we know that social media is used as a tool too for many many things. I’ve stated way up above why I post my dance pictures, so there you go. Um, is it a shame? No. Its not. Repression is a shame though. Am I okay with being objectified? Honestly, I could care less what my image does to a man. Whether he can appreciate the beauty of it, be repulsed by it or go and masturbate to it. That’s his choice. I can not control that. And as mentioned, I could wear a garbage bag and someone could objectify that too. And as mentioned that cute picture you put up of little 6 year old Becky in her ballet picture or your son at his football game, that’s being objectified too as we speak. Do I want attention or affirmation? Actually, nope. That’s not why I share things online. That picture wasn’t posted to garner likes or to get a date or to find new friends or to have someone tell me I’m beautiful. I know my worth. I don’t need anyone to tell me anything. Sometimes i border on arrogance actually. If you knew me, you’d know that I speak about personal empowerment. I inspire women to know their own worth! I have a billion posts about that. So the fact that my dance picture makes mostly other women think I need attention or am vain…again it shows some DEEP ROOTED issues in our culture that they suffer from and not me.
12. Someone else wrote a whole paragraph re: potential employees finding things like this. AGAIN, context people. Google me! Google Sheena LaShay! My public profile is intentional and highly selective. And with that public profile of being an artist, POLE DANCER and siren, I have worked on wall street for a trading firm. In fact, my bosses and colleagues came to pole dance showcase. I am a brand blogger for Verizon where I speak on technology. They know I’m a pole dancer. I write for Owning Pink under the leadership of Lissa Rankin where I speak on empowerment and authenticity. Dr. Lissa Rankin was listed by Forbes as one of the 20 most inspiring women to follow on twitter. Did you know because of my public profile regarding POLE DANCE and SEXUALITY, she asked me to write about whatever I wanted to on her website? I stage managed for a multi-emmy winning director without interviewing because he googled me and liked my stage manager video. My current day job working in the EXECUTIVE office of a well known, global company that you probably give money to EVERY DAY hired me without interviewing me but they initially got wind of me because they found my profile online. My life has never been hindered by pole dance or my boudoir images. And any job that doesn’t want ALL of me, is not a job that I want. But I’ve worked for corporate america and the entertainment industry and they all know me as the writer, the granola tree hugging geek, the book worm, the mixed media artist, the pole dancer, the siren that loves to date men with yummy muscles, the big sister that sacrifices everything for her family, the amazing baker…see I don’t compartmentalize my life. And that’s intentional. Its a part of that thing I’m doing where I’m showing you can be all of you because well, I think that’s what was intended anyway when god, buddha, source, spirit created us. So, to that commenter, I do OWN my sexuality. I do understand the permance of the internet…I’ve been blogging for 10+ years. I know what happens when you google me and do a background check. And anyone who knows me, knows my intelligence. Trust me. But also what i do know is that many of the commenters, aren’t people that I’m looking to engage with. See, I’ve build a business and brand that centers on expression and freedom in creative, sensual and spiritual ways. I have a select audience that I look to engage with, partner & collaborate with and so on. And most of those commenters are the kinds of people that don’t fit that brand. Therefore, I have no expectations of them understanding me or what any of this is truly about. It is what it is. My life remains well and as I have created it to be.
13. Someone else also said, “Owning your sexuality is not the same thing as advertising it online.” Does that mean that ALL dancers, especially contemporary dancers, tango dancers, samba dancers, belly dancers and more should all take down their websites? Also what does owning your sexuality mean to you? The answer is different for everyone. And your answer is your answer. Its not my answer. We’re different and there is space in the world for us to be different and co-exist. Someone else said something about “using your body as currency.” I love when people make that comment. As if I don’t have a business plan. As if I didn’t receive a $125,000+ FULL ACADEMIC SCHOLARSHIP to university. As if I don’t know love. As if I’m a prostitute. As if MILLIONS of people every day don’t sell their souls, their passions, and their true hearts desires for a paycheck and a false sense of security. I’m not selling my body. But I can name 20 friends who sell their entire life for a paycheck that’s not even guaranteed and an office with fluorescent lights even though they know that’s not their life purpose or passion. What do you have to say about them? What do you have to say about yourself?
14. To the one person who said they don’t understand why I post those types of pictures online, see this blog post. My purpose is clearly stated.
15. My good friend Claire, an author, dancer, teacher and so much more wrote an article called, “How to Look At Women.“ Check it out. I’ll put part of it here. “Personally, I don’t think it is problematic that men look at women. It think it is the kind of attention they give a woman and all the assumptions they carry with them about her based on her appearance, occupation, or whatever that is troubling. Women do it to women too. How many times have you been called a slut by another woman because you pole dance? Here is the thing: Overt displays of sexuality by a woman do not give you more of a right to judge, touch, shame or violate that woman’s boundaries in any way. But they also don’t mean that you have to act like they are not happening. There is a way of turning your gaze towards a sexually provocative woman that is neither demeaning nor dismissive. There is a way of appreciating a woman’s beauty that acknowledges your own feelings without disrespecting her.” I also like, “There are women who dress and behave in provocative manner because they are sexually dis-empowered. There are women who dress conservatively because they are sexually dis-empowered. There are also women who dress provocatively and conservatively because they are sexually empowered and clear in their values, desires and boundaries. It would be nice if we could acknowledge and honor these choices. It would also be nice if women felt truly free to make these choices from an authentic place….. “
16. Claire also wrote, “Why Can’t We Move Past the Sexy Stigma.“ In that post, which I encourage you to read fully since you have daughters, she writes, “One of the biggest concerns with young women and sex today is that they often view sex and sexuality as something you give as a performance for attention, rather than something you engage in because you want to. In other words, our culture needs to teach women how to get in touch with what desire and arousal feel like, how to experience it in their bodies, and how to express what they want and don’t want.”
17. I write a LOT about sexuality and such. If your audience is truly interested in more and not just stating their subjective opinions about the motivation of my dance picture, they can read… XOXO where I write WHY I dance. They should probably read Wild, Magical Woman. They should most definitely read, “Just Come Out and Say It. I’m a Pole Dancer.” Because I’m a pole dancer, my sister asked me if I was a stripper. Read our convo here. Read abut Beth. She’s the dance teacher that taught me that authentic women express themselves truthfully. Authentic women do not hide. They do not hinder. They do not restrict. They do not demean. They do not belittle. They can be shy or they can growl. They can sashay or they can devour. Neither is less or more. Women come in all shades of persona. Ladies come in all types.” Here’s a video review of my first few months pole dancing. Or how about checking out “Inner Awareness,” where I wrote…“I went for a sassy gym class and I discovered a sanctuary of freedom where the teachers and the studio have a mission beyond teaching me a trick, climb, invert and a sassy 8 count. Through yoga, hip circles and moving meditation, they’re guiding me on a path of inner awareness, outward expression and soulful conversation.” I wrote about how “None of My Pleasures Are Guilty.” I talk about “Emotional and Sexuality.” Hell, I even talked about the difference in “Loving and Fucking.” Yes, I swear. I wrote an article with my definition of “What is Sexuality”. I even have an “Erotic Manifesto.”
Check out Ilov’s story below. There’s video footage and an interview. HEAR what she has to say before you judge what you think her motives are.
18. Lastly, since you and your family now live in New York, aside from treating you and your wife to tea or coffee or dinner which I asked to do on instagram weeks ago, I’d personally like to invite your wife to take an intro dance class with me if her schedule allows. If she hates it, she can leave after 5 minutes but so far of the 30+ women who I’ve personally invited, so far all results were positive. My phone number is 347.470.5745. Call me.
So next time CONTEXT, Shaun. My platform is sexuality and sensuality and I’m positioning myself to be a leader in the field. Posting my picture and asking about it, is like posting a picture of Susie Bright, Anais Nin or Pamela Madsen. The image is the point, Shaun. Also, thanks for this dialogue. As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this years theme is on Healthy Sexuality, I think this is a great way to start the month out. What is your personality responsibility regarding your own sexuality and the ways you express it? What are others responsible for when it comes to your personal expression of sexuality?
Also, Sheila Kelley has some great things to say. I don’t agree with all of it. She left out some important bits. Etc. Etc. But listen to her Ted talk. She’s a pole dancer….speaking at TED about sexuality. Yeah, watch that video!
This month is Sexual Assault Awareness month. The 2013 Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign focuses on healthy sexuality and child sexual abuse prevention. This April, join the conversation. Start talking about healthy childhood development to prevent child sexual abuse. Throughout the month I’ll be writing all types of posts regarding this issue and my personal experiences.
I create videos as a way to share my story. You can watch three related ones by clicking the titles below.
Also check out…
If you are a victim of abuse and assault and you would like to seek help or report your crime, please find all kinds of resources at RAINN. If you would like to share your story with me privately, be featured this month either publicly or anonymously or you just need an encouraging word, please shoot me an email at SheenaLaShay [at] Gmail [dot] com.