Amy on Body Shame
Think twice before you take your clothes off.
Judge a book by its cover.
Those were my first lessons on body shame.
I’ve wanted to get this off my chest for a long time, but never had the courage to share this story about an ex-boyfriend who insisted on taking nude photos of me, and then went and showed the world.
I was around 18 years old and in a relationship (to my mind, at least, though I wouldn’t call it that now). At this age, I was attracted to so-called ‘bad guys’ and he was textbook bad guy. I was impressionable and he was much older. He told me everything I wanted to hear. I looked up to him and his flashy lifestyle - the fast car, the high-rise apartment on the Queensland Gold Coast.
He begged and begged me to take naked photos. I was about to go overseas for a modelling contract and he sold me the story that no-one else would see them; he wanted something to remember me by while I was away (no iPhones back then). He said he loved me, and if I didn’t let him take the photos, it meant I didn’t love him. This man knew how to manipulate. And I let him.
So he took the naked pictures. I was under the influence of alcohol and my inhibitions were down.
Not long after, I found out that he did this to all his girlfriends. One day, he showed me a large green suitcase containing all sorts of pornographic material, including pictures of other girls that made me feel sick. Lucky for those women, I ripped up those ones.
It was clear he had an unhealthy attitude towards women and I was just another notch in the belt, just another naked woman trophy for his collection.
I was just another notch in the belt,
just another naked woman trophy for his collection.
At the time, I felt he had control over me, because he had possession of my images. I held a deep uncertainty around what he would do with them, but that hit me only later on, after I found out he was showing them to anyone who cared to look.
Thankfully, after seeing the suitcase full of this material, I had the courage to leave. But when a friend told me his brother had seen some pictures of me at a restaurant bar he was working at, I realised not only was the ex-boyfriend following me and stalking me, but also showing the pictures of me to his staff. Even worse, he was contacting my clients to rant and rave about me.
That’s how bitter and twisted he was!
Because of this shameful experience relating to my body, I had feelings of debilitating regret, where I would become so depressed and anxious that I couldn’t get out of bed. Inside, I kept acting out scenarios and beating myself up for allowing him to take the photos in the first place.
I wanted to punish myself for being so stupid for ending up in this situation. From this feeling of shame, I set the bar low for how I should be treated. I went on to date arseholes. I felt awful. And on top of all this, my career in the media was taking off. I was working on TV and in magazines more and more, but was terrified that these pictures would get into the wrong hands. I had no money to speak of - at least, not the sort of money you pay people to not publish photos- and no control over the media.
Here’s the message I’d love for you to take away from my story.
You don’t have to be in the media to experience feelings of resentment and shame. No woman or man should have to go through the consequences of blackmail such as that.
Eventually, the man wrote to me via Facebook to say he was sorry for his behaviour. I felt some relief –even though it had taken a decade - but the reality was I’d suffered 10 years of anxiety and low self-esteem.
I’m sharing my experiences because I hope to encourage you to be mindful with whom you choose to share intimate photos. And just because the relationship maybe all lovey dovey in the beginning, as you can see, it can end up bitter. Someone may have control over you and you may feel helpless.
Looking back at these lessons, I realise I was young and naïve which didn’t help. I also didn’t set clear boundaries. I was the nice, polite girl who was scared of confrontation. I didn’t have a backbone to stand up for myself.
This is how my career developed as a women’s self-relationship coach. I share my life lessons to heal myself as well as to help you practise clear boundaries and develop a voice to stand up for yourself if and when you are put in a situation where you feel uncomfortable.
I’m pleased and relieved to see in a recent article in the Daily Telegraph that sharing saucy photos without consent can mean a jail term. If you’ve been a victim, click on the link below as this may help you. Put your mind at ease, as we can now take action and take back control of our personal lives.
What I've leanrt
Stay mindful about whom you allow to take photos of you. For example, you may have been dating a man for a month and are in the honeymoon phase. All of a sudden, he wants to take naked photos of you. Do you honestly know him well enough in that time to allow him to take photos of you? You never know whose hands they may end up in. Perhaps he’s happy to brag. Once he forwards a photo to his friends, you have no control at all!
If he were going to break up with you over not allowing him to take photos, I’d truly think carefully if he’s the one for you.
Be mindful if you have been drinking, as you may let down your guard. At a party, you never know who’s happy to snap away when you least expect it.
You don’t know where your pictures could end up. Once on social media, images of you are out there for everyone to see. Luckily, there is a new law in place where images can’t be published without your consent, but it still pays to be cautious.
Social media photos can be published by anyone!
Ask yourself questions. If you feel uncomfortable using your voice and speaking up, think about why you are unsure in any given situation. Sleep on it. Never rush into anything!
Consider how you feel. Do you feel pressured or uncomfortable?
Trust your gut feelings around being pressured. Have the confidence to walk away and confide in a close friend or family member about how you are feeling about the situation.