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confident curvy woman sitting and looking to camera

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If you don’t want to see my titties, don’t scroll through the photos on my phone. Seriously. Just beyond the screenshots of painfully relatable memes and pictures of my family, you’ll likely find pictures of my nipples, my ass, or what my grandmother used to affectionately call my “pocketbook.” There are pictures in and out of lingerie. Some with candles in the background or in broad daylight—don’t ask. Many of these photos have never been sent to another soul. They’re for me and me alone. I know it may not make sense but read me out.

A few years ago, I became a lot more intentional about my personal pleasure. Not pleasure in the sense of vibrators, but pleasure in the sense of figuring out what made me feel happy, joyful, fulfilled, and beautiful. We feel so many things: stressed, worn, empty, overwhelmed, but how often do we feel beautiful, desirable, and sexy? When’s the last time you experienced pleasure for pleasure’s sake without it being about pleasing another person? When’s the last time you gave yourself the same effort you give your lover, your kids, your job?

When I realized I didn’t feel sensual and feminine nearly as much as I thought I should, I created a pleasure routine that involved me putting in all of the effort I would normally put into a lush night with a lover into myself. I am my first lover. All the love in my life originates with me. If I’m capable of creating love and pleasure for someone else, who is more deserving than me? No one. So, I light my candles, soak in a bath, shower with a nice body scrub, and oil my skin. I slip into something sexy. Girl, sometimes I even do my hair and makeup if I’m really trying to add a little razzle-dazzle. I play music and bask in the intimate ambiance of my room. And a major part of this experience is snapping a few erotic self-portraits. Taking these photos has helped me develop my self-esteem and honor myself as divine. Here’s how.

I make peace with the body

When the world is weird, it’s easy to get swept away in the drama and angst, especially now in the middle of a global pandemic and the beginnings of another civil rights movement. People are tired, hurt, and angry, rightfully so. There’s strife on every side. In times like this, it becomes increasingly important to give myself time and space to properly take care of me. When I’m overwhelmed by my thoughts and feelings, I employ my pleasure routine. My routine helps bring me back to the center. It helps me focus on what’s right here, right now. And what is right here, is a body that is working hard to keep me alive. What is right now, is a moment I intentionally steal away from my obligations just to honor and love on myself. I document that moment through my pictures.

I document the perfectly manicured nails or the chipped toenail polish. When I photograph myself, I focus on the legs that have carried me to and from, the arms that hugged the ones I loved, the breasts that rise and fall with each breath I take. I document my round, luscious behind that sways and captivates. I photograph the hips that forcefully make room for me in the tightest of spaces. I look at the body and honor it. I use the moment to bring attention to how much I have loved or neglected my body when things in my life got heavy. Did I nourish it? Did I move it enough? Is the body hydrated?

Photographing myself in those moments is almost an apology for the neglect I put it through because I didn’t prioritize it in the same way I prioritized my job, my friends, my obligations. It’s also praise for the love I gave it even when things around me were falling apart. My dad told me once, “There are only two people guaranteed to be with you for the rest of your life. That’s you and God, so you’d better make sure you have a good relationship with those two people.” You will always be yours. Is the body not worth admiration? Is the body not worth appreciation? Looking at yourself from a loving eye changes the relationship you have with the cellulite, the saggy boobs, and whatever else makes you “flawed.” Your body is not flawed, it is resilient.

I remind myself how desirable I truly am

When I take nudes, it’s not about making myself seem sexy, but more about documenting how sexy I am naturally. This sexiness is not performative for neither me nor a lover. Too often we leave the good stuff for our lovers without ever experiencing it ourselves. And because we can’t see what they see, a lot of times we’re left wondering or unbelieving when they tell us all they’ve seen. We can’t see our own forest for our trees. Photographing yourself allows you to see the same subject from a different vantage point, which hopefully gives a different perspective. What do you look like from behind? When you’re bent over or sprawled all out. What do your thighs look like at the view from which your lover devours you? Sis, you are worth exploring– over and over again.

Taking nudes for the sake of taking them allows you to see yourself in another way. It encourages you to make peace with the body in a way you may not normally. I’m telling you, girl, this ass looks great from behind. The way my curves are set just right. The way my skin is smooth and brown and buttery. I look edible (and I am). Before taking the time to see myself from my lovers’ point of view, all I could focus on were my imperfections. I couldn’t fathom how or why my lovers were excited to see me until I beheld this beauty from the eye of another beholder. With that, I saw my light. I turned myself on. Now, I’m convinced my lovers are jealous that I get to experience this goodness day in and out. How dare I take that opportunity for granted?

I feel empowered

Not only do I feel desirable, I feel valuable. I feel powerful and in control. There’s no lover rushing to the ooey-gooey good parts; there’s only me going at my pace on my time. I feel like a goddess, girl. I feel like that girl. I feel the Beyoncé in me rising when I’m snapping my pictures. I feel the energy of every Meg the Stallion song coming up. For me, taking nudes makes me feel like I have agency over my own body. Many times, my body has been an object of someone else’s desire or a means to an end for someone else. It’s been a fetish or a kink. It’s been harassed and assaulted, like many other women. Photographing myself is like a symbolic gathering of myself.

My photos remind me that I am in control of what I share. I am in control of who I share myself with, physically, and otherwise. Sis, this body is under quality control. Women are not playthings or fleshlights. We are whole and human, and we deserve to be valued. My photographs are for me and whomever I deem worthy. Patriarchy has manipulated women into feeling they have to chase or prove themselves worthy of their lover’s affection but forget that, girl. You are inherently worthy. Do you see how beautiful you are? If not, take a picture and study yourself objectively. You are powerful and queenly. You have autonomy and agency.

Photographing myself isn’t just about my new lingerie. It’s about honoring myself in an intentional way that reminds me I am divine. Women deserve good things. We need to give them to ourselves even if no one else does or will. We deserve to feel deserving. We deserve to feel sexy and seen without feeling objectified. So, the next time you’re feeling “unpretty,” take off your insecurities and your clothes. Create an intimate moment for yourself and document it just for you.

 Jasmine Grace is a lot of things at once. This Social Worker has an eclectic mix of eccentricities. Her writing centers itself at the intersection of self-love, personal development, and emotional wellness. 

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