Being Naked in Public and Feeling Naked in Private

A story about discomfort and self-reflection.
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In the past month I was inseminated for the first time, masturbated in a circle with 10 naked women, and watched myself onscreen in an interactive documentary. None of these things is particularly strange for me.

However, I do feel like I’ve been in a blender on the high setting. Is this “life in the fast lane”? Do we even say that anymore? Whenever I hear that phrase, it always reminds me of Working Girl, when Alec Baldwin asks Melanie Griffith, “So, how’s life in the fast lane?”

“Well, it’s fast,” Melanie replies. “Real fast and busy.”

My First Foray on Film

Last week famed multimedia artist Jonanthan Harris released his latest project, I Love Your Work. I collaborated with Jonathan as both a subject and a sort of co-creator. He told me that he wanted to follow me around while I was filming my porn movie Therapy. He explained that he wanted to shoot me for 24 hours, taking one 10-second video clip every five minutes, and then move on to another woman in the movie and keep switching like that every day for 10 days. He called it “do-si-do, documentary-style.” It sounded like total madness to me, but I’m usually up for any kind of crazy shit, so I told him “yes.”

He shot the documentary three years ago, and unlike my glossy films, his project is all about getting under the veneer. And I have to be honest: I did not like watching myself at all.

Despite being way out there with my sexuality, I do have pretty solid boundaries, and I like some privacy. Jonathan was always respectful, but the camera catches everything. Waking up in the morning without my hair and makeup done? Yep, he caught it. My bed unmade? Yes, that also. Me tap-tap-tapping on my keyboard, sending emails for five hours? That too.

Watching myself just sitting alone being myself made me feel so uncomfortable. The sensation that I got from watching myself is probably similar to what you might experience while looking at your skin with a magnifying mirror. All the flaws look huge. I emailed him, “This is awful. I’m so boring. All I do is talk on the phone and eat.” Honestly, if I had known how raw the movie would be, I’m not sure I would have agreed to do it at all.

Therapy… More Than Porn Alone

As I mentioned, the movie I was shooting during Jonathan’s project was Therapy. I chose to explore that theme because I was a patient in weekly cognitive psychotherapy sessions. In 2009 I nearly lost a horrible battle with suicidal depression, and in 2010 I was trying to heal myself. Jonathan’s project came at a time when I was just beginning to process the painful memories of my childhood sex abuse. I was swimming around my head in a terrible mess of thoughts and trying to find my way as the new girl in the tough world of adult entertainment.

In three years I made tremendous personal and professional progress. I got married. I built a business empire. I dealt with my heavy emotional shit. It was time to give myself a break and leave the therapist’s couch.

Nonetheless, when I quit therapy in December, it seemed like I was missing some important piece of the puzzle. Having faced my dark secrets, I still felt that I couldn’t get past what had happened to me as a child. I felt as though my body didn’t really belong to me, because the person whom I should have been able to trust the most had violated it. I also share my sex life in a very public way, which is often difficult because of the harsh criticism that comes with exposing yourself to others. So what was left for me? How could I find a way to love myself deeply to the core?

Breaking Free

The acute self-consciousness triggered by watching Jonathan’s movie was completely swept away this weekend after I participated in Carlin Ross and Betty Dodson’s legendary “Bodysex” workshop.

I suffer from overthinking. I can be very shy. But let me tell you: Your inhibitions drop very quickly when you’re sitting on the floor naked, eating a macadamia-nut cookie while looking point-blank at nine women’s inner labia.

I finally found myself, the person inside my skin.

When I arrived at Betty’s apartment on Saturday, Carlin answered the door naked. I was the last person there, because I felt so nervous that I delayed my arrival as long as possible. I took off every stitch of clothing, but I was not sure whether I could make it through the day. Going around the circle, each of us shared the reason that we had come. I could not hold the flood of sadness as I told the women that I was there because my father had sexually abused me and I could not get over it. Sobbing, I could barely speak. As I looked around the circle into the faces of these women, ages 20 to 84, I saw my pain reflected. Love poured out of their eyes. Their silent affection filled the room.

“Please be patient with me, because this is going to be hard,” I told the group. “This is very emotional for me.”

Betty looked over at me and said rather grumpily, “Honey, life’s emotional!”

And in that moment I felt so much better. In that instant I moved on.

Originally published by the Huffington Post on May 3, 2013

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