Me, Too. | Standing against sexual assault and harassment

ME, TOO. 

Me too-1.jpg

You've likely witnessed the onslaught of social media posts that read "Me too" in reference to those who have been sexually assaulted or harassed. Genuinely, I would be shocked if you haven't been, as well. 

While sexual assault is an actual physical violation that likely will forever scar the victim, harassment is so rampant that it's normalized. Hell, *I* have normalized it. If I were to let myself get all up in a tizzy every time a man relentlessly cat called me, every time a man licked his lips at me, every time I got a honk followed with "where you going, baby?!", I wouldn't have any time left for happiness. I've begun to shrug it off as normal. I roll my eyes, occasionally flip the bird, and don't make eye contact. 

I've experimented with my outfits, I've experimented with my reactions, I've experimented with my body language as I'm walking. None of it makes a difference, the harassment continues, and I'm feeling really embarrassed that I even toyed with the idea that I should be doing something different to avoid the harassment.  

With the rise of feminism, I'm happy to say that the US population, especially women, has become more vocal about harassment and assault. People are coming forward more than ever before saying, "Me, too. And it's NOT fucking ok!" Victims are finally beginning to say "It is NOT my fault." Though, society isn't fully on board with that just yet.

Questions are still being asked following a proclamation of sexual assault. Questions like "But did you see how she was dressed?!", "What did she think was going to happen going up to his hotel room for a business meeting?!", and "She should have been more in control of her body and not drank so much." NO. NOT OK.  

"Why did you wait so long to report it?!" Is a question I hear so often when women wait years...often until another woman speaks up about the same individual, before making it publicly known that she was assaulted. I was one of them. Years. And it was a common story. Young girl, older boy, often in a place or situation I shouldn't have been in. I didn't speak up until years later when the rapist resurfaced and began stalking me and threatening me again and I was so terrified that he would get to me, that I finally reported it. Yet I was still asked by people close to me, by law enforcement..."Why are you just now reporting this?". EMBARRASSMENT. SELF BLAME. FEAR OF JUDGEMENT, AND THE FACT THAT I NEVER EVER EVER WANTED TO VOCALIZE THE DETAILS OF MY ASSAULTS. That's why. 

When I went public with my story several months ago to raise awareness for young women who have been raped, abused, neglected, I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support....and also not at all surprised to hear so, SO many people tell me that it has happened to them as well. It's absolutely sickening. 

Almost 20 years after my assaults, I've made my peace (with a side of "mad as hell") and have found my happiness. My husband has restored my belief that there are still good men out there. 

We have voices and need to be heard. If we stop normalizing this behavior, maybe this behavior will stop. If we start calling out the pigs, maybe he pigs will disappear.  At the very least, making ourselves heard is giving permission to other victims that it's important to speak up. 

My choice in career should come as no surprise to those who are closest to me.  I continue to help women reconnect (or maybe connect for the first time) with their bodies, to claim their body as their own, to claim their sexuality as their own. 

And that is why my narrative at Kara Marie Boudoir is do it for yourself. Do it for you! Own your own body, own your sexuality.

Sure, you can gift a book of images to your partner and they will love them. But the experience...that's for you. The moment that you lose your breath while sitting with me at your photo reveal appointment....that's for YOU. The strong, proud, badass feeling you get when you see your favorite image on your bedroom wall every day...THAT IS FOR YOU. No one can take that from you. And if they try, we can call them out on it.  We WILL call them out. I stand with you.

It is more than OK to love yourself...it's necessary. The more we love and respect ourselves, the more we will call out these unacceptable behaviors that pollute our society. 

 

YOUR BODY, YOUR CHOICE OF...

...clothes

...personality 

...body language

...company

...lovers 

 

NOBODY deserves to take those choices from you. NOBODY deserves that kind of power over you...but yourself.  

Choose yourself.

Love yourself.

Respect yourself.

And call out all the assholes that don't. 

 

I love you all so much, thank you so much for all of the support. Know that I'm here for you and will continue to be a voice against those who try to take your power from you. 

Miss M shows us her pump AND her sexy | Austin Boudoir Studio

Occasionally, and I mean *VERY* occasionally, I'll receive an email from a prospective client asking for something a little different than I've ever done before.  Maybe even something a little (gasp) challenging.  And no, I'm not referring to the email that starts out with "I'm wondering if you're comfortable with photographing my girlfriend and I making love?"...because I get those just about every day. Annoying. 

In one session, this client wanted to accomplish my usual artistic boudoir in lingerie, some fully clothed portraits that she could potentially gift to her parents, and some art nudes...including a feature of her nude and embracing her sexy...while wearing her insulin pump. All three were such a different direction than each other, but I felt confident that the challenge would inspire me. After all, I *am* a creative brain (read: scatterbrained), right?!

We sorta kinda nailed it. Miss M was open to my creative interpretations and did an amazing job trusting me and letting me do my thing while also adding her own energy to the session. I LOVE the confidence that is exuded in each of these images. Enjoy.  

 

I received the most beautiful e-mail from Miss M shortly after I sent her "sneak peek" photo and I felt that it was likely highly relevant to so many women, so I thought I'd share it in it's entirety...

*The Boticelli comment she is referencing: I kept telling her what a beautifully classic figure she had. She reminded me of a subject in one of Boticelli's paintings.  She kind of laughed the compliment off at first, but I elaborated and explained again why her figure, just as it was, was beautiful. My compliments to my clients are NEVER meaningless fluff. I specifically look for the absolute best features of my clients (not just physical ones) and I TELL THEM. This a boudoir shoot with me is NOT just about the finished images. It's about how my clients feel about themselves along the way. And I pride myself on that. 

*The Boticelli comment she is referencing: I kept telling her what a beautifully classic figure she had. She reminded me of a subject in one of Boticelli's paintings.  She kind of laughed the compliment off at first, but I elaborated and explained again why her figure, just as it was, was beautiful. My compliments to my clients are NEVER meaningless fluff. I specifically look for the absolute best features of my clients (not just physical ones) and I TELL THEM. This a boudoir shoot with me is NOT just about the finished images. It's about how my clients feel about themselves along the way. And I pride myself on that. 

Shifting out of parent-friendly portraits and into boudoir...

"This experience definitely made me more aware and appreciative of the features I have and allowed me to embrace them. I'm focusing more on those positive things and letting go of the self-criticism. I'm now able to focus and enjoy the beauty of others in a positive way without it causing me to feel bad about myself."

"I had not felt attractive or feminine, let alone beautiful, in a long time. This has been an awesome experience that has helped to open my eyes to see myself in a new perspective."

"The "Show Me Your Pump" campaign that began in 2014 was a great starting point to help users feel more comfortable with exposing their pumps and to decrease the stigma and any feelings of embarrassment some people may have. I feel it is important to not only be unashamed of having one but to show that one does not define you.

Your character is more than a medical device and it shouldn't be the only thing someone focuses on. People should see YOU regardless of whether you have a pump or use a wheelchair or have a prosthetic." - Miss M

Admittedly, the only knowledge that I had prior to photographing Miss M, here, about the "Show me your pump" campaign was a news story that crossed my feed a few years ago when the campaign was started. It was featuring Miss Idaho who wore her insulin pump out on stage with her bikini during the pageant. When interviewed about it, this is what she had to say:

"My message to everyone, diabetic or not, is that we all have something that doesn't "measure up" to the beauty standards set by the media--and that is okay! It does not make you any less beautiful. We also all have obstacles, challenges, and trials. Diabetes turned my life upside down when I was first diagnosed. Don't let your challenge hold you back or slow you down." -Sierra Sandison, Miss Idaho 2014

"The type of photos I requested were envisioned and produced by Kara in exactly this way. Those images are so powerful that the last thing anyone would think was that the pump was a flaw. Rather, the images throttle it into the forefront as an accessory to sensuality. I would encourage any insulin pump wearer that feels any reservation about revealing their pump to view these images in order to gain a more positive perspective" -Miss M

"My photo session and the photos that I received have made me look and feel confident, sexy, beautiful, powerful, feminine, voluptuous and soulful. I am a force to be reckoned with!"- Miss M

Thank you SO much, Miss M for sharing your thoughtful words with all of the KMB readers, and for being an inspiration to so many who may be feeling insecure about their figures (95% of women!) or their medical devices.

xoxox 

NEEDING SOME HELP BELIEVING THAT YOU ARE SEXY? I'M JUST THE GIRL FOR THE JOB.  LET'S CHAT, DAHHLING!

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BOSSES + BREADWINNERS | Overcoming the double-standards

While I'll admit, the Kara Marie Boudoir blog is a pretty positive place to be. Lots of happy messages here in my peppy "written voice" can be found in juuuussst about every single post. 

And while today's message is still "YOU GO GIRL" (more than most, actually), it's a little less warm and fuzzy. With the thousands of readers following along, why not use this platform to speak up against things that are just...well...fucked up. 

Allow me to preface the message with a very real example:

I live a pretty modest lifestyle. Comfortable, but modest. My husband and I both own our own businesses. We both work crazy hours and have go-get-'em attitudes. We contribute relatively equally to our bank accounts (obviously one is always going to be making more than the other...and that's flip-flopped a lot throughout our relationship). He cooks and does the grocery shopping. I handle school drop-offs and whine about folding the laundry. We are career people AND parents. It's not the right way or the only way, but it's the way that works best for US and keeps our family the happiest.

We are equals.

Sadly, much of society that doesn't know us very well still raises their eyebrow at our lifestyle. They ASSUME that I do all the cooking and cleaning and parenting. They ASSUME that he makes all the money and my business is just a glorified hobby.  I'm reminded of this preconceived notion of what "a woman's place is" quite often, by someone super ignorant. 

One such ignorant person: a first-class-seated business man....sitting in the seat directly BESIDE me. Yeah yeah, he had the window. So I suppose it could be argued that he was sitting in a better seat. When actually I CHOSE the aisle because I get a bit claustrophobic on planes...but I digress.

He was sitting beside me in first class.  I was not wearing a business suit because, well, I'm an artist, damnit. We got settled into our seats and I promptly ordered myself a Woodford Reserve on the rocks (You're assuming it's to ease plane nerves...but I just like bourbon, damnit.) which left him with a surprised expression so big I could see it out of my peripheral vision. 

 

"Are you traveling alone today?" He asks.    

"On this big ol' plane ALL BY MY LITTLE OL' SELF!?!?!  What I wanted to say, but didn't. 

I just nodded and smiled. 

Next question out of his mouth about 30 minutes later, I swear to God, I must have been FUSHIA (I would say BRIGHT RED, but I'm a girl, so clearly it has to be a shade of pink.): "So, what does your husband do?"

Seriously? My husband must have been such a saint to send his little housewife on a trip, and FIRST CLASS, nonetheless, while he slaved away at work to fund my shopping and vacationing habits, right? Because that's the only possible explanation for a young woman to be flying first class alone? 

"He works." I said, with a smile.

"Do you have kids?" He thinks he's trying to be polite...but his message here is so completely condescending that I was about to go back to coach "where I belonged". 

Me: "Yes. We have 2 boys."

Asshole: "AH! Boys! I bet that's a handful for you."

Me: "Yeah, well, it's a handful for both of us. We keep things pretty equal. And they're great kids."

Asshole: "That's really cool of him to help out with the kids."

Me: "They're his kids too...."

Asshole: "Oh, yeah, but you know what I mean. I always wish I would have helped my wife out around the house and with the kids and stuff more so she could have had some girl time or (as he hand-gestured towards me) took a girl's trip or something."

Me: *slugs some bourbon*

Asshole: "I bet it's nice to get away for a little bit!"

Me: "I'm actually on a business trip...though I love what I do, I'm traveling for work and not 'just for fun'". 

Asshole: "OH. Wow. That's great. So who has the kids?"...

....and this exchange went on for approximately 3 more infuriating minutes before I plugged my Hello Kitty headphones into my bedazzled iPhone and listened to some angry feminist music whilst doodling in my diary.

It's not just old-school men though. It's women too.  It's the media. It's the magazines. It's sometimes even OURSELVES. We've got all these voices telling us that our job is to be pretty, take care of the kids, and slave over the house.  

And I'm calling bullshit. 

We can be artists. We can be truck drivers. We can be moms. We can be childless. We can be married. We can be single. We can love whomever we want. We can be BOSSES and breadwinners. AND WE CAN BE ON TWENTY DOLLAR BILLS, DAMNIT!

It shocks me that this argument even has to be had these days. But alas, here I am, explaining to moms of my son's classmates after getting lots of resistance, that, no, I cannot meet for "mom's day" every Tuesday after school drop off because I'm working....and THAT IS OK.  Just like sipping coffee with other stay-at-home moms is OK...just don't chastise someone for doing it differently...and certainly don't think that YOUR way is the RIGHT way. 

This video came across my Facebook feed today, and, although it's ultimately selling a hair product, it resonated big time with me. And it should with you too. Time to stand up, speak out, and shine (and I don't just mean your hair.)

So go be whatever the hell you want to be. Female or male. Regardless of what the "norm" is.  If you want to be a stay at home mom....better you than me, girl. If you want to be a stay at home dad-- HELL YES. We need more of you. If you want to be a career man or woman, DOOO IT.

And try to be a bigger person than me when you come across those ignorant people. Let's educate them rather than wishing them ill. I'm still working on that.  ;)

And if you're a woman who wants to be more but has a hard time finding her self-worth, let's chat. 

ZEROFUCKSGIVEN

 

 

 

It's not about the photos...though, that's a perk! | Austin Boudoir Studio

Miss "K" had a plethora of one-liners that made me smile. First, when she arrived at her shoot and told me she had her nails painted for the first time in forever and actually felt like a GIRL. Then when she showed up for her photo reveal and said "I brought 3 different credit cards!". Then again when I read through her review.

You may notice that I almost always include a little bit of a story from my clients in their blog posts. Do you know WHY I do that!?!?! Because you all need to know that EVERY WOMAN that I photograph faces the nerves, the insecurities, the "devil on their shoulder" about whether or not they could POSSIBLY look sexy.  And also, I desperately want each and every woman that is considering this process with ME to realize that this is so much more than the photos. THIS is an EXPERIENCE. 

If she were never to even see a photo from the shoot, she had already experienced a self-esteem boost, she already experienced being pampered, she experienced being encouraged, she experienced being the star of the show. 

"I never take time for myself... As a full time working mother of two kids, manager of a women's cycling team, competitive athlete, wife, I am constantly sacrificing and putting others' needs first. When I stumbled across Kara's Instagram one night, I was instantly intrigued. The images were breathtaking. These women not only looked gorgeous, but FIERCE. "

Miss K's hair and makeup by  Lorena of Lola Beauty, Austin TX. 

Miss K's hair and makeup by Lorena of Lola Beauty, Austin TX. 

"After a few months of thinking, "Man I wish I could do that!" I decided why the hell not!?! I booked the appointment, put my deposit down and then totally freaked out. I'm pretty athletic, more comfortable make up free with a tank top and ball cap. I really wondered how it would be, totally exposing myself to someone else, and how it would feel to have the critical camera eye pointed at my bare ass. I almost postponed my appointment because I have *gasp* SHORT HAIR and wondered if I'd be able to look sexy, instead of my usual 'sporty'. "

"I prepped for the shoot by getting my first mani/pedi in (LITERALLY) years and packing my Xanax! I shouldn't have worried one bit. Seriously, the moment Kara came down and greeted me warmly with a hug I was instantly put at ease. "

"While getting my hair and makeup done, the atmosphere was relaxed and completely comfortable. My make up and hair was unbelievable. I looked in the mirror and felt transformed, but still ME. Just a badass version of me. Kara was the penultimate professional and is incredibly talented at putting nervous half naked women completely at ease. At the end of the shoot I felt so incredibly empowered."

I didn’t even need to look at a picture, I FELT amazing.
— Miss K

"The photo reveal completely blew my mind. I just sat there, kind of in shock. "This was me???" Kara is incredibly talented and was able to make me look like the women I had admired on her Instagram. I looked FIERCE. Kara never pressured, only guided me in my selections. This was by far, one of the best experiences of my life. From the very first time I reached out to Kara until the photo reveal, every single step in the process has been positive. It's not just having pretty pictures taken of yourself. It's something I feel every single woman should do for herself at least once in their life. And like I've told my friends, don't get a Groupon photo shoot. You are worth the very best. I can't wait to do this again."

I can’t remember the last time I really felt beautiful. Even without seeing a single image, I walked out of that photo shoot feeling incredibly empowered. And when I saw the photos, my mouth dropped. I had no idea I could be sexy. No clue. And there it was, in living color, me looking like a vixen. And it wasn’t contrived, or filtered. My tan lines (sorry!!!) and scars were still there. This was ME. And I looked amazing.

It was so awesome to HEAR the very thing that I preach constantly from a client herself....that it wasn't about the photos. Before she even saw one, it was worth it to her. But, of course, the photos are the icing. The sweetest, most indulgent (yet obviously fat-free, sugar-free, calorie-free, gluten-free and dairy-free) icing you could ever fathom ;) So it's totally fair to do it for BOTH the experience AND the photos. 

Are you finally ready for your own boudoir experience? I promise to put you at ease. Even in your underwear. It's what I do. Let's chat, dahhling!

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How to Grow a Woman | An opinion piece.

There have been a myriad of opinion blogs posted lately that have sparked so many emotions for me.

First was the likely fictional tale of a boudoir photographer who received a heartfelt email from one her client's husbands arguing that by photoshopping his wife as she requested, she has unintentionally wiped out her life story. *Eye roll*.  I would comment on that only so many other photographers have done so far more eloquently than I would (read my friend, Lynn's here.). 

Then, the overprotective dad that took a "prom pose" photo with his daughter's date, stating that he would do to the date whatever the date tried to do to his daughter. It was silly, and, I believe, innocent fun. As a bit of a feminist, I was still not at all offended by this photo or news story. 

Others were, and lots of opinion pieces began to circulate, including THIS one on HuffPost that was *actually* quite a brilliant read.

Written by Kasey Ferris and titled "Please don't threaten my son for dating your daughter", she articulately makes an example of the viral post (although she, too, admits that it was all in good fun and doesn't really judge the father for the post). However, it opens up a great discussion topic about the way we are teaching our children.

Do you remember being a hormonally-charged teenager? I do. I *REALLY* do.  Actually, it just so happens that I am currently oh-so-happily married to the "bad boy" that I was sneaking around to have "relations" with at the age of 16 and throughout my teenage years. My father made so many stereotypical "overprotective dad" comments, threats even, to my boyfriend. 

Our first date.

Our first date.

16 years ago (almost to the date), my father shook the hand of the boy who was picking me up for the first time while eyeing him up and down. My mother spent the evening, I'm sure, pacing around the house thinking of all the worst possible scenarios.  It was later that night that this boy and I shared *THE* most amazing kiss in the history of all kisses on the dance floor of his homecoming dance. We still talk about this kiss. In fact, we just did a couple of weeks ago over dinner with our 2 kids who were happily playing iPad games at the dinner table (Ok, so I'm not a parenting guru. Full disclaimer.)

Now that I am a parent, of course I can understand that feeling of wanting to shield your children from all harm. But here's the thing...we can't.  But there is a smarter route to take. There is an avenue that doesn't involve polishing your shot gun when your daughter is heading out the door with her new beau and trying to wish away all harm. Sounds backwards, doesn't it? Though, that's how so many do it. That's how so many were shown through demonstration to do it.

In order to create a culture of strong and competent women who can save themselves, we must first stop teaching girls that they need to be saved.
— Kasey Ferris

As parents, we have the opportunity to TEACH our children.  To demonstrate to them how they should respect others, how they should respect themselves. 

We need to give our daughters the tools to be strong, courageous, intelligent, incredible people. Teaching them that boys are horny little shits who will only knock them up and run away is absolutely ludicrous but sadly incredibly common. 

As Ferris states in her article (which, like I said...BRILLIANT, y'all!): 

"Above all, realize and come to terms with the fact that teenage sexuality is not a "boy thing". Teenage sexuality is a teenage thing. Young men and young women alike are going to be curious, interested, and looking to learn more about sex. Your daughter is just as curious as my son, I can virtually guarantee it."

HolyTruthBomb.

Can I let you in on a little secret? Your teenage daughter is probably just as horny as her teenage partner. I was just as interested in sex at the age of 16 as my then-boyfriend-now-husband.  And do you know what HE was!? COMPLETELY respectful of me. 100%. I never once felt an ounce of pressure NOR an ounce of regret with my decisions to be with him sexually or otherwise. I want to raise my boys to be THAT respectful of women. 

Did I feel that way about other relationships I had with men...err...boys? HELL. NO.  Did my overprotective parents save me from making bad decisions? HELLLLLL no. In fact, I would argue that several times I was pushed into purposely making bad decisions out of spite.  Is that right? Uh, no. But that's how it was for me. And it's probably how it is for other children of hovering parents.  

I truly am not trying to make my parents feel bad with this post, as I genuinely believe they were doing what they knew to be right. What we need to change is what we feel is the RIGHT way to educate our children about their self worth, their decision making, and yes...even sex. 

I am so proud to say, that despite my unhealthy relationships with teenage males other than my husband, I currently have a very healthy relationship with sex. I feel comfortable teaching my boys that SEX is not BAD. Sex is beautiful when shared with the right person.  I am confident that my boys will treat their future partners with every bit the respect and sensitivity that their father did with me. 

16 years later. Still madly in love with him.

16 years later. Still madly in love with him.


As Kasey Ferris puts it, "Why don't we, as parents, mutually do our best to raise responsible and capable children, instead? Why don't we guide our children to better choices, and help them learn how to recover when (not if) they screw up? Why don't we remember that this is all part of the process and focus on the examples we're setting for them and the messages they're receiving at home? Then maybe we could all take a collective deep breath and be more confident in the kids we've raised."

Boom. I don't have a mic, but if I did, I would drop it to that statement. 

So, to the crazy over protective parents out there, I hear you. I do. It is tough to bathe, feed, and wipe the bums of our growing children and let them fly on their own. 

Women, be strong. Be strong for your daughters, and for your sons. Be strong for YOURSELVES. Also...BE VULNERABLE. Don't be AFRAID to be vulnerable with them. Share your feelings. Be HONEST.  Don't shield them from pain. Fill them in on your mistakes and why they were, in fact, mistakes. But also fill them in on how those mistakes taught you the right path. 

Women, LOVE YOURSELVES. Respect yourselves. Seriously. Whatever you need to do to empower yourself, do it. Own it.