Quantcast

I Tried Photo Therapy & It Reawakened My Sexuality

I never thought a direct message from a photo therapist would emancipate my sexuality.

I Tried It

I don't keep nudes on my iPhone to send to potential suitors. I once went out with my mom to a nightclub and criticized her for being too flirtatious. My nickname in high school was "Prissy Chrissy", and the one mortifying time I tried to take seductive photos for a boyfriend, I had to have them printed at CVS.

I'm not a sexual woman.

Much of my discomfort with being sexual lies in the fact that when I was 11 years old, I wore a C-cup bra. My classmates (and even one of my teachers) would comment that my outfits exposed my curves, even when I wore the same outfits as other pre-teens. I've always been very confident academically… and I've always feared strangers won't look past my body to see my intelligence.

The other blatant factor is that I'm a Black woman, and like many Black girls, I was subjected to sexualization. I hated that just because of my body, I was held to a different standard and misunderstood. But that didn't make me hate those who sexualized me; instead, it made me hate my body. Hate me. I spent over 20 years of my life trying to be smaller, prettier, and more reserved.

I never thought at 34 years old, a direct message from a photo therapist would emancipate my sexuality.

Amber Gillian/Courtesy of Christine Michel Carter

Amber Gillian is a Black mother of three who contacted me after reading my book, MOM AF. Amber shared that she, too, believed in the empowerment of mothers and asked me if I'd ever done a phototherapy shoot. "Hell no," I replied, "But I do therapy regularly!" I joked.

Amber proceeded to educate me on what she called phototherapy. As a photographer and licensed mental health therapist, Amber provided mothers - especially Black moms - with an immersive experience, hearing their challenges, and then capturing their truth through the camera. She was drawn to it after finding her life as a woman was overshadowed by the responsibilities of being a caretaker.

"Black women rarely have the opportunity to be sexual, and when we do, we're oversexualized. We're either given a choice to talk about our 'WAP' or be complete virgins," Amber added.

She'd gotten my attention as (even though I was a mother of two) I'd been emotionally behaving like the latter all my life. So even though I was fearful, I booked it. I knew I needed to come out of my shell, so I agreed to a session. I thought I'd take a few photos in a button-down shirt and never show them to a soul.

Amber Gillian/Courtesy of Christine Michel Carter

What I didn't expect was for the session to be rooted as equally in therapy as it was in photography. Before Amber even touched the camera, we discussed what the definition of the word sexy was for me, my experiences with capturing my sexuality in the past, even my labor and delivery experiences. She told me about the types of mothers she'd worked with- some were undergoing IVF, had postpartum depression and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and were even battling the grief of infertility.

She provided a personal makeup artist, Logan, that aligned with my aesthetic, made sure my favorite snacks and drinks were available to me, and frequently asked if I needed breaks. I admitted that before the photoshoot for a week, I starved myself, juicing and eating salads to appear smaller for the camera.

At that moment, I had my first breakthrough with Amber: I equated starving my body to starving my children, which I would NEVER do. Yet here I was, doing it to myself under the guise of beauty. For a "greater good". I realized I was living in the "greater good" already - I had a body that had produced two children, run 5Ks, and beat high cholesterol.

We talked about the partner's role in a woman's sexuality, and as it turns out, it's relatively small. Perhaps even nonexistent. I learned from Amber that a man shouldn't validate my sexuality, just as they don't validate my intelligence or ability to nurture. In fact, Amber didn't bring up or discuss men at all until I brought them into the conversation.

Amber Gillian/Courtesy of Christine Michel Carter

Amber also told me why women should turn to female photo therapists to uncover their sexuality over male boudoir photographers. She once had a client who booked an appointment with a male photographer who required her to send nudes before he photographed her. Amber told the client she'd heard that before about male photographers, but that practice was unacceptable.

I started the photography portion of the session asking for privacy to change into the lingerie; by the end of the session, I was so comfortable I had a complete conversation with Amber in the same room while undressed.

We all hear in the media that women should be more body positive; I've seen the Instagram models with about 16 ounces of body fat on their stomach preaching it. But I've never seen myself in them because their bodies didn't look like mine, in complexion and stature. I also didn't fully understand how being body positive can help a woman tap into her sexual confidence.

It wasn't until my session with Amber that I learned the trick isn't to be like them. It's to respect and honor me.

Christine Michel Carter is the bestselling author of MOM AF. Featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, she has been called "the voice of millennial moms."

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image courtesy of Christine Michel Carter

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

I started dreaming about moving abroad when I was about 21 years old. I remember returning from a two-week study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland having my eyes and mind wide open to the possibility of living overseas. This new travel passion was intensified after graduating from college in 2016, and going on a group trip to Italy. I was intoxicated by my love for Italy. It's hands down my favorite place. However, my post-grad life was one twist and turn after the next. I'm sure you can relate.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

If you are a frequent reader of my articles, then you know that I am front-of-the-class here for the culture. Using all of my platforms to be vocal about Black women and all things Blackity, Black, Black, Black is how I get down, and frankly, if you aren't here for me bragging on my people, then we probably won't have much in common. The wave has been snowballing too, because so many feel the same way I do, which is something we've had to consciously build up as a community.

Keep reading... Show less

This article is in partnership with Staples.

As a Black woman slaying in business, you're more than likely focused on the bottom line: Serving your customers and making sure the bag doesn't stop coming in. Well, there's obviously more to running a business than just making boss moves, but as the CEO or founder, you might not have the time, energy, or resources to fill in the blanks.

Keep reading... Show less

Whether still dealing with the aftershocks of the pandemic, not being able to get enough time off or money being a little on the tight side is what's preventing you from going on a romantic vacation this summer, who's to say that you can't do a sexy staycation instead? If the mere thought of that feels like a poor man's — or woman's — consolation prize, I promise you that it absolutely does not have to. Opting to stay at home while possibly throwing in a couple of day trip adventures (which is a classic definition of a staycation, by the way) can be loads of fun, super romantic and also really cost effective without feeling mad cheap.

Keep reading... Show less

Growing up, my mother didn't let me wear make-up. At the time, I was pissed. Oh, but now that I'm deep into my 40s, I'm ever grateful because it's rare that a week will go by and someone won't be shocked when I tell them my age. Meanwhile, a lot of the — I'm gonna be real — white women who I went to high school with? Whenever I run into them, the combination of constant tanning and piling on cosmetics back in the day now has them looking several — and I do mean, several — years older than I.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

'Insecure' Writer Mike Gauyo Talks His Journey From Med School To The Writers' Room

"Meeting Issa Rae was a story of perseverance, following up, being persistent and all of the characteristics and attributes you need to be a successful writer."

Latest Posts