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No Shame: Boudoir Photography and Female Sexuality

Posted by Maggie Rife Ponce on

There's nothing to be ashamed about with boudoir photography

Before I start, I should probably tell you, this topic gets me pretty riled up. I am oh-too-familiar with shame. Like most of you, I can think of countless times in my life where I’ve questioned myself, saying “maybe it was my fault.” When I became a boudoir photographer, I grappled with whether it was "ok." The worst shaming came from a close family member, who made me feel like a straight-up pornographer. I felt like the biggest disappointment ever for what I was doing. While it hurt deeply at the time, the experience forced me to go deep and ask if I could really stand behind this work. And guess what? That deep dive led me not only to a "yes," but also a definitive “hell yes.”

We still have a long way to go...

We’ve come leaps and bounds from our parents' and grandparents' generation, but we’re still evolving as a society. There is more acceptance and knowledge about female sexuality than ever before. But what does it look like? What does it mean? It can be hard to really “get it” during this time of content overload. There is SO. MUCH. CONTENT. The internet has literally given us access to answers and imagery on everything! Like... everything. Yesterday I learned what a keto crouch was. And that’s tame compared to what I could have come across. Where we used to turn to our moms, our sisters, and our friends to talk about “sensitive topics,” or ask what was happening with our bodies, we now find whole streams of conversations anonymously online.

What we've learned from being boudoir photographers

In so many ways, this is A-MAZ-ING, but it also makes us vulnerable to both misinformation and unreasonable standards (think: insta-perfect figures, zero context behind who that swimsuit-perfect body really belongs to, or all the “work” that went into making it look so flawless, be it under the knife or in photoshop).

Having met and photographed hundreds of women in their undies, we’ve become really familiar with the topic of shame and female sexuality. By this point, we've realized our work is sorta... its own version of therapy. Sometimes, nothing is more healing than good ol’ girl talk where nothing is really off the table. What we’ve learned from all these conversations is that a lot of you, like us, are in the process of affirming yourself. Your whole self. Sexuality included. Eek! Yep, I’m gonna go there.

What's Sexy is different for everyone

We’ve met many women who are just beginning to connect with their sensuality. Some identify more with their masculine energy (“tom boys”) and are ready to nurture their feminine sides; others are healing from past trauma and see boudoir as a safe way to begin opening parts of themselves they'd previously sealed shut. And every once in awhile, we meet the rare unicorn who comes in like the sexually enlightened version of the Dalai Lama.

What We Do vs. pornography

We’re not a pornography studio. How we create our imagery, the intention behind our process, even the way we select our images is done with a wholly different goal in mind. Our pictures are sexy. There is NO SHAME in that. It’s ok for you to be sexy and it’s ok for us to capture it. But, we reject, like big-time reject, the 'male gaze' idea of what’s sexy. What is the male gaze? Oh boy, that’s a whole other blog post, and I'll tackle that one, I promise. In essence, it’s the perspective that dominates movies in Hollywood and the porn industry.

Contrary to what some people may assume, our audience is first and foremost... you. Yes, the pictures might be a gift for your significant other, and lucky them. But it’s you we really have in mind when we’re taking the photos. Imagine being able to let go of all your fear, shame, and doubts and let yourself be free. This will look different for everyone. For some, it may be as subtle as a sideways smile they suddenly make without thinking; for others, it could be letting their hands explore their body. We don’t set expectations on you. Our job is to be the reassuring force that says, “You’re good. You’re free. Go with it.”

When "Sexy" Happens

During shoots, some women want a good deal of direction (and we’re always happy to give it). But, eventually, the nerves will slip away. It’s kinda like dancing. It can feel awkward at first, then suddenly you’re just grooving. You’re in the flow and it’s so damn beautiful. That’s when “sexy” happens.

About the Author

We're so excited to share featured guest blog posts (more to come!) from Maggie Rife Ponce, the Chicago Boudoir Photography Studio owner of Revealed Studios. Maggie is one of our incredibly talented Boudoir Partners, specializing in boudoir, weddings, and portrait photography.

Interested in booking your own photoshoot? Contact Maggie here or call today at 773-273-9063.

Want to read more articles like this? Check out the links below for related content from Maggie's blog:

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