Is This Real Life Project
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;
Story

Is This Real Life Project

Issues/Women , Issues/Sex , Stories/31
Sydney NSW, Australia
15th Jun 2017
Is This Real Life Project
Using photography and written word, Aimee explores how resisting socially sanctioned understandings of normalcy, beauty and female pleasure inspired her collaborative photography community the Is This Real Life Project.

We live in a society that is utterly saturated in curated images and ideals of typical beauty and sexiness; the slim, European featured, cisgendered, heteronormative concept of beauty and sexuality has been the main narrative for generations. This is enforced, and our bodies are policed in a myriad of ways both obvious and subtle, from female and non-cis bodies being used as a battleground in politics to white feminism dominating and ignoring the voices of non-binary, non-white females.

"My colour for the day is red."

We are flooded with images of what it is to be "normal" and "beautiful" from industries that desperately need to redefine their definitions of both normalcy and beauty. Australian censorship laws prevent female porn stars from having a visible labia, so they are digitally removed. In this way, prepubescent vulvas are represented as the "norm" which has resulted in a significant rise in labiaplasty procedures in this country. Violent pornography and grossly gendered popular culture encourages a "boys will be boys" mentality, perpetuating insidious rape culture. 

While young girls are taught that their pleasure is irrelevant as long as they are desirable to men, women's personal journeys of wanting to seek (knowing that we deserve) genuine pleasure are ignored. Non-cis people are excluded almost entirely from mainstream conversations surrounding sexuality, body positivity, relationships and feminism. Female bodies are stripped of autonomy, our parts used to sell products and insecurity; an insecurity that fuels buying the very products our bodies are being used to sell. It's a twisted system - one which once seen, cannot be unseen!

"The most vulnerable I feel is when I'm naked or during a panic attack. When I have panic attacks, there's a voice in my head telling me I'm weak, ugly and worthless. This picture is me fighting those voices."

It is human nature to be curious about sexuality, bodies and gender - we are fascinated by these elements of humanity from childhood yet our curiosities are often met with embarrassment from parents, outdated curriculums at school and a widespread unwillingness in adults to speak openly to our children about these parts of ourselves. Compounding this, our first sexual experience is with....the internet. From an inappropriately young age, we are flooded with images and videos that reveal a dark and violent side of sex and nudity. Autonomy over our bodies and sexuality are derailed by industries that profit from our dysfunction. It disturbed me that female bodies have become a conglomeration of parts which are used to sell ideas, products and insecurity. It disturbed me that our bodies were plastered all over billboards, yet the images we choose to take of ourselves on our own terms are deemed inappropriate.

"You say you hate me but you still use me for recreation."

But while this is still the norm in mainstream society, I believe we now have more opportunity to reclaim and represent a wider range of bodies, genders, faces and sexuality - while mainstream media and the narratives it has perpetuated for so long are bigger and more influential than ever, so too is social media. This is an incredible tool for diverse connection.

The day I became completely disenchanted by these images of typical femininity and beauty, I put some videos into the Insta-sphere expressing my feelings and asking if anyone would be interested in collaborating on a photographic project. To my surprise, hundred of people responded and this was the birth place of Is This Real Life Project!

Together we asked: where can we see real intimacy? Real lovemaking? Real pleasure? Where can we see people in their power facilitating their own pleasure knowing that they deserve it? When I opened the space up for people to contact me with their experiences and why they wanted to be involved in the Is This Real Life project, I realised how much these issues resonate with others.

"It took me a large portion of my life to accept that, as a male, I am beautiful. I am allowed to feel beautiful. It doesn't mean handsome or strong, or good looking; it's accepted to be those things as a man. But being vulnerable and expressive of that deep feminine beauty that everyone has was something I always felt emasculated me. Now I know otherwise. That expression is deeply needed for true self-love and healing."

We narrowed down our vision, which is now to create a safe space where people of all shapes, genders, sexualities, sizes, abilities and skin colours can share part of their real selves and for other people to witness that realness-  to share true moments of beauty, vulnerability, pain, sensuality, intimacy, bodies and life in general. By collaborating with hundred of people around the world, we are now creating a collection of images that represent these things. 

The goal is for each contributor to feel powerful and for the viewers' concepts of what is beautiful, sexy and intimate to be challenged by each story and image. People have shared stories about self-harm, non-binary sex, body positivity and discovering themselves as sexual and non-sexual beings. It has been such an exciting and liberating experience for contributors that we hope to take it to a larger scale. We aim to compile our images into a zine and facilitate an exhibition that will hopefully take the conversation even further.

"We live in a society where my self worth is defined by my weight. I would like to believe that is shifting."

The Is This Real Life Project page has received messages from around the world, from people expressing how important the page has become to their journey towards self-love. It's an incredibly empowering movement, and I am so looking forward to seeing where we may end up. 

 

"The naked body. Nudity. Showing too much skin. My whole life has all been seen as bad. I was taught it was bad. That's slutty. I've always strived to cover up and be "modest". Any time I would see a female dressed showing "too much skin", I would automatically think "wow gross she's such a slut". Showing too much skin or seeing someone naked was always so awkward because of the way I was taught. As I got older, I started to be around/see a lot more openminded people. I started following people online who embraced nudity as something beautiful rather than just something pornographic. Over time, I read the descriptions of the pictures they would post. The things they said were so empowering. Sharing how the body is beautiful. It should be shown off, not hidden. It should be loved, not hurt. Their pictures and descriptions inspired me. Their lives inspired me. I've never in my life posted a picture online that showed "too much skin". I'm doing this for anyone else who was raised to think their gorgeous body should be hidden."

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