confidence

Sex Drive and Sadness

The side effects and symptoms of depression and anxiety can seep into every nook of your life. They can destroy your confidence, your energy levels, you can lose your social life, and your sex life can disappear. Those who suffer from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can watch their sex life suffer and not understand why. You can sit by as you watch your relationship fall apart, or you can’t quite find your confidence to keep the lights on and remove your clothes in front of someone else. You can think that you don’t feel the same wants and needs that everyone else around you apparently feels, or not be able to pinpoint what exactly in you has changed yet nothing feels the same.

One of the less discussed yet still debilitating side effects of depression is a loss of libido. This can destroy relationships, the sufferer may not feel that they are providing their partner with everything that they want and need and therefore can acquire a sense of guilt and not feel like an adequate partner. This does not come from a lack of love for the partner, but relates to the struggle to enjoy life in the same ways that they used to. This is normal. At a time when they may feel that everything tastes of nothing and there isn’t quite anything that makes them feel strongly about something anymore, a lack of sex drive is perfectly understandable. They can still be head over heels for someone but not feel any urge to have sex anymore, they are intrinsically different things. Discussing this with the partner may make things a little easier for them to understand; communication is important in order for someone to understand what you are truly thinking. 

Another consequence of depression and anxiety can be a feeling of low self-confidence and low self-esteem. The thought of letting someone else see your body can be stomach churning, and the idea that they may find you attractive is baffling, but part of the self-care, if you have a mental illness, is to learn to fall in love with your body and to learn to find peace with yourself. If you aren’t currently okay with letting someone else see you fully naked, then build on it over time and learn where to draw the line of how comfortable you are. Never force yourself to do something because you feel like you should be doing it. If you are uncomfortable with something, work out why you feel that way and try to solve it or work around it.

Give yourself time, don’t force yourself into something that you are not comfortable with. You’re not alone in these feelings and looking after your mental health will help ensure that you have a healthy sex life. Don’t forget that every person has a different sex drive; what is normal for one person may be much higher or much lower than yours, having a dip is therefore normal for you. As with any issue discussed this week, if something is particularly worrying you, take time to go to the doctors so that you can talk about it.

 

Words by Beth Farrell
Part of the September Sex Education Week, 2017.

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I’ll Wear What I Like

I love make-up. I love wearing it, I love buying it and I love trying it. But I don’t wear a lot of it very often because frankly, I feel self-conscious. How many times have I heard someone being called out on the make-up they wear: Are you going out on a date? Who’s the lucky guy? Are you trying to impress someone? Hell yeah, I’m trying to impress me!

Sometimes, I wake up and I think today I’m going to make an actual effort with my appearance. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel powerful. Like yes, I’m wearing a beautiful red lipstick and I can get shit done whilst I’m wearing it. Yet, there’s this assumption that you’re trying to show yourself off. There are streams and streams of men online complaining about how women use make-up to lie to them. Lie to them. Don’t you think there are much easier (and cheaper) ways to do that?

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For one thing, wearing a lot of make-up, and doing it well is just another new trend; how many videos have you seen of girls doing their make-up online? You don’t get berated for wearing a crop top and high-waisted jeans because you’re trying to show off to boys. Everyone knows you do it because you look cute af. So why should make-up be any different? Why does it have to be for someone else?

Sure, for a lot of girls, they are trying to impress someone. And it’s such a shame that we’ve lost our way so entirely as a society that there are girls who think the best way to do that is by covering as much of their face as possible. Yet it’s understandable why they think that with ridiculous movies like ‘Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs’ and its advertising campaign suggesting that one type of body is more beautiful than another.

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And it doesn’t help when other women are just as bad as men.  Honestly, how many times have you heard your friend talk shit about a girl’s eyebrows, or how much foundation she’s wearing? And if you have (I know I have), did that really make you feel any better about yourself?

As for the people who think that all the girls who wear make-up are dumb and won’t get far in life or aren’t ‘true’ feminists – just think for a second. Think about Beyoncé, Emma Watson, Michelle Obama. Do you really think they rolled out of bed that way? Hell, they’ve got whole teams of people to do their make-up. So that they can feel confident and empower women – and show us just how easy it is to do both.

Feminism isn’t about whether you shave, or wear make-up or pamper yourself. How many times do we have to say it – it’s about equality. It’s about not judging people or treating them badly because they do things a bit differently to you. You do you. As for me, I’ll wear that beautiful red lipstick.

 

Words by Jessica Yang
Images from YouTube and Locus

There’s Nothing Wrong With Being

Recently, I read an article that defended Mandi Gosling’s boobs. Her dress at the Oscars meant she looked great, but all anyone could talk about was her breasts – like breasts are something new and unheard of. Sure she looked great, and yeah she’s got boobs, but really? Like is that all we care about now? We’re not even going to pretend we like her dress first?

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There was literally nothing about Mandi that didn’t mention her cleavage. When I did finally find this article in defence of her boobs I was overjoyed, until I got to the end of the piece. The article started to talk about how we should be grateful that Mandi wasn’t like all the other ‘stick’ women on the red carpet that night.

Using the word ‘other’ when talking about women is outrageously problematic. Don’t defend someone by putting someone else down, that’s not how it works. Mandi Gosling isn’t ‘different’ because she has cleavage. I have cleavage for God’s sake, so do half my friends, so do members of my family, and strangers I pass on the street. Cleavage is just boobs. Boobs are just boobs. Get over it. Don’t call people out and say they’re different for having boobs, and don’t call them out for not having boobs.They’re just women, and they’re just people.

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Take a look at this picture of Ashley Tisdale. She looks great. It’s a great dress. She turned up to a charity event wearing it, which was quick to be followed by Twitter users writing that she looked pregnant (and most of them weren’t nice about it). To me, she doesn’t look pregnant, she looks like she usually does. However, when people say female celebrities look pregnant, they mostly just mean it looks like they’ve put weight on. Again I can’t help but think, why the hell do you care?

All these articles always get me a little stressed out because I can never understand why anyone gives a shit about who has a bit of flab, or who had a nip-slip, or who got botox. I do not care. I never have, and if I ever do, I hope you all slap me round the face until I snap out of it. Just because they’re celebrities why should it mean we’re allowed to bully them? Famous men and women are both subjected to this kind of treatment, but it does seem to come part and parcel of being a female celebrity as opposed to some of the male celebrities who we don’t seem to criticise, for example, the wonderful Chris Pratt whom we love on the left, or on the right. But then double standards are also inbuilt with this whole issue.

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At the end of the day, my point is that we shouldn’t be so hard on people for being the way they are. It sounds obvious, and it sounds like something we should already be doing, but it isn’t. We talk about celebrities for being fat, thin, breasty, flat-chested, pregnant-looking, old, flabby, or whatever, but what’s arguably worse is that we even do it to people we know. We talk about people we used to know, or people in our classes, or ou jobs, and talk about them behind their back. I’m not necessarily saying w should all be nice to each other all the time (mostly because it’s impossible), but there’s just no need to criticse people for being the way they are if they can’t help it, or if they’re happy. If Mandi Gosling wants to wear that dress to a televised event, she probably couldn’t care less what you think about her boobs.

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If Mandi Gosling wants to wear that dress to a televised event, she probably couldn’t care less what you think about her boobs. If I wear skinny jeans and a crop top on a night out, I know it doesn’t look that nice when I sit down, because as a human who doesn’t exercise, I have a belly. I’m only 20, but I’ve had plenty of photos taken of me when both my friends and I have laughed about how ‘out’ my boobs are. Let me tell you, I will wear what I want, and what makes me feel comfortable or nice, and if you want to talk about it then go ahead, but frankly there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being comfortable and happy in yourself. There’s nothing wrong with wearing v-necks if you have big boobs, and there’s nothing wrong with wearing things that show off something you’ve worked for, or something you’re proud of. Wear what you want for god’s sake.

You do you xo

 

Words by Briony Brake
Images from Maxim, Romper, GymViral, NY Magazine

Don’t Let the Bra-sterds Grind You Down

I don’t remember buying my first bra. I remember everyone else slowly getting bras, and me decrying them, and refusing, partly because I was an incredibly contrary child, and partly because I was scared of growing up and my body changing. A bra suggested shame. You must hide away these markers of womanhood – no one should see them.

I remember seeing an older girls boobs and wondering when mine would start to look like one unit – when will they get big enough to make the t-shirt stretch? Rather than two strange little lumps sitting on my chest.

I remember my mum coming home from work and joyously removing her bra. I remember it being an occasion of great joy, being able to free your breasts from the pockets they were confined in all day.

I remember the girls I would get changed in beach huts with, us all desperately trying to hide our bodies, putting bikini tops on over bras and fiddling about undoing various things, so that bare skin was never exposed.

I don’t remember when I stopped wearing a bra. I think I saw a video on Facebook about the damage it can actually cause. Shoulders and back problems and badly fitting bras. I saw a series of photos of the imprint that clothing leaves on us after we take it off, and marvelled at the fact that we put these tight-fitting things on our bodies to the point where they leave a mark. I bought some bralets, which are lacy and sexy and make me feel great. Sometimes I wear them, if my boobs hurt or my top’s a bit see through. Most of the time I don’t. Most of the time I don’t wear anything under my top. It is so comfy. I love my boobs a lot more, now I see their normal shape on a regular basis. I love it when they’re a weird shape and pointy and wonky. It feels real. Like they’re real parts of me. I’m not scared of them anymore.

I get changed in front of my friends and care a whole lot less about my body. When my friend MJ asked me to take part in a topless photo shoot, I did it. I think I did it because I’d stopped wearing a bra. I feel a lot more comfortable with my boobs, and in turn, my whole body.

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I asked fellow Anthem writer Sophy to look into the history of women’s underwear for me. This is what she got:

Throughout history, some form of garment has always been used to mould, shape and support women’s breasts. In Ancient Greece and Rome, large breasts were seen as unattractive, comical even, so women wore bands of cloth that flattened their chests. By the 14th and 15th centuries, the corset was used to push up the breasts and create cleavage, which was desired as it was seen as a symbol of wealth and elitism. We can thank the Victorian feminists and doctors that ousted the corset due to health concerns over constraining women’s bodies.

The growth of flappers in the 1920s saw androgynous styles of bras that aimed to minimise curves. On the other hand the 1930s created a complete reversal of this, with the invention of cup sizes and the underwired bra (that created a curvier look) meant that women were categorised in terms of the size of their breasts. 

The metal shortages of WW2 ended the popularity of the corset (thank god) and the 1940s and 50s cubist movements inspired the pointed bosom and “bullet bras” that are so iconic of the post WW2 era. The feminist movements of the 1960s introduced comfy bralets/crop tops. Sports bras weren’t invented until the 1970s and the 1990s created the wonder bra and cleavage enhancing bras. The shape of bras and how they mould breasts have changed with the political and social trends of the time.

Bras are a commodity. An optional commodity. The growth of consumerism throughout the 19th Century (and especially so since after WW2 with booming economies and the growth of young people with disposable income) meant that the purpose of bras shifted even more so from functionality to fashion. And how do you sell something? Make people feel bad about themselves.

Your boobs are too small. “Look we’ve invented a two size up bra”

Your boobs aren’t perky enough. “Look, we’ve developed a cleavage enhancing bra”

Your body isn’t sexy enough on its own. “Look we’ve got a pretty lacy sexy bra set that will fix that”

Since ancient times, boobs have been manipulated, squashed and shaped to suit certain types of fashion trends. Like Sian, although I haven’t stopped wearing a bra (who knows maybe one day I’ll convert), I have started to wear bralets a lot more and my god it’s so much comfier. My boobs can take pretty much the shape they want – not the shape that current fashion trends have dictated.

Recently American high school student Kaitlyn Juvik got sent home from school because teachers were concerned that her not wearing a bra under her black t-shirt was distracting, and inappropriate. Yup. A girl turned away from education, because she wasn’t wearing something under her clothes.

Kaitlyn Juvik consequently set up No Bra No Problem, an online community fighting against this institutionalised sexism, which has garnered support around the world. And good on her, because how dare anyone decide what we should wear under our clothes.

Boobs are boobs. They’re fatty lumps on our fronts, that we’ve evolved in order to feed children. Isn’t that great? Isn’t that amazing, that our bodies have developed in this way so that we can feed newborn babies? And isn’t it mind-boggling that what we do with them, even under our clothes, is questioned and put in the media?

I got 99 problems but a bra ain’t one anymore.

 

 

Words by Sian Brett and Sophy Edmunds

Images Courtesy of Walt Disney, Ellamae Cieslik and MJ Ashton, Retro You, and Kaitlyn Juvik via Metro.co.uk

Why I Got My Boobs Out For Feminism

“Alright. Tops off then.”

It’s a Monday afternoon and I’m stood in a church in Sidcup wearing only my black skinny jeans and favourite pair of shoes. The ones that make me feel powerful. I’m staring down the lens of a camera, thinking of all the times I ever felt like I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, or got spoken over, or made to feel like I wasn’t pretty enough, or skinny enough, or that any of those things even mattered. My boobs are out for the stained glass windows to see, but in this moment they’re completely desexualised. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as okay with my body as I do in this moment.

The other girls having their photos taken (and MJ, directing the photos, who has got her boobs out too) have different body types to me, and it strikes me that I don’t know the last time I saw a normal girls body; that wasn’t stick thin, or model level hairless. We’re all just feminine bodies, together, in this space. And it feels fantastic.

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When MJ asked me to be a part of her exhibition, Stuck Up Cunts, which she devised with Ellamae after female sanitary products were labelled as a luxury under the Tampon Tax, I said yes in an instant. When she asked how I felt about nudity, my answer took a bit more thinking about.

I had always assumed that everyone has issues with their body, and that absolutely no one was okay with how they looked. I thought that this was a given; that it was just something unspoken across all women. It took quite a long time for me to realise that this is utter bullshit, and that even if this was the case – it didn’t make it okay. It’s not okay to not like how you look, it’s not okay to be uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s not okay to not want to wear a swimming costume, to be seen looking anything less than perfect, to not want to look in the mirror.

So when everyone started taking their tops off in a free the nipple frenzy of feminism, and I found myself joining in without much of a second thought, I was the most surprised of all. But I did it, and you know what? It felt fucking excellent. I posed and stretched and looked straight down that camera, and truly felt like I was living inside my own skin, like it was mine, and like I was proud of it.

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Myself and my experience aside, the shoot did something bigger – it made all the women who saw it feel like they weren’t alone.

“A lot of people have said they also found it quite liberating, that we’ve done this, that we’ve put it on. They said that they needed this kind of radical input, because they’d never seen anything like it” Ellamae told me on the penultimate day of the exhibition at Rose Bruford College, where her and MJ are just finishing their degrees in American Theatre Arts. “A girl came in here and said ‘I don’t think I would have liked this exhibit if it was just one person modelling, I don’t think it would have made a difference to me, because I’d still feel really insecure about myself. But the fact I’ve seen so many diverse women as a collective, working together on this; I feel like it’s made an impact on me.’”  And as other students came in and out of that room, and disappeared behind a curtain to print their vaginas with paint for the vagina wall, it did feel like a very diverse collection of women coming together for something special. Everyone who came in and looked at the photos seemed to be revelling in one thing –bodies, just being bodies.

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The images that have sparked the most attention so far, including an article in an Icelandic magazine, are the ones that are inspired by the tampon tax. When I asked MJ about where the idea for these came from she told me “It’s the irony of it being taxed as luxury – I was like ‘we should just totally get loads of massive dresses and wear tampons as earrings and all that kinda stuff, just to highlight the sheer fucking ridiculousness of luxury products. Like, no, no it’s not, I’m not shoving a Ferrero Rocher up my vagina.”

And so a shoot was born. Born out of a rage at things still not changing, at still having to put up with the system being forever stacked against women.  

MJ told me “I like shouting about it. It just excites me. But I think that’s just me because I’m a bit naughty and I like having fun like that, getting into trouble. I want to do stuff that in no way is quiet, because I think we can’t be quiet anymore; we’ve been quiet for so long.”

For me in particular, this struck a chord. I’ve always been privy to a bit of a discussion, an angry tweet now and then. But that’s not enough is it? It’s time to shout. And taking part in these photos, exposing my body, for me, felt like shouting. And I was shouting at myself just as much as at anyone else.

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For someone who has lived a life uncomfortable with how they look, it’s important to realise that it took a grand acceptance, to make me love it. I spoke to Ellamae and MJ about being a teenage girl, and asked what they would tell their 14-year-old selves about Stuck Up Cunts.

Ellame: “It’s really difficult because at that age I was getting into the age of trying to sexualise myself and flirt with boys. Those are the ages where you’re like ‘oh my god my boobs are growing, and I’m starting to look like a woman’”

MJ: “I mean I never experienced that – I did experience five padded bras”

Ellamae: “Your body shape changes though, you would have had a very straight figure, then your hips come in-”

MJ: “-and you’re like what the fuck is going on?”

“What we do now, I don’t think I could have done if I’d grown up in this perfect feminist world.” MJ went on to say. “All of this is reaction, and I think that this is my reaction to how I felt when I was 14 and what I think about it now. This whole thing is ‘why the fuck did you ever think like that?’”

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And what next? Where now? “I don’t think I’m finished fighting” MJ told me.
And as for me? I’ve only just started.

Stuck Up Cunts is going to the Edinburgh Fringe, and Ellamae and MJ have asked me to help develop a piece of theatre to go with it that will be headed to Summerhall at the beginning of August. Stay tuned for more information!

 

Words by Sian Brett.

Photos for Stuck up Cunts, by Ellamae Cieslik and MJ Ashton.