Of The Body

I have grown to really love the human body over the last few years. The human form is amazingly beautiful to me and the more I learn about how it functions the more beautiful it becomes. I also love my body, something that I could not always claim. Throughout high school, and even into my military days, I was uncomfortable being naked and found myself to be incredibly unattractive. As my views have changed and I have stopped comparing myself to the male physique that is marketed to me I find I am much happier and I am more inspired to actually take care of my body.

I believe people would greatly benefit if they came to love their body, be comfortable naked alone, and become comfortable naked around others without an assumption of sexual contact. Loving myself and my body was a huge milestone for me and helped me re-evaluate a lot of things I once believed, I think that is why it is so important to me. Unfortunately, in American society the image of the body has been completely skewed through a combination of unrealistic expectation as well as a puritan view of the body that oversexualizes it. The three sources of this skewing that comes to mind is advertising, movies/tv, and pornography.

Advertising in the western world does the most damage to body image in my opinion. The airbrushing, model selection process, and plastic surgery puts forth an image that is not attainable by most people. To be bombarded with these images has an effect on people on both a conscious and subconscious level. This is the most serious offender, while pornography and Hollywood may cause problems most people are aware movies and tv shows are fiction, they are fantasy, they are stories. This is explicitely known from the beginning, with advertising the line between fantasy and reality blurs and we are told what we are seeing is real.

Hollywood plays a part in setting up unrealistic expectations for body, but without airbrushing the real harm comes from the censorship enforced by the MPAA. If you haven’t seen “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” I highly advise it, it is available on Netflix streaming. Hollywood creates an environment where the male body is used only as a joke, the female form is only for sex, female pleasure is often censored, and homosexual relationships are rarely given the same support that heterosexual relationships are. Essays upon essays could be written on this subject but for me the distortion of the body is what matters. The body is never shown in a comfortable and normal environment, instead it is sex or comedy. We have a society that says that showing realistic murders is okay for evening television but the presence of an areola is forbidden.

This reinforcement of the nude form being only allowed for sex is incredibly harmful. From school children giggling at art to dress codes that sexualize all flesh men grow up with no need to mature or practice self control. Instead of learning that the body has many functions we are taught that skin equals sex. I think people rightfully claim that Americans are desensitized to violence and in it’s place we have become overly-sensitized to the beautiful human form.

I believe pornography also has an impact on body image, but I don’t think it is as harmful as the other two. Certainly traditional porn features an unnatural “porn star” look that isn’t obtainable by the average person. I think this is particularly true when it comes to vaginal construction, there is a certain vaginal look with minimized labia’s that is pretty common in porn but is rare in real life (at least in my experience). Fortunately, porn is a very free market with a growing demand for amateur and “amateur” porn with realistic people. I think it is worth noting that the Australian government has worked to ban small breasts in pornography, basically telling society what a “real sexual woman” looks like. Within pornography you can also find evidence that nudity does not equal sex, but coming from the reverse direction. If you’ve ever seen one of the “Beautiful Agony” videos you know that just seeing the facial expressions and hearing the sounds of someone in orgasm can be incredibly erotic, no nipples, vaginas, butts, or penises needed.

The human form is a beautiful thing. It exists independent of sex and we would all be better off if we desensitized ourselves to seeing people in the buff. When every body is no longer seen as a sex object you get more value and pleasure out of sex when it happens. Making something taboo, forcing it underground, and placing unrealistic puritanical standards on society harm everyone. I think the first step is to love yourself and your body first. Strip down, look in the mirror, and just enjoy the wonder of you. Everybody is different, there is such beauty in variety but that beauty can’t be seen if all we see is sex or shame.

Note: I realize that I address the human form in general and the female form in particular. I think there is a good discussion to be had about how specialization of nudity has an effect on men viewing men and when I get my thoughts sorted out I may do a blog post.

Post Script: While I think Hollywood and modern marketing does a lot of harm I don’t believe there should be government intervention. A society that produces unrealistic forms is bad, but a society that sees violence (and all government action is violence) as an appropriate response to all ills is even worse. Education, discussion, and information is how we should fight.

As always I recognize that my views are skewed based on my gender, sex, race, and economic status. I certainly don’t claim to speak for anyone except myself. These are my perceptions as an individual white, middle-class, pansexual with a penis

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KinK

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I recently started watching the show “KinK” on Netflix. “KinK” is a Canadian documentary series that follows and interviews people who have lifestyles and fetishes that tend to run outside the mainstream. BDSM, cross-dressing, and polyamory are all highlighted in a realistic and oftentimes fascinating way.

While I’ve never been involved in much non-vanilla sex I do have an interest in it, just like I have an interest in everything, and this show has been a wonderful introduction. As a documentary the people involved are not actors, they are real people with bodies, minds, and emotions that are a fresh break from the choreographed sexuality of pornography and romantic comedies. You get to see real scenes in an informative way and come to understand the bond that is shared between the people who participate. There are many themes that run through the show (at least so far, I’m only on Season 1), but the primary ones seem to be hurting and harming are different, it is immoral to do anything without consent and immoral to prevent consenting adults from enjoying themselves, and the responsibility for communication and support does not end at the bedroom. Three things that I think all people can learn from.

I’m still not sure if the kinky lifestyle is for me but the people involved seem to be good people focused on communication, love, and safety. I’ve been to one BDSM club and in my natural introverted fashion I stayed on the edge and didn’t really do much, but I hope to explore a little more and find out what the world has to offer. I once had a pastor preach that being comfortable isn’t good or bad, it is neutral because you are being static and not challenging yourself. Being comfortable is necessary to refuel from time to time but I want more to life than refueling, and that means getting out there and figuring out where my limits are.

Anyway, if you have Netflix and are curious I recommend checking out the show. You just might learn something or a new experience might appeal to you.

Your Body is Beautiful

This article has been floating around my FB feed the last couple of days and it really got me thinking. Now, I am always a little skeptical of dumbed down versions of scientific studies this more honestly focuses on the authors thoughts, anecdotal evidence, and uses some studies to try and back up the hypothesis that “Nudity Provides Health Benefits for Your Body and Brain”. (WARNING: If you click on the article you will see a few butts, nipples, pubic hair, and penises in non-sexual photographs).

I have become incredibly comfortable with my body and being naked. I find the human form to be beautiful (both male and female) and see it as something that can be entirely removed from sexual acts. But, I wasn’t always comfortable with the naked body, particularly my own.

Throughout my teenage years I had a very unhealthy perception of my body. I felt extremely overweight and unattractive. Looking back at photos from those years I see that my perception was wrong. I wasn’t really overweight and my image was about par for any teenager. Sure, I had acne, was awkward, and had no idea what to do with my hair, but I think most people experienced that. I was slower to develop but not abnormally so. Basically, I was a teenager.

It wasn’t really until college that I started really started getting comfortable with my body. I don’t remember exactly why (probably an article or something I read) but I started looking at myself naked in the mirror more and trying to honestly see myself. It helped.. a lot. And by time I got to Burning Man the only thing that stopped full on nudity was the hot weather and the unavoidable fear that I would make others uncomfortable. Burning Man really did finalize the divorce between sex and nudity for me though, and with that divorce came a greater appreciation of the human body during sexual acts as well as outside of them. When you don’t lust after every nipple or vagina that you see you come to appreciate and really experience the form when sex does happen.

As we stand now I am more comfortable nude than clothed (as long as the temperature is appropriate). At home and around my partner I am nude more often than not. I have not been to a nude beach/resort (yet) but I feel like I would really enjoy the freedom that comes from being surrounded by people comfortable with their own bodies. In fact, the introverted concern for others discomfort is really all that prevents me from being nude more often around my social group… though I have been known to slip my shorts off in the hot tub once in a while. I even submitted a covered up but nude picture of myself reading “Man, Economy, and State” to nudereadingissexy.tumbr.com (and if I find it I’ll put it up here also). With each new experience naked my confidence grows, particularly with my friends who are loving, accepting, and non-judgmental like me.

Certainly, there are things about my body I’d like to improve but that doesn’t stop me from loving every inch of myself. I’d love to get healthier, get rid of this gut, and tighten up my gluts but I still like what I got.  I have come to appreciate the artistic form of Abercrombie abs or a porn stars schlong without comparing myself to them as some sort of ideal. In order to be comfortable and confident I needed to strip off my clothes, look at myself, and love myself enough to not care what others think.

My form is beautiful, and so is yours.

Bike Ride 2014!

I love Los Angeles. I think in a lot of ways it will be a place I will always consider my home (though “homebase” seems more accurate). The people, the weather, the culture, the opportunities… it is just an amazing place.

But, I’m nomadic and I need another adventure. After chatting with friends and working out a budget it looks like I will be doing another bike ride, but this one will implement the lessons learned on the last one and be more intensive in a lot of ways. Right now I plan on it being about a year long, about 15,000 miles, and cover all 48 lower states.

The biggest change is the wonderful addition of my partner on this ride. As an avid cyclist she was intrigued by my cross-continent ride last summer and thrilled when it became obvious that we wanted to go on this journey together. This will obviously change things and provide opportunities for amazing highs… but it can (and probably will) put us under emotional and physical stress. Luckily we are pretty great together and our introverted laid back nature makes us a pretty good team and I think we will be great adventurers.

So, if you live somewhere and want us to crash on your couch or know of something awesome we can see please let me know. A rough route is below but realistically we will often change course on a whim to have adventures (and google map has a limited number of destination points you can put in).

year route

Lifestyle Change

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I’m out of excuses and I’m high on motivation. It is time to actually make some changes to become healthier (inside and out) and accomplish the things I want to accomplish. For the last couple of days I have been resetting and planning out my schedule a little more so that I won’t drift into procrastination. As part of that I am hoping that making this public will help me stay accountable.

Physical

I will be working out multiple times a week after work alternating between yoga and weights. I’ll also be putting cardio into my routines either through morning bike rides to work or running at the gym after work. Some friends are also talking about doing P90X as well. I stuck with P90X before my first burn and it worked really well for me. In addition I need to start eating better. I’ve decided to cut out all drinks except for water and black coffee during the week and am trying very hard to get back into a plant based diet. Cooking meals for the week is tough but I think I can make it happen.

Mental

In addition to my yoga routine, which includes Restorative and Hatha Flow + Qigong, I am adding meditation to my daily routine. I’m still trying to work out a time of day that I can stick with this consistently, it looks like in the morning upon waking is the best time.Sleep is also a big issue, I want 7-8 hours a night and that means in bed by 10 when possible and up at 6ish. I also want to do more reading and writing, reading has been easy but writing has not. Blog updates have been pretty steady but real writing has been difficult. I think I need to really block off time in my schedule for this on the weekends or something.

Financial

I want to spend my time going to festivals, Burning Man, camping, and other events with friends. That means saving cash and not wasting it on meals, Starbucks, or out at bars very often. Cooking for myself is a main way to save some cash but I really just need to be able to say no when tempted. It isn’t easy but if I keep focused on the other events I want to do I can pull it off.

Sex and Love

Continue with giving and receiving.

Focus

So, what are the things I want to prepare for and do this year? Burning Man of course… but I’d also like to go to Lucidity as well. I’d like to be on the way to running a marathon. Saving money for my next adventure is also a goal, I’m not sure what that adventure is yet but I have a couple ideas including hiking the Pacific Crest, travelling around Australia, and a trip to Patagonia. My education is also something that I want to focus on which means getting my GRE scores up, finding some programs, and getting some applications out there. For a while I’ve been focusing on the LA area but that may change depending on how my job pans out in the next few months.

Yoga

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After 8 months of travel, settling in, being broke, being busy, and procrastinating I went back to yoga last night. Man, I have really missed it. As an INTJ it is always really nerve-wracking to start anything new in a class based setting. I like to slowly observe and process things first and that is rarely possible for a yoga class. I did make the decision to start with the Restorative class at this studio and I think that was the right choice.

The class was mostly breathe work and slow, long, deep positions. In the 75 minutes we only did 4-5 positions but they were long, this provided a great opportunity for a meditative atmosphere and plenty of time to get comfortable in a new surrounding. The instructor, Denise, was incredible. She was patient and attentive to the fairly large class and made time for each student. Even in LA it is tough to find a studio that is affordable, has classes at a time and place that I can get to, and provides a comfortable environment with instructors that I connect with. The Yoga Place fulfilled all my needs (and having a Groupon didn’t hurt either).

There were many first time students present who were incredibly friendly. In fact, it took me by surprise when several people initiated conversations with me. I’m always a bit shy in these situations and it is a struggle to converse sometimes. I think it will go more smoothly in the future when I am not as overwhelmed by a new studio, new people, new instructor, and new class format. I think my yoga mat may have made people think that I was more experienced than I was, I have a beautiful mat from Devi Yoga that was absolutely amazing. If you are looking for a new mat I recommend you check out their beautiful selection.

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My awesome mat 🙂