Do You Self Objectify?

In a world driven by Social Media the lines between Empowerment and Objectification can be blurred and it can be difficult to identify which is which and what behaviours you are actually engaging in? The Blossom Guide endeavours to support young women to understand the differences between Empowerment and Objectification so they can make informed choices. So, what are the differences and how do you know if you are in fact objectifying yourself?

Back in the day, when I was a teenager (I cringe as I say that) it was perhaps easier to see what Objectification was? I saw it as the models laying it all bare in lad’s magazines like Zoo, Ralph and FHM or Christina Aguilera shaking it in her ‘Dirty’ music video it was clear what behaviours or attitudes were pushing the envelope to gain attention, success or affirmation from an audience. In a nutshell Objectification can be defined as

·         Treating people as an object or thing

·         Treating people as if they have no thoughts, ideas or opinions of their own

·         Judging someone on how they look

This may sound quiet dramatic but let me explain

Do you judge people on purely how they look?

Do you judge yourself on purely how you look?

Lets simply start here, this can be objectification as we are not viewing ourselves or others as a whole person rather as our outer shell, what we look like and what ‘we appear to be’. When we are scrolling through Instagram and looking at famous models or influencer’s we are seeing picture perfect images rather than individuals’ goals, inner most thoughts, personalities and quirks. In turn this can make us want to present picture-perfect versions of ourselves with no real depth or layers. This is one part of Objectification so what is Empowerment? Empowerment can be defined as

·         To have power and authority over ourselves

·         To enable or permit ourselves to do what we want

·         To work towards reaching our goals

·         Believing in ourselves

This is the complete opposite to Objectification and if we are to compare it with our Social Media example above being Empowered would be posting an image no matter what you look like and posting just because you want to or you like the image. But why would I post an ugly picture of myself you ask? How could that be Empowerment? Empowerment is looking good and feeling good, at least that’s what we have been told.

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajowski pioneer this version of Empowerment, they post uber sexy shots, naked selfies and teeny tiny bikinis all under the banner of Empowerment. They have millions of followers, brand endorsements and opportunities you could only dream of, so if I were coming of age in this social media landscape, I too would take on this version of Empowerment. Not only do they post ‘bangin’ images they have the language and messages to go with it, Em Rata is an intellectual chic and underneath that topless shot you will usually find some clever feminist rhetoric. Below is a statement from Kim

“I am empowered by my body. I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I hope that through this platform I have been given I can encourage some empowerment for girls and women all over the world”

Kim Kardashian

Sounds great doesn’t it, sounds like a train you would want to be on?

This is where the lines are blurred socially Kim is seen as a ‘sex symbol’ and when she went to the White House last year to meet with the President about law reform most of the world laughed at her, because we objectify her and don’t expect her to be in that political arena. Most of her images are about beauty, fashion and body image so when we hear her speak of something different it doesn’t really make sense to us. So, while Empowerment is a personal choice, and feeling hot can be great, making it our utmost and lifelong goal can have detrimental effects.

Another example is actress Megan Fox, and uber babe who starred in the Transformer and Ninja Turtle Movies, Megan is that classic action gal think comic book icon, dark brunette hair, crystal blue eyes and cut off shorts on a motor bike, yet I was intrigued to read an article where Megan described herself as a nerd, an intellectual and if she had her way she would be reading news for Vice an alternative news site, she described however that because she had been classed as an action babe she found it difficult to land quirky and independent roles she truly desired, she had been pigeon holed.

Now, just because you post sexy shots doesn’t mean you should be pigeon holed but if that’s all you focus on and all you post this is in fact objectification and you do run the risk of people treating you as an object, judging you on purely how you look and perhaps treating you as if you have no thoughts or opinions of your own. We are multi faceted human beings with many sides, that we CAN share with the world we don’t want to limit ourselves by only focusing on one being the outside, essentially our looks. So, lets conclude with how do you know if you are objectifying yourself and what can you do about it?

How do you know if you are objectifying yourself?

·         Do you primarily focus on what you look like?

·         Do you post images online to get positive attention from others?

·         Do you change your appearance to impress others?

·         Do you repress yourself and what you truly believe to appear a certain way?

·         Do you judge yourself based on how you think other people may be viewing you?

 

How to stop self-objectifying?

·         Do not focus on solely what you look like

Take pride in your appearance but try not to solely focus on what you look like. Some days, you may feel great your skin is glowing, tummy feels flat enjoy this but do not make it the centre of the universe or who you are. Some days you may not be feeling good, blemishes and bad hair, who cares you can enjoy yourself this day too.

·         Try to stop judging others purely on what they look like

I am guilty of this! Try to not judge others purely on how they look either, like your class mate who always looks perfect or Aussie models Elyse Knowles and Steph Claire Smith who seem to appear as perfect off camera as they do in front of it. Remember they are just people too and have their off days, its only a perception they are promoting. Plus, if it gets too much take yourself offline for a while!

·         Focus on your goals

This may sound silly, but you’re not going to remember how hot you were in Year 10 when you are on your death bed. Focus on your goals what do you really want from this life? To be happy, creative, to achieve in certain areas such as sport of politics. If we focus on our goals it is harder to objectify ourselves or others as we are viewing the whole person.

 

·         Focus on who you are as a person

Something I never focused on as a young woman was who I really was? At the core? As a person? It is so important and something you can do straight away. Who are you? What makes you tick? Some examples may be

·         I am kind

·         I am caring

·         I have a great sense of humour

·         I feel strongly about animal welfare

·         I value my family

·         I am passionate

Etc, etc, the list can go on, please give yourself the time and space to think about this one.

·         Take care off yourself

When I talk about not objectifying ourselves, I am by no means telling you not to care how you look, what I am suggesting is caring for yourself deeply within which will then inevitably shine on the outside. You would have seen people who just look so darn happy their eyes beam, that’s what I am talking about. So, take care of yourself

·         Wash your face properly

·         Move your body

·         Spend time with positive people

·         Do something you love every day

·         Eat well

 

The road to true empowerment is not something that happens overnight, I am still working on it! Rather the more we try to limit objectifying ourselves the more we move in the right direction. I truly hope this article has been of assistance to you or opened your eyes to topics you may have never thoughts of before. Please follow The Blossom Guide as I will be sharing much more useful content this year.

Much Love

Jayde

X x x 

Jayde Robinson-Clancy

Founder: The Blossom Guide: A young woman’s guide to empowerment

Comic book characters are perhaps the most objectified….

Comic book characters are perhaps the most objectified….

Womens Bodies

Through the ages women’s bodies have been controlled, lusted after or judged by society. Many attitudes we have today about women’s bodies particularly women’s sexual bodies are remnants of the past and it is helpful for us to stop and think about this so we can identify what beliefs are impacting our well-being and what perspectives and ideas can better serve us.

The last workshop in The Blossom Guide Program is ‘Perception of Female Bodies’ this is one of my favourite sessions and I got to do a lot of interesting research for it! For example, in Ancient Greece which was the first civilised society ran primarily by men, they believed that women’s wombs wandered around their body and referred to it as like an ‘animal living within an animal’ not meaning to be derogatory but rather that a living thing with its own mind was living within another living thing. They believed this wandering animal is what caused women to be more emotional beings, and what caused us to be ‘hysterical’, this seems like such an absurd idea today! Yet not too long ago in Victorian era England (late 1800’s) again Dr’s who were primarily men still believed strongly in the notion of ‘hysteria’ which referred to women who were ‘neurotic’ and in todays society perhaps would mean somebody who is suffering from clinically diagnosed depression or anxiety. Yet again Dr’s firmly believed these ‘issues’ where caused in the ‘nether region’ and started treating women ‘down there’ it is believed Dr’s were in fact bringing women to orgasm and this in turn would cure their neurosis. This may sound strange but it is incredibly significant as this was happening in a time when society believed women were not sexual and did not enjoy sex, the ideas were purely medical. It was also at this time that the first vibrator was invented by Dr’s who were treating women for ‘hysteria’, pretty unbelievable these are the origins of what you would consider a modern-day sex toy!

So why am I writing about all of this, there were many strange ideas about women, their bodies and sexuality for a very long time it was only in the 1940’s that a scientific sexual survey started to prove that women did have orgasms and enjoy sex, an idea that would have challenged the cultural normative idea of women wanting to get married and have one partner whom they could have children with. By the 1960’s, the swinging sixties as many of your grandparents will remember! The cat was well and truly out of the bag and young people started challenging conservative ideas about women and women’s bodies, here we saw women wearing bikinis to the beach, miniskirts and becoming louder and prouder about their bodies and sexuality. It is also when widely available birth control became available in Western Countries in the form of the contraceptive pill, which highlighted societies relaxing attitude towards women’s sexuality and perhaps sex out of wedlock.

Now, this is a brief timeline and even though our ideas about women’s bodies started to shift many stereotypes and ideas were still prevalent for example just because women had access to the pill did not mean women could behave in the same sexual manner as men and if they did, they would still generally be stereotyped as a ‘slut’ or a ‘loose woman’. Even when I was in high school in the early 2000’s both young men and women said horrible things about women’s bodies, I heard time and time again that if a woman had lots of sex they would end up with a loose vagina, something that is medically just not true. I also heard things like ‘vagina’s smell’, ‘periods are disgusting’ ‘girls shouldn’t have any body hair’ etc etc, how do you think such constant messaging makes us feel about our bodies? Generally, not good, and like we must do things like remove hair or use vaginal washes in order for our bodies to be clean or acceptable, which again is simply not true.

So, what does this mean for young women today how can you feel good about your body, primarily your sexual body while still navigating a complex sexual landscape. How can you feel comfortable and secure in yourself and not self-conscious shielding yourself from unwanted judgement or ridicule, we have all seen a teen movie where some poor girl gets her period in her white one piece at the pools right in front of the popular group! Firstly, you need to know you are normal your body and your vagina are perfectly fine, there is nothing wrong with you and in fact being a woman is so damn great our bodies, cycles and abilities should be celebrated. In order to become comfortable with our bodies we need to increase our self-awareness, you can do this in your own time when your comfortable and take it slow. I would suggest that you grab a mirror and look at your vagina (or what specifically is known as the vulva as this is the outer part). We don’t see other vaginas in day to day life, we don’t see our Mums or other young women’s, they are not on TV and perhaps the only time young women see other vaginas is through things like Pornography or explicit content online which is really unhelpful as you will generally be seeing bodies that have undergone surgery.  So, after a nice bath or shower, in the privacy of your bathroom, take a few deep breathes, place your feet hip width apart grab a mirror and have a look at yourself. The idea is not to be shocked by what you see or approving in an aesthetic way, no its to be accepting, comfortable and understand this is your body, what it entails and what it looks like. Perhaps it will take you a few goes, or perhaps you will feel uncomfortable at first this is totally normal.

 It may take us a while to become fully comfortable with our bodies particularly in a society that promotes perfectionism as the ultimate goal yet I truly believe we can change how we feel and perceive ourselves through true self-care! Here are my top tips shared in the workshop

·         Wear clothes that fit you properly

 

This may sound simple but it’s so easy to go for ‘vanity sizing’ and to squeeze into too tight jeans because they look good or the number makes you feel good. Wearing too tight clothes can cause health problems and they generally can just make us feel uncomfortable therefore we can’t be our best selves in that moment. (I actually went up a jean size this year and its been oh so liberating!)

 

·         Go for natural materials when buying undies

I know Cotton on Body may have the cutest knickers in pastels and fluro’s but usually these ‘fashion’ undies are made from synthetic fabrics which are not the best for our bodies and don’t allow our vagina to breathe and be healthy. Natural fibres like cotton or organic bamboo will leave you feeling comfortable and fresh all day long therefore better about yourself. (I actually now get excited when it’s a bamboo undie day!)

·         Create a self-care ritual

 

Don’t just on products to look a certain way that’s so superficial and one dimensional, the way we treat our bodies can do so much more for us. For example, maybe you will have a bath and scrub your body every Sunday night, when you get out you will slowly moisturise your whole body before putting on your PJ’s and hoping into bed. Slow intentional, mindful routines like this can make us feel so relaxed, good about ourselves and show us we truly care about ourselves deeply that’s why we make this time, rather than rushing around and quickly shaving our legs, bikini line or something like this.

 

My favourite thing is a grapefruit body scrub and then a really rich Frankincense and Sesame Body Oil, delish 😊

 

·         Wear the right size bra

 

Again, so simple, yet so powerful. Make sure your wearing the right size bra this is good for your posture and overall comfort throughout the day. Also, you don’t need to wear pretty or sexy bras everyday as these are generally not designed for full support a good quality t shirt bra (again good fabrics) will make you feel so secure and fabulous

 

·         Think good thoughts

Get to know your body and think good thoughts about it. Know that your body is unique to you and it needs you to love and accept it, no one else! If you feel comfortable, and confident this will also help when you enter into interpersonal relationships

 

This has been such a huge topic to cover in one blog, so thank you for journeying with me and I hope its been informative, a little entertaining and helpful. Remember your ideas don’t have to change overnight yet becoming more open, going on a journey and committing to truly caring about yourself is so powerful! If you have any questions or thoughts please always feel free to email me at jayde@theblossomguide.com.

Enjoy yourself and your body

Much love

Jayde

X x x x

 

P.S

If you would like to learn more about your period and menstruation cycle, I highly recommend Lucy Peaches fantastic Fringe Festival Show ‘How to Period Like a Unicorn’. I learnt so much about women’s cycles I had never heard of or considered and it really changed my perception and overall respect for my body. Click on the link and scroll to bottom of page which will state the underage date 😊

 

https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/my-greatest-period-ever-fw2019

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Why we cannot shame young women's sexuality

This is the first blog I have written in a while, I really should be writing more as I have so much to share from all of the learning’s from the young women I have been working with, all of the societal observations, pondering’s, questions and tips. I pledge to write regularly from now on.

This blog is about why we cannot and must not shame young women’s developing sexuality and this is a crucial and fundamental part of The Blossom Guide’s vision, mission and something I must share.

We are living in a truly unique time things are completely different for young women coming of age now, due to changes in technology, the phenomenon of hyper-sexualisation and changes in societal attitudes and beliefs. It can be really challenging for parents, teachers, youth workers or other adults in a young woman’s life to really understand what’s going on and what the thoughts, feelings, pressures or insecurities the young woman in their life may be experiencing. There is no more challenging topic than sexuality, from the 1950’s till now talking about the ‘birds and bees’ has always caused a cringe in Australian society. I feel lucky that I love talking about it and that I have the privilege to create a space for young women to talk about it.  Now this is not about sexual intercourse or the act itself as we cover sexual health fantastically in this country, no this is something deeper something much more interesting to me and that is what actually is sexuality and why is it so important?

When I wrote The Blossom Guide content at age 27 from a social science viewpoint exploring women’s empowerment and modern issues, particularly hyper-sexualisation, I was startled to discover I didn’t fully understand what sexuality was, how it is natural, a part of me and something that will be developing my whole life and perhaps something I should be aware of! I reflected back on my education, peers, experiences and the messages fed to me and realised not once was I given a holistic view of sexuality not even from Cosmopolitan the Magazine, which I then considered to be the sexuality bible. I discovered that essentially sexuality was

·         Capacity for sexual feelings

·         Sexual preference

·         Sexual activity

·         Day to day behaviours- Such as the way you choose to present yourself or the behaviours you engage in

I read a whole array of books on sexuality including a book called ‘Me Sexy’ that focused on indigenous sexuality and the perspectives and attitudes before western colonialism and sexual awkwardness came along, some hang ups we still have today.

So back to the girls, I really wasn’t sure how they were going to take this content, would it be embarrassing, irrelevant or too much? To my surprise from the get go young women have absolutely lapped up this content and want much more! In the Blossom Guide Session- Positive Female Sexuality the main learning outcomes are

·         Understanding the notions of sexuality and sensuality

·         How to critique the messages being conveyed to you

·         How to use your values to navigate this space

·         Self-Confidence

In between these topics we explore everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to Lingerie Companies, Kim Kardashians Sex Tape and Netflix shows like Riverdale and Vampire Diaries. More importantly we talk about sensuality and how you must value yours before engaging in your sexuality, something again I personally had no idea about at age 27!

So, what do I mean about not shaming young women’s sexuality, obviously parents or teachers do not want to shame young people, but unfortunately it is much more complex than that and here is why.  Australia very much is still a conservative country we find it hard to discuss sexuality or what young people need (Safe Schools debacle!) yet we have huge hyper sexual undertones, we consume a lot of Porn (one of the top countries in the world) and have some pretty sexist attitudes in a variety of arenas, in case you missed it our Prime Minister Scott Morrison just made a terrible joke about Pamela Anderson, something you would expect from a 1970’s BBQ. What this means is our young women are somewhere in between they don’t know what really is going on, yet get a lot of very strong messaging with things from the conservative basket like “Guys want to have sex more than girl’s” and some from the hyper sexual basket like “Having bigger breasts makes you more sexually attractive”. Mix this up with Social Media and a very sexualised Pop Culture and you are headed towards a young woman who will be behaving and holding attitudes that weren’t hers to begin with. Its so easy to think this is terrible and young women are doomed, yet here is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Developing as a young woman through the teen years can be the best years, you have space to experiment, breathe, ponder who you are and the freedom to explore many areas of life. I was talking to a teacher the other month who warmly reflected on her ‘Goth’ stage during high school, an image that seemed miles away from who she was now but obviously a very core part to her development. This is also an age you start to notice yourself, notice others, have sexual feelings or get sexual attention. I can remember summers with my cousin posing provocatively on our blow up ‘lilo’s’ down the lake we felt so good and giggled uninhibited in the sunshine, these snaps were taken on our disposable Kodak cameras and no one would ever see the photos but us! Something purely innocent, yet if done in today’s context through ‘Sexting’ or ‘Snap Chat’ could be considered something terrible. We too looked to Pop Idols and mimicked them something done through the ages, yet with today’s starlets pushing the boundaries more than ever one simple and strong message is being sold to our girls ‘sex sells’ and be who you want to be, but being sexy is paramount. Kylie Jenner (the youngest Kardashian) who has over 100 million Instagram followers, a fan base of mostly 15-year old’s and resembles a real-life Barbie Doll due to plastic surgery also has a make up empire with lip sticks that read ‘x rated’, ‘barely legal’, ‘virginity’, ‘hot and bothered’. Plus, stars like Rihanna or Gigi or Bella Hadid can wear sheer dresses exposing their breasts or thongs on the red carpet. This may feel great and expressive to them but I don’t think Year 12 girls at Perth’s MLC could attend their formal in this attire.

My point is young women are currently stuck between a ‘rock and hard place’ with parents saying “Don’t go out in that” and Pop Stars saying “Go out in nothing”. We need to support young women to critique their choices and understand themselves rather than shutting them down which may encourage them to choose the latter. This is also a very sensitive time when you vulnerably express yourself or engage in a behaviour that can be wrong for you, being come down hard on can be a huge blow to self-confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

I delivered a talk to 200 year 10’s last month that included ‘Sexting’. A young woman came up to me afterwards and said how much she had loved the talk because she had never heard sexting and sexuality discussed in that way. Basically, I had said that wanting to express yourself sexually is natural and not to feel ashamed about, it’s the choices we make we need to be aware of. She told me she had been involved in a sexting incident in Year 7 she had sent an image to a boy that had gone viral, she explained when she was taken to the school office both her parents and teachers talked about how bad it was and how disappointed they were. She said no one asked her why she had done it and if they had she would be answered because she wanted to, because it was exciting and because it made her heart race. No, she didn’t get to share what was really going on and what is going on for many other young women.

Rather than telling young women what is right or wrong or what they can or cannot do we need to sit in the space with them, provide support and try to understand. Yes, share your values or own experiences, this is am ongoing conversation that you too will learn so much from. Let’s not be horrified or fearful of young women’s sexuality they are not a weapon or an inherent risk. Let’s make them feel safe and empowered enough to trust themselves and even enjoy themselves!

Written by Jayde Robinson-Clancy

Founder of The Blossom Guide- A Young Woman’s Guide to Empowerment

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Shaming Other Women

The incident of Play Boy Model Dani Mathers sharing a nude photo of an unconsenting nude woman in a change room in LA spiked The Blossom Guide’s radar back in June. Not only was a nude shared to an un relentless network, but Dani also mocked and made fun of the state of the woman’s physique. The look on Dani’s face in the candid caption is similar to that of a token ‘mean’ girl in a D grade horror movie and clearly this young woman who had achieved success by having the ideal sexualised woman’s body was not happy with what she saw. This represented something much bigger than Dani, it reflected the general disgust women can have for other women for no other reason than the way they look. Again, this issue is timeless, and is not new to 2016, think the girl who comes from a low socio economic back ground and turns up to school unkempt with a ragged hand me down uniform or the socially awkward girl who tries too hard to be on trend at a party and is mocked and teased by the group. Yet, in this modern day the shaming and judging of other women has never been so prevalent, accessible and encouraged. Pick up any woman’s mag in Australia and you will find pictures of over-weight or average women the ‘ultimate female failure’ with the associated story of how their life is a mess, their partner left them for the hot young baby sitter and now they have no place. Or the group chat messages that constantly feature screen shots of other women’s bodies, bikini pics, dress sense, poses and associated commentary. Or the new mother who has ‘let herself go’ due to her chipped nails, regrowth and Trackie pants, gross.

Now, where sexuality is concerned this is where it can get quiet dark and even harmful to all women. Women collectively walk a fine line and personal responsibility of how they react and respond to other women’s image and behaviour. For example, a close friend of mine once revealed she could not watch The Victoria Secret Fashion Show with her partner in the room as it made her feel physically sick; the dichotomy of being too ‘ugly’ is being too ‘sexy’ this is another historical and modern day problem. The shaming of sexually overt women is just as or even more common than the shaming of less desirable women. I’m sure Playmate Dani Mathers has received her fair share of social shaming for choosing to pose naked for a living. Kimmy K’s naked selfies or most recently Chrissy Teigen’s ‘Vagina Dress’ sparked absolute uproar primarily from other women, I too had a reaction I had to unpack. Or popular ‘real’ bloggers such as Constance Hall who satirically posed in her bikini at the beach commenting on Rebecca Judd’s sexiness only a couple of weeks after twins and her own a couple years after birth. Is this healthy? Does it help women to be able to laugh that their bodies are not the same as Rebecca Judd’s? Or could we have healthier conversations on women’s identities without the constant personal comparison and mockery?

In a time based on the freedom of social expression could we even begin to not focus on the sexual overtness or lack thereof as the primary characteristic of a woman. Could Dani have put her phone away at the gym, and not glared in a female counter parts direction harmlessly getting changed after a personal workout with absolute contempt. We all have a responsibility to unpack the feelings, reaction and judgements within ourselves, which is very difficult in a society saturated with criticism and ideals.

The Blossom Guide takes this responsibility very seriously and facilitates discussion around pop culture icons, attitudes, normative behaviours and social expectations as opposed to focusing on or criticising individuals. The Blossom Guide hopes and is working towards a future generation of girls who will be empowered not to fall victim to constant comparison and the shaming of other women.

Written by Jayde Robinson-Clancy
- Founder The Blossom Guide

Social Sexuality

Why does The Blossom Guide do what it does? Why a focus on Social Sexuality? What does that even mean? The Blossom Guide believes and evidence tells us that girls and young women’s attitudes towards sexuality and behaviours are significantly influenced by external factors such as Pop Culture, Social Media and Sexualised Images. Bikini snaps flooding Instagram, pouting filters on Snap chat or twerking like Miley on a Saturday night represent much more than ‘girls being girls’ it represents young women naturally responding to the sexually saturated world around them.  We can appreciate adolescent women through the ages have been taught to value or even obsess over their image and bodies. Looking good, being ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’ has usually been associated with success for women. However, what we have now is something much different young women are taught that being ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’ from the moment you know how to ‘work it’ is paramount. Being sexually overt is expected and celebrated; what we are seeing is a whole new world to navigate for adolescents.

 The Blossom Guide appreciates Respectful Relationship programs and respects Physical Sex Education, yet how can these initiatives have meaningful impact if girls are being sexualised before they even hit puberty. Common themes of consent we have been campaigning for as a Nation for decades can be tricky when teens ideas of sex are now informed by Hard Core Porn. The real challenges young women face in this space is the belief that their sexuality is not something innate and personal, rather something you ‘put on’ and perform in order to be popular and valued. Who cannot remember stating to their parents in response to a rule “Oh but everyone is doing it” well that is how it is for the current ‘Sexting’ crisis we see in Australia. Young people don’t even use the term ‘Sexting’ because sharing nude pics is considered normal "Everyone is doing it". In a recent article a 20-year-old young women was explaining to her Mum nude images won’t be a big deal in 20 years as even the politicians will have a history of nude pics plastered over the internet, as it is 'that normal'. Whether you agree with nudes or not, this is the space we are living in and there is a call for down to earth and frank conversations with young people. The Blossom Guide is at the forefront of creating this space for young women, empowering them and giving them the tools to navigate this landscape for themselves. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ no anti this or anti that, the conversation is simply based on the world and reality we are living in and how young women can identify their own values so that they can make informed choices and feel good about themselves. 

Good Girls and Bad Girls

Good Girls and Bad Girls
Since moving from tribal communities to agriculturally based societies where religion, property and marriage all have played a significant role in people's lives one thing is for sure we have always divided women into 'good girls' and 'bad girls'. Good Girls being the ‘girl next door’ who would be invited to Grans dinner on Sunday night and stay for a sensible game of scrabble afterwards, Bad Girls as Pamela Anderson once perfectly put it are “the one every man wants, but would never marry”, a simplistic split huh?
Even to this day young women struggle to find their balance in between, somewhere where they can express their innate sexuality, be comfortable and true to themselves without conforming to expected norms or ‘going too far’ and being called a 'slut'. 
The Blossom Guides workshops focus on how young women view themselves and others and ask the big question why? Why in 2016 can young women’s self-esteem cling to two socially constructed concepts? 
New research has concluded that teen girls 'sext' because they think it’s fun and sexy rather than because they feel pressured by boys. Times have changed and culturally being a stripper, porn star or hyper- sexual can be seen as cool and attractive you only have to look up Sasha Greys American Apparel campaign or the incredible transformation of Miley from Disney sweetheart to Madonna’s even better protégé. 
The truth is women are many things we are complex there is no black and white or ‘good’ and ‘bad’ just a combination of the two. Who can watch Grease and not get excited by the wicked transformation of the doe-eyed, poodle skirt wearing Sandy to that black of the shoulder top, beyond skin tight black pants combined with red pumps. Women are many things and young women need to understand they don't need to be a certain way to be valued or 'fit in', young women need to accept themselves as they are. An integrated sense of self will lead to much more confident young women and healthier relationships. 

Generation XXX

Young people are watching or looking at explicit images at unprecedented rates. Never before have vast amounts of boys and girls seen hardcore porn at age 12. We have started to see sexualised behaviours played out in Primary Schools and High Schools, yet do not know what the long-term effects will be on relationships and our community.
This issue affects both boys and girls,however impacts both sexes differently. We know young women are generally introduced to porn by a male, girls who then watch porn whilst developing their sexuality believe they have to perform and act in a certain way for their partners to value them. This blocks girls from experiencing sexuality on their own terms and from pleasure. The worst case scenarios are we now have a large amount of young women presenting to GP clinics across the country with sexual injuries.
The Blossom Guide works with Schools, Community Agencies and Wellbeing Services focusing on a preventative approach looking at Porn Literacy.
The Blossom Guide does not have an agenda or certain stance on Pornography, sexuality and sexualised images have been explored from the beginning of time. The Blossom Guide ultimately works with young women to feel good about themselves, their choices, behaviours and instil a confidence so they can be in control of what they experience and witness.

Positive Female Sexuality

For me, nothing epitomises the current context and debate of positive female sexuality in Australia than luxury lingerie boutique Honey Birdette.
For those who don’t know, Honey Birdette instantly rose to have a cult following of female fans since its launch as ‘Australia’s first sensuality boutique’ back in the mid-noughties. Originally packaged as a pin-up/ burlesque inspired store with glamorous cherry-lipped shop assistants, champagne and decadent accessories, where women can carefully select lingerie or accessories for themselves rather than a $20.00 faux lace teddy from the local adult store. The first time I discovered a store I was thrilled I felt as if id walked into Dita Von Teese or Bettie Pages wardrobe, nipple tassels and all. The store overall was a welcomed concept for Australian women and Honey Birdette has always maintained its aim is to empower women in a feminine space. 
Fast forward ten years and Honey Birdette’s sets have kept up with popular culture becoming raunchier, much more diverse and influenced by sexual sub culture's such as Bondage, BDSM or the Japanese art of rope tying. Young women flock to stores to take a selfie in one of their new sets which can sell out in the space of hours. Now, this is where it gets interesting activist groups claim Honey Birdette is nothing more than a sex shop in disguise infiltrating our shopping centres. A recent headline from a well-known activist group boldly stated “While we're counting dead women Honey Birdette is counting their cash”.
Honey Birdette’s advertising has also started pushing the envelope, with a Xmas themed advert showing a tied up Santa and model in a sexy red set, which the Australian Advertising standards board found in breach of the advertisers code of ethics as it suggested “sexual violence”. Or most recently a Bondage themed set ‘Grace’, gracing the front of stores had parents outraged stating their daughters are confused by the images and should not be seeing them. Since Honey Birdette opened its doors many members of the public in different cities have been outraged the store sells female sex toys in shopping centres and the same activist group mentioned above claims Honey Birdette supports the sex industry and male dominated porn pacing’s. 
Now I don’t have all the answers but for me particularly in The Blossom Guide context once again we are left with female sexuality as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ‘or ‘nice’ or ‘threatening’ to community standards, which we don’t see for boys, this will most definitely leave our girls confused. All Honey Birdette advertising only features women (apart from the tied up Santa) and generally depicts women in a sexually powerful position whether you are into bondage or not I’m much more comfortable seeing women own their sexuality than in a compromised position which you can commonly see displayed by other retailers. The expression of sex and sexuality is ultimately a choice and shouldn’t be relayed to us as distasteful. Many women have responded to the backlash against Honey Birdette with statements such as “Luxe me up Valentine” or “Nice girls do”.
In the ultimate hyper-sexualised context we are living in could Honey Birdette, in fact display positive female sexuality up against total derogatory advertising by other industries such as Alcohol, Sport or Fashion? Or have we still got a long way to go and is Australia ultimately uncomfortable with female sexuality?

Comparison

The Blossom Guide concept is simple Young Australian Women are not feeling good about themselves and their mental health is at an all- time low! Yes, some of these feelings of angst, awkwardness and discomfort during these developmental stages can be seen in our own or mothers and grandmothers times. Who can forget declaring they are not going out because they have nothing to wear, or staring in the mirror for hours trying to perfect their look inspired by their favourite star, which in my case was bold Red Fudge streaks Christina Aguilera ‘Come on Over’ style. Some of these behaviours can be creative and fun and some may say “girls will always be girls", however, what we find today is something much more toxic and detrimental to girl’s lives and that is constant comparison with others. 
Comparison with global superstars Gigi and Kendall, comparing themselves to everyday girls who are ‘hot’ enough to launch a career and become Insta famous, comparison with that girl at school who can afford Mecca make up and contour just right or that girl who has total ‘couple goals’ as she constantly shares the perfect shots with her boyfriend. The pressure is at an all-time high and it is really easy to not feel good about yourself. As a society we want everything and it is not as easy to determine what we have and what we don’t have based on our values and feel good about it. For example your nails aren’t shellacked every day but you’re saving for a kick ass trip to South America next summer or you don’t have a sexy girl gang with the best snap chats but you and your mates hang out and have a meaningful good time. 
Constant comparison makes us loose our innate sense of self and individuality as comparison usually focuses on extrinsic superficial qualities such as the ‘perfect summer bod’. Young women are losing focus on what is really important to them and getting caught up in socially constructed expectations and conformity. Last month Alyssa Azar became the youngest Australian to climb Mount Everest at age 19 a mind blowing achievement yet young women’s news feeds were most likely flooded with who Kylie Jenner is dating.