Kirsty Logan: Naked on the Internet

Most people in my life don’t know that I’m naked on the internet. It’s not a big secret – if they were to ask, I’d be honest about it. But they never do ask, of course: I suppose I just don’t seem like the type of person who would have got their tits out on camera. I’m not entirely sure what such a person would be like, but I don’t think it’s me.

When I was 18, I did about ten nude photo shoots over the course of six months. They were pretty tame; art students or amateur photographers rather than porn barons. The photos are probably still out there, but I don’t really think about them. The woman I am now, at 26, is not the same girl I was at 18. I have seen the photos and I know logically that those are my nipples and my ankles and my hips, but to look at they could be any of the thousands of other naked girls on the internet. The only reason I know it’s really me is that the girl in the photos has my face and my tattoos.

I recently confessed all by writing a personal essay about my nude modelling, which you can read at The Rumpus. I linked to it on my website and social networks, which are read by my friends, family, acquaintances, students in my adult learning classes, and fellow writers. It was my ‘coming out’: telling them without having to actually tell them.

The decision on whether to include photos was a tricky one. I wanted to confess; I wanted to show that I had no reason to be ashamed or secretive about this aspect of my past. Including pictures made it seem like I was trying to titillate, but I included them anyway; a decision I’m still not sure about. The photos made me feel naked – not in the sense that they show my skin, but in the sense that I was admitting to the world that I had liked to be looked at, and perhaps I still did. The photos said that this 26 year-old woman wasn’t so different from the 18 year-old girl after all.

Back then, I wanted attention. I wanted people to look at me and think that I was worth their time. Taking my clothes off seemed like a short cut: everyone wants to look at nude 18 year-olds. Now I don’t get naked for attention, but I do wonder whether my writing is based on the same need for recognition. Perhaps I still need people to say that I am worth their time. And because it takes longer to read a story than to look at a photo, maybe I feel that I am progressing.

I am a 26 year-old woman creating worlds with words, and I am an 18 year-old girl with goosebumped skin and a lens trained on my breasts, and I am a child stamping her foot and screaming look! look at what I made! look at who I am!

All of this is hard for me to admit. I am a feminist. I am educated. I am trying to make a living by being terribly clever and writing terribly clever things, and so I do not like to admit that I am just a scared and needy teenager underneath it all. But then, aren’t we all? Everyone is scared that they are going to get ‘found out’. That someone will come up to them one day and say: “You don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?” Because we all do know what we’re doing, but at the same time we have no fucking clue. Life is a series of bluffs.

I admit everything in my writing – everything – because if I reveal myself then no-one can do it for me. If I say: “Yes, I am totally fucking clueless and this whole thing is a just guesswork,” then no-one can catch me out. I confess! My ivory tower is full of empty biscuit wrappers and crumpled pieces of paper! I am a fraud!

It’s all a defence. It’s the strength of walls. I can’t be found out if I’ve already told everything. So yes, I am an attention-seeker. I need people to read what I have written and tell me that it was worth their time. But who doesn’t? Would we really scrawl on the walls of our cells if we knew it was all going to be washed away by the rain before anyone could see it?

I do this for me, and I do this for you. I am building a life, and I am building myself. I do it this way because I don’t know what else to do.

Learn more about Kirsty Logan at http://www.kirstylogan.com/*

9 Responses to “Kirsty Logan: Naked on the Internet”

  1. Hi, Kirsty. Excellent examination of this topic.

    I’ve occasionally written or created things “just for me”–and I’ve known people who did this habitually [creating just for themselves, that is--not for *me* : )]. Overall, though, I relate to the model (no pun intended) of artistic urges having a relationship to a desire for positive attention. It’s not the only reason I write, but it’s undeniably part of it.

    But I truly believe that as long as we don’t do it in such a way as to elbow others aside or demand attention that’s not voluntarily granted, it’s a positive thing. The world needs art; and artists, in many cases, thrive on being needed, looked at, and appreciated. Speaking for myself, I have a hunch that the wish to have my work noted and loved helps make it better. I think the artist-public relationship can be a synergistic one, and our craving of attention can be an important component of that.

  2. “I am a 26 year-old woman creating worlds with words, and I am an 18 year-old girl with goosebumped skin and a lens trained on my breasts, and I am a child stamping her foot and screaming look! look at what I made! look at who I am!

    Kirsty, this essay, and its companion piece at the The Rumpus (which I highly recommend) rang so true to my 48-year-old writer self and my inner teenager–and so in fact, while you wrote it for you, you also wrote it for me. That’s the magic of art, isn’t it?

    As social creatures we thrive to some degree on reading others’ reactions and teenage girls quickly learn their power as visual objects of pleasure. I enjoyed the power of “turning heads” but it was ultimately a hollow pleasure for me, because I knew they weren’t seeing me but a momentary manifestation of their own fantasy. In our writing we do require more of an investment of them–they have to allow our fantasy inside for a few moments. Or in the case of your essay, they get in touch with a profound and moving reality. And the great thing about writing–it only gets better and richer with time!

    And as you point out, being naked in the flesh isn’t nearly as scary as being exposed in other ways, so honesty can be seen as a defensive move. But your courage and insight, your insistence on defining your own self-revelation–as you did not so much when you modeled–is ultimately a positive and empowering force. These lessons are going to stay with me, as many images from your essays have lingered (and it wasn’t the pictures, it was the words…). Thanks so much for a wonderful post.

  3. Oh, but Jeremy I create things for you all the time. Wait… should I have said that? :)

    I love this piece, too, Kirsty. It is so very honest, and I think that we as writers are often made to feel like it’s not supposed to be about us at all — “It’s about the higher art”. In many ways, that’s true. But in other ways? It’s all about us as creator and communicator.

  4. Excellent essay, Kristy.

    I am a more solitary sort; I can be very self contained in my writing. Indeed, it was many years I was writing before I shared my works. Still, while I continue to write very much for myself, the act of sharing what I have created has become essential to me.

  5. What a fabulous, articulate, riveting essay I found this. Beautiful, open, and indeed exposing. I myself relate to the idea of exposing oneself before anyone else may do it. I love the way you put that, and the way you drew parallels between that, your writing, the photographic posing, you as a teenager, you as a child, you, and now.

    Lovely, and thank you so much for sharing here. Unquestionably I felt reading it was worth my time.

  6. “Oh, but Jeremy I create things for you all the time. Wait… should I have said that? :)”

    LOL.

  7. Oh Kirsty, this is brilliant – but you’ve gone and told the world our terrible secret! We are all just scared and needy children saying “Look what I made!”

    Of course we are.
    Margaret Atwood said: “I believe everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” Never a more honest word spoken!

    I loved this post :-)

  8. What a splendid example of true self-exposure. This was stunning, really.

    It’s funny because one of my favorite things to say when I’m feeling down about not really knowing what I’m doing is, “Neve, no one else really knows what the hell they’re doing either…”,

    so… when you said:

    “…You don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?” Because we all do know what we’re doing, but at the same time we have no fucking clue. Life is a series of bluffs…”

    The words, sang to me.

    Thank you this. It’s been a pleasure meeting you here.

  9. Ah, validation. Wonderful meditation on it, Kirsty. Thanks for sharing.

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