Erobintica

Fuck Shame

First I cranked the heat up and let the room warm up. Sixty-five degrees is not conducive to disrobing. Yeah, I knew that I didn’t have to literally get naked to participate here at F-Stop. But the Naked I within me wanted to. Why?

Because it scared me.

Because for most of my life I’ve been ashamed of my body.

Because I could hear loud and clear all the reasons why not to.

Because I’m slowly becoming more comfortable in my own skin.

Because I can think of all the reasons why I should.

Because it’s a transgressive act.

Because it scares me.

Fear and shame are like that gooey substance they use in mousetraps. You know the stuff. I’ve used those traps in the attic. I’d know when a mouse stepped on one. Because usually they didn’t jump in with all four feet. Nope. Maybe just one foot. Mice aren’t stupid. As they’d try to get away (usually successfully too), I’d hear the clapclapclap of the little cardboard tray banging across the plywood above me. If I went up to check, I’d find the trap wedged against the wall where the little critter was able to break free. Struggle is good. The few mice that were caught, I always felt like they probably just gave up and gave in to the goo.

Sitting in my bathrobe, trying to get up the nerve to start the photo session for this post, I could tell that I was having a wee bit of PTSD. My husband was patient with me. Yeah, I have a history – experienced stuff that I would not wish on anyone. I’ve had a lot of toxic shame to pull away from. I’m still picking it from my skin. But that’s not what this is about. This is about getting to a place where the fear and shame are not strong enough to hold me in place anymore.

I’m fifty-two years old. This body has birthed three children; two girls now in their twenties and a teenage son, who was born at home weighing ten pounds. My breasts have fed children for a combined total of close to ten years. There is plenty of sagging and stretch marks. If not for the wonders of woven cloth, I could give the Venus of Willendorf a serious run for her money. Our bodies are wondrous. Why should we be ashamed?

Because just about everything we’ve ever heard our entire lives has told us that we should be. Afraid. Ashamed. Of who we are, what we are.

I removed the robe and lay down on the bed. My husband was probably as nervous as I was. He admitted that he’d never taken pictures of a naked woman before. I’m sure many people, even some friends, would think what we were doing was dreadful. All this should be “private.” I had a phone conversation with my sister once and listened to her rant on about how awful it was that anyone would think about putting naked pictures of themselves on the internet. Needless to say, she doesn’t know about Erobintica. Bodies should be private. Sex should be private. That’s what we’ve been told. Shame on you.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life being afraid and ashamed of who I am inside. Sure that if I let anyone see that me, they would be horrified. They’d reject and desert me. I’d end up alone and unloved. My thoughts? Shameful. My desires? Shameful. My predilections? Shameful. And definitely something to be afraid of. And that has carried over into my writing, both poetry and prose. I’d write things that I wouldn’t show to anyone. Even worse, I’d be afraid to write what I wanted to write, even if I told myself not another soul would ever see it. Sometimes I wrote it anyway, too often, sadly, I did not.

Shame eats away at you, like dry rot. When you stop yourself from writing what you want to, from maybe even thinking about writing what you want to, creativity can grind to a halt. Somehow I’ve managed to begin to pull away from the trap. Not sure how. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life pondering that – and writing those ponderings down.

As the photos were taken, I became more at ease. No, I didn’t do the model thing, but I found that it wasn’t as scary as I’d thought it would be. We had the lights pretty low. Too low it turned out. We had to retake the photos another night. Plus I noticed that I still had sock lines because I’d forgotten to take them off beforehand. Yeah, I was worried about sock lines! When I looked at the photos, I expected to feel some “ick – is that me?” But I didn’t. I’m no beauty. And as I just typed that, I paused. Because there it is. That shame. Still. It’s not gone. Maybe it never will be.

Humans are complex creatures. I like complex. I like messy. Always have.  Nothing’s more unsatisfying than an ending tied up neatly with a bow. Writers who revel in the erotic, are ones who venture into territory that makes many people uncomfortable. But we’re right there, looking closely at what makes others squirm. I like that.

One of my favorite lines is from Joni Mitchell’s song Case of You: “I’m frightened by the devil/and I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid.” One of the first poems I wrote was titled “Magnets” – about being equally attracted and repelled. That’s been me and sex, in a nutshell. It’s scared me, but it has an incredibly strong pull. That’s why I know I’ll spend the rest of my life writing about it. It’s funny, sometimes I wonder if people think this is a “phase” I’m going through. And once it’s run its course I’ll turn to other more socially acceptable writing. Maybe a cookbook? Or at least happy poems that rhyme. Maybe, but I’m pretty sure the rich, naughty stuff is here to stay.

Spine

Fingertips trace a line  

slow soft nape of neck

to hard tip of tailbone

message travels

at the speed

of impulse

breath catches

follicles tighten

toes flex

Oh, I still get afraid. Often, actually. I’ll do something daring, then spring back like a bungee jumper. I’ll be brave, then become a frightened child again. But I can’t stop pushing.  I’ll probably do the recoil thing after this post goes up. Why?

Because … how dare I bare my body and soul in this manner?

I’ve come to believe that it is the shame we drape over ourselves that causes more damage than that which causes the shame in the first place. So, fuck shame.

“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”  ~ Audre Lorde

Though it was almost twenty years ago that Robin penned her first bit of erotica, it wasn’t until a year and a half ago that Erobintica ventured out into the world. She took on that nickname (given by a friend), started a blog (by the same name), sent out that old story (revised of course) and got it published in Coming Together: Al Fresco, sent out others (most rejected), slowly showing more and more of her whole self to the world. It’s been a trip and a half. With no regrets. Robin also writes and publishes poetry and essays and is at work on a novel. She is not afraid to eat crow.

55 Responses to “Erobintica”

  1. Oh Robin.

    It’s wonderful to get the privilege to watch you being born again on the internet – the soul baring , the becoming soming more of yourself. The advantage of doing something so daring (shameful??) as putting naked pictures of yourself on the internet is that you do get to reach people you never would havemet otherwise who care about you and your story.

    Your pictures are beautiful, I love how womblike, in utero they look, especially the one of your sweet little toesies – baby toes! was the first thing I thought of when I saw it 🙂 I love your slow reveal and the lighting, and the brave truth of confessing to your negative feelings, and your rejection of them.

    Onwards and upwards, baby 🙂

    • I enjoyed reading this immensly and can relate to it on so many levels. I lived with shame for many years. I am 40 now and for the first time in my life, finally allowing myself to be entirely free of self condimnation for what truely is, a completely normal thing.

  2. Robin,

    I suppose this is paraphrasing, but there is an old saying along the lines of, courage does not mean fearlessness, it means stepping forward despite the fear.

    Yours is a wonderfully courageous study.

    You presented so much here: your graphically inspired poem, your wonderful photos, the depth to which you explored the subject. I feel that, all in all, this essay beautifully explores the topic that this blog embodies.

    This was, in my opinion, a definitive essay.

    The ancient Chinese poet Li Po mused about the moon. The beauty of the moon is how brightly she shines, even with the many scars and marks she bears. The truth is, she would be infinitely less interesting without these marks; they prove a life well lived.

    It is a shame that our society, in its Madison Avenue pursuit of the perfect anti aging serum, denies itself the right to appreciate the beauty in experience.

    You’ve come a long way in reclaiming that right.

    Thank you.

  3. Robin

    First – those pictures are lovely! Cosy and sensual and tender. I especially like the half-lit one of you curled on your side in bed, and the toes one. And I discovered that with my monitor, as I scroll up the page (bottom to top is best) the lighting changes, giving an extra reveal to each picture.
    🙂

    Shame … oh, it’s a difficult thing. It’s necessary, I think, in order to regulate our social behaviour (if you make people anonymous so they lose shame, so many of us seem incapable of disciplining our worst impulses. Look how the online comments on Youtube etc fill up with petty-minded vindictive bile). The problem is that we are ashamed of the wrong things, isn’t it? We are ashamed of our imperfect bodies, our buring sexuality, of not being beautiful enough. We’ve been taught that shame is centred on our physical appearance, not on how we treat ourselves and other people.

    I love this list:

    “Because it scared me.
    Because for most of my life I’ve been ashamed of my body.
    Because I could hear loud and clear all the reasons why not to.
    Because I’m slowly becoming more comfortable in my own skin.
    Because I can think of all the reasons why I should.
    Because it’s a transgressive act.
    Because it scares me.”

    I want to apply it to my writing and my life.

  4. It feels strange posting a comment on my wife’s essay here, but Robin asked. She was terrified that the reception would be negative and that there would be all sorts of negative repercussions. I think the response speaks for itself, and I am constantly impressed by how supportive and constructive this community is. I’m a full-time professional writer and editor. I spent 20 years working for newspapers and more than a decade in magazines. The daily pressure to survive and compete has just about destroyed most of the sense of community that used to exist in journalism. I envy Robin and the rest of you here who have brought such incredible and thoughtful writing to light. I’m pleased Robin could contribute to that, even though the thought of it has such an emotional effect on her. Fuck shame indeed.

    • Thank you, William, for your part in creating these beautiful and inspiring images. Your support of Robin’s work is a crucial part of the community spirit that makes this happen–not all spouses do unfortunately.

    • Will, thank you indeed for posting here and for, as Donna said, your support and lovely photographs of Robin. It is a pleasure to see you here (and incidentally was lovely to meet you last week).

  5. Agh, the comments make me want to cry too.

  6. Oh wow. It took me forever this morning to get up the nerve to come see if anyone commented. I am probably going to have trouble finding words to reply, but I’ll try. LOL, Shit, that rhymed.

    To everyone so far – thank you for commenting so positively on the pictures. I had a vision of what I wanted to do but I am SO BAD at communicating that vision to others (my most patient husband comes to mind right now) – that I was … scared.

    And here I want to thank Neve (who I know was the F-Stopper who posted this) for doing such a lovely job. And hey, I don’t usually center my poems, but wow – I never thought to do that with this one and it’s perfect – so thank you Neve! And for all your wonderfully supportive emails.

    Donna, it was your post here that gave me the nerve to have more than one picture, so thank you. There is more than one side to me, and so I knew it would be impossible to settle on one image that would be “me” – so thank you. And thank you for that lovely email after you read my piece. I was finally able to exhale.

    Shanna, not sure what to say – I’m tearing up again – fuck! – makes it hard to see the damn screen. You’ve really been an inspiration to me. That’s all I can say right now. Oh, and I’m so fucking jealous of you and your writer’s retreat, LOL!

    Thank you – you three (haha, typed that first with 3 es) wonderful women, for coming up with this idea, that obviously resonated with me, and giving me the opportunity to bare my soul.

    Okay, on to comments.

    Jo, somehow it’s wonderful that you were the first to comment here. It’s been wonderful getting to know you through blogland (and Shanna’s class – plug for Shanna’s class!). And somehow I don’t think this is the “born again” that some folks I know would like to see, LOLOLOL. Thank you for your kind words.

    Craig, thank you thank you thank you. I loved your Li Po reference. I am going to have to check him out. When you said “You’ve come a long way in reclaiming that right” – my first thought was “but I still have such a long ways to go.” This is the rest of my life. Okay, I’m crying again. Shit. LOL

    Janine, when you mentioned the scrolling I had to go back and pay attention and you’re right! That is so cool. Somewhere I read that there is different types of shame. The kind that regulates behavior – right from wrong – can be good, but the internalized is not. When we squish ourselves into a tight space because we’re ashamed of who, what, where, why and how we are – well, what oozes out the cracks is usually not pretty. Janine, I read your post here as I was working on mine, and I was so impressed that I felt that twinge of “why are you even bothering Robin?” – but I didn’t listen to it. And yes, feel free to use that list!

  7. LOL, I guess I found enough words.

  8. Robin,
    I think you’re so brave: a mother, a wife, a writer, a woman. You’ve touched upon so many layers here that I think everyone can relate to. This was a very powerful and thought-provoking essay, and even your poem captures your emotional and gorgeous self. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think anyone that reads your words and views your lovely images will agree that you’re not only brave, but also a very beautiful lady.

    Thank you so much for contributing and welcome to F-stop! Do you feel so liberated now? 🙂

  9. – returns from her writer’s retreat to real internet and this lovely essay –

    Seems I’m missed a few amazing things while I’ve been gone! This is fantastic, R. I’m so so so glad you decided to do it. The things that scare us — if we can look them in the eye and growl a little, they often become our friends.

    Fantastic piece!

  10. Neve, I usually don’t feel brave at all, LOL, which is why I push myself to do things that scare me. Thanks.

    Shanna, hmmm, growling at them, now there’s a thought. Thanks.

  11. Ashley Lister Says:

    Robin,

    I just wanted to say that I thought the essay was moving and thought-provoking and the pictures were a beautiful illustration of determination.

    Brilliant!

    Ash

  12. Robin,

    Fuck shame? Yes. In every sense of the word.

    Good for you.

    A

  13. Thank you Ashley.

    And thank you Alana.

    Oh, I need more coffee!

  14. Powerful, incredible, thought provoking – thank you for sharing this. Very brave and beautiful of you.

  15. It’s all beautiful – haven’t stopped crying enough yet to put more thoughts together – will try to come back later to comment more. I really admire what you’ve done here, so happy for you!

  16. Marina – oh damn, I’m making folks cry – hugs. Thank you. Write more when you can.

    I wish I could take you all out for a drink afterwards, LOL.

  17. I started typing a response to my husband’s comment and must have navigated away and so I lost it. Yeah, he’s been living with my roller coaster emotions – I wasn’t kidding when I wrote about my bungeeness. So, now to try to recreate it.

    William, it feels strange responding to your comment here. So very public. You are so supportive of me and everything I want to do (well, not everything, LOL), and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to express my appreciation for that.

  18. Oh, I wanted to say – the title of this piece comes from the necklace that I’m wearing in the first picture. It’s from Metal Taboo. The story about it is here on my blog.

  19. Robin,

    I have a new writer’s motto to post by my computer–“Fuck Shame”!

    And how well you’ve fucked it every which way ;-).

    The warm, mysterious lighting of the photographs, drawing the eye in to the intimate scene, demanding we see the real beauty of a woman’s body, not some processed, packaged, committee-approved version of what it should be. These images are truly beautiful, touching, transcendent. And we wouldn’t have them without your courage.

    Our bodies are wondrous. Why should we be ashamed? Because just about everything we’ve ever heard our entire lives has told us that we should be. Afraid. Ashamed. Of who we are, what we are.

    I am still struggling with this on so many levels myself. Sure I can toss around dirty words and describe every sex act imaginable, but when it comes to my real body, thoughts, desires, I feel that same terror. If people knew what I wanted, how passionately I wanted it, they would recoil in horror. Sounds funny to write this, but the gift you’ve given me here is that by sharing your fears, you’ve shown me my own. And that’s a community-building experience if there ever was one!

    Thank you, thank you! And I’m looking forward to more of your beautiful writing, your images, your courage to nourish our little corner of the literary world.

  20. Donna, I just loved your comment – “And how well you’ve fucked it every which way” – it is still making me smile! And thank you for your kind words. I am so very glad we’ve met in person.

    And here I’m going to say that Donna emailed me and asked me about my “name” at the top of this post. It’s also the name of my blog, and I guess usually the posts here are the names of the writers themselves (or their pen names as the case may be). So, in a short period of time (minutes) I had all sorts of various and conflicting thoughts. But I settled on one – to use Erobintica – because that nickname has great meaning for me. My first published story was under the name Robin Elizabeth. I was still trying to keep my erotica persona and my other personas separate. But I just can’t anymore. There may be exceptions, but from here on out, most of my prose writing will probably be under my full name of Robin Elizabeth Sampson. So yeah, fuck shame.

  21. (((Robin)))

    Complexity, life, damage and survival – finding a way to thrive. This is no shame at all. You are far braver than I and I admire that. Interior and exterior revelation by lamplight. and You are blooming. Now on to STARK!

  22. Thank you Mar. (((((Mar))))

  23. Robin Elizabeth sounds like Christopher Robin 🙂

    I’m a Joanna Elizabeth!

  24. Wonderful thoughts Robin. Admirable courage to take the plunge. Brava. Well said.

    xx

  25. 🙂 @ Jo!

    Isabel, thank you. Sort of like a plunge off a rocky cliff into the ocean far below? LOL.

  26. Robin, I think your essay ought to be widely circulated as an inspirational message to all who struggle with societally molded feelings of shame about who they are and what they desire, their bodies and their minds, their scars and their hopes.

    In other words, it should be circulated to everybody.

    What a great example of a thoroughly personal, yet universally profound, assessment.

    And so much wisdom in the comments as well. I think the misplaced-shame concept is key: societies stigmatize pleasure and desire while glorifying so many things that people should truly be ashamed of.

    P.S. William, it’s great to see you here. Pleasedta meetcha!

  27. Jeremy, thank you. (I seem to be out of words – how strange)

  28. Hello Robin!!! I just got home from a road trip to Boise. (750 naked driving miles — woo-hoo!). I know about shame and dry rot and finally getting to that moment of shouting into the big, blue sky — “fuck it!” You are an amazing, beautiful, talented woman. It’s a privilege to have gotten to know you over the air waves. I absolutely love your writing, your courage, your attitude, your sexy, sassy ways, and your love of the natural world. You are a rock star! Much love & admiration,
    Gina

  29. Live it big; it’s all you have! Fuck shame, indeed! Shame is really a cage that someone else has placed around you. I applaud you, and your husband!

  30. The pictures sure turned out wonderfully, they are so warm and beautiful. It’s hard to tell, because I know you well, but it sure seems like your essay showed an awful lot of who you are (it’s hard for me to tell where your wrting leaves off and my memmory of you begins). I have always loved your writing, and this is no exception, either in form or content – you seem remarkably able to record how you really feel using words that seem as though they should be completely inadequate to the task, I envy and deeply respect you.

  31. Gina! Thank you. Ha! Do you leave a trail of semis off the road in your wake? LOL. Oh, and hey – all that back atcha! 🙂

    BAK – yup, it’s all we have. And thank you!

  32. Kam, thank you. Your comments mean a lot, since you’ve known me so long – yet, in a sense you didn’t. Or did you? Hard to say. So much I kept hidden. I’m very glad I’m not anymore. So, thank you. And you know why I say that.

    And yes, I’m quite pleased with the pictures – I didn’t think I would be, but I am.

  33. I just want to thank everyone who commented today. Your comments touched me. You are all so wonderfully talented and spirited. It’s been a joy and a pleasure getting to know you.

  34. Thank you most of all to Donna and Neve and Shanna for this place.

  35. Hi beautiful Robin,

    As I mentioned to you previously, I was traveling today so got to this pretty late. I feel delighted, heartened, and not surprised to see the beautiful commentary here thus far.

    Thank you for this post.

    “I’m no beauty. And as I just typed that, I paused. Because there it is. That shame.”

    A beautiful recognition. Really, how beautiful is it that you saw/recognized that there? And you are, of course, such a beauty.

    “I’ll do something daring, then spring back like a bungee jumper.”

    Yes, I relate to this quite a bit. Congratulations on this push.

    I love, by the way, that quote from Audre Lorde. It recalls also to me the quote that Craig paraphrased, which I as well love.

    Donna said,
    “Sure I can toss around dirty words and describe every sex act imaginable, but when it comes to my real body, thoughts, desires, I feel that same terror.”

    Indeed, I relate to this as well. What you’ve written here seems so very resonant, Robin, and I’ll guess that you see that and hope you feel the liberation, strength, and beauty of it. Thank you so much. You are and were the conduit for that. Only you.

    I love you,
    Em

  36. I totally forgot to say (negligently!) that I found your pictures so, so beautiful.

  37. Wow…I’m quite late to the party(aren’t I always anymore?) but Robin…your words and images are exquisite. I identify with so much of what you’ve shared and am so happy and proud that you continued your “Fuck Shame” philosophy with this essay. Beautiful. And I have to say I saw the title and just grinned, thinking “Go Robin!”

  38. Em, thank you so much for your kind words and your friendship.

    Scarlett, the wonder of blogland is that the party is never over! And thank you – and glad you liked the title. 😉

  39. I enjoyed this piece Erobintica…fear and shame have fucked us, we ought to fuck it back. I was especially interested in how share has this inside-outside dynamic.

  40. “shame” not ‘share” ugh, morning typing.

  41. Thom, thank you. And, LOL, I know all about morning typing (also late night typing).

  42. Oh Robin, Erobintica — what truly beautiful pictures! I’m so glad you took this leap and were so brave, because the images entwined with this essay are so lovely together. Your vulnerability is touching and totally relatable, but your strength is truly a thing of beauty! Well done!

  43. Thank you Susan!

  44. That was absolutely beautiful. I have tears in my eyes as I type because I can relate to everything you’ve said.

    The shame. The fear. All of it.

    Those dark experiences I too would not wish on anyone. In fact, I now work with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and I would LOVE to use your words to inspire/encourage these women past their shame. I would love to feature your essay on my blog, if that would be OK. Seldom am I moved to tears through the written medium, so I want to thank you for touching me in that way.

    Thank you for writing that, thank you for being brave. You have inspired me.

    ~TK

  45. Hi TK,

    I didn’t get notified of your comment until Saturday morning.

    Thank you. And as I wrote to you by email, I’d prefer to keep the blog post here (as much as that is possible on the internet, LOL), so feel free to link to it (which I saw you already did).

    Hugs

  46. 🙂

    Yes, I understand. Plagiarism is something I’d never do, lol. I always link back to the original authors.

    Namaste

  47. And thanks again TK!

  48. Beautifully done! There’s some shame in most North American women, I think, partly because things have changed so much, so quickly, and while we threw ourselves into it heart and soul, some part still worries that maybe we’d be better off buying a girdle and keeping our mouths shut.

    As long as we fight that impulse, we’ll be all right. And knowing that others are fighting it, too, helps.

    xoxo Mad

  49. erobintica Says:

    Madeline, thanks.

    LOL, a girdle and a zipped mouth, sounds like my grandmother!

  50. Lisa N. Says:

    Well I just read this, sorry for my taking this long since you’ve sent the link to me.
    First of all, I am extremely proud to know you and very inspired by this. How far you have come woman!
    Wow, what a difference, seems we need to know each other all over again, as we have both changed drastically over the last 10 years. 🙂

  51. Robin Elizabeth Sampson Says:

    Hey Lisa, better late than never. And thanks. Yeah, you knew me “when” – so, I imagine you know pretty well the distance.

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