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/*