So one thing I haven’t discussed much over the past year is how I have been doing empowerment sessions for various women. These empowerment sessions are about helping women (and those who identify as female) to reclaim their bodies, their femininity, and their sexuality.
What does it mean to be reclaiming your sexuality?
Reclaiming your sexuality means recognizing that you are sexual being, and coming to a place where you can accept your body, your sexuality, and your feminine energy.
Do you need to reclaim your sexuality?
Some women may feel like they don’t need to, and that is perfectly fine. For me, personally. It has been something I have struggled with for years – dealing with feelings of shame, guilt, and dealing for issues around body image. I specifically remember a moment when I was pregnant with our daughter, as I was first beginning to show, and I remember some strange man making a joke that I had been getting in on in a grocery store, and I was overcome with enormous shame about my sexuality. Although I was carrying this human life inside of me, in just a moment, someone had belittled me and demeaned me to nothing more than a horny woman. As if being a horny woman was something pathetic, to be joked about and laughed at. It hurt a lot. In those first few sensitive months of my pregnancy I felt like it was all anyone saw of me. I felt ashamed of being pregnant, as if everyone knew I had sexual desire and that was something to be ashamed of. It was a strange feeling, and i could find no pregnancy book that offered any solice . It wasn’t until meeting my midwife that I discovered that many women feel ashamed about their sexuality during pregnancy.
Then after having a baby, I suddenly had to deal with my changed body – it was all so hard and overwhelming, and I felt beaten down – but with support and inspiration from other women, through an open dialogue about what I was going through, and through extensive self-portraiture I began to overcome some of my struggles.
This is part of the reason began reworking my boudoir work as empowerment sessions back in 2014.
I came to the realization that through photography I could provide for women what I was providing for myself.
A clear lens through which I could be a witness to my changing and evolving sexuality.
For me, a huge portion of my healing work revolved around my spiritual connection to sexuality. In the past God and sex seemed like something that didn’t go together in the same sentence. But as I reclaimed the word God for myself, and stepped away from conventional religion and into a personal spiritual path, I realized that a great deal of healing can begin and end in the bedroom, whether alone or with yourself. It can be as simple as standing naked in front of the mirror choosing to accept and love yourself, or as complex as connecting in the most vulnerable and intimate way with another person. In this, I felt a divine truth. In this I felt love. Love for myself, and love for others.
In Hinduism there is a belief that we store energy within subtle channels, called chakras, inside of the body. It is a very complex way of understanding the body as a whole, both a physical form, and a etheric energy (or soul). Both sexuality and creativity reside in the sacral chakra, which governs our sexual organs. When the sacral chakra (or svadhisthana) experiences a blockage we may experience very real and difficult challenges in our lives.
These blockages may manifest on many different levels: They may manifest as emotional or psychological difficulties, such as poor self esteem, insecurity, jealousy, or fear, or even detatchment, or low libido. They may manifest as creative blockages (like writer’s block, or feelings of dullness), or left long enough they begin to manifest as very dense blockages in the physical form, such as impotence, ovarian cysts, infertility, fatigue, inability to reach orgasm, and urinary or kidney infections.
How do develop these blockages? So many ways! The trauma of sexual assault is one major way women develop sexual blockages. The Canadian Women’s Foundation of Canada says that one half of all women in Canada have experience at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Just think about that staggering number for a minute. That is 8.6 million women in Canada, alone. That means between me and my daughter, one of us is likely to be sexually assaulted or be a victim of violence. So a huge number of women develop blockages in this way.
Women also develop blockages from cultures. We often are faced with demeaning advertising which demands women look a particular way. We are shamed for breastfeeding in public, yet our bodies can be used to sell burgers and no one bats an eye. We receive messages that we need to alter ourselves to be worthly of love. We are told that the hair which naturally grows on our bodies makes us less desirable, that if we don’t have a thigh gap we cannot be sexy, that if we our breasts are too small we won’t be able to find a partner. Culture governs how we adorn our bodies. If we dress too revealing we are a slut, if we dress too conservative we are a prude. Men can go jogging without a shirt, or wear a traditional suit or dress conservatively and no one slut shames them or makes assumptions about their sexuality. Menstruation is regarded as gross, and something that should be kept quiet rather than celebrating the fact that our bodies are natural vessels of creation which can let go of what is not needed in order regenerate themselves on a monthly basis. Women across the globe face oppression from sex trafficking, to child marriage, to being dictated what they can wear, or whether or not they can choose to terminate a pregnancy.
I mean I could go on and on about the patriarchal culture we live in, but the fact is, all of these things cause blockages in women. And these blockages cause women to feel small, and insecure. They do not live up to their own full creative potential, they make enormous sacrifices in their lives to serve others, they often find sex less enjoyable, and suffer from low self esteem and body images, as well as anxiety and depression. This is not a life any woman desires.
One way we can overcome these blockages and begin moving energy through these channels in a way that helps us enjoy our lives more is to PLAY. Have you ever watched a child just play? They will spend hours just drawing or building blocks into towers, or building playdoh into food. And if it fails, no biggie. They begin again. They experience a real sense of freedom in their ability to create. Adult women often play only when they feel safe to do so, which is why establishing a bond with a photographer can be such a transformative experience. A trusted photographer can in a sense, hold up a mirror for you as you play, so you can see an honest representation of your own journey and evolution.
When our svadhisthana chakra is open we experience that same blissful freedom that children do as they play. Of course any type of play can help, but specifically for women experiencing sexual guilt or shame, or struggling with body issues, empowerment sessions can provide a safe environment, and an opportunity to PLAY with the idea of sexuality — To discover what it means to feel sexy, to be a sexual being. You can dress up, or dress down. You can shave until your body is silky smooth or rock furry legs – explore textures, shapes, and emotions as you uncover what it means to be a woman. We can all redefine ideas about sexuality for ourselves, and we can enjoy the blissful state that arises from that new definition. Empowerment sessions are just one path into that transformed state of being.
As we do this, with in the intention to heal ourselves, we become better able to help and serve others, and help to elevate other women out of their own suffering because we can better hold space for and love them, when we can better hold space for and love ourselves.
Here’s a few favourites from one of my sessions this year.
Thanks for stopping by our blog! Kendra Coupland is an award winning feminist photographer who documents weddings and love stories, and empowers women through portraiture from coast to coast. She has shot destination weddings around the globe with her partner Brad, and their photographic travels have taken them from France, to Indonesia, to Cuba, to Barbados and all across North America. They have been ranked as two of the Top Twenty Wedding Photographers in Canada by the Professional Wedding Photographers of Canada. They have won awards from the prestigious Fearless Photographers Association, ISPWP, and have been the recipient of the Couple’s Choice Award from Wedding Wire a whopping 5 times, and were recently named New Westminster’s favourite wedding photographer in the 2016 A-List. They were also a two time finalist at the 2015 BC Wedding Awards.
They are now booking for 2018, but still have limited space remaining for 2017. If you’d like to learn more about the services and products they offer don’t be shy to inquire. You can reach them by clicking the contact button above, or emailing us info[at]lovetreephotography.ca. We look forward to hearing from you!