My Body, My Choice: Reclaiming My Body with Art

in #psychology3 years ago (edited)

I was raised to believe my body was not mine. Although it wasn’t what they intended, my parents taught me my body belonged to them. Further, because I am female, I learned I was destined to fail my family by inviting rape and sexual assault. I was also explicitly not allowed to pursue body art or piercings other than my ears.

After I was raped, I was sure it was my fault. This is how patriarchal dogma twists consent and supports rape culture. For a long time I believed the “sex” was consensual because it was easier than parsing the intensity of how I explicitly said no, it happened anyway and that meant I had asked for it with my clothes or my actions, etc.

You know this story. There is a good chance we have both lived it. I was victim to rape and the belief that it was my fault for more than a dozen years. It was in college that I came to understand no means no.

Sure, my parents said those words, but they said other words and employed a technique called gaslighting where they would tell me my experiences were not how I remembered them. They did this out of fear that I would be hurt and in an attempt to erase their own mistakes and prevent further hurt. I see how they were trying their best because they didn’t know better just as I have seen them learn better and become better.

ink by Colin at Time and Tide Tattoo

Nearly three years ago I underwent a routine medical procedure which left me septic. I nearly died due to hospital and doctor error. That infection of my blood resulted in severe swelling which burst the abdominal diastasis I experienced in pregnancies. Basically, my abs herniated from ribs to pelvis and everything fell forward.

It was not as severe as it might have been. The hernia kept working to close itself, but it required me not to move. I had young children. Even with my mother by my side for the entire ordeal, I had to seek surgical repair.

That repair resulted in another infection (this time subcutaneous) and ropy scarring. Again, my body was not mine.

I hinted last week that I have finally taken steps planned for years. I’ve always wanted to decorate my body. I chose to have an owlet in two stages of flight and sleeping on my collarbone as the first part of this reclamation. Sitting through the pain while repeating to myself that it was good may sound strange, but the truth was I controlled that pain. I could stop it or start it and I wasn’t choosing it to harm myself (something I’ve done with sharp objects and food).

Much was released through the process of receiving art. It was a challenge, but there is great significance not only to the placement of the owlets but the choice of creature and action. Most of the reasoning isn’t something I’m ready to share. However, having the owlet peacefully asleep on my left shoulder is deeply meaningful; it’s been years since I could be approached from the left without panic. All I know is I was hurt there. I have no memory of how.

ink by Colin at Time and Tide Tattoo

In choosing these tattoos and receiving them, I have broken a boundary created for me. I have granted myself psychological freedom by exercising my right to consent on my terms.

I am deeply grateful to my husband for supporting this project, to the friend who sat calmly with me and documented the process, and to the artist who listened to me and found a way to meet both a need and a desire through his artwork.

I look forward to working with him again. These three images are actually the end of and smallest part of a scene that will stretch around my torso.

What ways have you reclaimed yourself?


@shawnamawna - They are absolutely MAGNIFICENT!!!!! and SO CLEARLY SIGNIFICANT!!!! I think they are truly beautiful hon! I hope you dont have any doubt in your decision because the beauty of those symbols speak volumes!!!

My ink is by no stretch anywhere NEAR as beautiful as yours, but I have always been more of a "symbols" girl.... but I did share the background of mine, which I suppose is my own interpretation of "finding" myself... which I shared in this post...

Your symbols are stunning. I am delighted to discover how much we have in common through them, and also that there is understanding about why I chose this particular path to healing. I greatly enjoyed your post. Thank you so much for sharing.

I'm touched by your story and love that you've empowered yourself with support of loved ones with gorgeous art on your back and shoulder <3

I will have to think about your last question and if I have an answer I'll write a blog post about it.

Thanks a lot for sharing!

If the girl in the photos is you, then you are very pretty
then the tattoos are beautiful
your body is yours, and who makes you burn

Thank you. That is me. :)

Sounds like you have had a tough one so far.. All the best for the future!! Nice tattoos, be sure to keep us updated as you add to it :)

I am so deeply sorry for the experiences you've had, and I am amazed by your ability to forgive your parents and move on. I've had a hard time forgiving my own parents for not knowing when things were really bad for me as a kid. But they were immigrants, focused on working hard and building a life here.

The ink is lovely. That owl is freaking adorable.

I don't really have an answer to the question at the end of the post. I'll have to think about that.

One of my parents is an immigrant. It changes the dynamic, yes? And (SQUEE!) I reallllly love the sleeping owlet. :)

That one is also my favorite of the owls!

Oh, in addition, if we ever meet and hang out, we're going to have to be super careful about where we stand, because I have a hearing problem in my left ear which causes me to always want to walk on the left, so I can better hear people with my right ear.

As long as you don't suddenly approach me from behind and to the left, we'll be fine, and now I'm excited for the day we do meet up!

One day, paid for by our Steem wealth!

Oh my gawwwwd 😭😭😭😭😭
Obviously i relate. I love your owl!!! Freeeedoomm!!!

I dont have any tattoos and dont plan to have any, at least till date, but your tattoos are really beautiful. I appreciate d freeing spirit that comes with your action. Bless your husband.

I was deeply touched by your story. I admire your strength and courage. As for your owl, it is so adorable! Congrats to you for undergoing the procedure, as well to the artist who did it.

Your body is your crown ... your honor will awake if your crown is guarded ... the woman who gave birth to man ... must be respected by all people.

It is incredibly sad and infuriating how patriarchal culture and religions pervert and corrupt everything. BRAVO to you for stepping forward and reclaiming yourself! I wish you all the best in achieving your dreams!

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