Art, Celebrities, Culture, Important People, Life, Music, New York City, Personal Liberation, Politics/World Issues, Sex

Once I Was A Stripper: Songs by Drake and Roberta Flack, One Conclusion on ‘that Life’

It’s all the same. Drake’s song “305 To My City” and Roberta Flack’s 1969 classic “Trade Winds.” These two songs are talking about the same tragic dynamics of America.

What inspired this post was, yesterday, a man who I’d been seeing told me that he had taken his 21-year-old cousin to a strip club.

What I’m thinking about all of this is:

Here you are, a man who I’m thinking about taking more seriously. Intelligent, emotionally supportive. Has a passion, but I don’t know if you’re following it. You take your cousin to this club and you call me from there, we talk about our relationship briefly while you take a cigarette break. I’m touched that you called but disgusted at the fact that you’re there. This is beyond some immature insane old paradigm idea that I own you and I’m upset at you looking at naked women. No, from a real grown up, feminist, spiritual, economic perspective, I am disappointed in your choice.

Strippers can make a lot of money, as Drake talks about in the song “305 To My City,” but when you live in a society where it seems that the fields that women make the most money without a higher education degree are places where their bodies are only seen as sexual objects, you can’t argue that that is the best we can do as far as economic empowerment for women. Interview a stripper. Is she happy and fulfilled? Does she feel she is looked at as a whole person at her job? Now interview 100 of them. What are the odds now? I know most regular jobs sap the human soul. I’m pointing out that being seen as only a sexual object is a unique kind of soul-sapping. I won’t get into why, because I don’t know. I just feel it.

“305 To My City” is a song about a woman who is a stripper and has stacked enough money from her earnings to put a down payment on a Jaguar. Her parents don’t approve of her lifestyle but she is “shining on them hoes” (meaning doing way better than her peers, competitors, and friends) and appears to be in control of her life. It’s my own projections, assumptions, and judgments, but I am skeptical of the true happiness of any woman who feels she must exchange sexual gratification for money in that type of environment. I don’t think there are many who aren’t deeply hurting and ashamed inside. When I did it, I know I wasn’t happy.

But everyone isn’t me.

I knew that I could not live that kind of lifestyle no matter how broke I was. I had a loving supportive home where my other talents, besides being sexy, were encouraged. We can assume the woman had at least two parents in her life who care about her, because they think what she is doing is only a phase, and it must be damaging to her, and they want her to stop. Drake totally gets it. Him, coming from the bottom, celebrates the pinnacle of his success in lavish strip clubs, throwing money at women who, even if they love what they do, probably wouldn’t want to do it in that type of environment. I believe the sexual energy in these places is terribly misdirected.

I remember reading Jenna Jameson’s How to be a Porn Star when I was in high school.

She talked about how even if you work in a high-end club there are several physical, mental and emotional pitfalls that come with working in a club. (Tip: wear knee pads.)

She talked about how even if you work in a high-end club there are several physical, mental and emotional pitfalls that come with working in a club. (Tip: wear knee pads.)

And while I’m not referring to oral sex in that last sentence, I should be. Several women who are strippers end up becoming prostitutes. Stripping can often be a gateway job into other sex work.

This reminds me of the line from Roberta Flack’s Trade Winds…

“Young girls who’ll soon become

(walkers of the avenue)

streetwalkers in the night.”

The line, or one close to it in the song, made me break down in tears on a bus at JFK one night.

I was on my way to another job that I hated. And I thought if I must feel this much misery going to a job that I hate, yet people often respect (I was a flight attendant for the military), what more must a woman feel where she goes to a job where she is degraded by most of society? Better yet, where she degrades herself? I’m not saying self-degradation doesn’t happen in many other jobs. One might argue that almost any job can be done with at least a sliver of dignity. I have argued another side to this argument many times. You know, the “sex-worker-as-empowered-woman” side. It doesn’t fly when I remember my own experience. When you take that first step into the underground you are often desperate. Maybe not only for money. Maybe for something else, like love.

That is how these two songs are related in my mind. Drake’s bass heavy, club-ready song doesn’t glorify the profession of sex industry worker but acknowledges that it is a means to an end; the woman has made some good financial choices that have allowed her to do what many Americans can’t, which is put a down payment on a luxury car. It neglects to say anything of the degradation she may have endured while she continues to work at the club, day in, and day out. It could be worse. At least he is proud of her. From this superstar she is getting the approval of her achievements that she certainly isn’t getting from the father in her life right now.

The somber mood of Flack’s Trade Winds, with the chorus sounding like sad angels of a community crying out for its children, before they reach their sordid fate, paints just how grim the picture of coming from poor beginnings can be. It ticks off the very real ills of society that make becoming a stripper a first, or last, choice for so many women, particularly, Black women. After all, trade winds are a natural phenomenon. Ships use them to trade goods, and bodies. I’ve written about sex trafficking and it is tragic that because of factors that are out of their hands, so many women will end up being seen as goods, traded for sexual gratification by people, to people, who fail to see the innocence of their victims, and refuse to acknowledge the innocent parts of themselves.

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Culture, Dating, Events, Life, New York City, Politics/World Issues, Relationships, Sex, Technology

Had to Repost: The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture”

This is so well written and concise, and I would have written it had she not…so I’m very happy to present you with this article about a “pretty picture” and it’s ugly truth:

 

The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture”.

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Culture, Life, New York City, Politics/World Issues, Sex, Uncategorized

Support and Attacks on Topfreedom and the T.I.T.S. Movement

As it stands, T.I.T.S. is a movement of one, physically. Although, in spirit, and through the power of their complaints, people are supporting or attacking the Right to Bare Breasts. I was almost arrested today. I quoted laws to the offending officers but none of that worked. The cops rolled up behind me while I was chillin, minding my business on a bench on the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights, and told me that I could be arrested for endangering the welfare of a child because their parents were complaining about me being topless. They said they had about 10 or 20 people complain, and if they had waited, it could have been 50. I explained that children are not being harmed, and I am exercising my right. Besides, children breast feed up until 2 or 3 at times. They were angry and frustrated and said that I wasn’t using “common sense.” I guess today was a test, because this was my second day to do this on that location, and I wasn’t bothered before, but I quieted my solar plexus, my will, and I used my head and calculated what the physical, emotional, monetary, and long-term costs would be to be arrested at this time. Output=not worth it. Maybe another day, but I still refused to agree with their reasons as to why I should put my top back on. They asked for my ID, and I said “I’m complying by putting my clothes on, so I don’t understand why you would need that.” Today, I understood the power of threats and intimidation to get compliance. I had no fear, I just didn’t feel it would be worth it to go through the discomfort of being arrested. I suffered a migraine and emotional pain all night, thinking about the man who I would soon decide to let go, for my own good and his. I’m sure he won’t miss the long texts of me explaining how my needs aren’t being met, and I will enjoy the power of balance, discernment, and exercising my right to end the relationship. He actually told me the other day “You don’t make the rules here.” But what he failed to realize is….I DO, I WILL…and most importantly I AM THAT I AM. I created him, so I can create another reality. It really is my right. I choose to put my metaphorical top on and leave the park of that situation crying, just like I did today in real life, knowing in both situations that I avoided a totally unnecessary uncomfortable situation. Sometimes the growth from situations can come from making a choice NOT to go through something. There are many ways to learn.

Anywho, on a positive nod to the movement, please check out a very POWERFUL response from India Olowokande-Ame’ye:

 I am so excited to catch up on all this. Thank you Itheopiah Chiamaka you too are very powerful…I peeped yr goddess a long time ago ;). no I haven’t done much of anything on the internet. I had to take a break from photographing and filming and sit quietly, alone…for a few months. Gave myself full permission to do that. But I’m cumming out my yoni temple soon, soon. Also I’m finalizing my book, and things are happening offline. I’m abt to go get a glass of wine and check this out. Thank u, I love when black women bare our breasts and write about it. We are meant to be alive and loving outloud and all that juicy jazz. So just seeing yr picture magnetized mah lil smile, u have no idea! Xo…Wow, just watched your brilliance and I’m sooo moved by your candidness, commitment, and sincerity. What an honor and pleasure to read your words and watch the accompanying video in all its rawness. I tell ya, I appreciate your movement and courage to do what u are doing. Now u got me thinking abt the “laws” and knowing my rights and honoring my right to do so. I am out of doors, topless at minimum, at least once a day and I do believe that breasts are powerlines to the divine, and when I started taking time to allow them to feel the sun, wind, rain, clouds, grass, rocks, trees, wata, red clay ,u name it..that’s really when they began to come alive again, carrying tremendous life force energy. I don’t wear bras and stopped wearing them abt six or seven years ago and my breasts sit how they sit…plus I command them to do so u know. I tell my body how I want it to be. The mind has great command ova the anatomy and how smart the bra companies and BIG Pharma (because bras have been linked to breast cancer) are to make (some) women believe if we stop wearing bras our gorgeous breasts will sag, etc..as if 1. Its true 2. There is something “wrong” with breasts that fall….when breasts that fall are lovely and can contain just as much life as breasts that sit high. Also many women believe that their breasts will fall with age or childbirth….the body does whateva the owner thinks and feels it should do…that is the silent command we have ova ourselves. I love my breasts…omg …do I. Yes honeys I do…and my breasts know it too and that get all happy when I talk with them, rub them, kiss them, set them free, and tell them what to do. Girl I’m over the moon and off topic now, but I just love u Helese and I love what u are doing. I nearly in tears typing. Wheeee! Xo

I couldn’t have said it better. This woman is one of my role models. She so eloquently stated my reasons why I choose to bare my breasts and the healing therein. Even though I “stood down” today, movement won’t stop-today I chose to be water, not earth, and comply to fit into the container of this FUCKED UP SOCIETY….But the movement won’t end. Tied to my personal liberation, it has only just begun.

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Culture, Life, New York City, Personal Liberation, Politics/World Issues, Sex

Topfreedom: The Right to Bare Breasts

Topfree in the Square

Me, topfree

No, I will not ask anyone if they will be disturbed by what I’m doing. I will not shy away from kids or turn my back to the playground, especially since you could not present me with the specification in the law that says I can’t be topfree in certain proximity to a playground. I will not shy away from answering questions, neither will discourage young women NOT to do what I am doing. I will let my life, the “clarity of my example” and demeanor of calm and stillness be my testament  to prove that I believe in the right to bare breasts.

Maybe I need to present some research on this (maybe not), but I believe the baring of breasts and the viewing of said breasts is very healing for the soul. Although I’m not trying to prove anything. I only wish share my experiences and thoughts about my new movement, a movement of one, (or should I say three: me and my two breasts.) T.I.T.S. is an acronym for Topfree in the Square, and beginning a few weeks ago I have been going topfree, on random days, in Union Square. Today while writing this, I’m in Brooklyn Heights by the Promenade. I like being near bodies of water easily accessible to where I live because it soothes me. It’s very calming. Lately, I’ve been going through some pretty difficult emotional ups and downs, caused by my expectations set upon another human being. That always works out for us right? Especially when sex is involved, especially when no clear commitment has been established (except to be exclusive sexual partners), especially when you’re carrying baggage from the past–and the person is a spot on reincarnation of various traits that you love and hate from the past relationships in your life. And, especially when you’re me. But that’s for another blog post. That deserves it’s own.

This one is about my breasts and my right the bare them and what it means for my personal liberation at this time in my life.  One of my purposes for the movement is to bring up a few points– I think it says a lot about our society and culture when we:

1) shun the sight of the human body in its natural form

2) allow our children to view violence but we are afraid to be naked in front of them

3) spend more time trying make a woman put her shirt back on rather than helping people who truly need help

4) are openly sexist, and have no problem with a man baring his chest. The breasts of a woman are nurturing and generally fare better when they are not strapped down, pushed up and out, or otherwise covered where the skin can’t breathe and the lymph isn’t free to move around. (I wear push up bras, but they don’t feel like I’m wearing anything. I’ve gone back to wearing no bra most of the time, it makes it easier to go topfree, and also I have some pretty nasty scars underneath my breasts from wearing them in the heat where the combination of the sweat, fabric, and friction caused a pretty serious rash. Now there’s hyperpigmentation in that area. I call them my Battle Scars, even though they’re fading.)

Now that I think of it, I should have known that I’d always be this type of woman. When I was younger, while a teenager, I didn’t wear a bra for years. Even as an adult I practiced “topfreedom (I coined it this term. I coined it!).” I was told that my breasts would sag when I got older, but that didn’t really resonate with me. I loved the fact that my breasts were perky enough to wear a shirt that showed a lot of skin with no bra. (And “perky breasts” shouldn’t be a pre-requisite for going topfree or accepting your breasts as beautiful.) Even side cleavage caused an issue. See-through tops I could sometimes get away with. I guess it’s the exhibitionist in me and part cellular memory of when I lived in a place where women walk around topfree; but I just love showing my boobs.

While sitting topfree in the Square (Union Square, New York City) yesterday, two young girls who could have been anywhere from ages 14 to 19 came up to me while I was working on my laptop. They were shy, trendily dressed, had young fresh Cover Girl worthy faces, and they asked me “Um, why are you like… that?” I calmly answered (I love when I answer calmly. When I’m calm, that’s how I know what I’m doing is in alignment with my  higher self and divine purpose.) “It’s my right.” They slowly came to understand, but that answer gave them pause. “It’s legal,” I contiuned. “Anywhere a man can be topfree a woman can be, in New York City.” (This law is People vs. Santorelli, if you’re curious.) They said “Ok” and walked away. Later one of their guy friends came to me and I went more in depth about how I feel that I’m raising awareness of this law so that people will ask other questions about why we feel so strongly about a woman being topfree. Yet, we allow violence and unhealthy body and sexual images to be fed to our children and ourselves, as adults. I told him that it is most important for his generation (which very well may be my generation as well, he is 19, I am 27) to know this. They have the energy and intellect to spread this information and educate people. He was very receptive. I’m sure being topfree didn’t hurt. Most of the time we were talking though, he looked me in my eyes, and his eyes never lingered on my breasts. His friend, one of the two girls who approached me earlier that day, wanted to take a picture with me, but by that time I had my top on. She wanted to take it anyway. She said she felt self-conscious because she was wearing no bra that day, and seeing me really put things in perspective for her. I told her not to allow anyone to tell her she was any less worthy of respect because of what she wears or does not wear, whether or not she chooses to show a little or a lot of skin. I told her that she was a Goddess, although she may not fully realize it yet, and as she gets older and knows herself more, it will show. She nodded. Purpose fulfilled.

I also did a few interviews that day. One in particular I will post here. I am extremely proud and honored to be a part of this much larger movement of women’s liberation, human sexuality, and sexual politics. My part of the movement is called T.I.T.S. for Topfree in the Square, but I am not the first woman to do this. I’m expanding and building upon what has already been done, although I’ve never heard of anyone doing it in Brooklyn. I love being the first. No one is really making a big deal out of here. No one has come up to me. But I’m not even doing it for them. I’m doing it for me. I’ll probably stay out here all night until I have to pee. Then I’ll head to Starbucks where I’ll have to put my shirt back on. They may not force me to, but I don’t know if men can be topfree in a business establishment.

Plus, today, I’m tired. I’m low on iron because of a low dose estrogen birth control pill that my uterus is type ANGRY for me even considering taking it. She has been crampy, bleedy, clotty. My vulva tissues have been off balance (on intermittent fire) since even before I started taking the pill, stressing about womb choices and financial issues, synthetic unnatural birth control options and, despite a strong desire to someday be a mother (I feel I’m being chosen by a soul in the beyond) whether or not I’m even worthy to get pregnant, being jobless and ringless and all. And Black. And a woman! Bottom line, I will NEVER go against my womb and my better judgment again. And if I could let her breathe without being arrested or harassed, I would do that too. There are worse things than getting pregnant, even by a man who doesn’t want kids. Feeling like you betrayed one of the most important parts of you does not feel good at all. My womb and I had an agreement that we would keep our self care and healing as natural as feasible. Also, I went to the water last night to do a gratitude ritual (topfree as well), because I was just so thankful that the water was still THERE… (Abandonment issues that by the time you read this post, will be cleared. Hopefully. )  It is so expansive and cleansing, so maternal and feminine, I was reminded me of how I need to be, and how powerful I will always be if I remember it, honor it, and embody its characteristics.  The water and womb are closely connected. I let my spirit speak for me when I sat down: “I feel I’ve dishonored you in some way.” Damn right I did. When I dishonor my womb, I dishonor all the waters of the world: I went all demanding on my womb choice, or at least, impatient.

And I put these damn God-forsaken fake ass hormones in my body, to stop one of the most natural and desired processes of the female reproductive system. Not only does it stop pregnancy, but it stops OVULATION! I can’t say I would be 100% thrilled at getting pregnant right now, especially in the circumstances I’m in, but I use my cycle to track my life. And to stop that….well when you know better you do better. And I know there are natural ways where if you don’t want to get pregnant, you won’t.

I believe that personal liberation comes from living your life like you were the first one to ever do it…If it weren’t for those damn precedents. And, I still kinda do wanna get pregnant. This desire has not gone away, despite not having the other things I want yet like: that loving supportive and willing partner , and that flowing abundance, and most importantly, fulfilling divine soul-purpose work. Like emotional calm and balance. I want the right to bare breasts and the right to be unemployed, unmarried, and pregnant if I so choose…and blissful beyond my wildest dreams.

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