By: Justine Bean
Sensuality is the intentional personal act of connecting all of our senses with the self’s carnal desire for pleasure. For me, I believe that most people in my life would automatically assume I am very attuned with sensuality in my own mind and body. Outwardly, I exude sexual confidence and joy within myself. However I have actually only recently begun that intimate journey towards connection & sensuality for myself.
In the past, I was sexual and intimate in relationships and I kind of just thought that was it. Not until I started actively engaging with friends on this level, did my world view on how ecstatic my daily life could be was realized. Not only was I unable to connect to that part of me, but I have actively avoided it because of fear. Fear thinking maybe I actually wasn’t a great lover and I was a fraud; fear that I feel dead/disconnected to my heart and my womanhood; fear that I didn’t even know what ‘pussypower’ was; fear that I would disappoint because I wasn’t this ravenous pleasure goddess that outsiders saw me as; etc. I also discovered what preconceived judgements that my outward appearance can inspire within people- and how deeply it affected my self worth. I’d like to tell you my story so that the impetus for the beginning of my journey.
I can remember the moment that my sexuality changed forever- I grew up as a devout tomboy, and when I started to develop/hit puberty, I tried desperately to hide my body. I was mortified and embarrassed to have this delicious figure that was the envy of my classmates. In freshman year of high school, we had a conservative dress-code, which suited me fine. But I was in geometry class one day and my friend Ana pointed at my collared shirt and she said, “Justine, why do you always button your shirt all the way to the top? Why don’t you leave some loose and show off your cleavage? Everyone wants to see it.” Words have always affected me powerfully. And from that moment on, I suddenly discovered my sexuality and how my feminine body was seen by the people around me. This body that I had hidden and shamed under baggy clothes and buttoned up shirts, completely afraid of womanhood and sexuality, suddenly became the key to my confidence and a source of pride, which blossomed under the newfound attention.
Fast forward to being 29- I’d lived in my body for many years at this point. Life abruptly came to halt and I put my career, friends, and dating on hold for a year to become a full time caretaker of my Nana. I had never been fully responsible for someone else before, and I forgot the old adage ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. While my Nana was wasting away from cancer, I was wasting away with her- forgetting to take care of myself while taking care of her.
I lost control of my emotions, lost a lot of weight, and lost my purpose of joy. When I realized what was happening, I added meditation, got back into yoga, etc in order to be a better caretaker for her. However, after she passed away, and I gained my weight back, suddenly this body that I had revered (and taken for granted oftentimes) didn’t look the same. That delicious curvy body I used to revel in the stares of men and women alike, suddenly made me cry every time I looked in the mirror.
Not only was I having an identity crisis on the outside about my career (I switched from my PhD in archaeology into health/wellness), but on the inside, I could barely look at myself, let alone let anyone else come close to me. I didn't want people to know my deep insecurities- mostly about how shallow I was feeling that such a critical part of my identity was apparently so tied to my looks- I didn’t want to be that person. But it was inescapable- the moment when I didn’t look how I always had (to be clear, my breasts were the same physical size but hadn’t filled back out after my re-weight gain), I felt less than.
When I had regained the weight, my breasts didn't fill back out to the shape they used to be. Society had taught me that my confidence was intrinsically linked to my breasts, which embodied my femininity and sexuality- and without that, I didn’t know what I could offer the world anymore. Insecurity invaded me and I constantly questioned how I was going to be received in the world as a woman without power.
After almost a year of self-flagellation and therapy, I engaged in a very beautiful intimate experience with close friends, and I realized I couldn’t be fully present because all I could think about was ‘please don’t take my top off’- the last thing I should be thinking about in a beautiful container of intimacy. I decided at that moment to get restorative breast augmentation surgery to feel like myself once more and regain my sense of self. I wanted to look like my old self again, not a cup size more or less.
A few of the doctors I interviewed suggested I wait until I had kids then do a double augmentation and lift procedure- to which I said ‘I want to enjoy my breasts now, not at some unknown point in the future!’ I like to be open about this journey because I would never have guessed that I would consider plastic surgery, let alone breast augmentation- I just would never have conceived I would ever want or need it (I had big boobs! This felt all backwards!).
I think if this had happened as a natural product of aging, then I may have felt differently but because it felt like a cruel joke forced on me, I couldn’t cope. I’d had plenty of judgements about people who got plastic surgery and I realized that most people probably were in situations like me. My surgery is the best decision I’ve ever made for my self care and reconnection to my body. I knew within an hour of the procedure that I made the right decision. My takeaway is that it is totally fine to care about how I look and am received in the world, and I needed to be really honest with myself about what my needs were. I needed to feel like myself again - to be able to connect with how I perceived myself as a woman in her power. My breasts are linked to my womanhood and I want the world to know it.
To top off this last year of healing from surgery, I attended Burning Man for the first time. There I debuted my ‘old familiar but new, confident, fully in love with myself’ soul back into the universe - and I can thank God that I have so much love and support in my life from others and from myself again. It had been my mission to culminate my healing journey there, where I was free to be exactly as I am without judgement, basking in the glow of the universe. Now, that I feel like myself again physically, I finally feel ready to dive into my own inner sensuality.
Photo by Justin Rosenberg