Laura

“I am not one to stand idly by.”

Name?

Laura.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Moore Park at the heart of Toronto, ON, Canada. 

Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?
Despite my mother’s best efforts to raise me as a devout Roman Catholic, I quickly rebelled against the notion of organized religion and considered myself atheist for a long period of time. Since then, I have become more spiritual and would consider myself Buddhist/agnostic.

Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?

There was subtle turbulence when I was younger, which sort of internalized and manifested into a major emotional struggle in my adolescence. I suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder with Major Depression, suicidality, self harm and a fairly antisocial outlook. I had some very dark moments and it took me many years to come out of it. 

Were you ever embarrassed about your development/puberty? If so why?

I was very sexual so turned to the internet for understanding of my sexuality, which could mostly be described as fetish-driven. For the most part my true self was portrayed online and people in my real life (classmates, my sister) knew nothing about me. 

I didn’t consider myself to be beautiful until my late teens, and generally viewed myself and my body unfavourably until my mid-20s. 

Can you remember any key moments in your formative years that shaped you?

My father and I had a ritual where we would go to the movies on Sunday and he would buy me a new book. My passion for knowledge and curiosity about the world was satiated by this, and I would say it made me a more thoughtful and well-rounded person. 

Any that shaped your perspective of women?

I grew up around women – my mother and my sister mostly. My mother was a good example of the older ideals of women – she scarcely left her bedroom without full makeup on. She was very preoccupied with vanity and what other people thought of us, so she took immense pride in her personal appearance as well as her home – they were both second to none. I initially rebelled against these ideals but with age I’ve started to come around a bit and appreciate her efforts to always put on her best. 

My sister has always been very much a free spirit and didn’t conform to gender norms. She was outspoken, intelligent and a comedian who would compel everyone’s attention without placing emphasis on external appearance. I got a lot of my personality traits as well as sense of humour and confidence in social situations from her, so I gained some inner and outer beauty from both women in my formative years. 

Of sexuality?

I think of myself as being born a sexual creature, and taking charge of my own sexual development. I always knew what my inclinations and desires were and wasn’t shy about pursuing them. 

When did you become aware of your gender?

I was always aware of my gender and never had doubts about it. 

When did you become aware of your own sexuality; were there any key moments?

My mother caught me masturbating when I was around seven years old and reprimanded me, giving me a spank on the bum for it. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I knew that I wasn’t going to stop, just be more clever about where and when I’d do it! 

What, if any, are the obstacles you’ve overcome on your path to womanhood?

I would say issues relating to self esteem and choosing appropriate partners. I always went for much older guys, I guess because they made me feel like a prized possession. I always felt much older than I really was, but in retrospect I was just a scared little girl looking for someone who seemed to know what he was doing. Turns out the men in their 40s I’d date were just as clueless as I was. 

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“Over the years I’ve become more humble, and crave less and less attention and validation from the outside world. I try to build up the people around me and my immediate community, and look for what I can give rather than what I can gain. ” -Laura
Photo by Jennifer Toole

Have you ever struggled with your sexuality?

Only in the sense that I let it overcome me and really be the driving force in my life for too long. There were years of my life where my urges were all-consuming. Despite my best efforts, it turns out they could not be satiated unless they were paired with love. I know it sounds corny, but I guess you could say I’m a bad girl gone good! 

Have you ever been embarrassed, burdened or ashamed of your sexuality? If so why?

I’ve dealt with some blackmail threats from anonymous people threatening to out my sexual history to work associates. Otherwise not really. 

What is the image you think you project every day?

The image I project is most likely one of confidence and a care-free attitude. I have insecurities just like the rest of society but I really do have a gift for being unaffected by the way others perceive me. I think that’s the trick to confidence – just liking yourself and not caring whether others do or not. Also not being an asshole. 

How would you describe your personal experience, existing in the way you do, each day?

I think that my personal experience is always in a state of flux. In my late teens I walked around feeling like I was invincible, and like the world owed me something. Over the years I’ve become more humble, and crave less and less attention and validation from the outside world. I try to build up the people around me and my immediate community, and look for what I can give rather than what I can gain. 

What is the image you would like to project?

I would like to project a spirit of generosity, kindness, compassion and integrity. Integrity is the hardest part for me since I can be a major flake sometimes (just ask Jennifer Toole how long it took me to complete this interview!).

What do you think the image other people perceive is?

Something I pride myself in, to some degree, is not concerning myself with the perception of others. It’s not something you can really control, since they often project a lot of themselves onto you. I take care to simply be genuine and I no doubt have offended a few as a result, but those who are akin to me are more easily identifiable this way – and it ultimately leads to more solid friendships (albeit fewer of them!).

What is your political stance on women’s reproductive rights?

That politics should have no say in women’s reproductive rights! Also, I believe women’s health should be better subsidized when it comes to menstrual care. (Free tampons for all!)

Are you pro-life or pro-choice?

Pro-choice, for a million reasons. Having now gone through the process of having to decide whether to keep a baby or not, I know it’s never an easy decision to make… but thankfully we have the decision to make now. 

What are your feelings about contraceptives? Their availability, cost, stigma, usage?

I think males should take more initiative on the contraceptive front. I’ve been on birth control since my teens and, while my doctor was nice enough to provide them free-of-charge while I was still in school, they are costly and the onus is largely on women.  

What are your feelings on casual sex?

Casual sex is good; I think it’s important to play the field and have fun – experience as much as you can so you can suss out your likes and dislikes. My dislike is sex that is entirely too brief  *cough*2pumpchump*cough*. 

Are you in a relationship(s)?

I am in a long-term relationship with someone who is fantastically different than me in some ways but similar in the important ways. We both have a good sense of play and fun, but he has a stern and orderly side to him. I’m the disorganized creative genius type and he works in the trades with a keen eye for design. It’s nice having a man who can work with his hands, in a heteronormative kind of way. 

…As I write this I am 22 weeks pregnant and experiencing just as much anxiety as I am excitement at the prospect of raising a child.

What are your feelings about marriage?

That’s a bit of a loaded question for me, considering that my parents were married three times each. For a long time I was decidedly against the concept of marriage because I felt that people changed too much over time, and that having one life partner in a society that thrives on variety and choice was too tall an order. 

That said, I am a bleeding heart when it really comes down to it and I remain hopeful that two people can grow together as a unit and build a beautiful life together. I am starting a family in the near future and I think a formal union would provide family stability to a large degree, as it is a commitment I would definitely take seriously. 

What are your most positive relationships with other women?

A lot of my older female friends in their 40s and 50s have provided me with the most wisdom and strength. Many of these are women I met through the fetish subculture – it turns out that women who have a solid idea of their desires sexually also support one another’s growth. 

What are your negative?

I’m careful with who I surround myself with, so any negative influences don’t last very long. 

What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?

I have a tattoo on my pelvic bone with the word ‘EROS’, which literally means love in Greek. I took that word from a Jungian and philosophical context, however, and when you dig deeper it actually symbolizes passion, drive and life force. Women are the life force, they nurture by nature and are generally more community-oriented. I would hate to see what a world without women looked like! 

What are your feelings on monogamy?

For a long time I didn’t think monogamy was possible, that it was an archaic tradition and that no one can really ‘own’ another person. I still think strict forms of monogamy are certainly hard to maintain, especially after many years have passed. 

Because the idea of monogamy is so novel to me personally, though, I now find it beautiful and sacred that our bodies and souls could be purely each other’s. 

On polyamory?

Some people have a lot of love to give, and power to them! Polyamory is infinitely more difficult to sustain because of the level of communication required to keep jealousy and distrust at bay, but if the parties involved are up for it then I think it can work. 

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“I take care to simply be genuine.” -Laura
Photo by Jennifer Toole

Do you feel your choice to participate or not participate in consensual sex is at all affected by societal influence?

There’s societal influence, sure. I think an even bigger influence though is related to people’s individual self worth. I used to use sex as escapism, as a way to feel validated by society. It felt good, sure, but more often than not I would give myself to people who wouldn’t truly appreciate me. Sex is always better with someone you have a deeper connection with… but the media would have us believe that casual hookups are happening everywhere all the time, and that we’re missing out otherwise. 

How do you feel about feminine hygiene products’ portrayal in the media?

I was in Grade 3 when I saw a commercial for tampons or something, and I asked my teacher Mr. Lofedo what a tampon was. He told me I should ask my mother. They gussy up the marketing so much that you don’t even know what they’re talking about – the biggest culprit of this would be the birth control marketers. It took me years to figure out what the Alesse marketing was actually for! 

Were you always aware of what your body could do sexually & mechanically?

Yep. 

Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?

Nope. I did my own research! Sexual education in high school is designed to scare the crap out of you. Day one of sex-ed class was explicit photos of terrible STIs and statistics! 

Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?

Thankfully, there aren’t many places I feel unsafe as a woman in Toronto, but I’m more than a little wary of certain places in the Middle East, and my heart is heavy for the struggle of women in developing countries. 

Do women treat you differently than men?

There’s always at least a small degree of ‘mansplaining’ and objectification that goes on when interacting with men! 

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

I would consider myself a feminist. Anyone who believes in equal rights should consider themselves one as well. 

What is your relationship to sex?

This, too, has changed. Sex used to literally run my life. I was insatiable, constantly seeking the ultimate in sexual experiences. Much of it was very cerebral in nature, involving role play and complex set ups with bondage and corporal punishment. I went deep down the rabbit hole and emerged after 10 or 12 years finding that what I really sought was a primal, genuine experience where you can get lost in someone, and they in you, without a single word.

Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?

I have always felt comfortable voicing my sexual preferences to my partners, it’s the key to having great sex! I also never listened to those ridiculous articles in Cosmopolitan and the like, which have a tendency to focus on male sexual pleasure. 

Are you fearful of being openly sexual for fear of judgement?

Not as much as I probably should be. 

Have you ever been in a position where your sexuality was used against you?

I once had a stalker try to blackmail me to my then-business partner, threatening to share unsavoury details of my sexual experiences as well as pictures. I did not give in to the fear or the game that the stalker was trying to play, and instead notified the police. People like that feed off fear, and if you don’t give them the satisfaction they will crawl back into the pathetic hole from whence they came. 

What do you seek through sex?

I seek to relinquish power, connect powerfully and provide ecstasy. 

How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of women?

I view the media as a rather sinister machine that is meant to uphold the values of the patriarchy. One look at commercials advertising cleaning products or vices (alcohol, gambling) and you can see that women are objectified and stereotyped relentlessly. 

How do you think the world at large views women?

Equality is a LONG way off. Women are not respected and are systematically marginalized in almost all cultures. It seems that only in small tribes with a strong sense of community are women regarded as vital and revered components of society. 

Do you find entering the work force as a woman has any bearing on how people will treat you?

Absolutely. 

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“I view the media as a rather sinister machine that is meant to uphold the values of the Patriarchy.” -Laura
Photo by Jennifer Toole

Have you ever been verbally abused or threatened because of your gender?

All the time, although most often when I get caught in the crossfire between an abuser and a woman I see being victimized. I am not one to stand idly by and I don’t mind taking some insults or threats in order to protect another.

If so, how did those in your life respond when you told them about it?

Usually with their own stories of victimizations – no one is alone in this battle against bigotry. 

What are you feelings on motherhood?

When this shoot took place in early September, I had just found out I was pregnant for the first time a couple of days earlier. I had a lot on my mind, as one can imagine. I am in my last year of my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, so having a baby meant delaying graduation and making completion considerably more difficult, not to mention also delaying my ambition of pursuing a Master’s degree in Psychology.

I always thought that the decision would be relatively straightforward if I conceived at a point in my life when it wasn’t planned, or if I wasn’t ready for whatever reason. I actually was planning on waiting until the last possible moment – sometime in my late 30s – to bear children so that I could live freely and selfishly for as long as possible. 

Well, it turns out the universe had other plans, and I felt in my gut that I was ready to have this child. So, as I write this I am 22 weeks pregnant and experiencing just as much anxiety as I am excitement at the prospect of raising a child. I think I will be a great mother, though – I have been trying to cultivate mindfulness and compassion – two things that are super important for understanding another human being. 

What are you biggest fears?

Being alone, being stuck in a dead-end job, or something happening to my child. 

Your biggest regrets?

None. 

Your greatest accomplishments?

Maintaining a positive attitude and not getting stuck in a recursive cycle of deferred blame and self pity.