LJ

“I wish the world were a different place.”

Name?

LJ.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Australia, first in Melbourne, then Brisbane from age four, then Townsville in northern Queensland from age eight, then back to Melbourne when I was ten.

Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?

I was brought up secularly. My parents were raised Catholic/Christian but I was not baptized, we did not participate in church-based events, and Christmas and Easter were for celebrating love and giving gifts.

Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?

My early childhood was fine; I was an overachiever who loved dancing and gymnastics. When I reached adolescence things became more difficult because of being bullied and struggling with self-confidence, so I changed schools and that helped.

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

Definitely, I grew breasts quite quickly and outer beauty was a huge part of private school life. I was teased and made fun of, I was called a ‘dog’. I was very much embarrassed about my body – I felt a lot of shame about my shape, my breasts, the fat on my stomach that had started to show. I was embarrassed and confused about my period as it stopped and started unexpectedly and I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know how to be proud of my body, and the comments made by male peers made everything more confusing.

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

I remember a moment when my mum and I were driving to our local shopping centre and I was wearing cargo pants and a singlet top, I think I was about 15 or 16. My mum looked at me and said ‘You aren’t wearing that are you? I can see your stomach poking out’. I got really upset and demanded she pull over, then I walked home and didn’t wear that top ever again. That’s a memory that’s always stuck with me.

Thank goodness for those who are out and about talking about these issues – they are often inherent in our upbringing and can be visible only in incredibly subtle ways.

Any that shaped your perspective of women?

I guess my main influence was my mother; as much as she could be mean about my weight, she was also very critical of her own body. I have come to see this as a necessary quality in women, and I am often perturbed by women who are confident in their bodies. I noticed from a young age that I was drawn to making comparisons – with other peers, with my idols, with figures in the media, and so on. I felt the need to compare and/or mould myself into becoming someone closer to whomever I was focusing on at the time.

Of sexuality?

The main influence on my sexuality was high school, which was very much a Petri dish of sexual tension and energy. I was sexualized – along with all the other girls – by the boys in our school and was constantly aware of what I thought was my inadequacy in this area. Looking back it seems quite silly and rather generic as it’s the story of many women in the western world, but this troubles me. I don’t think it should be a shared experience.

When did you become aware of your gender?

I was never really ‘aware’ of my gender until university. I have always been quite feminine; I enjoyed things like ballet and other dance forms throughout childhood and I dressed relatively femininely. The concept of gender being fluid didn’t occur to me until uni. When I found myself with people who didn’t necessarily define their gender so specifically, it made me examine my own gender. I still identify as female, but am more aware of why and how.

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

Um, not really, I started masturbating at quite a young age but never really understood what was going on – I just knew it felt nice. Other than that, I guess I became aware in high school when I started ‘dating’.

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

Having issues with mental health, I’ve very much struggled with the importance of emotions and feelings. Having Borderline Personality Disorder often equates you with being ‘bad’ in the eyes of health professionals, and it is most commonly diagnosed in women, so understanding that my feelings are valid is a bit of a challenge. Especially when my feelings are often intertwined with my idea of gender and how I think I ‘should’ behave.

Have you ever struggled with your sexuality?

I spent all of high school dating males, then I got to uni and started developing feelings for women. Let’s just say I struggle with sexuality quite a lot, and don’t like to ‘define’ myself within a label because they’re kind of reductive.

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

Yes, but I feel like it’s mainly me putting it on myself. Every now and then I’ll be reminded of societal ideas of what ‘women’s sexuality’ should be like, but that happens less often than the feelings I place on myself. I still don’t really understand my sexuality, and it’s something I’m trying to work on and further understand.

What is the image you think you project every day?

I would guess funny, relatively happy most of the time, and also conscientious and a bit daggy.

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“Having Borderline Personality Disorder often equates you with being ‘bad’ in the eyes of health professionals, and it is most commonly diagnosed in women.” -LJ
Photo by Georgia Smedley

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

Sometimes difficult, I often feel quite manipulative, but overall it’s all right, I try to make people laugh. When I’m on my own I feel much better, and also worse at the same time. CONTRADICTION! I like being on my own but often that’s when the unwanted thoughts sneak in.

What is the image you would like to project?

Calm, happy, and funny.

What do you think the image other people perceive is?

I don’t really know, I guess funny, dramatic, needy, and polite?

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

Every woman should be in control of her own reproductive rights; it is her choice, her decision, her body.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice?

PRO-CHOICE.

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

They are incredibly necessary. Contraceptives allow everyone to have more control when pursuing their own intimate lives, so their availability should be much more widespread and the cost should be lowered. However, more education is needed, EVERYWHERE! I remember in school putting a condom on a banana… and being told women could get a diaphragm or go on the pill. But there wasn’t much beyond that. Contraceptives remain a taboo topic for some families and cultures, and this can be a reason why they aren’t accessed as often as they could be.

What are your feelings on casual sex?

I feel that it is a very integral part of a lot of people’s lives, and should be up to each person who wants to pursue it. As long as everyone involved is safe and happy, then it’s their right! You should be allowed to enjoy your body.

Are you in a relationship(s)?

No.

What are your feelings on marriage?

I struggle with marriage because it is incredibly archaic – it’s come from a time when women were sold as property, when women had absolutely no rights and were passed on for a fee, when women were kept as objects to push out babies, and the marriage used to secure land and power. However, I also think that if two people are happy together and want to unite in something that is still an incredibly powerful statement, then they have every right to do so. As much as marriage is something I don’t personally agree with, I completely understand and accept that it can be a beautiful thing between people wanting to commit to loving each other for as long as they live. If you want to take that step with someone, then you should be able to.

What are your most positive relationships with other women?

I would have to say my mum and my sister for sure, they are the people I share the most with and are two people I look up to for guidance and reassurance. Even when we disagree, I respect where they are coming from and love them so much. I also have incredibly romanticized relationships with women in my head that remain completely positive – women in the media, writers and actors and artists, and even people I have met but don’t know. I hear what they say and read what they write and have a powerful relationship with who I think they are.

What are your negative?

High school, teenage females in general. The teenage years are an incredibly fraught time of learning how to define yourself, which is no an easy task. Young women can be hard on each other. Also sometimes when women commit to a cause without a great understanding and speak out about it, I think this can be very damaging to those who look up to them.

What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?

When I hear the word ‘woman’ I think power, carer, and emotional. This comes from a mixture of sources, including my family and also how I see myself.

What are your feelings on monogamy?

If that’s what floats your boat go for it. However, I think it is limiting, particularly as it’s the accepted form of relationship in the western world and it’s all we are really taught.

On polyamory?

Scary, haha! I have no experience with polyamory but the thought of being emotionally invested in more than one person is intimidating… but also exciting and, in my mind, more logical.

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

Yes, I am very aware of the concept of ‘friendzoning’ from both sides, as it seems to be something men have adopted whole-heartedly but there isn’t much attention given to the reverse situation. Also, there’s the pressure and perceptions associated with ‘leading someone on’ or flirting openly – I still hear people say ‘Oh well, she shouldn’t have dressed like that or drunk that much’ when something awful happens. It sickens me.

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“Trans and queer sexual education also needs to be taught.” -LJ
Photo by Georgia Smedley

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

Incredibly frustrated! Mostly because of the amount of money and time that is wasted, which has been happening since my childhood – I got ‘girl things’, toys marketed to females, and even though my parents didn’t necessarily facilitate all of this, I wanted to be like the other girls, I wanted more Barbies. Now there are simple things like razors that are identical but produced twice, one kind for men and another for women. Bic actually brought out a pen for women…

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

I HATE IT!!! All of these ads for tampons and pads with pretty colours and calm voices, not to mention the wipes and cleansers that are pushed on women, creating the illusion that vaginas are ‘unclean’ and ‘bad’.

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

To an extent. My mother is a midwife so I learnt from an early age things like how babies are born and the role of breasts for breastfeeding. However, I wasn’t really aware of what my body could do sexually; I’m 26 and still trying to figure it out.

Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?

Nope.

If not, what would you have done to make it so?

A better and more realistic understanding of how a body works, including why foreplay feels good, etc. I also only learnt about sexual education in regards to males and females having sex. Being sexually fluid and more interested in girls, I didn’t learn anything at all about that, and am still figuring it out. Trans and queer sexual education also needs to be taught.

Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?

Anywhere outside my bedroom, but particularly in public spaces or when I am alone.

Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?

My bedroom and with my parents and sister.

Do women treat you differently than men?

Yes, I feel more valued by women, particularly women who are my friends. I generally don’t feel valued by males except for those I am closest to.

In what ways does being a woman make you vulnerable or exposed?

My body, my size – I have very large breasts and with every step I take they bounce. Also, my hip joints turn outwards, which means I am most comfortable with my legs splayed or sitting cross-legged. This way of positioning myself when I’m walking or sitting is something that is often deemed ‘masculine’, and I’m often very aware of this.

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

Definitely.

How do you define feminism?

A feminist is someone who strives for equality in every way.

What do you think are positive ways the world views women?

I feel like small steps are being made in some places. I am fortunate to have a group of friends who are mostly feminists so I’m used to these core values being the norm, but then I’m dumbfounded when people don’t agree with me or don’t share similar opinions, because it doesn’t seem logical. I’d like to be romantic about it but we still have a long way to go. The Australian government is talking about denying women the dole if they don’t take contraceptives… So we’re still facing a struggle.

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“If we could be OPEN to better education in our societies, then I think we will slowly start moving forward.” -LJ
Photo by Georgia Smedley

What are the negative?

Many many many things. So many things outside my immediate social circles. Our government sickens me. The power of all the different religions sickens me, and assumed male privilege is difficult to deal with.

Do you think the world’s perception of women limits or benefits them?

Limits them. I think sometimes women get the chance to disprove the perceptions and expectations placed on us, but it seems like more often we don’t even get the chance, because we just can’t reach or succeed in so many positions and places because of the limits put on us.

What is your relationship to sex?

Nonexistent. I bought a vibrator recently and it scares me. I am scared of intimacy, both physical and emotional. I dissociate when I have sex and I haven’t been in a relationship for many years. I feel like sex has disappeared!

How do you define sex?

A physical intimate encounter with another human being, giving something of yourself and receiving (this part is not always physical).

What does a sexual relationship mean to you?

Something I don’t want to think about.

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

Nope.

Have you found a balance of fulfillment with your partners?

I cannot remember, with some I think so, with others, not so much.

Do you feel that YOUR desires are marginalized in the bedroom or are less important, if so why do you think that is?

I feel that if they ARE marginalized it’s because I’m the one marginalizing them.

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

Yes.

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

I can’t really remember but I don’t think so.

Have you ever been physically or verbally threatened because of your appearance?

Yes, a few times because of my weight and a couple of times by people with severe mental health issues.

When you imagine sex, what is the visual/feeling you associate with it?

Fear.

Is sex empowering for you?

Nope, it could possibly be one day, but not at the moment.

Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?

Not necessarily; I can talk about it with my friends but I always reach the same point of being sexually frustrated and alone and too scared to discuss anything further.

Is there anyone in your world you undermine your principles for?

My mother and my grandmother.

In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind/stand up for yourself?

Among very close friends.

What do you seek through sex?

I don’t really know, connection? Human contact.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I wish the world were a different place. Thank goodness for those who are out and about talking about these issues – they are often inherent in our upbringing and can be visible only in incredibly subtle ways. I know that the world isn’t going to change tomorrow but if we could all talk about everything more and start to create change through education, if we could be OPEN to better education in our societies, then I think we will slowly start moving forward.

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