Mercedes

“I am worth so much.”

Name?

Mercedes.

Where did you grow up?

I was raised in Mississippi until the second grade, then moved down to Florida when my father had to take over his family’s business.

Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?

Kind of. Someone always said grace before meals, and when I was young we bounced around different churches. I always questioned religion, though, and was referred to as ‘the little atheist’. I used to love going to church, then one day I felt that my Higher Power abandoned me.

Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?

Where to start… My sister was kind of a wild child, and was always blamed for anything that went wrong. My father wasn’t the nicest man, but he put on a great face for the rest of the world which meant nobody ever believed us when we told them how bad things were. Talking to my Mom once I’d got older, I realized even she was oblivious to most of what went on. It was bad – I don’t need to give details.

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

I hit puberty young, and had C-cups by 5th grade. I filled out and was very self-conscious about it – especially as my father’s side of the family loved to point it out. I worked with my father sometimes and could see how his older friends looked at me, but I didn’t realize until later that it was because I had a woman’s body by age 12.

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

I will never forget when I stood up to my father for the first time. He raised his fist and I just said ‘I dare you’. I think he realized he wasn’t going to get away with hitting me anymore. I always felt guilty about it, though, because when he stopped hitting me he took it out on my older sister even more. And I thought this was my fault, that if I’d have just taken it, maybe she wouldn’t have got as much abuse.

Your sexuality?

I remember the first time I kissed a girl. It was 6th grade and someone paid us $10 to kiss. I was so excited because it meant I could get away with it without telling anyone I liked girls too.

“Now is my time to figure out who I am.” - Mercedes <br />  Photo by Samantha Dietz

“Now is my time to figure out who I am.” – Mercedes
Photo by Samantha Dietz

When did you become aware of your gender?

Growing up I knew that the woman’s role in the house was to clean and make the house nice for the males, and I learned which end of that I was on very quickly.

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

Well, I hit puberty young and I had Internet access… I found all the things I liked, things that felt good when I did them to myself. I had always been a kink, then a friend of mine opened my eyes to the full BDSM lifestyle and the more I learned, the more I felt at home.

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

Struggling with my identity! Finding out who I am has been one of the hardest journeys for me, because I always seemed to have someone else telling me who I was and what I should do, believe, feel, etc. Now is my time to figure out who I am.

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

I’ve had girls gossip that I was a lesbian using boys as a cover-up, but I found that more humorous than hurtful. I do sometimes feel as if the amount of sexual energy I have is not normal, and that maybe if I could just be more normal I could be happy with what I have, like everyone else.

Growing up I knew that the woman’s role in the house was to clean and make the house nice for the males.

What is the image you think you project every day?

A young woman tired beyond her years. I feel I have become overly cynical at times and my happiness is fake.

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

It is taking a long time for the inside to match the outside. I wore a mask for so long that trying to get comfortable with sharing who I am and how I feel with people is strange, and finding a balance with how much is too much to share is hard for me too. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and don’t hold my tongue.

What is the image you would like to project?

I want to be someone who can handle anything that gets thrown at me with ease and grace.

What do you think the image other people perceive is?

I probably come across a little more obnoxious that I am in my head, so I may need to dial it back a notch.

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

I believe it is the woman’s right to choose, but in a marriage I believe it should be agreed upon by both – like how getting tubes tied or a vasectomy requires spousal consent. The man may not be carrying the child, but it’s still his child. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes, and to do that I create a scenario for myself: I am married to a woman, my egg is inside her with a sperm donor, and she decides she doesn’t want to keep it. I know I would be devastated, and that is where I try to have some compassion for the man’s rights.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice? 

Pro-choice, but in terms of me personally, I choose life. I believe if you are gifted with a child, you have it, and then give it to someone who can’t have one on their own if you don’t wish to raise it yourself. After finding a Higher Power of my own, I have come to believe that absolutely nothing happens by coincidence. I know this is a touchy subject, but if I’d gotten pregnant from my rape, I honestly think I would have kept the child and given it up for adoption, or not, who knows. I also understand that everyone else doesn’t have to believe what I believe, and I don’t judge another’s actions at all – I just know what I would do in order to feel good about myself and my decisions.

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

I wish there was a male birth control pill that men could take like we do. But first they’d have to go to a specialist, have someone grab around their junk and take a tissue sample, and then have to pay $50 a month for it.

What are your feelings about casual sex?

If you are comfortable and happy, and are doing it for no reasons but your own, then by all means have fun. Safe, Sane, and Consensual!

Are you in a relationship(s)?

No, I am currently in the process of getting a divorce.

What are your feelings about marriage?

If you want to be with someone, you will be with them, regardless of whether their last name is the same as yours or not, or if there’s a ring on the finger or not. All marriage does is make you legally bonded to the person, but that doesn’t always mean happily. All I’m saying is that it’s much easier to get into a marriage than out of one, so make sure you know what you are getting into.

“I want to be someone who can handle anything that gets thrown at me with ease and grace.” - Mercedes  Photo by Samantha Dietz

“I want to be someone who can handle anything that gets thrown at me with ease and grace.” – Mercedes
Photo by Samantha Dietz

What are your most positive relationships with other women?

My mother – not because she is my mother, but because she is my friend. We had a huge fight when I was in high school and didn’t talk for years. When we did make up, we agreed to disagree, and then started to see each other as the women we are, not as mother and daughter.

What are your negative?

I had a lot of female friends growing up. But then the few real female friends I had ditched me when I wasn’t the cool one to hang around with, or they didn’t want to hear the truth but only have me blow sunshine up their butt, so I let those friendships fade.

What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?

The word ‘woman’ is what society agreed to call all adult humans of the female persuasion. The word Man and Woman mean the same thing to me – not a child anymore. That is not to say you can’t be childish, but that you understand all the responsibilities that life entails and you are ready to step up to the plate. Being a woman is not being a little girl anymore, not playing the victim.

What are your feelings about monogamy? 

If both of you are happy with it, if no one wishes to stray, if you have discussed your needs, including your sexual needs, and everything is agreed upon – yay, go for it!

On polyamory?

I don’t believe any one person can meet another person’s every want and need. One partner can give what another cannot, and polyamory is not about looking for something better, but rather something different. My first ‘polyamorous’ relationship was with someone who said we were poly, but then just started hooking up with other people and calling me his ‘main’ but not his ‘girlfriend’… and I started to realize that with polyamory, communication is everything! It is important to keep communication open, and be forthcoming with each person on what role they play in the relationship. Communication prevents people getting hurt.

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

No, I do what I want.

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

I think if more women did the marketing than men, it would be much better.

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

I think the commercials are hilarious. We are so ashamed of something that happens naturally, and the media can’t be real about it, instead trying to make it seem sweet and nice to protect men who don’t want to hear about it. I bet if guys had periods, the commercials would be much more life-like, rather than girls in white leotards doing stretches. Let’s keep it real, people.

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

Oh yes. I’d learned what an orgasm was by the time I was 8, and was not at all ashamed about experimenting with how achieve it. I was always very active, and until life hit when I got out of high school, my body was my temple and my goal was to make it paradise.

Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?

From my parents? No. My father told me ‘Don’t use razors down there, use scissors if you need to trim it’. I learned most from friends and porn. When I was really young I honestly thought abortions were done by sticking a giant frozen spoon in your uterus and the stuff would just stick to it and come out. We had sex ed in 8th grade, but by then I already had so much wrong information in my head.

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

Sex ed should take place in elementary school, like 4th or 5th grade, when girls still believe boys have cooties. If it’d been taught to me then I think I’d have actually learned what sex was, and would have been able to make much more informed decisions without people constantly telling me not to do it, and being afraid of it. I could have used my knowledge, not fear, to form my motives.

Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?

Now, almost everywhere. I always thought I could take care of myself and protect myself if need be. I took a lot of self-defense classes, and I was strong, had endurance – I felt unstoppable. After I was raped, though, I didn’t trust myself to protect myself anymore. All the classes and training went out of my head as survival instinct kicked in and told me ‘if you fight, you will die’ – it’s like I wasn’t myself anymore after. Before, I used to love when other people looked at me like they wanted me, and I felt comfortable walking anywhere wearing anything I wanted. Now it makes my skin crawl to have someone lust over me. That look in their eyes is all too familiar, and I don’t trust myself to get me out of that situation unscathed.

Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?

In my happy place in my head. It took me a lot of meditations to make it, but I can go there whenever I want. I can see it, smell it, feel it, and hear it. And nobody else is allowed in it. It is my little space to connect with the universe and let everything else go.

“My body was my temple and my goal was to make it paradise.” - Mercedes  Photo by Samantha Dietz

“My body was my temple and my goal was to make it paradise.” – Mercedes
Photo by Samantha Dietz

Do women treat you differently than men?

Not usually. The only clique I can’t seem to get in with is my friends who are mothers. I think you have to have a baby to get it.

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

Depends on the neighborhood. It could simply be the fact that you are a woman in some, but besides lewd situations, I feel very comfortable.

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

No. I advocate for the rights that all humans should be treated equally economically, socially, and politically. I am pro-everyone’s rights, not any particular denomination.

How do you define feminism?

Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights to be equal to men economically, politically, and socially. I believe it is kind of going the other way, though, where women almost want more rights, which is defeating the purpose. I hear women bashing men, which is kind of making us look bad as a gender. If we want to be equal, we have to play on a fair playing ground.

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

We bring life, we are integral to the continuation of the species. That is a pretty big power to have, and one of the reasons we are respected.

What are negative?

I believe we are seen as beings that run on emotion, rather than logic, and for that reason our opinions aren’t as respected. Even when we base our reasoning in logic, the stigma remains that we can’t separate the two, so our motives get doubted. Also, the idea that we are the docile gender and are supposed to be naturally mothering – it seems like a good thing until we stray from that guideline and then are seen as obstinate or headstrong. Whereas when a man is that way, he is ‘confident’ and can control a room.

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

Definitely limits. We are more than baby-making machines, and until we are seen as equals we definitely have glass ceilings.

What is your relationship to sex?

I have always been a sexual creature, and I love it! I had to allow myself to not feel bad and dirty for being that way, and embrace it as simply another part of me.

How do you define sex?

Blanket statement: Anything you wouldn’t want your mother watching you do. But on a deeper note, real sex to me is when you can feel the tension in the air, and you play with it. It isn’t about the end game, it is about enjoying each other’s bodies with all your senses. To me you can’t have real sex unless both partners are completely in the moment together. Otherwise, it is just fooling around.

I have always been a sexual creature, and I love it!

What does a sexual relationship mean to you?

Once you have sex with someone, you have a sexual relationship with them. There is now a history. Whether or not it was once or 100 times, the dynamic between you and that person now has a sexual aspect. The whole relationship could be based on sex and it is solely a sexual relationship, or the sexual relationship could be an aspect of the relationship, like in a marriage.

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

I would love to say yes, I am confident and always stand my part, but I fall short sometimes with respecting my own needs. I normally have no problem communicating my needs once, but when they’re ignored it hurts, like my needs aren’t as important. This has happened so many times that I have fears about expressing my needs in situations where I think there’s a good chance they won’t be honored.

Have you found a balance of fulfillment with your partners?

Again, I wish I could say yes, but I don’t know why I have this animal inside of me that just can’t be quenched sometimes. I guess you could say I get my needs met for the most part, even if I have to take matters into my own hands. I often feel that my partners and I don’t share the same idea of what sex is. I have to own my part in that, as sometimes I go into sex with my ideal of what it should be but I may not have expressed it to my partner properly, and then because I’ve gone in with my particular expectations, I am disappointed. I need to get better about going into sexual relationships with more of an open mind.

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

Yes, because I guess I still have guilt sometimes, as I am often too much for any one person. I feel I am a burden on them, and then I let that idea come out in my personality and I put myself as less important. Also, on more than one occasion I have expressed my needs and had them either ignored, or attempted half-heartedly, thus reiterating my belief that my needs just aren’t worth another’s energy.

“When I sing the world disappears ... I feel unstoppable.” - Mercedes  Photo by Samantha Dietz

“When I sing the world disappears … I feel unstoppable.” – Mercedes
Photo by Samantha Dietz

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

It all depends on whether I fear judgment in the situation. If it’s someone with whom I have a purely sexual relationship, then I am not fearful, as that is the point of that relationship. When it comes to my marriage, yes, I am more fearful. I fear showing a part of me and having that part shut down, or only tolerated. I don’t want to be tolerated, I want to be adored. I deserve to be adored.

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

Many a time I have had someone try to take advantage of the fact I am a submissive. Just because I am a sub, does not mean I am YOUR sub. Unfortunately, that is not how all ‘Doms’ see it, and I say that with a quote because a good Dominant knows this difference.

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

I think being raped counts as that. The sad part was, I don’t know if it had anything to do with my appearance, but merely the fact I was a female, and he needed to show his power over one.

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

Two bodies entwined, lost in the moment, like nothing else exists in the world but the feeling of each other’s skin, the scent of their sweat, and the taste of their kiss, with no rush for the moment to end.

I deserve to be adored.

Is sex empowering for you?

Normally, yes. But lately I’ve felt like my wants and needs are shameful and that makes it hard to say yes honestly.

Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?

Not at all! Even my mother and I talk about sex.

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

It sounds terrible to say but my (soon-to-be) ex-husband. It isn’t because of him, but because I hold on to the 1950s ideal of what a wife should be. Even though I know I don’t believe it, I still fall into the behaviors, and I put myself down. I need to get better about standing up for myself. Now that I’m on my own I feel ‘me’ coming back, and I’m realizing the boundaries I am and am not willing to settle for. I won’t allow people to treat me in a way that I don’t believe I deserve. I know my own value today!

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

I feel safe to do it wherever, as long as I do it assertively, not aggressively.

What do you seek through sex? 

A connection with another human soul. Your sexual energy is such a natural part of you that it is almost innocent in my mind. Your sexual energy normally isn’t shaped by anyone else – it is something so private, and I love the opportunity to share that part of myself with someone, and get to see that part of them.

“Polyamory is not about looking for something better, but rather something different.” - Mercedes  Photo by Samantha Dietz

“Polyamory is not about looking for something better, but rather something different.” – Mercedes
Photo by Samantha Dietz

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

If I see another thigh gap on stick-thin models I am going to puke. Jeans are now sold in size 000. All this pressure to be smaller and perpetually look like a 13-year-old is sick, literally. It tells young children they need to look that way by any means possible; it pushes kids towards drugs and eating disorders.

Are you satisfied with the women you see depicted in film, television & advertising?

Not at all.

How do you think the world at large views women?

As wives/baby-making machines. When they’re being interviewed, high-standing women still get asked how they balance work and home life, whereas men get asked deep questions about their dreams. Men aren’t expected to balance work with home life. Until it’s the norm for raising a family to be a 100% shared responsibility, women are going to be thought of first as mothers or future mothers.

How do you maintain a sense of self?

I have to look in the mirror every so often – really look at myself – and check to make sure I recognize the person staring back at me. As soon as I start to question what I see I know I am off course, and need to step up my game. I’ll do something I love, something that makes me the person I am, something that is innately me. It could be something as small as working on an art project, baking a new recipe, or taking a ‘me’ day to spend some time with my thoughts and meditate. Meditation has probably helped me the most, because whenever I am feeling like things aren’t right, I can take time anywhere I am and just check in with myself.

What is something you deeply love about yourself?

My voice. I may have let my body go, but I love to sing like I can’t explain, and singing is something I could never really put down. It is an instrument I can take with me anywhere, and when I sing the world disappears. It is like I become a different person. I become the version of me that I am working toward becoming. I feel unstoppable.

Who are/what are your biggest motivators?

My past is my biggest motivator. It is in the past for a reason. I choose to learn from those mistakes so I don’t have to make them again. I also have this picture in my head of the woman I know I really am, and the woman I can become, and I will do anything to not go backward.

Real sex to me is when you can feel the tension in the air, and you play with it.

Do you have people you look up to?

My Mommy. I think of my problems sometimes and get in a pity-party, but then I think about what my mother would do in this situation, or rather, what she DID do in this situation. Sometimes I don’t have to make my own mistakes, because she lived some of them, and I know that she wants the best for me, and would want me to learn from her mistakes so that I don’t make them my own. If she can get through it, so can I.

Do you ever feel overlooked in the workplace because of your gender?

Not at all; I was raised to come in with a strong handshake and speak with confidence. Those two things have never failed me.

Because of your appearance?

I was taught how to interview well as well as how to dress for an interview. I dress modestly, in something that works for my body but doesn’t come across as too sexy.

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

It depends on the environment I am going into. I can see how in a male-driven society, coming in as a woman may be more difficult, and you have to prove yourself even more. I try to get a feel for the place and the people before I apply to see if it will be a good fit for me and my morals. I learned that lesson the hard way.

“I won’t allow people to treat me in a way that I don’t believe I deserve.” - Mercedes  Photo by Samantha Dietz

“I won’t allow people to treat me in a way that I don’t believe I deserve.” – Mercedes
Photo by Samantha Dietz

Have you ever experienced sexism or sexual harassment within a workplace?

I was part of management once in a franchise, and I discovered the owner was paying female staff less so he could give them raises while flirting with them. He never flirted with me, I think I intimidated him too much. I quit a few months later (hey, I needed the job).

How have you dealt with conflict?

I had an old habit of running away from my problems, so I did that for a while. I eventually realized that every problem will eventually catch up with me, and that it’s much easier to deal with the mountain if you stop it while it’s still a molehill.

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

When I was raped. It had nothing to do with me as a person, it was solely because I was the nearest female to him.

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

Of course everyone told me not to blame myself, which is exactly what I was doing, but I had mostly blocked the whole incident out entirely. I thought I should have been strong enough to deal with it on my own, but I wasn’t. The people in my life really were supportive, and I could not have done it without my mother and my husband.

What are you feelings on motherhood?

I believe we all have that ticking clock engrained in us through our hormones that says ‘Reproduce, make babies!’ I don’t necessarily have to listen to it, though, if I don’t want to. I don’t feel my life is incomplete without having a child, but that isn’t to say that I wouldn’t love to be a mother someday. If I raise a child, I want to be able to give them every single tool they could possibly need to succeed, and unless I can provide that, I feel I’d be doing them a disservice. Bringing a child into this world shouldn’t be for me – that is greedy. They are the ones that have to live the life you are giving them, and deal with everything life will throw at them. The least I can do is make sure I don’t make that any harder than it has to be.

What are you biggest fears?

That I will just keep failing, but I know this is a silly fear because of course I am going to fail! Nobody is perfect on the first try. I just have to keep getting back up. I guess the biggest fear is that maybe one time I won’t be able to get back up. I know far too well what it is like to not want to exist anymore. I gave up and tried to take my own life once, but something stepped in and gave me another chance. I fear getting to that point again.

Your biggest regrets?

I know it is cliché, but I try not to hang on to regrets. I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and need to be. There is a lesson in everything, I just have to look for it.

Your greatest accomplishments? 

I am still alive. It may not seem like much to other people, but to me it is a miracle.

“I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and need to be.” - Mercedes  Photo by Samantha Dietz

“I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and need to be.” – Mercedes
Photo by Samantha Dietz

Anything else you’d like to add? 

I have to remember that I matter merely because I exist. I don’t have to do anything special to make me special. I am worth so much, and it isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to make me feel that way. It is self-esteem because it comes from within, and the only way to build self-esteem is to do esteemable things. So, as long as I can be proud of the life I am living, and keep my side of the street clean, it doesn’t matter what anyone else in the world has to say about me.