Going through my photos I stop and linger over one in particular. I hate this photo and love it similtaneously- it shows me, lying on my back, legs spread and knees pulled back so my cunt and arse are on show from the least flattering angle possible, my tits splayed flat to either side of my rib cage, my belly just folds of fat. The lighting is harsh, emphasising the winterish pallour of my skin, against which my bush looks angry and animalistic. I look hard at what lies beneath that mess of hair, at wet lips and dark red pucker, and for a second I wish with all my heart for one of those cute, tidy, bare little Tumblr cunts instead of that dark sprawl of pelt and flesh.
I’ve been putting photos of myself on Tumblr for a couple years now, and I’ve learnt the basics of taking a flattering photo of my own particular curvy, middle- aged body. I know which positions work- kneeling with chest out and shoulders back is best at any size; for me personally lying down only works when I’m at the smaller end of my spectrum weight- wise. I look at this photo, taken in the wrong light, from an angle which couldn’t be more unforgiving, and I’m filled with a revulsion that is lingering and familiar.
And then I look again, at the crisscross pattern of welts up and down my inner thighs and the speckle of bruises on my arse, and I remember how I felt that morning. I remember him standing over me, at the end of the bed, camera in hand, cooing congratulation at the sight of my marks. I remember how gorgeous it felt to lie like that, exposed, showing him what he’d done to his property, in the sunlight which brightened the walls and warmed us in our nakedness. I can hear the music from the radio, the volume turned up to cover my cries as he laid one stroke on top of another, and I can almost feel my skin stinging at the thought.
I stroke my arse, unmarked now, and crave what he gave me- the feeling of skin at the moment point just before blood is drawn, the fear that the next hit will be the one that forces a safeword, the heat and the movement and the ugly wanting of it. The begging, the wincing, the spread legs, the humiliation of being told to open my legs again when fear forced them shut, even though I know that however much it sounded like he disdained me he was only ever guiding me towards that place where we’d both end up proud.
I look at the photo and think about all of it and know that I’m getting wet. I close Dropbox and close my eyes. I know that I’ll never put this photo up on Tumblr, but that if he’d ever asked me to I would have, however ugly that mess between my legs, however strong the shame of putting out there all the things I want to hide. I would have shown you all of that if he’d wanted you to see it. He never did, and I’m glad of it- it would have tested my submission if he’d done so.
But I’m glad I didn’t delete it. Sometimes the things it’s hardest to look at are the things we need to see the most. And for all that our relationship was deeply flawed and in the end verging on poisonous, I never doubted that he thought I was beautiful, and at my most beautiful when I was showing the world the things that no one else is supposed to see.