It was the summer of 2002. I was finishing up the lease paperwork at a car dealership when the financing manager handed me his business card. You can imagine my surprise when I glanced down and saw a photo of a nude woman on the back.
It was a bold move to hand me a business card for his boudoir photography business. It felt like an even bolder move for me to call him up and ask for a session a few days later. This was not the Pam that writes a sex blog. This was the 25-year-old Pam who thought that sex was something she did primarily for her husband’s benefit.
I wondered whether I had made a horrible mistake as I arrived at his studio. But I took a deep breath and walked inside, knowing this was going to be an amazing birthday gift for my husband. Mr. Finance-Manager-by-Day-Boudoir-Photographer-by-Night helped me relax by letting me bring my own music. As my Jack Johnson CD played (remember CDs?!), I followed every direction, posing this way and that.
This was back when cameras used film, so I had to wait a full month for prints, and once I got them, had to find the perfect album. I was so excited and terrified that I called up a girlfriend to come over and assure me that this wasn’t a crazy idea. And of course, it wasn’t. My husband loved it.
Looking back at the photos from that session now, I can see the youthfulness, the innocence, the fear. I also see someone who is literally and figuratively closed off from her body.
Fast forward to 2011, I was in my mid thirties and now had a young son. I thought it would be interesting to document my physical self again. As I posed in an industrial loft just outside of San Francisco, I remember feeling more confident in my body than the first time. And being so proud of the fact that I felt relaxed enough to invite my husband to come watch the session.
Looking closely now, I can see the difference. No longer the passive ingénue, I appear more comfortable with the physical aspects of myself. I literally take up much more physical space in the photos. But there is something in my eyes that underscores the uncertainty I felt around my sexuality. I seem to be asking the camera, “Is this what you are looking for? Am I sexy?”
I was glad I had decided to have a second intimate photography session, because I assumed at the time that this was probably the peak of my beauty. Which made me wonder, would I dare take photos again at 40?
In the six years that followed, a lot changed for me sexually. After 15 years of struggling with low libido, I saw a sex and relationship coach who helped me discover how to connect to my sexual self. As a result, I discovered that it’s possible to have a more fulfilling sex life as a forty-year-old woman than I could have ever envisioned when I was twenty or thirty.
Which of course made me want to get another set of photos done. Enter Éli Zaturanski.
When I described what I was hoping to do, to capture the current incarnation of what it means for me to be intimate and sexual, Éli’s eyes lit up. And this time, I didn’t just want to invite my husband to watch. I wanted to invite him to participate. Because although it might be awkward as hell, what better way could there be to capture my intimate and sexual life, than to actually be intimate and sexual while the camera was rolling?
Éli spent time getting to know both of us, and was so warm and encouraging during the photo shoot. But I still wasn’t sure what to expect when he sent us the final product. I find my sexuality hard to describe these days. It’s as if I don’t want to be confined to a single sexual persona, but rather to allow different parts of my sexual self to come out and play on any given day, in any given circumstance. Would this show in the photos?
Then suddenly, an email appeared in my inbox. It was from Éli. As I excitedly flipped through the photos, I was thrilled to see that the results were equal parts romantic, sultry, flirtatious and dirty. I seem not only connected to my own sexuality, but connected to my husband in a way that wasn’t even possible five or ten years ago.
If I’ve learned anything from my journey thus far, it’s that my relationship with my body and my sexuality will continue to evolve. And that if I pause for a moment and take a closer look, there will be something that I’m intensely proud of.
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m really looking forward to getting some nude photos of myself when I turn fifty.
New to this blog and want to start at the beginning? Check out this post about why I started a blog about sex.
This blog reflects real-life experiences. I'd love to hear about your experiences, so let’s continue the conversation in the comments section below.
You can also check out these resources or email me at email@example.com if you are interested in classes or coaching to explore your own sexuality. I am a sex and relationship coach and if I can't personally help you, I'd be very happy to connect you with other wonderful sex educators, coaches and therapists.
© Pam Costa, 2017