AUTHOR: TIERNEY FINSTER
Sex launched my journalism career (in a good way!) Although I earn a majority of my living writing about sex, and do so all the time, I’ve hardly ever written about my own sex life.
The last time I read something I wrote about my own sex life aloud was in the 11th grade when I read a spoken word poem about all the Smirnoff-scented oral sex I had performed the semester before for a huge assembly of students and staff. I know sharing this essay could never be as shamefully erotic as that. I love sharing images of my sexualized body and have since early adolescence.
I’ve always preferred my body speak for itself, which I’m beginning to realize is because of how scared I’ve been to write about it. This is less about me hating my body and more about hating how important it has always been. Ugh. This fear is about the familiar weight of other people’s evaluations of my own physical form. This fear is about the familiar weight of the shame and regret society has made me feel about what my body looks like and how I’ve chose to use it. My body is no stranger to fear, but thankfully, it’s extremely familiar with pleasure too.
I’ve never wanted to be accountable for my body, for milk thistle cleanses and ClassPass and taking my contacts out at night, let alone be accountable for whatever language I’d choose to describe my relationship to my body with at any given time. Tightness. Weight. Shallow breath. Pleasure, sure, but a lot of bullshit too.
My obsession with my own body began long ago and not because I wanted it to. When strangers see a body that is larger than they’d like their own body to be, their own body language makes it very clear. They will practically jump into traffic to offer you more room on the sidewalk because they can’t imagine us getting that close to each other while walking, even if you know, from experience, that you could have sailed right past each other.
I’m fat in L.A., which seems to be most people’s biggest fear. The constant refrain about L.A. necessitating the thinnest bodies possible makes it hard for rising fat stars like myself. This trope makes people feel better about hating themselves in my hometown. I hate it. One of the easiest things for complete strangers to bond over is hating themselves.
They hate their absolutely disgusting stretch marks and talk about accommodating them during sex and I laugh, rejoicing that in all of the sex I’ve ever had, not one person has ever rolled me away from them because my body was marbled like a prime steak.
Not long ago, my pregnant co-star on a lingerie shoot told me she was an Indigo Child and that she’s she’s already teaching her daughter, in utero, about the relentless power of feminine beauty. But once we got into bed to shoot she begged the photographer not to give her a booty do, meaning not to shoot her at an angle in which her stomach sticks out more than her booty do and I just laid there, hot and bothered, dealing with a lack of mobility and physical confidence following a major injury, thinking that’s another thing I can’t even attempt to accommodate.
To put it simply, a lot of people think I'm brave because I'm not surprised a lot of people want to fuck me. A lot of people think I’m brave, gallant, intrepid for simply getting dressed. Every week, well-intentioned folks see my photos or videos and commend me for having such courage (rather than talent or taste.)
Last year, I was laying with some girlfriends on chaise lounges on the beach during a full moon party when an Icelandic woman sat down next to me to commend my bravery for wearing the black silk, partially sheer lingerie dress that not only caught her attention, but was enough to get her to leave her friends who talk at me. She said, “You...you are living the right way, wow. And yeah, that’s not easy. I know!” She was skinny, skinny and told me she had been anorexic for years so that her boyfriend, the love of her life, would want to have sex with her. He loved waifs. Home in Iceland, he had just killed himself a couple weeks back, so there she was in Mexico mourning him and scoring tons of cheap diet pills. I was in the middle of tripping on my own gratitude, watching the moon illuminate the Caribbean Sea, but still met with the weight of the way people hate their bodies.
I never get tired of people telling me I’m beautiful but sometimes it is condescending.
People tell me I have “such confidence” for modeling nude too, but it’s easy to love modeling nude when most of the clothes people pull for you never fit anyway, despite how promptly I email over my measurements.
A designer’s mom told me I had such confidence after I walked in her fashion show last year. She stopped me to tell me this in front of tons of people. I smiled and thanked her like I often do, because these bitches often mean well. In my head I was like, fuck you, because if I actually did have as much confidence as I do talent I would have probably been too busy to be standing there with her. And anyway, many hot people are confident. I’m not that unique. And when Bernhard Willhelm put my photo on his mood board and labeled it nothing but “FAT AMERICAN.” I robbed a very gorgeous dress from him in spite. Even though I’m fat. And American.
I would rather any of you just tell me I’m hot. Maybe that I’m smart, but definitely that I’m hot. Objectify me, please. Acknowledge me just as me. A thing. Not a thing in reaction to, or in spite of, or versus the rest of the world, which only acknowledges the corporeal tension I’ve already felt spent a young lifetime feeling shitty about. The intimacy of the brave and confident shit makes that tension more real than less. In this new year, I want more drunk women in line for the bathroom to tell me I’m sexy instead of inspirational. Me going to Fashion Nova at the Panorama City mall and getting a revealing club dress to slip into for a night of whatever in LA isn’t inspirational. But clearly, it is sexy.
I attach things to my body–dresses, glamour shame, power, fear, guilt, God, but these days, I try to exist more in my breath and less in my head and in doing so, I’ve realized why I’ve always valued desire so much in the first place. Sex is the best body language. Sex is when my body’s the best.
I love to melt into someone just as much as I love to rub up against them.
To dip my fingers into their glass of champagne and trickle them across my neck and check until that other person absolutely has to put their glass of champagne down and fuck me. I love to push away the hair that won’t get out of my face while I suck dick and to grind my hips into as many receptive laps as possible on any given night.
My body is most beautiful when held in a friend’s arms while floating in the ocean. Or when someone's cradling me naked, like a baby, selfish and emotional and unspeaking but wild and very hard to get to stay asleep.
My body is one those Namio Harukawa illustrations every single Fairfax fucc boi sends me before asking me to sit on their face.
Right now, my body is both morbidly thicc and in the thicc of its glory.
During my first in-depth interview with a sex scientist named Dr. Jim Pfaus, I learned the way our neurological wiring processes sexual experiences is similar to other animals, especially rats, which he spends every day studying, which means, in terms of neurobiology, the way we process sexual cues dates back as far as 650 million years. Dr. Pfaus told me we all have “love maps,” an imperfect term that is his way of describing how enormous any one sexual experience, alone or partnered, can transform our individual sexualities, meaning we remake these intricate snowflakes again and again depending on what we do. Whatever gets you off today may change by tomorrow, depending on what happens today. This may sound simple, but trauma and conservatism and a lot of other stuff has made a lot of us feel, at certain times, that our sexuality is fixed. But even the sexuality of rats isn’t fixed.
The most interesting part of my own love map, at least from my perspective, is a question that’s crossed my mind a lot: why am I so sexy?
I grew up swinging my hair around like a stripper while holding on to the bathroom counter as my mom blew my hair dry before school and trying on teddies at Lane Bryant while my mom shopped for white t-shirts and khaki capris. I spent a lot of my childhood dancing raunchy, alone, in front of the big mirror in my grandparent’s bathroom until one day when I was 11 and chipped my front tooth on our tile during an extra voluminous hair flip.
Growing up, I was the only fat sex symbol I knew. There was Anna Nicole, but her larger body was largely considered tragic. On Myspace, I made sure everyone knew I was hot. I marketed it so good they couldn’t wait to “tryyy uh uh uh uh me.” “What’s the matter with you?” my mom growled at me when I was 13, when she heard from a family member that I was listing “body shots” as one interests on Myspace. I always wanted to be like Trishelle from the Real World Las Vegas. Hot, promiscuous reality stars were some of my key role models.
Today, the smell of Betsey Johnson perfume, a scent I’m sure Trishelle has worn and loved, conjures the memory of me as a young teen in a bounce house, pouring warm tequila over Alex Fraade’s hazel pubes and sucking it up with my glossy lips, all while reeking of Betsey Johnson, BJ, perfume.
In high school, I blew a man in his mid-twenties in my parent’s kitchen because I had a crush on his best friend. When he was too drunk to cum, I grabbed a huge kitchen knife and chased him around the living room with it. Maybe because I was a huge fan of Lindsay Lohan and all her photos with knives.
In high school, I got to my first Coachella by fingering this older woman who would pick me up in her red BMW but insist she wasn’t queer because “pussies are wet before you lick them and that's just weird." We got VIP passes, but once in Indio, I was surprised to see her distant family members laying in hospice beds next door to where we would be doing all the fingering.
On my 18th birthday, every dancer working the floor at Exposed in Canoga Park formed a little conga line to come and bring me up on stage, where one by one they gave me a dance and removed an article of my clothing until I was completely naked, staring out from center stage, spotting my friends and the horrified looks on their faces. I blacked out up there and don’t remember how I exited the stage or put my clothes back on, but I’m sure there was some dancing involved.
Around this time, someone told me that a great way to attract partners was by swiping a finger down and up inside me and rubbing any vaginal secretions into my neck like perfume, so I did. In retrospect, I may have been the one to invent this advice after reading about pheromones in Allure magazine, I don’t know.
I hate admitting my body works in certain, regular ways, like the inconvenience of having your period when you want to sleep with a stranger. In Barcelona, I ditched my Tinder date after getting cruised by a hot, bus driver on the street. After we drank coffee at the kind of sidewalk cafe little American me dreamed of luxuriating at, I refused to go home with him. I refused to tell him I didn’t want to have a period sex with a stranger, so I acted like a prudish virgin, one of my favorite games, which meant going home with me. Soon I was perched on a short wall on the east end of the Cathedral of Barcelona while he stood behind it, eating my ass. When some security guards a few hundred feet away finally realized what was happening, we didn’t stop because I’m an exhibitionist, of course.
Later that year, I was at a Christmas party on molly back in Venice Beach when I said I didn’t want to identify as queer because too many white girls who fuck guys identify as queer just to have something subjugated to write in their Instagram bios. A hot new female friend told me that was bullshit and brought me into the bathroom to fuck. I was too obsessed with her to notice that my red ball gown was dripping in someone else’s throw up until after I came. Thank Goddess.
On a trip to see Britney Spears in Vegas, I met a woman lying in a hallway in Planet Hollywood, who, once stoned and naked, revealed the EAZY tattoo on her ass - E- A - Z - Y.
Up until recently, I preferred casual sex. Casual sex is about being alone in new places and that can be very beautiful too. My first lover of this New Year was a guy from New Delhi working for AT&T in Mexico City. He was a little guy with a big apartment and both him and the apartment smelled like Chanel Blue cologne and banana flavored condoms. It was disgusting and hot. I sprayed his cologne on my wrists before he took me home, and when the radio came and he told me he loves music but doesn’t care about remembering the names of songs. I told him same here... in regards to this...Three quarters of a year later and I remember everything but his face or name.
I’ve encountered many sexual adventurers online who brag about being “well-fucked” And while I’ve felt oafish and been mistreated and had my consent violated too, I mostly feel well-fucked too, devoted to my own pleasure even when people have tried to prevent me from accessing its divine spring.
My friend has a slutty sister in Greece who understands me even though we’ve never met. She once published a document on Facebook called THE HORNINESS MANIFESTO that I think about when I’m feeling down or discounted or ashamed that desire is my favorite antidote to depression. “WALK WITH HORNINESS,” she wrote. So that’s what I do. I walk with horniness, available, excited and aroused by all of life’s passion.
*Edited from a piece originally read aloud in January 2018 as part of the [Hard To Read] literary series at the Standard Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles*