By Kiley Zachs
Content Warning: This piece discusses sexual assault, body dysmorphia, and has some graphic language.
As a young child, I was never self-conscious about my parts. The folds, flaps, crevices, and creases enticed me. I constantly caressed my labia and stretched myself open. I was so curious to see what was inside of this itty bitty pink present. Throughout my childhood, I remember rushing home from school to see if anything about my rose had changed.
It wasn’t until my first sexual exposure (which was not consensual) to a male that I became self-conscious about my vagina. He mocked the asymmetrical nature of my outer lips. Mocked the freckle on my labia. Mocked my coloring and my natural scent. He burned cigarettes onto the skin above my clitoris. Not only did he physically instill violence onto my body, but onto my mind and self-worth as well.
I was so ashamed. That beauty that once radiated out of my lower body was extinguished.
Slowly, I began to reconnect to my moon parts. I began with wearing underwear that made me feel a bit more beautiful.
Over time, I observed my own development from a cocoon into crocus into a blossoming flower. I began to radically love my own pussy; it’s imperfections and all, on my own terms. At first, I did not share with the world my self-love, for it was an internal journey that I needed to take in order to reclaim my genitals. But during this process, I met someone that encouraged this radical self-love. This person listened to my insecurities and refurbished them into positive affirmations. They loved the freckle on my labia, the scars, the things I was so insecure about. Where I once felt immense pain and embarrassment, I felt warmth, confidence, primal, beautiful.
When we photograph these moments of intimacy, every part of my being is lit up: my pupils dilated, my smile gleaming, my body language so inviting. Through my inner journey, and my journey in reconnecting with someone very dear to me, the beam of light began to gleam again from my vagina, so bright that it could not be dulled. I never want to wear clothes in front of this person; I don’t want to hide my scars, my folds, my body hair. Things that I never thought I would be able to do and WANT to do are things I crave everyday with this person. I feel strong, beautiful, and proud of every fingerprint he leaves on my frame.
Having a body-positive partner allows me to realize that it is essential to be in touch with yourself mentally and physically after trauma. But after facing trauma head-on and working towards recovery with each day, being able to be intimate with another being has been exponentially therapeutic for me. This will not be the same for all individuals that have experienced sexual traumas, but for my own journey, reclaiming my sexuality has become the most rewarding and powerful process for me.
I want to cover my vulva in multi-colored glitter and admire it at every angle. I want to capture the light peeking through the window in the morning on my razor bumps and to let my juices from within soak through my panties. I want to share my vulva-positivity with all people with vagina’s because they are ALL beautiful. I want this same radical self-love to seep into the views of all body parts, for all genders. All shapes, colors, scents, sizes, hair types, scars and birth marks. We are all beautiful.
I am reclaiming myself: my body, soul, spirit, presence, and sexuality. I deserve the space that I occupy. I deserve to nourish my body. I deserve to feel comfortable in my own skin nude again. I am in control. I am resilient. I am more than a body. Do not censor my body, for I have censored it from myself for far too long.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please know that you are not alone and that you are supported. Here are a few resources that really helped me (and still do) cope with my traumas: RAINN 860-656-HOPE, Planned Parenthood’s rape crisis services (type in your zip code for local resources at https://www.
Image: Chris Ford/Flickr