Body by Jess
Early encounters with sex and sexuality have become shapeless memories, or rather landmines, buried in my subconscious. They are almost too fragmented, too fragile to articulate. However, when prompted on the subject matter, what surfaces are salvaged images of myself as a cheerleader in middle school. Wild-eyed and hungry for visibility through America’s gaze. I moved through many things during this time: moments of pure rejection, corporeal displacement, and a deepened understanding of self-pleasure and preservation. My body guides this story.
I was a curious pre-teen, fascinated by the friction between temptation and faith. The vibration of these things rubbing against one another was divine. Almost like I could feel the argument on my own flesh. I found myself invested in the art of telling a lie and captivated by the allure of a brief glance, or by skin that brushes against skin unintentionally.
My sharp sense of social order permitted me to give myself to the drama of middle school athletics. Costumed in school colours and spandex, the singularity of my dark-skinned body in an all-white cheerleading squad was an education in desirability versus undesirability. I grew hungrier, wanting to flirt with the line that split the binary.
I sought to mirror the movements of my teammates, wanting to be thinner, lighter, more agile like them. The impossibility of this craving propelled me further. At the beginning, I did not recognize beauty as inherent and embodied. I viewed it as something that I was not born with, something that I wanted to devour.
For an out-of-town competition, I had a fake ponytail clipped to my hair which, at the time, was deemed nappy and impossible. I think this image marks a transition into a new understanding. Aesthetically, I was an outsider. And so, I searched within.
I remember asking a teammate to sit on top of my lower back as I tried to accomplish the splits. My pelvic area felt like it was tearing beneath her weight, tipping me closer to what felt unreachable. Despite the pain, I felt enlightened by the process. Practice was the most exciting part of my day as I did the slow work of forming muscle and becoming more flexible. I confronted my body as a limitless form, an instrument of strength and sheer will, and an afterthought. And then, there was the wetness of the sport. Involuntary bursts of fluid on blue gym mats. Later that day, I wet myself.
Over time, encounters with intuition and the meeting with an internal source of power activated my sense of belonging in the world as a pleasure body.
Throughout this time, my body changed rapidly, experiencing the trials of puberty and the impact of external traumas. Sport reminded me that I was a site for transformation. Through these shifts, I confronted the truths and untruths of what it meant to live inside of myself. What follows the past is a life ruled by sickness, joy, and the pursuit of the erotic as a form of resistance. I have learned a few things: the kind of pain that I can control, how my body ignites in processes of temptation, and how to differentiate between good obsession and bad obsession. Sometimes, these things meet. Friction has the power to excite. I am in the process of ideating, still working with these fragments of my memory. For now, I will call it a stark reminder of life’s dizzying and experimental nature.
Thank you for witnessing.