Joy On and Off the PageClever Manka, · Categories: Guest Posts · Tags: self-acceptance, self-discovery
Can we talk about Betty Page for a minute? She had a complex, difficult life, but her work is still popular today. Pin-ups are weird things, straddling the lines of taste and propriety, but hers project more joy than sexual energy to me, and that’s interesting.
Enjoyment of the human form is not something I’ve ever been able to do without tremendous shame. In or out of relationships, my appreciation is somehow mired in the messages I received growing up: It’s bad, it’s not for you, you’re doing it wrong. I got my start freelancing by reviewing pornography, erotica, and sex toys; it was the only way I could try to reverse how awful I felt about myself as a person inconveniently packaged in a body. And while it was a great experience, it didn’t really fix anything.
However. Betty Page made it clear that she enjoyed her work and had no shame about it. Sexually abused as a child and assaulted by a group of men as an adult, she found personal agency as a pin-up model, and her delight frequently leaps out of the frame. Later in life she had a religious conversion experience, and then a psychotic break that led to extensive hospitalization, but she ultimately came to appreciate how much joy her work brought fans of all genders and made peace with it.
Maybe she’s on my mind because my body can feel like a barrier to spiritual connection. I often wish I could escape these aches and anxieties and just be dunked into the great cosmic tea mug and dissolve. But here I am, feeling anything but joyful, far from beautiful, and very confused about it all. I look at these photos, though, and think it’s not just the aesthetic perfection that touches me. Joy is the only word for it; she’s vibrant, charged. I find it hard to look away.
What do you do that has a similar effect on people? It’s a little hard to disengage from the sexual context here, but what do you do that compels their interest, lights them up? Is it a family recipe everyone demands? Musical ability that moves those close to you when you perform? What’s the joy you can share most readily with the world? How soon can you do so? We need it.
Heather Seggel is a freelance writer who would just like to emphasize how much hygge she’s packing in this photo.