By Saakshi Rajpurkar
In November 2016, a close friend of mine decided that it was “ok” for him to sleep around with girls, no strings attached, but if a girl did that, she was “classless”. The conversation that followed had something to do with Tinder, and how I shouldn’t use it to find sex, but instead be a nice lady and go on dates, romanticise, get to know the person and then decide if I want to sleep with said person.
My very first post in my project Trash AF, was actually a direct quote from the man himself. It said, “Do you have any idea of why someone like me would be so judgemental about what you did? That’s because what you did was absolutely trashy.
You do understand that all his friends now know how easy you are right? And that he may not text or call you ever again? Or only when he’s horny.
I don’t understand how you fail to see that you’ve become an xyz girl for him and his friends?
You can argue all you want and call me trashy as well. But I do tend to be friends with women who are not. So if I’m trashy and you’re trashy by the same scale of judgement, then maybe we should stop talking.”
I was hurt, to say the least. It didn’t sit well with me how someone who seemed so forward in his thinking in other respects had such a misogynistic view when it came to sex and women. I’m not sure what hurt me more – the fact that I was called a whore by someone I loved and respected truly, or that I had no idea that I loved and respected someone who had such a skewed sense of judgement.
I was hurt, to say the least, but after that passed, the anger I felt towards him and these obscure double standards was something I didn’t know how to deal with.
I ranted but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to find out if others had had these kind of experiences and what their stories were. One thing I noticed was, that being shamed makes the victim feel weak and alone. It takes away their sense of confidence, given how it’s instilled into our head how bad it is to be a slut. I began to ask.
The response that I got was overwhelming. I didn’t really know how to react. These responses led to the project Trash AF.
I wanted the project to be about bodies in their true form, seeing as how the whole problem with being a slut, is that you are in touch with your body and decide what to do with it. I wanted people to send me their nude pictures and then make artworks with them, featuring their words or accounts alongside as a way to unpack the concept of “slut,” maybe reclaim the word.
My plan was to let my contributors objectify themselves as flesh and bone, and the real beauty of it. When people aren’t given the choice to choose between intellect and boobs, or good conversation and abs- then there wouldn’t be a hierarchy of one thing being more pure than the other or the concept of something being shameful or not. I was trying to make a point that stripping down to your intimate self is not only sexual but wholly empowering.
Thus began the search for photographs. The call for photos explained the intentions of the project, explained how their photos would be kept safe, and their faces wouldn’t be used and that their stories would remain anonymous, if that’s what they wanted.
I assumed it would be difficult to get pictures but I was proved wrong. Women were more than willing to share. I began receiving photos at a steady pace and began sketching them. I decided to launch TrAF on Jan 1st, 2017 as a New Year thing.
Over time, as the word spread, I started getting messages saying that it was wrong to leave men out of this, seeing how they get shamed as well; which got me to add them into the equation.
The stories that I received from women circled around two general categories:
- slut shaming by boyfriends and/or ex-boyfriends
- slut shaming by girl best-friends.
Women told me about how once they were comfortable in their own body and skin, their boyfriends either got too jealous and accused them of being a slut, or got too pushy about insisting on sexual relations.
Most of these ladies, over time, had either learned to accept themselves for who they were and who they’d become, or just decided to give up trying to change people’s opinions. It was dejection and exhaustion that led them to just say, “Fine, maybe I am, maybe I’m not, who cares?”
I got responses telling me that, “If she sleeps with so many men, she’s a slut only na??”, and when asked if that’s makes them a whore as well, the answers were mostly, “Er, no.”
As the project moved on, I found I had more women than men for models. Men seemed to be very uncomfortable with the idea of sending me their photos. I can’t prove this but I think it could have something to do with the fact that men aren’t used to handing over their body to someone else, that’s a ”woman’s role’. So, a man would be OK with uploading semi nudes on the internet directly, but sending it to someone who has free reign to do what she wants with it, is unsettling.
I also think, that it’s hard for heterosexual men to believe that they’re being slut shamed. Over the years, the media, and society have instilled it into their heads that “play-boy” is a good tag, a positive one, because of which most men don’t find it demeaning to be called ‘slut’.
When TrAF began, I noticed that the photos I received had more conventionally attractive bodies. It made me realise that I might end up echoing negative ideas of body image in the project. I began looking for some diversity in bodies, to depict a more positive body image. Unfortunately, many healthier or bigger women, often didn’t want their bodies to be up on social media. They didn’t like the way they looked behid a lens. No matter how many times I told them that that was the whole point — breaking free, accepting your body as it is, I also understood that it was easier said than done. I remember posing for the camera myself, and taking about thirty photos, and liking just about two.
I asked some of my models, if the project in any way affecting them personally, or their thoughts. One of the models told me that it was rather interesting to see her body from someone else’s perspective, and that knowing that the sketch was beautiful, made her feel so about herself as well. A male model told me that posing for the lens, naked, made him less inhibited and more open to his sexuality. Another female model told me that it was a huge step out of her comfort zone and she still wonders if she should keep her name attached to the sketch or not, but every single time comes back to the conclusion that it’s important to express herself and tell her story, unapologetically.
I think, sexual objectification is not inherently negative. I believe that most of us need and enjoy being objectified, but when we want to be. Being objectified or admired, as a sexual object can, sometimes, feel absolutely amazing, if you participate in deciding when and how you want to be sexualised. The whole problem surrounding objectification is unwanted objectification at the hands of men. I feel like self-objectification is the key to acceptance.
I think men and women need to understand that you only own your body- nobody else’s. The day the alphas in our society lose the sense of entitlement that they have, we’re good to go.
We’re here, and we’re trashy.
Author : Sean Arturo Last
Saakshi is just a 20 year old, colossal mess with colour in her hair, acrylics on her face and glitter in her diet. You can find her in the nearest stationary store, spending far too much on pens that she probably will never use and journals that she doesn’t need. She has a compulsive need to clean her desk every Wednesday, and is hoping to learn to do the same with her academics. That’s basically all of her.