The Photographer Who Will Teach You What Sex Criticism Looks Like
May 22, 2018|María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
According to Maja Malou Lyse, sex criticism is like sex positivity, but they're not the same thing.
These days we’re talking more openly about sexuality than ever before. As social media becomes more and more essential in our daily life, it has also become a space for these conversations to happen. In 2018, you don’t have to go to a group to discuss womanhood, sexuality, and feminism: you can just take a look at your favorite influencer or specialist on the matter and open the conversation while still being safely behind the screen. Of course, there is a lot of fake information around the Internet, so I think it’s actually quite great for this phenomenon to be happening, mainly because it allows us to approach and discuss really important matters that people didn’t really dare to before social media. One of the personalities that are a must if you’re interested in the topic of sex is the Danish photographer, performance artist, blogger, and now sex critic Maja Malou Lyse.
Malou Lyse started a blog called Booth Bitch in which she discusses important topics related to identity and sexuality, and people can ask her about their main concerns. The blog's success has led her to explore this topic even further on Instagram, where her photos give us important lessons we can apply in our everyday life. As she’s explained, although many consider her work to be part of the highly popular sex positivity movement, she considers that it belongs to the realm of sex criticism instead. She says that they're not the same thing exactly (she describes sex positivity as a “contemporary empowerment myth”), but that they're not contradictory either. In this Instagram account, she talks about desire, sexuality, agency, empowerment, and pleasure in a very clear and straightforward way that makes it easy to grasp and understand. So, here we’re going to explore some of the most important concepts she tackles.
Her Instagram account, habitual_body_monitoring2 (the first one was closed due to the platform’s censorship rules), is all about constantly monitoring our bodies to fully understand ourselves. Hence the term "self-objectification," in which we analyze and explore ourselves as agents of our own drives and passions, but also to empower ourselves through our bodies, something we rarely do in a world where beauty and moral standards detach us from who we really are.
In the same way, one of the most important things to achieve this full self-objectification and monitoring of ourselves is to understand our desires, which aren’t exclusively linked to sex, as many might believe. As Lyse says, “I observe its form and shape, not only because I want to know how my experiences or social conditioning might have determined it beyond my control, but because I want to know its relationship to my happiness, my suffering, my creativity and my politics”.
To this day, most people are still wary about talking about sex openly, especially masturbation, which carries an additional stigma. But why is it so controversial for people, specifically women, to indulge in self-love and pleasure? Masturbation is really as natural as breathing, and we should all do it, not only for pleasure’s sake, but also as a way to create an emotional and physical bond with ourselves. What’s so terrible about wanting to know every inch of our bodies? Nothing at all. Malou Lyse puts it this way: “like any pleasure organ within the vagina-carrying body, it's smothered in misinformation, myths and lack of in-depth medical study, and ejaculation aka squirting is no exception.”
Regarding relationships, she has a very interesting view on the matter that goes beyond the cheesy idealized perspectives we tend to find represented on mainstream media. We love to believe in the ideal relationship that prioritizes romantic love above everything else, but what if you’re not really looking for that non-existent Prince Charming? “Ideals of expecting just ONE person to meet ALL of your needs is outdated. Let's instead expand our ideas of love, so we can think about all the different people we are close to and the different things that we get and cherish from each of them.” In addition, she invites us to expand our horizons and try meeting and bonding with more diverse people rather than the ones that only kind of match our expectations.
Recently, the word "consent" has been on everyone's radar mainly because of the many terrible cases of abuse and harassment announced publicly on the media. Lyse has something quite interesting to meditate on that most of us don’t really take into account when it comes to understanding and knowing our own experiences. It’s true that the term and what it implies is relatively new and wasn't in our minds until recently, but that doesn’t really mean it doesn’t exist and that we haven’t encountered it in our lives. Everyone, no matter their sexual history, has to think about this. As she explains: “learning our boundaries is a lifelong process. For me, it also means changing the ways that we have sex and unlearning the “sexual script” of what we're taught sex is supposed to be like.”
Lyse also talks about virginity, treating it as nothing but a social construct used to dominate and objectify women (in a very lame and terrible way). No matter how open-minded we’ve become over time, there’s no doubt that constructs like this still have a huge impact in how we value ourselves. “Virginity ain’t nothing but a social construct that historically only functions to commodify especially young women, as property or something to be conquered. A phenomenon still well and alive to police bodies and maintain a heterosexual hegemony. As far as anatomy, the hymen is elastic and you ain't "losing" anything”
Finally, one of the most important terms to understand the work of Maja Malou Lyse and what’s becoming her signature is the idea of self-gynecology. While it’s still important to pay frequent visits to the doctor for a check-up, she believes that sometimes we have to take matters into our own hands and know how to explore ourselves and stay healthy. For that matter, she creates special workshops showing women basic anatomy, how to explore themselves, and how to know what we have down there. Have you ever taken a look at your cervix? Probably not, and that shouldn’t only be your doctor's job. Know yourself! “Knowledge is power! Collectively achieve a more nuanced, discerning, and thoughtful discourse about body and sex. Because I think that more agency can help transform the way we live with ourselves, our sexuality and our bodies.”
Maja Malou Lyse is innovating in social media through her poignant and relevant perspectives on sexuality and identity. Not only by representing herself as an independent woman well-aware of her body, but also by inviting people of all genders to think about their own agency and experiences. All in all, it’s a great way to start empowering ourselves by loving and caring for ourselves, something that we’re still working on in the twenty-first century.
If you want to know more about her, take a look at her Instagram and blog:
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