Erotic film actress Heidi Switch makes porn and body image deeper (and promotes more ethics)

“Put yourself on the pedestal,” said “adult performer” (what do actresses and actors in XXX movies prefer to be called? “Porn star?” “Adult film actress/actor?” “erotica entertainer?” Wikipedia—which I always hate to cite, but is a fine enough source for this context—lists “pornographic film actor/actress, adult entertainer, porn star” and lists “actor” and “sex worker” as “related jobs)… “Put yourself on the pedestal,” said the inspirational erotica actress and self proclaimed “Goddess” for feminist erotic filmmaker Erika Lust’s XConfessions,  Heidi Switch, on her Instagram post (and which she reposted on her Twitter account).

“It’s really hard to put myself on a pedestal,” said an Instagram user who goes by the name Soizioviche, in response.

“If we aren’t going to champion ourselves we may waste our lives waiting on others to do so,” an artist named named Brian Spies (see his website here).

I agree with both responses.

As you may have read in any number of earlier posts, self-esteem is, at least in certain contexts, especially social, sexual, and career launching contexts, extremely challenging for me.

What is so-called “ugliness”–? What is so-called “beauty”–?

You know those scenes in the tv shows and movies when there’s a haunting memory that persistently shakes a character up, such that they lose their poise?

One of those memories I have is of a girl telling me via American Online instant messenger, that I’m ugly. Fortunately, I’ve blocked out most of that memory and most of the context, other than that this rather unfriendly lass was a friend of an ex-girlfriend of mine who for some reason, I always thought hated me, and…obviously I recollect her having said it to me.

I suppose it’s the question of what inspired her to offer me such disheartening feedback that bothers me most.

Was she indeed thinking, “this guy is just so ugly that I have to tell him, so that he doesn’t somehow have the wrong impression of himself that just because my friend dated him for awhile, he’s even slightly pleasant to the eyes?”

And then there’s always been the question: am I ugly?

What is “ugliness” and what is “beauty” or “sexy?”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “ugly” as follows: “Having an appearance or aspect which causes dread or horror; frightful or horrible, esp. through deformity or squalor ; offensive or repulsive to the eye; unpleasing in appearance; of disagreeable or unsightly aspect”

What sort of “appearance” has this abstract quality of striking our sense of sight in a profoundly disagreeable manner?  

One of my heroes, the great essayist, Michel de Montaigne, addresses this topic in a very brief essay titled “On a monster-child.”

            “Whatever happens against custom we say is against Nature, yet there is nothing whatsoever which is not in harmony with her. May nature’s universal reason chase away that deluded ecstatic amazement which novelty brings to us” (page 808)

See Screetch translation; page 808

Robert Hoge, the Australian Author and writer of the memoir Ugly, offers an interesting perspective. In an article for Time, he wrote:

The first response I get when I tell people I’m ugly is often gentle, well-meaning disagreement. ‘No you’re not, you’re just… different’ and, ‘everyone is beautiful in their own way’ are just a few responses I get when I try to discuss appearance diversity.

But they’re lies.

See, I was born with a fist-sized tumour in the middle of my face and deformed legs. The tumour formed early during my development, subsumed my nose and pushed my eyes to the side of my head, like a fish. My legs were so damaged they required eventual amputation.

After two dozen operations to “fix” my face, it was obvious it would remain unfinished. My nose was wide and squished. There were dents in the side of my head where my eyes had been before being moved to the front of my face. And I had scars running across my face that looked like train tracks coming into Grand Central Station.

…If I’m not ugly, no one is.

I’m comfortable saying that about myself, though, because I have realized how I look is part of me but not all of me.

…Ugliness is not the absence of beauty. It’s not in opposition to it. Ugliness is its own, wonderful thing.

Defining ugliness only in opposition to beauty narrows our sense of normal. A quick look at history shows that defining beauty in one particular way is just another fashion choice – apt to change with the seasons. Defining a person’s appearance only in terms of how it relates to that definition robs us all of a deep richness. Appearance is linked to identity and self-worth. Acknowledging the breadth of differences in appearances helps us acknowledge differences between people.”

So, what’s your type?

As I hope is implied by my self-proclaimed sapiosexuality, I disagree with Mr. Hoge’s assessment of himself as ugly. But it isn’t my sapiosexuality that exclusively serves as my rationale.

There’s a blatantly clear and obvious destructiveness in the notion of a person being “ugly.”  I’m not saying physical attraction or lack-there-of is a myth but I think the nature of it is a lot more nuanced, psychological, and spiritual than it might seem on the surface.

One aspect of the human condition and experience that I believe illustrates this very interestingly is the wide array of fetishes that exist.

The Huffington Post article “46 Fetishes You’ve Never Heard Of” (the list of 46 fetishes is from the book Perv: The Sexual Deviant in all of Us by Jesse Berring) lists such fetishes as:

“Arousal to amputees”

“Arousal to a person of extreme stature, either giant or dwarf”

“Arousal to the elderly”

“Arousal to stuttering”

“Arousal to the cognitively impaired or developmentally delayed”

“Arousal to congenitally deformed”

“Arousal to wood” (No pun intended!)

And the list goes on.

Whether you want to think of this in terms of “fetishes” or very nuanced types of attraction and turn ons and what the difference may or may not mean might be a fair discussion to have, but I’ll leave that for another occasion (well, first a few quick things so that I’m not misinterpreted due to any sort of ambiguity).

The concept of “fetishizing” is sometimes used to connote negative behaviors.  A common example I observe is the fetishization of Asian women. If men pine for Asian women on the basis of stereotyping or objectifying them, this is clearly a sort of fetish that’s as destructive as calling someone ugly.

When I speak of “fetishes,” I mean unique, personal turn-ons and preferences.

The nuances of sex identity and sexual orientation serve as good examples of how deeply psychological and individualized this all is. I used to have a friend—a skinny and rather short type– who described themselves as born female, biologically female, but psychologically a gay male, who was in love with a Big Beautiful Man (BBM)—as some might put it.

There’s not really some universal “attractiveness.”

Indeed, so far as an initial gaze towards a face is concerned, in contrast to gazing toward one more slowly, or being less inclined to gaze initially at all, research suggests that it may have more to do with a face looking, basically, typical, and thus “easier” for the brain to process, while faces which deviate from the typical make the brain simply work harder on account of it being less familiar.  

You have perhaps heard that expression: “he’s not my type” or “she’s so my type”–?

There is obviously something to that!

In an article for the Australian site Now To Love, a woman going by the name Viv, wrote about her immense attraction to BBMs. “I basically just went to [weight loss] meetings to perve on bigger blokes,” Vic said.

One particular that she fancied at one of these meetings had said to her: “Women as stunning as you never even look me in the eyes.”

She said: “It broke my heart to see Hank feel ashamed of himself. Little did he know, the thought of running my hands over his voluptuous chest and bulging belly set my heart racing.”

The story progresses like this: they end up together. He starts losing weight. She starts feeling less attracted to him and tries to get him to eat more. He then breaks up with her because he thinks she’s not supportive of his efforts to eat healthier.

And how did she take it?

“I didn’t want a skinny stud, I wanted a chunky hunk.

“Now I move from suburb to suburb, going to different weight loss meetings and picking men up.

“Once they start to lose weight, I sneak them fatty foods so I can lust after them a little longer. Most of them cotton on eventually.

“I know it’s wrong to sabotage their plan to get healthy but I have a hunger of my own that I need to satisfy.”

It’s in THIS context that I’m thinking about and want to tell you about my admiration for Heidi Switch, the erotic entertainer I spoke of in the beginning of this essay.

The powerful mind of Heidi Switch

Ms. Switch transformed the way she saw her body and is working to transform the way the world sees body’s like hers.

“I didn’t like my body” she said, in a BBC Sounds podcast. “Because I’d been told my body is not a body that you have sex with,” she explained. She said that as a kid she was bullied for her size. “Every other day I would be in tears,” she said. “I know how it feels to be called out on your weight, how it feels to be made to feel like you don’t deserve certain things because of your physical attributes.”

Heidi Switch said: “The reason I got into [the porn industry] was because I didn’t see anyone that looked like me. I felt like there was someone who needed to look like me in the porn I wanted to watch. And nobody else was doing it so I thought I’ll just stand on the mark then.”  

So what strikes me more? Her courage to make porn in general, or her courage to make porn in the name of bringing dignity to bodies that don’t look like the typical body in porn?

Well, I suppose the ladder, since I’m amazed by someone’s ability to transform from feeling ugly to feeling so hot that she just must do porn!

And I’m inclined to believe that regardless of your sexual orientation, your type, or what gender you identify with, there’s a hotness in her performances—for example, when she’s on top of a man (a skinny fellow) and it looks and sounds as though she is perhaps orgasming or close to it— …there’s a hotness in her performance that so concretizes and accentuates the spiritual eroticism of sex and its sensationalness, that it’s hard (no pun intended, dudes) not to feel, you know, a little tingle, so to speak.  

More than demonstrating how truly “in the mind” sex is, whether you are Sapio or not, what I think Heidi most profoundly demonstrates, at least for me, is THE POWER OF THE MIND and of the mind’s ability to transform its own self-image.

Body image and ethics

Accepting my appearance, especially my face, as even bearable for others to look at, over the decades, has, in many respects marred bits of my psyche. (Until recently.)

This concept of self-image goes beyond looks, however, in my opinion.

It’s about one’s own view of one’s self as such. One’s person. One’s soul, even.

You know, self-esteem, self-confidence.

This has been my more fundamental struggle in terms of my way of thinking about myself.

It can be an inner-struggle to remind one’s self that you shouldn’t assume you’re annoying and that that’s what everybody thinks. You also shouldn’t care. If someone wants to offer you a point of information in the form of constructiveness, or raise a question due to an inability to appreciate your perspective—obviously that’s fine, and you can make of it, hopefully, what reason will make of it.

Constructiveness is the key word here. To view one’s self as unworthy of constructiveness and respect is a cruel, masochistic, violent, in a sense, and dangerous ditch to fall into.    

Subjecting another person to this is likewise cruel.

This is so obvious, and yet… who among us has not, shall we say, typed a sentence in an early rough draft, or text message, or Instagram DM, that we realized didn’t properly or constructively articulate the thought?

We really must all, I believe, remind ourselves, not to be, frankly, quite shallow, in our perceptions.

And I would argue that in this era of information overload, especially via social media, we are so bombarded that it can feel at times and/or appear that we’re being conditioned (maybe sometimes inadvertently, while other times it’s relentless propaganda from the likes of Trump, the Republican party, et. al,)… yes, that we are being CONDITIONED specifically not to read deep into anything, not to look close enough at something or someone, (or, let’s say, it gets increasingly challenging) and thus, to overlook one another’s beautiful complexities.

There’s a pro and a con to this.

On the one hand, our consciousnesses have a widened and ever widening view of reality, a la David Foster Wallace and the footnote, but is there not a danger if we fail to compliment each further widening of awareness with….deepening of depth?

So I say, today, look at a pornographic image, look at Heidi Switch (!) and challenge yourself, ask yourself, if you can see something beyond the porn, something deeper than images of fucking and other sexual acts. Literally and figuratively!      

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