Introducing Shared Lunch, a place to connect with our Finger Food community through a smorgasbord of shared experience and story telling around all things sex, identity and pleasure.
I traced my hands across my stomach, down my thighs, caressing my silhouette. Envisioning
disgust I pulled away, I clutched onto internal deception, I buried it deep.
I never perceived myself as a sexual being. I had desires and dreams, fantasies... but I believed
that was all they were, all they ever would be, accepting my lonesome sexless fate. I was a voyer
peering into a world I did not feel belonged to me, something I’d never quite get to be a part of.
My rare skin condition hindered my self-confidence, obscuring the sexy hot potential I’d one day
grow to achieve.
Negotiating a lifetime of exposure to mediated intimacy, I grew deeply distraught with the
universe. I longed for an existence without explanations, disclaimers, the gut-wrenching moment
of anticipatory judgment.
Yet, the more I yearned for normalcy, the more the hunger turned to pain, resentment and self-
isolation. So I went for it, go for broke, took the plunge, I jumped, I dove, I flew.
And it worked.
I wondered why I ever subjected myself to a demeaning falsehood, having never experienced the
rejection I so vividly predicted. I made a choice to accept myself, to love myself completely, to
love myself enough to reach for the experiences I desired.
Sex was no longer the intimidating obstacle I’d once conjured, it was fun, it was hot, it unlocked a
renewed relationship with my body and helped me realise my sexiness, my desirability. I realised
how powerful and empowering intimacy truly was, reciprocal feelings despite my condition
showed me how insignificant it truly could be.
The parts of myself that felt unlovable, unsexy, glistened in a new light. The shame I’d long carried
evaporated from my body, as I finally saw myself through another’s loving affectionate eyes. The
patterns and grooves that decorate my body became beautiful, artful, adored, my touch
cherished by those who loved me.
Authenticity and connection in its most tender form freed me from the secrecy that had once
plagued me. I no longer had to hide, I no longer wanted to. Vulnerability transformed into a
delicious source of strength.
In its most innate sense, I understood sex is truly about pleasure. It’s simultaneously a lot more
and a lot less too, love, lust, trust, a moment of alcoholic spontaneity, but at it’s beating heart,
deeper than skin-deep, pleasure remains.
In a realm in which pleasure reigns dominant, frivolous concerns with my reflection melted away. If
my body, the body I had so rigorously carved with resentment, resigned from any ounce of desire
or passion, could be a beacon of attraction, pleasure, the subject of love and longing, my
concealment was deeply undeserved.
I traced my hands across my stomach, down my thighs, caressing my silhouette. Sexuality
emanated from within. I held the gaze of my reflection, I admired her, I could no longer disregard
her intricate beauty, her right to desire, her right to pleasure. Voyer no more, her journey had just
Ophelia Harradine Bayly, Auckland artist, creative & photographer, comes to the table to share our first Shared Lunch. Speaking on her evolving relationship to her sexuality, in particular during this pre and postpartum chapter of life. Finding intimacy in her relationship as a new mother, & the new-found sweetness that comes with it.
“As soon as I became pregnant my sex life changed drastically. I was incredibly sick and fatigued for what felt like an eternity. For months my body was much too busy growing a small person to do much of anything else. By the time the sickness eased and some libido had returned, I had a bump - which meant negotiating my body in a way I never had before alongside some comical positioning.
I remember noting it seemed as though the pathway in had definitely shifted. I wondered if it would one day return, and if I cared either way? My body then went through the magical and insane event that is labour, followed immediately by becoming the food source that keeps your child alive - all whilst healing (emotionally and physically) from birth and the almost year it’s been growing this little human.
So all that, in combination with the new and unfathomable sleep deprivation alongside learning to be a mother - in a world that really does not support the needs of new parents, meant the possibility of sex wasn't really entering our minds. Quietly, I also pondered - was it somehow broken down there? Changed forever? I was a little afraid to find out and definitely to tired to try.
Intimacy however…was everywhere in newborn life for us. We were in such awe of our daughter and this being that we had created - and created together. The surrealness of it all. We joked about booking in sex for the end of the year. I’ve realised that strangely, knowing each other’s needs whatever they are, removing pressure and expectation on ourselves and on each other about what we “should” be doing or what’s “normal” and when normal should happen and instead just remember to laugh about the absurdity and newness of it all. It turns out to be the kind of intimacy I never knew I needed. There's a strange security that comes in this bizarre yet magical time.
We knew the sex would come back, with some fire, and lust and also maybe a bit of a schedule. And it's an opportunity for us to discover each other all over again just like we are discovering all the new parts of each other - that come with parenthood. It was a bit dormant but it wasn't dead. In a rare but true moment of spontaneity and as our child slept in the kingsize 100% linen paradise that is our bedroom, we dimmed the lights, arranged ourselves on the sofa and did the deed. It was different, how it was different, I am not yet sure. But it was good and I wasn't broken and we felt connected in the way we were before we had a child and all of that was a relief.
Sometimes it's hard to remember that we are sharing every single part of ourselves - with more than just each other, so of course desire has taken a bit of back seat as patience and learning take the wheel. And we are leaning into it, I think, and I am so bloody proud of us for being able to do that. We are just living in another kind of love. And as cliche as it sounds, it really is just so much bigger than we ever knew was possible."