My name is Sage Hess.
I created this project to reclaim bodies and sexuality out of the oppressive acts of sexualization that occur daily—acts that lead to body and sex shaming, notions which, I’d like to challenge through art and discussions.
I share the story of my journey with sexual assault and harassment to help start a dialogue and shake our notions of gender norms and end the silence of these issues. Because I grew up never believing I had the right to my pain, or the voice to speak up.
I know now that is false.
Everyone should feel entitled to their voice, their story and their body. For themselves. I know too many people that are slaves to their body, slaves to the social norms, in a quest for “happiness.”
It’s not happiness, until you are celebrating your body by yourself and for yourself.
From ages 16-19 I was sexually harassed almost daily. I didn’t question any of it. All I did was blame myself, and sink lower into self-hatred. Then when I was 19 I was sexually assaulted in my dorm room at my college. I didn’t realize how these experiences effected me until I started to pull a string inside me, I extracted each painful memory, dug up my soul, and I kept pulling until I unraveled all of it.
I kept pulling until I weaved together the most beautiful web, my colorful, my whole self. I drained the poison, and started dancing.
Out came my art, and this project.
For me this project has released the darkest parts of myself and I’ve learned to embrace them. I am not scared anymore. Rather, I am on this journey devoted to changing the way we are seeing each other, and ending these obscene patriarchal ideals. With the problem being, mostly, we are not really seeing each other at all.
We see breasts, we see a nice ass, we see parts and treat the parts as objects.
Because society treats each other as objects, we put so much value and emphasis on “perfecting” those objects instead of our whole selves.
I celebrate my body and myself now because for the first time ever I am able to celebrate it for myself. Now, I do not feel the need to hide it because I’m finally not ashamed or fearing being harassed for it.
It saddens me to think that I have felt ashamed of my beautiful body and all three of my D’s because I was called a slut for having cleavage, because I was broken into my body parts and couldn’t appreciate them because they only brought pain and suffering to my life.
Uproot, to Bloom
I grew up being told,
You are a delicate flower.
I have had hydrangeas stuffed into my eyes for years.
With vines Running down my vanes.
Seeped down through my back around my things
Covering up my vagina.
So its not to disturb anyone.
It was Blue, quiet.
I was Sterile and silent.
I was an object, a beautiful bouquet ready to be consumed.
Taken from myself.
Disguised as happiness.
Save me, do with me what you want.
I am already broken.
I am prearranged right now.
Ripe for the picking.
I was passive—
So I did not come off as a:
Loud, Confident, bitch.
The kind of bitch who wouldn’t be afraid to say,
fuck you, get out of my bedroom.
That, wouldn’t be attractive.
I am still finding my voice.
I am still learning how to stop these cycles.
My body is mine
My sex is sacred
I will express it how I want
and that does not mean that you get to grab me however
There has been something trapped inside of me for 7 years.
raging inside myself,
ready to break free, and be
For, if I don’t expose every inch of myself.
My soul would keel over.
And those flowers, would consume me. Eat me alive.
And I will be naked for the sole purpose to say,
You cannot have this,
Its finally mine.
I choose to speak now,
Raise my voice now
Be that confident “bitch”
And that feels good.
Because the truth,
Is not consent.
And I cannot tell you how many times
something has been non-consensual.
Just because I have cleavage showing does not mean you may comment on the size of my tits.
No means, I will not give you head in the parking lot.
No, means you cannot motor boat me,
Cannot Rip my shirt off as if
It’s inviting to me, a pleasure for me.
finger fuck me
Pressure cooking me,
I was Insecure.
Trying so hard to be pretty
That attention was my worth.
Was my everything
Was my, ready to be picked.
I celebrate myself
Because I am alive now.
I am not a bouquet anymore.
I have ripped the roots up
And I am breathing again.
I am broken and beautiful
And I don’t want you to mend me
And I don’t want you to take me away from myself anymore.
I want to take myself, for myself.
I will celebrate myself.
Author: Sage Hess
Editor: Renée Picard
All photos & artwork original images via the author