I can’t believe it’s happened again. 2016 claimed the life of another one of the most iconic music figures from my youth. Prince. His musicianship was unmatched and his body of work prolific. I was sad and shocked when I heard the news, and then I sat back and let the memories come flooding in.
The movie Purple Rain came out in the summer of 1984, right after I graduated high school. Life was good! I was going (illegally) to bars with my girlfriends, we were seeing concerts like Live Aid, Madonna, and David Bowie, going to the shore on the weekends, and I was in love for the first time. You know the kind of love. You can’t keep your hands off of each other, you do and say crazy things, and you think the world will end if this person is ever gone from your life. You know….the really healthy kind of love that lasts a lifetime. My boyfriend was all man: tall, dark, and handsome…if my memory serves me, he was probably about 6’2″ and 200 pounds of all muscle. Why then, did I find a 5’2″ soft spoken guitar player from Minnesota who dressed like Stevie Nicks in high heels SO DAMN SEXY!?!?
Sex. That was why. Prince had an ‘in your face’ sexuality that you couldn’t ignore. He didn’t bother to veil his lyrics and make you use your imagination. “I met her in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine.” Pretty straightforward. What was so appealing about him was the dichotomy. He was SO against type- he was small, almost effeminate, and he frequently sang in a pretty high falsetto. He was always surrounded by gorgeous, tall women of every color usually only wearing lingerie. He had to have something pretty damn spectacular to attract these women, right? That was the other element that drew me in….the women. Strong, confident, beautiful women who owned thier sexuality. They were proud of it. Everyone uses sex and sexy women to sell, especially in the music industry. But unlike the women starring in the videos of metal hairbands of the same time, Prince’s women seemed like they called the shots. (I don’t think Tawny Kitaen really looked thrilled to be rolling around on that car for White Snake!) Prince was not afraid to empower the women around him. They were part of his story, integral to his songs, we knew who Wendy and Lisa were. Remember Shiela E?!?! I never felt when I looked at these women that they were victims. Sexuality was something they all were proud of and it seemed to ooze from them as they danced and sang.
What great role models for a young girl, right? Why not learn at a young age that Sex and Empowerment can and should go hand in hand. It’s important to realize that power and empowerment are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to sex. I really believe that having a healthy, early sexual experience/education leads to a lifetime of normalcy around sex. I know that not all women have that….in fact, I read a horrible statistic today that one in five women are sexually assaulted in college. I even had a boyfriend ask me if I’d ever been assaulted or raped…he didn’t believe me when I told him I hadn’t because every partner he’d had up until then had. We have enough distorted examples of sexuality. I want to champion the healthy ones.
That’s where this all leads back to this bikini competition. You might think there’s not much more sexualized than a woman in a sparkly bikini the size of a Kleenex. You’d be wrong. At least from my experience so far. This sport which rewards women who are more than half naked in front of hundreds of people is about the least sexual thing I’ve ever done. (And if you’re laughing that I called it a “sport”, I double dog dare you to get on our training schedule for even one week.) A few weeks ago in the gym my trainer said to me “I’m going to make you a hot, sexy cougar!” You know what I said? “I already am!” And it has nothing to do with my body fat percentage or my stripper heels (ok those help).
I didn’t start this to look hot. I did this to get healthy, to challenge myself, to stretch, and be a good role model for my daughter by committing and sticking to something that not many people can do. In fact, none of the ladies I’m working out with seem to be doing this to look good for a partner or feel good at a 25th class reunion. Hell, there are a lot easier ways to do that! I’d also venture to say that the 18 breast cancer survivors that are also training aren’t doing this to be sexy. They’re reclaiming thier bodies and proving to themselves and everyone else that THEY are in charge. We’re all doing it to show how strong we are. Sexy is just the physical byproduct.
Sexuality and empowerment. Prince and his music embodied those principles and I’m greatful that it was such a positive influence in a critical period of development in my life. I’m in another period of development right now and I’m strengthening the early lessons I’ve learned about sexuality and empowerment. Why am I doing this? It’s my body, my decision. I’ll be taking those lessons on stage with me in June and if I could walk out to Little Red Corvette, I’d do it in a second.