Emily Ratajkowski Says Your Reaction to Her Body Is Not Her Problem

Ever since Adam and Eve, there’s been a stigma surrounding women and their sexuality.

From a young age, women are conditioned to treat their sexuality like a weapon we can’t control. We’re supposed to hide our bodies beneath layers of clothes and network television-friendly behaviors, instead of being encouraged to nurture, embrace, and understand it. It’s the reason why girls are expected to submit to dress codes in school and the reason why rape victims often aren’t believed. 

In a powerful new essay for Lenny, Lena Dunham’s newsletter, model Emily Ratajkowski writes about her own struggles with owning her sexuality, and why it’s important for all women to have the space to do the same. 

In her essay, “Baby Woman,” Emily writes about her long history of other people telling her to be careful with how she represents her sexuality in public. 

For Emily, it all started when she was 13 years old and already hads D-cup breasts. Relatives would pull her aside to tell her she needed to watch what she wore so she could protect herself from men. Two years later when she started modeling, again people close to her warned Emily to beware “creepy middle-aged men taking advantage of young women, or agents pressuring girls to lose weight.”

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the “creepy middle-aged men” in the modeling industry that were the problem. It was everybody else.

“Dealing with the world outside the industry was the toughest part of my adolescence and young adulthood,” she wrote, because those were the people who “were more often the ones to make me feel uncomfortable or guilty about my developing sexuality.”

Emily explains that when outsiders warn women that their bodies are sending the wrong message, what they’re really trying to say  “is that to be sexual is to be trashy because being sexy means playing into men’s desires.” And it’s not only models who have to deal with this, as we all know. Emily writes:

“I think of John Updike’s short story “A & P,” in which a young girl in a resort town wears a bikini into a grocery store and is asked by the store manager to leave. She enters the store in her new sweet bathing suit, excited for a summer day, and exits with a crushed spirit and an uncomprehending feeling of guilt. I think of women in their workplaces worrying about how their sexuality might accidentally offend, excite, or create envy. I think of mothers trying to explain to their daughters that while it wasn’t their fault, they should cover up next time.”

Emily really drives her point home with this line: “Life cannot be dictated by the perceptions of others, and I wish the world had made it clear to me that people’s reactions to my sexuality were not my problems, they were theirs.”

We couldn’t have said it better if we tried. Subscribe to Lenny’s newsletter to read Emily’s essay in full. 

Snowed in. ❄️

A photo posted by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

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