What Suicide Girls Taught Me That School Should Have

Ok, before we carry on I feel like some context is needed.

I was educated for 13 years at a Catholic All Girls Missionary School in Johannesburg. The education standard was high, it was a private school and I was incredibly privileged, especially as a white girl, to have received this education. The environment however was, how should I put it? Toxic as fuck.

All the criticism in this post is about the school’s indoctrination and the lack of instruction when it comes to growing up as an open minded, decent human being and not about general educations standards or their faith.

Now, Suicide Girls. For those who don’t know Suicide Girls is a paid membership nude alternative modeling website. The site consists of non pornographic photosets that start clothes as end up naked as all hell. The name comes, not from a mental health issue, but from the implied social suicide being committed by these girls who chose to adorn themselves in tattoos, piercings and hair all colors of the rainbow. An adage within the site’s community; which features members blogs and active groups about every possible hobby or niche alongside the naked ladies; was “Come for the girls, stay for the community,” and that is something I related with entirely

In this post I am speaking only about how the site helped me learn and grow as a person through my interactions in the community and self expression. I won’t be touching on how sets are bought and and of the nitty gritty because I haven’t been on SG since 2016. All my photos were taken by Talamia Photography.

So, freshly freed from the suffocating ordeal that had been my school career I was ready to let loose. So when I found out about Suicide Girls, of course I signed up!

I wanted to be part of this community of beautiful misfits in a fat middle finger to the school that taught be to hide my body and who I really was in exchange for being deemed: Nice. This wasn’t something I had ever seen in real life (this was back before these things all came into fashion) and I wanted to bring it to reality. I was on SG from 2009-2016, I shot 8 sets and posted 6 but I never got made an official Suicide Girl. But that didn’t actually matter, because through talking to people from different countries, living lives so different from my own opened by eyes to a way of thinking that was accepting, kind and challenging.

I’ve been thinking recently about how many fundamental things interacting on that website taught me and how badly school had let me down. So I thought why not blog it? So here are the 4 lessons a nude modeling website taught be that my school should have.

Bring Home The Ocean. 2009

Lesson 1: Sex Education

Due to the fact that I went to a catholic school, our sex ed was pretty minimal. We were taught what periods were and the rest was pretty much; ‘ Say three Hail Mary’s and wait till marriage kids!’ I remember them showing us photographs of gruesome STI’s in Biology once too, Mean Girls style.

There was a significant amount of time when I genuinely thought a blow job involved blow on an erect penis like a birthday candle.

So when I found my way into a community of sex positive women who spoke openly about what they liked and their personal experiences it was like breathing a lungful of fresh air. I learned about vaginal hygiene, birth control methods, what a PH balance was, why it was important to get tested and countless other lessons through the myriad of niche groups about every possible kink or educational avenue. Aside from the practicalities I also learned that, unlike school had taught me, women are allowed to enjoy sex! We are not just placeholders for the fulfillment of men’s pleasure, always the servile participant. We are stronger than that, we are powerful and we can express those feelings without shame. Which leads me smoothly into my next lesson…

Unvoiced. 2012

Lesson 2: Slut Shaming

Slut shaming ran rampant at my school. Rumors like: ‘Did you hear bla gave blabla a blow job at the movies??!?!’ would spread unchecked and reported as fact on the daily. The guy involved was never mentioned though, just the girl. (Only girls liking guys was something that existed in this bubble, lesbian was a word that was avoided like saying Voldemort out loud.) At our matric dance (our prom) we had to wear all white to show our purity…let me tell you at the very least 50% were not ‘pure’ in the eyes of the lord.

I myself was guilty of this ruthless judgement that had been so normalized in the school environment. I fell into it easily, my misguided teenage brain deflecting my own self hatred onto others. But luckily maturity and SG were there to show me the error of my ways, though it would take years of being in an abusive relationship and gaining a self esteem that would finally rid me of my toxically judgmental ways.

When I got onto SG I was surrounded by these sex positive women showing off their bodies with no shame, brushing off slut shaming comments like so many fruit flies in summer. I remember my eyes really being opened when I saw posts from the Slut Walks that happened in LA, crowds of women wearing as little as was possible and protesting the disgusting rape culture that has been let grow like a mould over society. Sex workers, survivors and supporters marching side by side to prove that we are never asking for sexual assault or unwelcome sexual comments from strangers.

It really made me contemplate my way of thinking thus far. What did someone else’s sex life have to do with me? Nothing! It was none of my goddamn business what someone else did with their bodies and judging people on it only made me the creepy weird one by thinking my opinion mattered in the slightest. The conclusion I came to was this:

As long as you’re consensual and safe, fuck whoever you please.

(I should put that on a coffee mug, so catchy.)

Stargazer. 2012

Lesson 3: Body Positivity

At school we had a class called Life Orientation. Sounds pretty useful right? I’m going to learn about taxes, some mental health info, maybe address some of the issues faced by teenagers every day like body shaming…right?

Nope.

Instead we made a CV every year of high school topped off by that antiquated classic, the baby project. (Because that’s what women are for right, making babies?) If that project was meant to teach me anything it was lost on me as I left my plastic child in the boat house while I went to do 3 hours of rowing training.

So body shaming was constantly perpetuated from blatant fat shaming to rumours about eating disorders. Girls were even deterred from joining the rowing team incase it gave them big shoulders, god forbid! A girl at camp once got a glimpse of my bare chest and laughed saying: ‘Oh my god they’re basically just nipples!’

But on SG all bodies were celebrated. There were groups that championed absolutely everything from BBWs, normalising women growing out their body hair to my favourite: the Itty Bitty Titty Commitee. Now I’ve never wanted bigger boobs, no matter the comments but SG helped to empathize that all boobs are valid and beautiful, even the itty bitty ones. And that concept, that all body types are valid was one I felt all over the site. Women of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities joined SG to show their beautiful bodies, not only for the potential money, but to show that we can love who we are whether the outside world liked it or not.

Fascinating Facade. 2012

Lesson 4: Women Supporting Women

School was a very competitive place, and not in a good way. Girls were pitted against each other at every opportunity by teachers and students alike. We imitated the typical byline at the time of comparing and contrasting each other to find out who came out on top as the superior being. But for what? Fucked if I know. It felt like a continuous barrage of ‘high stakes’ questions.

Who made the top 10 this year? Who was invited to the academic assembly? Who had a boyfriend? Who was considered cool? Who was the prettiest? The skinniest? The ugliest?

This competitiveness resulting in a feeling of teetering unease at school, always worrying that I wouldn’t measure up, knowing some people wanted me to fail because I ran my mouth.

The only real place I felt a sense of unity and support was in my little art class and playing hockey. On the field we worked as one unit, all in it for the same goal shoulder to shoulder. Was this feeling of commaraderie the reason that my first real life crushes on girls were two girls from my hockey team? Yes, 100% yes.

On SG I had expected hopefuls and Suicide Girls to claw over one another to get a set purchased and end up on the front page and it surprised me that that wasn’t the case. The comments and messages I remember to this day are ones that came from other women within the community talking me up and selflessly promoting me on the site, just because they thought I was doing a good job. And this previously judge cow did the same. It felt good, to make others feel good, and it did something for my character that changed me as a person. I felt a stronger sense of belonging and community on a nude modeling website than I did in 13 years at the same school.

Bittersweet. 2013

My school was all about making girls in the shape of their little boxes. In a recent conversation with an old school friend she told how she blamed our school for ‘turning me into a sheep.’ Turns out though that little boxes don’t survive in the real world. The little boxes can never be happy. How could they if they’re constantly comparing themselves to others, always striving for an unreachable idea of the perfect life. But don’t worry, its not all doom and gloom

I’ve been out of school for a over a decade and I can already see the progress with how the younger generation are perceiving the world and that gives me hope.

Hope that our institutions will focus more on bringing up informed, kind human beings rather than having the most distinctions at the end of the year.

Hope that social media and civil right protests publicized on them will teach the youth, and their so called wise elders a more accepting and loving way of living.

Hope that people of every shape, color, sexual identity, gender identity and economic background will be able to make their voices heard and be loved for it.

If this blog post leaves you with anything, let it be that: hope.

One Summer Dream. 2015

My Bathroom. 2020

3 Replies to “What Suicide Girls Taught Me That School Should Have”

  1. Thank you, as always, for your candor and courage. You exemplified everything I admired about the community that provided me with some of the best and truest friends I’ve known… many without the privilege of meeting in person. And I greatly appreciate the opportunity to keep up with you here… as well as the kitchen! Your friend, “Remo”

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