Just before Thanksgiving, I met with my photographer friend Monique Feil, who is responsible for taking pretty much any great photo you’ve ever seen of me on my blog, book covers, or hanging in my home.  Hay House needed a photo of me for the cover of my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, so I knew Monique was my girl.

The visual feel of the photo we needed to shoot was made clear to me. I needed to appear approachable, friendly, trustworthy, attractive, yet professional, distinguished, intelligent.  So I wore relatively conservative clothes, but tried to still look pretty and feminine. I made sure not to show any real cleavage, and although I had my hair and makeup professionally done, I was instructed not to appear too glamorous, because if I was too beautiful, it might detract from the content of my book, which contains serious science and a powerful message about self-healing I’m dying to spread far and wide.

The people on my marketing team tell me I’m “the brand” when it comes to my book and my business, but I must say, it’s weird to feel like a commodity that must be arranged just so during a photo shoot. Perhaps my resistance to being commoditized is what inspired me to do what I did just following my cover photo shoot – strip naked and let my freak flag fly during my first ever boudoir photo shoot.  (After all, at 43, I figure things aren’t getting any perkier!)

Girl Gone Wild

Monique is super creative, so before I knew it, she was wrapping me in fur and posing me on pink velvet, then asking me to stand naked behind a glass window pane while she spritzed water on the glass and photographed me through it.  I got dolled up in black lace lingerie and high heels and she shot me through a wrought iron bed headboard, and then I took it all off, adorned myself with long strands of pearls, and started dancing the S Factor moves I learned at Sheila Kelley’s S Factor retreat.

Because I feel super comfortable with Monique, I didn’t feel self-conscious or the least bit uncomfortable. If anything, I must say, the whole thing felt pretty empowering and hot. 

Can Professionals Be Publicly Sexy?

Right after the boudoir photo shoot, I posted on Facebook about what I had just done, and I was delighted with how much support I received. Many women shared with me their own stories of how they had been similarly daring, and others said they hadn’t, but were inspired to schedule just such a photo shoot. Others asked me to be sure I shared a photo when they were available.

So when Monique sent me the photos a few days later, I thought long and hard about whether I would share the tamest of the photos on social media.  Trust me, the raciest of these are for private viewing only, but one photo, while sexy, revealed less of me than you’d see in a bathing suit, so I considered sharing it, but the Gremlins went BALLISTIC when I thought about doing so. The dialogue between The Gremlin and my Inner Pilot Light went something like this.

The Throw-Down

The Gremlin: Why in the world would you put a sexy photo of yourself out there on the internet? Don’t you want people to respect you and the important work you’re doing? You sure don’t look very respectable wrapped in fur without your clothes on. People are going to think you’re some sex object, not a doctor they can trust to teach them. You know you can’t be both professional and sexy.

You’d be a fool to post this photo.

Inner Pilot Light: Lissa, don’t listen to the Gremlin. I understand your motivation for sharing it publicly. You want to demonstrate to women that we shouldn’t have to fragment ourselves, that we can be both successful, respectable professionals and sensual beings. By sharing your photo publicly, you’ll inspire others to be brave enough to strip off the masks we wear and be more authentic in our interactions with others.

The Gremlin: But people will think you’re a total narcissist. I mean, why else would you post a naked photo of yourself on Facebook. Plus, then it will be out there in the public domain FOREVER. Like you might be ninety-five and someone will print it out and bring it to your funeral.

Inner Pilot Light: It’s not narcissism, Gremlin. It’s confidence and being comfortable in your skin. And yes, someone might bring this photo to her funeral, but won’t it be lovely to give people a memory of how Lissa looked when she was younger? I think you should do it, Lissa. Put it out there. Be a role model for how women can be both professional and sexy, all in one whole package of strong, powerful, radiant femininity. Buck the nonsense that suggests that women have to appear masculine in order to be taken seriously. Your message is serious. Your work is solid. If people dismiss your work simply because you present your image as both a working woman and a sensual one, it speaks more to how effed-up our culture is than to anything the Gremlin’s mouthing off about. Do it.  Shake up the status quo, not because you’re trying to be a rebel, but because it’s what’s true for you. You ARE a sexy, feminine, sensual woman, and there’s no reason to hide it. Posting this photo will be an invitation to others to tap into their own Inner Pilot Lights about what is true for them regarding the intersection of their professional and sensual life.

So I Did It

I listened to my Inner Pilot Light and posted this photo on my public Facebook page and got over 200 unanimously sweet, supportive comments from people telling me they actually respect me more for being brave enough to take the risk.  Take that, Gremlin!

Will there be backlash? I have no idea. I had a moment of “Oh jeez, my publisher might have just seen that” and “The PBS producers my publisher is pitching about the PBS special he wants to produce about me and my work are probably eyeing me on social media.” But really, why would they judge me for just being who I am? 

What Do You Think?

Does your professionalism get in the way of your sensuality? Has your sensuality ever hurt your professional image? Do you think people take sexy women less seriously than those who dampen down their sensuality in the name of being serious and respectable? How do we navigate our way in a culture that simultaneously pressures women to be sexy and beautiful but then objectifies and diminishes them as mere sex objects if they express their sensuality?

I’m dying to hear what you think! Share your thoughts in the comments.

Trying to be all of me, uncensored,

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73 Comments

  1. James Maynard

    Hi Lissa,

    My thought is that it’s a tasteful, lovely photo
    of a beautiful woman. I would rate it akin to a
    painting by one of the old masters who actually
    tended to show more skin than you have.

    Thank you for sharing.

    James

    Reply
  2. Bridget

    Omigod, Lissa, you look absolutely fabulous!!! What a gloriously tasteful photo! This proves you are beautiful both inside and out! I would have done the same thing if the photo were of me, I think it was meant for you to share that photo with everyone who loves you by posting it on your blog for all to see.

    Good on ya – you GO girl!!

    Reply
  3. Stacey

    Bravo Lissa!! You look beautiful in the photo (loving the fur and velvet!!!) and I so appreciate that you took the risk and shared it. I love that you are brave enough to share the full expression of your Shakti – feminine power manifested as both intelligence and knowledge AND sensuality. And you’ve inspired me to go get my boudoir shots done. Bring on the fur!

    Reply
  4. Sarah Wiley

    I think your photo is timeless sexiness. Hollywood glamour combined with subtle demureness. As a boudoir photographer…whose background is Fortune 500 corporate sales….I think you bring to light something many women struggle with. Professional vs. Sexy….why not both? Confidence plays a big role in whether women feel they can be both. Many women equate being confident to being attractive when in fact the equation is backward. Condfidence is what makes a woman attractive. Confidence is sexy.

    Reply
  5. Holly

    I think this photo is awesome and inspiring, fantastic and beautiful.

    Reply
  6. LL

    What I see is a very warm,
    genuine, confident,
    glowing woman. Aware of herself, and loving, setting herself free.
    A beautiful image of you!!!

    Reply
  7. Amy

    Hi,
    I was raped as a child so I would NEVER publish a photo like that of myself. I have also been hit on at work by professional men — I thought we were having conversations about work as colleagues, they thought I was interested or should be.
    Professional, attractive yes — but sexy, NEVER, not at work, not on the web.
    So personally, I would never put a picture like that out there on the internet where anyone could take it and do whatever they liked with it.
    That doesn’t mean you can’t have a photo like that and be proud of it, but I’d keep it personal.
    I also feel very sorry for young girls and women who feel they must sexualize their looks at a very young age, and I think that photos like this don’t set an example for them to feel powerful as they are — not as a sexual object.
    If I was at a nudist camp, where everyone was simply in his or her body, I’d be fine. But to sexualize myself as a professional, just can’t do it.

    Reply
    • Leanne

      Why, Amy? Why keep it personal? I’m concerned that you began your comment with “I was raped as a child so…” It implies that you are still controlled by an act that happened to you long ago that likely had absolutely nothing to do with sex or your sexuality. I don’t mean to minimize the act; I mean to call attention to the fact that time is passing. I worry that the walls you seem to have put up around you for protection all these years have also kept you from exploring potential relationships with others and with yourself. My sexuality and my femininity are a large part of my being. If you take away my sexuality and femininity, so too do you take away my sense of self, my way of seeing the world, my relationships and the way I relate to others. I’ve raised three beautiful daughters who are now in their early twenties. They are healthy young woman with gorgeous figures – but that’s not what makes them sexual, feminine, powerful beings. It’s their sense of self and their owning of the strength that comes with being a woman. I would never discourage them from displaying their femininity or their sexuality because it is the core of their being and I know that it provides them with a powerful inner strength that is all their own. Amy, I pray you can let go. Lissa, the photo exudes femininity. It is stunningly beautiful.

      Reply
  8. Terri Dawson

    I think your photo was an amazing, empowering photo. I actually took an amazing photo of my mother posing in a fur coat after her divorce that shows her at a time when she was taking back control of her femininity and her life.

    Reply
  9. Anne Hannan

    Isn’t one of the principles of Mind Over Medicine that we all need a healthy sex life? So surely this is in keeping with your message.

    Reply
  10. Shirley Stuhmer

    Beautiful! you are amazing and such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing, I would have had the same gremlin thoughts, but why can’t we be intelligent professionals and still be radiant, confident sensual women! I’m glad you shared such a tasteful picture it truly does look like a new interpretation of the old masters.

    Reply
  11. Molly

    THANK YOU Lissa…. For your bravery and your willingness to bring up this issue. I think it is VERY important. It is now OUR TURN to define what it means to be a female professional, and how we CHOOSE to dress is an important part of that. I worked in Spain for several years, and was thrilled to be able to go to work wearing what I wanted, not what would make me look more like a man. It felt LIBERATING AND FREEING. I strongly believe that we need to be active in SUPPORTING ALL WOMEN in celebrating THEMSELVES in whatever aspects they choose. We must recognize that we are living in a patriarchal society that objectifies us, violates us, makes us stop eating or eat too much… every single day. If we choose to shine, if we want to celebrate all the aspects of ourselves, I think other women should applaud us, as they have in this forum. I think it’s HIGH TIME we learn to celebrate the beauty of one another, to learn to give and take compliments about our beauty. I feel like we have two choices – we can make our sisters to feel like they have to HIDE their curves, their long eyelashes or their sexy limbs, or we can help them CELEBRATE the beauty they have inside AND outside. I think if women really dressed as they pleased, they’d feel better, other people would enjoy seeing their radiance and beauty, and we’d be living the freedom our mothers and grandmothers fought so hard to give us!!! To me, a modern woman does WHAT SHE WANTS, with her body, with her beauty, with her professsion. I thank you, Lissa, so much, and everyone else who’s shown me I’m not alone in my thinking!!!

    Reply
  12. Erin

    Lissa,

    You are beautiful! Why wouldn’t we all want to see more beauty, celebrate more beauty, in a world where it is so unpleasantly easy to find ugly things (figuratively and literally). I love that you chose in favor of YOU, and your authenticity, and that you had the courage to do so. My wish for women and men (and really this starts as children) is that we all would choose in favor of ourselves, and not what convention chooses. It’s not about narcissism, or becoming an ‘object’ – it’s simply loving every part of YOU that there is, and listening to that Inner Pilot Light, and adoring yourself as a priceless part of the universe. I love the image and I celebrate your passion!

    Reply
  13. Kathy Roff

    You are beautiful. I did this very type of photo session when I was 32 years old. I am now 61 and am pleased to say that due to a regular yoga practice I think I would feel comfortable doing it again. Every once in awhile I take out the old photos to remind myself of what I looked like back then. I am and always was so pleased with myself for taking the opportunity to feel sexy even though I was insecure at that young age. At this age I would be proud for another opportunity to feel sexy and sensual. I have never been in the public eye, but would not have hesitated to share if given the opportunity. You go gal……show them who you are……beautiful.

    Reply
    • Deb

      I say do it Kathy! What a wonderful example you would setting for the rest of us in the 50+ age group:)

      Reply
  14. Mary

    I have thought about this so much! Not just about being able to be sexy as a professional (you can be sexy or sensual or feminine in a professional way that doesn’t involve skin), but about sharing views on things such as drugs, religion, sexuality (LGBT) and using swear words. I have a very open, possibly “daring” viewpoint on the world. Right now I work for the Department of Education and I have to watch what I say and do at work and at the same time be a role model for the girls in our school system. I have come to dress “cute” not sexy at all, I work at an elementary school, but I feel like it’s part of my job in this world to model for the kids being open, looking good without makeup, being strong as a woman, and not being afraid to be myself. I want to model being the type of woman who doesn’t worry so much about weight that she turns anorexic or piles on makeup to hide a zit or isn’t proud of the scars on my legs.
    The other area where I had to really think about this recently is on my blog. I did a very sarcastic preparing for doomsday piece, which I jokingly say that I’m going to do a lot of drugs and other questionable activities that I would never do unless I knew the world was going to end. My contact at the YMCA, where I will be doing a goal setting “Lunch and Learn” in January suggested that I rethink the post, since members might google search me and find it. Part of me thinks, “Oh, she’s right, I don’t want to lose business or clients because they don’t get that it’s a joke!” But the other part of me that’s becoming more honest in my life, even though that might anger or alienate some folks says, “It says right at the top that it is sarcastic and although you might lose some, it would be the start of a rolling snowball if you start censoring yourself now.
    I will probably be leaving the school system after this school year when I get my license in Marriage and Family Therapy. I’m sad about it because I love the kids, but I find that I cannot be my authentic self in my current job.

    Reply
  15. Deb

    Gorgeous! And thank you for setting such a wonderful example for us. We should be free to be who we are in all aspects of our lives. Many times I have gotten ready for work and looked in the mirror and thought “hot”. It wasn’t intentional, it just happens. Sometimes it meant changing the outfit, but many times it was just me feeling good, knowing what works for me, confident in my skin. I won’t down play that side of me. I am careful not to push it too far through inappropriate wardrobe choices but I will be me. The whole attitude regarding women showing their sexuality needs to change. It is a natural part of us and we need to embrace it, especially as we mature. The change starts ith our attitude towards ourselves and other women.
    Deb

    Reply
  16. Ali

    This: “But really, why would they judge me for just being who I am? ”

    Oh my. Have you been on the internet, she asks jokingly. Yes, yes, they can and do judge you, for who they *think* you are, regardless of a poster’s original intent and motivations.

    First, my bias: I’m a psychotherapist. Stepping back, it’s a beautiful picture, there’s no doubt about that. Tasteful, elegant, hot. The unfortunate thing is, how this is perceived isn’t through your filters; it is perceived through the (at times questionable) filters of people that make up our society. I absolutely wish and agree that women should be able to be perceived as smart, intelligent, sexy and legitimate. However, the old dichotomy is still alive and well and in fact, if I deduce from the boards, sites and comments I read, it seems to be growing instead of receding. The potential to be unfairly judged, projected upon and misread from this is real. I do believe some people have to be the change-makers, though, and I hope this posting can be part of that much-needed wave of change.

    Personally, I would be afraid it would chase certain clientele away – women with self-esteem and/or abuse issues – and maybe drawn a few for the wrong reasons. I think it falls under the category of TMI – too much information for someone in this kind of role. It gives too much to project upon, but sometimes, that can be a good thing!

    Reply
  17. Jane Lee Logan

    Love! Love! Love!

    Very recently I threw caution to the wind and began writing and sharing in a way that surprised even me. I allowed myself to release the audience and forget the ‘way things are done’ and ideas began to fly out on to the page so fast I couldn’t keep up; I was like a cage animal finally running free!

    I have been a student and teacher of very deep mystical studies for a loooong time and have had many very profound and serious experiences. But through the years I have often found the ‘oh so spiritual’ community to be way too uptight and serious in a way that has left me feeling like I have no real peeps. I can certainly be very serious, and there are definitely times that this is called for, but spiritual life is an adventure filled with joy and play and a whole lotta humor too.

    That was all fine and good in theory but it was yet another thing when I had to go public (whisper) with my naughty ways. What would ‘everyone’ think? Would they turn their nose at me sneering? Would I lose any credibility I might have? Heart pounding, I took the plunge, changed the name of my blog, the information pages and clicked the publish button for that first post (and only thus far).

    Still questioning whether I might be out of mind ( in a not so spiritual way), I couldn’t deny the sense of pure joy that was rushing through me and the permasmile on my face as I sat back looking at the screen that once read “Musings of a Modern Mystic” but now displayed what felt so much more yummy and authentic–“SuperSexySpirit: Stripping Down & Finding Our True Self. And the first post: “My New Rest Enlargement.”

    It is fantastic when we let go and get naked! Sometimes literally. We got nuttin’ to hide but our fabulousness! More of us need to put on our Jimmy Choose and strut our decision to be what we are….gorgeous!

    Bravo Lissa! Bravo!

    Reply
  18. Catherine

    Yes, it’s a gorgeous photo — lovely and tasteful.

    I could not post anything like that online. I teach on the university level — mostly freshmen. I could get fired for having a portrait like this on my FB or blog, but that’s less important to me than my own feelings about it. I wouldn’t be comfortable presenting the sexualized side of my personality where my friends, kids and ex, conservative Christian relatives, casual acquaintances, potential hiring committee members, fellow faculty, and students could see it. I wouldn’t want to see my former professors in such an intimate, sexualized way, either.

    I recognize that it’s my personal choice and doesn’t make me better than someone who makes different choices. I don’t think it’s any less empowering for an individual (male or female) to create boundaries between their professional identities and their social or private ones.

    Reply
  19. Carmine

    It is a beautiful photo, Lissa, and it is brave of you to post it on the Internet. But to be truthful, I feel sad and disappointed that you’re representing fur as an appropriate ornamentation for humans (if it is real, not faux fur). Not trying to be preachy, but it is something that I am passionate about, so I can’t ignore it.

    You are obviously a VERY compassionate person, so I am taken aback by this disconnect. I truly think that increasing our compassion and stopping our society’s immense cruelty to our fellow mammals is one of those things the universe is calling all humans to do. It is the kind of healing this world needs.

    I love and am grateful for your blog posts overall, and am forwarding many of your “eggy” posts to dear friends of mine. Thank you for all that you do.

    Reply
    • Lailah

      Oh dear Lissa, I admire and adore you! And I think you look beautiful here, and in every photo I’ve seen of you. But this fur thing broke my heart a little today, especially after what you’ve shared about the deep love you had for your puppy who recently passed away. I guess I just assumed you, as someone deeply tapped into interconnectedness, wouldn’t find anything sexy or glamourous about draping yourself in the dead skin of another sentient being. I suppose I don’t think about whether you wear leather or eat meat, which is a testament to my ability to compartmentalize :), although if you posted a picture of yourself sensually eating a giant steak I’d probably have a similar reaction.

      Looks like I turned out to be one of those judgey people the Gremlins warned you about, drawing conclusions about you through my own moral filter based on the picture you were debating posting (actually I had my first strong reaction when you brought up fur in the post, before I ever saw the picture). Kudos to you, in all sincerity, for your courage and steadfastness in putting so much of yourself out there for the world to see. *That* is a great model and a great inspiration. This fur thing, not so much.

      PS Even if it’s fake fur, if you don’t explicitly say it’s fake fur, you’re still contributing to the glamorizing/sexualization of fur, which is the issue with doing this as a popular public figure.

      Reply
  20. Taye Shurden

    Honestly, we all know that what feels right for one person might not be the same for another person. We all have different life experience. Why do feel the need to make rules that make cookie cutter look alikes.

    The message here to me is be who you are! Unfortunately, there will always be critics. Maybe if the critic in each of us would pay more attention to what you are really saying about yourself, we could let go of the need to judge one another and instead embrace and learn from one another.

    Taye

    Reply
  21. Jolanda

    Lisa, you are breathtaking,
    so beautiful and sensual, it reminds me
    to love and honor my body, my inner beauty.
    Yes to letting it shine !!!

    Reply
  22. Storm

    Lissa,

    What a beautiful, elegant, feminine photo, and I totally agree with an earlier post by James Maynard- it puts me in mind of one of the Old Masters Paintings.
    So lovely- and how wonderful of you to allow us to see this facet of who you are.

    Reply
  23. Linda

    Lissa,

    Absolutely Wonderful!! Thank you for listening to your Inner Pilot! I have been with the same query for so many years now and between you and Allana, I’m ready to spread my wings (and possibly my legs around Sheila’s bar).

    You are an inspiration, Linda

    Reply
  24. Heidi

    As a physician, I have spent decades struggling with what others and my inner voice expects in the way of shoulds and image of all kinds….and remain somewhat discouraged by all those who start off sentences with, as a doctor, you should….when they don’t know me, let alone “doctors”.

    So whatever picture that you enjoy, more power to you!

    Reply
  25. Tara

    You go girl…I find it inspirational that your tender soul who appears to reside in your heart mind and gut brain initiated a very big leap in blending the whole of you, wicky, icky pieces of the gremlin and all.

    Your one step forward to integrated embodiment is for all of us.

    As the picture you chose to reveal is beautiful, I found that the first one illuminating your beautiful bright blue eyes was really capturing your sexiness all the while spotlighting your lovely talented photographer.

    Reply
  26. Allison W

    The word “sexy” is used to mean anything on a spectrum from glamorously (clothedly) sensual to vulgar/slutty. By definition, being sexy is inviting others to view you as a sexual being — it’s 100% physical. Don’t we instead want to be talking about femininity (NOT as a synonym for sexiness as many use it) but in the sense of what makes us women emotionally, intellectually and spiritually? I don’t think it’s “compartmentalizing” myself to say that my sexy side is kept private for my husband, just like my swearing-like-a-sailor takes place only with said husband and close friends. “Appropriate” is not a bad word nor always a weapon of repression.

    In the physical world, I don’t want to have to dress like a man to be taken seriously. I want to wear beautiful colors that feel good against my skin. None of that should distract from the work I’m doing. But if I show a lot of cleavage or the small of my back at work, that is an invitation to sexual thoughts — and not just for perverts. It’s a distraction.

    On the other hand, the world most definitely needs to embrace what are often called feminine styles of working and thinking. It’s certainly not a coincidence that the power industries — finance, politics, etc. — still expect a masculine style of dress/uniform and are still controlled almost entirely by men.

    Lissa, I think your photograph is absolutely beautiful (minus the fur controversy — how about a lovely embroidered shawl?) and feeling comfortable with our bodies is necessary to becoming whole and healthy. Displaying those bodies publicly is not. I’ve been enjoying your Eggy/Spermy lessons, but don’t think embracing my eggy side spiritually, emotionally or intellectually requires any public displays of embracing my body. And while I think with your mission and audience it may be entirely appropriate to publish the photo, I do not think it is valid to characterize it as “brave.” More women displaying public nudity is not going to fix the world; more women bringing their eggy side to all aspects of their lives, especially work, will.

    With appreciation for all that you do, much of which is, indeed, brave — Allison W.

    Reply
  27. Joy

    I love the comments as much as your message!

    All of your photos are gorgeous..a combination of your inner light and outer beauty. Radiant.

    There is sometimes this stigma associated with physical beauty…so to share your beauty in such ways, helps dissolve that stigma. Woman *can be* intelligent, creative, resourceful, sensual and professional. Denying or repressing that sensuality can result in physical illness and emotional distress. Allowing that sensuality to infuse our creations and connections feels authentic and empowering. (Is that what we are afraid of in general…that we *do* have that power, and *can* create with it?). I’m grateful for all that you reflect and share…thank you 🙂

    Reply
  28. jacquie

    YES, YES AND YES! You got it- show it! Lissa you are sexy, smart and sweet and there is nothing wrong with showing the world all that! You can totally be professional and sexy!

    I say embrace this and stand behind your statement. Be bold, be different, GO FOR IT!! I love that you did this. You are such a beautiful soul inside and out and have given me so much inspiration to really LIVE life. Thank-you for doing what you do and pushing us other women to our greatest potential! 🙂

    Reply
  29. Sarah | Holistic Hot Sauce

    I think it’s a breathtaking photo and I’m envious of your boudoir photo shoot. One of these days….. (but better not wait too long as I’ve got a few years on you!)

    I admire your willingness to let the Inner Pilot Light call the day and buck the system showing that intelligent, capable, successful women can also be sensual, even sexy, beings. The more women do this the quicker we can make a dent in society’s status quo that says otherwise. AND, I think it would be much more challenging for a woman who is still in the beginning phases of her career or success trajectory to publicize herself in such a way. Not because it’s wrong but because of the misguided judgements of our society.
    Kudos & thanks for breaking the ice.

    Reply
  30. Hollie

    Great photo!

    Isn’t it a shame that we have to worry about these questions?

    Reply
  31. Heather

    Thank you Lisa. You are beautiful. Monique Fell’s photos of you are fun and fantastic. I love that you are stepping forward, integrating your self, and attracting your true audience. Its wonderful to have freedom to claim your femininity in a glossy, public arena if you want to!

    I admit I have compartmentalized my self a bit over the past few years, challenged by the exhaustion of my motherhood role, my new and older body, and new experience of life without two incomes. I seek to reclaim and rediscover my self for my own health and joy, but also for the sake of my daughters. I am a leader on our family’s path of life, and when my kids look to me for guidance and inspiration, I want to be a beacon of wholeness (constant and ever-evolving).

    I guess for me, this conversation brings up a couple of issues. 1) what feels appropriate in public/what do we really want to share with the world? and 2) the right to claim and empower our whole feminine selves.

    Within our sensitive and artistic family, there is a natural appreciation for all the forms of truthful expression. Whatever is felt by the artists/subjects when the photo is taken, or the meal is prepared, or the lines are spoken, resonates. (I feel compelled to say here that freedom of speech, and freedom from religious persecution, are foundations for a healthy society. The act of posting your image online shakes up a lot of ideas and beliefs, outdated to many of us, but also alive and damaging in many parts of the world and in many families.) At our house, when we have conversations about pop culture, and media seduction, I lead my daughters by helping them to trust themselves, and follow their heart. There are so many messages coming from so many different sources, it’s fast and furious out there! Our bodies don’t lie to us, and the messages we receive through our senses are the signposts we must follow if we are to find our own true path in life. My reaction to your boudoir photo: it is a beautiful image and a fun frolic – an intimate photo of a woman who encourages others to embrace truth and personal intimacy (and I see you’re honoring your husband with your wedding ring right up front, too.).

    Corproate seduction is another animal. I can easily become exhausted by the media blitz aimed at us, and expecially at our children – but a sales pitch is easy to spot. In the midst of advertising bombardments, I ask my kids, “What are they selling?” My kids always get it right. Unlike those sales pitches, when YOU are offering YOU (and you are genuine, and your photographer is awesome and “gets” you) you are not selling anything – you are offering yourself. I must mention that the photo at the top of your blog, the portrait with pearls, is also filled with fun – I want to know that woman in the photo! You and Monique hit a home run with that one. We are naturally seductive when we are enjoying ourselves.

    I recognize we develop our sensual palate and sexual intelligence by what we are exposed to. Our little house is filled with a wide range of ages, and we are constantly exercising our needs for privacy and respect, along with a healthy attitude about being human. I wish, with such a small house, we had more open land around us. I personally miss public bathing (the Finish saunas are large enough for the whole family or a group of women/men), folk dancing (dancing together as a group with a leader to live music), adult time, and having energy at the end of the evening so that I can have more awake bedroom time with my mate ; ) On saunas: there is something very relaxing about being nude with a group of women, just taking care of our bodies together. Our bodies are like children, and I feel that mine has a very healthy relaxed response to being around other bodies in a natural, non-sexual, naked environment. On dancing: I also find there is something very empowering about dancing together in an organized fashion with men and women of all ages. Our bodies have a need to communicate and thrill beyond our comprehension. Mystery is magic. On adult time: It is very important to have time with adult friends for relaxed and open conversation away from children, and, last but never least: it is so very important to nurture our wholeness with time and space to be free and alone with your mate. These are arrangements we have to make for ourselves so that we can simply relax and be whole and human together.

    Maybe in simple encounters like bathing, dancing, and enjoying unscheduled time together, we become whole. Maybe the compartmentalizing of average American life has dismembered selves, torn souls, and disjointed families. Maybe finding wholeness means reclaiming sacred space often enough to express our truth so that we can be and become ourselves. Every day I aim to make our home a lovely refuge, a place of balance and nourishment for every member of our family, and a place where we are free to find and create meaningful ritual and rites of passage. We also need community buildings where we can be together with our community of friends and family, and by enjoying ourselves in the presence of others, we celebrate our natural integrated sensual selves.

    Perhaps by posting your sensual photo in an adult public arena (Facebook is supposed to be for older kids and adults), you have created your own rite of passage. I feel there is a great unaddressed need in American society for rites of passage. Women and girls have long been left out of any rites but a few, based mostly around marriage and childbearing. Its time to create new passages to celebrate our emergence, our beauty, our strength and our promise – for girls and boys, and women and men. As we mend ourselves and make healthy spaces for celebrating our wholeness, we are providing a path for our children and our peers. This may mean making way for the new by reclaiming what is ancient, or creating entirely new celebrations as they occur to us. Our budding youth wants to connect to what is rightfully theirs, including naturally integrated expressions of sensuality, and a healthy path of sexuality. Our children are looking to us, and listening to us with their whole hearts and souls.

    In the past few months, almost every day, I see signs of radical global adjustment, a reclaiming of the Earth, and a reimergence of the strength and beauty of the mystical, mysterious feminine!

    You are not alone Lisa! You are enjoyed.

    Reply
    • Heather

      LISSA Lissa! Sorry I misspelled your name.

      Reply
  32. Liz

    It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where you need to consider these things. I have similar debates with myself about the pictures on my Facebook page. I participate in a belly dance group, and there are always lots of pictures flying around after any performance, so I couldn’t really control them if I tried. I finally came to the same conclusion – this is who I am. I danced in public and showed the most vulnerable part of my anatomy in a joyous way. If you don’t want to hire me or respect me because of this, we would have had a very difficult time in the long run anyway.

    Reply
  33. tammyloans

    Amazing how this keeps coming up. Just yesterday I had lunch with a colleague (who has become a friend) and she remembered when we used to have a fun lunch, then she’d watch me walk out the door, “and it was like this breeze passed over you and you became Professional Advisor again, I could see you change.” Although my present transformation isn’t about being sexy, it has been about integrating my “business” persona (my photo is my brand) with my new “life”, which I am just learning how to have. This year my holiday card, being sent to 750 past clients, is a photo of me sitting on an elephant. Like, breeze in my hair and wearing jeans and laughing. Like, not the black and white head shot I have “been” for the past twelve years. I almost threw up from nerves when I approved the final card, but I feel giddy thinking about the reaction I’m likely to get. “OMG, she finally got away from her desk!” Anticipating calls from people I haven’t talked to in awhile and looking forward to showing my personality in my business. Thanks for the encouragement, Lissa – and you look like a MILLION BUCKS, sistah !!

    Reply
  34. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Whoa! I’ve been offline today, tending my creative side at Art Basel Miami- and I just arrived back at my computer to all these beautiful comments. I so wish I had time to write to each of you individually.

    First, just so you know, it was fake fur. And it wasn’t mine. It was my photographers. And honestly, it didn’t even occur to me what statement I was making when she told me to wrap it around me and I said yes. So if I’ve offended any of you, I apologize. I don’t own fur or support the sales of fur, but i must say, I think it looks pretty when you’re wrapped in a fake version of it- soft and sensual.

    Second, I totally support those of you who want to keep your sensual life separate from your professional life. For many years, I made that same choice.

    And to those who feel inspired to unleash more of your sensuality, GO FOR IT!

    What I hope you get when you read my blog is not any message that suggests that you should do as I do, but instead, I hope you feel inspired to do as YOU do- and to know what’s true for you and align your actions with your truth unapologetically.

    Thank you for your responses.
    With love and fake fur
    Lissa

    Reply
    • Kristen Engel

      I love how you are so gracefully in support of others being themselves while still being unapologetically you. This reply shows just what a class act you are Miss Lissa:)

      Reply
  35. Dr.Mac

    There is a double standard in our society, but that is changing. We can absolutely be professional and sexy, after all we are sexual by nature and as long as it is done tastefully, why not? I have seen the firefighters calendar and they sell like crazy. Do we think less of them? No, we admire what they do. Why are we so afraid of our sexuality?
    For years I had that mentality,
    as a Ph.D I had a certain image to maintain. The other night I went out dancing, just let loose and had fun. I actually had men asking me about my career and they were truly interested in my line of work. I can be both intellectual and sexy. In fact, men love a woman who has many different facets to her life.
    Go Lissa go, and let you beauty shine. Lets all show that beauty and brains are a great combination.

    Reply
  36. Mary Morgan

    Lisa, it is truly beautiful. I think any viewer seeing that photograph would be awed by the

    tastefulness and the beauty or the whole thing. I wouldn’t worry too much as it is a real

    piece of art and you should stand tall and proud that you are the center of the beauty.

    Good for you for being you!

    Mary

    Reply
  37. Carolyn

    Awesome, Lissa! The picture is tasteful and gorgeous. In my book, you deserve to be EVERYTHING you are–beautiful, brilliant, sexy, and so much more.
    Carolyn

    Reply
  38. Monica Wilcox

    I think there’s a time and place for everything. Those lines are not always clear and can get blurry. Obviously, we love that you had the confidence to post your boudoir pic on Facebook but we might not have had that same reaction if that pic had been the picture on your book cover. It’s not the place for a boudoir pic.

    My husband used to have a boss who always wore tight sweaters with no bra. She was VERY perky. ALL DAY LONG! It was completely distracting. I’d try and focus on her and what she was saying as I tried to avoid looking at her hard nipples. It completely took away from the work she was doing. I discovered that she was being ignored by the rest of the employees in the office and was constantly passed up for promotions because of the way she dressed. It was very unfortunate because she was very smart and had lots of talent. It’s not that she can’t be sexy but that her sexy was so glaring it was hard to see the rest of her. The same holds true for men. If I were in a meeting with someone and he had his shirt unbuttoned to his navel, I’d have a hard time focusing on the work. There’s a time and place for sexy.

    Reply
  39. Liz

    How gorgeous Lissa. Beautifully done.

    Reply
  40. Mama Fortuna

    Lissa, the pose and the furniture are great … but, wouldn’t it be more humane to pose with fabric and not fur?

    Reply
    • Kunda Lini

      I totally agree. It kind of defeats the e object, to feel empowered at some dead animal’s expenses. Sorry, it is a huge turn off for all those who value empathy.

      Reply
    • Schahrzad Morgan

      lol, there are always those who complain, like the people who got mad at Oprah for starting a girls’ school in Africa instead of in the US. She was hated on for that. Just do your thing and remember, nobody changes the world by keeping the status quo. I also did what you do…posted my sexy pics and saying things like I love my kids and I love to fuck, as if motherhood and sex are mutually exclusive.

      Reply
  41. Susan Hoefer

    I am so glad you chose whole, Lisa. Shifting to either/ or mentality to and is terrifically powerful more powerful than either. Thank you Lisa for being so brave…..you are inspiring to us all ….. and isn’t that just the best, funnest way to be.

    Reply
  42. Karin Kruse

    Lissa, I so respect what you are trying to do. I come from another culture; one where people are a little more in tune with their bodies and sensuality is a natural part of life. To me this photograph is absolutely beautiful – with one huge exception.
    I am very disturbed about you posing with fur, the hair of a living being who did not want to die, and yet who suffered at the hands of humans so that you could “wear” it. If this is fake fur, I would so love to find out, but if it is real fur, please, please educate yourself about the horror of that “industry”. Please do not promote this cruelty!

    Reply
  43. Laura

    Agree, “Tastefully done”. Thats what came to my mind right away. I was expecting something very different after reading the Gremlin notes but you pulled it off. You accomplished what you said you wanted to.Kudos to you for bringing it all together in a beautiful photographic way.

    Reply
  44. Sussie

    (my message will be short and sweet and i haven’t gotten around to reading everybody elses – but i am sure they are ALL positive – except mine will be short and sweet)
    ******Oh my God – that is beautiful and tastful – and i am jealous and i want to do the same! …….thank you for inspiring me….************ love you heaps, heaps and heaps!

    Reply
  45. Sussie

    corrected it a bit…
    (my message will be short and sweet and i haven’t gotten around to reading everybody elses – but i am sure they are ALL positive – except for mine – it will be a short postive statement )

    ******Oh my God Lissa – that is beautiful and tastful – and i am jealous and i want to do the same! …….thank you for inspiring me…xxxxxx.************

    love you heaps, heaps and heaps!

    Reply
  46. Nina Geraghty

    Hi Lissa, I LOVE that you’ve done this. What I’m discovering is that my sexuality IS my life force, it is intimately interconnected and intertwined with EVERY aspect of my being and it seeks expression in so many different ways – through physical sexual passion of course, but also through warmth, caring, compassion, connectedness with others, being deeply interested, communion of every kind. And that includes my work. It’s an indivisable aspect of myself, it cannot be separated out and yet that is exactly what our society tries to get us to do. And in doing so divides us against ourselves. If I am to remain congruent as a human being, in complete alignment with who I am, then the erotic power I carry is implicit in everything I do – from cooking to dancing to writing an email. It’s the spark of energy that lights up everything I do. And it will SHOW itself. We are so very damaged in the expression of our sexuality and erotic natures. Thank you for showing yourself in this way; it’s wholesome because it’s a complete picture.

    Reply
  47. elinor

    Aww, how goddessly gorgeous! I really want to have that for myself too now 🙂

    Reply
  48. Marguerite

    I love this, Lissa! Well done! You set a fabulous example for all professional women.

    When I was a student, I published a tongue-in-cheek article in a magazine on my nude modelling for artists. It was fun to give the perspective of the usually silent and still model. The magazine editor gave it a very racy and provocative title ‘Why I strip for money’ – not an angle I’d thought of! It did come back to haunt me, years later, when I had become a primary school teacher in a small town,, married to the town doctor, daughter-in-law to the town lawyer – oh the respectable image boats I rocked!! A high school student of mine found the article in a pile of old magzines in her mom’s bathroom stash and of course the news spread like wildfire! It offended some, titilated others a bit inappropriately, but in general people were pretty generous about it and a good laugh was had by most, if not all.

    I don’t regret it, or the sexy photo that went with the article. I STILL struggle sometimes with the respectability-vs-professionalism dilema that is part of a public professional life in any of the respectable professions like teaching and being an MD, but the more I go on, the more I find that showing who I am (and showing a leg or some cleavage) is enormously empowering. Some eyebrows are raised, but some of the people I most expect to be outraged or judgemental are surprisingly enthusiastic and supportive.

    I think my one caveat (especially for younger women – you and I have perhaps walked a longer path to where we are now) would be that as women we have to be very careful of the situations we put ourselves in and if we aren’t confident that we can loudly and proudly tell men who think that dressing sexily gives them permission to grope or make inappropriate remarks to take a hike, or diplomatically put them in their place on the other side of a table, then we might have to be more cautious. The same goes perhaps for those who use sexuality to gain power and approval, particularly from men – perhaps the wires can get a little crossed? That said, if it weren’t for women like my mother being brave enough to wear mini skirts and shorts as a priest’s wife at a time when women in my country (South Africa) were not wearing much above the ankle, then my generation would not have the freedom we did to experiment with our sexuality and how we project ourselves to the world.

    All the best! You look wonderful, and I am booking my boudoir photo shoot for sure!

    Reply
  49. Renee

    Awesome, awesome picture – you go girl>

    Unfortunately sexy and seriously professional are not accepted in the boardroom.

    At 26 I was involved in a corporate merger and the project ran over 18 months. Every week we would present progress to the 2 sets of directors. One continuosly spoke to my “boobs”. I informally noted it with the HR Director, to no avail, so I formally logged a complaint. He continued to speak to my chest. So, with flair and aplomb, I started my presentation by unbuttoning my very corporate blue shirt, casually walked over to him and said: “take a last look, because from now on, I’d like you to please speak to my face!” he never added any of those boardmeetings again.

    Its unfortunate that that woman get labled, along with sexy, as dumb, easy, etc –

    I’d love to do a boudoir shoot

    Reply
  50. Carol

    WAY TO GO! We can be all those things and more. Thank you for proving this to the rest of us.

    Reply
  51. Jennifer Miller

    That was beautiful You Go Girl….I did just the same thing and felt exactly that way.I am a mother of four and a yogi..I felt like posting on my Facebook in a bathing suit…Why because I can..Because i did it for me…Because aging gracefully as a woman is beautiful…Because i like who I am ..I knew that some would feel i was showing but i did it for me…Way to go…You look gorgeous..

    Reply
  52. bizzyaya

    I love it! I hope we are in the age where we can be both smart, feminine and sexy! The perfect example, to me, of a woman who tries to fit in a man’s world and look like one, is Hilary Clinton. I know she is uber smart and so well respected in her field, but I just don’t enjoy seeing her picture on the news. It isn’t uplifting or inspiring to me. t gets in the way of me admiring her for all her talents. Probably men as well. So you go girl! So glad you felt you could publish the photo and share your experience with all of us!

    Reply
  53. Jaime Lyerly

    This is soooo timely for me! I am so thankful you posted this.

    I have been working on my sexuality and sensual self offline and owning it. But to be able to do that, I have been censoring and hiding it from my online persona. I want to be able show all of my self without censorship. Yet I find even with the artist title, I want to be seen as a professional. Because I AM a professional and take my work very seriously.

    But this playful and sexy side IS where my creativity comes from. Sexual energy = creative energy = healing energy. It is all the same. So we tap into one and we feel the others. Just different flavors.

    I am so inspired by your posting and you owning all of yourself. I saw that from you when we met at the International Encaustic Artist Retreat a few years ago and you had on a sexy dress and knee socks. I really enjoyed seeing that saucy side. It didn’t make me think less of you. Quite the opposite. It was inspirational to let me be all of myself. I am still working on it.

    So thank you a thousand times for being raw and sexy and professional all at the same time.
    I love it!
    Jaime Abalone Woman Lyerly

    Reply
  54. Nathalie

    Excellent! Very delicat and feminine! You will look at this in a long time and think that your body and soul where aligned that day and shining their thrue colors. Beautyfulll!

    Reply
  55. Kat

    Lissa, I love your Inner Pilot Light. Kudos to both you and your “light”. What a beautiful picture ….clearly a celebration of mind, body, and spirit. 🙂

    Reply
  56. shevy Rocks

    Very nice and tastefully done!

    Reply
  57. Lika Saliscente

    I think it’s possible to be sexy and professional, but it’s a fine line. One person’s sexy is another person’s slutty. Or someone’s prudish. If not done correctly, it isn’t professional. Unfortunately, women have to often choose either sexy or professional, and little cross over.

    For example, I’m a child advocate. So, because I am on the mission to ensure safety of children, including from sex abuse, many people assume that I am sexless. Huh? I celebrate a good & healthy sex life between two consenting adults. I do not accept grooming children for sexual gratification nor for rape. There IS a difference.

    Reply
  58. Mani

    YES YOU CAN! – You go girl, goddess, woman of divine inspiration and courage living your truth!!! You are such a beautiful and powerful feminine light and I thank and celebrate you for shining so bright and brilliantly! I found the photo absolutely gorgeous and stunning, tastefully done, artistic, classy, sensual and professional. I love your spirit for following your heart and inner pilot light!!! With waves of love, light and blessings, xoxo, Mani ;))

    Reply
  59. Naomi Bellina

    I just assumed it was fake fur, and I love, love, love it. I write erotic romance, and am all about women being comfortable with their sensuality. It’s part of us, and part of what makes us shine in all other aspects of our lives. You go girl!

    Reply
  60. Claudia

    Lisa, I think that the picture is absolutely beautiful! I love how you look in it and that you feel sexy in it. It is amazing.

    I agree that you can be both professional and feminine. The problem is that we, as women, don’t know what that is exactly. We have been trying so desperately to fit into this male dominated world that I think that we have operessed out feminine side. Where is the balance between sexy and feminine? And is sexy something we adopt because it is what this male world has defined for us. I don’t know the answer, but it is something that I am very interested.

    Reply
  61. Susan Gallacher-Turner

    Having been in career mode at the heights of women in the workplace, I dressed ‘for success’ not sex. No short skirts, no cleavage, minimal makeup and career hair. I worked in advertising, on the creative side, so I was able to be more ‘casual’ in my dress and fashionable. But, I must admit when it was time for my daughter to enter the workplace, I was shocked by the amount of cleavage…everywhere. I mentioned it, worrying about her being taken seriously and here’s what she said, “Mom, I’m a woman with breasts, I see no reason to hide. They(men) need to get over it.”

    I think this is the next level for women to break through…being womanly, sexy and professional. I say now, You go girls!

    Reply
  62. jclementwall

    I you look gorgeous… and posting was badass. The world could use more badassery from smart (eggy) women, in my opinion.

    Reply
  63. Jen

    Your inner pilot light said it all, honey love! And I believe that your inner light is connected to and aligned with everyone’s inner light. Thank you for following that urging. I feel supported and inspired by your doing so.

    I had a nude photo shoot taken of me by a friend of mine. It was such a beautiful experience and I love having those photos! The theme was loving, caring for and honouring myself and it was taken in a sun-shiney garden with a big old-fashioned mirror. Most of the photos are of me looking into my own eyes with love. One of the above-the-shoulders shots is my Facebook profile photo.

    I also have a self-love blog on which I posted some of these photos of myself, partially and fully nude for a while. I was terrified when I did it but I wanted to show people images of a woman looking herself in the eyes with only love AND looking at her body with only love. I had amazing responses from followers and really felt honoured by them.

    I took those photos down after a time because I felt I didn’t know how to support myself, emotionally having them out there. It felt intense and my inner little girl didn’t feel safe.

    I am finding my way into my own sensuality and feeling safe in it which is challenging in this culture! I am just learning how to be sensual. Never mind the professionalism! I’ve acted professional my whole life and simultaneously felt increasing tension and pain in my body. I’ve now let the professional behaviour take a back-burner to finding my true self; to arriving in my body and my natural energy and living in it! Ahhh.

    These days, I feel, professionalism is more about business practices than about your message or your image. People are hungry for authenticity and heart! Getting that to them is the main professionalism. Old models for what a professional looks and acts like aren’t necessary anymore! They helped us and the planet get to where we are now. It’s time to let go of what is not serving us, anymore.

    Thank you, Lissa for your boldness and professionalism.

    Sending so much Love.

    Reply
  64. disqus_e5DGTHh5pC

    Agree with AWESOME pic Lissa!! 🙂
    My friend and I have been talking about doing a Boudoir shoot for quite some time. You are an inspiration.
    Thank you for sharing

    Reply
  65. Shanna Magnuson

    i’m definitely a little late in this discussion but i just found this wonderful post! i love it! you rocked it! i actually just starting shooting boudoir a little over a year ago and as one of my first trials, i photographed myself. i too got permission from my husband, but he really didn’t mind me posting, and it worked to my advantage to show people that i believed in it, it wasn’t just something i was promoting and wouldn’t do myself. it was also great for clients to see, and i booked more shoots because of it. yup. loved it.

    Reply
  66. Schahrzad Morgan

    You’re hot and gorgeous, and I love a doctor who owns her sexuality. So I love it.

    Reply

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