When I first tried performing topless at an open mic night, a female audience member sneered, "Why would she get her tits out for free? She could get £20 quid for that in a strip club." I don't blame her for thinking like that, female sexuality is used to sell everything news papers, cars, even cosmetics. It's like part of our soul has been stolen, and we're trying to buy it back.
In secondary school I was often judged for my body, I was called sparrow legs, fake tan bitch, when I returned from a holiday and chants of 'get your tits out for the lads' were not uncommon. They were just never directed at me.
I was a late developer, I used to think there was something wrong with me. So when I finally grew boobs I soaked my school shirt under a broken drainpipe and paraded into class like it was a bikini contest. That livened up biology.
My body wasn't for me, it was for other people to look at and judge. Men and Women. I entered beauty pageants and bikini contests in a bid to win the approval I craved.
I joined the Free the Nipple movement when a male friend, claiming to be in support of 'No more page 3' was slut shaming glamour models on Facebook. Telling them they were a disgrace to real women. Shaming sex positive women is not feminism. What constitutes as real women? I used to be a glamour model, does that mean I am less human, a soulless doll?
I understand why people don't want to see boobs in a "news paper", but there are still boobs on page 3. Just no nipples. Women are objectified across the media, as are men in some cases.
We shouldn't be attacking each other. This is about perception, it's much more difficult to challenge the way we see the world than a solid enemy like The Sun. Page 3 was a symptom, not the cause. Patriarchy is ingrained in our collective subconscious. We can all fall victim to it, men and women. Rigid gender roles damage our psychology. It's not considered masculine to cry. Is it any wonder suicide is the leading cause of death in the UK in men under 45?
We are dehumanising men as much as women. Shame is used a weapon of control. "Man up" "Is that a skirt or a belt" "You're crazy". We should be focusing on what unites us, not what divides us. No-one is perfect, not even Katy Price. God bless her, she's tried.
I don't want to be judged anymore, things are not so black and white, good or bad. We are all unique and can all find our place in the sun, just not on Page 3.
It's emotionally exhausting trying to fit yourself in a box, someone else's idea of what beauty or now comedy should be. Also, I was not content winning Miss Darlaston, I wanted to be Miss Black Country, then Miss World! Satisfaction in winning was only a quick fix, there was always another battle. I came to realise I was at war with myself.
I drank too much after not placing in a bikini contest in Liverpool. I pretended I didn't care as the winner chided, "Haha, that girl traveled all the way from London for nothing" as she left the building with armfuls of the free flip flops, meant for all of the contestants. The winner takes it all. I marinated my humiliation with red bull & vodka. The owner of the venue seemed kind, he was worried about me catching a train so late. He had kids but they were away. I was welcome to sleep in their room.
The last thing I remember before waking up in terror as he penetrated me from behind, was violently throwing up in his bathroom. The next day he dropped me off at the train
￼station as if nothing had happened. On CCTV he was carrying my suitcase, he looked like a gentleman, not a rapist. As soon as he was out of site I burst into tears, there were transport police in the station, I told them what had happened. I was taken to a sexual assault unit in The Wirral where swabs were taken and I made a statement. I was then driven around in a police car for hours as I tried to remember where he lived. I couldn't. The perpetrator was arrested at work, he told the police we had been kissing and cuddling and that I had consented. This wasn't true and I asked why didn't they take a swab from my mouth? Would his DNA not still be in there if we had kissed? They told me it was my word against his, it wouldn't stand up in court and its not that the judge didn't believe me, but there would be no further action. I was crushed.
I'm not doing a topless show because I want to win approval for my body. I'm doing a topless show because it is my body, and it's my choice. My point is, that flesh alone should not been seen as an invitation for sexual assault. How a woman dresses, or behaves does not substitute for conscious consent.
I feel safe and liberated standing in front of a crowd topless. Its a way of reclaiming my body and sexuality. Free the Nipple is not about telling other women (or men) what to do, its about choice, body equality and perception.
If it's safe for a man, it should be safe for a woman to walk down the street topless. So I do that on a regular basis, and I'm inviting you to join me, dressed however you like on the 28th August which is International Go Topless Day. We're meeting in Edinburgh on The Royal Mile next to St Giles Cathedral at 2.30pm.
Our needs for love, sex and belonging are being manipulated by capitalism. We are encouraged to consume more and more, feeling like we have never have enough. Maybe because we have forgotten than we are are enough. You are enough. World Peace!
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): In 2014, male suicide accounts for 76% of all
suicides and is the single biggest cause of death in men under 45 in the UK.
Rape Crisis: 1 in 5 women aged 16 - 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16
Samantha Pressdee - Sextremist. Will be at Just The Tonic, The Mash House at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the month of August for tickets go to www.edfringe.com