Your body is your safe space, and that should never be taken away from you.
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An Open Letter to Anyone Who's Been Told They're 'Too Sexual' - Woman relaxing at home on bed in the morning. Wearing lingerie and feeling confident and beautiful. Gently moving her fingers and touching her skin. Showing self love and daydreaming.
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Your sexuality, or lack thereof, is up to you entirely — not for anyone else to presume. It's not up for debate. And it's especially not for anyone else to audaciously assume as agreeable. Or to shame, slander, denigrate, or penalize you as a person. Though, unfortunately, people tend do just that.

The memory of my first job interview post-college lives rent-free in my mind for the rest of forever. After agonizing over what to wear to cover up DDDs — thanks, in large part, to crippling insecurities rooted in a lifetime of mixed media messages and ostracizing school dress codes — I was still sexually harassed by a wrinkled business suit-clad old man who accused me of being "too naughty" for the role. So naughty, in fact, he threatened to jump out his top-story window because he couldn't look away from the dress I was wearing (my mother's) rather than, you know, look at my resume.

That was far from the first time that I was told I'm "too sexual." It also wasn't the last.

I later landed a job where I had quite the welcome. My team brought me out to happy hour, where my colleague placed his arm around my shoulder, grabbed my right boob and let out an audible, "honk, honk" to mark day one of my professional life.

At this point I began to realize just how much damage other people's preconceived perceptions of me (and total disregard for basic human decency) could do — like cost me my career. I later learned — through a series of unsettling situations — that it could also cost me my safety.

Unsolicited sexual attention (read: sexual harassment and assault) is never okay. Still, society seems to sexualize both skin and smiles — because some people are somehow "asking for it" or salaciously "too nice" (which, while we're here, is a casual little thing called "victim blaming").

More often than I can count, I've been told that I'm too "sexual" — that I exude sexual energy, bathe in a sexual aura, emanate sexuality — from both strangers and people I love. And I am a sexual being. I'm expressive and communicative and open-minded and flirtatious when I feel like it. Which, no, is neither all the time nor anyone else's liberty to label.

Frankly, I'm feeling fed up. Frustrated. Fatigued. And all the other F-words with the exception, I'd note, of free. Free is the last thing I feel in a hypersexualized and oft-objectified body. And I'm not alone.

So, if, like me, you've been told to lock it up, remember this...

Neither nudity nor skin are synonymous with sexuality.

I can't count how many times I've been accused of "wearing my boobs out." I don't wear my boobs at all; in fact, they're physically attached to my body whether I like it or not (and I don't see a reason to dislike it). The reality is that I couldn't cover up my DDD cups with a potato sack if I tried — and, frankly, I don't care to try because, dare I say it in a society that suggests I'm perfectly imperfect, I love my body.

Nevertheless, I've received endless messages about the sheer irrelevant presence of my breasts — in videos or photos that have nothing to do with them, including hot air ballooning in Turkey and pumpkin picking with my family. Often, these messages simply say, "Tits!" Other times something like, "You're the reason women get raped." Which, of course, is equal parts panic-inducing, disturbing, self-esteem-squashing, and soul-crushing. This is especially true for someone who's experienced sexual assault and grappled with the guilt of calling it sexual assault when it was never "that bad" compared to others' stories. (Note: It's all that bad.)

But the world is starved of altruism, the selfless concern for others. Rather, so many people are fiercely fixated on one another because of their own internalized insecurities that they project onto each other. (Related: What Does It Really Mean to Be Sex-Positive?)

That's largely why topless womxn, including nursing mothers, bother some narrow-minded folks with a lot of learning (and unlearning) to do. They've been socialized to believe that nudity is, in and of itself, sexual — and so someone showing skin makes them feel uncomfortable, perhaps because they feel sexual about it or maybe even because they worry they will see it as such.

Nudity is not necessarily sexual. Arguably, it's seldom sexual. Equating them suggests that every single time you're naked, you're sexual. But each time you feed your baby, take a shower to bathe, disrobe in the locker room, undress at the doctor's office, you are not sexual.

When I took my clothes off for a deep-tissue sports massage after a grueling week-long trek in the Himalayas, I didn't want to be sexually groped. I just wanted to heal my muscles. The last time I stripped down at a nude beach, I didn't want to be sexualized by the man relieving himself in the bushes behind me. I wanted to catch some sun. When I hopped into the pool at a recent Airbnb stay, I didn't want to be harassed by the lurking host; I just wanted to take an afternoon dip during a stressful workday. (Related: Billie Eilish Would Like You to Stop Using Her Style Choices to "Slut-Shame" Other People)

Bodies are not sexual. Context and consent are sexual. Sexual is situational.

Being kind never warrants unwanted sexual attention.

I happen to be an extrovert with a giggle, and I'll chat up most anyone. Admittedly, I've found myself in some sticky situations or uncomfortable conversations at times.

As womxn, we are oft-damned if we do, damned if we don't. If we're too sweet, we're dubbed flirts. But if we're not pleasant and passive and appeasing, we're dubbed bitches. (Related: Taylor Swift Is Tired of Seeing Sexist Double Standards Hold Women Back)

The reality is that being kind to someone neither justifies nor solicits subsequent sexual behavior. You can certainly smile at someone without some sort of secretively sexual agenda or ulterior motives. After all, as womxn, we're pestered to smile all the time. Hell, we sometimes smile through the bullshit simply to survive or stop it from gaining ground.

Just remember that you should never feel uncomfortable for making someone feel uncomfortable who made you feel uncomfortable. Yup, let that sink in.

You did not give someone the wrong idea for being "too nice." You did not lead anyone on for being friendly. And you do not owe anyone anything. Even if you did, at some point, want to engage in a sexual activity or a sexual relationship with that person — or perhaps you even have in the past — you are free to change your mind for any reason, including no reason at all, at any time. This spans every situation, from one-time flings to long-term relationships.

Of course, open communication can clear up misunderstandings. But, frankly, someone else's fantasy-induced letdown is not your burden to bear. (Also read: Exactly Why Toxic Masculinity Is So Harmful)

You are so much more than your body.

There is, indeed, a difference between calling someone's body "sexy" and calling it "sexual." Someone might see you as sexy, and that could very well feel good. After all, arguably, most people like to feel sexy — even if they don't always intend to look it.

But "sexy" can be harmless because it's in the eye of the complimenter; they own that. "Sexual," however, is dangerously devoid of consent, because the person who decided for you that you are sexual is putting that on you. From there, they may make false assumptions and wrongly justify their own sexual advances. At best, they encroach on your privacy and break your very valid boundaries. At worst, they commit crime.

Your body is your home, and there's a whole lot more to it than being "sexy" or "sexual." Mine is also strong and smart and storied. It's what's carried me through life, helping me climb in my career, pursue my passions, and travel all around the world. And, sure, it's sometimes how I explore sexual pleasures, too.

The point is: Your body is a lot of things, and it never has to be all of those things. The only thing it always is, is your safe space. And that should never be taken away from you.