The following is the full transcript of Sheila Kelley’s TEDx Talk titled “Let’s Get Naked: A Talk About Men, Women and the Erotic Creature” at TEDxAmericanRiviera event.
Right click to download the MP3 audio:
Sheila Kelley – Actress
Thank you. Wow, that was fun. OK, let’s get naked. Ready, set, strip! No, teasing, I’m joking! The kind of naked that I’m referring to is the naked that makes you squirm on the inside. It’s naked of the heart. Naked to the soul. Naked to the truth, which is what I want to share with you today as the truth about Men, Women and the Erotic Creature.
But it’s going to require some stripping on both of our parts. I need you to strip away all those false pretenses of ideas you have about the female body and I need you to strip your minds wide open. So this is my laboratory where I’ve spent the last 12 years guiding women toward awakening their feminine body movement which awakens their feminine nature which awakens what I call their Erotic Creature.
Every woman on the planet has an Erotic Creature. She’s the primal feminine body. She’s the wild, untamed, sexual alter ego that lives deep within. Very often she’s buried under furrowed brows, tensed frozen bodies, judgmental thoughts and fear, but she is there. And when you awaken her and you integrate her into your being, it sends you into a place of wholeness and this wholeness of the feminine is capable of elevating every living creature within its reach.
Let’s talk for one second about — oh, there it is, the Erotic Creature — the Unthinkable. What if I were to tell you that the pole that I was just dancing on is a symbol for the next and fourth wave of the feminist movement? I know, right? The personal reclamation of the female body and the sexuality within. It’s crazy, right? A stripper pole representing the feminist movement — there’s got to be some people rolling over in their graves! Heros of mine! But I’m going to tell you about this wild journey I took over the last 23 years that brought me to this place of clarity and conviction.
I’ll set the scene for you. 1989, La Cienega Boulevard Star Strip Gentleman’s Club. The first time I went into a strip club I was a young actress, I was helping a friend with a writing project and I was very unhappy that I had to go on to this place that I felt subjugated and objectified women. But once inside I fell in love with the movement of some of the dancers, their bodies undulated and they teased and they were provocative and sexual, and so feminine. And I was desperate to learn how to do it. But I didn’t want to be a professional stripper. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
What I did is I wrote-produced a film where I actually got to play a stripper. And in the movie I needed to create a character who lived and moved through her sexuality. And I thought this is going to be fun. So I, first day of rehearsal, put on this outfit that I thought would communicate my sexy stripper-self into the world, please don’t laugh or you can laugh! So I got on stage in this outfit and the music comes on and my body just goes: uh-uh — uh-uh — ain’t moving! And she froze.
Now I was a dance major, New York University, I’m a professionally trained ballerina, I should know how to do this. But my body was like, “I am not having anything of it!” And I started to force her to kind of — bop from side to side, trying to be really sexy, it was so pathetic, it was totally not sexy. And what I was realizing is that nowhere in my being did I know how to embody my sexuality in my everyday life. It wasn’t that I didn’t have sexuality. I for myself though it was fine.
It was bringing my sexuality into my everyday life. I was faltering at being overtly feminine, like — wow, the body, which is a brilliantly intuitive creature, speaks. And what my body was saying is: “You can clearly see, is you have no idea who I am.” And she was completely right. So I knew something was missing inside of me. I spent the next 4 months, as we developed the film, hunting for who I was as a sexually embodied creature. I went to the strip clubs, I met dancers, I dissected the movement and I learned it, and what I found inside of myself I did not expect. I found its dark, soulful, emotional sexuality that gave me a confidence in my body and my femininity that I’d never had before. What awoke in me was my Erotic Creature. All this is amazing, but it gets so much better, because not only did I awaken that side of myself but this side of myself started changing everything on the home front.
My marriage went from “Eh” to “Oh my God!” It’s stayed there for 23 years. I became a happier mother to my children, I became a more complete woman on to myself. And I had to share this with other women. I was like, ‘You’ve got — this is it, this is the Holy Grail of empowerment!’ and they’re like, ‘OK.’
I developed this movement called ‘S Factor,’ and I started teaching it to fellow pre-school moms and women in the neighborhood and they too started releasing their sexuality into their everyday lives and into their bodies and — the same changes that I’d had in my life they were having in theirs. Happier relationships, happier children, happier women, it caught on like wild fire.
The next thing I know I am on Oprah’s. We become — our effort becomes international news. I’m inundated with e-mails from all over the globe. Apparently, the desire to be whole — it crosses not only geographic boundaries but political and cultural boundaries as well. I had tapped in a world-wide artery of women all missing the same something I had been missing. The Erotic creature was asleep globally.
But how was that possible? I couldn’t understand how could the woman from Saudi Arabia, the woman from Beijing, the woman from Buenos Aires and me in Los Angeles, how could we all be missing the same thing? I needed to understand this. And I call it the ‘Yin effect.‘ Think of each person, male or female, having within the potential of Yin-feminine and Yang-masculine energy, we live in a world that cuts out a piece of Yin in all of us. And if you jump into that Yin, you’ll see that it’s the physicality and sexuality of the feminine body that’s shut down. And the more women I talked to, the more I learned.
And what I learned is that the shutting down of the Yin starts with the first offense. The first offense is the first time anyone or anything brings negative attention, judgment or shame to your body. So my first offense happened when I was 7 and this is the picture of what a 7-year-old little girl’s body looks like just for you to refer to throughout the story — this is my daughter. I was hanging out with my best friends, Brian and Donald Doyle, they were 7 and 8 respectively, we were hanging out in the backyard, it was summer, it was really hot, we were playing, we decided to take a break and we went to cool down, so we all took our tops off and we laid back in the grass, arms over the head, it was an awesome day, the air was cooling my chest, it was a beautiful, innocent day. And all of a sudden the upstairs window of their house was flying open and Mrs Doyle stuck her head out and she screamed in the most piercing voice, “Sheila Kelley! You naughty little girl! You put your top on immediately, you ought to be ashamed of yourself and go home.”
My shoulders started to pinch up towards my ears, my chest caved-in with this new-found emotion of shame, I couldn’t breathe, it was the moment I began to separate from my female body. Mrs Doyle hadn’t yelled at her boys but she yelled at me but we did the same thing. What I learned that day is it’s safe and good to be in a male body, and it’s not safe, it’s dangerous to be in a female body. Mrs Doyle didn’t hate me, she was trying to curb a sexuality that scared her, that didn’t even exist yet. She thought she had the right to tell me what I could and couldn’t do with my body.
These kind of stories play out every single day all over the globe. We are stealing the light and the life from these creatures, these beautiful feminine creatures. Every single woman you know has had a first offense, whether she’s aware of it or not. And she’s had subsequent offenses every day of her life, offenses like ‘keep your knees together’, ‘don’t move like that’, ‘she’s a slut’, ‘you look like a whore’. These offenses eat away at the emotional boundary and the ego of the body until you do not know where your body begins and where your body ends. You think anyone, anytime, anywhere can tell you what you can and cannot do in your body and the only choice you have is to shut it down.