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.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Let’s get naked by Sheila Kelley at TEDxAmericanRiviera
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.’