'look at this pussy' blends suggestive photos and feminist theory

Founder Eva Sealove discusses her viral, pro-vulva Instagram account, and expanding into your new favorite advice column.

|
Aug 7 2018, 3:18pm

What do water socks, tulips, and sliced ham have in common? Nothing, really, except for the fact that in some photos they all look like vaginas, and because of that, they’ve ended up on @look_at_this_pusssy. A “feminist writing and curating project that compiles yonic images with original writing” through an active advice column and said Instagram, Look At This Pussy is part Tumblr, part feminist theory. Started by best friends Eva Sealove and Chelsea Jones in 2014, the project highlights images of everyday objects in an unapologetic celebration of the female body — and pussy, in particular.

“When people think about female sexuality and attractiveness, they’re usually talking about tits and ass,” says 28-year-old Sealove, who now runs the account independently. “But Look At This Pussy says ‘Hey! Here’s this thing no one wants to look at!’ To me, that’s funny, but it’s also radical.”

Especially in the age of Trump. Through submissions and Sealove’s own personal photographs, Look At This Pussy is not only reclaiming female sexuality — it’s redefining it. Though some people have criticized the project for its focus on the vagina, for Sealove, the pussy is much more a symbol of fierce femininity than it is any sort of commentary on what it means to be a woman. As she continues to expand the project with elements like the advice column and an upcoming merch line, the Los Angeles-based writer and curator hopes to bring the attention back to pussy — in a positive way.

“I mean, it’s complicated to live in a body with a pussy,” says Sealove. “So, I just want to remind people to be happy about being a woman, whatever that means to them.”

Below, i-D talks to Sealove about Instagram haters and the importance of being vulnerable.

How did Look At This Pussy start?
I started it with my best friend. We were both in our early 20s, living in LA, and we were both single. So, we had that early 20s closeness that you get with your girlfriends where become each other’s family and talk every second. We would just be texting from the moment we woke up until after work, and at some point, we just started sending photos of things that looked like pussies. I think it started when I was on a walk one day from this office job that I fucking hated, and I saw this flower, and texted it to her. I studied art history and she worked in the art industry, so I think we were both really interested in images of women and the female body, and just gender in general, in a sort of intellectual way. But we also had this great, humorous text exchange of stuff that looked like pussies.

So, when did it go from being a private text conversation to a public Instagram? And what was the goal behind that?
I always misattribute this quote to Susan Sontag — I don’t think she said this, but there’s somebody who’s obviously really smart about the internet who said, “Any image on the internet is interacting in some way with porn.” I’m interested in that and in what that means in regards to something like Instagram, and actual pornography. With images of the female body, you often get this kind of striptease where you’re showing just enough, but not too much, either, and that’s kind of it’s own seduction. But most of those images are made by and distributed by men, and the thing with the vagina, and the pussy, and the vulva — it’s kind of its own rebellious statement to be like, “Here’s this pussy!”

Right. But also, when we talk about men, and how they sexualize women, the vagina is pretty much always left out. It seems like something men, and frankly, a lot of women, are afraid of or grossed out by. You don’t just use images of things like pretty flowers to represent a pussy — you also use a plate of sliced ham.
Exactly. But I’m not interested in desexualizing the body. The body is a sexual thing and it’s interesting not to interrupt that, but to look at it in a different way.

Do you have a specific method for how you choose photos? Or how to decide which ones to post?
Around the same time Look At This Pussy started, I began really noticing how a lot of male-identifying people use a platform like Instagram, and how different it is from the way female-identifying people use it. So, I like to choose images of pussies that don’t have filters and are grainy, or gritty, or kind of punk rock, because I want to interrupt the expectation of gender in that way, too. I mean, I love flowers and beautiful fruits as much as the next girl, but I like to go for something that’s a little bit less expected.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the way Instagram censors women, and particularly, the female body. So, with a profile like yours, where you’re alluding to a vagina, but never actually showing one — how does that work? Do your photos ever get deleted?
I really love symbols, and working with symbols. But I think that’s where Look At This Pussy really differs from a lot of the feminists who are actively using Instagram as part of their feminism, you know? I’m less interested in documenting any one particular body, and more interested in seeing the way symbols work when it comes to gender. But you’re right — I am taking something that’s potentially hardcore in the eyes of Instagram and cheating the system.

Are your followers mostly women?
I definitely have more female followers, but a lot of men are really into it and think it’s really funny. I mean, some of the best feminists I know are men. But there’s certainly a component of people who follow @look_at_this_pussy — and I’m not going to say they’re all men because I don't think that they are — that think it’s run by a 15-year-old boy and don’t read the captions. I don’t hate those people. If they’re still getting their eyes opened in a certain way, and seeing things in a different way than they would ordinarily see them, then that’s okay. Not everyone is going to be your target audience.

Do you have a lot of haters, though?
Unfortunately, I have really noticed an uptick in a very specific type of hater since the election of Donald Trump. I really hate to say that because I think we’re surrounded by a lot of really horrible, negative language in the media, and in my heart, I want to believe it’s not reflective of the culture. But unfortunately, it is. So, what I’ve been getting recently are these dudes that have this very specific rhetoric about how women who identify as feminists are stupid, or bitter, and can’t get a man. I try to take the position where if someone is being ignorant, and hateful, and speaking badly about women, what they really need is empathy. But there’s a big difference between trolls and these guys, because that’s what they actually believe, and that sucks.

Right. When you started the account in 2014, it was a really different political climate. Considering everything happening now, why do you think this project is important?
I definitely think it’s important, but I also don’t want to overemphasize its importance — I don’t want to be cocky about it. But I think like-minded people — feminists — need to laugh and feel a sense of solidarity. That was true before Trump, and it’s definitely true now.

Is that part of the reason you started the advice column?
I’d been wanting to do the advice column for so long, because I get so many DMs everyday of people asking me things like, “My boyfriend kissed another girl. What do you think I should do?” or “I’m 15 and struggling with anxiety. Do you have any words of wisdom?” It just felt so good to be able to talk to young women about their lives. For me, I love advice columns, and I love working through my own emotional issues with friends and family. So, the way my followers were interacting with the account — it just felt like a natural extension.

What do you think it was about that account that made people start asking those kinds of questions?
In some ways, what the account does is very vulnerable. It’s sort of baring, even if the images are sometimes graphic in their own way, and it opens up the conversation. In any friendship or relationship, if you are vulnerable and offer yourself up, the other person will feel comfortable doing the same. Sometimes, it just takes one person making that first step into vulnerability. The general message of Look At This Pussy has consistently been “Have empathy and act like a fucking human being, and believe in yourself,” and whether it’s funny, or lyrical, or kind of sad — that’s the guiding message.