Through a series of portraits, this photography project aims to deconstruct the meaning of the hashtag #BeachBody in hopes of illustrating the complex relationship most people have with revealing their body during the summertime. The hashtag #BeachBody is attached to 11 million publications on Instagram. A quick glance at these pictures is enough to demonstrate that most of these #BeachBody posts are pictures that promote gendered ideals of thinness and muscles.
In July 2019, as public pools opened again, Les 3 sex* published 15 portraits of Montrealers by Hamza Abouelouafaa (@garconperdue) on their Instagram (@les3sex), encouraging people to reappropriate the #BeachBody hashtag.
In these narratives, we can see once more that body image and sexual self-esteem remain influenced by a web of social markers, such as gender identity and belonging to marginalized or racialized groups.
Celebrating the diversity of bodies and of paths towards self-acceptance, the #BeachBody project offers new models with which to identify and reminds us that a “beach body” is, in the end, simply a body at the beach.
I spent too much time and energy trying out diets, hating my body and comparing myself to others. At some point, we must learn to let go, love our imperfections, and simply be grateful for our body, which carries us through the years and lets us do all the things we do on a daily basis. Of course, there are still times where I hate my face or my belly, but these moments pass.
Although I am proud of my bum, I’ve been having a harder time with it since I started having cellulite. The problem is that in all the ads, larger models fully display their curves, but stretch marks and cellulite are edited out. How, then, are we supposed to appreciate our body in its natural form?
I don’t recall ever not being fat. As a kid, and especially as a teenager, I quickly learned that my body was ugly and undesirable.
Even now, as I am almost forty, I don’t find my body beautiful. Having to reveal it brings back voices in my head reminding me of past insecurities. I would say that now, with time and a better self-esteem, I have grown rather indifferent to them: In reality, my body is like so many others. Hairs, wrinkles and folds, but also strong muscles, solid bones, soft skin. Everything I need to taste, touch and feel the world around me, to share and receive love and affection.
Since puberty, my mother taught me that I should cover my chest and be careful not to wear plunging necklines where “people can see everything.” My mother, like many other women, was told the classic “You just should have worn less-revealing clothes.” I think that’s why she disciplined me to cover my chest—so that I wouldn’t have to go through the same thing. Even today, I am not comfortable with my breast when I’m wearing a bathing suit.
I’ve been embarrassed about my tiny boobs since I was a teenager. I felt like it wasn’t feminine, and it’s hard to hide an absence of breasts in a bikini… I must admit that I turned to cosmetic surgery when I was 28, to feel more comfortable in my own body. It was a long-considered decision, and I did it for myself. I would never encourage others to use surgery to “treat” insecurities. I think we have a lot of things to work on psychologically before.
[On displaying the body]. As a sapiosexual-heterosexual man with agnostisexual tendencies, I am aware that my situation is much simpler and comfortable than for many other people who, for different reasons, experience social, religious, or other types of pressures that are much more complicated than what I go through.
For two years, I was anorexic, and it took me a long time to accept my body. I’ve gone a long way since my recovery and am much more tolerant with myself and my body now—I am learning to welcome and accept it as it is.
I consider each body a “beach body,” but I fail to apply this to myself. I defend corporal diversity, but not for me. I’m often unsatisfied with my body. I criticize, analyze, and hate it often. I shouldn’t though, because it’s the only one I have and it’s healthy, strong, and mine.
When I put on a bathing suit, what I feel is shame and timidity. I was educated with those principles, in a culture where bodies ought to be concealed as much as possible. There is also, of course, the fear of people’s looks and judgements, and the fear that my body is perceived as different, strange, or abnormal. Today, my body is not very far from the “norm,” so this is a psychological remnant of what I interiorized in childhood and adolescence.
Even people who are comfortable with their bodies have a certain amount of shame to tackle when uncovering. As a child, I lived for some time in Amazonia in an aldeia, in a Yanomami community. Women didn’t cover their breasts and men lived almost naked. There was no prudishness attached to exposed skin. I think it’s all a matter of environment and context.
I find it easier to show my body in an intimate context of trust: I find that more natural. Being in a bathing suit is usually a completely different situation: in front of strangers, in full daylight. It’s raw. The gaze of others gives me anxiety, and I don’t even have clothes to protect myself.
I feel mostly comfortable wearing a swimsuit in public, however, I have hang-ups on my abdomen. I fixate on what I eat before being in that setting to not be too bloated. I also really dislike my back hairs, and I think it may have something to do with comparing myself with hairless white men that have been the most ‘desired’ while growing up.
For a long time, I found it hard to live in a body. I preferred not to think about it, as if it wasn’t there. Now, I try to take care of it, to love it with all its peculiarities, weaknesses, limits and pains. When I got a tattoo, it felt like acknowledging that my body exists, that it is mine, and worthy.
Social networks alter my relationship with beauty in that they associate it with a certain ethic of life. What I tend to take away from it is that if I was truly disciplined with exercise and eating, my body would look like the ones I see in the pictures. On the other hand, photos on Instagram also help me internalize the validation of bodies that resemble my own, or that are beautiful regardless of their shape.