My Body Press
Naked: My Body’s Story
The latest book by Marcy Little
Excerpt from Naked
Can a fifteen-year-old virgin puking in the toilet because she’s drunk give consent to a twenty-two-year-old man?
No woman vomiting from intoxication can give consent. To this, add my premenstrual stage of development. I was a child on the cusp of blossoming into a young woman.
After I was raped, I became sexually promiscuous. It’s in all the textbooks. Common behavior. But I wasn’t reading any of these textbooks. I was just acting out my shame.
The die is cast. My body has been defiled. Any notion of innate worthiness, however small, I might have garnered in my childhood innocence has been stolen—cast aside permanently. Dirty laundry that’s hopelessly stained.
I go with this new flow, engage in intercourse with teenage boys as clueless as I am. Moving through an unconscious cloud, I find myself secretly having sex with one of my sister’s girlfriend’s boyfriends. We break into my stepfather’s small apartment during the day while he is at work, make toast and slice butter off the top of the stick instead of the front (a dead giveaway I have been there).
“Marcy, were you at my place yesterday?”
“Yeah. I just stopped in for a snack on my way into Binghamton,” I lie.
While at my stepfather’s place, my secret sex partner and I end up in the tub, naked, trying out things we heard about or saw in movies. Things that are supposed to be sexy.
I feel nothing. Nothing in my body. Nothing in my mind. Nothing in my heart. I am absent from the scene. Some other person has taken over my body and is going through the motions. Performing. Trying hard to be pleasing. Trying hard to be loved and accepted. Isn’t this the way?
* * *
It takes me thirty years to understand what happened to me. Thirty years to confront the pain encased in my cells. Thirty years to find my voice.
Like so many women, I am a survivor of sexual trauma and abuse. Like so many women, this early trauma still has a grasp on many aspects of my life, on many aspects of myself. Like so many women, I still struggle with intimacy and boundaries. Like so many women, things can still get really confusing in my body and my mind.
For a year, I studied myself, stayed with questions, listened deeply, and wrote it all down. An attempt to capture cellular level healing through a deep exploration of the contours of my own perplexing sexuality as a survivor of sexual trauma and abuse.
This is my journey.
Praise for Naked
“In Naked: My Body’s Story, Marcy gives us a powerful roadmap to the healing that is possible when we as women own and share our stories, break free from the shame that keeps us stuck and feeling alone, and learn to fully embrace ourselves and our amazing bodies exactly as they are.””
— Lorraine Faehndrich, Women’s Pelvic Health and Pain Relief Coach
“An honest journey into the heart of healing. As a reader you will vicariously walk this path towards wholeness with Marcy as your compassionate and loving guide.”
— Rachel Bush, Licensed Ayurveda Practitioner and Certified Anusara® yoga instructor
“I recently had the honor of reading the compelling Naked: My Body’s Story by Marcy Little. As a psychiatrist who has worked in the fields of trauma and recovery from abuse for over twenty-five years, I found Marcy’s story skillfully conveyed, moving, and filled with hope and humanity. Marcy brings a courageous willingness to look deeply at the impact of her childhood and adolescent traumatic experiences on her adult journey to find her own true freedom and partner intimacy through a deeper more authentic expression of her sexuality in her marriage. Her memoir combines this deep honesty and vulnerability with an engaging writing style that allows the reader to really come to know her and her journey. This book was hard to put down! I feel enriched, both as a professional and as a woman in our objectifying culture, for having read her inspiring story.”
— Kristen Nygren, M.D.
“Naked is raw, unapologetic, and relatable. Little’s personal story does a service to other women who have survived trauma. Even with my background in psychology and human development, Little’s account was a revelation. This honest and true chronicle of healing sexual abuse pushed me to my own edges, made me reflect on past traumas I thought I had resolved, and question their lasting impact on my body and in my relationships. Little’s telling is wide open. Much like Ensler’s In the Body of the World, Little’s Naked holds nothing back, yet unlike many popular memoirs or how-to titles, Little’s is a true hero’s journey—one that isn’t buttoned up, figured out, clean, resolved, and ready to store on the back shelf. No. This journey is in the living, and the living of it can be messy. Little doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. Instead, with tremendous courage and vulnerability, she tells her story in a way we can all relate to, as fellow humans on the path to wholeness and integration. As individuals, we all need to “do our work.” Little is clearly doing hers, and in the doing, inspires us to do the same. Hats off to this lucid writer. As we heal ourselves, so to do we heal this mixed-up world.”
— Kathryn Caldwell, PhD. Associate Professor specializing in Developmental Psychology
“Marcy Little weaves a captivating story of love, redemption, longing, and forgiveness in the wake of intergenerational trauma.”
— Melissa Tuckey, Author of Tenuous Chapel, a book of poems, and Ghost Psychology
“Marcy Little’s Naked: My Body’s Story delivers the pleasures of the popular woman’s self-help memoir genre while distinguishing itself in several meaningful ways. It tells the story of a woman’s journey toward deeper self-awareness by using well-crafted storytelling to offer sustained, insightful reflection that extends beyond the narrative. Memoirist Marcy Little is immediately, identifiably relatable. She is divorced. She fights with her mother at family gatherings. She has awkward run-ins with her ex-therapist. She likes it when her husband notices her body. Imagine your coolest, funniest, most centered friend opening her heart to you over a luxurious, healthy meal, telling you stories that speak directly to your experiences of having a body that grows and breaks. That’s Naked: My Body’s Story.
The story Little tells about herself unfolds with devastating low points and transcendent high points, at a pace that makes the memoir into a page-turner. How will she manage parenting a child with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in a foreign country when her spouse has a mental breakdown? What effect will her sister’s revelation that they were both touched sexually by their babysitter have on her perception of her sexual identity? What will happen to her teaching career when she becomes allergic to the building she teaches in? While following Little’s story from childhood to adulthood, the reader learns about the power of honesty and of self-reflection.
The memoir circles around several heartbreaking stories of sexual assault. While the particulars of Little’s own experience of being raped as a one-year-old and again as a fifteen-year-old are unique to her, she uses the writing of the memoir to open those experiences up for the reader. It’s a devastating reality that this will be familiar to many readers, but even those who are lucky enough to not see themselves in Little’s story will find, in her distinctive prose and gift for unflinching storytelling, a powerful lesson in how to live in and with a body that has a history. Little’s writing voice has an easy relationship to self-knowledge. When she bares herself to the reader it’s painful, but the honesty and clarity of her prose invites the reader to work through the pain along with her.
Little has a deft hand with libidinous imagery. The memoir is, in some moments, thrillingly sexual and it offers an intimate portrait of a marriage. She writes openly and with a frank carnality about the pleasures of sex. As much of the memoir deals with the complexity of feeling desire in a body that has learned through abuse to resist sexual feeling, the contrast between the desolation of rape and the exultation of desire forges a compelling conceptual hinge. That joint becomes mapped across the book’s body-centric investigation of the transformative power of yoga. One of the memoir’s most distinguishing features is its beautifully written sections on the practice of yoga. That Little is an accomplished yoga practitioner and exceptional teacher is plainly evident. The section on the five universal principles of alignment, for example, offers readers insight from her deep, careful research and does so with the light, engaging touch of a naturally talented teacher.
The writing in Naked: My Body’s Story is evocative and transports the reader directly in to Little’s world. The squid she eats at a portside restaurant in Cadiz. The red newt she crosses paths within a glen in New York’s Finger Lakes region. The Loon that welcomes her to a remote island in the Adirondacks. The fascinating places and people Little encounters come alive as she writes about them. Among the memoir’s gifts to the reader are its moments of staggeringly beautiful prose and its glimpses into Little’s writing journals. She has a particular eye for detail and metaphor, such as when she describes the ants marching up the wall in her therapist’s office or describes an abused woman as a charm worn under her abuser’s shirt. Though the book takes seriously the gravity of Little’s spiritual journey, it is sprinkled with laugh-out-loud moments and keen observations, especially when it addresses the hippie utopia of Ithaca, NY where Little has spent most of her adult life. Naked: My Body’s Story is very much a story about writing. The book unpacks and raises questions about writers and readers and does so in a way that is both incredibly easy and deeply moving because Little is committed to doing the work of writing her way through her body’s experience.
As a body has many moving pieces, so does Little’s book, but, like the gifted yoga teacher that she is, she guides the reader to align and settle those pieces into a vibrant whole. The memoir offers the reader genuine, hard-won wisdom about what it means to live in a body. Little writes her way through her body’s experience of being a daughter, an abused child, a sexually damaged woman, a courageous mother, a besotted lover, and an unflinching writer. Ultimately, readers will feel great gratitude for Little’s generosity in sharing with us the painful process of writing her way through the nakedness of her journey.”
— Leah Shafer, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Media and Culture Studies