Playing with My Camera

I'm super tired after fighting writer's block for days and finally finishing a fiction story for workshop today. I emailed it in sometime around 6am and am operating on very little sleep.

I'm the loopy kind of tired, though, so it's working out alright. In celebration of actually finishing the damn story, I decided to relax a little and played around with my camera. I figured I might as well share a couple of shots since I'm not writing a full blog entry.

Since I got my lip pierced, I have the urge to make this face:

every time I look in the mirror. And that's because I'm a badass.



Paradox


I have a tattoo that probably doesn't have much obvious meaning to other people.

The double spiral, in very simple terms, symbolizes balance. In Celtic lore, it can also be tied to the equinoxes. To me, though, it's more complicated than that.

One internet writer tells us that the double spiral "represents a deep understanding of chaos as potentiality and of coming into being...The double spiral is an expanding dialectic, a spiral of transformation." Another says that the double spiral symbolizes "opposing forces, the personification of opposites blending to make a whole. "



It's contradiction and transformation that turn me on, physically and emotionally, That's why I've engraved the symbol on my body. It reminds me that opposing things can actually be connected, that binaries are really a continuum and a circle. Male and female, heterosexual and homosexual, good and evil, life and death. I call myself Paradox when I work because I always want to embrace the apparent contradictions in myself and other people. I want to see it all as whole.

I was thinking about all this because of the video below (via Spiritual Cowgirl). I really like the text quoted there; it reminds me precisely of the meanings I assign to my tattoo. I thought I'd share it with you.


Why I Like to Fuck in Public

I'm a huge fan of public sex.

Now, I am an exhibitionist in many ways. Obviously I'm a stripper, and part of that for me is that I like people looking at me naked. I've had unusual amounts of single-partner sex with someone else randomly on the bed, just kind of watching (or pretending not to). I really, really like group sex, for many reasons which include that I like being watched while I fuck. All of these things, though, are different than "public" sex.

I love fucking in strange places, out in the open as much as I can be without actually getting caught. I have no desire to impose the view of me having sex on people who don't want to see it. That's not consensual and has nothing to do with why the whole public thing gets me off.

I really don't think it's the thrill of maybe getting caught that does it for me at all. I'm actually very careful about how I do "public" sex. I make sure I'm in a place where I know someone won't walk in, or if they do that they won't know what I'm doing. I don't want to be discovered.

I've masturbated in a school office, but with the tricky door locked and all my clothes on. I've had sex outside next to a well-trafficked foot path, but underneath such a huge skirt that nobody walking by could tell I was doing anything but sitting on my guy's lap. We had a long view to either side, and just didn't move while people passed us. I've had sex on an elementary school playground, but in the middle of the night when nobody was around.

It's much more about the juxtaposition of the normal around me with what's going on in my pants. The fact that I can hear or see other people going about their day while I'm in the throes of sex makes me really hot. The vast difference between what I'm feeling and what everyone around me is seeing makes the sensations seem even more exciting and intense.

I also, of course, really like the idea of being bad, of breaking a taboo right in front of people's faces and without giving them a clue. This is where being seen is something I desire, but not in the sense that someone would know what's going on. I just like to pull one over, to be a bit naughty, in public but in secret.

It's those kinds of contrasts that really get me off, however they play out. Between the public and the private, the masculine and feminine, the dominant and submissive. I love fucking (literally) with the way things seem or the way they're supposed to be.

Thanks to Greta Christina for getting me thinking about this.

Sexuality Feminism

I’ve been struggling, like many feminists interested in sexuality, with the issue of self-identification. I am clearly neither an anti-porn feminist nor a sex-positive feminist. I very much enjoy porn, but I think its trends and messages are extremely problematic. I'd much rather see a new, different kind of pornography as an alternative to what we've already got.

In the past, I’ve identified most closely with sex-positive feminism. When I was growing up, I was socially attacked and ostracized for being a woman who was openly interested in sex. This hurt me. When I encountered sex-positive feminism, it was like a light shone down from the sky. There were other people who thought that sex was important, that women could be sexual, that I was really an okay person even though I had a sex drive.

On the other hand, I don’t agree with a total lassiez-faire attitude towards porn. I think it’s important to recognize the systematic misogyny in porn. I don’t want to ban porn at all, but we can’t do any better for sexuality if we don’t recognize its problems. That “pornified” misogyny is part of what creates the idea that women can’t be sexual unless they’re whores (in other words unless their sex is in service of men). I can see that, and think it’s important.

Therefore, I am coining a new term for myself. I am a sexuality feminist. I believe that sexuality is central to gender inequality. I think that addressing sexual inequality is a very crucial step towards decreasing overall gender inequality. I make sexual equality the main focus of my activism.

This term could, in fact, apply to both the anti-porn and the sex-positive feminists. It says nothing about whether you’re in favor of mainstream porn or not. Maybe it could even let us work together sometimes.

It doesn’t mean we have to give the word “pornography” a new meaning in order for the average person to understand what we mean when we define ourselves. It doesn’t suggest that those who oppose us are “sex-negative” or anti-sex. Rather than putting us in opposition to something, it gives us a realm in which to work, rebel, agitate, create, define, and live.

Who knows, maybe it could catch on. I'm claiming it here and now: I’m a sexuality feminist.

Note: This is an excerpt from my in-progress honor's thesis on porn and feminism.

Essentialism and Why It Sucks

Excellent point about sex and gender and the way we study them in a post on this article at Sex in the Public Square:
My frustration comes from the fact that researchers like Chivers insist on trying to pull apart the cultural from. What is it that drives the notion that our biology is where the "truth" about us would be found if only we could clear away the confusing layers of socialization and culture? I would much prefer to see research examine the intersection of the biological and the cultural giving equal "truth value" to both. This is a theme that comes up over and over, especially in relation to the discussion of Chivers's work. In fact if we could get past our desire for biologically essentialist answers we could see the variations in human experience that would allow us to start breaking down the false binary of male/female = boy/girl = man/woman.
I think she's absolutely right, that the nature vs. nurture argument is just kind of silly. When we get down to it, almost everyone agrees that it's actually some combination of the two, but the whole basis of the argument is really polarizing. It's like we're pushed into picking a side, and then everyone ends up ignoring compelling or interesting information that would favor the "other side."

I'm taking a class on gender and sexuality right now, and we've been talking about how our concept of two natural sexes each with a corresponding gender role is a fairly new one. Up until the Enlightenment with its emphasis on physical "truth" and the imperfection of anything metaphysical, the body wasn't that important in conceptions of sex and gender.

Philosophers like Aristotle and Galen, who both talked about sex and gender extensively, thought that "man" and "woman" were essentially gradients of one physical sex. Of course, under this model men were "more perfect" and women an incomplete or flawed version of the perfect male. Because women were metaphysically less perfect than men, their bodies came out differently. The spiritual essence of the person, made up of what we could now consider their transient gender characteristics, was actually their essential being. The body was only its physical manifestation.

This is precisely the opposite of how we measure things today. What I think Elizabeth Wood gets at very well in her post is the silliness of both ways of seeing things. There is no truth without both biology AND culture, the physical AND the metaphysical. Nature is informed by nurture to create who we are. There can be no studying one without admitting and looking at the other. Trying to isolate either is always going to present a skewed picture.

Female Customers

I love it when women come into the strip club and even more when they visit the peep show. Especially when they are clearly into other women, actually watching what I'm doing. Women are a tiny minority of our customer base, and it warms the cockles of my heart (and sometimes other parts) when women show up and ask for a lap dance. Even the shy straight women are fun to interact with, especially if I can get them to be friendly in return.

Many strippers don't seem to feel this way. Granted, there are plenty of women who come in unwillingly with their men, or who come in only to trash the dancers for a self esteem boost. I know lots of dancers who say they've been snubbed by women in couples because of jealousy or awkwardness. "Are you trying to steal my man?" kind of stuff. (To avoid this, I try to pay the most attention to the female member of a hetero couple. That way, he's still getting a show, but she's not feeling too threatened.)

Now, the other dancers are right. Some female customers can be obnoxious. However, I'd say it's in about the same proportion that male customers are obnoxious. We're just more used to the groping attempts and the veiled contempt from men than the girly snubs and the critical looks from women.

All that said, I found a good etiquette guide for female customers on Tales From the Pole that I thought I'd reproduce here. Some of these obviously only apply to straight women, but some things (like no touching) go for queer women, too.
  • If it's your boyfriend's idea to go to the club and you really don't want to, please don't go; we all know the night will end in a fight.
  • Try not to dress too skanky, you're not competing with the strippers. (Note: I don't mind this, although I do hate it when customers oggle non-dancer women who they're not paying for the privilege.)
  • Being female does not grant you free entry or discounted dances and you are still expected to tip.
  • Neither does it give you permission to touch the strippers; if male customers cannot touch, neither can you.
  • Don't sit at the stage and bitch about a stripper's cellulite; she can hear you, and you know you have it too.
  • Don't complain loudly that the stripper on stage has "no tits" "no ass" or "isn't even using the pole."
  • Don't ever try to get on stage.
  • Don't ever take your clothes off. Ever.
  • Don't give your man a lap dance at the bar.
  • Don't do any form of dancing at all.
  • Don't hit on the customers.
  • Don't cockblock our customers because you are "hotter than the bitches working here."
  • Try to understand that the strippers are not hitting on your man, they are merely trying to get money out of him because, you know, its work.
  • And please, if you and your man are trawling for the third member of your fantasy threesome, stay out of the stripclub. Please.
I, like Sakura, have either seen or at least heard about all of these things happening in the club. Three cheers to her for making an etiquette list.

Bad Blogger Wrist Slap and Porn Thesis Excerpt

Wow, so I've been REALLY bad at blogging for a while. At the end of last semester, I was dog sick and stressed from finals, and then over break the disastrous travel issue left me completely sapped of energy and words.

I'm back at school now, and ready and raring to get into the swing of things. It's strange to be back to a million things to do every day, but nice in its own ways.

A lot has changed for me over the course of the last few months, which is partly why I didn't write very much. I'm feeling differently about sex work and porn, and I've got some fun things to say about relationships and my cities. I've also finished a rough draft of my honors thesis on feminist porn, so in lieu of a separate post, here's an edited excerpt from the paper:

"What remains to be developed is a view of sexuality that allows for the possibility of feminist change, even before the overthrow of the patriarchy." -Wendy Stock

I believe that both the anti-porn and sex-positive movements have made efforts to make egalitarian or feminist sex possible, but both have fallen short in figuring out what that is and how to make it happen.

The anti-pornography activists have attempted to criticize and undermine the current modes of sex to make way for a healthier kind of sex. However, they’ve come just short of saying what this new sexuality would be.

The sex-positive feminists have suggested that consent, self-knowledge, and mutual respect are necessary for a healthy sexuality, but they have not related these feminist ideals to the lack of them in popular culture (porn and film, books, news, etc). I see these as two sides of a single argument that have simply failed, as of yet, to meet in the middle.

So let's look at what egalitarian sex could be. In order for egalitarian sex to happen, both partners must have equal value in the relationship. Their feelings, thoughts, desires, and sensations must have equal importance. Their orgasms must have equal importance.

They must both have the right to say yes and no to sexual acts. This consent should not come just from one partner striving to “get” something and the other giving in. They should each have an investment in the other’s pleasure and happiness, and in their shared positive experience.

Within these parameters, however, the sex itself could look like anything. If two heterosexuals were both interested in, for instance, an S&M scene where the woman hits the man with a paddle and tells him he’s been bad, that sex act could happen, but with certain prerequisites.

They would need to talk about it beforehand, share with each other what they wanted to do and find out if there was a mutual interest. They would need to negotiate specifically what was to happen. They would need to have some contingency for either partner changing his or her mind midway through the act, like a safe word. They would need to periodically check in with each other to make sure they’re both enjoying what’s happening.

The S&M community has actually made a great contribution to this dialogue about egalitarian sex, encouraging careful negotiation, mutual respect and caring, continued consent, and concern for psychological well-being. Kink.com, easily the foremost producer of BDSM pornography, has some of the most rigorous filming guidelines for directors that I’ve seen.

In addition to several rules outlining exactly what constitutes consent and ensuring that the models continue to have it throughout every scene, they require an interview with the submissive partner at the beginning of each film. In this interview he/she is asked about how he/she feels about what’s about to happen and asked to consent to it. This consent is shown (for once) not just to the authorities, but to the viewers.

So long as a mutual respect and care for another's well-being is present and all partners have the opportunity to state their desires and to say no to sex, even extreme BDSM porn and sex can be egalitarian.

Although it involves a narrative of submission and dominance, the sex act described above (with the paddle and the discussion) does not harm either participant. It is not predicated on an assumption of male privilege. If there are gender dynamics at play, they can and should be discussed and addressed as part of the negotiation over sex.

And gender dynamics will play a part in sex. Nobody is suggesting that we can banish patriarchy tomorrow. Until it is fully gone, of course it will affect our desires and the ways we act on them.

I frankly see nothing wrong with a conscious and open exploration of eroticizing the patriarchal patterns that oppress us. Taking a pattern in life (say, for instance, the systematic domination of women by men) and turning it into something erotic can be a way of psychologically controlling it, of regaining power over it until you are able to live with it without fear.

I don’t think we can suggest that people shouldn’t do this. It can be a very powerful psychological tool when done, as mentioned, carefully and consciously. I don’t buy the idea that eroticizing something automatically means you don’t question it.

That would suggest, as Catharine MacKinnon dismisses, the idea that “having sex is antithetical to thinking.” (MacKinnon, 17) I think anything we do without question is likely to be a problem, and understanding things as erotic is just another thing we can choose to question.

New Year

I'm a few days late but I hope I'm not a dollar short. Happy new year, everyone.

I had a quiet new year's eve. I've got a bad track record with new year's eve parties so I just stayed at home and rested. I've been horribly boring for the last two weeks; recovering from my bad luck (two) weeks took longer than I'd hoped. It got even worse after my last posting.

I had one helluva time getting home. My flight out of New York was delayed and so I missed my connection to SFO in Cleveland. I had to hop a flight to Los Angeles on standby and Continental booked me a flight from L.A. to San Francisco on Alaska Airlines. All should have been peachy keen.

Of course, I found out as soon as I arrived that LAX is hands down the WORST airport I've ever been to. The terminals there aren't connected at all. They've just got separate buildings for separate airlines. If you, for instance, arrive on a Continental flight and are leaving on Alaskan in 45 minutes, you have to go outside security, find a different terminal on the other side of a parking garage and a bunch of construction, get your boarding pass in the regular chek-in line, go back through security, and find your gate.

"Oh, that's an Alaskan flight, it's in Terminal 3. Or is it 2? No, it's 3, you just have to go across the parking lot."

"You mean, outside? Past security?"

*Withering L.A. stare.* "Yeah, outside. Just go across the parking lot."

Right.

Of course, it turns out that my Alaskan flight is actually operated by American Airlines, in Terminal 4. (My parents found this out online and called to tell me as I was trudging across a parking lot to Terminal 3.) This is a problem because I'm travelling with my bunny.

Continental Airlines is the only major airline to allow rabbits in the cabin, one of the only to allow them at all. I get to the check in counter for American Airlines 20 minutes before my (delayed) flight is supposed to take off, and they won't let me on with the rabbit. American doesn't even allow bunnies in the cargo hold. I guess they're worried they'll get loose and somehow bring down the plane by chewing wires. Forget Snakes on a Plane, it's Bunnies on a Plane.

So Continental Airlines had effectively stranded me in Los Angeles. There were no flights to SFO on any airline that allowed my pet. My father had to fly down to L.A., rent a car, spent the night with me in a hotel, and drive us back up the next day. Oh, and they had lost my bag. It had been "scanned" in Los Angeles, but had then disappeared. They did eventually get it to me about four days later, but at the time we'd had neither hide nor hair of it.

All in all I spent 22 hours in airports and then had to make the 6 hour drive back up to Oakland airport to return the car, then drive home. It was all great fun.

Turns out, too, that I had bronchitis. Fortunately, the doctor could see me on Christmas Eve and I got all kinds of medicines, but it took almost all ten days of antibiotics for me to feel better.

Of course, things are much better now, but it's amazing what that kind of stress can do. I definitely reached a breaking point in Los Angeles and after everything adding up in the last few weeks I didn't want to do anything for about two weeks after I got home. This is unheard of for me. I didn't get bored with staying at home and reading and watching TV until a couple of days ago.

I'm going to try and make the best of my last week in SF. I definitely need to get out of my house. I've managed to put in a couple of shifts at the peep show, which was lovely. It's such a positive atmosphere. I'm looking forward to finishing my thesis rough draft (I'll post some of it here!) and getting back to school. Hopefully it will be a good year.
On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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