Friday, 30 April 2010
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Also he is holding a weapon: a small, manual razor, the blade flashing silver in the fluorescent light. I shiver, though it's not cold. He notices my discomfort and smiles. 'Nervous'? he asks but I know better than to reply. Suddenly the cute little erotic story I have been writing in my mind transforms itself into a slasher movie. I see Carrie in her blood-stained prom dress, I see the shower scene from Psycho. I see that Algerian man from 'Cache', slitting his own throat in front of his childhood friend, the blood spurting out from his neck and onto the kitchen floor. I start to think about that short by Scorsese: 'The Big Shave'. It shows a man cutting himself shaving. Only in this mini horror the blood keeps on pouring. The more he shaves the bloodier it gets until the sink is a crimson pool, the man's face the scene of a massacre.
I imagine him taking the razor and slicing me up into little pieces, my blood splattering all over the pristine white tiles, the bath, the shower curtain, his pale body. What the fuck am I doing here? I barely know this man. Maybe I should have asked myself that question much earlier, before we drank all that wine, before he told me to undress, before he put me over his knee and spanked me till my arse bruised purple, blue, black. 'Relax' he says, but I can't.
I try to rationalise my fears. He wouldn't want to mess up his lovely apartment would he? He wouldn't want the hassle of becoming the owner of a crime scene, wouldn't want to annoy his neighbours with the sound of a woman, screaming? No, he just wants to have a bit of fun, like me. Except I am not having fun right now. I am terrified.
Everything stops. I feel a sudden freezing sensation on my skin below my belly. I flinch and breathe in sharply. Looking down I see I am covered in blue shaving gel. It looks so clinical, like the stuff they put on a pregnant woman before an ultrasound. I sit still as a stone. Then I watch transfixed, as he takes the raxor and slowly starts to shave, scraping off little clumps of pubic hair mingled with the gel. The sensation is not entirely unpleasant. I am in awe: nobody not even me has done this before. His expression is one of complete concentraion. He holds his hand steady as he pulls those flaps of my skin to one side to get to the hardest to reach hairs. when he has finished and rinsed me with the shower I examine the results. I have not been this naked since I was about eleven years old. It is weird: I can't remember actually acquiring pubic hair. It is as if I went to bed one night a child and woke up the next morning a woman. But now I am a child again, no, more like a mannequin. It feels strange, but also horny. 'I am the first to do this to you' he declares, staking his claim. 'You belong to me now'.
Later, in the safety of the darkness, I finally let myself go. He plays with his new toy, licking and prodding it with his tongue, stroking the smooth skin with his fingers. He whispers in my ear as he holds me down, telling me what a beautiful cunt I have. As I lie back, preparing myself for the tsunami that is about to wash over my shores, I cannot help but agree.
When I finally fall asleep I dream of naked flesh, of cold metal cutting through skin. And blood. These days my dreams are always soaked in blood.
Monday, 19 April 2010
I wanted our own acts of love to emulate 'La Cite d'amour'. I thought we should try to embody the sensual beauty of the Parisian streets, grey and green in the sunlight, to become the pink blush of the rose in our glasses, amidst the gaudy neon signs of Pigalle. But I knew we never would. So I was glad to escape from this slight feeling of inadequacy, into the comforting darkness of the cinema, together but separate from my lover.
Sex, Lies and Videotape is a love song to sexual repression. It's a film about the crap we talk to our partner, when we should be discussing our love life. It tells us how sometimes it takes a 'fucked up' individual (James Spader), wanking to videos he has made of women talking, to bring out the lifeblood and sexuality of a lonely woman (Andi McDowell). The film resonated with me so strongly, that I thought I might orgasm out of sheer relief. 'Yes, oh YES!' I wanted to scream, 'That's how I FEEL!'. Instead I just squirmed in my seat.
I must have sensed, even then, that there was something incredibly kinky about the main premise of Sex, Lies and Videotape. But I was so young, my repression so complete, that this feeling was mainly subconscious. It took me a long time for it to fully dawn on me just how horny I find it, the idea of a man videoing women talking about sex. The fact that some of those women masturbate as they do so just adds to the horniness. It is so clinical, so distant, so removed from the actual, carnal act of fucking. And distance, as Lacan and I know, is hot.
But at the time I thought I was simply identifying with another woman's sexual inhibitions. I'd never heard of Andi McDowell the actress-this was before she found fame (or infamy?) in classics such as Groundhog Day and Green Card. To me she was just an uptight woman who couldn't reach orgasm, who could barely finish a ... sentence. I saw myself so clearly in her character. It felt as if she was forgiving me for some unspoken sin I'd committed long ago.
I don't remember what happened after the lights went up. I expect, knowing the 18 year-old me, that I kept quiet about my views on the film, so partially formed they were, so closely they related to my secret, innermost 'self'. We probably went back to our hotel room and had sex, in that awkward, respectful, sorrowful way we used to do. I know one thing for sure. I most certainly didn't come.
Twenty years on, Sex Lies and Videotape remains amongst my favourite films. Now I fully appreciate both its beautifully perverted core and its psychological depth. I'm happy to say I'm no longer that girl who identified so strongly with McDowell's character. As you are aware, dear reader, I'm not scared to talk about sex anymore. And these days when I fuck, I tend to make sure I come, and come hard.
But nobody completely sheds their adolescent skin. I remain repressed in some important and deep-seated ways. I am able to enjoy sexual release, but it's often with men who are practically strangers to me that I feel most free. I still find it difficult to talk about sex and to lose myself in sex with someone I love. So Sex, Lies and Videotape still speaks to me like a friend who knows me intimately, maybe even better than I know myself. I will always love it for that.
It is also recently that I have come to appreciate the real significance of the scene when McDowell takes the camera and turns it on Spader, transforming the male gaze of the film into a female one. If ever we do meet, and the conversation turns to sex, which it most certainly will, I suggest you check all my gadgets first before you open your mouth, to see if I have pressed 'record'.
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Some hipster boys in Parkslopes, Brooklyn, are planning a party. It is springtime in New York City, and they are celebrating the arrival of the cherry blossom, Japanese style. They love the way the delicate pink flowers scatter on the sidewalk like silk confetti. It contrasts with the dark slabs of the brownstone buildings where they live. Actually, they don't really give a fuck about the cherry blossom, but it makes a good enough excuse to get wasted and chase women. One of the hipsters thinks they should hire a 'geisha girl' to serve drinks and greet their guests. It would add some Oriental authenticity to the proceedings. He saw a Geisha porno a while back, and couldn't take his eyes off the beautiful porcelain face, painted exquisitely with make-up, eyes down as she 'served' her master. She was so goddamn ... compliant. So the boys put up an ad on Craigslist, asking for an actress who wants to be a Geisha girl for the evening. They are hoping she will be Asian, but a white chick could probably do the job just as well, if she dressed and acted the part. They offer cash, plus a free photoshoot, sit back with some cold beers and wait for the replies to flood into their in-box.
Part Two: Whore
He rings the little handbell and she silently appears. Her head is bowed but he can see how beautiful her face is, painted like a china doll's. He tells her to kneel and she does. Her hands fall instinctively behind her back. She clasps them together and looks up at him, her crystal eyes shining. He returns her gaze and takes it over, fixing her in his stare. 'I have you' his eyes say. 'You are mine for the taking'. Slowly, he places his hand on her head, gently touching her hair, pushing it to one side. Suddenly he pulls his hand away and she gasps, anticipating what is to come. But he is not going to hit her. Not now. That will come later. In this moment he is satisfied just to stand there,to watch intently as she holds herself still, offering her body for him to do as he pleases. Soon he will take the rope piled on the floor and bind her, Shibari style. The rope will tighten round the silk of her dress, showing the curves of her perfect form. He will notice her nipples, poking through the thin material and he will take one between his thumb and forefinger, pinching it hard. She will gasp again, this time in pain. 'Does it hurt?' he will ask. She will nod slowly. 'But you like it, you little whore-your nipples are like bullets'. Then he will lift up her dress and shove his hand between her legs, roughly pushing them apart to find his quarry. She doesn't wear knickers on these visits, and her juice will already be dripping down from her cunt towards her thighs. 'Good girl' he will say. 'My good little geisha girl'.
Part Three: Wife
I used to be friends with a couple, Josh and Midori. Josh was an academic, something in social science. Midori was Japanese; they had met at university. She worked in Market Research. I was fascinated and a little in awe of Midori. The way she would write her name in Japanese, as if it was a painting not a word. She was so tiny that she had to buy children's clothes, or get them made specially for her. Josh always went on about what a great cook she was: and Midori was a great cook. It was one of the reasons I hung out at their place so much. So when she came to stay with me on her own, I was worried she wouldn't like my food, but she was happy with vegetable curry. She taught me how to add a dash of fresh lemon juice, just before serving, to give it an extra kick. We stayed up late talking, about books and life, suddenly free from the constraints of Josh's domineering presence. Midori asked me about feminism and I told her my stories. When she'd gone I sent her a book: 'Introduction to Feminism'. The next time I saw Josh in the pub he told me he'd taken the book and thrown it across the room, saying 'fuck that'. We laughed but I think he was serious. I haven't seen them in years.
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
I stayed there for three nights and he never once let me pay for anything; not even a cup of coffee, not even a pint of milk. The sex was good, I think I screamed once. I remember he had a film poster in his bathroom. He looked after me. I got the train home and never saw him again.
I recall this vignette, now, as it serves as a backdrop to the realisation I keep on having lately, some kind of epiphany if you like to be dramatic about these things. My realisation is this: sex work is everywhere and we all are involved. That's why when I write about feminism and sex, or feminism and pornography, or feminism and prostitution, it feels personal. I may have not worked as a sex worker, but I have exchanged my body for something: a bed for the night, a drink and a meal, a boost to my ego, a momentary escape from some pain or other.
I am a feminist and always will be. I know women get exploited, trafficked, murdered, in the 'sex industry'. But women get murdered by their partners too, and nobody talks about 'marriage' or 'love' as if it was a dirty word. I don't have a burning ambition to work in a lap-dancing club, I am wary of the concept, suggested by the sociologist Catherine Hakim, of the profitablity and power of 'erotic capital'. We can't all be Madonna or Belle de Jour.
But when I talk about sex work I include myself in the picture. And I include you too. If we don't talk about it as participants, then we are 'othering' the women who overtly exchange sex for money. We are still thinking of them as whores. Whores who need rescuing (Pretty Woman style), maybe, but whores all the same. I prefer to think of sex workers as people. I feel ashamed that I haven't always thought this way.
Thursday, 8 April 2010
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
I'm losing my edge.
The suits are coming up from behind.
I'm losing my edge to the suits and the non-doms.
But I was there.
I was there in 1979
I was there when Thatcher was still 'the milk snatcher'.
I'm losing my edge.
I'm losing my edge to the geeks with the i-phones whose footsteps I can hear
when they walk into starbucks.
I'm losing my edge to the internet seekers who have 4,000 songs on their i-pods
the hipsters who wear suits for their day jobs
I'm losing my edge.
To all the kids who can't remember John Major: with his underpants outside his trousers.
I was there in 1992 when he was superman.
I'm losing my edge.
But I was there in 1983 when Michael Foot preached socialism,
and some of the kids still listened.
I was there in 1986 when Red Wedge played Birmingham Odeon.
Billy Bragg and The Communards, paying tribute to El Lissitsky.
I was the kid with the back-combed hair and the CND badge,
singing along to My Ever Changing Moods with The Style Council.
I was there in 1987 when Kinnock fucked it up
By kicking out Militant and LPYS, the socialists, the cool kids and me.
But I was there.
I've never been wrong.
I used to march on Whitehall,
I remember Bruce Kent and Tony Benn.
I taped General Public's benefit for the miners at Birmingham University
I went to Glastonbury before anyone. I saw Ian Dury and the Blockheads there.
I woke up with a hangover in Sheffield in 1997 .
Blair was staring with his wild eyes and grinning: 'Things Can Only Get Better'.
But I'm losing my edge to richer, better-groomed people with no ideas and no talent.
They tell me they are really, really nice.
But I don't believe them.
I remember the Falklands. I remember the Gulf War. I remember Afghanistan and Iraq.
I've never been wrong.
I'm losing my edge.
And I was there in 2001 when I gave up on politics and turned to music instead.
Suddenly I was hanging out with the the cool kids.
I listened to Original Pirate Material in my bedsit in Meersbrook.
I argued with my friends about'Stories from the city, stories from the sea'.
I said it could never be better than Rid of Me. I've never been wrong.
I saw Pulp's farewell gig at Magna in Rotherham.
Jarvis was God for one night only and we all missed the tram home.
I saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at Brixton Academy,
I saw Low and The Dears and Ambulance Ltd. I thought I was in New York.
But I'm losing my edge.
I hear that you and your crew have sold your decks and bought i-pods
I hear that you and your crew have sold your i-pods and bought decks
I hear that everybody you know is more powerful than everybody I know.
But I'm losing my edge.
The suits are coming up from behind.
It's 2010 and I don't know what's hip anymore.
When I was a kid I knew the words to The Internationale.
Now the kids quote Justin Beiber as if he was Gramsci.
I still have The Pixies, Bonny Prince Billy, Gillian Welch, New Young Pony Club, Le Tigre,
L7, I still have Blondie and LCD Soundsystem, The Beat, Hot Chip, Lambchop, Jens Leckman.
It's 2010 I'm not going to vote.
The hipsters in suits have got blood on their hands.
You don't know what you really want.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
Friday, 2 April 2010
'Crush' is the perfect word for what it describes. It's not quite onomatopeia-but its sound is evocative of the feeling: the way your insides turn to mush and start swishing around, making it difficult to stand straight. Also in the word 'crush' lies the clue to the inevitable outcome: your hopes will be crushed; the story won't have a happy ending. But it can suggest something more optimistic: a sunny afternoon, daydreaming, youth: raspberry crush.
Crushes on people you know and have to face in your daily life are horrendous; the potential for embarrassment and pain is too great. After pursuing a number of these, long after I lost the excuse of adolescent naiivety, I can honestly say I hope I never have another one again. My preferred forms of crush are on popstars, actors, even fictional characters. They possess an unreal quality, distant, unobtainable, working their magic up on the screen or stage.
Jarvis Cocker, John Cusack, Martin Donovan, 'Mike' from My Own Private Idaho. I'm not so deluded to think these beauties will return my feelings. I love them all the more for that.
Being the type of person that has to excavate everything she experiences, I have uncovered some interesting analyses of 'the crush'. Lacan seems to get to the nub of it when he says that
'the first object of desire is to be recognized by the other. (Lacan, 1977 , p. 58)' According to psychoanalysis, desire is subconscious, and is actually quite simply our need to be known (and loved). So it is kind of irrelevant whether I am lusting after Warren Chapman, Vincent Cassell or Chloe Sevigny. What I am really doing is looking for recognition of my own self, my worth, my place in this world. 'I am human and I need to be loved'. Morrissey got it.
Lacan tells us that desire is always to do with what we lack, or feel we lack. You can't desire what you already have. This I find a little bit cruel, because it goes some way to explaining why actual relationships are so difficult. I'm an expert at mooning over a half-formed figure in my mind. Faced with the flesh and blood reality of someone who loves me and knows me, and wants me to love them and know them too I buckle under the pressure. I also, sometimes, lose my mojo in truly intimate relationships. I find it a regretful irony that my ex and I probably spent more time discussing Lacanian 'desir', than we did actually fucking. I often need distance, mystery, lack, to get my juices flowing. 'I want the one I can't have, and it's driving me mad' . Morrissey got that too.
Enter The Internet, stage left. Online communities are the perfect breeding-ground for the postmodern crush. Everything I learned so carefully, from Warren, from Lacan, from my own self-analysis, I managed to forget when I first ventured into the labrynth. Virtual reality gives us that perfect heady mix of the unknown and the tantalisingly available, the distant and the intimate, the real and the imaginary. I think I have a crush on The Internet itself. One of the reasons my desires are so fuelled by online communication is that I am a lover of words. And when it's just you and someone else, typing away in your private worlds, the words take over. There's no distraction from a noisy bar, an unexpected facial expression, or someone's bad choice of jumper that day. And if the words are good then that's it, I'm a goner.
I've met a few of my internet crushes, and inevitably have felt disappointed. Not necessarily by the individuals themselves, but by the depressing mismatch between my colourful imagination and the greyer reality. These days though, my appreciation of electronic desire is a little more sophisticated. Most of us realise we are playing, exploring the creative potential of virtual reality. And I still find it quite a beautiful thing when I stumble across a fellow 'explorer' on the internet. Someone who will share their words with me, offer a sexily fragmented, hazy, unreachable image of themselves. Let me get to work with my romantic, inaccurate, inventive imagination. I've got a bit of a crush on one of them at the moment as it happens. I wonder whether I should ask him back for coffee. I'm the one holding the keyboard so I call the shots. In this mini-super 8, he definitely says 'yes'.