Monday, November 12, 2012

An Exercise in Divergence

Hello, my cobwebby corner of the internet. I'm going to do something today that I have not done yet on this blog. I'm just going to write some stuff. I know, what?! But really, I think the format that I've set up here is part of why this space goes neglected so often. I only come here once I have a pre-formed topic that I've deemed important enough to write on; it daunts me out of writing smaller, less focused posts for fear that the "quality" of the blog would decrease. Which is totally counterintuitive because nothing is worse than NOTHING. Is it the worst thing in the world if my posts are less heavily focused on Aesthetisexuality and related concepts? No, and even so, I think any rambling I produce could be related back to these concepts, because I tend to filter my experience through these lenses involuntarily. Okay, justification over.

No, wait; part of the reason for this shift is that I semi-officially left my LiveJournal of ten years a few months ago. It was weighing on me in a way that became unproductive. And yet, without that kind of outlet, things have been getting extra cluttered in my brain. And what with starting at CalArts and trying to engage in new kinds of writing, I really do need a regular, personal, semi-public system of textual expression. What do you call that? Oh yeah, a blog. One of these.

I think another factor in my neglect is Tenebrae quitting Sanctuary. I wrote the majority of these posts sitting up in the DJ booth for hours at a time; it was my BDSM study hall. Maybe I should start frequenting other fetish clubs with a laptop, to stake out a spot and write. Coffee shops are overrated. I'm only like 30% joking. This could be a step in accruing my cult following.


The Halloween season has come and gone, and it was an unusual one. I feel unable to move on from it, mostly because I didn't take enough pictures to devote a Facebook album to it. My gods, I wish I was joking about that. Without making some kind of public display or analysis of the events, I can't move on with my life. So I guess this is that. It was an unusual Halloween because throughout October, I was performing with the Sideshow Sirens. I was extremely hesitant to agree to the gigs because of how important it is to me to have free time for Halloweeny stuff in October. So, I only performed about a third of the gigs and did not work on Halloween night. Most people in the troupe were working four days a week all month. By the end, everyone was losing it to a certain extent. But everyone really earned their breakdowns, if that makes sense.

I don't want to go into detail about my experience with the show, but it did force me to think a lot about my relationship to performance in general, what does and does not work for me, what is and isn't fulfilling. In that way, it was a very useful experience and I don't regret it; on the other hand, there is no way I would do a run like this again. I want bigger and better things for the troupe, but I do not want them for myself; this could be a fork in the road.

Something I noticed about the dread and anxiety that I feel around performing is that it is not really related to "stage fright." That is to say, I am no more nervous in the moment before going on stage than I was earlier that day. The problem isn't about being on display in front of gawking humans. The obligations, interactions, heightened alertness, attempts at extroversion, the certain kind of on-ness that surrounds theatrical involvement just absolutely drains me. To a certain extent I think it must drain everyone, even the people who crave that lifestyle and thrive on it; but I think I don't get enough back from it to justify it emotionally.

Anyway, that's enough on that for now. Because of the flurry of sideshow stuff, I didn't really plan a Halloween costume. (See, even though I only performed about a third of the gigs, the involvement took up so much space emotionally that I felt like it consumed October.) I mostly-successfully rationalized myself out of being depressed over my lack of costume. Before Hex on Halloween night I did start to get depressed, but decided to say fuck it and carve a pumpkin while Tenebrae sewed his epic Lost Boys jacket. I am no expert with pumpkin carving (though I am an expert pumpkin pie baker), so in an effort to do something uncomplicated I carved the Bauhaus face-logo. It was pretty great. Then, just hours before the event, we realized that not only do I have fangs and a ton of club-chic attire, but I also have a blonde wig. Thus, I was Pam from True Blood. It was probably the most successful literal-last-minute costume I've ever done.

It was a strange Halloween. And with this post, I can put it to rest, because that's how my brain works. And with that, I'll be going to class soon. I've been writing this in the computer lab at school; it's no fetish club, but it'll do.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Vesta Versus

Name changes are awkward. For the past two years, I've been slowly, gradually, awkwardly gravitating toward switching over to Vesta. If you haven't known me long, then maybe that's the only name you know me by, and that's awesome; about six months ago, it finally started to click. I have not been too terribly insistent, but that's just because I'm not an insistent person. In fact, I'm not an insistent person to such an extreme that it can be to my detriment. Then it occurred to me recently, I've explained my reasons and my desires to a few inquisitive individuals, but I haven't given any publicly accessible explanations. And doing exactly that is a huge chunk of the POINT of being a writer with a blog. So, that's happening now.

I've known dozens of Saras. I've been tired of being one of them for many years. But why Vesta? I've known since I was fourteen and learning about mythology in Latin class that if I ever had the balls to change my name, it would be to Vesta. The first and foremost reason is pure aesthetics. It sounds good, it looks good, and the sound of the syllables doesn't differ drastically from my real name. V has always been the most appealing letter to me (and that's why I think it's awesome that Todd simply calls me V). Vanity Vagina Vivisection Virgin Vixen Vivacious Verbs! Aside from the pure aesthetics, I've found a lot of meaning in the linguistic and mythological meaning of Vesta, and they may not be quite what you'd expect. Yeah, yeah, vestal virgins, goddess of the hearth, that's all great but it's not what interests me. The root of the name is the same as vest, vestment, and, yes, transvestite. The connection between clothing and the hearth is warmth and protection. Fire and flocks of virgins aside, when I apply the name less to Roman mythology and more to myself, I see the "vest-" root as referencing clothing, your woven self, your outer self. And that's very much what the name is to me; I put it on like I put on clothing, like I wear my identity, but that doesn't make it any less genuine or legitimate. And to drive the comparison further, I'm not afraid of being nude much like I'm not trying to deny that my real name exists. It just has less personal meaning, and is less creatively charged.

The very first time I used Vesta publicly was two years ago, when I modeled for Von Gutenberg, which I wrote about here. I really needed something like that to come along and push me toward making that choice. Modeling with a pseudonym seemed less drastic and less pretentious than randomly telling my friends to call me by a new name; but partially for that very reason, it didn't get used much after that, except on facebook.

One year ago, I joined the Sideshow Sirens, for which everyone has stage names. I, of course, used Vesta, and that allowed me to start throwing it around more frequently and publicly. But it was still hard to say, hey, this may not be just a stage name. But as we develop the show further, and the characters become more concrete and less you-but-doing-a-stunt (plus a ton of other troupe variables), I may have to take Vesta back. Because that's me, not just a sideshow persona.

Last Halloween, I gogo danced at the Grimm Fairytale Ball, and requested to be referred to only as Vesta in the promotions. I think that may have prompted the transition to using it more in regular life. Clearly, each of these steps was related to public performance. It's not that I ever wanted a separate performance persona, it's just that it's a much easier and widespread way to declare a new name. But let's be honest, performing (in whatever capacity) is something that I enjoy pursuing to a certain extent, but it's not something that I do a whole lot of. It's not the center of my life, and I don't really want it to be. The point being, I can't rely solely on that to perpetuate Vesta for me; it's something I have to call attention to in private, with individuals, if I really want this to happen. And a handful of people made the switch instantaneously, which frankly shocked me, in a good way. I really appreciate that.

The biggest snag I've run into in this transitional period is my own awkwardness. In group situations where new people are involved, and some friends call me by each name, or if they all still call me Sara, but I don't want to meet any new people under that name, I will actively avoid introducing myself. This is bad. It's the opposite of the empowering effect that Vesta is supposed to have. The problem is that I worry that I will appear pretentious to the old friends, and it will be confusing to the new people, if I tell them a name that no one else calls me. So I let the awkwardness reign, which I need to not do anymore. This is my resolution to stop that.

I do believe that I am my biggest obstacle. It is beautifully clear that my friends respect me and my desires, and that most of the hangups are mine. Aside from the people who instantly and seamlessly made the switch, the most widespread response I've gotten is a variation of, "If that's what you want, I'll do it. But I can't promise to succeed at first. Is this actually what you want?" To which I've given some wishy washy replies of, "Yeah, it's what I want, but not if it feels too weird to you. It's a weird thing." I've had several friends insist that I be more insistent. I appreciate that. It means that you are looking out not only for my desires, but pushing me past my own shortcomings. Overall, this will be positive.

There are some arenas in which I need advice from people who don't use their given name socially, of which I know many. One is when introducing myself to someone who will be handling my credit card or ID, or if my full name is going to appear on a list (like a class list or a guest list). If I were someone else giving me advice, I would say, just tell them what you want. You're probably not the first person to go by something other than their given name, and you won't be the last. It's not as awkward as you think it is. But I over think it so much, that my given name becomes the "easy" way out. But it also leaves me feeling like I let myself down.

The experience of introducing myself to strangers with an "unconventional" name has been pretty eye-opening. Having grown up with one of the most common names out there, it always registers as exactly what it is to strangers' ears, even in loud clubs and chaotic situations, because the name Sara is so culturally ingrained. Everybody knew a few before they met me. Nobody got confused, asked about it, or asked me to repeat it. And this has been my entire life. It has really been catching me off guard when people now ask me to repeat myself, spell it, and then have something to say about it. Some variations I've gotten have been Vessa, Veska (which actually sounds pretty cool), and Vanessa. It's just so strange to think that this has been the way of the world for people with unusual given names, basically since they could talk. The experience is just so different. It's not negative, but it's taking adjustment.

I want to thank everyone who has been so accommodating, and to thank those who are about to embark upon the transition. Vesta signing out.

Further evidence of the reign of V's: Vicious Victorian Vampire Villain Vaudeville!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Sort-of-Straight Girl Walks into a Gay Bar...

When I was 18, I was kicked out of Fiesta Cantina. Because I was 18, duh. Six years later (in other words last week) I went back for the first time. Despite living not terribly far from West Hollywood, I never really go out there; maybe because I had more than my fill of gay bars when I lived in San Francisco and had a gay fake-boyfriend.

 Long story short, Emma and I ended up at Fiesta Cantina and got way too drunk. Somewhere in there, she went to the bathroom, and as I was holding down the fort, two women came up and asked if that seat was taken. I said yes, she's in the bathroom. They asked if they could stand by the table (it was crowded), and I said of course. The one who was doing most of the talking then asked if I was gay. It had been so long since a stranger asked my sexual orientation! This used to happen all the time in SF. Searching my drunk brain for what I had once upon a time learned to say in these situations, I hesitated, ready for the awkward ambiguity that was about to ensue, and said, "Not really, no." To which she said, "Not really? What does that mean? Are you into girls?"
"Generally, no. I do have a boyfriend."
"So you're straight!" She said in a jovial sort of I've-found-you-out tone.
"Well, technically yes, but I don't really relate to being straight. I don't like the men that straight women are expected to like."
"Would you have sex with a woman?
"Um, I don't know. Maybe. But maybe not. It's too hypothetical to be relevant."
She laughs at me.
"Let me put it this way. I like men who look like women. I like men for the qualities that they share with me, not the ones that make them different. That's why I don't identify with being attracted to the 'opposite' sex, even though I technically am." I was proud for putting it so concisely, but a little annoyed that I hadn't thought to say that in the first place.
"Whoa." She is visibly bewildered. " don't like women?"
"In general, no."
"But you like men that look like women."
"Yes. I like androgyny and ambiguity. I'm a heterosexual narcissist. I see I've confused you, so do you see why I have a hard time just saying I'm straight? Do you know how weird it can be to be a straight woman attracted to men who look like me?"
"Whoa." She says again. "Interesting. What about your friend, is she gay?"
"No, she's straighter than me. Like, actually straight."

 It's weird for me to have such personal conversations with strangers, when I'm generally uncomfortable talking to strangers in the first place. But this made me realize that so much of how I learned to articulate how I see my own sexual orientation, and to define aesthetisexuality, came from lesbians at bars asking me if I was gay. And I had to learn to explain myself in a way that didn't mislead them or misrepresent me, because a simple yes or no never worked. It hadn't happened in a long time, and while it is really out of character for me to explain my perspective in such detail to a stranger, it was like a reminder of how I came to be me as I know me now. It was like a brain exercise to keep these thoughts fresh, relevant, and available for discussion. And when drunken bar outings double as brain exercises, I know I'm doing something right.

 But what was even more astounding was her visible, unabashed bewilderment. She really could not comprehend what I was telling her. That was fascinating to me, and probably a good, useful experience for both of us. I tend to have this assumption that gay people are better acquainted with sexual ambiguity, gray areas, and unconventional gender aesthetics. But then I am sometimes reminded that some gay people can see the world just as black and white as sheltered straight people; they're just immersed in the gay side of it. I think I may have opened something up in her brain, and for that I'm proud.

When I went out to events alone in SF, women would often ask me if I was gay. What this often translated to, I realized, was "can I proceed with hitting on you?" Though sometimes it may have been more of an "are you in the club?" type question. I actually always found it really admirable as a preface to flirting. It can seem blunt and awkward, but it's blunt in a way that is very respectful to both parties, I think. Part of the reason I can't stand being hit on by the average dude (aside from the fact that I generally can't stand the average dude) is that they appear have some reason to think that I should be into them, when they don't. This is most likely just the psuedo-confidence that men have been told they've needed since puberty. But if a guy asked, "are you straight?" before proceeding with the regular dude-ness, I would have immense respect for him. Even if I was absolutely uninterested in him in a romantic way, I would probably continue talking to him, because there'd probably be interesting things in the brain of a person who would say that. Then again, I bet a lot of straight women would be offended by that question, but then again, those women are probably lame.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What's Your Anti-Fetish?

I had a minor revelation today at Elyse's place. I have anti-fetishes.

I'm going to define fetish (in the sexual/BDSM sense) as something not inherently sexual that gets fixated on in a sexual way. Pretty straight forward, right? Well, most people that are friends with me have been made aware that I have EXTREME aversions to certain mundane things when associated with sex. I get passionately angry and repulsed when they get brought up. In theory, it's the flipside of the same passion that drives fetishes. And for someone that spends a lot (a LOT) of time at BDSM clubs, I'm not a steadfastly fetishy person; I'm open to most things and intrigued by a lot of things, but in terms of passionate conviction, that mostly falls to the negative. I'm not sure what that says about me. In case you have somehow managed to know me in any capacity and not had your ear ranted off about these things, they are as follows:

1) Nudity with socks. And underwear with socks, unless you happen to be Brad Majors, in which case the terrible awkwardness of it is integral to your character. I get so angry about this one, and it comes up often enough that I'm actually sick of discussing it. It truly blows my mind that it actually comes up as much as it does, and that not everyone else is repulsed by it as a default state of being. 99% of the time, it is men who are guilty of socks and nudity, both in movies and TV and apparently in real life, judging by the conversations I've had. TAKE A FUCKING LOOK AT YOURSELF. It is not attractive. Intellectually, I think my problem is that it confirms that men do not need to be sexy, that sexy is a role for women. But sexual politics aside, it just looks fucking stupid no matter who it is. I don't care if you're cold; have sex with boots on. Now that's a fetish I am on board with!

During these conversations, people tend to inquire about my thoughts on knee socks. I feel that knee socks are fine, because there is more aesthetic intention behind them. They fall closer to the category of thigh high stockings, which is clearly hot. I've also been asked about men with sock garters; on one hand, I think it's more acceptable because there is aesthetic intention behind it. One of–

Okay, interruption. I'm writing this in the DJ booth at Sanctuary, as usual. So, I'm ranting about socks, and WHAT THE FUCK DO I SEE ON STAGE? A man in his underwear with socks, and he is most certainly not Brad Majors. He has on rather nice black and red striped boxer briefs and WHITE FUCKING TUBE SOCKS. He's cuffed to a spanking bench with his ass an SOCKS facing toward us; he's not an unattractive guy otherwise, I think. But sir, you are what is wrong with the world. I don't care if you're a sub; have some goddamned aesthetic dignity.

Ehem. As I was saying, one of the reasons I am so offended by socks being left on is that it represents extreme obliviousness. Sock garters contradict that, and that's the thing I appreciate about them. Other than that, I still think they look very silly and unsexy, but so do lots of other things. It's not morally offensive in the same way.

2) Food on skin. Food during sex. Ugh, the very idea of it gives me the gibblies. Whipped cream on the body is probably the most mainstream variation of this, and I find even that utterly repulsive. What's worse is honey, just due to texture. Even if I open a bottle of honey and get a little on my hand, it upsets me a little. Body chocolate, edible underwear-even edible substances that are made to be put on the body disturb me. Come to think of it, I even hate the term "eating out" (not that "cunniligus" is any better). And just to be clear, I don't have "food issues" when it comes to actually eating. I'm not thin because I have food hangups; I'm thin due to a combination of a relatively fast metabolism and healthy cooking. I LOVE FOOD. Making it, thinking about it, weird food, new food, cooking food, unnecessarily fancy restaurants, I even love food shopping. I just don't want any of it touching me unless utterly necessary to its preparation and consumption.

Yet, the whole idea of sushi served on a nude person doesn't really bother me at all. In fact, I would probably be willing to be that person. I have always referred to sushi as the "cleanest" of foods, and that probably had something to do with it. I guess it should be incongruent because it's DEAD FLESH on skin, but frankly that doesn't bother me. It's not sticky, and I think my main problem is sticky food-based textures. Fruit on skin is not terribly offensive either, mostly because it's not cooked. But it is a little sticky, and just because I'm not vehemently offended by it doesn't mean I want it on MY skin.

3) This is less of a sex-related thing and more of a fashion thing, but I think it still falls into this category due to the OUTRAGE it produces: Hanging, flailing, unclipped garters. In fact, it is more than just a fashion faux-pas because it is always bound up with the intention of being sexy. I've seen this a lot: people at Rocky, people at Sanctuary, strippers, a pole dancing instructor I had (yeah, I've been doing that). It clearly doesn't offend everyone like it offends me, and that really blows my mind. I must mention that the woman who was flogging the SOCK MAN on stage tonight had a corset with attached garters, and yet she was wearing pantyhose; BUT she found a way to clip them down to the stockings so that they weren't flailing all over the place. And I appreciate that. See, it's not about their utilitarian purpose; just because they're not serving their purpose and holding up thigh high stockings doesn't make them automatically offensive. It's not ideal, but it's not terrible. The image of loose garter evokes a similar feeling of obliviousness as socks, except that if you're wearing a corset or underwear that has garters attached, you clearly have some intention of putting together an aesthetically appealing look (unlike sock-leaver-on-ers). You just didn't see it through, and the whole thing is lost. It looks unfinished, and not in an interesting way.

I also really, really hate open toed shoes with stockings. I feel this should be common sense, but clearly isn't. I don't think this falls into the category of anti-fetish, because if I catalogue every aesthetic circumstance that doesn't sit well with me, I'll be typing for days. Personally, I avoid open toed shoes under any circumstance. But that's me.

In conclusion, my anti-drug is the anti-fetish. And a ton of wine.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Priming the Canvas

Body as canvas is old news here. It is the way of my world.

With that established, I really, really want laser hair removal. I have for a long time, but the money it takes is astronomical. Not only that, but the technology seems suspiciously new to me. I figured that if I wait a few years, the price would go down and the efficiency would go up. Well, it has been a few years, and I still find myself saying this. But I found a deal recently that covers a year's worth of sessions on FOUR areas for under $300. And the place isn't even in the boonies. Nevermind the fact that I don't have $300 to shell out up front (that's how these deals work)- it's time to think about this seriously.

Here we go with what could be considered TMI, but then again, that's part of the point of this blog: there isn't really such thing as TMI here. The only reason I really want laser hair removal is for the crotchal region. I used to get bikini waxes somewhat regularly, but I get too frustrated with the need to let it grow back in order to be waxed again. I don't even care about the pain or the so-called awkwardness of having it done. I just hate the limbo period. HATE. And it sneakily sucks up a bunch of money that could, quite frankly, go into laser hair removal later. So I've been shaving like a normal person lately, and my skin isn't reacting as badly as it used to. But I hate it, I hate how fleeting the effect is, how not-quite-100-perfect it is, the time it takes, etc. Basically I hate being a mammal, but then again, being a reptile would probably be worse.

The worst thing about shaving for me is not the actual act, not the time or energy or anything like that. It's the planning. The thinking about how my body relates to my social life, sex life, the relationship of free will to self-confidence. Let's take a second to let that really sink in: pubic hair directly effects my sense of free will. I don't think I'm particularly unusual in this aspect, I just make these things sound disproportionately serious when I discuss them. But, in all disproportionate seriousness, I live a social life that finds me in lingerie in public a lot, especially considering that "swimsuit season" hasn't a damn thing to do with it. The option of not needing to cover myself, even if I don't always act on it, is something that makes me happy.

I feel the need to mention that the fact that I have been in a monogamous relationship for over three years is irrelevant. I am not the kind of person who stops caring about these things because they no longer have to "make an impression" or whatever. I believe that people who stop caring about their appearances when they get into a comfortable relationship never cared in the first place. That is to say, they never cared for their own benefit, only to impress another person. It would be an obscene lie to say that I don't care what other people think, but I care only in addition to satisfying my own sense of self. I am people too. I am both subject and object and all that kind of thing.

The end goal of laser hair removal is to NOT HAVE TO THINK about this stupid minutia in great detail anymore. It is a waste of my gargantuan brain powers, but at this point, a necessity to my psychological wellbeing.

Then there's the part that is probably better not discussed publicly on the internet, but I'm going to disregard that bit of so-called better judgement. The most important question: bikini line or brazilian? With the deal in question, the price isn't effected. I am inclined to say brazilian because, uh, that's how I do. But the permanence of it is...well, permanent. Which is fine and frankly awesome, but there is the issue of speaking for Future Self. I do find it hard to believe that I would really prefer to have full pubes, but that doesn't mean it's out of the question for Future Self. Or what if I wanted to be able to grow it out for an art piece? (Yes, this is a serious consideration.) Also, not doing the full brazilian would not necessarily effect the lingerie-in-puplic aspect of my life. What's left could be managed in a leisurely and not overthought manner, like a normal person. But it'd be so awesome not to have to manage anything at all. Just putting it out there. So to speak.

What I really want to know is: is this a good idea? Is the technology effective? With super pale skin and dark hair, I am the perfect candidate, but I have this fear that they will somehow ruin my skin with evil space lasers. Or something to that effect.

On the subject of body as canvas, I've had an order of operations set in my mind for a while. It is as follows: even though the thought of getting a new tattoo is really exciting (and oh, there are plans), I'm not allowed to do it until I get my Oscar Wilde tattoo fixed (Twenty-Year-Old-Self made an impulsive decision when settling on a tattoo artist). But before I do any of that, I want laser hair removal. When it comes to pricy permanent investments in my body, cleaning the slate should come before drawing on it.

In case I haven't told the whole internet yet, I got into CalArts graduate writing program! All the more reason to free up some brainspace from this maintenance of this rigorous shaving schedule.

For a look into my feelings on gender expression and feminism in relation to body hair, see here if you haven't already.