Friday, March 21, 2014

The Mutant Anti-Mammal

Gotta love Vice. I love articles like this even (and sometimes especially) when they contradict my own preferences.

It is true that hair removal (for anyone) is neither natural nor logical. But you know what else? There's nothing wrong with that, as long as everyone can be clear about it. It's okay that I'm not so down with being a mammal all the time, and maybe don't want other mammals, because mutants are hot. I appreciate that this author refers to hair removal as producing a mutant state, because technically that's kind of correct. That's a beautiful perspective. And if you find being called a mutant or attracted to mutants objectionable, perhaps you should seek the hairy life. It's all about framing.

I may "fetishize" hairless men in the same way that this author "fetishizes" hairy women. (Air-quoting because I'm always skeptical of the use of this word when simply describing a sexual attraction to how a person lives in their body.) I say that it's the same because it highlights unconventional choice. It takes courage to be a hairy woman, whereas it takes quite literally nothing–like actually a gaping, disturbing absence of anything–to be a hairy man. In this case I'm talking body hair, because men's facial hair grooming is sometimes a whole other thing. Even though I'm not into it, I can appreciate it at times.

I respect my hairy lady friends greatly for this reason. And people who do not find it attractive need to dish out the respect, too. Because when you take the time to think about it, it's pretty disturbing that we want to look out into the world see a parade of people who suit our individual taste. Being on a blind date is one thing, but when it's just people in the world? What is that? Don't answer that, actually. Just stop doing it.

Wax, razors, lasers, I've done all of it. That's right, LASERS AROUND MY VAGINA. That's INSANE, right? It totally is. And I'm so pleased with it. Not only with the result, but with the actual insanity of it, that the future is here and that's how I'm experiencing it. Like tattoos or hair dye, it is a body modification. It just happens to be a matter of subtraction rather than addition.

I think that accepting the insanity of hair removal is beneficial to everyone, whether you revel in it or reject it. Even though it is my preferred aesthetic, I suspect that many individual women will benefit from rejecting it. So many may only do it because after a lifetime of magazine brainwashing and unthinking boyfriends, they may not know how not to. I have in moments of crisis wondered if I too am merely a victim of cultural brainwashing, but I know that my choices are my own. I know this because if I had a male body, I would make all of the same ones (and I'd be so hot, ohman). It is a labor intensive timesuck and walletdrain. That's why it's so important to be sure that you are really the one who wants it.

Ladies, gents, etc., do not take your choices for granted, whatever they are. There is no right, and the only wrong is thinking that there is.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thesis Pieces

I've been severely neglecting this blog. However! Did you know it's for a super awesome reason? That reason is that I'm working on a book that deals with these subjects in a much more distilled, almost prose-poem style. When I say "book," what I really mean is that it's my MFA thesis project, the goal of which is to be a publishable creative work after graduating. I'm trying to train myself to say "book" rather than "thesis" in most cases simply because it sounds so much more legit.

When explaining it, I classify it as a memoir, sort of, though it is not all about me and my cute little life. Many parts dwell in histories that I did not live (nineteenth century dandyism and 70s glam & goth), and others dissect the impact that individual words have on our perception of gender and aesthetics. It feels super slow going, but it's also pretty exhilarating to see a cohesive project coming together. This is a first for me.

Also a first for me: I never publicly share things I'm working on, especially in draft form. But I want to share one of the pieces that IS about me and my cute little life, because I had wanted to make a post to the same effect, but never did. The following is super drafty, and will probably be different in a couple months, but this is a blog, in theory that shouldn't matter.


In Which I Become Clip Art

Living the dream: in 2013 I became an internet meme. It began with a club photo. On the patio at the Dragonfly, I stand beside one of my posing and gesticulating friends, giving the photographer dagger eyes over a glass of whiskey, as if only noticing him in passing. By the time the meme happened, the photo was already about two years old and another hair color ago.

In my new life as clip art, I leave the Dragonfly and travel to the Taj Mahal, to space, to the pyramids, to a Syrian warzone, to ComicCon, all with the block-letter caption: VESTA IS NOT IMPRESSED.

I had a moment of worry that strangers on the internet would come to view me as some gother-than-thou douche-bag (such are the concerns of our day and age), until I recalled a fleeting passage in Baudelaire’s essay The Dandy. It was one of very few lines that previously had not resonated with me: “It is the delight in causing astonishment, and the proud satisfaction of never oneself being astonished.” According to Baudelaire, this aura of indifference, disdain, of being thoroughly and consistently unimpressed may be a cultivated affect of my dandy persona.

In my regular human life, I emote unconsciously yet obsessively. To act effusively polite and engaged is exhausting–especially in a corset–and the merits of honest disinterest are one of few points on which Baudelaire and Robinson* might agree. For this reason I have come to accept the teachings of my clip art self.

*Mary Robinson was an 18th century feminist who meant well but said some pretty shitty things about femme men, and she shows up toward the beginning of the book.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Girls Only: The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor Is Not for Queens

Last night, Tenebrae and I went to Queen Mary Dark Harbor with two friends, to welcome the beginning of the Halloween season. I am here to warn you against making the same mistake. 

Because this isn't a Yelp review, I'm not going to waste your time and mine by detailing each little problem, starting with the parking attendants, to the lines before you even enter, to the extremely low maze quality, it just goes on and on and none of it is worth the effort to dwell upon. What I will dwell upon are the things that are somewhat relevant to this blog.

On their website, it says that they don't allow patrons to wear costumes (except on a couple of designated nights), which makes some sense, I guess. So when you're in the highly problematic line to get in, there's someone whose job it seems to be to make sure that no one is in costume. She stopped Tenebrae, asking, "Is that white makeup?" Knowing what she's getting at, he says, "I'm pale, it's regular makeup." When she starts to bring up the costume thing, I jump in with all my might: "We look like this everyday. We know your rules on costumes and these are not costumes. EVERY DAY. All the time. Okay?" She backed off and I was super proud for standing up for us.

Because the thing is, his makeup was not that different from mine. It was a little paler, and he had reddish eyeshadow that looked a bit ghoulish. But I am so goddamn sure that if a woman had that makeup on, the attendant wouldn't have said anything. The logic here is that if a man has makeup on, it must be a costume. That is why I took up verbal arms.

On a similar subject, there was a little dance area in the county-fair-esque carnival occupying the space in front of the Queen Mary. They were playing crappy dubstep so that people would dance on a little circular stage, which they did, but then there was a tiny pedestal stage off to the side with a cage covering. On the cage was a crappily scribbled sign that read "GIRLS ONLY" stuck on with electrical tape.

My first reaction, predictably, was anger. In the cage-stage at that moment was a ghoulishly dressed employee. Now, if the sign had said "EMPLOYEES ONLY" and they made the choice to put up only women, I'm sure I wouldn't have had the energy to care. But this particular sign, in all it's hand-written-possibly-by-a-four-year-old glory, opens up a bit of a mystery. The only reason that I suspect it was put up by an employee and not a patron was the electrical tape. Because who carries electrical tape? (Well, sometimes I do when I wear it as pasties, but I doubt there was a whole lot of that going on at Dark Harbor.) So, even if it was put up by an employee, I doubt it was officially sanctioned by the event just due to the nature of its extreme crappiness.

There is a time and a place for putting only women on stage and keeping men as spectators, and it's called a strip club. And I'm not putting down strip clubs by making that point, believe it or not. Strip clubs fulfill a (dominant) niche, and it shouldn't be taken for granted and pour over into all other walks of life (especially nightlife). The problem is not objectification (I've said it before and I'll say it over and over again), it's reinforcing this extreme heteronormativity by institutionally objectifying one and not the other.

So I tore the sign down. No one seemed to notice or care, and it was probably the highlight of my night.

[That finger, it's the middle one.]

As for the maze (singular because we only made it onto one due to gigantic lines), it was a complete waste of Queen Mary space. Trash bag decour, animatronic mannequins, no evidence of being on the Queen Mary. I was only there once before for a Rocky con about seven years ago, and it's a pretty amazing place. When we planned to go, I imagined that the mazes would use the creepy areas of the ship to their advantage. No such thing. Tom said it really well when the maze spat us back out in front of the ship: "That maze was actually really impressive...considering that it was for free and at my next door neighbor's house." Yep.

So if anyone reading this does not heed my advice and actually goes to this event later in the month, please report back and tell me if there's a new "GIRLS ONLY" sign. Let's hope not.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Brain Body Continuum

The lack of writing that I did this summer was not only blog-specific. At first I guilted myself over this, as that seems to be a natural reaction to lack of productivity. But then I stopped that nonsense. The guilt, that is. I think this is the first time I've made a switch like this: I spent a couple months living more in my body than my brain and for a short time it was exactly what I needed.

I've been working at the desk at the yoga studio down the street, and doing a bunch of free yoga. I've done more burlesque. Made a bunch of costumes, for shows, events, and Comic Con. Spent 5 nights in the hospital with Tenebrae and we both survived (him with a dead/undead appendix). Made a ton of awesome new food. Went swimming in the damn ocean for the first time since high school. Drank probably way too much, but have no regrets.

I'm coming back to my second and last year in grad school with no work done to my thesis, but am surprisingly okay with this. This will be a very different and probably intense year, and I think I'm as ready as I can be. On top of all the writing I'll be doing, I'm teaching for the first time. I've spent over a year convincing myself that this is the most terrifying thing in the universe, and now I'm trying to convince myself that I'm super cool and collected. On the first day I had them write about planning their own funerals. Yes, I've been put in charge of shaping young minds and this is what happens. Additionally, I'll still be tutoring and possibly bar tending at CalArts. And keeping the yoga job. And still dancing. I can't say how long all of these will last until some start cannibalizing others.


On friday night I had another burlesque show, one which I was massively conflicted over for various reasons. (Though to be fair, it seems like I'm massively conflicted over most things most of the time.) First, it was friday the 13th, and the fact that the show did not capitalize on this glorious date struck me as a huge waste of an opportunity. I did not advertise it for this reason. It was a Broadway tribute, which on any other day would have been just great. But not on friday the 13th.

The second reason was strictly between me and myself. I did Mein Herr from Cabaret, which I've done before. But I had done it first for a bachelor party type event, which of course held its own set of massive internal conflicts. Anyway, the way that I feel about performing burlesque is that if I'm not doing something new and different (or at least abstractly supporting something new and different), then there's no point. But Mein Herr is already a burlesque style number, and therefore nothing is being added to it by performing it. 

However- and this is in a similar vein to the mental switch that I made over the summer- I decided to convince myself that it was okay. I decided it was okay to show up, have some fun, be sexy, and make a little money without concocting a work of creative genius in the process. To be clear, I don't think it's a good idea to approach burlesque or any kind of performance this way in general. But in order to say "yes" to more things, and also to be able to make a little extra money here and there, I have to tone down the creative and political pressure that I put on myself to make Art. Not everything has to have a capital A.

Now, despite describing this as a super nonchalant show-up-and-be-sexy thing, it still took quite a bit of work. And yet when I got up there, it felt like it was over in five seconds. I know this is a common phenomenon for performers, and not at all a unique experience, but it really surprised me. Like, I almost wasn't there for it. Was I just extremely on top of it or a complete waste of space? I couldn't say. I know it's better than feeling like a song is going on way longer than it should; that's when you know something is wrong. But it's like I spent all this time planning and rationalizing something that barely happened, physically speaking. 

I think my point is that in a time when I'm about to encounter an avalanche of new things to accomplish, I'm trying to learn that it's okay to not be perfect. Otherwise I'll never get anywhere.


Friday, June 14, 2013


I'm not exactly the rainbow type. In sentiment perhaps, but visually, not so much. In honor of pride month and more specifically West Hollywood pride, which I didn't actually make it to cause that's how I roll (intending to make it to huge overwhelming events and then not going is in fact how I roll), I wanted to creatively circumvent the rainbow with my own interpretation as visual support.

It sort of started as a joke. I said on Facebook, "Sometimes it's difficult being goth and showing gay pride support at the same time. This is my answer to that challenge."

But as the stun of my breathtaking wit subsided and I started to dwell on it more sincerely, it became much more meaningful than the simple gay/goth quip, and more meaningful than a rainbow, to me. If a rainbow represents acceptance of all different kinds of people, and everyone's ability to be bold and proud of their different identities, then perhaps a grayscale could represent the possibilities and unfixed-ness within individual identities.

It is debatable whether I can be included in the queer Q that is sometimes but not always tacked onto LGBT(Q), or if I am really just an "ally." It is debatable to the point where I don't even want to unleash the debate right now; the point is the ambiguity. I live in a gray area and know and love others who do too... Not to mention a young man by the name of Dorian.

GrAY Pride?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Public Property, Private Party

I've noticed a lot of discussion recently in the facebook-o-sphere about street harassment, its multitude of forms, and how ubiquitous and culturally ingrained it is. Well, since my car accident, I've fallen back into the grimy arms of public transit while my car is in the shop for (insurance-covered) repairs. Needless to say, unfortunately, I have contributions to this topic.

A couple of days ago, I was waiting for the bus one block from my house. I was at the stop no more than two minutes when an SUV pulls over, driven by the bro-iest bro-dude I've ever seen, with a woman in the passenger seat, both probably in their late 20s. I have headphones in, and he motions for me to take them down, to which I begrudgingly oblige.
Predictably: "You want a ride?"
Also predictably: "No, thanks."
Yet they're still there. "I like your hair. Who does your makeup?"
"It's nice. I'd really cum all over it."
The girl punches him in the arm playfully, and they speed away before I can react.

Because of the street noise, I couldn't quite process what he'd just said until I considered the way that she reacted and the way that his facial expression changed; it was vastly different than the rest of the "conversation," like he knew he was being a bully and invasive, and was hamming it up and enjoying it. What shocked me most was how upsetting it was, and I honestly think that the most upsetting part was not even his verbal abuse, but that I wasn't given a chance to react. By the time I realized what had happened, they were gone. To him, there was no consequence. No reason not to keep treating people like that. The woman he was with was clearly accustomed to this kind of shit. (Is she part of the problem or a victim of it or both? I'd say both, and it makes me both sad for her and angry at her, but this a whole other topic.) My inability to react basically left me very alone with the experience, and I was more shaken than I would have expected to be. I was stuck at that bus stop for twenty more minutes, and actually considered just giving up and going home because after being out for a total of about five minutes, the world was already terrible.

But I didn't, I took the bus and transferred to the metro. It was crowded and I stood at a pole, very aware of how many people were looking at me; people are always looking at me, and I don't mean this in a good or bad way, it's usually pretty neutral, but in this case I was extremely on edge. If anyone said anything I thought I would either punch them or burst into tears or both.
Then I feel a poke in the arm. Tense up, expect the worst from humanity. But, it's an older punk lady who doesn't say anything, just simply gestures for me to take her now empty seat. I thank her but say she should keep it. She insists and says she's getting off in just a couple of stops, so I thank her again and go take it. When her stop arrives, she points to me from the door, smiles, and says:
"You have a good night. You made my day just by existing. You've made me smile, so you go out there and smile too, you deserve it."
I didn't really know what to say, but I thanked her, awkwardly but sincerely. I've always had worse experiences with humanity on the bus than on the metro, and this was a day of extremes. Like as a bittersweet welcome back to public transit, the universe was like, "Here's everything. It balances, right?" Does punk lady actually balance out douchebro? Unfortunately, no, but the juxtaposition was helpful.

Something I said in passing that I'd like to elaborate on: that I get looked at a lot and most of the time I find it neutral. Alternative looking people get looked at a lot. So do "attractive" women. I happen to be both. A lot of the time I don't even notice, but when I do, I usually don't find it creepy unless I'm given specific reason to. This comes with the "alternative" part; straight guys are only a handful of the random people with their eyes on me, not necessarily the default or majority, and I think this is what has desensitized me. Women and gay guys comment on my appearance just as much as the typical dude. It's different, yes, but it makes it easier to just take a compliment at face value. Sometimes the only thing really different about a (straight) guy's comment is a look in the eyes or a certain kind of lingering expectation that I sense but cannot otherwise describe. Those are the "compliments" that I don't want to say "thank you" to, but am not sure what else to say. And I ask you, Internet, what do you when a man says, "You're beautiful"? (Oh, I got an "exotic" on the bus the day before this.) Is there a way to not say thank you without being rude? Which is different from an old lady saying it (which happens), and different from anyone of any gender saying, "I like your style." I've read a lot of blog articles out there about women's experiences with strange men's compliments, and most consider it to pretty much always be a kind of harassment, an expectation that women's appearances are for public consumption. And in most cases I agree with this. But something changes when you- or let's just say I- have a skillfully honed and intentionally uncommon aesthetic. Appearances are social, or at least the parts of our appearances that we CHOOSE are, and a lot of choice goes into mine. It feels hypocritical to be angry at public attention, and most of the time I'm not. To be clear, this is completely separate from the topic of the douche in the SUV. That was straight up verbal abuse. But the thing that gets me is, the guys with the decent, non-invasive they just have the common sense to stop talking before they go as far as douchebro? Are they that different? And that possibility makes the world pretty scary. But I am never going to stop looking like this, and I am not going to be scared away from public transit when I need it.


The timing was especially interesting and terrible, because the next day, I had my first non-Sideshow burlesque gig. It was for a private party, a friend of friends' bachelor party and baby shower. So, very literally taking my clothes off for a room full of men. I did a routine to Mein Herr; it was strange, relatively fun, and made surprisingly good money. An important factor in keeping it fun was that the men's cheers were somehow very clearly WITH rather than AT. 

Afterward, one guy said, "I don't think anyone has ever made Liza Minnelli so sexy."
I said, "Well, drag queens."
"Okay, anyone female."

The thing is, I'd often rather be one of the drag queens than even the sexiest woman. I don't think that playing up hyper-feminine sexuality is necessarily contradictory to feminism in any way, but I do worry that it somehow precludes my drag queen dreams. I don't think this is a logical progression, but it's a feeling I can't shake. I worry that I am indulging in super hetero, cisgendered structures and opportunities just because I can, and it's ultimately only mildly gratifying.

More opportunities have arisen for me to do burlesque, and I'm very much on the fence. I feel similarly to how I did about gogo dancing, which I totally miss, by the way, for what I feel are self indulgent reasons. Not that that's bad, I guess. But even more so than gogo dancing, burlesque has an extreme "LOOKIT ME" quality that makes me kind of wary and uncomfortable unless I feel that I have something unique to contribute (not just to a troupe, but to audiences, the world, my life, whatever), and I'm not sure that I do. Generally speaking, On the Fence is pretty much just where I live. We'll see where this goes.


In other news, it's hot as balls in here, and the ceiling fan literally just plummeted from the ceiling to its death. I'll take my cue from the ceiling fan; my work here is done for the night.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Prettiest Zombie

I've heard some commentary floating around that Warm Bodies is basically Zombie Twilight. Even just from the previews, I was ready to refute this (and ready to see the movie, which I cannot say about Twilight). Having now seen the film, I stand by my original assertion.

Warm Bodies courts the Twilight problem, but thankfully doesn't quite succumb to it. Actually, superficially, it does succumb to it, but it somehow survives it. By "The Twilight Problem," I mean the character structure that makes the Twilight films so pathetic. That being, an attractive supernatural male who should by all means be a threat risks everything to protect a human girl whom he loves for no discernible reason. The girl is pretty but unremarkable in both appearance and personality, or rather completely lacking in the latter. In short, that is my impression of Twilight from what little I've experienced of it. I don't even want to validate it by continuing to talk about it; even discussing the many differences will relate it too much to Warm Bodies in a detrimental way. That said, perhaps it is even more remarkable that the movie succeeds despite this initial structure.

On the subject of the attractive supernatural male, my initial thought on Nicholas Hoult's character at the beginning of the movie was simply "he's too hot." Too pretty, too nicely made up, not nearly as disgusting as a slowly decaying zombie corpse should be. His skin is white and smooth, eyes perfectly shadowed, lips tinted with what looks more like lipstick or wine than gore. The infected veins in his neck stop conveniently before crossing onto his face. Really, he just looks like a goth guy in normal guy clothes.

But then I thought, wait. Maybe this isn't a bad thing at all. Most female stars of action/horror films stay beautiful no matter the circumstance, and it's so culturally ingrained that it is rarely commented on. A prime example would be Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil movies. Granted, she's not supposed to be decaying, but she is faced with a multitude of grimy, grueling situations, most of which turn her merely a different shade of goddess. Male actions stars, however, are generally the epitome of grime. One could argue that this is merely a different kind of marketable attractiveness: the stereotype of masculine rugged endurance. I would argue, though, that it's actually not the flipside of the same thing (and not just because I don't go for that persona). Please pardon the generalization, but action films are generally made by straight men for straight men. These leading actors can get grimy and gross because marketing men to men necessitates (or rather, studios think it necessitates) no confusion about why these men are being watched. The layers of dirt, sweat, blood, and stubble put up a barrier. Obviously, many people do find this very thing attractive; in fact, I may be in the minority in finding these men totally unattractive. However, I'm pretty confident in saying that these decisions are not made with these viewers in mind.

The problem I have with the divide of pretty vs. grimy doesn't have anything to do with one being better than the other. It's the divide itself that I find problematic, and that its purpose is so clearly tied to who the film is for. Mainstream audiences seem to feel equally threatened by strong, dirty women as by semi-fem men in main roles. Or rather, wait a minute, who am I to say what makes something as large and amorphous as "mainstream audiences" feel threatened? I guess I am merely reiterating the assumption (whether unconscious or calculated) on the part of those in marketing positions. The correct way to phrase it might be that studios feel threatened by the possibility of not making a ton of money. I personally think that audiences- mainstream or otherwise- are capable of accepting much more than they are given credit for. Whether women get grimier or men get prettier, I don't really care; in fact, a little of both would be just perfect. Copious amounts of dirt and wounds for all may be more realistic, but is realism always the point in film? Certainly not.

With all of that said, Warm Bodies is in no way an action film, but it does visually reference the world of action films. It is also not a horror film, though also decidedly locates itself in the horror world (zombies, obviously). It is at its core a romantic comedy, but that doesn't mean that the zombie plot is purely incidental. (Though I shudder to bring up Twilight again, I will point out that I think its vampire plot is purely incidental.) Rather, Warm Bodies sets out to adapt Romeo and Juliet into a zombie comedy rather than another human tragedy. I could begin a whole new tangent here, but I'm not going to. I had originally wanted to discuss the movie in relation to the tradition of some preceding zombie films, and how it plays with the tried and true if not overused structure.

However, I saw the movie last friday, spent saturday and a bit of sunday writing this, then stopped. When I get to a point where I start ignoring something I've been working on, I think it means that it's time to wrap it up and release it into the world, accepting that it is no epic masterpiece. This is difficult. But this is a blog post, which is better than a perpetually open safari window on a very overloaded and unreliable computer. The end.

P.S. Not quite the end. Writing about trying to bridge the gab between how male and female actors are presented to their audiences ignores one huge point: the complete lack of trans actors. The fact that I hypothetically want to add that in but didn't carve a space for it further marginalizes the possibility. Which is pretty much the opposite of my goal. I just wanted to point that out instead of letting it go unspoken, that's all.

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.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Undead Undone

So, I am in a basic sociology class that I really shouldn't be in, just because LMU won't accept my sociology of sex and gender credit from SMC. Very frustrating. I am doing a research project with two guys in the class on subcultures; I resigned to half ass it like a normal person and not get too personally invested. I checked out three books from the school library on Goth, which felt monumentally silly, and a little like I was in an after school special. But two of the books are really incredible. I am getting personally invested, but very little of it will actually be funneled into that project. One of the books, Goth: Undead Subculture by Lauren M.E. Goodlad and Michael Bibby is a compilation of many essays by different authors. I got caught up in the introduction alone, and that's what I'm going to quote from.

"On the other hand, it is possible to argue that the androgynous style of many goth men troubles the very foundations of straight sexuality, suggesting an all but inevitable queerness. Gender confusion– the inability to discern anatomical secrets beneath androgynous gothic display– is a prized effect within the subculture. Hence, in goth circles, it is not uncommon to find heterosexual men discussing their attraction to cross-dressers whom they initially mistook to be women. Conversely, many goth women deliberately seek out such 'pretty' male partners. If, at the end of the day (or night), the object of the goth woman's desire is anatomically, male, it is– one might argue– in every other sense androgynous or 'third.' Thus, when the cross-dressed goth reveals his male body to his female partner, the feminized surface remains a part of their coupling, challenging normative sexuality in some fashion."

It can be very validating to see oneself described accurately by someone one has never met; hence the call for representation of minorities in media. But that's what happened with me here. She describes here what I mean when I say that I don't identify as heterosexual, even though technically speaking, I pretty much am. It also provides a definition for Aesthetisexuality, the likes of which I have never heard from anyone but myself. I do think that Aesthetisexuality can be much broader than this, but this is a large part of my personal experience with it.

Goth male androgyny gets much more scholarly attention than female goth aesthetics, precisely because a female's femininity is not transgressive, whereas a man's is. And this has been at the heart of my desire to have a male body; not that I would be happier with that anatomy, but that it would lend more meaning to my femininity. Being female, I dislike that my femininity is taken for granted, or worse, seen as a compulsory result of my sex. But this little passage, though it didn't tell me anything new, opened up an entirely new train of thought bordering on revelation. It is this:

Heterosexual androgynous men are not actually any more transgressive than the heterosexual feminine women who are attracted to them. I keep looking to personal aesthetic expression as the site of transgression, while the act of attraction is somehow overlooked. The androgynous male who is attracted to the feminine female is conventional in his attraction to her; the female who is attracted to him is the one who is disrupting heteronormative expectation.

To some degree I have always been aware of this, but to draw my own sense of gender transgression from my attraction to others (rather than from my own physical body) seemed somehow less genuine. Or, so I somehow assumed, even though Aesthetisexuality itself is defined by attraction. Well, a combination of attraction, self-presentation, and philosophy. Really, it's beside the point to try to decide who is "more transgressive," because so much depends on the interaction. They are both subject and object, both possess the Gaze and receive it.

I should point out, I keep specifying "heterosexual," but I don't actually mean to exclude bi or pansexual people from the situation. I just mean to specify that the encounters I'm discussing are heterosexual ones, and didn't want to clog my sentences up with too many inclusive labels when the point I was making didn't really need them.

Similarly, a couple needn't be goth to embody the androgynous male and feminine female dynamic. However, goth is where you will find this most consistently, as a subcultural institution. There's a new oxymoron for you.

A third thing that I want to go back and point out is that the references to "cross-dressers" is not something that the authors take for granted throughout the book. They do go on to specify that this may not always be an appropriate term for gothic male androgyny.

One of several amoral-morals of this story is that I shouldn't have felt so silly checking these books out. Just because an academic account of a subculture has been published, that does not automatically mean that is by outsiders for outsiders, thus misrepresenting what it tries to define; I didn't consciously believe this before, but I do think it is a general impression that I and many others have. Especially in terms of goth, it makes sense that "critical insiders" would be academically productive, because goths are so likely to also be self-reflective, literary, "nerdy," and even academic. They (we) don't really need outsiders to cary the burden of doing the analysis.

That reminds me, I also found an essay titled "Gothic Scholars Don't Wear Black," about the divide between Gothic literature scholars and the goth subculture, and how the surprising lack of crossover has left a lot untapped. It was exciting to find, because I think I can be that guy- I can tap that, so to speak. Little known fact: I've written a couple (quite praised, ehem) of essays on nineteenth century gothic and will certainly do more. Perhaps it is ironic (or fitting) that I have never looked to school to find a social life, but use the tools taught in school to analyze my chosen social life.

P.S. I wrote the majority of this in the DJ booth at Sanctuary. \m/

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Be yourself if you want to be me

I want to thank everyone for their responses to my last post. Between the comments here, on LiveJournal, and on Facebook, I was so overwhelmed that I barely replied to any of them. I apologize, but that's what happens when I get overwhelmed. A lot of people made wonderfully insightful points I hadn't thought of, offered explanations, drew parallels, posed questions...really great. Sorry I couldn't keep the conversation going.

I want to briefly reflect upon meeting Peter Murphy last week. This was last thursday, and I was actually really embarrassed to be making an excited phone-based Facebook post while still in Amoeba, because I pride myself on not being the twitter-type, on letting things ruminate before broadcasting them. But that was an exception. Well, this will be a mildly ruminated version, I guess.

He played a free show at Amoeba followed by a signing, and Tenebrae, Lauryn and I went to both. It was an awesome opportunity, but I really don't enjoy meeting people I admire. Not because it might shatter some perfect image I have of them, but because I get uncomfortable and awkward, and come away continuing to feel uncomfortable and awkward. But this was actually one of the more positive experiences of its kind. Generally at signing tables, I feel like a sheep (a black sheep amongst other black sheep is still a sheep!), and have only braved it twice before. I'm one in a line of many, and the possibility of anything interesting I might have to say in the few seconds allotted completely dissipates. Tenebrae schemed what he would say, while I welcomed awkward oblivion. But none of it mattered, because Mr. Murphy completely caught us off guard by gushing at us. I feel silly recounting it. But after delivering separate inquires and hair-and-makeup compliments (and asking wide eyed if Michael was Japanese), he said to the three of us collectively, "You are the best of the goths."

Can we just take a moment and appreciate that this was said by Peter Murphy, the so-called grandfather of goth, prince of post-punk, if you will? So he is balding, so he is now Muslim, so what. People age, people change, but he is clearly still standing by the person he used to be, and the subculture that he had a seminal hand in creating (along with his new songs, he played old Bauhaus songs too, just as he did at previous shows). To be told by him that I am basically doing it right is just so...weirdly definitive. My aesthetic is Peter Murphy Approved. And what strikes me as especially funny is that this must mean that Lauryn has been officially inducted into gothdom. Because if Peter Murphy says so, well, that's pretty much that.

The subject line, from Velocity Bird off this recent album, strikes me as amazingly appropriate to this experience.

Also, I used the word "sheep" four times in one sentence in the third paragraph.


Very much unrelated, I was thinking that it might do me well to try to get into performance art. This is not something I have ever considered before, maybe in part because it's so easy to make fun of. But hey, I'd always been afraid of poetry writing because it lends itself so easily to sap and mockery, but it turns out I'm good at it, and have grown balls enough to pursue it. I could be a poet and performance artist; bring on the giggles, until I prove otherwise.

The reason for this peaked interest is that it could be the culmination of so many things. Writing is self contained and does not inhabit bodies (well, not directly anyway). Modeling means either lending myself to someone else's vision, posing as attractive for the sake of attractive, or some combination thereof. Which is great, and I enjoy it, but is not fully satisfying in itself. Shadowcasting is replicating with a combination of accuracy and attitude, which is also awesome, but probably not something I will be getting back into right now. Sideshow is bringing me closer to this idea of performance art, but that is very specific and very collaborative. I don't know what I want to get at with this performance art idea, but it's looming, taunting, intriguing.

However, I am reminded of when people say that they want a tattoo, but don't know of what. That's entirely backwards to me; something should need so badly to get out that a tattoo is the result. Likewise, I feel that ideally the idea should drive the desire for performance art, not vice versa. But, we'll see. I don't think this is going anywhere anytime soon, anyway. Usually I'm too embarrassed to share pre-formed ideas like this in the first place, so this seemingly aimless ramble is actually a very important sign of personal evolution. So there.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hear me, I'm graphically yours

I am in the beginning stages of joining a sideshow troupe, directed by someone I've known for many years but been mostly estranged from. These are they, the Sideshow Sirens. It is an all female troupe, with the exception of the aforementioned director/MC. And, because it's me, one of my main initial hangups was around this. Since hearing out his philosophies on the structure and presentation of the group, a lot of my reservations have dissipated, but I still feel that it's important to work through them in text form. I feel similarly about this to how I feel about gogo dancing, which I have wanted to write about for a long time, but never got to the meat of it. Gogo dancing is an extreme conflict of interests for me, but I love it, and that's the side that wins out. But when I intellectualize it, I rarely come to positive conclusions.

So, actually I'll touch on dancing before I get to the sideshow aspect. My problems with it are not about objectification, because I am fully in favor of willful, intentional, self objectification. My problem is that most clubs, including Ruin, use only women dancers. I dislike feeling like one in a group of sexy women, mostly because it makes me feel that I am upholding a gender boundary system with which I do not agree. My solution to this is not a lack of objectification (as it seems to be for many other people who look down on women objectifying themselves), but merely taking away the gendered aspect by putting men in the same position. So the idea is not to eliminate objectification, but rather to...disperse it. Individuals displaying their fabulous sexiness for other individuals is great, but when it's strictly gendered it feels like it's upholding a system rather than showcasing awesomeness. And especially in the goth club scene, aren't traditional standards like this supposed to be subverted rather than upheld?

One of the only strong nightclubs I can think of that consistently had both genders gogo dancing was Miss Kitty's, and I really appreciated that about them. But because Miss Kitty's had a significant gay crowd (as well as straight hipsters, goths, general weirdos; it was a really unique crowd) this really points to the fact that the "male gaze" is still in effect. That's one of those terms that I'm a little hesitant to use because it comes from a line of feminist criticism that, in my opinion, often upholds the binary rather than deconstructing it. However, that doesn't mean that it isn't often relevant, and this is one of those times. What I mean is that the "audience" is inadvertently imbued with a male perspective, and the fact that this isn't done consciously shows how insidious it is. The fact that male gogo dancers are only added in when a significant portion of the crowd is gay really points toward this. This is to say, if male dancers are added where there are usually just women, it might seem like a gay audience is suddenly implied. I don't think anyone would cite this as a reason for not having them, but I do think that it is looming in the back of the general consciousness, making people uncomfortable when they have no right to be. Whereas, does having only women imply that the women in the crowd are gay? I don't think anyone would answer yes to that. Women dancers are non-threatening and historically agreed upon as pleasing to everyone, partly because (and it pains me to agree with this ultra-traditional feminist criticism) men are doing the agreeing, and the fact that this is not a conscious act shows how much of an institution it is. What I'm trying to say here is very straightforward in my head, but I realize it may have come out somewhat convoluted.

I sincerely think that LADead could do well with throwing a couple male dancers into the mix. While it makes sense for "normal" clubs to have just women to uphold the heteronormative system on which their thoughtless social lives rely, it just doesn't make sense within the so-called goth scene. Men and women often dance pretty much the same (that is to say, variation is usually individual or experience-based rather than gender-based), and even often dress similarly. Is there really a fear that male dancers would make patrons uncomfortable, threaten someone's precious sexual identity, or look somehow wrong or boring? I really don't know what the rationale is, other than maybe playing it safe. But the goth scene should not be a place for complacency.

I think Bar Sinister needs male dancers, because it would probably significantly cut down the douchebag crowd. Then again, they would loose a lot of business. OH BURN!

I went through a similar criticism with Rocky about five years back, around the way only female "sheet sluts" were used, and pressured to create a makeout spectacle during Brad and Frank's bedroom scene. I made an epic LJ post about it geared toward cast and regulars, and somewhat surprisingly, people gave it thought and discussion and things changed in a rather natural way. More men were picked, and everyone was still encouraged to go up in their underwear, so it's not like the objectification factor was killed, which it shouldn't be, because it's actually relevant the the spirit of Rocky. Upholding heteronormativity is not.

The irony is that if a significant amount of gogo spots were open to men, that would cut down on opportunities for myself. But I would feel so much better about taking part in this institution when able to. I really enjoy it, and I'm proud to be doing it, but I would be much more proud if it didn't uphold a structure I disagree with. A huge part of the reason that I have longed to be a boy is so that I could have the same aesthetic that I do now, change almost nothing about how I present myself, and severely fuck the system just by going about my business. I would be able to actively change these structures rather than just telling other people that I think they should do something different that doesn't include me. I may have a dark and unconventional aesthetic, but my gender expression is actually very conventional, and I don't like that. I identify with my femininity more than my femaleness, though I have gotten significantly more comfortable with the latter.

But, I came here intending to write about my induction into sideshow. My perspective on joining an all female sideshow group with a sexy neo-Victorian aesthetic (which I must say I'll fit in with very well) is actually largely the same as what I've written above about dancing with all women. I have no problem with the dynamic between the individuals, or the aesthetic of it, or the displays of blatant acts of masochism; the thing I get hung up on is what it implies about the perspective of the audience, and how we are supposed to be seen. Of course, I say "we" like a performer, when realistically I probably won't be in shows for quite a while.

There is, of course, also the issue of being directed and MCed by a man. I'm not talking about my personal relationship to him as an individual, because Michael is awesome, and a great performer and director, and there is literally no weirdness there whatsoever; I'm talking about what I think the audience will see, or unconsciously see. There is something very unsettlingly traditional about a man presenting a group of sexy women. And yet, I feel that by admitting this, I am upholding it. Ideally, it shouldn't matter, and I'd rather discard this opinion entirely. (For what the weirdness is worth, I say this as the girlfriend of a strip club DJ. Who often looks like a woman.) I was thinking, would I feel better about it if the MC were a woman? I don't know. Maybe not. Would I feel better if there were men in the troupe with the same dynamic, stunts, and general aesthetic as the women? Probably. But I don't think it's the troupe that needs to change, I think that I just need to think what I think, and maybe evolve past some reservations that I have.

Having said that there is something unsettlingly traditional about a man presenting sexy women, I realize that sideshow itself is an unsettling tradition. So perhaps, in that particular way, it is fitting.

One thing I really respect about the group is that it's not just a bunch of sexy women doing masochistic stunts; there's a surprising amount of character creation that goes into it, such that it's more like performance art. I've started writing my character, and I've gotten really great feedback, to the point of being asked to potentially help write aspects of the show itself. I was extremely flattered, though I hate the word flattered for no discernible reason. And I have a new reason to publicly use the name Vesta, which pleases me.

Perhaps the most invigorating thing about pushing myself into more performative avenues is that it actually increases introspection, and I can essentially watch myself grow. Pursuing body-based activities does not contradict my brain-based pursuits, in fact, it really gives me fodder for contemplation and writing. This also means that my dissatisfaction with the structures I've mentioned in this post doesn't necessarily come from a place of anger. It comes from having had the opportunity to take part in some pretty unique things, and then filter them through my brain to maybe reach something better.

Addendum: I have since learned that Bar Sinister now has a male dancer, so I must admit that I'm really pleased to hear that, and revoke my snide remark. Except for the part about the douchebag crowd. Unless that is magically changing too.