I don’t write much about my work here. There are lots of good reasons for that. I’d like this space to be friendly to a wide variety of people with whom I relate, and not all of them want to read about my work for erotic websites. I love them and want their readership, so I choose to respect that. I also like to reserve this space for other parts of my identity that are not about getting naked on the internet. That helps remind me how very many of them there are. I am creating some virtual space for me to write sex but it’s not ready yet, but that will be a more appropriate place for me to discuss that part of my life. This is a rare time when I feel compelled to speak about my sexywork, and so I shall.
A year and some many months ago I worked on an experimental project for one of the Feck websites. I produced a ‘video diary’ of my masturbatory life over a certain period of time. It was a difficult thing to start because it’s so very personal and the intention was for it to be documentary, and as anyone who has ever endeavoured on one of this ‘self-portrait-a-day’ projects, it gets tiresome quickly and sometimes gets a little too far into the banality of our daily lives than is comfortable. Because I felt it impossible for me to document all of my orgasms over a given week, I had to change my approach slightly to actually make the thing. So I basically just opened the whole thing up to whatever might happen and just allowed it to evolve on its own. I wrote the thing as I went. There is some artifice involved in that I did plan some of the setups and the times in which I could actually make some of my ideas. The ideas themselves, however, came as I opened up to the camera and to the possibility that I might make something really beautiful with my own moving image. I thought sexy thoughts and images and figured out how to make them with the skills I do have. That was pretty much the go. I talked about that as I went. And then I made that all into 8 videos and now they’re going on the internet, one-by-one, over a period of three months.
This project was extremely self-reflexive and self-conscious. I am entertaining the thought that, when you are making porn of yourself with yourself, you cannot escape this. If you are making this specifically for someone whose arousal you know well enough to direct yourself right into it, or if you have a formulaic understanding of sexy that your audience repeatedly responds to, perhaps you can involve yourself with those things more than with yourself. I had no one in particular in mind when I made this. I do know what has made me successful or appreciated or gotten me more money in the past, and I worked with some of that. Apart from that, though, I just played out my own ideas of sexy and my own understandings about what I find sexy about myself, my own perception of how I occupy a frame, and my own estimations of what makes me sexually (and personally) valuable.
For some folks who find themselves quite distant from such an experience, it is quite feasible to see it as utter narcissism or self-obsession. I’ve made videos of myself wanking, and (literally or metaphorically) wanked over them. The act of capturing them is one thing – and the fact that I frequently watched myself in the LCD screen as I made them – well that gets me a little closer to a gratingly enamoured self-perception. But for me to be proud of them, to think they are beautiful and subtly sexy and honest; now that’s downright arrogance. Isn’t it. I entertained this thought as I went along making these films, but I am compelled to look underneath such ideas to find some of the elements that compose them. And I had some thoughts about that.
How often do you actually get to see yourself as a sexual object (/subject)? To displace your erotic gaze from the lovely folks of your fantasies and from the images that make you squirm in your chair with your slippers on, and place it upon yourself? How healing is it to bring yourself to an orgasm, to practice auto-eroticism, to burst into ether at the mercy of your own mind and physicality and expert touch? I don’t think we should all do that, all of the time – if we did, my co-workers and I would be out of our jobs as smutmakers – but I do take the stance that we should all have the opportunity to do that once in awhile. I believe in affirmation through sexuality and I think it is healthy to source it in balance between yourself and others. That is why I’ve chosen to do what I do in the places I currently do it.
I like the way people self-represent their sexualities. I think that gives us the most insight into what’s happening inside their erotic imaginations, and that satisfies the voyeur in me. One of the sexiest things I have ever seen was made by my friend for a video hosted on I Shot Myself. The opening scene was edited in a way in which clones (or doppelgangers!) of herself appear one-by-one in the frame, until there are four of them, each undressing, perhaps for each other. She made and edited the scene herself. In some ways I experienced the diary project as a chance to see what it’s like to watch me. I found that it’s not bad. On the surface, to my viewer, it may seem as though my pleasure comes from displaying myself to others. In my reality, however, my pleasure is actually as a voyeur. I feel a kinship with other voyeurs, I have insight into what appeals to them and why, and I take pleasure in trying to create that myself, knowing that I’ll feed back into the voyeur economy from which I frequently consume. This is complicated. It is complicated for anyone to view themselves in a sexual context. This is part of the essence of the Feck projects. Some people run with that. Some people don’t. I am one of the former.
To dismiss this project as a simple matter of self-obsession is to un-complicate it. Perhaps not coincidentally, we sometimes have to un-complicate sexual imagery to find it sexy. We have to remove it from the context in which it was made, which is something many of us are still uncomfortable with, as the world of pornography makes us uneasy, tainted as it is with the exploitation and sexism and coercion with which it has sometimes been associated. The complication of someone viewing someone viewing themselves without necessarily knowing that they were doing so – that’s a lot of stuff to take in, and many of us do not want all of that stuff cluttering up our sexual headspace. I recognise that, by creating these levels of complication in what I’ve made, I run the risk of losing people who want to uncomplicate it and see it for nothing more than what’s there on the screen: a woman masturbating in view of a camera, enabling you to watch her, maybe as though she is doing it for you. However, I don’t actually ever demand that anyone watch it in the context of its complications – I simply make it possible for them to do so if they choose. I digress.
As the product is released I am getting lots of lovely feedback. I have the relative privilege of a viewership that appreciates the subtlety of what we are doing on that site. Therefore lots of people think this is a rad idea, or are just happy to see me make something, as I have very few contributions going live lately. I am lucky that I even work for a site where you can receive direct feedback from the people who have watched your videos that will contain a lowest common denominator of ‘you have a lovely vagina’, as compared with the mainstream LCD of ‘OMG U MADE ME CUMMMM LOADZZ HAHA LOL’. There are rare cases, however, where I do receive negative feedback, and I generally have a hard time gauging how to deal with that. I don’t want to see these people as primitive punters who see me as nothing more than the sum of my pink bits, whether that’s because they aren’t or because I just don’t want to believe that they are. I am not naive enough to think that all of them are interested in entertaining my twenty-something progressive sexual liberation art project – I actually believe that a very small minority of them are, and I’m grateful that they exist. I do not, however, want to accept disrespect or misogyny, which does occur in the rarest of cases. So I end up standing up for myself in those situations, and that’s not because I’m demanding that you look at my art look at my art look at my art. It’s that I want to interrupt your cycle of consumption that allows you to uncomplicate me to the point where I’m not human. Cos I just want to do that right back to you, and then we’ve stripped this exchange of humanity and meaning and undone all of its sexy.
And I suppose that part of what the diary was about, for me, was an investigation of my humanity at a certain point in time. My physical humanity – the colours and shapes and gradients of my body – and of my mind and my spirit. That’s really honest, that extends beyond exhibitionism and voyeurism and is me writing a text of myself and offering it up to be read and discussed. And I guess you can’t read it if we don’t speak the same language.
I feel that there is more for me to dig for in looking back on the process of making that (which I wish I had been more diligent about documenting off-camera), and probably a year later I’ll actually be able to think about the process of releasing it. They are very intense experiences. For anyone who has ever shared work on these sites, especially that which they’ve thought about extensively, I think that is the case, and I wish we all talked about it more.