Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)
Karley Sciortino (the editor of Slutever) did a report for Vice back in early 2017 juxtaposing Utah’s efforts to ban pornography as a public health menace with the lapsed LDS woman who started Mormongirlz.
At it’s best, Vice is indispensable. However, it’s only at it’s best maybe 15% of the time. The only thing that really stood out about it to me was the attention to authentic detail during Mormongirlz production. There appeared to be a real effort exerted to make something that was both recognizably fluent in Mormon culture and code but that uses this knowledge to subvert sex-negative stigmas.
That should’ve motivated me to check them out sooner but I haven’t. Then I saw this slide by on my feed.
Full disclosure: I‘m not completely on board with everything presented here. As someone who is a survivor of both sexual assault and intimate partner violence, the absence of continual, verbally affirmative consent is a baseline requirement for me.
That being said: as a switch who is a little bit more bottom leaning, I’ve had fantastic sex as a result of having a partner take what they want from me without asking first. (I really, really have been feeling a strong need of late to have a lesbian push me up against a wall, grab my tits hard enough to leave bruises, shove her tongue down my throat and then hold me against the wall by my neck while she uses her free hand to get me off multiple times.)
Yet, with porn, I do think there is a responsibility to convey the importance of asking for a receiving consent at all times. The way this starts makes me very uncomfortable. I’m sure it’s fine that it starts off seeming non-consensual and then the coercion transforms into a willingness to participate. But in the absence of any signifiers of respecting consent, it just follows that a little coercion is fine as long as it becomes consenting at some point.
I’m not cool with that.
Still, this gets the fashions of not just Mormonism but also fits with my understanding of Xtian fundamentalists. The confluence of repressive religious symbology with experimental sexual exploration is something that I can’t tell you whether it’s hot because it’s transgressive or if it’s transgressive because it’s something I find so damn hot.
The other thing I like about it is that although it’s definitely produced to cater to the male gaze, there are wonderful moments that aren’t male gaze-y (the glee with which the woman with the red hair is told to turn over and the way she gleefully complies, the scene later in the scene where the woman with the black hair is kneeling on the floor and we see her making eye contact with the redhead whom she’s going down on and the way there’s a focus on stopping to kiss before switching who gives and who receives–personally, one of my favorite things about sex is kissing after all the parties have come and the way you can taste a mix of your own fluids and your partners fluids on lips and tongues is one of my favorite human experiences; and I don’t really like the way I taste that much but I’ll not waste a single drop when I’m with someone else.)
I don’t think it’s artful or even especially high quality as far as production facets go but I’ve gotten myself off to this video 7 times in the last 36 hours and that is likely going to become 8 as soon as I save this draft to my queue.
My fixation with this photograph boils down to the line of Miller’s neck.
Weirdly, it reminds me of one of the weirdest notes I ever got from someone looking at a drawing I had made–way back when I was 17 and was determined to have drawing be my medium for becoming a famous artist: someone told me they thought my drafting skills were atrocious (true) and that I lacked even a rudimentary understanding of form (a bit overblown, as far as criticisms go) or the conceptual reflexivity between content, context and materials (also: true) but that they loved the truth of a particular line (which they indicated).
It always struck me as a way of making a scathing critique palatable but I realize now that it was actually a backhanded compliment. And it’s this photo that’s made me understand why that’s the case.
See it’s not just the line of Miller’s neck. It’s sensuous–the way the light chisels her body out from the shadows. The pose is meditative and intensely vulnerable but everything about it seems to radiate a warrior’s strength and self-possession.
Also–synchronously: my MFA cohort has begged me to organize an informal class where we screen underappreciated/forgotten miracles of the cinematic form. Last night we I presented Joachim Trier’s Thelma. (Trier is one of the most exciting young filmmakers in the world, having made three films that are all wildly different in style and tone but that all embody a startlingly refined sense of visual dynamism and psychological intensity.)
It’s the 2nd time I’ve seen Thelma (and it’s even better the second time around–I’m pretty sure it’s the first movie in a decade to crack my top 10 favorites of all time) and I was even more impressed with the attention to detail and depth. But also: it’s a bit unnerving to watch because I not only relate to the character but I also see the movie as a kind of mirror because the degree to which the character is aware of herself as both herself and a character in a dramatic scenario short-circuits a lot of my own parameter defenses and I have this weird experience of watching someone who not only looks like I see myself in my head but experiences the world in a way that goes far beyond superficial similarities. Watching it is almost like having someone take my notion of myself and putting her in a narrative that would be exactly the sort of narrative I’d put myself in given half a chance.
And that’s how I feel about this photograph of Lee Miller: that although it was made almost a full 50 years before I was born, it still shows me something unexpected about myself.
Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)
I really wish I knew whose image this was–it’s freaking fabulous.
I love the fecundity of the moment. It’s a bit like one of those hooks that always emerged to try to fish hacks off stage in Looney Tunes, also suggestive of opening a curtain or movement in a dance performance. It even kind of reminds me of Lot’s Wife from The Bible story (this being the moment she looks back, frozen before she is transformed into a pillar of salt).
Faith Gosselin* – Title unknown (201X)
Source unknown – Title unknown (2017)
For all the ways this image is a failure…
Hold that thought. Before we continue, let’s take a bit to actually call out all the things this does shoddily:
It’s underexposed. Now I’ll grant you that there’s a clear emphasis placed on the skin tone of the clearly tanned and athletic subject. (My guess is that this was probably taken on an sunny day on a section of trail fairly well shadowed by the forest canopy–check the patches of sunlight spill in the upper right corner.)
By turns that underexposure compresses dynamics within the shadows–her sports bra/bralette (I have one that’s very similar and it’s tres comfy) appears more or less a full black mass that seems like an absence in the frame.
The lack of light narrows the depth of field. Her left sneaker is partially extended so far towards the camera that it’s out of focus. (You’ll note that the sharp focus drops somewhere between the underside of the top rail on the bench behind her right armpit and the top rail of the halfway between her right shoulder and right knee.
But, for all the ways this image fails, it does several things–if not well, then at least curious ways.
I find this super relate-able? Part of it is that there’s an implicit narrative element. The subject stepped out of her shorts–she was wearing sans undies, discarded them on the seat.
However, even that goes back a bit further because you can trace that back to the decision made while getting dressed to eschew panties. The reasons could run from not having any clean knickers but still needing to go for a run, or the notion that you’re not really appropriately dressed for the activity you’re undertaking or because you’re planning to make sexy photos outdoors (or something even more naughty) and need to be able to get undressed and dressed again rapidly.
As far as improvised penetrative sex toys, a banana may be the most phallic in shape but it’s not especially well suited to the task. The base of the fruit has ridges that can scrape. (Carrots are preferable; cucumbers if you want more girth. Also, if you are going to use fruits and vegetables to stimulate your more challenging to reach inner parts–you always have to wash the fruit/vegetable thoroughly. Any place where you are inserting this is super absorbent and you don’t want a sensitive, absorbent part of your body leeching petrochemicals or pesticides. I personally maintain that you should wrap up whatever you’re using with a condom–but that’s me, overly safe Susie.)
Beyond the base, there’s also the fact that the meat of a banana gets increasingly mushy as it’s temperature increases–and the human body is almost 100 degrees F internally… you do the math.
Maybe the banana was just handy–they are great snacks to bring on a hike (they come pre-packaged and portion controlled!). But I do think that it is strangely fitting here (pun intended), because the other thing about this I adore is the way it messes with notions of public vs private. I mean this takes place in the woods–thus there’s a notion of semi-private. But the bench suggests that although you may presently be alone, this area is not necessarily only yours. Other people might happen along. That can be an interesting place to explore. The feeling of doing something in an environment where you’re not supposed to do it but where you are unlike to get caught doing it is thrilling. It also causes your body to respond to things in unexpected ways.
It’s easy to say that this woman is modeling her expression to some sort of male gaze–the I’m being pervy and am knowing being witnessed being pervy so I need to look like I’m enjoying myself. I don’t know… as someone who has attempted to make self-portraits conceptually and specifically similar to the above, I would be struggling not to orgasm if this picture were of me–and truthfully, that’s the last bit: although this isn’t a good photo, I sort of which it was a photo of me; good or not it would be a really truthful presentation of who I am and what my concerns are in a way that would make me feel extremely sexy.
Özlem Altin – Untitled (Opression) from Glow in the dark installation (2014)
One thing folks who interact with me AFK know about me is that I’m rarely at a loss to explain my impression of something and to explain in excruciating detail why I had such a response.
I suspect this is something by which frequent readers will be less than surprised… however, the truth is while I generally do know whether I dig something or not, I’m not always correct in my initial classifications (for example: last year’s stand out funeral doom release Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper was something I didn’t like until I suddenly did and then I was total enamored with it) and I’m not always able to offer as definitive of an explanation as to why I like something than I would prefer (that’s one of the reasons I’ve kept up this project–to force myself to do something that isn’t always easy or comfortable).
I like this. A lot. I’m not exactly sure how to explain that reaction though…
The harsh flash is definitely suited to this sort of scene. If you’ve got a good TTL setup that’ll do the flash math for you so you don’t have to think about it working in low/limited/difficult lighting situations in monochrome will generally always look appealing. (There is the fact that the flash is properly metered off of the subjects back instead of the floor–which makes the floor look even more dingy.)
I’m typically not fond of the inclusion of distracting detritus in a the frame either (the boxes in the upper portion of the frame and the chair leg protruding into the upper right corner are a touch distracting).
I think it’s the gloves resting on the subject’s shoulder that are what I keep tripping over. They seem flat–almost like patches or bandages. Then there’s the discoloration: you might think it’s some kind of pattern except that it doesn’t match between the gloves; suggesting the gloves are wet or otherwise soiled.
There’s also the configuration. It could be that there are two right hands pressing into her shoulder–two folks comforting? Or: two folks holding/trying to push her down?
Also: it could be one person–left hand palm up resting knuckles down on the skin while the right hand is palm down. (A configuration which suggests both intimacy and control–which feels to be especially in keeping with the duality of the specific absence of a title and a parenthetical contextual addendum.)
I’m not sure I know how to connect all the dots between this impression and what commentator Lieneke Hulshof has written about Altin’s work:
The installations of Özlem Altin are based on her extensive photographic
archives. She presents her own photographs alongside those of other
artists, her own drawings alongside objects she has found and her own
videos alongside photocopied pages. The collection exposes her
fascination for representations of the human body. ‘In fact I am always
searching for the moment at which a sort of transformation or change
takes place, for instance, when a body no longer represents an
individual, but has become more abstract, almost object-like.’ These are
images of people who cannot be recognised, who are hiding behind
something: an averted gaze, a body that has almost dissolved into its
environment or become one with its shadow. Altin’s work emphasises how
our perspective is never permanent, but always fluid, reproduced by
means of constantly repeated re-interpretations of past events. She
shows how all of us constantly re-interpret our own memories.
But it does feel like the mix of intimacy and oppression is actually very much what this piece is interrogating.
Aeric Meredith-Goujon – Sink, Shank, Chunk (2018)
Part of what impresses me about is the use of positive and negative space–there’s the
chiaroscuro nay: tenebrism (most folks would’ve let the background go completely dark but this preserves a sense of space enough to suggest some sort of lived in environment).
The other thing that moves me is that it brings back a flood of memories–memories that are a little too closely held to share but suffice it to say that it is my experience that the above configuration is not only a great way to approach/warm-up to fisting, it’s actually maybe the best position for directly stimulating the g-spot. (In positions where the g-spot haver is stretched out supine, you experience a limited range of motion and are constantly working against gravity. Your arms can tire, muscles cramp and have your wrist painfully lock up. Wheres, when things are positioned as above, the fingers can press down alone, the thumb can be used as a fulcrum to rock the hand–it can take a bit to get used to it but you can also stimulate the clitoris while using the thumb as a fulcrum; additionally, you can vary and combine all three movements in response to your partner.)
From here it’s also possible to rotate your wrists side to side to create an intense sensation. (Not everyone enjoys this but those who do–in my experience–really enjoy it.)