Archive for November, 2007|Monthly archive page

Piercings

Two or three years ago, I considered my nipples to be extremely sensitive, and didn’t particularly like having them played with. Yesterday, I planned to celebrate my last day of work at the most boring job I’ve ever had by getting them pierced.

But then, a few hours before I was supposed to meet up with my partner and head over to the shop, I began to have second thoughts. Part of it was the cold feet that I get before piercings (except the ones I’ve done on myself — something to do with a stranger doing something to me I consider relatively intimate), but most of it was realizing that I hadn’t really thought through the short and long-term effects this would be bringing to my life.

In the short term, as far as I know from teh interwebs, it would mean that I would have to be extremely careful with them, both from getting pulled on and from infection. Obviously, it would mean that my partner couldn’t pinch, twist, or suck on them (and forget about the clamps), and it would also mean that sex in general would have to be a lot less rough-and-tumble. That alone is a major bummer, considering that the average healing time is 4-6 months. (I have very sensitive skin, and have had longer-than-average healing times for earlobe piercings and stretchings, so I suspect it could be a year or longer before nipple piercings would be fully healed on me.) In a more mundane sense, it would mean being a lot more careful in general about physical activity and cleanliness, making sure to wash my shirts and towels frequently, avoid hot tubs (again, major bummer), and possibly curtail my involvement with a self-defense / martial arts collective I’ve been wanting to increase my activity in.

In the long term, if everything goes right and I don’t get an infection and I don’t reject the jewelry, I’ll have two piercings that are personally very aesthetically pleasing, and something fun to play with and tug on. Theoretically, my nipples will be more sensitive, and may stick out more — which could be good or bad. I worry a bit that the increased sensitivity will make it too uncomfortable to go bra-less (as I generally do), or that the jewelry will be obnoxious and irritating, especially when it’s cold. I also wonder about what kind of abuse they’ll be able to take even after they’ve healed, and if it’s the sort of thing I’ll have to be constantly vigilant about, lest they get infected, the jewelry migrates, etc.

[Exhales.] So them’s all my worries. I still have a strong desire to get them done, for a lot of positive reasons. Symbolically, they’re definitely appealing, as a signifier of just how far I’ve opened up, sexually, in the past few years — and I don’t just mean as a submissive or bottom or masochist, but as a person comfortable with her sexuality, who finally sees her body as sexy and desirable, including the breasts I always thought were too small to be attractive. I also like the idea of having a constant physical reminder of that, something to focus on or turn my mind to when I’m feeling depressed or anxious.

At any rate, I would love to hear from anyone who is more knowledgeable or experienced in this area than I am…are my concerns here valid? (And yes, I know — ask the damn piercer. I plan to. But it’s always a lot easier for me to get everything out in writing, first.)

Porn = Violent Sex = Bad

I’ve read my fair share of articles posing the question, “is pornography harmful?” And I’ve come to expect that most of the time, “pornography” means erotic video or photographic imagery aimed at a heterosexual male audience, usually involving “degrading” or “violent” sexual acts. I’ve come to expect that this definition is never given, but rather assumed, and that there will be little or no mention of queer porn, alternative / independent porn, or dominant-woman porn. If there is a discussion of porn featuring a dominant woman, it will refer to her as a “dominatrix” and dismiss her as the product of neurotic male fantasy.

I’ve come to expect that the article will talk about how porn is simultaneously becoming more mainstream and more “degrading,” more cruel. There will be no statistics or background given to prove this statement, nor will there be any definition given of what constitutes “degrading” sexual behavior or an acknowledgment that sexual acts can be interpreted in different ways. The exception to this rule is a specific discussion of the mainstreaming of anal sex in porn, which is assumed to be innately degrading and harmful to women (and something that only ever happens with a woman as the receiver, not the giver).

I ‘ve come to expect that these articles will scoff at the free will of the women who engage in sex work of any kind, whether as a porn actor, stripper, or prostitute. They will degrade and demean those women they argue are being degraded and demeaned by their chosen line of work. The authors will not bother to interview sex workers, or research statistics on how sex workers feel about their work and their relative freedom and safety.

I’ve also come to expect that there will certainly be no attention given to BDSM, or any indication that a woman could actually enjoy rough sex, bondage, slapping, spanking, and the like. (And again, there will be no mention of the fact that many men enjoy the same.) The article may give some reassurance that not all men who like porn hate women, but will mention that some do get off on the actual suffering and pain experienced by a woman, and will psychologize this away as the result of a troubled childhood and a sick mind, and will warn that such men are often rapists or misogynistic psychopaths. There will be no mention of women sadists, nor any discussion of what the term “sadist” and “masochist” mean in a consensual BDSM context.

Sigh.

The Piano Teacher

I just finished watching La Pianiste, and I am so utterly confused about what I think of this movie. The first half of the film is riveting, and the first sex scene between Isabelle Huppert’s character, Erika, and her student, Walter, is incredibly hot — she jerks him off in a bathroom, but refuses to allow him to touch her, and instructs him repeatedly to face me, take it out, don’t turn away from me, don’t make a sound, and finally, denies him climax, telling him that if he touches himself, she’ll never come back. He complains and groans, pleads and calls her “bitch,” but still obeys her every instruction. Did I mention that halfway through, she stops and opens the bathroom door, and stares him down with the challenge: do you dare? I do.

I got chills.

But then, her character unravels. The delicious cruelty turns out to be an inability to relate to anyone in a remotely human way; her strict discipline and testing of her suitor turns out to not be sexual play, but social ineptitude — she just doesn’t know how to do anything but instruct and give orders. Or perhaps she’s just playing with him as she wants to be played with. Because as it turns out, her deeper sexual fantasies involve submission and being overpowered — being bound, gagged, and beaten — and it’s unclear whether or not she’s ever expressed them to anyone before, let alone played them out with another person. She writes her student a long and incredibly detailed letter about what she’d like to do with him: her requests are so specific, so precise, that they almost come across as a list of demands. Walter, sadly, is disgusted by her fantasies, and rejects her.

He’s also angry with her, rightfully so, for having first scorned and spurned him repeatedly, then leading him on with hot bathroom sex, then abruptly stopping and refusing to have anything to do with him unless it’s within the carefully dictated parameters of her sexual fantasies. Then, rejected by him once already, she goes to him and begs for forgiveness, then seduces him, but seconds after beginning to go down on him, she gags on his cock and vomits, which makes him feel even more rejected. “It’s never made a woman puke before,” he says. That night, he shows up at her place late at night, and whether out of revenge, frustration, or an honest attempt to make a last effort at actually pleasing her, rapes her, while saying repeatedly, “this is what you wanted, right? Is this how you imagined it?”

There are a lot of ways to interpret this scene — is it just another media portrayal of BDSM as something inherently harmful? Are we supposed to think that her fantasies were somehow “too much” for her, that she didn’t really want to be bound and beaten? Or are viewers supposed to understand that she only wanted to play out her fantasies in a safe and controlled environment, and for him to hit her out of love, not frustration and rage? Is the average person watching this movie going to come away from it thinking “it’s sad how incapable she was of communicating what she wanted in a reasonable way, and how judgmental he was of her desires”? Or are they going to think, “she was deeply disturbed and obviously had a pathological sexuality, and it’s sad that she thought she wanted to be raped, because obviously she didn’t want that at all”?

Rrrrgh. I’m both fascinated and frustrated by the inscrutability of this movie and her character…I may have to go read the book, now.