I really want you to get behind me on this. Before I start, I want to stress that I’m going to be making generalisations. Even I can find exceptions, but I’ll be using evidence for my arguments that what I’m saying is largely true, and I’m really asking for feedback on this one.
Current stats on alt.com, this is better than other sites because I think generally women are more involved in alternative sex sites because they have more to offer them..
When I clicked through, the one woman online by that time had 72 viewers, the man at the top of the list had one, the rest none. I always use that as a very direct illustration. Women don’t watch as much porn as men- you knew that, right?
Even here in blogland most people come upon my blog by certain search terms- that’s why I use the tags! I exist within a world which already has it’s rules and standards and expectations. I can’t have things my way. But I really want to tell you how I wish it could be.
The reason women don’t search for porn is due to experience. It excludes us, we have to search too hard to find something we’d like, even then we’ll have encountered countless gynaecological pop ups in the search for fetish art or classy erotic photos. I know men who feel the same. The woman who likes cheesy gynaecological porn is about as rare as that one woman watching the guy in the cam room. (And that woman is probably a man)
I really absolutely don’t want to see an orange hard-faced man having sex with a girl two generations younger just because he has an unusual ability to keep hard during the photo/camera session. And if I see it I turn off the pc and go watch eastenders. I don’t need an up close biology lesson or another picture of a girl getting a facial.
There is a problem which leads to a fundamental division I can’t do anything about. It’s hard to fight my corner, my argument for “erotic art” when it too often comes under a banner which automatically includes everything from basic hustler porn to bizarre and unpleasant hardcore which most people search for because they’re looking for revulsion or something to ridicule.
Just as the meek naturist couples often have to share space with oil basted exhibitionists- they feel the same, if they were to try to show people how innocent it is they’d have to take them to a place where they’re more likely to see public masturbation than anywhere else in the country and their argument would be instantly invalid.
And that’s how I feel. For all this time I’ve been trying to work out how to reach women. I so want to spend my days telling girls how to take amazingly erotic photos of themselves which they and anyone else they can choose to show will find stunning/ sexy/ empowering. Because I know that women feel that their sexuality has to be hidden. They don’t want to be associated with a kind of pornography which is about abuse. Many guys visiting prostitutes don’t ask if the girl has been trafficked- or so many of them wouldn’t be, they don’t ask for credentials of the girl in the videos they look at.
There’s a fantastic article in the guardian about the differences between the viewers of male and female strippers. It’s a perfect illustration of the polar extremes.
I want a middle ground so that average women (not swingers, not those responding to the desires of their partner) can enjoy erotic images without being visually assaulted by things that will turn them right off) Scarlet magazine was great- informative, clever, erotic, it’s gone. Thank god for Ann Summers and internet sex shops.
Women are never going to find me, if they do they’ll be frightened I’m a guy wanting to perv over their photos.
I want a world where women understand that guys will always look at girls and that’s no threat, but where we can meet them half way.
I’ve asolutely nothing against porn, nothing against nudists, nothing against swingers. I just want my audience to reach further than that into the wider public. Somewhere between those and the high art world is everyone else, my target market.
But if it doesn’t happen soon I’ll give up the commission part of my work, give up social networking and concentrate on my own work which I’ll sell through galleries.
Is there any hope? I don’t know
People do ask me what my work is really about, but sometimes they’re better off not knowing. These paintings are about me, they’re about people I know and mostly about the dark peculiarities of the human condition and sexuality. They’re about the theatre of sex, the performances people put on and the lies behind the act.
People do remark that they’re obviously painted by a woman, and I know that’s true. Men painting these things are often as happy with the illusion as the viewer. Again I must clarify, this is not an anti male rant, in the private world of sex there’s equal responsibility, the games are part of the fun and eroticism can be the antithesis of honesty.
It occurred to me while I was reading eroticism and art by Alyce Mahon that the position I find myself in has interesting echoes in art history. She recalls the paintings of Ingres (1780-1867) and his contemporaries who pandered to a fantasy ideal of a world in which women were sexually available and libidinous, and more importantly a world which wasn’t readily checkable for factual accuracy. If they were portraying women in Wales, people would have just gone to have a look and returned deflated and disillusioned.
There was a recent resurgence in the popularity of orientalist art. The Tate hels an exhibition in 2008 “british orientalist painting” One of the featured paintings is by a female artist also working under a pseudonym. Henriette Browning’s “harem interior” caused some consternation. Alyce Mahon mentions that in 1861 Olivier Merson complained that Browning’s paintings showed “silent and bored women… chaste in the muslin of their long dresses” and that “these paintings somewhat disrupt our dreams of the orient”
Shame. The interesting thing is that in this description of the reaction to the disappointing reality that people are basically the same the world over I am reminded of my own experience and that now it’s the west which has the capacity to disrupt dreams currently very active in the orient. The most casually offensive messages I get are from the middle east. This isn’t because men there are fundamentally any different. It’s just that they’re believing the advertising of the western porn industry and lack the ability to come and check. There are more than enough men in this country who believe that women on the internet are from a strange and wonderful world where girls just desperately want to see badly taken mobile phone shots of nondescript body parts. (I know I go on about that a lot- but I get many less photos in my inbox these days so I just thought I’d throw it out there again and repel a few more.)
My work focuses on these illusions. The large scale ones I’ve already mentioned. And the smaller ones. The reality of being alienated or connected and the ways sexuality is used in honesty and in lies. My paintings are often lit as if they show a stage performance. Sometimes the subjects are confrontational and direct. Sometimes they’re anonymous and turned away, but still aware of the viewer. Sometimes people are more honest in sex than in life, sometimes the opposite. Sometimes people will engage in levels of intimacy in the bedroom but will be unable to communicate with their clothes on. Sometimes women will put on the sexual performance of a lifetime and not see it as absurd that they can’t ask their sex partner if they’re in an exclusive relationship. Sometimes men are tender and sweet in the bedroom in a way you just wouldn’t recognise if you saw them in a pub with their mates. It’s a different world, a mystery. And the reality of it can be uncomfortable. The reason my work is “obviously done by a woman” is that I talk about these things with my friends and I’m always amazed by the illusions we weave. A question I’m often asked by men is why women seem so much more sexually experimental at the start of a relationship and suddenly the more exciting and forbidden acts are birthday treats. That’s a common thing to happen. It’s part of the game for many people.
I’m fascinated by the dissonance which sex causes in the power balance of relationships. How far women will go to convince themselves their man is different to those others and doesn’t look at girls while strangely feeling the need to check their every move by some fairly extreme cyberstalking. It takes some effort to achieve something erotic within the constraints of modern life, insecurity and domestic normality.
But there’s a double bluff in my work, it’s deliberately staged, but there’s an underlying truth. It actually depicts what women are when there’s no men around at all. It’s aware of the eventual viewer but it’s not contrived to deceive. Some of my best paintings are of phoos taken in moments just before massive laughing fits. Because in my experience with every single one of my models is that girls left alone just don’t take themselves all that seriously. And that’s why my paintings look obviously done by a woman. Men just don’t really know what that world is like because it changes when a (straight) man is present. It’s a world as remote to the viewer as Ingres’ turkish bath, but it does exist. It’s a lot more real in essence than the art copied from pornography or glamour shoots by male photographers, that’s for sure. It’s just different, that’s all. I’m a girl painting girls, because that’s what I know and understand.
Ok maybe “understand” was taking it too far
Sometimes I don’t know what my paintings will be called until I’m listing them for sale. It has to be something which makes sense. Luckily, when I was listing this on etsy I was singing “modern day delilah” by Kiss in my head and so she was christened.
I often trawl through my itunes playlist to find titles (please don’t look at my titles now, the knowledge of what I’m listening to while I’m painting might take awaty any erotic mystique my work has left!)
Modern day Delilah could be a title for my whole body of work. It sums up my feeling about making erotic art in these times and this whole thing of blogging about postmodern sexuality and erotic representation of the female of our amazing species. Both in the photographs I take- which are never seen by anyone except my models- and the paintings which they are created for.
I suppose she represents the contradictions of putting my work up with full awareness that I’m going to appear alongside male oriented pornography and this will always get me in trouble and ultimately be my downfall. The devil in the keywords. But I refuse to be driven out. Like I’d refuse to give up wearing miniskirts if my legs had ever been good enough to be up for the task!
You can look at her, you can buy her and put her on your wall. But you can’t tame her.
“Same old ways,
Modern day Delilah”