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With only one day to go till the release of the Sex Issue, here is our final teaser before the big reveal. Petra Joy champions the female gaze in her films, taking us 'Beyond the Cum Shot' and into the world of feminist pornography.
The hardcore porn boom of the 70s and 80s initially turned Petra away from pornography and it took 25 years for her to transfer her energy from fighting sexist commercial porn, to creating alternatives to it. She made her first film Sexual Sushi in 2004, an experimental film featuring a real-life couple. It was one of the first in a wave of unconventional pornos that paved the way for further ‘authentic’ forms – like the hit site Beautiful Agony (also launched in 2004), where individuals upload videos of themselves orgasming filmed only from the shoulders up, and, more recently, MakeLoveNotPorn (launched in 2012 by Cindy Gallop), showcasing homemade porn. Since her first film Petra has made five more feature length films. She believes there has always been a desire for feminist porn, but nothing on the market that catered to it.
“The truth is that most of us are flexible and fluid and are interested not just in playing with different genders depending on the situation, but also playing with power. Maybe sometimes we want to be submissive, maybe sometimes dominant. All of that should be available to us at all times. We can choose to do it or not to do it, but the more often we see it, feminist porn might empower a woman to think, ‘I’m NOT weird or ‘perverted’ if I fuck a guy with a strap-on.’ That’s why pornography is so important and so political, and why I don’t understand feminists who exclude porn from their agenda.”
Petra’s work is inherently political. By denying the representation of certain desires, we implicitly condemn the individuals who have them. Society as a whole suffers, as a large part of it is deemed unhealthy, perverted or wrong. We need open and frank discussions about sexuality in order to defuse years of accumulated sexual repression and personal distress. This comes back to the ‘humanist’ aspect of Petra’s porn: “It’s about all genders learning from each other – all of us having more and better communication and ultimately more and better sex.”
We are two days away from the release of our Sex Issue and sharing teasers from some of our favourite pieces. Our second extract comes courtesy of the inspirational Rebecca Gomperts who founded Women on Waves – the abortion ship that brings safe, medical abortions to countries where it is illegal.
“Every year, according to the World Health Organisation, 42 million women have an abortion. 21 million of these are unsafe. Every year approximately 50,000 women die from unsafe abortions, whilst 5-8 million suffer lasting health consequences –
infertility, chronic pain, and any number of other things. But abortion figures are always underestimated.
These are only the official figures.”
Why do you think that making sure that women have access to medication despite the law is more important than protesting and working to have the laws changed?
Both are important. You need to change laws because they create fear, self-censorship, and discrimination. When abortion is illegal it creates a taboo. You see this in countries like Poland where abortion used to be legal: the moment it becomes illegal it is no longer normalised and it becomes something totally different. If women have access to the right medication, they can do it quietly in their own homes. This will also change the reality – it makes it less of an ordeal. If it’s illegal, women have to find somebody who can help them, which it makes it a dangerous and scary experience. With medicine available, it’s not like that anymore. It has become something that, while not legal, is safe and that you can do yourself. Access to the right medication and making sure that women have the right information normalises abortion despite the law.
Read the full interview in The Sex Issue.
1000 copies of Sex Issue are landing on the Ladybeard door step in just three days! To get geared up for the release, we're sharing a sneak preview from three of our favourite pieces. First up, a snippet of our interview with Alex Cowan on the endemic asexualisation of disabled people.
You have written that the denial of disabled people’s sexuality is dehumanising. What is the connection between humanity and sexuality?
Sexuality is a drive, a desire, a feeling that every human being has in some way. Even if you are asexual, you have considered your relationship to sex and sexuality. So it’s intrinsically linked with humanity. It’s how humanity goes forwards, increases and multiplies.
Sex and sexuality are two different things. But sexuality is something that can pervade and influence not just your feelings about sex and yourself as a sexual being, but how you understand your position and place in the world, your interactions with other people, and your idea of yourself as a viable, valuable human being. When your sexuality is ignored, as it is with disabled people, it makes you feel less than. That’s really dehumanising, to have an important aspect of yourself completely negated. It’s as though sexuality is something that you are not worthy of.
Ingrid Bittar creates collages that are at once playful and sinister. Bright colours dominate: sometimes distracting from, sometimes illuminating the more controversial images embedded within the frame. Born in Brazil, she studied design at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, finding collage, her chosen medium, almost by accident – a friend asked her to display some work, and for efficiency’s sake, she “decided to give the huge box of images [she had] collected for over ten years a purpose”. After that, she was hooked: “It was complete freedom and whenever I had time I’d sit down and make more.” It is this desire for freedom that most often plays out in her work: the struggle between chaos and order, sobriety and silliness, movement and stasis. She approaches recurrent themes – sexuality, domesticity, and identity construction – and recently has begun embroidering sex organs, playing with ideas of expectation and technique. Her approach is frank; looking head on, and then to the side at a subject, making her work both funny and refreshing. From graphic encrusted penises, to abstract assemblages of the female reproductive system, she moves deftly between the gauche and the reflective.
“It’s not really about sex, it’s about the study of sex, the science of sex”, says Kate Forde, one of the curators. The first UK exhibition to bring together leaders in the study of sex such as Magnus Hirschfeld, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, ‘The Institute of Sexology’ at the Wellcome Collection shows us how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go to understand human sexual response and identity. It explores the work and collections of these sexologists in their different sites of research; from labs and classrooms, to libraries and living rooms.
The labyrinthine space is filled with note books, incredibly detailed hand-drawn charts, manuals and complex diagrams. There are over 200 objects ranging from ‘Anti Baby’ Condoms from the 1980s, to 1920s hair dryer-esque vibrators and rubber diaphrams, and alarmingly spiky anti-masturbation devices from the 1880s, to decorative vessels and drawings depicting couples just enjoying the act. My favourite was a beautifully painted porcelain fruit which opened to reveal a couple copulating, blissfully unaware. Interspersed amongst the film, ethnography and medical artifacts, there is a really beautiful selection of fine art, ranging from Jonathan Stezaker’s androgynous collages to activist Zanele Muholi’s moving black and white portraits of lesbians in South Africa. Even Woody Allen’s comic sci-fi film, Sleeper, in which the ‘Orgasmatron’, an elevator-shaped machine, is used to rapidly induce the frigid couples of the future to orgasm, has its own rightful place. Brought together, these items show us how our attitude towards sexual behavior is evolving, and the remarkable diversity within the study of sex.
In the run up to Ladybeard’s Sex Issue, we spoke to the artist Neil Bartlett about his inspiring sex survey entitled ‘Excuse Me, Would You Mind If I Asked You a Few Personal Questions About Sex?’ Refiguring the traditional dynamic between audience and exhibition, visitors are invited to pick up a questionnaire, comprised of 24 unapologetically intimate questions about their sexual life, and post it into a box in the gallery.
London-born, New York based artist Nicola Tyson is best known for the unusual, psychological figures who stalk her stark, brightly-coloured canvases. Wonderfully distorted, these otherworldly creatures are mesmerising, transfixing the spectator both in alarm and adoration.
Alongside her arresting artwork, Tyson has produced innovative literary work. She is the author of Dead Letter Men, a series of letters that invert the literary tradition of male authors writing to their dead predecessors. Tyson’s own letters to deceased male artists, from Pablo Picasso to Max Beckmann, sit alongside photographs of the artist and portraits of her male influences. Thought provoking and immensely funny, these satirical letters give voice to her (and our) frustrations with male artists of the past, examining the divisive sexual politics of art. The book was published in limited edition by her New York and London galleries, Petzel and Sadie Coles HQ, with only 800 copies printed. Ladybeard was lucky enough to get our hands on a copy and we have chosen our favourite letter to share with you!
Sex Worker Open University member Brock Lee writes on the laws, policy makers and anti-sex work feminists who treat sex workers as if they do not know the solution to their own problems.
Feminists who believe that legalising sex work or criminalising clients will help women are misguided at best. At worst, they are directly implicated and responsible for putting sex workers lives at greater risk from not only the police, but clients too.
Legalising sex work, or criminalising clients only serves to give state agencies greater control and power over already hypervisiblised and targeted bodies – migrant bodies, trans bodies, classed and racialised bodies. Pushing for greater state power over marginalised people's lives and work is not an act of liberation and social justice.
"You have to support us, you have to help us. By resisting decriminalisation you are permitting people to kill us. "
Veronica F. is a sex worker. As an activist for sex workers' rights, she is part of the movement that aims to decriminalise and destigmatise sex work, and ensure fair treatment before the law for all people within the sex industry. Veronica is passionate about dispelling the myriad of stereotypes that paint sex workers as victims, criminals or exotic, 'other' creatures: "It's so important to show that sex workers are people; we are not animals with no rights and no will. We live normal lives – we have good moments and bad moments like everybody else." Veronica is a member of the Sex Worker Open University, which empowers its sex worker community through workshops, debates, actions and art. She is part of x:talk, a sex worker led project which provides a support network for migrant sex workers and helps them improve their English. She is also a member of the Sex Workers' Opera, a unique production written and performed by sex workers and their allies. Fiercely political, Veronica is a feminist and an anarchist; as a sex worker, she sees herself as being outside the capitalist power structure, fighting against it. She is warm and full of laughter, welcoming us into her home and introducing us to her girlfriend. She speaks to Ladybeard with candour and wit about her experiences, and the desperate need for decriminalisation of sex work.
Betty Dodson – artist, author and PhD sexologist – is a sex-positive feminist and masturbation guru. She published her first book, Liberating Masturbation: A Meditation on Selflove in 1974, which quickly became a cult classic. Since then she has continued to be a pioneering voice in feminist discourse, writing several more books including the bestselling Sex for One (1987), Orgasms for Two (2002), and most recently, My Romantic Love Wars: A Sexual Memoir. She has run her Bodysex workshops for over 25 years in which women explore and discover their sexuality. Currently she runs and edits masturbation site dodsonandross.com with Carlin Ross.
Betty has supplied us with a very thorough 'How to' guide on masturbating for our Sex Issue. In the meantime, we caught up with her to get down and dirty with masturbation, squirting and self-loving.
What is it about binary based understandings of sex, sexuality and gender that makes them so difficult to shake off? The pervasive idea of 'if this then that' is a relatively new problem for mainstream representations of non-normative sexualities and genders, as the other half of the 'either/or' (the gay, the queer, the non cis) wasn't given any validity. You were straight, you were cis, or you were shut up (in every sense of the phrase). That 'or' is now slowly becoming an established, viable option, at least within the realms of sexuality: same sex marriage may not always be socially accepted but at least it is legal in many parts of the world. With this comes the exposure of new frontiers, and the problems of the binary itself. Both gay and straight spaces often treat bisexuality with incredulity as though it's between choosing one or another gender; this idea of choice then reinforces the idea that there are only two accepted manifestations of gender. What then happens if you don't feel you fit into that either/or categories we are given of man/woman, straight/gay, cis/trans?
Dr Meg John Barker is a writer, campaigner, UKCP accredited therapist, activist and senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University. They are the author of Rewriting the Rules, an integrative guide to love, sex and relationships, which was released in August 2012. As the chair of our panel on Sex: Myth-making and Taboo, we asked Meg to take us beyond the binary.
Dan Glass grew up in a Zionist Jewish household in New Barnet. As a young radical gay man, at 19 he staged an “exodus”, swapping the synagogue for squat parties and finding spiritual fulfilment in climate change activism. He lived in Glasgow for nine years where he studied for his Masters in Human Environmental Relationships, before moving to Berlin and then back to London. After being a stronghold member of Plane Stupid for seven years, challenging aviation expansion and the systematic destruction of our planet (he once glued himself to Gordon Brown), he turned his attention toward more personal issues. Dan is a founding member of Never Again Ever!, a charity campaigning for greater awareness of inherited holocaust trauma, and an organiser for the UK branch of ACT UP! (Aids Coalition to Unleash Power). After being diagnosed with HIV at 22, he created Shafted! an unashamedly deviant HIV cabaret, in which performers are blasted from a six foot penis across stage. Early this year he staged The Beyond UKIP Cabaret in Nigel Farage’s local pub, for which Farage is now trying to sue. He is currently in the process of putting together Queertopia, a psychedelic night to challenge the closure of queer spaces. Dan is fiercely political, believing we can challenge patriarchal and capitalist structures and still have fun.
As one of our contributors to the Sex Issue, Dan spoke to Ladybeard about his activism, which is about channelling anger into something productive, healing, exciting and spectacular.
There is something perversely comic about how much menstrual blood freaks people out, especially cis guys. When blood is part of a natural process, and not the result of some sort of violence, it becomes automatically revolting. This is an irony that shines brightest in the gaming industry – the two main genres of games seem to be ‘car’ or ‘gun’, and the resulting violence within them (often towards women) is endemic.
This is something that Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, two 17-year-old high school students from New York, noticed. They met at a Summer Immersion Programme run by Girls Who Code, an organisation trying to close the gender gap in tech. The result of that meeting is TamponRun, an addictive tampon for bullets 8bit running game. The game not only draws attention to the taboo around menstruation, it’s also really, really fun. The girls have been kind enough to send us the code to host TamponRun on the Ladybeard website, so you can play to your heart’s content. But before you play, check out our interview with Andy and Sophie where they talk tampons, tech and future plans.
Knitting has had a resurgence recently – people are taking up this conventionally domestic and feminized “hobby” and bringing it into the 21st Century. Or so the trite articles go. Trixie von Purl has taken knitting to another level. Her Knit Your Own Kama Sutra offers knitting patterns for 12 of the most popular positions from the classic Kama Sutra guide. Sexed up and subversive, it’s exactly as creative, bizarre and raunchy as you’d expect.
The Lotus Blossom consists of the man sitting cross-legged on the floor or comfortable surface. His partner sits in his lap and wraps their legs around his body. To vary the position slightly, the partner can lie back and pull his or her legs up into the lotus position, while the man kneels in front. Just make sure you remove your cucumber slices first or they might slip down into an uncomfortable spot! In our upcoming Sex Issue, you will find the instructions for The Lotus Blossum and The Lustful Leg – some of our favourite purled positions! You can also buy the book here.
Klaus combines linguistics and the challenges of censorship with a filthy fanaticism for pornography and the female form. From the rude to the lewd to the downright crude, Klaus straddles a space somewhere between Chomsky and the Chapman Brothers. Klaus’ current work repurposes vintage porn magazines for the digital age, allowing for more colloquial conversations around “sex ed”. By re-appropriating the context and function of vintage porn, Klaus concocts images which are celebratory, bold, and salaciously fun.
This video entitled 'four letter words' presents a series of changing morphological structures. Struck by the neat and fleeting sophisticated font, these semiotic shifts take us across the boundaries of crudeness and vulgarity. We find ourselves in a linguistic fun fair, struggling to distinguish between what is rude and what is banal. The result is highly satisfying. Klaus studied at Central St Martins and now resides in the depths of South East London. Keep an eye out for more of her work on her website and in our upcoming Sex Issue.
Rosa Rogers’ documentary Casablanca Calling tells the story of a quiet social revolution. In 2006, the first Morchidat graduated in Morocco. Morchidat are state-trained female Islamic preachers who promote women’s rights through the teachings of the Koran. They teach an Islam based on compassion and equality, aiming to separate its true teachings from prejudice and misunderstanding. The scheme was born out of two schools of thought. On a civic level it stemmed from wider reform in family law (Mordawana), and on a religious level it was indicative of a move toward modernisation. Rogers’ film focuses on the day-to-day lives of three Morchidat and the communities within which they work. She talks to Ladybeard about the trials of realising this thought-provoking film, and its wider feminist context.
With the return of the Tory government, austerity measures are set to become ever more stringent, attacking the vital services that make up our welfare system. Once again it is those who are most vulnerable who will suffer the greatest – domestic violence centres were cut by almost a third during the last Conservative coalition government, denying the same percentage of victims relief from abusive, dangerous and often life-threatening situations. Now, with ever dwindling funding available to women’s refuges, and no tangible plans to redress the situation, it looks as if these services will continue to diminish, as well as the quality of care they can provide. Theresa May has refused to ring-fence funding for domestic violence services, forcing them to compete for money from councils’ inadequate budgets. As services and centres are slashed, so women all over the country are beaten, bruised and broken. The analogy is almost clichéd: – They Cut: We Bleed. Anya Pearson reports for Ladybeard.
Liadain Evans is an artist working in video installation and film. Her work is concerned with the gap between reality and the cinematic world, romanticisation, and the construction of fantasy. Graduating from BA Fine Art at Falmouth University in 2014, she now lives and works in London.
Under Texas Skies is an eighteen minute long projection of a woman looking out of her window. She occasionally leaves the room only to return in a new outfit, whilst the view outside her window intermittently changes. This is the extent of change in Liadain’s film; and yet there is something moving and irresistible about watching this lonely, gazing figure. She becomes for us the voyeur and the voyeured, a beautiful romantic but also a pathetic romanticisation of herself. Her world is divided between the claustrophobia of her reality (though what this is, is questionable), and the wide-open spaces she longs for outside her window. The little we are shown of her life appears as an imitation of the American cinematic she consumes, while aspects of her manic and mundane reality still creep in. To see more of Liadain's work take a look at her website.
Britain’s treatment of asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees is one of its dirtiest and best-kept secrets. Detained in vast prison complexes sustained by fear mongering politicians and an insidious culture of xenophobic individualism, people fleeing the horrors of one country are met with the trauma of another. Victims of violence, discrimination and war in their home countries many of the women held at Yarl’s Wood are met with similar instances of repression on the UK shores. Ladybeard’s Charlotte Cheeseman joined the protest at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, in which hundreds of women showed their solidarity for those on the other side of the fence, bringing to light Britain’s sullied practices.
Only 30% of Central St Martin’s fashion students are able to exhibit their collections in the press show. This is a highly sought-after event, held in the centre of the futuristic CSM building. High barriers are raised; hopeful people who are turned away find a viewing platform in the glass lift shaft or through the gaps in the erected screens.
But this year, outside in the fading sunlight and interspersed amongst the fountains of Granary Square, stood the collections of all the students who didn’t quite make the cut. These collections were mostly worn by friends, not models, and were presented in long, still lines. It wasn’t ticketed, and it was a relief to appreciate fashion away from the intimidation of the catwalk and selective seat numbering. Outside there was no loud music to be swept away by, but rather a feeling of calm curiosity as the spectators were able to stop and examine each immaculate, carefully crafted piece of artwork. The models smiled and chatted in this relaxed environment, adding to the feeling of openness. Ultimately, Encore CSM shows that we can enjoy fashion and talent without it being exclusive or selective.