- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Women Sex-Performance Artists
Sex performances are as old as time. Depictions of women performing for men, or for each other, can be seen in ancient images of belly dancers in the Middle East, in Indian temple performers, and throughout Europe. In the nineteenth century burlesque arrived and the first striptease artists followed. In the 1870s the Folies-Bergères thrilled and scandalized Paris, and in the 1920s the Ziegfeld Follies hit New York and inspired the "flappers" craze. When the sensational Josephine Baker hit Europe, the audiences began changing from all male to couples, who saw this new entertainment as not just risqué but artistic. Erotic dancing and performance went from sleazy to bohemian, and artists gained some degree of legitimacy along with their notoriety. This reflected a freeing up of women's sexuality in a society that was less rigid and more liberal. The same loosening up was seen on the streets where, for the first time, women's hemlines rose and they wore pants, cut their hair, and smoked in public.
Two world wars saw these liberal attitudes evaporate, to be followed by the postwar conservatism of the 1950s. However, in a small step toward the development of sex-performance art, the first peep show opened in 1950. By the 1960s, society was rapidly changing as the first baby boomers hit adolescence. In the West, high employment and favorable economic conditions meant an environment where freethinking and expression of ideas were possible.
After a relaxation in the censorship laws during the 1960s, rock musicals such as Hair and Oh Calcutta! containing a high degree of nudity were performed at legitimate theatre venues. In Hollywood credible actresses were allowed to do sexual performances on film-Brigitte Bardot stripped for the camera in And God Created Woman in 1956, Nadia Garys stripped in La Dolce Vita in 1959, and Jane Fonda did a fantasy striptease in Barbarella in 1968.
I chose to interview Annie Sprinkle for her ability to expand sexual boundaries by using her real-life stories in her performances of Post-Porn Modernist, Sluts and Goddess and Herstory of Porn. The viewer is included and taken on an erotic journey that leads to sexual liberation and spiritual magic. Linda Montano has lived her life on the cutting edge as an artist, using everything to take her further into her growth, and Elizabeth Burton has inspired many housewives and corporate women to find the eroticism that lies in the "tease" of striptease.
Sometimes Less Is More
Annie Sprinkle spent twenty years as a porn star, stripper, and prostitute. With the advent of the AIDS crisis, she became interested in healing modalities and spirituality. She evolved into a high priestess of sacred sex magic rituals, a Tantrica, an internationally acclaimed avant-garde artist, a facilitator of sex workshops, a safe-sex innovator, and a feminist pleasure activist. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito, California.
Annie has taught and lectured at many museums, universities, and holistic healing centers. She is one of the women who inspired the term sex-positive feminist and is a founder of Pornographers Promoting Safer Sex, organized to educate pornographers to use safer sex in their films so they in turn can educate the public.
Annie has written and had published over three hundred articles about sex for a variety of magazines, including Penthouse, Forum, and On Our Backs. She has also contributed to a number of books, including Bi Any Other Name, A Vindication of the Rights of Whores, Angry Women, Ritual Sex, and Living with Contradictions.
As a model, Annie has appeared in every major and minor sex magazine. Her photography has been published in American Photographer, Newsweek, Spin, Camera Austria, and Penthouse, and has been shown in galleries internationally. Her one-woman show, Annie Sprinkle's Herstory of Porn: Reel to Real, is a play/film diary about her own and society's evolution through the sexual revolution. She is an excellent macrobiotic cook, loves to swim, keep house, whale watch, and take long nature walks. She has traveled the world extensively. Her motto is "Let there be pleasure on earth, and let it begin with me."
* * *
I feel I have much more awareness around sexuality now than ever before. I am much more sensitive. I have had a very wide variety of experiences. I used to get out there and try everything and everybody, use lots of costumes, sex toys, try all kinds of fetishes and fantasies. Now I have come back to basics. I am more in tune with the spiritual side of sex, the healing aspects, and the exchange of subtle energies-quiet, simple sex, but at the same time very powerful.
One thing that really turns me on lately is being out in nature. It is so sensuous, especially the ocean. I love going out on my rowboat. It's total bliss and happiness. I love the tides, and the constant change that takes place on the water. Our sexualities are so much like the ocean-always changing, fluid, sometimes calm, sometimes stormy. Sometimes it's high tide, sometimes low. I am not very promiscuous anymore. I like being in very intimate relationships. I like the intimacy that comes with time. I also love to meditate and masturbate at the same time. To medibate! To allow myself to let go into the depths of erotic relaxation.
I have devoted a lot of my life to learning the art of making love. I see it a lot like painting. Each lovemaking session is a work of art! The skills of lovemaking can be learned, just like painting can be learned. I have learned a whole lot about sex from my performance work in theatre, on stage, and in front of the camera. I have also explored different personae by creating different characters, wearing costumes, and exploring different aspects of sex. It's been wonderful. But these days I find it important to know when "not to perform."
I recently attended a sex workshop taught by my friend Kutira in Germany, where we, as participants, could receive anything we wanted. Each person could ask for what they needed, and the whole group would help to give it to them. It could be any sort of fantasy or erotic experience. When it was my turn I asked that everyone do nothing. Everyone stood in a circle around me and did nothing for about fifteen minutes. And it was so delicious and satisfying. I got so high and turned on, and felt so much peace and bliss. Others were amazed at how powerful it was. It showed me that sometimes less is more.
We can be so busy doing a million different things-working, playing, exercising, socializing, and making love-that we forget how wonderful it is to do "nothing" and just "be." One of my greatest discoveries was to find out that I can have an incredible, erotic orgasmic experience without doing anything. Just opening up to the erotic energy available from the universe, saying "yes" to the ecstasy coming into the body. It's just a few breaths away.
In the one-woman show I did for several years, I performed a masturbation ritual. The idea was to evoke the spirit of the Ancient Sacred Prostitute. It was the last twenty minutes of the show. After I did it for about a year, I came to realize that it was not the excitement of building up to the climax, or even the climax, I liked best. The most precious, delicious thing was during the afterglow when I was doing nothing; just being still was the most erotic, wonderful feeling.
Many couples often have just one night every so often to make love, so they will aim to have a big orgasmic, passionate experience. It is not always necessary to make a big shebang out of it. Sometimes less is much more: often the subtle is the most powerful.
I was often busy doing, doing, doing, performing, giving, receiving, putting costumes on, taking them off, building up passion, and being busy, busy, busy-which was wonderful. But I discovered that doing nothing can be the most delicious, ecstatic, blissful, transformative, and deeply satisfying erotic experience.
First of all, to be a great lover you must be able to look deeply into your lover's eyes and not be afraid of what you see. For the first ten years I was exploring sexuality I had tons of sex, but I did not really look deeply into people's eyes. Once I learned to look deeply into eyes, the sex got so much more intense. And far more intimate.
Exercise: The Ecstasy of Doing Nothing (for Couples)
Time: Ninety minutes
Props: Clock or timer with an alarm
Setting: In nature or in a room with candles, incense, aromatherapy (optional), but with no music, or very subtle, soft music
* The main thing is not to do anything, but with the intention of connecting deeply with yourself and your lover. It is not a good idea to do this exercise if you are very tired, because if you fall sound asleep you will miss the effects. This exercise can be done naked or fully clothed. Use an alarm clock or timer to ring at thirty-minute intervals.
* Both partners should lie on their sides, in spoon position, with one person holding the other person. Close your eyes and relax your breathing. Allow yourself time to go inside your own body and into your own feelings. Make your focus relaxation-do not think about particular issues or plan future activities. Try not to think too much, but to stay very present with your lover. Let go of thoughts. You can coordinate your breathing by breathing together or by breathing alternatively, but don't be too rigid about it.
* After the alarm or timer has rung, reset it for another thirty minutes. Take three deep, big breaths and slowly turn over, reversing the position, with the person previously being held now holding his or her partner. When the alarm goes off again reset it for thirty minutes, but this time turn to your partner, lie in a relaxed position and hold one another. Look into each other's eyes. If you're not used to prolonged eye-gazing this can be a challenge. You may feel uncomfortable at first. Or you may feel fear that you don't like this person, or you may notice wrinkles or that he or she looks strange. Do not analyze these feelings, just let them pass through your mind. Look at your partner and allow yourself to experience whatever is there or not there, without holding onto anything. Hang in there. It's well worth learning to do it.
* You may experience a trancelike feeling. You most likely will go into an altered state, and feel like you are vibrating, or floating, or very light. You may sense a metallic feeling on your tongue. You may even hallucinate a little. You may feel like you've become one with your lover and don't know where your body starts and your lover's begins. Just go with the feelings. It's all very safe. In fact, it's good for you, better than a trip to a tropical island. The experience of being held can be so beautiful. It is a very primal experience and a wonderful way to express love.
* When the final thirty minutes are finished give each other a passionate kiss and take a few deep breaths. If it seems hard to talk, then don't. Or if you're anxious to talk, then do. You may want to share some thoughts or feelings with each other. This exercise can create some wonderful pillow talk.
Although this sounds simple, perhaps even boring, don't knock it till you try it! You might find this is some of the best lovemaking you've ever had. It can be deeply fulfilling. Your various energy bodies are merging. Your angels might be hovering above you, enrapturing each other. You could have astral sex. What couples can learn most from this exercise is the art of being together without having to sexually perform, and you will be practicing how to totally relax during lovemaking. If you do not have ninety minutes, do this exercise in whatever time you have; just reduce the time proportionately, say into twenty-minute or ten-minute intervals.
Exercise: The Ecstasy of Doing Nothing (for Singles)
Time: Thirty minutes
Props: Full-length mirror, clock or timer with an alarm
Setting: In a room with candles, incense, aromatherapy (optional), but with no music or very soft music
* Set the alarm or timer for thirty minutes. Take off your clothes and, using cushions, prop up the mirror and place it in front of you so you can lie on your side facing it. Look at yourself as if you were looking at someone else. See yourself as your lover. This is a very powerful exercise, because by allowing yourself to just be with yourself, by looking into your own eyes, you can create a unique intimacy with yourself. Get to know yourself better. It's fantastic.
This Time Before We Are No Longer Fertile
Linda Montano is a performance artist who addresses issues of endurance, life as art, art as life, humor as healing in art and life, and art as "great therapy." She has been performing her fears, fantasies, taboos, dreams, and life issues since 1969, when she presented a performance-art piece titled Chickens as Art at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In that performance, she dressed up as a dead chicken, complete with twelve-foot wingspan and tap shoes.
Linda was raised a Roman Catholic and even entered the convent for two years. Since 1961 she has been addressing questions of spirituality, feminism, and art, which led to research on Eastern spirituality and experiences in the rich yoga traditions of chakras, Tantra, and spiritual ecstasy.
Linda translated these teachings as suggested by her meditation teacher and mentor, Dr R. S. Mishra (Brahmananda Saraswati). For fourteen years, from 1984 to 1998, she experienced the body's seven chakras, or energy centers, by wearing clothes for a full year exclusively in the color that corresponded to a particular chakra. Each year she changed to a new color, based on the next chakra. When she completed all seven chakras, she began the cycle again. She has also performed Chakraphonics for fourteen years, a sound-based work based on a response to the energies found in the chakras.
While many sexuality performance artists cite Annie Sprinkle as their formative influence, Sprinkle herself acknowledges that it was Linda Montano who convinced her that she was an artist, not just a sex worker. Linda lives her art, so her personal expression is difficult to translate into tips or exercises and instead reflects her internal journey.
* * *
My most transformative sexual event occurred just before menopause, when a very strong sexual energy flooded my being. It was primal, feral, a last gasp indicating that I had hours to mate before I would no longer be able to bring a baby into the world. It was without reason, and I was led by the first desire. I had no control, no sense of consequences.
Later I read that this is quite common and that this is a very powerful time for women-this time before we are no longer fertile. Women at this time are driven to procreate. I was mad with passion, insane. Out of my mind. Willing to die. And I almost did die. I was driven to the edge of madness. So my advice to all women who are not yet premenopausal is this: listen when you get there, and remember that every action has consequences.
Tips for the Premenopausal Woman
* When you are about seven years from menopause, or perimenopausal, in your late thirties or early forties, note the change in your sexual energy.
* If you are totally, wildly, passionately obsessed with someone who is not available to you, be aware of the feeling.
* Check yourself every time you want to think that you are able to do anything you want, with whomever you want, whenever you want, even though such a thought is not an accurate assessment of the situation.
* Write down ideas for how you can use your tornado of erotic energy in ways more beneficial for you and the world.
* Choose one of these ideas, and either think about it or do it.
* Thank yourself for not messing around with someone else's space or life or wife or husband or career or karma.
* Reward yourself.
Excerpted from Sex Tips & Tales from Women Who Dare Copyright © 2001 by Jo-Anne Baker. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.