Yesterday I was pleased to be a part of Shibari Relief and consider this a formal apology for not blogging about the event here prior to its debut. I can only hope you may have heard about it somewhere else. It was one hell of a fundraiser.
The organizer, Patti B, is just as smart as the crack of a finely crafted whip. She’s one of those people who is a walking bundle of intelligence. Sure, her hair is pink and she might even tell you that she dyes it but that’s not entirely true. That’s just the visible cloud of smartness that she produces. Rather than sitting around her house lamenting the sad state of affairs in Japan, she did something about it and that’s more than most of us can ever really say. She and another amazing photographer of sex radicals, Mark I Chester , took on the unenviable task of wrangling a bunch of Bay Area artists together in just 10 days. Chester is brilliant behind a lens. His pictures give a viewer privileged access to the sexual underground and his lighting is so precise you can see the shadow from even the tiniest beads of sweat on a body bending and stretching in unbelievably perverse athleticism. It was a powerful and productive combination.
I was honored to be along for the ride.
I had to snag one of the posters for the event on my way out because I was amazed to see my name next to those of people who have inspired me so much over the years. In the days of Maggie-without-Mayhem I was out there alone without a flock of other strange birds by my side. As a geek, I took to research and as a result I stumbled onto the work of many of the participating artists who contributed to Shibari Relief. Making art is a terrifying process when you really get into the nuts and bolts of it. Working something out in your medium of choice for so long you’re surprised by the rising of the sun is something that can only be managed by the brave. To make art that people are afraid to hang on walls, even bedroom walls, can be so risky it’s patently insane. Obscene art is part of my erotic cultural inheritance. The bourgeoisie have their own photographers. Despite what you may have heard my life is worthy of documentation and so is yours. (Whatever that might be.) I’ve run into enough roadblocks in my own lifetime to possess ample respect for the people who paved a road that I walk upon today because I know that they made it look easy when it was not.
I try to play it cool but I still experience excitement and intimidation in the company of people who can make images that stop me in my tracks. It can be said with certainly that not every sexual photograph will induce arousal or humility inside me. As I wandered through the coffee shop looking at the items up for raffle or auction I was reminded of my context. Images like these first communicated that I wasn’t alone in the world and then they told me about why I must fight. It is increasingly frustrating for me to look at a photograph that clearly articulates mastery of the craft and to see it shoved to the side or censored because it makes people feel uncomfortable. A lot of images make me uncomfortable but many of those have been the most necessary for me to look at. How can anyone be an informed adult with knowledge of the world without looking at things that are discomforting from time-to-time. We all know that the world isn’t a comfortable place so this devotion to maintaining a record that states otherwise is confusing to me.
This word “obscenity” is a pox upon culture.
I saw a few online grumblings from people making claims that the whole endeavor was more about self-aggrandizing but I am compelled to scoff at that notion. I’m certainly not surprised by it. A lot of people experience outright terror at the indisputable evidence that self-identified perverts and kinksters are intelligent, creative, capable of giving and receiving consent, and can organize effectively to create change. This time the mission was to assist with the disaster recovery in Japan but you have no idea what we might be up to next. The cum-thirsty ravenous raptors of San Francisco have figured out how to open locks and now there is no hope that they will ever peacefully return to their closets. The San Francisco girls of Leather (SFgOL) have only recently become a formal organization and they literally filled the shelves of the Casa De Las Madres. Many of the HIV prevention initiatives we take for granted today came from gay leathermen and hustlers in big cities who refused to go and die quietly in a corner. Perhaps marginalization can be identified when someone points at a community’s efforts to alleviate pain and damage in the world as “selfish at heart.”
Yes, we raised money for Japan by selling art so erotic that the nail holding it to the wall becomes increasingly engorged with arousal and one must tend to the constant wetness emerging from the dry wall’s libido. Does this in any way diminish the potential outcome of those dollars? Will it somehow afford fewer shelters or fewer sources of clean water? Will the blankets be less warm, will the food be less nourishing? Why is it acceptable for everyone else to have fun at a fundraiser but not for us? We weren’t even taking our own clothes off this time, just selling evidence of times when it happened in the past. There will always be armchair critics who think their apathy is superior to the actions of others but in the case of a disaster my best advice for them is to go out and raise money better than we did. If our shameless “obscenity” offends your sensibilities and the notion of our channeled lust assisting someone in need disturbs you so greatly, then put that fire in your belly to some use. Go have a barn-raising or whatever it is your puritanical communities are good at doing. Don’t sit around and toast the apocalypse even if you think it’s inevitable just because the suffering is unknown to you. Sitting around and doing nothing when you know that something must be done is the nature of selfishness.
The world is no worse a place because a group of kinksters got together, took some consensual photographs, drank some fair trade coffee, and sent a check off to the Red Cross to save some motherfucking lives. That kind of thinking relies on an insistence that kinky people have no right to assemble peacefully and if this is indeed the case then I disagree quite disrespectfully.