Outlaw Bodies

Interview with sexybrain Kathryn Allan

I’m honored to have a story in the hot new Outlaw Bodies anthology, available for sale right here:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Lulu | e-book

(Go on! Go buy it! I promise, the orgy won’t start till you get back.)

Editors Djibril al-Ayad and Lori Selke have organized a fantastic daisy-chain, in which each of us contributors interview each other on our blogs.

Here’s my interview of independent scholar Kathryn Allan, who wrote a supersmart capstone essay in the book.

Q. Kathryn, I want to invite you to focus in on one sentence, which struck me as particularly relevant to the intersection of our interests:

“Outlaw bodies are ripe to the touch, they ooze into the corners of our vision and into our deepest sense of self. Their excessive bodies disgust, arouse, and confuse.

I’m picturing a venn diagram: three overlapping circles… “things that disgust” … “things that arouse” … “things that confuse.”

In the centre: outlaw bodies.

This confluence of sensations strikes me as extremely relevant to bdsm, which also sometimes simultaneously disgusts, arouses, and confuses both the observer and the participant.

So, what do you see as the common root of these three sensations, which can manifest very differently but seem to be linked at their core?

I think that disgust, arousal, and confusion – used in this way – all circle a split core of desire and shame. Outlaws bodies, to me, are those bodies that speak the unspoken desires of our collective cultures, whether they are sexual or nonsexual. Since outlaw bodies break the confines of “what’s normal,” to desire the non-normative often brings shame. This is why communities of like-minded, like-bodied outlaws are important – they take away the stigma, the shame, of desiring to be/to be with outlaw bodies. Reactions like disgust, arousal, and confusion can either bring people together or force them apart depending on the lines of communication and acceptance.

Q. How can the same act result in three different sensations? Or are they the same sensation?

I think that the same act can result in three different sensations – or indeed, a great many more – but not necessarily within one individual. Desire and shame (which are at the core of our impromptu outlaw bodies Venn diagram) manifest themselves differently from person to person. The issue should not be distinguishing one sensation from another, but that we each have equal opportunity to express ourselves in ways that do not limit the rights and freedoms of others.

Q. In what way does arousal = confusion = disgust? Attraction = repulsion?

There are no clear lines between any of these reactions to outlaw bodies. One person’s kink is another person’s mundane experience. Outlaw bodies themselves are also constantly changing in response to these reactions. Outlaw bodies push the boundaries of acceptable desires; outlaw bodies redefine the consequences (i.e. to repress or express) of shame over having non-acceptable desires. Society is constantly absorbing the people who stand at the margins. It can take centuries or decades to move the novel into the everyday. What attracts in one time and place, will disgust in another. The only constant rule to outlaw bodies is that they are bodies that create uncertainty.

Q. Why is it that the transgressive, the taboo, specifically, creates these overlapping sensations?

The transgressive carries with it the senses of novelty, daring, and exploration. I know, I know – I just added in more descriptors of feelings/reactions. But I guess that speaks to the confusion outlaw bodies elicit, doesn’t it? They aren’t just ONE thing, one sensation. The taboo is experienced differently for the person who has already transgressed than by the person who is only considering the transgression. When we are faced by the unexpected, or by the thing that we should not be, we must make sense of this new experience somehow. Bigots fall back on well-structured, and therefore comforting, notions of normativity, while the open-minded reassess what they believed they had knew to be “true.” It is incredibly difficult to remain open to new ideas, to new ways of being, that at first appearance seem antithetical to what we thought of as true. The reward for expanding ourselves – in terms of our minds, beliefs, bodies, relationships, and so on – is proportional to the risk we take in exploring the transgressive. Of course, some taboos should remain taboo (i.e. necrophilia, pedophilia, and any act in which there is an inherent lack of consent, power, and/or agency from all parties involved).

Q. Does this indicate some kind of deep pleasure at the root of confusion and disgust, too?

When it comes to transgressive acts that are truly consensual, I do believe that there can be pleasure at the root of confusion and disgust. You started this interview by raising the practice of BDSM and noting the variety of conflicting sensations that attend it. Within a BDSM relationship, consent is key. The submissive has consented to a temporary – or pre-arranged – power imbalance with the dominant partner. Both actors retain their agency. Sensations of confusion and disgust will naturally arise when boundaries are pushed – the key to finding pleasure in those situations is how those sensations are acted on and explored. Again, this involves communication and acceptance.

Q. In what other situations might we access this state?

I think that art (visual or written) can provoke a similar state of mind. While there is usually not a literal dialogue between creator and consumer, I do believe that there is a kind of conversation that happens.

Q. What does it mean to transcend any/all of these states — for example, is it necessary to overcome disgust in order to fully experience arousal, or might arousal be heightened by disgust (say, in something like humiliation play)?

It comes down to the individual, doesn’t it? As I already noted, outlaw bodies – or perhaps it is better said at this point in time, outlaw sensations – raise a myriad of feelings and reactions. There is no one way to transcend an unwanted or surprising emotion. If I go back to the core of desire/shame that lies at the centre of these states, the possibilities for transcending discomfort, for fully experiencing the transgressive, are limitless. And that’s what I find fascinating about outlaw bodies. They are without boundaries. They have no set instructions to how we react to them, enjoy them. Some people might find their transcendence through disgust, while others through self-sacrifice. Again, for me, it all comes back to consent and agency. All bodies – no matter how disgusting, confusing, arousing – deserve rights and freedom to exist. Because the designation of an outlaw body is always changing. It is not fixed in time. Outlaw bodies are transcendent bodies.

Thank you so much, Kathryn!

Readers: To check out other interviews related to Outlaw Bodies, click here: http://djibrilalayad.blogspot.in/2012/10/outlaw-bodies-blog-carnival.html

And here again are the links to buy the book:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Lulu | e-book

Enjoy!

“Indians are capable of unlimited sexuality”

Yep, I said that!  And more, to the Times of India, the nation’s newspaper of record — which even published the F word in order to quote this blog.

Read more on porn, shamelessness, pro-sex feminism, advaita,  and my smutty new idea about spooning: http://www.timescrest.com/coverstory/the-best-medium-for-erotica-is-the-human-mind-7886

Desi Smut Makes the News!


I’m interviewed in The Week magazine along with other desi women who write sexily. Click here to read the full articleE-rotica, by Nikita Doval. Tagline: Writing about sex is also a powerful form of dissent for the growing breed of women bloggers.

Here’s the full text of Nikita’s email interview with me.

1) How did you get started on the journey of erotica writing?

I’ve been writing ever since I was a child and that included various kinds of dreams, fantasies, and stories. I never saw a reason to shy away from or shut off any kind of experience.

Sexy writing was a key part of my own sexual awakening; I learned which stories turned me on and which left me cold. I was reading and fantasizing about lesbians and sadomasochism for many years before I ever fucked a girl or felt a whip.  I was also lucky to be in a pro-sex feminist milieu where people like Susie Bright and Pat Califia were articulating why it’s important for women and queer people to write our own desires.

The more reading I did, the more I realized I was at least as good a writer as a lot of people whose stories were getting published.  So I started putting more effort into writing and finishing the stories in my head, instead of getting, um, distracted along the way!

I write the stories that I myself find hot and want to masturbate to.  I also write reflections on things that come up for me in my own sexual life; for example I just wrote and performed a piece called Hurting that talks about different levels of sexual, spiritual, and emotional pain.

As I gain a readership, I try to be conscious of including different gender orientations, races, and body types in my stories, because a lot of porn, whether written or visual, is very boring and stereotypical in that way.  The women are always beautiful and light-skinned and skinny with big breasts, for example.  Yawn.

2) How do you define erotica writing? Most people perceive there to be little difference between writing about sex and erotic writing. How would you differentiate the two? Some other writers I spoke to thought of erotic writing as a play of words, a play of language while they described their body’s sensations to its immediate environment, its thoughts to what was happening around it. How do you describe your erotic writings?

I do not differentiate. I write porn, erotica, smut, call it whatever you want, as well as stories where the sex is not the main point, and stories that don’t happen to have sex in them.  I am suspicious of any very strict attempt to delineate erotica from porn. That stinks of the old “good” vs “bad” sex duality.   I subscribe to Advaita (nondualism)!

I guess people say erotica is more about mood.  To me, at the end of the day it’s about fucking and whatever gets you hot is just a means to that.  Some people are turned on by a candle by the bedside, others prefer their candle to be dripping wax on their nipples. It’s all good; why should there be judgment that one way of setting the mood is “erotic” and one is “pornographic”?

3) We have had a fairly rich history of erotica be it in our bhakti traditions or of course the Kama Sutra but in the modern day and age erotica has all but fallen off our radar. Why do you think that happened? Do Indian writers struggle to find a balance between describing sex and celebrating the body’s reaction to it?

Clearly the cleaning-up of Indian sexuality was a response to colonialist ideas. The goraas came to India and were shocked to see women with bare breasts, men who slept with men, gods who had erotic lives, etc. Indian patriarchs trying to impress the goraas then bought into this and tried to show they were “civilized,” not “barbaric,” by covering up and brushing away certain practices, and trying to make Indian sexuality conform to Victorian morality. Partha Chatterjee lays this out pretty clearly in his influential postcolonial theory book, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories.  A lot of queer historians and academics are covering this territory too.

I don’t think people have ever stopped wanting to access erotic images or stories.  Bollywood is basically soft porn.  Even the tiniest town in India has a semi-secret video counter where guys can go to get ripped-off porno DVDs.  Because of patriarchal ideas and the confinement to the home, women haven’t had as much access as consumers of sexual material.

But now, as a wider swath of Indian women have access to the Internet and some leisure time, they’re looking for that material. Not much is aimed toward their tastes, of course, and most women don’t want to look at exploitative videos of semi-starved girls living in virtual slavery who are trafficked in from Nepal to be on sexcams — any more than they want to walk into the red-light districts of the metros.  They want stories they can relate to.  So the written word is filling that need.

My readers are all over the gender map.  Who I really write for is queer and transgender people of color all over the world.  But I’m happy if others get their rocks off, too.

4) Two years ago we had an anthology of Indian erotica released. Now Zubaan is working on another one. Urrmila Deshpande’s Slither was released to some good reviews. Erotic blogs are increasing in number and so are their followers (Shameless Yonis being one example), to what do you attribute this movement of erotica in the main-stream?

The internet has always been an easy place for people to access erotica because of anonymity. One of the first widely published internet erotica writers was a Sri Lankan American woman, Mary Anne Mohanraj, who has a number of books out now, some erotic and some not.  She’s working on a new erotic collection, DemiMonde, that features South Asian characters in a futuristic world and just raised money for it via Kickstarter.

So the web has always been further ahead on this issue, and Indians are big on the web (thanks IIT!).  Visual porn was the first type of business that figured out how to make money as an internet business. Now the print media in India are catching up.

But Indian writing is very hamstrung by archaic obscenity laws.  It’s exactly the same problem as Section 377.   And the fact that sex toys are not legal, in the land of the Kama Sutra, which explicitly refers to sex toys, is absurd.

These remnants of colonialism are getting weaker and weaker.  In practice, you can go into any cybercafe and walk by a guy who’s in a chatroom trolling for sex or looking at porn online.  You can buy cheap sex toys  made in China or even made in India.  You can read Shameless Yonis from the comfort of your own home!

So why not bring it out into the open?  Yes, we like sex!  There didn’t get to be 1.2 billion of us just like that only.  Haha.

I hope that sex writing can play a role in opening up the dialogue about sexuality, and letting people know that they are not alone in their desires.  Shame about sexuality is a huge problem for us desis, and that’s why more of us need to step up and be shameless role models, especially women.

5) What inspires your erotic writings? What are they influenced by?

I’m blessed with a fantastic range of personal sexual experience and an even more fantastic imagination.  Inspiration is never a problem!

6) Is writing erotica an intensely personal experience or can you separate your writing from your persona?

Sex is an intensely personal experience. Writing of any kind is also intensely personal, but in a different way.

7) What kind of reader feedback do you get? Based on the reactions you get, what is your opinion about sexual maturity of most Indians out there at least when it comes to the written word.

My reader feedback is mostly gratitude, encouragement, and bottomless desire.  I love it.

Yeah, ok, there are some guys out there who think they are perverts — but you know what, I’m probably much more perverted than them!  So the joke’s on them.  I think it’s hilarious when some dude tries to come on to me on Twitter, since (a) what a pathetic pickup medium, and (b) my stuff has BIG OL LESBO written all over it.

8 ) How did you get to be a part of Shameless Yonis?

Kama Spice had the idea to start a joint smut blog by South Asian women after she and I met at a conference.  We really clicked, we hooked in a couple of other writers we knew, and more recently, we hooked up with South Asian Sisters which has been producing the fabulous show Yoni Ki Baat for a number of years. The rest is history!

9) Are you open about your identity or do you prefer to keep it a closely guarded secret. Any particular reason why if so.

I like having a different persona for different writing voices.  People who are important to me in my real life know my various avatars.  At the same time, I do like to keep a zone of privacy around myself and the people I’m close to.

10) Lastly, who are the other Indian erotica writers you follow and why would you recommend them?

I don’t really follow any desi smut writers other than the Shameless Yonis.  My erotic tastes are specific, and I have high standards for the quality of the writing, so I’m afraid most of it doesn’t pass the bar.  Electric Feather was great, and I’m looking forward to the Zubaan anthology that Rosalyn is editing.  There is also a US anthology called Desilicious that came out some time back that was quite good.

I think we need more outlets. Someone should start a quarterly literary smut magazine in India. It would sell millions.  Are you listening, publishers of The Week?

Hurting

This is how you hurt me.

You take my hand. You straighten the fingers. I can’t see you: I’m on my knees with my forehead on the floor, my hands bound behind me. It takes a moment to understand what you want; to surrender these tiny muscles so that you can move them. I breathe, relax my palms, let you shape my body as you want it.

To write about someone, to be written about, is a special kind of intimacy. You asked for, demanded, a story.

The next day we didn’t touch, but this intimacy was happening—mediated by pen on paper, by imagination (mine), by language itself. Bunnies fuck, but only people talk about fucking, transmute it into meaning.

That magic is what makes us gods, isn’t it?

We are generating heat. From the small taut tendons of your arm, through the cane, to my palm: heat. From my hand back into yours: heat.

You hit my open palm with a heavy stick, one you found on the beach on our morning walk. I have never been hit there before, and it hurts. It’s not a sexy pain, not an erotic zone of my body. It sears.

You must sense the crests of sensation: how? Am I moaning, am I crying out? In between you hold my hand—sympathizing with the pain you’ve caused, and glorying in it, too.

In these pauses, your hand is smooth and cool, like mercy.

Now, remembering, that same heat rises through my body. My face flushes. If you’re reading this, halfway around the world, do you feel it, too?  This transaction is not just molecules. It’s an intimacy like no other. It means.

As a writer I am also a theoretician, but not your kind, cool and abstract, nearly scientific. I don’t have to do experiments, test my hypotheses on rats, engage in longitudinal studies of semiotics.  I just know, and then I have to trust what I know: what my body knows. What your body might know too, if you let it.  Every day I try to make this transmutation: matter into energy, dross to gold.

What the world sees as base, as sordid—the desire of one to hurt and the other to be hurt—we convert into a kind of transcendence, a space where spirits touch. It’s a space where we know… not each other, exactly, but know ourselves to be part of one energy, one field.

Krishna says, I am the field and the knower of the field.

Beyond religion: Hegel too believed that, in the relationship of master to slave, spiritual unity was possible.

It scares you, doesn’t it, this moment of synthesis?

When I write I walk toward this fear every day. With each blank page I face the terror of not being enough, of being too much, of being consumed, of remaining unknown. The world tells us we are wrong a thousand different ways every day. So of course we are afraid.

You tell me I am brave, and I realize it’s true. Fear has been my teacher, the one who wears the mask of god.

You make me talk. I tell you how brilliant you are and how scared I am, but you say I must be lying on both counts. You accuse me of flattery.

It occurs to me how young you are, how little you know your own beauty and genius, your power. I, irrepressibly rebellious—I who more than once have screamed no-no-no at a woman with a whip, to make her tame me—want nothing more than to be on my knees for you.

You hit me again, again.

From you I took more pain than I’ve ever taken before. I didn’t tell you that afterward; it was a little prize I withheld, the way you withheld something from me. Is pettiness is the opposite of intimacy?

Story is what we make to survive the pain. Again I don’t mean you and me, I mean our species. I don’t know how bunnies survive their suffering, but you and I and all our kind make narrative.

You didn’t want the intimacy to seep, like a wound, out of the scene. But your instruction, to write you a story, kept me in that space of intimacy while you distanced yourself from it; from me. I didn’t see the trap. I didn’t know I was meant to emote for both of us.

So maybe I was clenching my hands and you had to keep opening them, had to move my fingers out of the way, so as not to break my joints when you hit me. The story I made was that you held my hand through the pain, that you soothed the fire of my hurting.

Later I could have spun this into a big tale of love or the possibility of love. Later you could pretend this gesture was all logistics. Which is a lie, which a fantasy?

We are human; is it possible to avoid drifting, in every direction, from the truth?

After the pain, the reward.

I am choking on your cock and my throat resists, I gag but I don’t want to stop, and you let me keep going and you wipe the tears from my eyes and I feel beautiful.

I thought you’d understood my offering. What does a gift want more than to be given? What can a god want more than a willing sacrifice?

Next time I negotiate, this is what I will say: Touch me, fuck me, hurt me—but don’t you dare back away.

The poet Hafiz said, Art is the conversation between lovers. That impulse toward intimacy, six centuries ago, let him live into our time and beyond.

So whatever our separate stories, I know what I felt. It wasn’t nothing, and it wasn’t just a little something. For that moment—that present moment which, in its intensity, is eternal—it was everything.

This is how you hurt me.

Kaliyuga Yoni

This monologue was originally written and performed as part of Yoni Ki Baat, an ensemble show inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues and produced by the South Asian Sisters collective.

Photo by Poulomi Desai / Red Threads

THE OTHER NIGHT in a San Francisco dungeon, in a blissful haze brought on by too many orgasms, I looked up at the half-stranger with hir fist half up my cunt and said dreamily, “That’s so nice…”

“Nice?” she snarled, “Did you say I’m nice?” She grabbed my pussy lips, squeezed so hard that waves of shock and pain traveled up and down my body — as I came again, and again. Earlier she had pleased a crowd by hitting me with a leather flogger till I wept, she had run the sharp blade of hir knife over my skin till I trembled, flying on fear and arousal. It must have been the rush of adrenaline and endorphins that made me forget she would consider “nice” to be anything but a compliment.

My vagina is queer, more queer than I am: She walks by two gay men with their poodles and thinks of lifting her skirt so that all four of them can fuck her. My vagina wears a string of pearls to the sex club so that my dyke Daddi can pull up my skirt under the black light and see pearls gleaming ultraviolet against a nest of dark curls. Underneath are folds of brown and purple and pink flesh; deep inside is a creaminess that matches the pearls. For my vagina is femme, and a poet, and an artist who enjoys the synchronicity of color, texture, and arousal. Pearls feel good in the mouth, too, Daddi says.

MY VAGINA LIKES to sit on Daddi’s lap and pretend to be a virgin, though she shed her virginity the first chance she got, freshman orientation week in college, with a boy she never talked to again. She likes to hear Daddi talk about putting hys thick cock in her tiny, tight twat. But really she is wet and ready to suck ten inches of lavender silicone all the way to her cervix, the sweet spot in the back that feels new and beautiful and wide-open, not virginal but personal and transcendent, every time. My vagina likes to be slapped, and pinched, and clamped with wooden clothespins that look innocent as summer laundry, and feel vicious as thumbscrews. My vagina likes to crawl, to be denied, to be forced to beg, to be forced open as if she is the most unwilling cunt in the world.

She doesn’t like the word yoni; in English, it sounds spiritual and soft, new agey, shallow as a henna tattoo.

She prefers cunt, as in wet cunt, nasty cunt, naughty cunt, bad cunt, good cunt, beautiful cunt. Cunt from the Sanskrit word for well, or spring, a deep source: kund, as in kundalini. As in the word for menstrual blood: kundapushpa, flower of the holy well. Red. Violent. The taste of birth and death, of origins.

SHE ALSO LIKES PUSSY, as in sweet pussy, precious pussy, pussy needing to be stroked, whose pussy is it, Daddi’s pussy, yes, give it to me, show me your pussy, open it, spread your pussy wide for me, Yes Syr I will. My cunt will say Yes Daddy and Yes Sir and Yes Ma’am and Mistress and Oh Goddess and Fuck me Oh God Please, but she will not say Mummy and Pappa, nor can she reconcile herself with the languages of repressed childhood. My cunt has never begged to be fucked in Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Hindi, Sanskrit.

Maybe in a few years she will be fluent in other languages. Some say she was the first word, the kund from which all other words spring, the deep well from which the first Om rose like an echo of her true name.

Maybe that’s why my cunt can absorb all the suffering of the Kaliyuga, what the Hindus believe is our epoch of confusion, corruption, plagues. My cunt dreams of violation, of rape and prostitution and incest. When I was eight years old I spent hours in bed telling myself the story of Cinderella, how her evil stepsisters tormented her. The prince was supposed to come and rescue her in the end, of course, but my baby vagina enjoyed the torture scenes more. I did not know why I was touching myself as poor Cinderella endured more and more delicious forms of suffering. Most nights, Prince Charming never arrived.

MY CUNT LISTENS to my aunties’ stories about discipline in Indian schools, and she envisions a boarding-school filled with sadistic desi butch and femme teachers who force bad girls to stay after class, pull up their skirts and pull down their panties, and submit them to the discipline of metal rulers and canes.

My cunt is both exhibitionist and voyeur. She fantasizes a world without STDs so that she could have safe anonymous sex all the time. My cunt rides the Muni and thinks of being forced to give a blowjob to the nastiest, smelliest man on the bus. She gets so wet I have to squeeze my legs together and stare out the window and think about Buddhism to keep from soaking through my skirt.

Birth after birth, lifetime upon lifetime of suffering — sometimes I feel I want to pull it all into my body and transform it through my body into pleasure. The mind has no shame, observe the Buddhists. My cunt has no shame, despite everyone’s best efforts, especially my own. Now I am practicing radical acceptance: Every desire can be named, spoken, examined, and — maybe — fulfilled.

BEFORE PLAYING with the edges of these desires, my cunt insists on a lot of negotiation. Vanilla folks don’t understand that S&M begins with talk, sometimes hours and hours of talk: This is what I want, this is what I cannot take; and you? My cunt has definite limits. She takes references. She knows whom she trusts and whom not, in whose hands she will be safe to enter the danger zones.

But the trust also expands, limits soften and shift and melt away. At first my cunt was afraid of knives. Now in the right hands she likes the cool steel blade resting at her throat while a finger, two fingers, a whole hand tunnel their way up inside her corridors. At first she could not imagine a fist resting in her, but now there is nothing she loves more than its slow opening and closing, expanding and contracting, inhaling and exhaling, folding and unfolding, like a heart. Breathing, the rhythm of the present moment. Nirvana is right here, and sometimes we touch it.

My cunt and I, we are learning to move toward the deepest levels of our fear. This is the nature of our lust.

———–

The photographs in this post are taken from a YouTube slide show of images by U.K. photographer Poulomi Desai, collected in the gorgeous, amazing, sex-radical book Red Threads by Parminder Sekhon and Poulomi Desai.