A Place for Me: Art, Porn, Feminism, and Race

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Image by Favianna Rodriguez Relationships (such as PolyWeekly.com), but complained that so many of these podcasts did not speak to me as a woman of color. What if, I thought, I could create a podcast that openly talked about non-monogamous relationships and how they are accepted (or rejected) in communities of color? How do our sexual hang-ups, or sexual liberations, intersect with our experiences around race? After all, talking about women of color's health means also talking out our history with sexual abuse and sexual violence, particularly as it has played out in colonial, slavery, and imperialist contexts.

By Favianna Rodriguez

Originally posted on Favianna.com; cross-posted with permission.

I’m always excited when my art world merges with my personal world. As a visual artist, that personal world is one where I’m constantly imagining the sort of artwork I want to create. What kinds of images do I want to draw? What questions do I want to pose? Do I care what people will think of me?

Today I spent an evening with my Latina sistah/gurlfriend and we were discussing the need for more popular and positive education formats to talk about sex. I was talking about the various podcasts I find online that talk about non-monogamy and non-conventional relationships (such as PolyWeekly.com), but complained that so many of these podcasts did not speak to me as a woman of color. What if, I thought, I could create a podcast that openly talked about non-monogamous relationships and how they are accepted (or rejected) in communities of color? How do our sexual hang-ups, or sexual liberations, intersect with our experiences around race? After all, talking about women of color’s health means also talking out our history with sexual abuse and sexual violence, particularly as it has played out in colonial, slavery, and imperialist contexts.

We ended our night with a stroll into Oakland’s newest sex-positive store and gallery, FEELMORE, owned by a woman of color with years of experience in the pleasure industry. I was inspired by three things when I walked into the store: 1) the artistic and erotic images of people of color decorating the walls, 2) the conversation I had with the owner, who briefly talked about her vision for the store as a place where folks could come for sex education, and 3) a queer girl film I picked up, which I just learned was nominated for an award for Feminist Porn. The film “Tight Places” breaks new ground in the queer porn scene by being the first to feature an all people of color cast. I can’t wait to see it and review it!

I felt inspired overall, because for many years I have wanted to create art about sexual liberation, non-monogamy, sex-positivity, porn, erotica, kink, and stuff that I rarely talk about in public. Yes, I’m an anti-capitalist, and an environmentalist, and a lover of the planet, a lover of people and their rights, and a fighter of justice. But sadly, the definition around being “radical” or “progressive” so often leaves out a revolution around sex and the constructs around it. In fact, when I have raised the issue of heterosexism and monogamism (meaning the dominance and enforcement of “monogamy”), I get ostracized or isolated. When will the day come when I can hold my “Stop Deportations” banner alongside my “Fight the Climate Crisis” banner, alongside my “Release your Inner Slut” banner?

Really, when will we as a progressive sector begin to embrace a full liberation of not just out outer selves, but our inner-selves? That includes challenging the things we have learned about sex, about relationships, and about pleasure.

As an artist it is one of the topics that most interests me but I have not been able to fully explore at times because of my own fears of being rejected by my community. But spaces like FEELMORE, remind me the importance of women of color being voices for a new political analysis on sex, gender, queerness, porn, sex work, monogamy, etc. We have to be OUT and unapologetic. That is how we can address the fear. So keep your eyes open for my upcoming art about Slutdom.

On that note, I have some work in an exhibit in Minnesota, “Everybody! Visual Resistance in Feminist Health Movements, 1969-2009. ”  Everybody! presents work by artists and activists engaged with the women’s health movement, inaugurated by feminists in the later 1960s and 70s and continuing up to the present day. Featuring advocacy posters and self-education publications, polemical paintings, descriptive drawings, poetic artists’ books and a provocative performance sculpture, this exhibition provides visual evidence of the struggle to define health care as a human right, and the quest to view every body as beautiful.

On display through May 8, 2011, admission to Everybody! and the Carleton College Art Gallery is free and open to the public.

Following the evolution of the movement, Everybody! presents recent creative responses to issues extending beyond women’s bodies to the health needs of women, men, and transgendered people. These include “Constructa/vulva,” a large soft sculpture conceived in homage to the 1970s feminist women’s health movement, a wall drawing imagining girls endowed with non-human reproductive organs, wallpaper featuring historical birth control devices, and videos and websites exploring gender transformation and other themes.

The image above is one of the author’s prints and can be purchased by visiting Favianna’s online store.

Related content:

Period Panties & Body Shame: An OCD Journey Through My Underwear Drawer

Sex, My Body and Giving it Up

The Naked Clam and Other Preposterous Pubic Hair Problems

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Comments

  1. I think people of color, black people in particular, as that is my point of reference, do live lives contrary to the norm in terms of sexuality, but may not talk about it using specific terminology. When you go into certain communities you’ll always see gay and lesbian couples known as aunt or uncle so and so. I don’t think it’s necessarily accepted on the surface and people may say they downright abhor these things in public but we know people are into it. We know it because we see a man who’s got three kids, by three different women and the babies are all the same age and the women are all friends or sometimes even related.

    I also think that for some black people monogamy and commitment is what’s non-traditional, so it would be radical for a woman to be married to a man who believes in monogamy. I come from a long line of single mothers, where the men stayed around just long enough to make a baby. So being married and being in a long-term committed relationship might be radical to some. But I definitely think we need to be more open about our options and I think this is changing. I see more and more black women exploring their sexuality in different ways, the writers Zane and E. Lynn Harris come to mind. When Zane’s books hit the shelves black women were buying them by the caseload and giving them to all of their girlfriends as gifts. It’s been a slow process, but it’s happening.

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