I know I was busy last week, but if you asked me to tell you what I did I would mostly draw a blank. Oh, I worked some and wrote some and helped friends some, but it was for the most part composed of such a host of little things that none of them actually stood out…except for Wednesday night, which was one of those lovely multi-hour duos in which everything goes just perfectly and one retires later with a deep sense of satisfaction and the feeling that all is right in one’s world. On Sunday Jae and I rode on her motorcycle with Dykes on Bikes at the front of Seattle’ Pride parade; we then walked back along the route and marched all the way again with SWOP Seattle. After that we floated about all afternoon with friends and went home tired and happy. I would’ve loved to post a picture of Jae & I on the bike, but she vetoed the ones I didn’t veto until there were none left for me to use; I therefore went with this one of me with a friend (who shall remain nameless) who decided to go to Pridefest in drag. And though my friend is a great guy and an ally to sex workers, this shot kind of symbolizes what Pride has become; it’s gone from a counterculture celebration thumbing its nose at The Establishment, to an Establishment celebration welcoming “respectable”, monogamous, vanilla gay folk with straight jobs to the big table while largely excluding all the queers who still deserve the name (including trans people, kinky folk and polyamorists) and actively ignoring sex workers. So yeah, Pride is pretty fake and commercial now, but I enjoy Christmas despite its commercialization as well. And now that picket-fence gay people have their state-approved marriage, perhaps they’ll no longer be able to put off the other sexual minorities they’ve been throwing under the bus for the last decade and a half.
Posts Tagged ‘bisexuality’
How infinitely one of Your own Sex ador’d You, and that, among all the numerous Conquest, Your Grace has made over the Hearts of Men, Your Grace had not subdu’d a more intire Slave. – Aphra Behn
Some women are whores out of necessity, some by circumstance and some by nature, but Hortense Mancini carried whoredom in her blood. She was an especially wild, bold and lusty whore from a family of whores, and a number of her descendants followed in her footsteps. The fact that she, her family, her clients and her lovers were all noble as well does not change her essential whorishness, as we shall see; it did, however, ensure that her assignations, adventures and escapades would be recorded for posterity.
Hortense (or as her father called her, Ortensia) was born in Rome on June 6th, 1646; she was the fourth of five daughters borne by Girolama Mazzarini to her husband, Baron Lorenzo Mancini, who dabbled in astrology and black magic and died rather suddenly in 1650. Fortunately, Giraloma’s older brother Giulio had joined the clergy, become active in politics, and risen to the rank of both cardinal and chief minister to Louis XIV of France (where he was known as Cardinal Mazarin); she therefore packed up her brood and moved them to Paris, where she hoped their powerful uncle would find them rich and influential husbands. And that he did; Laure married Louis de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme; Olympe married Eugène-Maurice of Savoy-Carignano; Marie was the first love of the young Louis XIV, but was married off to Prince Lorenzo Colonna of Italy; and Marie Anne married Maurice Godefroy de la Tour d’Auvergne, duc de Bouillon. But Hortense was the most beautiful and most favored by her uncle, so it’s unsurprising he turned down the suit of the penniless Stuart who was only a few months later restored to the throne of England as Charles II. The cardinal then offered Charles a dowry of 5 million livres to make Hortense Queen of England, but Charles refused; this, however, does not mean he never got to bed the girl he was so enamored with; he just had to wait a few years.
Three months before her 15th birthday, Hortense was married off to Armand Charles de La Porte, Duc de La Meilleraye, one of the richest men in Europe; unfortunately, his miserliness and prudishness matched his wealth and he was also mentally ill. Among his more bizarre behaviors were searching Hortense’s room for hidden lovers before locking her in at night, having his maidservants’ front teeth knocked out to make them unattractive, and vandalizing art to eradicate the genitals of human figures. But this doesn’t mean he was uninterested in sex with his wife; within five years she had borne him four children. Still, one can only imagine the dreariness of sex with such a man; sometime in 1666 she began a lesbian affair with Sidonie de Courcelles, and when he discovered them he sent them both to a convent (from which they escaped after tormenting the nuns for a while). Finally, her brother helped her to escape her awful husband just a week after her 22nd birthday; he hired an escort to take her to Rome, where she moved in with her sister Marie (now the Princess Colonna). King Louis was still very fond of Marie, and as a favor to her he granted Hortense an income of 24,000 livres. She also became the mistress of the Duke of Savoy, whom her uncle had turned down as a suitor ten years before; he gave her a house, where she lived until his death in 1675. At that point, two things happened: the Duke’s jealous widow evicted her, and her husband managed to get a judgment freezing all of her income, including the royal pension.
Hortense was desperate; she only knew one way to get money, and nobody wanted to cross her powerful and vindictive husband. In stepped Ralph Montagu, the English ambassador to France; he secured her passage to England (she made the voyage in male drag) and an introduction to her former suitor, Charles II…and Hortense did the rest. By the summer of 1676 she had displaced Louise de Kerouaille as chief mistress, securing thereby an income of £4,000 (English money, inaccessible to her husband). His Majesty did not much mind her lesbian affair with Anne, his 16-year-old daughter by Lady Castlemaine (except for the time they had a fencing match in their nightgowns in St. James’s Park); her affair with Louis I of Monaco, however, was another thing entirely. He even cut off her income, and though he relented on the money less than three days later, he did not restore her to her position (which was again taken up by Louise de Kerouaille).
History does not have much to say about Hortense’s lovers after the King, except for a lesbian affair with the writer Aphra Behn. After Charles’ death her income was continued by his brother James II, whose wife Mary was her cousin; even after James was deposed in 1689, Queen Mary II continued to support her (though at a lower level). She spent her time running a salon in her home, and died of drink (or suicide, depending on whom one believes) on November 9th, 1699; she was 53 years old. Her long-estranged husband then added a creepy epilogue to her story by claiming her body and taking it around France for months before finally allowing it to be buried in the tomb of her uncle, Cardinal Mazarin.
Back in the first paragraph I mentioned that several of Hortense’s descendants followed in her footsteps. Her son, Paul Jules de La Porte, duc Mazarin et de La Meilleraye, had two children, a son and a daughter. The son, Guy de la Porte, had a great-granddaughter who married Prince Honoré IV of Monaco in 1777 and thus became the ancestress of the current Prince. But the daughter, Armande, married Louis de Mailly, Prince d’Orange and became the mother of five beautiful daughters, of which four would later become mistresses to King Louis XV of France; she herself became the mistress of the King’s chief minister, the Duc de Bourbon. For some women, whoredom is only skin deep; some have it in their blood, and others are whores to the bone. But Hortense Mancini was a whore down to her genes, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that many of her descendants are still plying the trade in one way or another to this day.
Though sex workers usually have stage names which are different from those our mothers gave us (or burdened us with, as the case may be), those of us who are activists often have another name. Ayna is a Seattle sex worker, but that’s not the name on her advertising; you’ll see why when you read this essay. It struck me as timely given that when I reminded readers of my bisexuality by announcing my lesbian relationship with Jae, at least one reader felt repelled enough to voice his disapproval; I’m sure there are clients who would react in much the same way.
I have a good twin. Although we are not related we are similar enough in style, looks and interest that people often get us confused. We are both writers who are short, curvy, bespectacled, curly-haired, queer gamer girls who laugh out loud and spill beer everywhere. I want her hair; not in some weird hirsute Freudian way, but in a lusty “Rebel Girl” way.
I envy and covet her side shave immensely; side shaves in Seattle are code for queerness. I become sexually aware in a repressed state adjacent to Washington, so my nascent entrances into queer culture were formed with hidden meanings and slow looks. My brain goes into Sherlock mode when checking women out – key ring check, side shave check, reusable tote from co-op check – Code Level Purple – flirt is a go. I still tend to to seek out queer symbols and codes in order to safety flirt with other women, and I envy her side shave because I have long, healthy, flowing, dark, curly hair. I want her side shave so when I go into the queer spaces which have been my home for so long, I feel like I belong.
I envy my friend’s side shave because she has a job were it is okay to be openly queer, and even though I love doing sex work, it is one of the last places a female-identified person cannot be openly queer. I still have to pass as a non-queer person to the majority of my white, male, mid-40s customer base; I can’t freak out the normal majority. Plus, men love my hair; they caress it, run their fingers through it, seek me out because of it. I give good hair. We are socially groomed to believe that long hair is the same thing as feminine, and in the type of sex work I do (mid tier escort), the equation is feminine = attractive = money. A non-sex worker has more freedom in doing what she wants with her body in the world place whereas sex workers do not. A sex worker’s image, in order to gain the most money from the most clients, must be built, maintained and curated for the gratification of the normative male gaze; if I were to change my hair to a “queer” style (such as a side shave) I would lose money, since I would lose the male gaze. I would be seen as a “feminist” (heaven forbid), not the (semi) complacent sex bunny that the majority of my clients open their wallets for.
I often ask for two hours notice before seeing visitors to my place; I let people believe this is so I can get ready. But since I wear very little makeup and routinely clean my house, the “getting ready” part takes thirty minutes; what takes the rest of the time is what I call the “Queer Roundup”. Allison Moon’s Girl Sex 101 quickly hid under the couch, flyers from Insert Coin (a fabulous queer dance party), tossed in the kitchen drawer, “Fuck Your Patriarchal Bullshit” pillow thrown in the closet. I have to literally “straighten” my place up. If my queerness is seen, my femininity/straightness is called into question; the idea that a femme presenting person can be queer is a bit beyond the scope of most people. If there is any question that I am enjoying myself or am off the center mark for bisexual providers (bi enough to do duos for male pleasure, but not enough to actually seek women out), then not only is my sexuality under scrutiny, my business ethics are as well. This scrutiny comes into play via social mores built by hobby boards/escort review boards.
Escort review boards prize the idea of the “authentic” GFE (Girl Friend Experience); there is a constant conversation/argument about who and what is or isn’t. Rumors abound of lesbian sex workers and how awful they are by lying to men for money; they are bogeyman stories to scare sex workers into behaving in an acceptable manner. Men like to believe that sex workers are all natural nymphs and would fuck them regardless of money; this frees them from class guilt, the stigma of paying for sex and other emotions that might accompany seeing a sex worker. And this happy lie is fed to them in sex worker ad content, promotion and branding. They believe in this lie so intensely that it becomes cultural truth. While we accept that sex workers exist outside of cultural norms, they can not exist outside of client-created normative ideals; if I have a client over to my house and it is is covered in rainbow stickers and Queer Liberation posters, and Feeldoes are drying in the dish drain, this happy lie becomes an ugly truth. And if there’s one thing that the majority of “hobbyists” don’t like, it’s the truth.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a movie review column, mostly because its been a long time since I’ve seen a movie; I don’t really like watching movies alone, and since Grace and I don’t always enjoy the same films and I was frightfully busy all last year, movies were just something that had been pushed way down in my time-triage hierarchy to somewhere below “clean the bathroom” and slightly above “stand outside and look up at the stars.” But now that I’m living with Jae I’ve had to make adjustments, and movies have re-entered the picture (at least on occasion); Saturday night we watched a film which she thought would interest me on two levels, and I was not disappointed.
My Normal (2009) is the story of Natalie, a young lesbian (Nicole LaLiberte) working as a dominatrix in New York; though she enjoys her work, she views it as a temporary gig on the way to a career in filmmaking. She befriends her drug dealer Noah (Ty Jones), who has aspirations to be a screenwriter himself; soon afterward she enters into a new relationship with Jasmine (Dawn Noel), whom she meets at a club. But while Noah accepts her work and the two of them collaborate on a screenplay based on her life, Jasmine finds herself increasingly troubled by Natalie’s work and sexuality, and pushes away from her out of fear and jealousy. Eventually, though, Natalie learns that her sex work is neither something to be ashamed of nor a secret impediment to her goals, but rather a source of skills and connections that will enable her to realize them.
This is an independent film with good production values and a talented cast; it has a few noticeable editing issues and a couple of clumsy plot contrivances (such as the fact that Natalie and her three dominatrix friends all leave the dungeon where they work to pursue various life paths at apparently the same time). It also suffers from a bit too much “Hollywoodness”: the first scene was way over the top and IMHO pandered too much to popular media BDSM stereotypes; the denizens of the lesbian bar were all young, attractive and conventionally-groomed; and the end was a bit too neat to be realistic (not to mention the fact that its use of recursion came across as cute rather than profound). But despite these problems it is a fun, light film with likable, engaging leads and a satisfying conclusion, and its pro-sex work, anti-stigma message make it a breath of fresh air. In a medium where most sex workers are portrayed as either pathetic victims or nigh-superhuman temptresses, the depiction of Natalie and her friends (and the enterprising drug dealer) as ordinary human beings doing their jobs and getting by like anyone else was both refreshing and inspiring; even the title carries the powerful message that no matter what outsiders may think of the lives of sex workers, they are absolutely normal for us.
Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. – William Shakespeare, As You Like It (III,ii)
The two of them lay as still as a statue in bed, their white limbs entwined so extensively that they seemed to have been carved by a master from a single block of marble. Nearby lay one of their cats, equally still, another statue placed as an accent beside the larger subject. Even had their position not advertised their last activity before sleep, the various objects on the nightstand and the cast-aside clothes on the floor would have; not that they would’ve been ashamed of that, even if they had been aware of my presence. The only motion in the room beside my own was that of the ceiling fan above them, and that was only barely perceptible.
I had to stand for what seemed a long while to me, staring at it in order to be sure it was moving at all. Observing it was no more the point of my trespass into the room than voyeuristically spying on my housemates was; it’s just that I have not yet had this power long enough to have become jaded with it. Things like the sight of two beautiful women frozen in embrace, or a fan’s blades moving so slowly that to a casual glance they seem motionless, are still so strange and fascinating to me that I can’t help but stop and take them in. I also find myself tiptoeing in such situations, despite the fact that it’s completely unnecessary; any sound I made would be so momentary and so highly-pitched it would be a wonder if they heard it at all.
Crossing the room took a few seconds to my perception, but how much time was it really? I can’t be exactly sure, except that I can fit several minutes of activity between two ticks of a clock. Where the power came from, or where it will lead me, I have no idea; all I know is that a short course of meditation allows me to access this accelerated state, and that I have no trouble maintaining it for as long as I like. There do seem to be some limits on the power; for example, it’s very difficult to move large objects while I exist between tick and tock. And that’s why I was passing through the lovers’ room this morning: I knew their window would be open against the late springtime heat, and their door would be ajar from one or the other of them visiting the bathroom during the night.
Kitty #2 was on the windowsill, glassy eyes fixed on an equally-motionless bird suspended in midair nearby. She presented no obstacle; I simply slipped past her onto the fire escape and then made my way spider-like down the wall. There was no other way to get to the ground; I had discovered the hard way that gravity worked no more quickly on me than it did on the bird or any other object, so if I tried to jump down I would simply hang there in space until I decided to move back into normal time. But the roughness of the brick wall was enough for me to pull myself down with, and I could go up as easily as down for the same reason.
The street below was already busy even at this hour, but that made little difference to me; the cars were as motionless as everything else, so I could move in any direction I liked, right down the middle of the street if I wanted to, without regard for traffic. My destination was miles away, but I had no choice other than walking it; pedaling a bicycle, as I had discovered earlier, is utterly exhausting when accelerated. No matter; I’m a strong walker, and to achieve today’s goal I would’ve been willing to walk clear across the city if need be. Furthermore, I’ve done this every day for several weeks now, except for the days when the rain created a curtain of suspended droplets that’s almost as hard to move through as if I were walking underwater. I know the route well, and have already discovered several shortcuts unavailable to those who can be seen by others.
Over a high brick wall lay my final destination; it was no harder to climb than the wall outside my own place, despite the spikes on top. And then down into the courtyard, and into my hiding place in the shed. I took the time to make myself comfortable, knowing I might have a relatively long wait in real time; my quarry did not visit here every morning, but when he did he always left around the same time. And less than an hour ago, the remote camera I concealed here earlier this week had already alerted me to his presence. There’s no way I could have possibly made it here in time moving at normal speed, and no way I could’ve entered the walled garden without attracting attention even if I did; but for one with my talents, both were child’s play.
Coming back into normal time, I set up the digital camera to record the Great Man’s departure from his mistress’ home; it seemed like forever before he left, though it was probably no more than twenty minutes at the outside. I started recording as soon as I heard the door open, and the champion of Family Values and sworn enemy of whores obligingly made my mission a success by giving his lady friend a passionate kiss on the threshold. My excitement made it difficult to achieve the meditative state necessary to going back into accelerated time, but I managed it soon enough; I then returned the way I had come, over the wall and across the miles and into the alley behind my own home, scaling the wall in blatant disregard for the feeble efforts of gravity to pull me back down to the pavement. The cat must have lost interest in the goings-on outside at some point in the last half-hour, because she was no longer on the sill; the lovers, however, were still exactly where I had left them, though one had thrown a proprietary hand over the other’s nipple as if to conceal it from the unconsciously-sensed intruder in the room.
Kissing their still, silent faces was the one deviation I allowed myself from strict propriety before slipping out, unseen and unheard; I then returned to my room, returned to normal time and connected the cable so my computer could download the footage while I returned to bed. It was still absurdly early for us, and I was tired from both the exertion and the excitement; but more importantly, I wanted my brain to be well-rested when I sat down to draft the blackmail letter.