she bon

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Gender, Social Conditioning and Sexuality

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I’ve been talking a lot about sex and intimacy lately. This recent outlet of thoughts and feelings is a reflection of my personal account with my gender: the society-dubbed female, and this construct’s relationship to sexuality.

I’m at a point where I can look back on the scope of my life, and clearly see where things were damaging. There were probably several aspects that were equal culprits, but for this passage I’m diving into my experience as a female: an animal born by chance with one style of reproductive organs, placed in a pink blanket, and given dolls when I was clearly able to communicate that I’d rather play with dinosaurs.

I was raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s pretty awesome in a lot of ways. I stick around because I genuinely like it. As I grew here, one can also bare witness to the soil which fed me.

It’s probably unnecessary to say this, but my city is more or less dripping with sexuality. The concept of sex, the coveted forbidden fruit, is plastered on every facet and so over-hyped, that it becomes blasé to its locals. So, I’ve been numb to all that shit since I was seven or eight.

From there, it is important to note that in 99% of the things I was exposed to in the city, sexual or otherwise, were being marketed to a male audience, with the traditional female archetype used as the tool of persuasion. Females were and are still all over the place. From my perspective as a kid, women were clearly a powerful icon indeed, yet I could also feel that something was off about this. Even as a child, I knew this was a false power.

The female form was the undisputed champion in representing sexuality. Women are sexualized EVERYWHERE here. The reality that I can’t unsee now, is that in truth, no one gives a shit about the female relation to this sexual headspace… or their experience of it. It isn’t spoken, but it is felt none-the-less, that whatever is being sold, isn’t being sold to us. It’s being sold by us… and therefore, isn’t ours. In the realm of sex, I grew up silently believing that I was the product.

Throughout my early years of sexual activity I assumed a performative roll in intimate situations, as though my experience of the account was inconsequential. I site this in my post from a few weeks ago [The Tell of Arousal], where I started piecing together my own head space regarding my current body of work (the sex stuff).

After thinking a lot about why I defaulted to this strange role in regard to intimacy, I see that it had a lot to do with social norms and the expectations of the society around me. On a deep bedrock level, I now realize I was sold that sex wasn’t for me, it was about me. What’s crazy, is that I didn’t even realize that I had this relationship with my own intimacy. My upbringing defined my perspective so completely it took me most of my life to zoom out and see around it.

While responding to this weight from my past, I’ve started writing (like I’m doing right now). My relationship with sexuality is less rage inciting and traumatic if I can at least try to make it relatable through the things I create. So, with art acting as the tried and true ointment its always been, I’m creating SHE BON among other things.

The SHE BON project is about the expectation vs the reality of arousal. This, which I’ve just told you about is at its epicenter.

In the past, my arousal was merely an abstraction. It was a concept that again, was created for the sake of my partner to heighten their enjoyment of sex. Creating big obvious electronic and mechanical indicators of my excitement is my way of making a joke out of this truth from my past. Yes, it is somewhat mocking. It’s suppose to be. But I’m mocking myself.

I’ve encountered dudes who have worn my arousal on their sleeve like its theirs to own- so I’m taking it back. My arousal is mine. Even if you had some part in it, I am feeling it for me, not for you. <3

I don’t want to put anyone on the defensive, but I do want to get people thinking… and more important, talking to one another. Social conditioning gives us a whole shit circus of false preconceptions, many of which are never checked because they’re things no one talks about. Just like the forbidden fruit: no one bothers telling you it was never an apple.

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THE TELL OF AROUSAL

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I was hurriedly walking back to my family’s tiny cruise-ship cabin with a tight V-shaped smirk stretched across my lips. Like a quick and dirty grab and go, I had just made out with a boy for the first time. I had met him just that week. We were crammed in the confessional of the ship’s chapel. We weren’t suppose to be there, but so went the tune of that entire week; we were rebellious 16-year-olds doing everything we weren’t supposed to.

I had never kissed a boy I barely knew before, so my heart was racing, my head was spinning, and I was lit from head to toe like a fuse… although not in the way you’d expect.

When I returned to our room, my mom was in the bathroom taking curlers out from her hair. She smiled at me in the reflection of the mirror, knowing immediately by the look on my face what I had just done.

“Did you kiss him?” She asked.

I narrowed my eyes and nodded. She bowed her head approvingly and then continued to inquire, “Did it make you excited?”

As an adult now, I know this was a perfectly legitimate question, but as a sophomore in high school then and there, I honestly had no clue what she was asking about.

“What?”

“You know…” she turned around and looked me in the eye, “…Do you feel warm and tingly all over?”

I detected she was asking about something personal… even if I wasn’t quite sure what. I assumed she meant the dizziness I was experiencing due to all the adrenaline my body produced while navigating the awkward social encounter. I was after all flushed, aghast, and somewhat giddy.

“Yeah, I’m definitely excited,” I answered. -but, I wasn’t. Not in the manner she was eluding to.

“Good.” She said. Although I wasn’t sure why. Good? Okay, I guess?

Obviously, my mom was asking me if making out with the boy made me feel aroused. Nature dictates that such an act should elicit certain biological responses. Making out in the chapel launched me into fight or flight mode, but nothing close to hot and bothered.

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you now, I honestly didn’t experience legitimate arousal until some time in my mid-twenties. This isn’t to say I was ignorant to sexuality, or the concept of being turned on. It’s just that now, as an adult having experienced the throes of desire and lust, I look back and can confirm that young Sarah did not experience those things in that way at those times. Young Sarah knew of sex and intimacy the way a person who is color-blind knows about red.

For many years through several “serious” relationships, I was a sexual being without any inclination of what it was like to feel my own primal urges, because I had none. I wanted for nothing. I’ve spoken about this in one of my other posts, where I speculate as to why this was. Explainable or not, the fact of the matter is that for a good, long time… a number of guys would confidently boast about satisfying me when they had no idea what the hell was going on with Sarah, inside and out. I mean, neither did Sarah.

The Mating Game:

Similar to most animals, there is a protocol for us humans. We indicate and respond to cues of sexual interest in layers. This begins with the “clothes on” phase, and eventually leads to the more serious “clothes off” phase. Don’t laugh. While this sounds obvious and needless to state, this is important to point out because the physical indicators of sexual interest aren’t equally distributed in each of these phases amongst men and women.

Physically, men have more obvious signals during the “clothes on” stage of courtship than women do. Female humans appear virtually unchanged- leaving the decision to proceed up to an interpretation of behavior.

AROUSAL FOR MALE-TYPE GUYS

Matters of behavior aside, guys get erections. Regardless of how a male might act, the trouser tent is a telltale sign that some part of their consciousness is fixated on the fucking. Regardless of what triggered the erection, a hard-on is a signal of sexual desire.

AROUSAL FOR FEMALE-TYPE GALS

In a less immediate “clothes on” sense, it’s more difficult to detect that a female wants sum fuk. Off the top of my head, there is really only one visual cue that might signal female arousal: a flushed face. Of course, this is amply noted and capitalized upon in modern culture with makeup and cosmetics. However, the use of “rouge” is so strongly associated with the enhancement of beauty, it’s completely departed from the original intent. Long ago, smearing pigment on the face had less to do with beautification… and more to do with signaling to nearby males that the wearer was locked and loaded (even if they weren’t).

In addition to misleading cosmetics that dampen a mate’s ability to accurately respond to physical cues, having a flushed face isn’t an exclusive response to arousal. There are tons of other things that might cause your face, forehead, neck, and lips to flush. Working out, having a coughing attack, allergies, illness, and alcohol consumption will all do this to some degree as well.

In the end, due to the wide use of facial pigments and plutonic activities that may raise your heart rate, viewing the act of blushing as a sign of arousal is less reliable than you’d think.

In the more intimate “clothes off” sense, there is lady juice. Females produce their own lubrication when their bodies want to be entered by something. It’s a thing you can feel that, like the erection, is a signal which generally means one thing and one thing alone. By the time a mate is even able to pick up on this cue however, it’s already late in the game. Getting wet is less a guy spinning a sign on the street corner, and more a hand shake in the office of the dealership.

WHAT THE DIFFERENCES MEANS

So, a female can visually see a male’s hard-on at an early “clothes on” stage of courtship, but a male has to be at the gates knocking to really tell whether or not a female actually wants to grant access. This means, at the early stages of human courtship, a female has to indicate verbally, or through action that she desires sexual attention. This is something to think about.

With much of the early stage of sexual interaction pending on physical and verbal negotiation, there is a lot of room for acting.

I’ve said this already, my early sex life was performative. I wasn’t actually getting anything out of it; that is, if the point is pleasure. Relevant to my point about communication: this means that for years, I sold to all of my partners that I was an eager and turned on female specimen, when I totally was not. I wasn’t aroused, and I had no point of reference to know it.

Adult Sarah looks back on her developing self and chuckles a little every time. At every stage of our growth, we think what we know is absolute, because the boundaries of our ‘known universe’ have only stretched so far. Now that I know myself a little better, I wish to shine a bit of light on the reality of my past… with all due silliness.

BECOMING HUMAN BY EMBRACING THE MACHINE

the inspiration:

The frontier of sex and sexuality has been an expanse of solitude that I’ve explored slowly and had no one to tell about its majesty. Maybe this is normal, but it’s not the sort of normal I like. Such as it is, the Sarah of now is going to use this feeling that I’ve attempted to convey as a point of departure for some art.

the vision:

I’m creating a series of wearables called “she bon”; which are exactly what they sound like. The various augmentations will sense aspects of a female wearer’s biological state, and then communicate to nearby others when the user might possibly be aroused. These augments are effectively “VAGINA boners”.

the parameters:

As functioning objects, the wearable augments should be beautiful and enticing to those who aren’t sure of their purpose. Until activated, they should appear relatively innocuous. Once triggered, the indicators should manifest with some level of playful absurdity that is relatable and honest, even if somewhat uncomfortable for onlookers.

the stipulations:

The main purpose of the wearables is to indicate the user’s status of arousal. The electronic and mechanical “tells” that communicate this state should do so in a way that further stimulates the wearer as a byproduct… but only as a byproduct. The wearables should not become tools used to trigger the aroused state.

When everything is said and done, I’m hoping this project opens up a good discussion about the human experience. Sex and sexuality is a big can of worms… big sticky worms… that are strange and difficult to look at. Lets talk about them. =)