My Adventures in the World of Women: Being a Feminist Smut Peddler

Aaaand here's why.

I know, excitement!  A man writing about feminism!  Another genius gazing down into his endless navel from the perch of male privilege.

http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/yuliang11/yuliang111003/yuliang11100300052/6687622-a-happy-asian-business-women-giving-thumbs-up.jpg

"Hey, thumbs up, fucker!"

But here’s the thing.  Men need to think about what it is to be genuinely pro-woman.  Not think more, but think at all.  Because right now the earth is opening up right under our feet, all of us, and we face a choice.  A regressive, repressive white male Taliban is trying to legislate women back into the kitchen and the maternity ward for good.  Opposing them, the rest of us, those who feel that a woman’s body is hers to do with as she pleases.  This goes beyond pro-choice/pro-life.

"Trust us with your ovaries."

Side note: The terms that have come to define the differing sides of the abortion debate are FUCKING STUPID.  Pro-life?  “Sure, you could be for abortion, but that would make you ANTI-LIFE, wouldn’t it?  What?  You don’t like life?”  What about the life of the woman in question?  Why does the consideration of a fetus, which has no conscious sense of being, carry more weight than the medical/existential situation of the woman carrying it?  And if women HAVE to carry the baby to term, what’s the plan for giving care if the woman can’t actually provide it herself?  Oh, that’s right.  To the religious right, life begins at conception and ends at birth.  After that, the little fucks are on their own.  Pro-life my ass.

Where was I?  Right.  With the proliferation of recent anti-choice legislation (including but not limited to the bill that would have redefined rape as either “rape” or the more rapey variety of actual rape), battle-lines have been drawn.  But that’s only partially what this is about.  Plenty of ink has been spilled on the Tea Party’s delightfully relentless assault on the dignity of America’s women.  I’m not here with another diatribe to provoke scores of chin-scratching lefties into nodding thoughtfully and saying, “So true.”  I probably don’t have much new to say on the matter.  Here’s where I’m going with this:

My life has recently been a fertile space for the consideration of what feminism means from a male perspective.  Being married to Rosebud, a dominant female-bodied queer person hasn’t muddied the issue; rather, it has only clarified my feelings.  There has been much discussion in this house of privilege and what constitutes privilege.  Learning submission, at its most basic level, is about a rejection of the very idea of privilege.  The funny thing about privilege, though, is how invisible it is to the privileged.  I don’t kid myself that I’m somehow a member of the underclass; as a white male, I’m pretty much guaranteed a seat at the table (even if Jews have always had to be more self-deprecating and receptive to insult in order to gain that seat).  A recent conversation with Rosebud shed some light on the matter.

We had a discussion after which I was CONVINCED that somehow she had obscured her feelings from me.  I asked questions, she got frustrated, I asked more questions, and she finally expressed her frustration that I was focusing so much on understanding her actions as opposed to respecting them.  And I got it: I’m not OWED anything.  And that includes an understanding, or even, really, an explanation.  Now, this may not be the case in many vanilla relationships, but it was a useful lesson in what I’ve come to expect: that everything has to make sense to ME, through the prism of MY experience.

It sort of blew my mind, even if to the reader it might seem a bit trivial.

Anyway, I got thinking.  I’ve always considered myself a feminist.  Supporting a woman’s right to choose, her right to say no to sex, her right to equal pay for equal work, her position as a head of a household, her freedom to do LITERALLY WHATEVER SHE DAMN WELL PLEASES within the limits of legality.  I’ve also always understood that the system was rigged against her, and as such needed reform.  I read scores of books in high school, works by Gloria Steinem, Camille Paglia, bell hooks.

The point is: I TOTALLY GOT IT.

Except, of course, I didn’t.

I’ve done stupid things in my life.  I’ve made comments that could be seen as sexist.  I’ve made poor, insensitive word choices.  I’ve acted comfortably in a patriarchal system without really thinking about what I was doing.

I had immense resentment with my mother for several years, not really stopping to think that she basically had one of the hardest jobs of all time: being the woman of a house with her husband and three sons.  These days, understanding her gifts to me and my brothers, her wisdom and her sacrifice (this is a woman who gave up smoking and a globe-trotting lifestyle to raise three kids, four if you count my father, which he probably would), I cherish every moment I’m lucky enough to spend in her presence.  She carved out her own identity before, during and after our births.  She worked jobs, some well-paying, some not so.  She’s contributed in time, work and money to the AIDS crisis in South Africa, and educated me in it, and continues to do so.  She is an amazing person.  I may have been an impossible shit to raise, but I like to think I’m doing a little better at being her son these days.  Rosebud makes sure of that.

Rosebud telepathically commanding me to stop being a huge idiot.

I also reflect on my mother’s mother, who raised more than twice as many kids, most of them fiercely battling girls.  I think about the time I quoted some blowhard comedy character to Grandmother, just because I thought it was a smartass thing to say, and her response: “That’s very macho of you.  And I don’t like it.”  At the time I was butt-hurt, but now I just think that’s fucking awesome.

I’ve been surrounded my whole life by strong women, and most of them I’ve not really thanked for the privilege.  I just took it as read that there were, like, these WOMEN everywhere.  Like trees.  Trees with boobs.  And no one really pays that much attention to trees.  Well, hippies.

Like women, treeboobs are everywhere.

And now here I am, a burlesque host, a friend, nay, a member of the alt-porn community, basically for all intents and purposes a sex worker, a worker in a field that is predominantly female.  I mean, shit, man, empathize or die.  But this again raises questions: there are those who say that sex work, whether it be in porn, burlesque or prostitution, cannot be pro-woman.  From my own limited perspective, I’d call horseshit on that.  The women in these sectors have been the strongest, smartest, most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. I’ve been a friend, a lover, a pupil to these women.  Not all of them, obviously.  There are only so many hours in the day, and I’m not 18 anymore.  The point is, it’s the first time I’ve ever had to justify my presence anywhere.

This was probably the key to my dawning sense of gender actuality.  Rosebud, who has had some terrible experiences with men, told me, “Every man is a potential rapist.  You won’t ever understand what it is to know that.”  And she’s right.  The burden of proof will always be on me.  This isn’t unfair, it’s just a fact.  And I’ve had to do serious thinking about what the point of Bastard Keith is in these settings.

Backstage with a bunch of changing burlesque performers, I’m the one with the immediate potential to be an asshole.  This is their safe place.  Not mine.  I’m usually the one offering to get water for the room, to make sure everything’s running okay out on the floor.  That attitude stretches to the stage.  I’ve seen hosts who make fun of the performers, who make shitty, condescending, belittling, macho remarks that re-orient the show to be about THEM and not the women and men who are doing the real work of the night.  I can’t do that.  I’m in love with these performers, and I need the audience to feel that love, to be respectful of their art and their boundaries.  If they aren’t safe, the show isn’t fun.

It’s NOT ABOUT ME.

That’s what I didn’t get for so many years.  My entire notion of feminism was processed through this idea that I was a card-carrying pro-woman liberal guy.  It’s only recently, as a sex worker, as an MC, as a submissive man, that I’ve learned about the negation of the philosophical male self.  When I take my maleness out of an equation, I can see it more clearly.  I’m not that great at it.  I’m still trying.

Another side note: It’s one reason that so much porn leaves me cold.  Well, there are a couple of reasons.  One is that, honestly, just watching people fuck is kind of dull.  I see myself and Rosebud fuck all the time (though less so in our current chastity experiment).  It’s not the fucking, but the TENSION that does it for me.  It’s why so much of the kink.com material, while undeniably well-produced, is just brutally exhausting to me.  The other reason, the one I was talking about, is that, while I respect the agency of the women involved in making it, this porn, like so much, is shot through the undeniable filter of the male gaze.  That saps it of pleasure for me.  For some wonderful, female-oriented Femdom porn, check out femmefatalefilms.com.  It’s decently produced and the product of Eleise De Lacy’s sensibility and vision.  It’s also as hot as hell, the first porn I’ve enjoyed watching with someone (Rosebud is in love with Mistress Eleise).

A frosty Nordic blonde in a business meeting.

It’s my job, as a husband, as a sub, as a male sex worker, as an artist, to get over myself.  If you’re a man reading this, I’m not saying to put women on a pedestal.  I’m saying to see them without YOU.  Just try.  That’s the gateway to beginning to understand being a pro-woman male.

No revolution succeeds that is without a sexual revolution.  To loop this ramble back to where we began, the reason so many men fight against women having reproductive rights isn’t because they’re evil.  It’s because they’re threatened when a woman lives a life that doesn’t revolve around reproductive sex and domestic service.  A life, in short, lived for a woman and not for a man.

I’m a smut peddler who loves women.

Keep trying to lose yourself.

Love,

Bastard Keith

4 Comments on My Adventures in the World of Women: Being a Feminist Smut Peddler

  1. Sovereign Syre // April 6, 2011 at 2:22 am // Reply

    Loved this. It’s really been on my mind a lot lately as someone that is taking the plunge into adult work. I’ve thought plenty about the why, but in moving on to the how, it becomes much more tricky. The how being, “How do I create something that is responsible to the message that I want to send to other women and men that are watching it?”

    • All you can do, really, is be true to yourself. Then, for better or worse, the rest takes care of itself. There are fewer things more personally revealing than the kind of porn you create/enjoy.

  2. Wow, Keith, this is an excellent article! Wonderfully written, and obviously a timely and worthwhile topic. I think you’re really on point with your revelation, and it’s exciting. What a way to start my Saturday morning–thank you!!

    ~Foxy

    P.S. I think you’re great backstage and onstage. Thanks for that :)

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