Solo Sex

Posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

 

As many of us are currently spending a lengthy stint without sexual partners as we practice social distancing during this pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on eroticism that does not involve physical engagement between people.

Non-in-person sex work (via phone or the internet) and viewing pornography can play a huge part in helping folks through this necessary dry spell - though, of course, the coronavirus relief package explicitly excludes applicants who earn money from performances, services, or depictions “of a prurient sexual nature” from being eligible for loans. (There has been an increase in internet censorship and policing of consensual sex work and sexual materials under this administration done in the name of decreasing sex trafficking and exploitation. SESTA/FOSTA, which passed in March of 2018, directly led to the shut down of sites that enabled sex workers to operate more safely, porn companies and performers having their personal data deleted from their private drives, and the major social media platforms increasing their content restrictions and banning countless users. The currently-proposed EARN IT Act looks to extend internet surveillance under the same guise, further putting at risk sex workers and other marginalized groups who would likely be targeted and increasing the possibility of additional sexual content restrictions on social media platforms, as well as compromising the privacy of all internet-based communication and data.)

There are countless ways of sexually engaging with others through distance, many via technology - such as swapping nudes, dirty talk (see our recent blog discussing the Old Reliable audio collection), video chatting, sexting, video games, and even internet-controlled sex toys - through which each individual involved may be physically alone. And, of course, there is also a wide array in the realm of sexuality in which the inspiration for excitement doesn’t necessarily come from another person at all: object fetishism, autoeroticism, and more. A plethora of imaginal and tactile erotic experiences can be explored while physically by one’s self.

One fascinating cinematic look at solo sex and object fetishism exists in Czech artist Jan Švankmajer’s 1996 film Conspirators of Pleasure, which follows several characters’ independent fetishistic rituals. One man builds a masturbation machine with many motorized hands attached to televisions, which he operates during broadcasts of a lusted-after news anchor. Another man creates homemade sex toys - rolling pins covered in materials of different tactile natures like tacks and fur - which Švankmajer live-action animates rolling all over the man’s body. A couple of neighbors create effigies of each other, which they violently torture.

 

Stills from Conspirators of Pleasure
Images from Conspirators of Pleasure

 

In some of these scenarios, the object of desire is a person represented by the masturbation object, while in some, the contraption and/or tactile materials seem to be the objects of desire, themselves. But in each scenario, the rituals are performed in isolation.

Though best known as an animator/filmmaker, Švankmajer works in a wide array of mediums, including poetry and sculpture, and uses all to grapple with tactilism. From 1972 until 1979, he was banned from directing films by the Communist government of Czechoslovakia, who considered his films subversive. During this span, Švankmajer went into extensive exploration of the sense of touch and tactile art, including writing a book, Hmat a Imaginace (now translated and available in English as Touching and Imagining), “of which he produced five copies in 1983, all with ‘tactile’ covers. Featuring rabbit fur along the spine and a hand shape cut out of sandpaper on the front, these copies circulated as samizdat, that is works which were clandestinely produced and distributed to evade officially imposed censorship.” This book details Švankmajer’s Surrealist experiments with touch and tactile art and “is a kind of alchemist’s philosophical treatise.”

 

An original copy of Hmat a Imaginace
An original copy of Hmat a Imaginace

Švankmajer tactile poem and sculptures
A Švankmajer tactile poem and three tactile sculptures

 

Upon his return to filmmaking, he brought what he had learned about tactilism into the medium through content, concept, and technique, trying to create synesthetic experiences for viewers. “Film animation is just another alchemical aid to the performance of a magic ritual in which Švankmajer summons the immanent vitality that resides in the inert material... This capacity for metamorphosis extends to moving images… Švankmajer’s work explores the idea that both direct and indirect tactile experience is mediated by the ‘tactile’ imagination.”

The development of a new personal relationship to touch is described in Švankmajer’s poem “The magic ritual of tactile initiation,” featured in Touching and Imagining, which concludes:

Make the cold warm and the soft hard!
Make the loose compact!
Make the course slimy!
Make the hurtful pleasurable!
And vice-versa!
So that the eye will not perceive and give touch timely warning, constantly confuse his utilitarian habits of touch by disorientation, mystification and panic!
Bear in mind that our entire body is a unified erogenous zone!
Do not smooth down the crumpled sheets!
In winter kick off the bedclothes!
On hot summer nights crawl under a heavy quilt!
Do not scorn masturbation!
Do not have your old shoes re-soled!
Do not urinate before going to bed!
“Be repulsed by all objects yet touch them all!
Learn to love insects!
Tire yourself out!
Only when Touch is freed from its utilitarian context, not constantly forced into a self-conscious moment, will it reach the point where it transmutes the barrier of its identifying existence, and without being aware of it, becomes the language of the poet.


Eroticism is frequently a focus of Švankmajer’s work, as he observed that “if there does exist one aspect of human perception where Touch still has a position dominant over all others senses, it is in the field of eroticism.” The realm of pornography extensively explores “indirect tactile experience” and the sensations this depiction evokes in viewers, also striving to inspire corporeal responses.

Countless approaches to solo sex can be found in pornography. Object eroticism is certainly common, from fetish magazines eroticizing attire and materials such as leather and rubber, to the use of sex toys and such things as household items, balloons, and food as tools for self-pleasure.

 

Stills from Mansize & Food Sex
Stills Michael Zen's Mansize (top) and the Bijou Video compilation Food Sex (bottom)

 

The object in question’s sexual appeal may stem purely from the physical sensations it creates and one’s tactile relationship with it, or from a more symbolic place of connection or memory. And inanimate objects, themselves, can seem to carry inside them their own energetic life. As Švankmajer said, “a strong emotion leaves an indelible imprint on the objects touched.”

Erotic inspiration can be found in the natural world. Director Peter de Rome’s lovely short porn film, Green Thoughts (1971), features a man who becomes stimulated by the plants in a conservatory. Porn star and sex educator Annie Sprinkle has recently been spearheading an “ecosexual” movement, reframing nature as “your lover, not your mother” in an effort “to make the envirnomental movement more fun and diverse.”

 

Images from Green Thoughts
Images from Green Thoughts

 

Acts of self-pleasure may be performed not just as the result of the absence of a sexual partner, but because one’s own self or body or personal sexual technique are, themselves, the source of excitement. Many Bijou titles feature examples of this: enthusiastic solos, autofellatio practitioners, people jacking off to their own reflections, fantasies of self-fucking (brilliantly staged in Jaguar’s Grease Monkeys and in the short film Double Scorpio featured in Hand in Hand’s Private Collection), and intricate autosadism rituals (as in the Jason Steele segment of Big Bear Men and the sounding demonstration in another Private Collection short, Penetration).

 

Nick Rodgers seducing himself in Grease Monkeys
Nick Rodgers seducing & fucking himself in Grease Monkeys (1979)

Jason Steele in Big Bear Men (left); sounding film Penetration (right)
Jason Steele in Big Bear Men (left); the sounding film Penetration (right)

 

One of the true masters of inventive autoerotic practice in porn is “Sultan of Solo Sex” Scott Taylor. Taylor never performed a full partnered sex act in any of his films (the closest is perhaps in Surge Studio’s Strange Places, Strange Things, in which he and another man wildly enlarge and distort their cocks together with vacuum pumps), but he did many solo jack off sessions, as well as self-sucking and creative bodily play. In the Steve Scott masterpiece, Turned On! (1982), Taylor performs a remarkable display of dance and movement, in which he stuffs his own cock and balls up his ass. Al Parker stated, in a Manshots interview, “Even though Scott only has sex with himself, I think he is one of the most erotic people in this business, because you can’t pay somebody to be as crazy as Scott Taylor is in a movie.”

 

Scott Taylor
Scott Taylor


Scott Taylor in Turned On!
Scott Taylor's performance in Turned On!

 

Another artist of self-fucking in classic porn is Chris Burns. Having well-earned the title “the Ultimate Bottom,” Burns certainly can take it from others, but just as aptly can dish it out upon himself. In Steve Scott’s Dangerous (1983), he exchanges dirty talk over the phone with Rick Faulkner (who beats off in a phone booth) while he shoves massive dildos up his ass. Jason Bleu’s fascinating S/M video, Black on Red (1987), takes us into the interior life of the submissive, as Burns literally bends over backwards to punish himself at the feet of and worship a mature dominant, who stands over him throughout the tape's runtime, nearly silent and umoving, like a remote God. Burns, here, performs nearly all of the actions upon himself, shoving more enormous toys (as well as enema tubing) up his ass, putting sounding rods in his dickhole, piercing his nipple, and shaving his pubic hair off with a straight razor.

 

Chris Burns in Black on Red
Chris Burns in Black on Red

 

Not requiring a partner to explore one’s own body and sexual interests can be a liberatory element of sexuality. Illustrations of this can be found in some of the feminist pornography of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which encouraged women to learn about their bodies and personal sexuality - for example, the classic 1992 instructional, How to Female Ejaculate, and the odes to self-pleasure in Annie Sprinkle’s Sluts and Goddesses: How To Be a Sex Goddess in 101 Easy Steps. I’ve personally found developing solo kink practices to be useful and exciting. I taught myself how to do play piercing by practicing on my own body, with the help of online technique/safety tips and instructional video examples. This was a helpful way to learn (without risking fucking up an early attempt on someone else’s body), but maintaining this as a solo practice has also served as a way for me to engage with sadism and masochism on my own, without being reliant upon a partner for outlets.

Some porn makers depicted solo practices as a part of the exploration of various types of safer sexual expression during the AIDS crisis. Artist Michael Goodwin, whose late '80s Goodjac video series focused on handjobs and masturbation, brought creativity, playfulness, and enthusiasm to his documentation of solo sex.

 

Solos from The Goodjac Chronicles & Goodjac Too
Solos from The Goodjac Chronicles and Goodjac Too

 

And we can take eroticism outside of the tactile entirely. There’s the far-reaching imaginal realm of fantasy, which can draw eroticism from endless places. There are erotic responses to music and other audio, such as the visceral and abstract sound textures and vocal intimacy explored in ASMR videos, popularized over the past decade, which for many enthusiasts are not erotic, but can be for some. And there’s spiritual yearning, which can often take on an erotic coloration.

One may find eroticism with and without other people; erotic touch with and without other people; eroticism with and without touch. Perhaps we can use this time away from parntered sex to find ways to connect with our own erotic imaginations and to deepen our relationships with our own bodies, whether by nurturing their health (as a part of the project of collective health) or developing our solo sexual practices, whatever the tools and objects of erotic excitement may be.

Tags:
pandemic social distancing solo sex autoeroticism self-pleasure eroticism phone sex pornography porn companies politics Covid-19 coronavirus internet surveillance censorship social media sex work sex workers sex workers rights SESTA/FOSTA EARN IT Act internet sex cyber sex internet censorship marginalized communities sex and politics Old Reliable Old Reliable audio dirty talk object fetishism fetishism sexting cybering nudes sex toys Czech film Conspirators of Pleasure Jan Svankmajer film art art theory animation film history art history Surrealism sex machines alchemy tactilism tactile art sculpture poetry 1970s 1980s 1990s Communism touch synesthesia vintage fetish magazines fetish magazines leather rubber balloons food Food Sex Mansize Michael Zen Peter de Rome Green Thoughts ecosexualism The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome Annie Sprinkle sex educators environmentalism environmental movement solo masturbation autofellatio Grease Monkeys Jaguar Films Double Scorpio Penetration Private Collection Hand in Hand Films Surge Studio Big Bear Men Jason Steele autosadism automasochism Nick Roders Jack Deveau sounding kink fetish S/M BDSM fetish porn S/M porn Scott Taylor Strange Places Strange Things vacuum pumps Steve Scott Al Parker Turned On! Turned On dance Chris Burns Jason Bleu Black on Red Dangerous Rick Faulkner shaving piercing play play piercing needle play piercing dildo enemas vintage gay porn classic gay porn vintage porn classic porn feminist porn lesbian porn queer porn art porn Pink Label 1970s gay porn 1970s porn 1980s gay porn 1990s porn 1990s gay porn 1980s porn stars 1980s gay porn stars How to Female Ejaculate female ejaculation Goodjac Michael Goodwin The Goodjac Chronicles Goodjac Too AIDS crisis ASMR erotic art erotic poetry erotic audio fantasy sexual fantasy sex and religion sex and spirituality bodies health sadism masochism vintage porn stars classic porn stars porn stars sex education feminism balloon fetish
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Condoms Before the Days They Were Rubbers!

posted by Madame Bubby

When I was in sixth grade (I didn’t go to a middle school or a junior high), the tougher boys were joking about rubbers. I did not make the connection to condoms until high school, climaxing in the time when, believe it or not, my dad gave me one to put in my wallet. He thought I needed one because I was hanging out with some girls (little did he or, most significantly, I know I was their gay friend, and one of the girls, nicknamed “Inch," was a lesbian).

I digress. Condoms weren’t always rubber. Before the invention of vulcanized rubber in the 19th century, condoms were made usually of some kind of linen smeared with chemicals or, ew, animal tissue or bladder. What’s interesting is that since ancient times they were used as both a means of birth control and a protection against STDs. (Ironically, usually birth control and/or abortion was the province of the woman, who was blamed for issues is in this area, even though, by the Middle Ages, the established view was that the woman was merely the physical receptacle of the life-giving, soul-containing male sperm.)

Some interesting facts about pre and early modern condoms and condom usage:

There’s a legend that the King Minos of Crete, subject to so many curses, used a goat’s bladder as a female condom to protect his partners because he suffered from a strange affliction; his semen was filled with snakes and scorpions.

Those short loincloths Greek and Roman guys wore (mostly those of the slave and laborer class), that in the sword and sandal movies showed off hot, muscular legs, often consisted of little more than a covering for the penis. If someone in a higher class wore one of these “lower class” outfits, some have speculated they may have served as form of condom.
 

Ancient Greek man in short loincloth
Ancient Greek man in short loincloth, Source: Pinterest

Sexual norms changed during the Middle Ages with the rise of Christian theocracies, and the emphasis on sex and procreation tended to put condoms under the radar, so to speak, and we also lost some knowledge of their substance and use during the ancient world. Some writings by Muslims and Jews, who during this period in some areas comprised the majority of physicians, mentioned soaking a cloth in onion juice or other perceived spermicides.

The syphilis outbreak that began among French troops in 1494 prompted an Italian guy named Gabriele Falloppio (from whence we get the name fallopian tube) to pretty much invent the first item we now can define as a condom. He invented a linen sheath sized to cover the glans of the penis, tied to it with a little ribbon, smeared with spermicide. He claimed to have saved the lives of 1100 sailors with the device. Sailors. And with that word, one I think can pretty much imply that these guys weren’t always going after the clichéd wenches.
 

Gabriele Falloppio
Gabriele Falloppio, Source: Sciencemuseum.org

During the Renaissance, condoms were also made of animal intestines or bladders. By the 18th century, they were available in all shapes and sizes; one could buy them especially at the ubiquitous barbershops, which weren’t just places for haircuts. The barbers performed various surgeries, dental work, and especially bloodletting.
 

Retro Durex condom
Condom made of animal intestine, Source: mirror.uk

During the above periods, the upper, and later the burgeoning middle classes, were the ones who used condoms. The lower classes couldn’t afford them, and they also lacked education on STDs.

Now the omnipresent and mostly all-powerful Catholic Church during this time wasn’t exactly keen on the use of condoms as birth control, of course, but it was yet to make its views on the subject official in the Pope’s encyclical Humanae Vitae with the advent of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

And in the early 19th century, after the invention of the rubber condom which increased usage and convenience considerably, the notorious Comstock Act pretty much made life miserable for anyone who wanted to use any form of contraceptive, much less educate oneself on the issue.
 

Retro Durex condom
Retro Durex condom, Source: sexinfo.soc.ucsb.edu/article/history-condom

The deadly AIDS epidemic of course made the condom a matter of life and death, with the holy haters decrying what condoms had always been used for, saving lives, in favor of reviving the scapegoating of anyone with STDs.

By the way: there was no “Earl of Condom.” The etymology of the word is indeed unknown!

Source: mostly Wikipedia’s article on the History of Condoms, combined with some of my own knowledge of gender/sexuality history

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Balloons, Balloons, Everywhere

 


This year's Pride Parade in Chicago rocked, and I think it was mostly because of the balloons. In fact, I don't remember seeing so many of this celebratory staple (and not just for Pride parades, but practically any celebration), mostly because of some outfit called Balloons by Tommy, which seemed to showcase practically every variety of balloon party fashion. 
 

Balloons by Tommy in the Pride Parade

I was particularly taken with those people who literally wore balloons (How can you breathe? What if one pops while you are wearing it?). 

Now, all these balloons got me thinking, and not just about the foibles of trying to wear them, but when were they invented? What are they made of? 

According to Wikipedia, a balloon is a flexible bag that can be inflated with a fluid, such as helium, hydrogen, oxygen, air or water. 

Modern day balloons are made from materials such as rubber, latex, or a nylon fabric, and can come in many colors. 

Some early balloons were made of dried animal bladders, such as the pig bladder. 

Some balloons are used for decorative purposes or entertaining (the genre of party balloons) purposes, while others are used for practical purposes such as meteorology, medical treatment, military defense, or transportation. 

The rubber balloon was invented by Michael Faraday in 1824, during experiments with various gases. 
 

Michael Faraday blowing up a balloon


Again, according to Wikipedia, party balloons are mostly made of a natural latex tapped from rubber trees, and can be filled with air, helium, water, or any other suitable liquid or gas. 

The rubber's elasticity makes the volume adjustable. 

Twisting balloons can be used to create decor centerpieces for events and to create a more unique look than can be provided by foil balloons. 

Often the term "party balloon" will refer to a twisting balloon or pencil balloon. These balloons are manipulated to create shapes and figures for parties and events, typically along with entertainment. 
 

tube balloon tided around subway rail

Filling the balloon with air can be done with the mouth, a manual or electric inflater (such as a hand pump), or with a source of compressed gas. 

When rubber or plastic balloons are filled with helium so that they float, they typically retain their buoyancy for only a day or so, sometimes longer. 

Beginning in the late 1970s, some more expensive (and longer-lasting) foil balloons made of thin, unstretchable, less permeable metallised films such as Mylar (BoPET) started being produced. 
 

foil party balloons


These balloons have attractive shiny reflective surfaces and are often printed with color pictures and patterns for gifts and parties. 

It's almost gotten to the point where just putting up a couple of balloons up at even something that can be so boring as an accounting firm pizza “party” or a job fair table is supposed to create fun and joy. 

My relationship with balloons has been less than joyful. One time, my brother sat on a balloon to purposely pop it. The squeaking and rubbing noise was excruciating to someone like me who suffers from sensory overload issues. 

And then, to add to the horror, I was traumatized when a balloon I was carrying outside of my Grandma's house popped spontaneously. The neighborhood mean old lady, Mrs. Saha, starting yelling at me. I ran upstairs, crying. Grandma, who loathed Mrs. Saha, was about to go next door and fight her. Yes, fight her. Not just, verbally, but physically. I remember my mother holding her back, saying, “Now, Mom … “ 

Even as a child, I could never get the thrill about those people who made multiple balloons into various shapes. Being a veritable klutz whose relationship to physical reality can be chaotic, I don't possess the manual dexterity to even try that (I also can't blow up a balloon), but, more significantly the squeaking and rubbing noise as the balloon artist forms his animal or whatever, plus the fear of a spontaneous pop, creates physical and mental trauma. 

And it's also very depressing to see a shriveled balloon, a reminder that the party's over, long over, dead, because the breath, which is life, has dissipated. 
 

Cartoon about the fear of balloons, globophobia

On the other hand, I remember when I was about 11 releasing a helium balloon at some suburban local park district event with a card attached. Amazingly, the balloon made it all the way to Toronto, Canada, as someone sent the card back. 

Some people get sexually turned on by balloons, which make sense, because as I hope I have hinted at above, they can physically embody beauty and excitement, but also danger, and eventually, death, always connected on various levels with sex. 
 

Man with balloon fetish on a National Geographic Channel show

One example of balloon fetishes in Bijou's catalog is featured in the Michael Zen-directed 1986 gay porn, Mansize, in which Michael Cummings enters a home in disarray from the aftermath of a party, covers himself in balloons and pretends to jerk off a long tube balloon while a blow up doll becomes animate, watches him, and jerks itself off, too!

 

This scene can also be found in the Bijou Video original compilation and recent release, Strange Sex Volume 1
 

Balloon and blow up doll scene from Mansize and Strange Sex Volume 1


 

 

Both Mansize and Strange Sex Volume 1 are available on DVD and streaming instantly

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