I've been thinking a lot about blood lately. Wait! Don't turn the page! Not morbidly, and not violently. Something else.
I've been thinking about how blood -- like sex, a basic, miraculous life force -- has been turned around in our consciousness, so that instead of associating blood with life most of us associate it instead with death, violence, emergency, fear, danger, trauma, and disease. Like sex.
We make all these negative blood associations so automatically that we don't even think it's strange that we do so. And yet blood most basically represents life, not death. Ask any cell in your body.
These days I find myself wanting to push myself past a reflexive panic response to blood. When I'm able to do that, I find myself intrigued with blood in a way that I can only call sensual and erotic.
Have you ever taken a moment to appreciate blood in an erotic way? Thicker than water, you know. Rich, brilliant, beautifully red, passionate -- life itself. Think about it. Is it necessary to drown in blood negativity? Beyond all the Hollywood violence and the newspaper gore there's what an early PBS science special appropriately dubbed Hemo the Magnificent.
The other day I cut my finger with a knife -- by mistake, not too seriously. I jumped of course, and hurt and got afraid, but after I got over the initial shock and surprise I took a minute to just notice the simple fact of the blood, beading up through the tear in my skin. I let it be beautiful, wonderful -- delighted in it, feeling extremely sane and also somehow quite beyond the pale, both at the same time. Of course I took it into my mouth.
In Erotic by Nature, Donna Ippolito writes about her conflicted feelings about being sexual while she's having her period, that place where blood and sex so frequently intersect:
"Fearful, wanting to hide my blood, I lie tight. Your tongue to me, licking at my cunt, everywhere tasting. Fearful, I lie tight, whispering stop, won't you stop. I lie tight, wanting to close my legs, hide the shame, the feeling I am an odor and a stain. I lie tight, fight the blood, squeeze shut my pleasure, hating the blood. I try to push your head away."
What woman does not know this association of blood with shame, the woman's curse, the sign of being unclean? And yet her lover, blissfully unperturbed, happily buries his face in her wet, red cunt and comes up smiling:
"It lifts to look at me. All smudged, it lifts. My blood is all over your face, I say, touching it.... You wear my stain exultantly. I could bloody your pale hair with my cunt, the blood covering everything like some kind of joy dust."
Seeing his delight, she moves beyond her own repulsion:
"I open my legs, offering you not my cunt but my blood. And you take all of me with pleasure.... Blood soaks the sheets and I don't care. It's only blood.... Eat blood, know blood, see blood, taste blood. I lie in it, lie against it on you, feel it damp.... You are so smooth this way, slippery and deep.... I am spilling my cunt, spotting small brilliant flowers. I am ripe, dripping, and my blood sings, the song slapping between us."
I remember a time with my partner Helen when, instead of simply tolerating her menstrual blood, we both got to a place of completely reveling in it. It was one of those breakthrough, liberatory moments. Before long we had blood all over the sheets, all over both our bodies. We watched wide-eyed as my bright red cock moved in and out of her. We made bloody handprints on each others' chests, fingerpainted red designs on each others' limbs. By the time we came up for air, the room looked like it had been the site of a massacre, and we were hysterical with the vividness of it, and with knowing how far we had traveled from the mindset of someone, say, who might walk into our scene from the outside.
I think there really is something fundamentally erotic about blood. Not about violence (let me be very clear), but about blood itself. Why do I feel that saying this puts me more out on the edge than anything I have ever written in this column?
Pat Califia understands, I think. In her story, "Vampire" (from her book, Macho Sluts), she writes of a woman who seduces a reluctant vampire under a full moon in a dark alley. When the tension between the two women has gotten all but unbearable, the seductress makes
"two slashes at the place where her breasts came together, a little 'v' that fit into her cleavage. The blood immediately started to rill, and she cupped her hands under her breasts to help her corset push them close enough together to gather it and keep it in a pool. She knew that she was as beautiful then as she ever would be -- her head tossed back, her mass of curly, blonde hair being rearranged by a breeze, her white throat, shoulders and breasts exposed, and the red color of the thread of blood just barely distinguishable from the ebony of her dress in the darkness."
Veronica Vera talks about how she was eroticized during her Catholic childhood by all the vivid images of Christ bleeding on the cross. Raelyn Gallina makes prints of the cuttings she does on people's bodies, frames them, and exhibits them as blood art. Blood/life/eros -- all blended together in a thick, red soup.
In the fear-ridden 90s we have learned to associate sex and blood with AIDS, and blessed touch with molestation. One after another, the most fundamental manifestations of life are being culturally recast as symbols of danger and death. Isn't it time to take them all back -- blood not least of all -- before we lose the basic ability to distinguish life from death? Who knows, maybe we'll even see the day when fathers stop passing out in horror when they witness the bloody miracle of their children being born.
An Ode to Spandex
I have to take this opportunity to wax poetic about an exciting new line of spandex playgear that photographer Mark I. Chester is making, playclothes that I want to personally recommend as delightful enhancements to all sorts of sex play.
Mark has for some time been distributing form-fitting spandex bondage bags -- tight, black, stretchable mummy sacks that you can stuff a partner into, that bind a person very nicely to him/herself from head to toe. The thick, heavy-gauge spandex presses your legs tightly together, presses your arms firmly to your sides, making sure that every inch of your skin is continuously sensitized and stimulated. Just being in the bag is a noteworthy sensory experience, even if no one ever so much as touches you.
To get into the bag, you bunch it all up and start at the feet -- like putting on nylons except that it's your whole body that gets swallowed up as the material stretches taut. You pull the smooth spandex up over your legs and hips (or your partner's legs and hips), letting the compression work its way up your body. With your hands at your sides, the bag gets stretched up around your torso and shoulders, then over your head (the claustrophobic may skip this part), completely enveloping you in close darkness, the material clinging tightly to your nose and mouth, your forehead and chin. When the drawstring at the top is pulled tight and tied shut, the mummification is complete.
There is one opening in the bag, at the crotch -- a little ring with its own drawstring, to tie around your cock and balls, if you're a cock and balls sort of person -- loose or tight, whichever you prefer. Very nice, for bagger and baggee alike.
Visually, the bondage bags are a total wonder, turning any person -- male or female, tall or short, thick or thin -- into a magnificent example of sculptural modern art, an exercise in pure form. But the main thing is how the bag feels. There's the wonderful feeling of compression and confinement. There's the delicious cool feeling of the spandex against your skin, and the contrasting musky warmth and smell of your own sweat.
And then there's the magnification of sensation that the spandex brings, a heightened sensitivity all over your body. Once you're in the bag, every finger touch, every palm stroke, every full body press, every scratch, every pinch, every slap, becomes a multiplication of itself -- many times more delicious and more intense than ordinary contact.
There's also the helplessness, of course. When you're in the bag, you'd better be with a partner who wants to take good care of you, treat you nicely, and keep you from hurting yourself. If you lose your balance, you'll topple over, no two ways about it. Make sure your partner is good at paying attention to details like balance and gravity, no matter how turned on they get looking at you and playing with you.
That's the other side of the coin, of course -- the fun of being the person who gets to take charge of the person in the bag. You have them in front of you, at your disposal, beautiful and vulnerable, looking and feeling deliciously smooth, sleek, and sensual. Nipples are incredible through taut spandex, not to mention lips. Try pressing a finger between someone's lips through the stretch of the material, or a tongue. Try kissing them lightly or tracing a finger delicately over their lips until they twitch. Spandexed asses, large or small, are incredible to fondle, spank, or paddle. And of course there's the trussed cock and balls so nicely tied and delineated, or the cunt to be probed by pushing between resisting thighs that simply cannot open to let you in, no matter how much they might like to.
Maybe you get the idea. I have been in bondage bags any number of times, and bagged others many times too. Even put two people in a bag together one time. Helen and another woman standing pressed together -- face to face, mouth to tit, hand to cunt -- getting more and more turned on by the minute while I and the other woman's partner steadied the two of them, kept them from toppling over, the two of us a mere fabric membrane from the smell and sound of two women getting hotter and hotter, unable to do anything more than put our hands on both their beautifully sculpted asses, trying to draw their sexual energy in through our palms while a dozen people watched with rapt attention. "Bet you two wish you were in here," the women teased as we admired the outlines of their forms sliding over each other. Indeed we did, though the tension of being so near and yet so far from the wet sweat sex of them as they dipped and moaned and eventually came was itself swoon material for weeks afterwards.
I'm getting carried away, as I often do when I start talking about the bags. The news is that there is now a whole line of this sex enhancement gear, including hoods, bondage bags with internal confinement for the arms, two-legged open-crotch bags, double-zippered sleepsacks, and bodyform catsuits that leave the arms and legs free to move while completely encasing them in heavenly spandexitude.
All the variations are put together with the care that Mark gives to everything he does. "I use an expensive, thick, luxurious, four-way spandex that stretches tremendously in all directions," he explains. "I use a special thread and stitch to make this the longest lasting spandex gear you can buy."
Last month, Mark threw a Friday the 13th Fetish Party to inaugurate his new venture, a typically wonderful Folsom Street Gallery affair, complete with guides to help the curious try the gear, a model striking seductive poses in a catsuit, and Spectator's Carol Queen and her partner Robert demonstrating how creatively sexual two people can be inside the confines of the loose-fitting bondage sack. Watching the two of them cavort inside the mystery of the sack was like something out of an animation festival, a new form of modern dance, the ultimate in minimal privacy combined with blatant exhibitionism. Take a bondage sack with you to your next social party. If you and your partner get the urge to be sexual, you can simply climb inside and do what you will, leaving the external world behind in see-no-evil bliss.
Curious? You can get more information by writing Mark I. Chester, P.O. Box 422501, San Francisco, CA 94142, or by calling (415) 621-6294.
Daughter of On Our Backs?
San Francisco has spawned yet another sex magazine, this time a slick new "magazine of lesbian enjoyment" called Girlfriends. The first issue of the 48-page bi-monthly journal hits the streets nationally June 20th, with an ambitious first printing of 10,000 copies.
According to its "mission statement," Girlfriends is "dedicated to exploring and promotion all aspects of lesbian enjoyment," including lesbian culture, politics and sexuality, "in a beautifully designed color, glossy format." The magazine, we are told, "will feature an editorial character that is highly personal, sex positive, and unafraid of controversy; a design aesthetic that is fun, accessible and contemporary; and high quality artwork by recognized photographers who have captured the cultural diversity of queer women."
The magazine was started by several women previously on the staff of On Our Backs, the ten-year-old, pioneering journal of unapologetic lesbian sexual entertainment, who cite "personal and professional differences" with On Our Backs as their reason for wanting to start a magazine of their own.
Heather Findlay, former editor of On Our Backs, is editor of the new mag, Diane Anderson is Associate Editor, Zannah Noe is Photography Editor, and Bonnie Simon is Art Director.
When I spoke with Diane Anderson, she made a point of acknowledging that On Our Backs is "an enormously important magazine that has played a major cultural role for lesbians." Obviously she feels that there is room and need for a new magazine as well.
Anderson found it hard to be specific about how Girlfriends will be different from On Our Backs. She did say that the photo layouts in Girlfriends will have a different aesthetic from those in On Our Backs, what she described as "simpler, more like traditional pin-ups, but with a lesbian aesthetic." What is a lesbian aesthetic? I asked. Again she had trouble finding words, but said that, for example, not all of the models "will conform to traditional cultural notions of attractive women."
Each issue of Girlfriends, Anderson said, will feature three pictorials: a four-color centerfold, a black-and-white portfolio featuring the work of one erotic photographer, and a fashion-oriented spread. She said that Girlfriends intends put serious money into its photo shoots, paying models and stylists as well as photographers.
Regular features in Girlfriends will include columns on queer parenting and lesbian sports, a "Girlfringe" column on the lesbian leather and s/m scene by Spectator writer Trish Thomas, and a "Girl Talk" advice column by regular Spectator contributor Pat Califia. The first issue also features Village Voice columnist Donna Minkowitz and photography by Phyllis Christopher and Zannah Noe.
According to Anderson, Girlfriends has received advance orders from outlets in 27 states. She expects its first run of 10,000 copies to sell out quickly. Single issues go for $4.95; subscriptions are $24/year. For more information, call (415) 995-2776, or write to Girlfriends at P.O. Box 713, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019.