Saturday, December 26, 2009

Random Sexiness

I love this video clip. Love. It. I don't know about the rest of you ladies, but I do not intend to have a sexless old age. Nope. So go on, you sexy old ladies. And old men, too!
Video yoinked from The Sexademic.

Oh, and because I know you want to know: eighty-six. He was a small man, an native-born Irishman who stood about five feet tall and weighed perhaps a hundred pounds soaking wet. I think he'd been a jockey.

But he'd have himself a few sips of single-malt, and he'd get as frisky as a twenty-year-old. This was when I lived in Florida, and I recall thinking that this guy was probably quite the Lothario, among the "mature living" trailer parks and apartment complexes. Lot of bored and restless older ladies there. I teased him about it, and he winked at me and said, "Well - I will say, I don't have to cook me own dinner very often."

Maybe those ladies served vanilla ice cream for dessert...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's time for... a fresh podcast!

(The page formatting continues to show the headline all wonky. I don't know why, but ignore it. Click on the little icon, and it'll play just fine.)

Now, I must warn you, I think this one gets to a new high in completely non-serious silly riffing. So just disregard all that talk about Monk parking a Buick in someone's ass.

Also, there's a whole bunch of insane nonsense about doing an all-musical-version of the podcast. Do not try to make any rational sense out of that. And do not follow Monk's instructions about emailing me, imploring me to do an all-musical-version of a podcast. Because I will not.

Then we get to letters. A reader asks us about making kink toys out of everyday thing – so we talk about pervertables, always a fun topic. And Monk offers us all the reasons why rope is so wonderful.

Then we read a letter from a kinky reader asking us why BDSM people don’t like to kiss. (We kid the guy a bit, but then, we do that to everyone.)

Meanwhile, I’m off to get my hair done, and then get massaged and generally pampered. A little pre-Christmas treat. Bye!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let me tell you a story…

Some years back, I used to do a lot of photography. I miss it, but it’s a hobby I just don’t have time for anymore.

I got interested in photography by doing art-nude modeling. (Art-nude meaning: not commercial porn. How do you know if you’re modeling for art shots? You don’t wear shoes, you don’t look at the camera, and you don’t smile. That’s my tongue-in cheek definition of art modeling versus porn modeling.)

Since I was used to nude modeling, when I started doing photography myself, I did a lot of artsy nude self-portraits. Made perfect sense to me. I was the perfect model: free and always available when I wanted to shoot. And since I was trying to learn photography – a hobby that can absorb any amount of time and money you throw at it – I posted those pictures of myself on a photo-critique site.

Now, this was in 1999/2000, before chicks taking naked pictures of themselves and posting them on the web was so common. Some of the people on that site were perfectly calm about my images, but some people really got upset over these not-at-all-explicit nude photos. And oddly, part of their problem seemed to be that I said these were photos of me.

(Note: I posted these under my photography-name, not as Mistress Matisse. No one there recognized me as her. Or if they did, they didn’t say so.)

So there was some drama about my artsy naked self, but I tried to ignore the nasty personal cracks and just talk to the cool people and learn what I could from the valid critiques. I did learn things, too.

I’d been hanging around this site for, oh at least a year, when one day I got an email. The administrators of the site were going to be in Seattle the next week, and they wanted to know if I wanted to get together and have a drink.

What, me? I was very flattered. These people were like real photographers and stuff! So I agreed, and we made a date. At the appointed day and time, I arrived at the restaurant – it was The Pink Door, downtown – and saw them. It was a man and woman, a married couple. I went over and greeted them and sat down.

We started making polite chit-chat about their visit to Seattle, and how long I had lived here, and etc. And I thought, “Something funny is going on – there’s a very odd energy happening here, between the two of them, and from them towards me. What’s up with this?”

Then I realized: These people had not truly believed I was real until I walked in. That's why they had contacted me and asked me to meet them - to see if the woman in the photos would actually show up. Neither of them – but particularly the man – had believed I really was who I’d said I was. His wife seemed a trifle less astonished to find that I was the woman in those photos, I did take them myself, and I could nerd out with them about shutter speeds and focal distances, in a manner that only a photographer would do. But both of them were so clearly surprised by me, a real woman who would post nude photos of herself on the web, and talk to strangers about them!

I did not say any of this aloud. I just smiled into my cocktail, because I felt amused by it. It was like a little practical joke they’d played on themselves.

So we had our polite conversation, finished our drinks, said our lovely-to-meet-you goodbyes, and went our separate ways. The next week, they announced on the site that they were letting me choose what image was going to be Photo Of The Week. It was a stamp of approval: she’s real. The personal sniping at me on the site dropped very noticeably.

That’s a completely true story. My point? I know exactly what it’s like to have people not believe you’re real, until you prove it. So, if the much-discussed Alexa Di Carlo really is who she says she is, then I know just how she feels.

It’s easy to say I shouldn’t have to prove who I am, people should just trust me and not question. But not that’s how the world works. We all participate in systems that require us to provide some proof of identification. And we also have things like college degrees, which say, in essence: I know stuff. A bunch of other smart people taught it to me and gave me this piece of paper to show you, so you’ll know you can trust me.

Because that’s the issue: trust. If you don’t have someone’s trust, you can argue the details with them all the livelong day, and it will not avail you. You will never gain an uneasy person’s trust by such a strategy.

How do you get trust? You give it. I know about this. You might say that as a dominatrix, I am a professional gainer-of-trust. If people did not trust me, they would not let me do what I do. I must not only get their trust, I must keep it, and keep adding to it. If I could not do that, I would not have the career that I have.

Alexa, if you are who you say you are, here’s how I see this: a noticeable number of your readers have told you, “We don’t trust you.” Now, if all you want to do is tell sexy stories and re-post erotic images, you’ll always find an audience for that, so I could see where those readers wouldn’t matter to you.

But I had the impression you wanted to offer something more meaningful – advice and real information. If that’s what you want, then your readers must trust you. Thus, it’s a mistake to answer the we don’t trust you readers by saying, “So what, I don’t care.” That would not be smart in a one-on-one relationship, and it will not serve you well in your relationship with readers, either. It’s a defensive response, it undermines your credibility.

In order to keep everything you’ve created with your blog, you have to find some way to recapture their trust. This is the pivotal point - you have to make a gesture here. If you can’t or won’t do that, I’m afraid your personal brand, “Alexa Di Carlo”, will be permanently tarnished and will probably go the way of most blogs – fading into nothing.

I personally can think of a lot of trust-gaining strategies, but let me offer you one that I can help you with. I’m guessing you know the mother of all sexual advice-givers, Dan Savage, author of Savage Love? Dan and I are old buddies - he’s the one who gave me the column in the Stranger, back when I first started writing about sex. Dan also has a podcast. I’ve been on it several times. Why don’t you consider asking him if you could be a call-in guest? I think it would be a good way for people to “meet” you – just letting listeners hear your voice would go a long way towards getting some trust back. But since no one will see your face, your anonymity will be preserved. All you have to do is talk on the phone for a little while.

Here’s what I would do to help you: write a letter introducing yourself and your blog to Dan and pitching him the idea of you being a call-in guest. Send it to me, I’ll forward it to him with a personal note from me, to make sure he gets it. Obviously I cannot guarantee you anything, it's not my podcast. But I’ll do what I can to help you.

I’ll do that for you - even though I’m not sure I can trust you. Because I know what it’s like to be doubted, and I know you only gain people’s trust by giving them yours.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fact or Fiction

I was interested to see the whole Alexa Di Carlo debate come to a public boiling point a few days ago. I’ve been hearing about it for months, in private conversations, and there have been some not-very-veiled blog posts on the subject. I did wonder, though, if the question would ever come out in the open.

What’s the controversy, you ask? Is the sex blogger/escort who calls herself "Alexa Di Carlo" really what she says she is? Monica Shores of Carnal Nation doubts it. Read what she has to say if you haven’t already, otherwise this post won’t make a great deal of sense to you.

However, the deeper question is: why would anyone create an elaborate and fictitious online persona as a sex worker? The answer to that one is obvious to me - it's the same reason why anyone blogs: for the attention. It worked, too.

And is there anyone reading this who has never pretended to be someone other than who they are while online? Come on - not even once? On an email list, in a chatroom, or a profile, or a message board, while IMing, sometime, someplace? There’s nothing inherently evil about playing make-believe online. It can be a fascinating pastime. How do you think Second Life got so popular?

But the real payoff of creating a fictitious online persona isn't changing your own behavior, it's about changing how other people perceive you, treat you, talk to you. As a female sex worker, you can talk to people about sex, and have them talk back to you, in ways that would not happen if you represented yourself otherwise. You can express desires that you'd be uncomfortable with in other contexts, and you can elicit details of other people's sexual feelings in return.

That's an appealing idea to a lot of people. Being a sex worker is a mysterious and yet iconic sexual identity. Everyone knows who we are - except, no one really knows who we are. If you want to create a fictional character, it doesn't get any better than that.

True, if Alexa is a created persona, then she’s a very carefully-wrought one. What kind of person would do all that? Well, I would imagine he’d be a well-educated and intelligent man.

Yes, I said a man. It’s possible that a woman would create a fantasy persona of someone like Alexa, but I strongly doubt it. A woman would do it differently. I do not think that Alexa Di Carlo is a half-truth, a woman telling a story that’s factual in some ways, but not others. No, if Alexa is fiction, then she is complete fiction, from start to finish. And if Alexa is someone’s Galatea, then her Pygmalion is a man.

This hypothetical creator is probably someone who researches his interests exhaustively, and who is detail-oriented. It’s probably someone who deals with computers in a professional context, and who doesn’t have a lot of people looking over his shoulder to see what he does with every moment of his working day.

More important, he is someone who is not getting a certain need met in his real life. And for someone to invest so much time and energy indicates that it’s a deep, ongoing need. It may be that he has gender issues he feels he can’t explore openly, and so creating the persona of Alexa would be his way of expressing that part of himself. Or it might be that he doesn’t feel satisfied by his sexual partner(s), and so the character of Alexa is the lover he’d like to have, his fantasy woman. Either way, creating Alexa would indeed be a labor of love for someone.

But you don’t care about my speculative profiling, do you? You’re thinking, “But Matisse, Matisse - do you think Alexa Di Carlo is real?”

I admit that at one point, I myself was curious about that. Then I thought, “Why, exactly, would this really matter to me?” And I couldn’t think of an answer that satisfied me.

I don’t think the existence of that blog is going to substantially add or subtract from any sex worker’s day-to-day existence. I have heard concerns that explicit stories by (supposed) sex workers lead to boundary-pushing by clients. As in:
“But Alexa Di Carlo says she loves to (do whatever sexual thing the guy is trying to persuade you to do).” The clearly indicated answer to that is “Well then, you should go book a session with Alexa Di Carlo.” And we know how that’s going to go, don’t we, ladies? They'll call you back.

Yes, if one dwells on it, one could get annoyed about someone publishing a lot of stories and opinions one feels misrepresent sex workers. The things the person calling herself Alexa Di Carlo says certainly do not match up with my views and experiences of sex work - which is pretty extensive. Neither do they seem consistent with the views and experiences of any sex worker I have ever known - which is quite a few.

However, if you let yourself get lathered up about people saying things you don’t agree with, you’re going to spend a lot of your life pissed off. It isn’t like the persona of Alexa Di Carlo is running for Senate or something. It’s just a web site. The web is full of all kinds of people saying all kinds of crazy things, many of which are not true, and I can read or not read them, as I see fit. I must exercise my judgment about what to believe and what to regard skeptically. So should you.

I support Monica Shores writing that article, it raises good questions and concerns. It’s fine to discuss these things openly. But - whoever writes Alexa Di Carlo’s blog is going to keep on saying whatever she pleases, whether sex worker activists like it or not. I’m choosing to not lose any sleep over that. If you’re a sex worker, I don’t think you should either. I doubt we’ll ever know the truth for sure, and there’s not a great deal any of us could do about it, even if we did absolutely know. If you don’t like what she says, then please, start talking yourself, and offer us your perspective.