The Creeper

Those of us who experience the world as women and girls (inclusive of transgender, non-binary folks, etc) know all about predators, in fact it has been my observation that as we age we develop an acute sense for them, that feeling in your gut, that discomfort that’s difficult to express in words but which tells you to avoid being alone with that man, you can’t quite explain why but you have learned to trust your instincts. Though instincts are imperfect, we also hone our skills by talking with one another about our experiences, about what we have learnt and about how we have survived. Recently, I had a conversation with my housemate where we realised there was a type of predator that we hadn’t heard a lot of discussions about, which we had both fallen prey to in the past, we named this particular species of predator “the creeper”.

See, there are as many sorts of predators as there are colours in the rainbow! For example, there are the brutish predators, they who will use direct force and obvious violence to get what they want. There are the camouflaged predators, those who use strategies of mimicry to imitate safe people, teachers, priests, family members, those who you should be able to trust. And then there is the creeper, a predatory species who has a specific sort of strategy involving slow, strategic, sneaking subterfuge.

The creeper is that guy at the party who will never directly reveal that he is attracted to you, he will not flirt and he will not ask you on a date, there will be no sense of sexual energy. Instead, he seems to want friendship, appears genuinely interested in just knowing you as a person, taking real interest in what you have to say. He will add you on social media, you will spend time gravitating around the same people, at the same social occasions. The energy will remain free of flirting, he’ll hover on the periphery of your awareness, just a nice, harmless person in your social sphere. Sometimes maybe he will just like a little too many of your posts of Facebook, maybe he will compliment you just a little too much, but it will never seem as if he is actually taking an interest and so you will shrug it off. He’ll never ask you on a date but perhaps he will invite you along to something you have mutual friends at, in a manner that very much suggests it is not a date. You’ll vaguely wonder if it is, but there’s never been a strong indication of his interest so again, you shrug it off.

Yet some day, somehow, you’re sitting alone on a couch and his hand is on your thigh. His mouth is on yours. You’re not attracted to him and you don’t know quite how this has happened but maybe you’re young and uncomfortable asserting your boundaries, maybe because you’re female, our culture has taught you that you are responsible for the feelings of others and though you don’t want to be kissing this man, he is a friend and you don’t want to hurt his feelings. Maybe his hand moves up inside your skirt and though this feels wrong, maybe you feel it’s already too late to stop. Maybe after you’ve had sex with this guy, you feel uncomfortable, gross in ways you don’t quite understand. You start avoiding him at parties and you feel guilty about that. He seems like a nice guy but you really didn’t want to have sex with him. So why did you? How the hell did this happen?

Here is our theory; Maybe he’s a creeper. The creeper moves slowly. So slowly that his movements are almost imperceptible and his intentions are veiled, so slowly that his prey doesn’t get a chance to become startled and take flight. You know that friend you slept with when you were younger even though you didn’t like him? You know that man who took an interest in your art and then when you visited to see his studio, his hands were on you and you’re not sure when it happened? How did this happen? How did you find yourself engaging in sexual intimacy with someone you had no attraction to?

Well… perhaps they snuck up slowly, ever so slowly, so you never had a chance to say “yes” and you never had a chance to say “no”. Perhaps they are a creeper.

Face and Body

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A recent painting. More on my website jngaio.com

As much as I possibly can, I am invested in avoiding the industries and cultures that cultivate dissatisfaction with one’s physicality and mortality.

When I was 16, I remember I had already absorbed the message that in this barely blossomed youth, I was at the peak of my desirability. I clearly remember feeling like it was all downhill from there and by 21, I was already becoming “less hot”. Holy fucking shit, what the actual fuck? This was before social media, this was before the easy availability of porn, Instagram and YouTube makeup tutorials. How must young women be feeling now? You could not pay me to be a teenage girl again, I feel an intense protectiveness towards the ones I encounter now and have to be careful not to let it affect my behaviour towards them in a fashion that might be patronising.

At 34 years old, I feel hotter and more connected to my body and sexuality that I ever did when I was younger, yet I know that I attract less attention from men than I did when I was a teenager. Though I am far more sexually active and confident than I was back then, I do not have the physical attributes of youth that increases the likelihood of street harassment, unsolicited messages and unwanted conversations with older men on public transport. I do not mourn the loss of those things, nor do I feel myself to be lacking in sexual opportunities (though as a kinky, submissive masochist with a penchant for violence, my pool of truly compatible lovers has always been on the narrow side) and in fact I am far more satisfied with my appearance than I was back when. Also, as a sidenote, as I age I receive significantly more attention from queer women, a fact which I am tremendously chuffed about!

But I am defensive of my confidence because I know how easily it is shaken. I only need to stumble across one of the many Instagram accounts of slender teenagers who have hundreds of thousands more followers than me simply for their pretty selfies and I am reminded of our culture’s obsession with youth and a specific sort of beauty.  I only need to skim through a fashion magazine while I wait at the doctor’s office, or sit through the movie previews in a cinema where in 2019, women still have far fewer speaking roles let alone anything with substance… and I am reminded of what our broken culture values in women.

When I was younger, I was already painfully aware of how fleeting my cultural currency of desirability was and it left me feeling despondent and distrusting of the attentions and flattery that I received. During times when I later played into the world of youth obsessed appearances, this did some psychic damage. A couple of years back, I was the submissive to a Dom who ordered me to wear makeup and dress in more conventionally attractive ways and emotional masochist that I am, I accepted the challenge. However, this required my engagement in worlds I normally avoided, shops I had never entered before, tutorials on makeup to laboriously transform oneself into someone more youthful and I started to notice, more and more, what “hot” women looked like and how they cultivated this.

The results were an emotional mixed bag. On the one hand, it was actually thrilling to gain insight into the alchemical magic that is the ways in which clothing and lipstick can transform us into something seductive and more then human. Learning how to wield the war paint that is makeup was thrilling and as a queer femme I developed a long-lasting love for the powers of shimmering pigments and smoky framed eyes.  Yet becoming familiar with what my Dom found attractive required an acute intimacy with mainstream male desire and it made me painfully aware of my aging with a sickening sense of myself as disposable. Within a culture that fetishizes female youth and beauty, we women have a very short self-life.

When my relationship with that Dom ended, I realised how relieved I was to no longer be required to expose myself to the brutality of an image-centric industry. Though I had discovered much about my sexuality and a certain sort of power in representing myself as hyper-feminine, the regular engagement with and concern for my appearance’s adherence to the heteronormative male gaze was ultimately a major cause of anxiety and compromised self-esteem. When one values and prioritises their art, their friendships, their sexual and romantic connections, their spiritual development and education… these are things that can only increase over time. But beauty, as defined by our narrow standards, is fleeting and the attempt to hold to it too tightly wreaks havoc on one’s mental health and sense of self.

There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to look good, there is nothing wrong with teenagers putting on makeup, taking selfies and looking generally amazing on social media, a healthy dose of vanity and self-love is a lovely thing in my opinion. What makes me feel protective of these girls is when the only thing on their social media is those photos. If the attention they receive from the world is solely based on their looks and beauty, I cannot help but sense that this must fill them with a profound sense of anxiety and perhaps set them up for the aging process to only be traumatising. After all, if our value is heavily invested in our looks, what happens when time snatches our beauty away? And of course this only speaks of the experience of young women who are able to look conventionally attractive in the first place, many don’t and never will which further deepens my conviction that our obsession with female beauty is emotional violence against women. All women.

To age in comfort is a privilege and I am lucky to be able to keep myself within a bubble of community that values many things beyond physical appearance. I am lucky that the compliments I receive most regularly revolve around my honesty, my vulnerability, my open mindedness, my compassion and my art. This means that when lovers compliment me on my sexiness and beauty, I am able to receive some enjoyment from the compliments instead of only experiencing the fear of unavoidable loss as the years reveal themselves in the shifting landscapes of my face and body.

An Outline of My Erotic Landscape

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Self-portrait from 2013, drawn the first time I submitted to someone.

In a culture that shames and silences people, particularly women, for their sexuality, it is a radical and complicated process for a woman to learn what she likes and to ask for it. I believe that this process is made even more complex when the woman identifies as kinky due to the added stigma surrounding the world of BDSM. I have been sexually active since I was 16 years old, orgasmic since I was 23, involved in BDSM since I was 26, worked in porn, identify as a sex positive feminist… yet it is only now, as a 33-year-old, queer, cisgender woman, that I am truly coming to comprehend my own erotic landscape. Though sexuality is more fluid than we are inclined to think and pinning it all down into words can be difficult, nonetheless there have been themes that have run through the entire course of the history of my libido. As an exercise in honestly and publicly owning what it is that I like, I’m going to try to put into words an outline of my current sexual landscape.

So here is the truth. I like sex, I like fucking, I like bodies. I like the adventure and the connection of sex and have at various times connected with friends and acquaintances through light hearted and joyful sexual and kinky adventures. Some would call that “casual” sex but something about the word “casual” doesn’t quite fit the loving, playful, friendship enhancing aspects of this. Perhaps a better term would be “social sex” though I am at a loss to define quite why. I like sex with loved ones for the intimacy, the connection, the bodily pleasure and the orgasms. I like it for the way it bonds us and keeps us closer. I love the frantic energy of need to be inside one another, I love the grabbing of flesh, the intensity of eye contact and I love it for the ways our bodies collapse together afterwards. I love how much it feels like love and how it dissolves so many artificial borders and boundaries.

But here’s the important puzzle piece to my sexual identity, here is the theme that has run through the course of my entire sexual history and is an underlying element of my libido, a fundamental truth at the core of what turns me on the most; I am a sexually submissive masochist with switchy inclinations. What does this mean? What turns me on the most, what I masturbate to when I am alone is not pretty, really, truly not pretty. Even in the spaces of BDSM “communities” I have found myself feeling something of an outlier, relating most to the heavy players, the violent ones, the freaks, the creeps, the weirdos. Though of course I have always endeavoured to play in ways that are ethical, educated and following the Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK) framework. I’m a nasty pervert but I’m an ethical one

Recently as an exercise in exploring what turns me on at its most stripped down and straight forward, I compiled a list of words that sum up my erotic landscape, they are not pretty words and if you are not someone who is comfortable in understanding that the world of sexual fantasy is different to reality, these words my trouble you. Here they are in no particular order except as they came into my head:

Rape. Violate. Violent. Abuse. Molest. Beat. Brutal. Hurt. Humiliate. Cry. Scream. Coerce. Force. Bend. Break. Drip. Bruise. Bleed. Gape. Pain. Punch. Strip. Sleep. Drug. Drunk. Ugly. Cunt. Bitch. Slut. Stupid. Fuck. Filth. Stalk. Slap. Piss. Cut. Whore. Choke. Bite. Creep. Fight. Degrade. Spread. Trap. Fear. Spit. Defeat. Suffer. Silent.

There it is, stripped of any flowery language, the truth of what makes my cunt wet. It is not the entire truth, I have discovered immense pleasure in receiving erotic massages, in slowly exploring a lover’s body, in those sensual things that women supposedly adore. I am sexually adventurous and don’t like to confine or define myself to one narrow role or identity, that thought is unbearably claustrophobic to me. But those more sensual and bodily pleasure realms are things I learned to find pleasure in, like acquiring a taste. The truth is that the ugly words above have always been part of the baseline of my libido, the armature that underlies the structure of everything that deeply turns me on. The truth is that for me, much of sex is cerebral and when it is bodily, it is violent.

The dark and violent underbelly of human sexuality has an undeniable pull for me, violence both physical and psychological. Obviously I am disgusted by the behaviour of anyone who indulges any of their dark or sick fantasies without the consent of all parties involved, I only ever engage in consensual non-consent with people who are enthusiastic about doing so. Nonetheless, the truth of what turns me on is violent and ugly. Though it has at times made me feel socially isolated, I’m comfortable with who I am and what I like. There are so many thrilling discoveries to be made here in the borderlands of the socially acceptable.

Slut

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My name is Jessie and I am a slut.

I own this identity so that it cannot be thrown against me as a weapon, though of course it still will. I own this identity because it feels like a bold sort of defiance, a refusal to sit down, to be quiet and to close my legs.

My sluttiness is a sort of overabundance, a “too much” – my shirts reveal too much cleavage, my selfies reveal too much skin, I have too much sex, I take too much pleasure, I have too many lovers, I speak too freely, I’m too comfortable inhabiting my own flesh, too comfortable using it for my own purposes. I do none of this to offend or upset, in fact it hurts me that the fact of my existing as I am is a source of disgust, judgement and paternalistic concern for others but the fact is that I exist this way because of my absolute commitment to being exactly who I am.

I am a slut because I love sex, I love the filth, fun, freedom and I love the profound connection. It is a fact of my personality and principles that I refuse to live my life in fear, refuse to make my decisions out of cowardice, my commitment is to the truth as I perceive it and the truth I perceive is that sex is an undeniable force, that denying it turns its powers dark, ugly and dangerous. Repression is a sickness that I refuse to bear.

My sluttiness does not mean I am without boundaries nor that I have low self-esteem. Though learning my boundaries has been a process throughout the years as I carve out my own path, I have a profound awareness of my own value as a lover and choose my connections carefully. I do sometimes enjoy the feeling of power that comes from being admired for my physical attractiveness but this does not mean I see it as my only value, I simply enjoy inhabiting this body of mine and utilising the gifts it has given me.

I am a slut because I have used my body for profit, I had sold images of my body for money to travel and buy art supplies when my options have been otherwise limited, I have made porn for the sheer fun of it, I have sold my sexual services when exploring ways in which I, as a disabled woman with limited employment options, might be able to pursue some degree of financial autonomy. I have no shame about profiting from my body and sexual skills, but for the discomfort I feel when I am judged and shunned and silenced by the greater world.

I’m a slut because I’ve been dominated and spanked and tied in rope at kink clubs, I’m a slut because my house parties have broken into spontaneous orgies, I’m a slut because I’ve publically orgasmed in front of big crowds of people, I’m a slut because I have multiple lovers who I adore, I’m a slut because I have a husband I’ve been with for over ten years who I still fuck on a regular basis.

I’m a slut, it is a fact without value but for that which you impose upon me. I hope, for both our sakes, that you can see I am no less human or valuable than you. I hope, for both our sakes, that you realise if you judge a woman for her sex life, you are trapped in a hateful and misogynistic mindset. I hope, for both our sakes, that you can open up your mind and heart.

I am a slut and I refuse to apologise for who I am. I’m a slut and I’m proud of who I am. I’m a slut and I’m happy with who I am. I’m a slut and I’m loved for who I am.

My name is Jessie and I am a slut.