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Posts Tagged ‘suraya sidhu singh’


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Shifting the Balance of Power — ‘Creating’ the Erotic Man

I recently attended a talk and slide-show at the Feminist Library in London led and organized by Suraya Sidhu Singh, Editor of Filament Magazine. Anyone who knows anything about Filament Magazine knows it’s one of the few magazines that feature stunning erotic photography of men photographed by women. The event asked the question: when there are so many great women photographers, why are there so few women photographing men erotically? It featured three women photographers who regularly do erotic photography of men; Migle Backovaite, Alex Brew and Victoria Gugenheim. Each woman gave a slide presentation featuring some of her amazing photography and spoke on her experiences of photographing men erotically.Suraya, who has researched the topic extensively also gave a talk on her findings. The discussion after the presentation was lively and thought-provoking.

 If I could sum up the evening in a phrase, it would be that the event was a study of what happens to the balance of power between the sexes when women are behind the camera photographing men erotically. This was not a factor I would have considered before, and afterward, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t, since it seemed so obvious.

 Naturally whatever I take away from any experience is always filtered through my writer’s brain, and I found myself comparing the experience of a woman photographer photographing men erotically to the experience of a woman writing men erotically. The internal comparison has been helpful to me as a writer, and from the standpoint of a woman who creates erotic art, I find the personal aftermath of the event challenging and exciting.

 I took away that one of the big reasons more women photographers don’t photograph men erotically is because of the power dynamics. A man being photographed erotically is by the very fact that he is the subject of the artist, submissive to her view of what she wishes to create. While lots of men are being photographed by women photographers, the dynamic is considerably different when the photography is erotic. I felt, especially from the powerful, sometimes frightening works of Alex Brew, that when a man is being photographed erotically, a negotiation for power takes place by default, a struggle to balance that power so that both the subject and the photographer understand and participate fully in the work being created in the way the photographer envisions it. Of course I’m not a photographer, and much of my feminism is a gut-felt response to growing up in a very male-dominated family and living in a world where the struggle for a balance of power is on-going. No doubt my view would have been slightly different with the benefit of a more academic and historic view of feminism, but the landscape would still be the same.

 There are few women photographing men erotically. By contrast, the majority of quality erotica is written by women. There are some brilliant men erotica writers, it’s true, but women have, in essence, defined the modern erotica genre. I think this surley must have been, at least partially, in response to the quality that wasn’t there in porn. Perhaps also in response to the general poor quality of porn, more and more men are now reading erotica written by women. This is just my informal view of the landscape. However as erotica writers, we are the creators of that landscape, at least fictionally, and that shifts the balance of power considerably. One would think that by the very nature of fiction, there would be no negotiating for power with our characters, but that isn’t true. Many writers would agree with me that their characters tell them how they want to be written, and their characters are always right. Indeed, it is the characters themselves that are more willing to take risks artistically than their creators. How much of the real world struggle for balance of power between the sexes effects what we create fictionally, however, is the subject for another blog post.

 Many of my woman colleagues find writing erotica one of the most empowering experiences in their life. I would definitely agree with that. While there is a camera separating the photographer from her subject, for good or ill, there is no separation between the writer and the world and the characters she creates. The negotiations are all internal, and the battle, though a quiet, perhaps less obvious one, is always going on.

 I was also struck by the fact that there was a relationship, a certain dynamic, between the photographers and their subjects, and that dynamic affected the end result heavily. In addition to the negotiation of the balance of power, trust was a big issue, for both the photographer and the subject. In the erotic photo spreads I’ve seen in Filament Magazine, there is a certain vulnerability achieved by the photographers in their work which is a part of what makes these spreads so erotic. There is an unselfconsciousness that doesn’t come across on the cover of a bodice ripper or in ordinary beefcake of the male stripper sort. That vulnerability and that level of trust is, for me as a viewer and as a writer, the true erotic element in the work. Take it away, and the work becomes generic, distant, two dimensional.

 I’ve found the same to be true of my writing. The characters only come to life, only feel like someone I’d want to make love to, even fall in love with, when their guard is down and they are most vulnerable, when I catch them in an intimate moment and I’m either someone who they trust or I’m a voyeur, which is another matter altogether. I can write as a voyeur easily, and I almost always do when I write BDSM, but it’s another level of trust and skill for a photographer to capture that voyeuristic feel, and a stolen peek at an intimate moment will always make the pulse race just a little bit faster.

I found myself admiring the bravery of these photographers because they’re entering a space traditionally reserved for men, and a space not without its danger. It’s a space in which there’s often still the assumption that any woman entering in must be ‘gagging for it,’ or why else would she photograph such things? Women erotica writers hear it all the time; that we must be loose slutty women, that surely we must have tried all the things we write about. The very big difference for us is that we don’t experience that from any of our characters. They’ve come from our imagination at our conjuring, and though they may have ideas of their own, they do not exist outside the world we’ve created, even when we let that world take up way too much of our lives in order to get them on the written page. Another level of trust and vulnerability and sharing of power has to take place in order to create powerful photographic images like those shared by Migle Backovaite, Alex Brew and Victoria Gugenheim, and when it happens, the images are erotic, haunting, and stunning snapshots of male beauty at its loveliest, and quite possibly at its purest.

 

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Sh! Portobello Store launch — Holly’s First Public Debute!

Thursday night was the big launch of the long awaited Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium Portobello Store, and it was even more fun than anticipated! If there was a theme to the evening, I’d have to say it was girl power. It always amazes me how strong and appealing women are when they’re comfortable in their own skin and comfortable with their own sexuality. And Thursday night’s launch was definitely a gathering of powerful, sexy women.

It was great fun browsing the latest and coolest toys and books and chatting with my fellow erotica writers as well as the actresses and burlesque beauties. The who’s who of girl power extraordinaire also included Suraya Sidhu Singh, editor-in-chief of Filament Magazine as well as Sarah Berry, Editor of Foreplay Magazine, formerly Forum.

The amazing, Kay Jaybee read her hot story, ‘Searching for Her,’ from Violet Blue’s award-winning erotic anthology for couples, Sweet Love Definitely an anthology to add to your collection. The fabulous Scarlet French read her story, ‘In the Garden of Eden ‘ from the anthology, Fantasy: Untrue Stories of Lesbian Passion , a sexy fantasy inspired by her time working as a Sh! girl. I hear Scarlet is about to launch her exciting new website.

In addition to hot stories read by hot chix, we all got to enjoy Delores Deluxe and Tempest Rose from the fabulous Kitten Club Burlesque Cabaret I have it on good authority that Delores is going to be teaching classes for Sh! very soon. Definitely sign me up! Three words -ostritch feather fans!

Of course, for me, the highlight of the evening was my chance to give a titilating taste of my novel The Initiation of Ms Holly It was exciting to finally share a little bit of the story that I’ve been living with in my head for the last year, and to such an appreciative audience. It was my chance to proudly parade Rita and Edward and introduce them to some really good friends — all of whom seemed to agree that chocolate and sex are definitely a good combo. Remember, you can pre-order your copy of The Initiation of Ms Holly on Amazon now.

Sorry there are no photos of all the fun at Sh! Portobello, but as with any new venture, there are always a few glitches. Just as Kay Jaybee was starting her reading, the lights went out — only downstairs where the entertainment was. Upstairs where people milled about browsing the hot selection of books and sex toys and corsets and boas and whips and…sigh, well you get the picture, the lights were fine. As it turned out, an evening’s entertainment of sexy stories, and burlesque by lamp and candle light was very atmospheric — especially when accompanied with lots of fizz and cup cakes!

Also beautifully present at the Sh! launch were the cast from the fabulous play, Five Clever Courtesans, written by the very talented Sarah Blake. Raymond and I were lucky enough to catch the Sunday night performance at the Vibe Bar on Brick Lane just before the ladies all head off to the Edinburgh Fringe, where the play is already rated number nine out of the top forty Fringe acts. No trouble seeing why! The play is witty, educational, sexy and very moving. Break a leg in Edinburgh, Courtesans!

Every time I visit Sh!, I make new friends and have a really great time. Thursday night was no exception — with or without the lights. Thanks Sh! Chix, for a great time!
 

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The Female Gaze

If you’d like to learn more about what turns women on visually, then you won’t want to miss this exciting presentation by editor of Filament Magazine, Suraya Sidhu Singh

‘The female gaze’ – Photographing men erotically for women

This will be a presentation rich in photographic examples – ranging from the stunning, to the hilarious, to the baffling – as well as unravelling research findings, all of which tell us a story about the beauty of the erotic mind and the constricted, stereotyped world in which women’s erotica has often been produced.

Where?

Sh! Women’s Store

Spaces are limited, but totally free, so email Renee at renee@sh-womenstore.com to book a place.

When?

Wednesday 20 January at 7 pm.

About Suraya Sidhu Singh

New Zealand born and London-based, 31-year-old Suraya Sidhu Singh is the editor and founder of Filament magazine (http://www.filamentmagazine.com <http://www.filamentmagazine.com/> ), the first women’s magazine that seeks to present a genuine female gaze in its photography of men. She has studied research-informed public policy and worked as an advisor in various government agencies for nine years, before becoming an editor and pornographer.

 

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