notes on death rattle burlesque (boys are blind)

i perform because it is a horrible thing to perform, hating being seen, needing to be seen and in this need the crisis that kindles it to panic is a voice from the bottom repeating: “desire me”

there are echoes of this urge embedded in my body i cannot evict. maybe i constantly long to be looked at to sense i exist in reality, the mark of reality for a body like mine (female) being eyes tracking its skin to instill in it its shade and textures, inscribing into air the outlines of this girl-body, supplying momentary contour to diffuse shadow; without the bodysculpting of someone’s seeing you if you’re a woman do you even actually exist? in hiding i have felt unreal. unsmiling in a dress like a garbage bag with hair undone unkempt undesirable i’ve vanished: beneath notice. the process of becoming ourselves organically involves accepting that our extraction as women from the cultural machine of our dissolution may require practically erasing ourselves from this world that is ours no matter how little we want it and i am still struggling with ceasing to exist as a woman, because what else can i be? it is difficult to imagine, yet how foul to rely on the wan desire of gaze, when i would rather define the criteria for my own existence, if i can feel wet jasmine when i hold it in my hands i’m real & i would rather experience desire for myself, desire that is not aching for the desire of another but is its own vital entity – to vibrate in reaction to the variegations of light that catch in breath as it issues as vapor from a girl’s mouth when it opens, and that warmth – than acquiesce to scrounging like an addict after scraps of the mass-produced insensate prey-drive of eyes hurled against me splatting down my legs in the street and in dimmed rooms. neither i nor the eye’s owners are controlling ourselves under the influence of this urge. the eyes are conducted along wires into me. wires course a nervous electricity that dictates i twirl my hair around my finger because i know of no other action appropriate for when i’m here alone and you’re looking at me. these movements that invade and carry us along a predetermined course are canned and codified, action→reaction, automatic: our bodies obedient to the mandates of our conditioning. when we slide into this death-want we won’t see one another. we won’t feel a thing.

brought up as if for born-for-boudoir spoon-fed obsessive hunger for His (the male’s) desire i developed into the following wreckage of a creature: chewing out my underside with shame for being weak but malformed limbless without the thew to stand upright so crawling pigeon-pawed the paced loop pleading to be loved because i cannot do any better than this, because i was poorly manufactured, a flaw, like puke, a puddle, pathetic and preemptively wasted in utero, in the sack, not my fault i’m some ugly thing you could wipe the floor with after you’ve picked it up and spreadeagled it across a table to prod with a stick until you’re bored as my nerves recede with a sequence of dull slurping sounds. and it’s like i can’t grow out of it. i am 26 years old now; at this point i’ve got black veils sewn like tarps over the wettest spots but inside myself it does not change. remains repulsive. this is the experience of my performance: i attack my nightmare body you turn away from in disgust after you stop looking. i beg for forgiveness. why did you stop loving//looking at me? what did i do wrong? aren’t i precious anymore? what do you hate? is it this sticky dress? is it this grey skin? is it these gurgling bloody guts full of worms, without any room left for the baby, yours or his? not mine. and i scream baby-talk to whatever. wanna make you love me so hard you stomp on my head. there you go, baby. a creamy thump and we’re done here. good night: my performance is a murder projekt: i want to put to death myself as girl-monster-whore-slut—the creature who needs (love love love love a boy a baby an eyeball on her all the time). she who has been rotting inside me since i was eleven, twelve, thirteen (and i got the sense men were looking) that putrid coquette of a corpse who refuses to totally drop dead already. to exorcise her is to draw her to the surface forced up against all available routes of egress, meaning she must fill me to the body’s limits, so i’m bursting with her, and she gets fattened so big her only option is to seep out of one of several holes or wounds. i do this in front of strangers, including males, but not for fun.

i do it so they know that it hurts. a man has never asked me if it – it: they: he – hurt(s) me, or my sister, the silent other She whose hurt i’ve heard even as i stood too far from her, i don’t think they know, don’t think they want to know, how can they not have to know? i insist it’s critical they must know how horribly it hurts to be this Thing.

for the most part women know what i am doing when i perform. men however are easily confused.

here’s the best example i can offer: we played in Providence in the early spring of 2014, a performance during which i peeled my fur off to sit on warehouse floor in a beige slip that dragged then washed my face in black paint, licking the slime from my fingers, delivered flowers on dirty hands and knees from witness to witness with a sycophant’s simper and a delicate gold chain dragging from my waist, then bawled and gurgled and hissed fast through roughed-up tongues – not human language but GIRL LANGUAGE, a.k.a. goo  –  until i’d emptied and my performance partner redeemed me by dumping (non-dairy, no sister-cows need suffer for this smut) cream into my hair. it’s absolution in insemination fused to the sorrow of mother’s milk lost, loss of the nurtured cleanliness of infancy, of which a girl is stripped the instant she is initiated into “SEXUAL VIABILITY” and “nurture” becomes a dirty word or worse than meaningless. i have my texts written into a book (Dreams of Young Girls) and i read from the pages, since without the pages present the anxiety of being seen would be crippling and cause anything i’d memorized to warp as dribble, but when i wasn’t looking at the pages i would flirt with eyes i could catch. using myself as bait: sacrificial expiatrice purging the mutant devotional: “LOOK I LOVE YOU SO MUCH I’M LITERALLY BLEEDING TO DEATH FOR YOU RIGHT THIS SECOND PLZ PUT YOUR HAND DOWN MY THROAT IT’S (YOU’RE) JUST WHAT I NEED.” cough, sputter. all smiles as my legs crack open for the audience.

afterwards in some dirty postindustrial-carnage-type apartment in Providence i was drenched and run-down, mortified in the beige slip made see-through from the cream spilled and as i was trying to stuff myself down the crevice of a sofa to become invisible a boy i’d watched watching me as he sat at the back against the wall during the performance came and sat down beside me on the sofa that would not swallow me.

the boy first informed me how “cool” he’d thought the set was, but he also had advice: i should memorize my texts and stand to recite them, thereby taking the performance to a new level of compelling i would never have conceived in my own well-intentioned but stunted female imagination. residually obsequious from self-excoriation i thanked him for bringing it to my attention i could do better. next he asked me if i would like a drink. in general i do not take alcohol into my body, i declined. he asked me what my plans were for the rest of the evening. my plans did not include being fucked by him in any position on any surface in this apartment or any other. i intended to go home to my mother’s house where my friends and i were staying, it being already far too late, and also to take a shower so i could fall into bed less filthy. i was exhausted. these sentiments were expressed in rudimentary terms to the boy, but apparently the subtext of “you are not fucking me tonight” insufficiently surfaced because the Man continued to speak to me.

“are you sure you don’t want a drink?”

he told me he would buy one of my zines because they looked “cool” but he didn’t have any money. usually i’ll give anything away for nothing if someone wants it, but i did not like this person so i didn’t offer. he told me my name was beautiful, and my hair was beautiful, and i got very quiet.

he was sitting close to me so his left thigh was a firm pressure against my right thigh. and he skimmed my leg with the fingers of his left hand while he spoke as if accidentally but it wasn’t. i could not identify a route to getting away from him. i was so tired and psychically mauled from splattering myself around that it did not occur to me i possessed in my body the power to stand up off of the sofa. in truth i hoped someone else might notice i was being held captive and rescue me, like the distressed maiden into which i’d helplessly decomposed. the boy opted for a new seduction tactic and abandoned flattery to commence telling me all about his own art, his comic or something, as if i had any reason to care. the comic sounded pointless. in the postdrome of performance i’m left squashed submissive so i went nice and docile for the boy, giggles substituted for words since language flees in proximity to sexual venery—Men make me stupid. the stupidity encompasses a constellation of behaviors coalescing to define BEING GIRLISH, a mode of being i strive to refuse but nonetheless sometimes i relapse, particularly when frantic, cornered, in public.

the Man sat beside me and talked about himself as i dissociated to stuporous smiling courteously (a complacent courtesan) for centuries, until i saw my friends carrying their various machines out of the apartment and i became convinced absolutely that they were leaving without me, forsaking me to the Man, as if they’d assumed i were enjoying myself with him. “are you sure you won’t stay?” as dread drove me from the sofa. like an idiot of a child i said “i’m sleepy” and hurried from the room down the stairs to the street.

driving home to my mother’s i felt ashamed that i had failed to force the boy who post-set tracked me to the sofa to seduce me with tips-n-tricks on how to be a better artist and stories of his own artistic prowess to feel in his body the squalid burden of a girl’s self-nausea i’d suffered to serve up; all he had seen in the performance was another whore on her knees, the desecrated and pitiful pin-up pleading for affection, little-miss-supplicant-dressed-ready-for-action and to him the images of male-corrupted femininity i made physical on the floor could not be separated from his porn-prescribed sexuality. to him i was the abject perma-girl at his feet, perfect victim for the kill-fuck. if he understood consciously that the performance was an execration he could not sever the fetters binding eroticism to female debasement, so i turned him on. i hadn’t expected this. to render the degraded female of male fantasy unfuckable via slashed visceral elicitations of lacerating empathy is the purpose of my work, yet a boy had watched + still wanted to play around in HER: that mauled marred girl i put on display so that i will not have to be her anymore, moreover in service of the dream that one day no female will have to be her—to let her die at last, plant geraniums over her pink plastic casket, where the skull lies. R.I.P. Doll-Thing. i hadn’t thought a boy would disinter her for a quickie. my mistake was i trusted boys too much.

it’s a state like being not alive to be alienated from your body and the life tender & raw in the bodies of others so totally that you can watch a living body churn with pain and construe it as a titillating drama played out for your pleasure//amusement. i’m sorry for men that they have been numbed into this position. but i am nervous to be near them for this reason – the fact that anything you do as a woman a man will interpret as potential masturbation fodder, foreplay, even death throes become burlesque because whatever you do as a woman in this culture has been lubricated with the reek of sex, and your pain as a woman is sexy to men, truer still to say YOUR PAIN IS SEX to them – until they can re-learn the reality of my body as other than Other-Object and i resist my socialized Woman’s desire for their desire for the Thing they would have me (no self to speak of) as a desacralized sack of ratty mucous, w/ pink-rimmed hole.

“subverting the male gaze” is a joke phrase used by women who feel ambivalent over wanting to be looked at to justify their self-objectification and as such it is a concession and i consider it rancid; i struggle not to “subvert” the gaze but to re-possess it like winding the optic nerve around my finger to pull the eye from its socket up against my skin so it will throb when i throb, and finally rupture. the gaze can never be subverted if vision is maintained as the dominant sense activated in our exchange. rather the trick is to coerce a communion electric in the inmost thickets of nerve + vein, or he will always only watch you if you’re a woman, you will be a surface for his eye to scathe; when seeing dominates the subject-object opposition is preserved and so too the erosive erotics of boy-fucks-Thing. girl, you lose.

but i long to believe truly there must be something i can do for us both, to shift how we’re relating to one another: the boys & i. presently i am incubating actions which cannot be mistaken for sex acts. somehow to move thru the man’s eye to beyond it into antechambers of the flesh less calcified where the wet and warm hasn’t desiccated in the guts of the voyeur, to latch on to the nerves that line that place and thrash there, so he can feel to the pith the sick of the porno-social pathologies that have parasitized us. if we can feel the disease together we can learn together to hunger to purge it. physical revulsion as a catalyst to purification—is it possible? will it work? i’m trying.

with love,

*postscript* all that said, to be absolutely unambiguous i do not perform for men: nothing i do is for men. when i perform i’m performing for women. i don’t care if a man ever looks at me again, i repeat and repeat and repeat to myself to make it honest.