Orgasm Inc.

The female orgasm is a hot topic which spikes many debates until this day. “How does one achieve orgasm?” “Can all women have orgasms?” “Wait, there are different types of orgasm?!” “How can I make my girlfriend/partner/wife orgasm?” There are even all sorts of experts (guides, magazines, sexologists, studies, etc.) dedicated to answering women’s orgasm questions. Figuring how the female orgasm works is a task for all who would like to experience and share that pleasure…..and those who would like to make an economic profit off of it. Face it, SEX SELLS.

Orgasm Inc.is a documentary that delves into the extent big pharmaceutical companies prey on women’s lack of knowledge and curiosity surrounding orgasms. In order for the United States Food and Drug Administration to approve a drug to be sold to citizens, one of the criteria that must be fulfilled by pharmaceutical companies is to ensure the drug is treating an actual disease. The issue with this is that pharmaceutical companies and “experts” get together to define the “diseases”. Since male sexual enhancement drugs were such great sellers, big corporations wanted to target women next.  Although male sexual enhancement drugs deal with different physiological issues than drugs for female sexual issues, these corporations expect to make just as much (or even more) profit from its production. This is how female sexual dysfunction (FSD) came into existence. FSD is defined as “lacking desire for sex, arousal difficulties, inability achieving climax or ejaculation, anxiety about sexual performance, climaxing or ejaculating too rapidly, physical pain during intercourse, and not finding sex pleasurable.” These experts used a study conducted by Edward Laumann and loosely concluded that FSD is a disease and about 43% of women suffer from it.

 Despite pharmaceutical companies basing the definition of FSD on a study, the way in which these corporations twist the findings of the Laumann study make the aforementioned statement false. FSD is an issue but it is far from a disease. There’s nothing organically wrong with women to say they have FSD. The symptoms of FSD consist of common sexual DIFFICULTIES many women face. In the study, Laumann clearly states, “In brief, experience of sexual dysfunction is generally associated with poor quality of life…” If poor quality of life (feelings of physical and emotional satisfaction and low feelings of happiness) is the issue with women and female sexual dysfunction, why are all of these companies creating pills and machines to exploit women? Turning DIFFICULTIES into a DYSFUNCTION creates a medical market worth billions of dollars.

Instead, we need to turn DIFFICULTIES into DISCUSSIONS to create conscious raising for those women curious about their sexuality.

Let us being by defining an orgasm analyzed through Freud’s id, ego, and superego. The id is best known as desire, pleasure or inhibition. The ego is one’s self, their subjectivity. It is also the negotiation between the id and superego. The superego is one’s morals that develop from the norms of society.

One woman says:

[An orgasm is] like a blooming flower. It comes from the roots and grows until it spreads beautiful aroma around the room.

As described by this woman, she seems to have found a comfortable balance between her id and superego to the point where her ego is able to fully enjoy and experience orgasm. She was able to let her id and ego take control and ignore all feeling from her superego resulting in ultimate bliss.

Another woman describes it as,

War. That’s what I think about…is the war in my head.
I’d like to…I hope I do… What’s wrong with me….I can’t….

Based on how this woman describes her orgasms, she is having issues with her id and superego agreeing. It is apparent that she isn’t completely comfortable with the loss of control that is associated with having an orgasm. Her id is the first to surface saying, “I’d like to…”, and then her ego surfaces and says, “I hope I do…”. You see the ego agreeing with the id until the superego stops it all and concludes, “What’s wrong with me…I can’t”. This “war” in her head takes away from the mental bliss that comes along with orgasm, this woman isn’t able to let go of her inhibitions and enjoy all the benefits of orgasm.

Discussions around women’s sexuality difficulties need to focus more on women’s experiences and not on a drug that does treat the real issues. According to Laumann, “Sexual dysfunction is highly associated with negative experiences in sexual relationships and overall well-being.” One out of six women will be a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime (sexual assault), working women do on average three times more housework than men (stress and fatigue), and eighty percent of women have body image issues (self-esteem issues). Most of these women will be diagnosed with female sexual dysfunction because of their issues with sexual arousal even though they have the difficulties because of life stressors. From this analysis, one can simply conclude that female orgasms are closely related to common issues faced by women and the psychological thought processes of women. Plus, who needs pills or a machine when you can think yourself to an orgasm?

BDSM: Fifty Shades vs. Interior Leather Bar.

 

male-submissive-bdsmSex is one of those peculiar things that can only be discussed or accepted when it is deemed to be “okay” and thus encouraged in situations. Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex: Notes for the Radical Theory of Politics of Sexuality” describes this perfectly, saying that our western society supports sexual acts that are high on this “hierarchal system of sexual value,” where ones pertaining to heterosexual monogamy and reproduction are situated at the top. And although through monogamy the homosexual community can be accepted, gay sexuality combined with other “taboo” forms of sexuality find themselves at the bottom of this pyramid (including, but not limited to, straight and gay sadomasochists). Due to the fact that there does exist a social norm for how you do it and with whom you do it with, it is difficult for many to find comfort with the idea of BDSM as a form of “safe” sex. It is so ostracized that those who do enjoy it must live two lives: one public, the other extremely private. And because sex plays such a significant role in politics, the “democratic morality” of it is always debated. If there is a lack of “mutual consideration” or  a “presence…of coercion,” that sex is not “okay” and not to be praised or accepted.

S&M/BDSM culture has existed for decades. The acronym stands for Bondage, Discipline, Submission, Dominance, Sadist and Masochist. This type of sex almost always involves on participant in power and the other partner subjecting themselves to the “master’s” desires. This sex-slave like role requires them to give up all their power and control; the sadist receives pleasure from inflicting pain/asserting authority over the masochist, who receives pleasure by allowing this. There are many levels of intensity that you can choose, so there is always flexibility with what you like and are comfortable with. That being said, consent plays a major role too. There still exists a line between fulfilling your fantasy and knowing when to give up (or take back) that control. Types of ways to control, or be controlled, are through the use of bondage (hand-cuffs, ropes), sensory deprivation (blindfolding, covering the ears or mouth), torture, and enslavement of the masochist. S&M allows for the most kinks and fetishes to be satisfied.

Two films that challenge this morality are Fifty Shades of Grey and Interior Leather Bar. “Fifty Shades” was originally a book written by E.L. James about a young college student, Ana Steele, who meets a young successful business man named Christian Grey. Ana having been a virgin, she had never experienced any type of sex (not even sex without kinks and fetishes, or “vanilla sex”), but when she begins seeing Christian, he exposes her to his “playroom” filled with all the BDSM accessories you could think of. Ana consciously subjects herself to Christian, allowing him to punish her when need be. The book/movie became one of the most popular erotic works in the country. On the other hand, Interior Leather Bar is an independent film by James Franco in hopes to recreate the forty minutes of obscenity cut from the 1980 film Cruising. Cruising was a film starring Al Pacino as an undercover cop who goes into gay S&M clubs to find the serial killer who’s been mass murdering homosexuals. The movie shows many graphic scenes containing men dressed up in S&M attire and “cruising” for other men to have sex with, but there are no really sex scenes or images of genitalia. Franco wanted to recreate what those cut scenes would have been, exposing his audience to  all the sexual acts occurring in the bar as well as showing actual gay sex.

Despite both films having to do with this type of sexual culture, it is portrayed quite differently. S&M to many seems taboo and at times scary, but Fifty Shades makes it seem erotic, mutual, and safe. Christian Grey presents a contract of consent for Ana to read through and sign, making her safety the number one priority. In return for her sexual favors, he buys her expensive gifts like an Audi, a first class plane ticket, and a Blackberry so that he can’t stay in touch with her constantly (talk about liking control). He even introduces her to his family, making this type of sex on that anyone is capable of having since it does’t have to be a lifestyle, and thus normalizing it. All of these things portray heterosexual BDSM as safe and controlled. However in Interior Leather Bar, there is no discussion of consent at all, written or spoken. Men are just standing around cruising for other men, but in a more predacious way. The room is dark, there’s a lot of spanking and pain being inflicted. The gay portrayal of BDSM is even difficult for Franco to watch, who ends up cringing and leaving the room. While Fifty Shades presents sex with rules and eroticism, we see it as artistic because it is “palatable”. However, Interior Leather Bar shows it as threatening, hazardous, and maybe even repulsive. This makes it seem more like a porno rather than an acceptable form of having sex. There is no contract, no safety words for slowing down or stopping, no gifts, nothing. Just the sole desire for the men to explore their fantasies. This is unfair; Fifty Shades shows what we’d like to think S&M could be, while Franco’s film shows what we could never accept it as: torturous, non-mutual, and homosexual.

Not only is there discrimination between ways of having sex (S&M vs. “vanilla”), but there is discrimination between who you choose to do it with. Fifty Shades shows a distasteful kind of sex as something to be acquired, to be seen as erotic solely because the participants are straight. While Interior Leather Bar leaves the audience shocked. This difference is due to the obvious, that the majority identifies with straight sex, but also because one movie presents consent as the most important thing while the other disregards it. It is not a matter of accepting these generalizations that the straight way of having taboo sex is safer than the gay way, the point is not to accept a stereotype. If there is going to be concern, it should be more focused on the act and less on the sexuality of the participants. This way, we can get rid of negative/exaggerated stereotypes of certain sexualities, and work towards acknowledging BDSM for what it really is.

Making an IMPACT on Sex Education

Leading the conversation in sexual education and health.

Sex education, and the lack thereof, is a highly scrutinized topic in America’s educational systems. Some school systems avoid the topic altogether, others focus on the purely biological aspect of sex, and the rest simply preach abstinence. The lack of education constitutes a curiosity among the younger generation as they search for knowledge that cannot be provided to them elsewhere. According to Gayle Rubin’s Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality, “sexually active young people are frequently incarcerated in juvenile homes, or otherwise punished for their ‘precocity.'” As the younger generation takes education into their own hands, unsafe sex is a likely result.

Aside from a lack of heterosexual sex education, homosexual sex education is practically nonexistent. Thanks to the efforts of Northwestern University, however, a program was created in order to give LGBT youth a place to seek information. The IMPACT Program seeks to “improve the health of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and to increase understanding of the development of sexual orientation and gender identity.” The IMPACT Program studies, in both adolescents and young adults, the resiliency, sexual health, mental health, and substance use. With their findings, IMPACT provides information about the sexual and mental well being of members of the LGBT community. Established in 2009 by Dr. David Cella, the program is housed in the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, based in the Department of Medical Social Sciences. According to IMPACT’s website, “in 2013, IMPACT began hosting the nation’s first clinical psychology internship track focused on LGBT health, to lead the way in training future leaders in culturally competent health research, education, and clinical care.” An introduction to the IMPACT Program can be watched here:

Found on the IMPACT Program’s website is a space specifically designed for all things Sexual Education related. There are videos and articles posted on IMPACT’s blog that helps provide sexual health education and information for all individuals. The IMPACT Program also has their own channel on Vimeo, a website for housing collections of videos, which features all of the videos that can be found on their blog. These blog posts and videos provide information for specific gender identities, as well as general sexual health information important for all sexually active youth to know.

There are videos designed for each facet of the LGBT spectrum. For example, there are videos for males, such as “How do you use a condom the right way?”

On a more personal note, it is astonishing to me that a video such as the one above was created by the IMPACT Program, which is intended for those of the LGBT community. This is firsthand knowledge that any sexually active male should have, in order so that he can practice safe sex. This video makes it clear that the IMPACT Program recognizes that this information, even something as seemingly simple as using a condom, is important for all males to know – not even just gay males. So, the question is posed – why isn’t this video shown in school when discussing safe sex and condoms? This video is a great example of the type of education that should be presented to all youth during sex education.

Of course, there are videos for females, as well. This “Women’s Sexual Health” video demonstrates ways to protect yourself during sex, regardless of your partner’s gender. There are also videos about HIV and AIDS Awareness, Transgender Individuals, and Oral Sex. Needless to say, there is a video for everyone.

The IMPACT Program is starting the conversation that should have already been started. Although IMPACT focuses on LGBT individuals, it makes the point of producing and sharing useful information for all sexually active individuals, regardless of gender or sexual identity. Because of the open-minded nature of the LGBT community, their sexual education program includes information for all individuals. While it might be a nightmare to some, the truth is that the LGBT community is paving the way for proper sexual education for everyone.

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Raised As a Girl

John Colapinto Author of As Nature Made Him PictureJohn Colapinto is most recently known for his New York Times bestselling novel “As Nature Made Him: The Boy Raised as a Girl.” The author grew up in Toronto Canada, and earned his master’s degree in English literature fairly close to home, at the University of Toronto. For the next several years he was a freelance writer for many local magazine companies in Canada. In order to pursue a more permanent career he made the decision to move to New York City, and he then wrote for many well-known magazine companies like Vanity Fair, New York Times, and the New Yorker. Six years later in 1995 he became the contributing editor for the Rolling Stones. During his time working there, John wrote a story about a medical scandal involving a botched circumcision. The story became so popular he won a National Magazine Award, and he evolved it into a novel in 2001. Today he lives in New York City with his wife and son.

As Nature Made Him Book CoverThe novel “As Nature Made Him: The Boy Raised as a Girl” by John Colapinto tells the tragic story of a young twin boy who had a botched circumcision. When he was only eight months old, a doctor used an electrocautery needle instead of a scalpel during a circumcision, which burned off his entire penis as a result. This forced a life changing decision for the parents to raise baby Bruce as a girl named Brenda, based on the persuasion by Dr. John Money, who strongly believed that “The sex a baby was born with didn’t matter; you could convert a baby from one sex to the other.” Like many other families, they believed the doctor knew best and they believed Dr. Money’s theory that if baby Bruce had a sex change by age of two and a half to three years old “she could be given a perfectly functional vagina, she would develop psychologically as a woman and would find her erotic attraction to men.” The Reimer’s agreed to the sex change simply because they wanted to give their child the best life he/she could have, and they honestly thought this would be the best option. They could not have been more wrong.

“The bestselling account of the now famous “Twins” case that became a touchstone in the debates on gender identity and nature versus nurture” –New York Times Book Review

Brenda Reimer

However, the family noticed as Brenda grew up that she was masculine in every way, she refused to play with any stereotypical girl toys and even stood up to pee instead of sitting down like a girl. I think her twin brother explained it best when he said, “When I say there was nothing feminine about Brenda, I mean there was nothing feminine. She walked like a guy. Sat with her legs apart. She talked about guy things, didn’t give a crap about cleaning the house, getting married, wearing makeup. We both wanted to play with guys, build forts and have snowball fights and play army.” The story goes in depth about how the Reimer family raised Brenda as a girl, how they dealt with her differences, and how Brenda struggled growing up feeling like a boy in a girl’s body. Everyday Brenda felt deeply confused, alone, and depressed because of her not feeling like the biological sex she was given. Until the age of fourteen, the parents refused to tell Brenda what really happened to her as a baby, because Dr. Money told them it would ruin the process and therefore they had to keep this a secret. Later in life when Brenda found out about this accident, she made the mature decision at the age of fifteen to have another sex change to become a male.

“I didn’t like dressing like a girl. I didn’t like behaving like a girl. I didn’t like acting like a girl.”

I think this novel belongs in the digital archive because although it is a sad and tragic story, it is the reality of living in a queer culture where you are not totally accepted. “I appear to be a tangled knot of gender contradictions. So they feverishly press the question on me; woman or man? Those are the only two words most people have as tools to shape their question.” This idea of gender contradictions would ultimately describe David Reimer’s struggle identifying with masculine things as Brenda, even though she knew this is not what girls are supposed to do.

“You don’t wake up one morning deciding if you’re a boy or a girl. You just know.”

David Reimer

“As Nature Made Him: The Boy Raised as a Girl” relates to the transgender unit in regards to the life of a transgender, as well as the idea of gender identity. I think this novel connected well with the article we read in class from the novel “Transgender Liberation a Movement Whose Time Has Come” by Leslie Feinberg. In the article she says “Our lives are proof that sex and gender are much more complex than a delivery room doctor’s glance at genitals can determine, more variegated than pink or blue birth caps. We are oppressed for not fitting those narrow social norms.” I think that quote explains David Reimer’s life because being raised as a girl, did not make her a girl. She refused to play with Barbies, she detested wearing pink dresses, and only wanted to do things a boy would do. For example, she constantly fought with her twin brother over his toys and clothes. He was criticized daily, teased, and bullied for being different. David Reimer is just one of many stories about living as a transgender, and I believe it is imperative for society to learn about these stories and become more educated about queer culture.

“I was never happy as Brenda. Never. I’d slit my throat before I’d go back to that. I’d never go back to that. It didn’t work because that’s life, because you’re human and you’re not stupid and eventually you wind up being who you are.”David Reimer Transformation

Sadly in 2004, David Reimer decided to take his own life at the young age of thirty-eight. The author Colapinto discussed how there were many factors that contributed to his suicide including the death of his twin brother two years prior from a drug overdose, marital problems with his wife, financial issues, and the constant emotional struggles he dealt with daily due to his painful childhood. This story is truly a tragedy and something that he should never have experienced. I think this fits in well with the digital archive because it shows many aspects of the queer community, and the struggles they endure. People outside of the queer community often do not understand the complexity of gender dysphoria

Frank Ocean

frank-ocean-650px

Christopher Edwin Breaux, better known as Frank Ocean, is an americna singer, songwriter, and rapper. He’s an artist that seems to prefer no labels. In Frank Ocean’s coming out statement (http://frankocean.tumblr.com/image/26473798723 ) which read slightly more like a song at times, it appeared that he wasn’t really coming out, but acknowledging that he does not choose one sex or the other, in his own very poetic way. The statement, an image posted on Ocean’s tumblr account clarifys a situation that occurred when a journalist made comments on about several of his songs addressing a “male love object”. His announcement of the fact that he has once been in love with a man in an industry that is historically and currently deemed rather homophobic was significant and even more significant because he has not “come out” but rather just announced that he loved a man. He identifies with neither gay nor straight.

Instead of an announcement addressing his sexuality one way or another, Frank Ocean took to tumblr in a way in such that I would classify his work as art and specifically poetry in the way he articulates his thoughts. With his post, he breaks down normative thoughts about queer culture, and not only chooses to not classify himself as gay but not as straight either; in fact he does not classify himself as anything but simply defines himself as a loving human being who experienced a relationship with strong emotions.  While he did post this post out of a response to a journalist commenting on his “male love object”, he didn’t respond by simply saying he was gay; he responded by expressing a love he had shared in his life.

 

I think Frank Ocean’s coming out, if you will, or better said, expression of his sexuality, is important to gender, sex, history, and current queer culture, because it is so representative of what modern day sexuality should be like. Sexuality over time has been classified in very certain definite ways, and in today’s culture, not only should gender and sex not be assumed by someones appearance, but sexual preference should not have to be one way or another. Sexuality has evolved and through Frank Ocean’s statement, through the units of our class and discussion, if there is one thing that is clear, it’s that sexuality is and should be up for every individuals own interpretation and not classified as gay or straight only… if that is not what someone so desires.

 

Becoming An Image by Heather Cassils

“It calls into question the roles of the witness, the aggressor and the documentor”

Heather Cassils is a performer/artist from Montreal, Canada who currently resides in Los Angeles, California. The goal of zir work is to challenge societal norms in terms of gender and its current perceived binary. Ze does this with multiple exhibits and projects but more uniquely, with zir own body and the bodies of other individuals. Through strict physical training and artistic brilliance, ze challenges bodily gender expectations with zir own body structure and the body structure of other gender non-conforming people.

In zir work, ze attempts to reinvent what it means to be transgender. Ze likes to express trans (and gender in general) as a continual state of being, not necessarily the transitioning from one sex to another through surgery and hormones. Although transition is one way to look at gender and trans identity, Cassils’ portrayal of gender and trans identity is extremely unique and thought provoking.

Zir projects reflect deep rooted themes of gender in our society. Zir work is captivating and challenges gender conformity and stereotypes of gender. Ze focuses greatly on body image and bodily expectations throughout zir exhibits. In all projects, ze uses physical bodies as canvas’, tools and other forms of art. Zir work is metaphorically genius, with interesting messages in every performance and work of art that get the audience thinking about gender and its current portrayal in society.

Of Cassils’ many projects, the one that is most relevant to this class and this unit is zir performance entitled “Becoming an Image” which came about in 2013. This is a show that takes Cassils, a photographer, a 1,500 pound block of clay and an audience and turns them into an extremely valuable lesson on gender in today’s world. The performance goes as follows – The audience is seated in a blacked out room facing, unbeknownst to them, Cassils and the 1,500 pound block of clay. Cassils begins the show and starts pounding and molding the block of clay solely with zir body. The audience hears zir grunts and pounding. As this continues, a blinded photographer intermittently take photos at which point Cassils and the clay are revealed to the audience, but only for the second that the flash illuminates the room.

This a wonderful archive that uniquely represents queer culture. It is an interesting way to think about gender. Often times, we analyze gender as male, female, unisex or in transition. All of these gender identities reinforce the gender binary. Even though transgender individuals challenge the concept of cisgender, it reinforces the notion that you can only be one gender or the other.  But, Cassils challenges this binary and the concept of gender which really makes zir audience think. Why is gender so salient in our society? Why can’t humans beings be just that? Cassils’ work makes zir audience evaluate the relevancy of gender in a beautiful and artistic way.

In class, we discussed how Trans* Identity may in fact reiterate the gender binary by saying “I don’t feel like I am X, I feel like I am Y.” Because of this, Cassils provides a unique view to trans* identity in a way that does not emphasis the dichotomy of gender. Similarly, while I analyzed my archive, our reading by Leslie Feinberg came to mind. Ze talks about how “unnerving” ze is to people because of zirs mix of masculine and feminine traits. Ze talks about how the root of this issue is that the norm is a gender binary. If the binary is eliminated and gender is reared irrelevant people would not have to rely so heavily on gender cues and a lack of gender cues would not trigger such confusion.

Quoted above, this archive calls into question many relevant roles that contribute to our perceptions of gender. Those who witness gender are a part of it, those who physically mold gender are a part of it and those who document gender are a part of it. These are all things to keep in mind for how we can eliminate such rigid definitions of gender and enforce a continuity of being human rather than being gendered.

“The Electric Lady” by Janelle Monae

The Electric Lady is Janelle Monae’s second album, and it was released in early fall of 2013.  This follows her first album, The ArchAndroid. which was released in 2010.  Janelle Monae’s single “Q.U.E.E.N.” was featured on The Electric Lady. The lyrics and music video, as well as the album as a whole, feature a number of queer topics such as same-sex attraction, resisting labels, questioning religion, and challenging gender roles.

The Electric Lady fits in a queer archive because Janelle Monae embraces difference, an idea often associated with the queer community in numerous ways, including her album’s concept, lyrics, and music videos.  She as an artist is unafraid to take risks and address potentially taboo topics in her work.  Additionally, Monae speaks to a number of possible identities, including queerness, blackness, and womanhood.  The story of The Electric Lady is queer in itself.  Both it and The ArchAndroid depict a dystopian community in which there is a totalitarian government, humans are forced to wear cages on their heads, and everyone looks down on androids. Monae portrays the character of  a revolutionary android who actively resists the regime that is in power.  The androids could be compared to various societal minorities, including those with which Monae identifies.

“Q.U.E.E.N.” is a song that does not shy away from questioning our societal roles. Janelle Monae is well-known for this, and while she has not officially confirmed or denied any rumors about her sexuality, she is a great representation of queer ideals, saying “I won’t allow myself to be a slave to my own interpretation of myself nor the interpretations that people may have of me.” “Q.U.E.E.N.” itself has many lyrics that can be connected to queer thought, such as “Am I a freak because I love watching Mary?,” “Hey sister am I good enough for your heaven?,” and “Categorize me/I defy every label.” Also, Monae sports a multitude of styles in the music video which include aspects of masculinity and femininity, challenging gender norms. I wanted to feature this song because I believe Monae is one of the more progressive artists of our time. Her music constantly questions the labels and differences our society seems so focused on.

The ideas expressed by Janelle Monae’s music seem to align specifically with those of Monique Wittig. Monae resists the general norms set up by society, which is reminiscent of Wittig’s sentiment that “these discourses of heterosexuality oppress us in the sense that they prevent us from speaking unless we speak in their terms…these discourses deny us every possibility of creating our own categories.” This is echoed in Monae’s lyric; “categorize me I defy every label.”  She does not believe in the labelling that is so prevalent in both our culture and that of her dystopian fantasy world.  Monae resists the norms in both her appearance and her creative output, and her work should be cemented in this queer archive as an example of an artist who is not afraid to take risks.

 

Yanis Marshall

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24 year old, Yanis Marshall became a sensation after a video titled “Spice Girls” went viral on Youtube on June 30th of 2013. But it was not the nature of the song that made him famous; it was his dance moves in several pairs of nine-inch heels. The video features the now famous Parisian choreographer, Yanis Marshall, fiercely dancing all over parts of Paris.

Yanis is originally from Vallauris, near Cannes. He is currently a choreaographer, teacher and dancer and has been dancing since an early age. At the age of eleven, with the help of his mother who was a director of a dance association, he passed the auditions for the Dance School called Rosella Hightower. It is here that Yanis began to train in Ballet, Contemporary, and Jazz.

Despite his artistic ability and love for dance, in an interview with Great Rhys Alexander, Yanis claimed to leave for Paris France in search of independence from modern contemporary dance.

At the age of 19, he left to New York City where he experienced his first class of a style of dance called Street Jazz, with Sheryl Murakami. She is an artist that he claims “gave him a wake up call” and continues to inspire him till the day. After years of unhappiness in many different styles of dance, Yanis found a home in the style of Street Jazz.

Much like Voguing, Street Jazz roots from stricter dance styles. It evolved from informal settings like nightclubs, schools and on the street. Street jazz dance was inspired by traditional dance performed outside of professional studios.Jazz dance, modern hip hop and funk make up this style of dance. Elements of the rigid robotic movements, the marked spins often found in breakdancing and the fluid movements of hip hop, like in Sheryl Murakami’s music video below, are key components of the Street Jazz dance.

As for the heels. Whenever Yanis is asked why he dances in heels his response is famously always “why not?” Despite the humor in his response, one thing is certain, men dancing in heels or simply wearing heels is not a first.

Men originally wore high- heeled shoes. As early as the 10th century, men wearing high heels became a trend amongst the upper class. At the time, high-heeled shoes were not a signifier of gender. It was not until the 18th century that men discontinued the trend and the high-heeled shoe was soon after established as a ladies shoe. Ever since then, high heels on men have not made a comeback.

The long standing societal acceptance that high heels are only for women are what have made seeing dancers like Yanis Marshall famous. He is an excellent advocate of the “social evolution” we speak of today. He can “werk” those heels better than most women can walk in them but unfortunately the world has long been a witness to the slow but sure consistency of gender binding norms.

Yanis says heels are his speciality. Since a young age he loved to wear his mothers heels. Dancing in heels for Yanis makes him different, and he admits to not being shy one bit about his heels nor the fact he is gay.

“Just be you and if people don’t like it, well F*ck Them”

But despite the use of heels whenever he dances, Yanis is not transgender nor seeks to become a women.The use of heels for men to dance in is simply sexy and artistic to Yanis and he encourages both men and women, straight or gay to dance in heels whenever he teaches a class.  He also has no plans to label men dancing in heels any sort of style of dancing because he hates labels or boxes.

“Boobs”- Ollie Renee Schminkey

“I was not born into the wrong body. I was born into a world that does not know what my body means.”

Ollie Renee Schminkey is a genderqueer poet/activist who directs the Macalester Poetry Slam and is the founder of Well-Placed Commas, a weekly poetry workshop to serve the needs of the Twin Cities area.They have competed on the nationally ranked MacSlams CUPSI team for two years, competed on 2 Twin Cities NPS teams, placed 2nd at the 2013 Great Plains Poetry Pile-Up, and competed twice with the Macalester team at Rustbelt.  They have also performed and published work with 20% Theatre Company’s The Naked I: Insides Out, and they tour locally with this show.  They are the author of one chapbook, The Taste of Iron, and they have work that was published in September 2014 as a part of Write Bloody and Andrea Gibson’s anthology, “We Will Be Shelter.”  They have featured at venues and events such as Rachel McKibben’s Poetry and Pie Night, Slam Free or Die, Port Veritas, Mama’s Crowbar, Zeke Russell’s New Shit Show, OUTspoken!, Intermedia Arts, and Patrick’s Cabaret.

In Schminkey’s poem titled Boobs, they explore the idea of bodies in relation to how transgender people are perceived and how that relates to their self-acceptance.

“But I also know that most gods punish more than they forgive, and my own body feels more like a guillotine than a gift.”  

“Boobs” is a spoken word piece that begins with Schminkey talking about how much they loves that specific part of the female anatomy and that they are one of the seven wonders of the sexual world. The piece then takes a shift as it highlights Schminkey’s uncomfortableness in their own skin as a transgender woman. Society’s ideals of what a female should be and how that gender should be defined has placed a strain on the relationship they have with their own body.

“I say not woman. They say, silly girl, it is not up to you to decide.”

Schminkey is questioned daily by society as to when they decided they were transgender, as are many people in today’ society. Gender is a social construction that is constantly being perpetuated. The idea that a female must be a “housewife, mother, or woman” is taught at an early age in the way that children watch their parents interact or even the way they learn to interact with others.

They reflect on how a friend has tried to convince them that wanting to get surgery to cut off a “perfectly healthy body part” is a bad idea but Schminkey retorts with the idea that living with a piece of you that you do not want is what is unhealthy. We place people into boxes not realizing the effect of living in these boxes really has. Society handcuffs bodies to gender and gender roles. From the moment a child is born, a doctor takes on the almighty power to announce whether the child is female or male, and they are forever linked to those words spoken in the first ten seconds of life.

“My body is not wrong. The way people talk about my body is wrong. But my body is the only thing I can change.”

Schminkey’s idea that they are not trapped in their body is something that I have not heard talked about in the transgender community. It’s a different perspective that many people do not consider on a daily basis. Not all transgender people want to go through dangerous reassignment surgeries or spend loads of money to be comfortable in their own skin. Society does not take the minute to reflect on whether it’s the idea of being trapped in a body of the opposite gender or if it has to do with being comfortable based on the perceptions of those around you. This spoken word piece is very important to the transgender community because it gives them a voice to a perspective people have not consider in the past.

“I am not trapped in my body. I am trapped in other people’s perceptions of my body.”