On the end of the year

Where have you been, where are you going.

I can’t do right now. All my energy has shifted towards observation. Feeling my connective tissue stretching, like the sound of sheets in the morning light.

The in between places. So frustrating or exhilarating, depending how you look at it. The flip coin of expectations and excitement.

Wishing everyone a happy solstice, or a happy whichever holidays bring more meaning into your life.

May old and new ideas marinate in dark skies and glowing lights.

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On Instagram interrogations

I don’t seem to be able to make sense of this one on my own so I’m gonna turn it into a blog post, which surely will create an immediate resolution (right, cause that’s how life usually works). Anyway, consider this a worksheet.

I wanted to be on Instagram, and now I am. Yoo-hoo me. But now comes the question: what goes on Instagram? I mean clearly anything can go on Instagram. My nervous system still freaks out every time I open the app, so far being only able to stand a few minutes before I’m hurling my phone across the room, my head reeling from thoughts of overpopulation… But that’s just me being me, I don’t need a worksheet for that (I just need to put my feet higher than my head and breathe deeply, exhaling for longer than the inhales so I can get myself out of fight or flight).

The more precise question is: what do I put on Instagram? Hmm, this only seems to bring up another question: why do I want to be Instagram? Good, cool, now we’re getting somewhere. I want to be on Instagram because… other people said they would follow me there (yikes) … it’s the thing to do if you’re a millennial artist (ouch) … other people seem to be having success promoting their art there (ok, I can live with that one). So, it’s a tool to promote my work. Sounds great. Now, does that mean my work actually goes on there? (obviously I mean the non explicit videos, I am so very done testing the boundaries of mainstream platforms…) And this is where I keep getting stuck.

The OCD part of my mind wants a clear answer. It reeallly doesn’t like not knowing where goes what. Is it replacing Vimeo? (But we just went through all this trouble getting our account back!) Is it an alternative to Vimeo? (But then how do we know which piece get released where?) Is it for different kinds of videos? (But didn’t you just hear the previous interjection that says it’s already too complicated for us?!?) (I don’t know why my OCD voice uses “we”, maybe it means it and me, or maybe it means all of my different anxieties and itself… oh well, who knows.)

And then there’s that fresh new voice I’m not nearly as familiar with: oh c’mon, this is the freaking Internet, honestly, who cares what goes where? Just have fun with it all! Put one thing somewhere, put something else in multiple places, move it around, it’s all good! (I have such a crush on that voice. I find myself gawking at it, eyes wide, head bobbing in approval…)

Alright, so this is an issue of all the voices in my head. My oh my, I’m not sure that’s good news. This worksheet thing is so not working out… And yet I feel better. See, that’s what I mean when I say writing it out is good for me even when I’m not making any sense or when I’m seemingly just hashing out my darkness. It makes me feel better! Like opening a pressure valve or something. Better than a Valium. For whatever magical reason, it’s good for me, I know cause I wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise. So, I’m gonna go ahead and post this, even though it might seem like a complete waste of paper. That I already feel better shows me that, even though I thought this was about making a decision, it really kind of isn’t, it’s just about me expressing myself…

Such good work, I’m glad we did this. (Which voice is talking now? Eh eh eh, you get to decide!!)

On Instagram meltdowns

I keep going from Instagram is amazing!!! to Instagram is freaking me the fuck out!!! in rapid succession… !!! … !!! … !!! … !!!

I always wanna take my time with new things because my nervous system tends to overreact. Which is why I told myself I was going to ease into this Instagram thing, but I don’t think social media is an ease into it kind of situation… It’s more like scratch a little corner piece from a scab and watch it rip further and further until you realize this scar goes the entire length of your body and now you’re not just bleeding profusely, your organs are starting to fall out…

Alright, maybe I’m over exaggerating just a little bit. And I guess I need to backtrack to explain what the heck I’m even talking about.

I don’t really know how to handle myself psychologically when I look at other people’s work, especially if it’s related to my own. Which is why I haven’t been looking. And why I’ve been keeping myself so very well isolated. Because when I start to expose myself to what everyone else has been doing, I literally get hot flashes and feel my system go into overdrive.

It’s this damn stupid comparison reflex. This is what this person is doing… so what does it say about what I’m doing? This is what this person looks like… so what does it say about what I look like? This is what this person is saying… so what does it say about what I’m saying? All the fears, all the insecurities that stem from competitive, if you’re not winning you’re losing mindset. Which is why I haven’t been looking. Which is why I haven’t been getting stronger.

It’s always easier to avoid, and I’ve already established that this a preferred mechanism of mine. But avoiding keeps you crystallized in a disempowered state. I can pretend that I’m doing so great over here on my own, but show me the picture of another erotic artist and I collapse into a puddle on the floor, trying to make myself disappear so I don’t have to deal with my bruised sense of self…

It’s a compounded emotion too, because a huge part of it is feeling ashamed of myself for even having this reaction in the first place. For being so petty. For not being able to see myself as who I am and others as who they are and holding everyone in the same space without needing to make hierarchies in my head. I am so proud of the values I believe in, but applying them in real time sure is a higher level challenge.

Oh the ego. I totally see what everyone is talking about with not letting your ego rule you, not letting that inner monster eat you away. But recently I’ve been attracted to the idea that those out of control egos are truly just weak egos. Somehow I find more hope in that perspective. That a healthy ego is a strong ego. You don’t need to fall apart comparing yourself to others if you are well grounded. This is why I’ve been telling myself I want to feed my ego. And not feed it with the kind of crap that keeps it forever hungry, like some nutritionally deficient fast food that leaves you wanting. No, feed it with real food, real love, and real experiences.

Real experiences. That is the opposite of avoidance. That is what I am seeking. That is why I am still here, learning to trust that I have something to offer. And burning through the shame that comes up on the way there.

I have been wanting to take care of this fear of others for a long time now. Last summer already I was dreaming of making a series on my favorite things. Curated by Rain type of thing. But that would require me to dare look at what’s out there, and dare look at myself as I look at others…

So much of it comes from the zero sum model lie that there isn’t enough attention for everyone. That if someone else is worth looking at, it means it’s going to take attention away from you. And replace the word attention with affection, love, money, success, and it makes no difference, the idea of not enough stays the same. On an intellectual and spiritual level, I am so clear that this is utter bullshit. On a practical and emotional level though, that’s where these inherited hangups still rule my world. But I swear to god, I am not here to be complacent about this, I am here to heal myself. So I’m gonna do the fucking work, and cut through the bullshit. I will learn to see others with clear unadulterated eyes, so that I can see myself in the same way. So, stay tuned for the Rain Robert likes. It’s going to be a shower of wonders!

On owning it 

Major breakthrough, hear the crunch of glass ceiling pieces under my cowboy boots…

I have finally taken on the challenge of telling people I know in person about my project. I had been mostly avoiding it, which of course was making me feel even worse about it. But now a very demanding and very rewarding conversation helped me see clearly into my patterns. (It has to be said that I couldn’t have gotten there alone. As much as I always want to figure it all out on my own, humans need each other for that). So, this conversation, which I am so grateful for, made me realize that, if I can’t own my project outright, then all I’m doing is perpetuating the idea that it’s not ok to be me. I’ve basically recreated the unhealthy chasm I lived as a teenager, having to hide who I really am and feeling like a shell of a person to the world. In compartmentalizing myself to avoid getting hurt, I’m just straight up hurting myself. Which sucks. So, there’s not many ways to go about it. Either I do this and feel free to say that this is what I do, or I shouldn’t be doing it.

I really can’t unsee this. The more I try to justify myself and the more I try to use this blog to cover my ass, the more I perpetuate my insecurities. Because it makes me dependent on rightful explanations and good intentions. Without them, I would have to stand alone… which, duh, is exactly what I say I want!! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still love this blog. I love the opportunity to talk to myself out loud and have other people listen. But that has to be for its own sake, not as a way to palliate my fears. Those I gotta face head on. I gotta own the shit out of them. And there’s only one way to do that: don’t be afraid of making mistakes, march on, and see where it takes me.

Destination number one: I’m walking my ass over to Instagram. I have now met an unavoidable number of people responding to my telling them about my project by saying they would follow me on Instagram. Apparently, that’s the place to be when you make art these days. Not that everyone needs to be on Instagram, but my not being on it is decidedly starting to feel like a not going for my shots type of thing.

Seriously, I started this project to free myself of my shame, but then I became ashamed of myself for doing my project… That’s just too twisted, no wonder I can’t make sense of it. The only way out of that one is to stop trying to legitimize myself and just commit to what I do. You can only avoid criticism by doing nothing… and I don’t want to do nothing!

So, from now on, newly released videos may or may not have words to accompany them. This blog is now free to be anything but my absolution. Why? Cause I don’t need to be absolved.

Rain Robert’s Instagram: artrainrobert

 

On Bar Bliss

I have stepped up my game to make this video happen. I’m extremely proud of it, probably as a cure for how conflicted I’ve been.

I was going to write about so many things to introduce it, but none of it is working for me. I want to go back to how it felt to not have to talk about my work. What I had to say, I have said in the video.

Bar Bliss (NSFW 18+)

On appearances 

The thing about my sexuality is that, ever since puberty, it has defined how I get looked at. Interest, envy, attraction, judgment, desire, jealousy. Wherever I go, I get taken in through how I look. And how I look has always been talking loudly. Louder than anything I can say with my voice. And none of it is because of my own doing, this is just how my genetic blueprint turned out.

At 11, I went from a training bra to a double D bra in the course of a few months. I was already acting like an adult, now I looked like one too. I remember a particular conversation with someone who was asking which college I was attending, and I had to respond that I hadn’t even started high school yet. All the attention I was getting always bordered on the overwhelming. And although she tried her best, my mother’s unresolved sexual trauma tainted her relationship with the sexuality my body exhibited. It’s hard to learn to be comfortable with how you look when your own mother isn’t.

The effect of my appearance were somewhat muted as I became overweight. I guess you could say that was one way I found to have some control over the whole thing. (Disclaimer: I am in no way making judgments about weight, health is a state that everyone needs to find for themselves, no matter what the scale says) I’ve always been aware that my borderline obesity was a part of my psychological unwellness. It manifested at its worse while I was also struggling heavily with agoraphobia and self-harming. Hiding at home and hiding inside my body. Loathing mirrors and cameras and reflections. Wanting to be overlooked.

When my healing transformation allowed me to stop carrying the past and to claim myself back, so much weight dropped off of me, and everything changed again. I wasn’t being overlooked anymore. So I had to make sense again of what everyone’s gaze meant, about me, about them, about our humanity, about our society. And, well, let’s just say it’s a lot to handle. It was for sure too much at 11, and at 31 it’s still barely ok. At least I have this project, to give me an outlet and to ground my consciousness about this into something concrete.

I have tremendous inherited hatred for my womenness. It has been a major blind spot of mine for the longest time. It’s hard to be aware of internalized misogyny. It takes taking responsibility for your own part in how you are treated by looking squarely in the face of how you treat yourself. And maybe I could have been onto it earlier if that had been the only message I received, but it wasn’t. The objectification of women is a consequence of misogyny but it’s also a corrupted form of adoration. That’s why women themselves are so ambivalent about it. I mean, I really shouldn’t talk in the name of all women. I guess from my experience, I can own the fact that I want to be desired just as much as I want to desire, and that if objectification is the only way to get that, I would have a hard time giving it up. It’s a good thing I don’t believe it is the only way. This is why I am out here, trying to shift things for myself.

The other thing that makes my appearance so difficult to accept is the fact that my sister looks so different. I guess I could describe it as I fit in the conventional norms of what’s considered beauty, and she doesn’t. And of course the norms are total bullshit, yet we all have to live in the world they rule. Me and my sister both. And she happens to have the blessing and the curse of being extremely self aware of her differences. When it comes to appearances, that veers heavily towards the curse. I have spent entire my life watching people stare at her. Most people are unconsciously showing their lack of familiarity with differences. Some people are straight up vicious as a way of being defensive against the unknown of what they perceive as a threat. But my empathy for and understanding of their behavior does not make it any easier to stomach watching my sister look at herself through how they look at her. Writing this out loud brings up a lifetime of utter sadness and useless rage at my powerlessness in these situations. It makes me cry because I have literally no other way to deal with this.

So, in case that’s not plain to see, guilt is the other thing plaguing me. I have read about the concept of survivor’s guilt, something veterans and survivors of disasters have to contend with. The thing is, the issues of survivor’s guilt are so close to what I experience, even though my sister is still alive, that I believe there is such a thing as the healthy one’s guilt. It’s probably easiest to notice in more extreme cases like mine, but it’s also arguably something everyone experiences for the privilege they have over others. And guilt is a nasty thing. It’s just as destructive as shame, I would say in just a more insidious way. Shame burns like I am being branded from the inside. Guilt is more like a poisonous vine slowly strangling all my organs.

All these things add up to what I see when I look at myself. But they are not what I want for myself. I want to reach for the power to own my appearance. I want to transcend my fears and shame and guilt. I want to not shy away from embodying my sexuality. It’s a huge responsibility, but at the end of the day, we all have our blessings and curses as the two sides of the same coin we’ve been given. The art is to rise to the occasion and let your own light shine bright.

On hearing voices

Why on earth should the sound of my own voice make me even more insecure than the sight of my own naked flesh? I mean seriously, wtf?

When we say this person’s voice has been stifled, we ain’t fucking kidding. Not just a metaphorical voice, the actual vocal chord emitted voice! Oh so very little mermaid like.

I only just recently started enjoying the sound of my voice. I think I got there because my project makes me feel like I have an interesting voice. But still, when I had the thought, maybe I should record myself reading my posts, my initial reaction was oh hell no, not a good idea. Which of course is how I knew I had to do it. If I am to break free of my (a)shamedness, I have to stop buying into it.

Racing pulse. I can’t believe I’m more comfortable having my orgasms on the Internet than my spoken voice… How crazy is that?!

Oh well. In the spirit of manifesting myself fully and for the reclaiming of what has been silenced, here is me, reading me:

On broken records, read

 

On broken records

I want to be acknowledged as myself instead of as what’s projected onto me.

I want to be a subject, not just an object.

I want to exist in living colors, not in black and white rules.

From a New York Times article by Christine Smallwood on Greta Gerwig‘s latest film: “Gerwig wrote “Lady Bird” partly as a response to films about boys growing up. At the New York Film Festival, she asked the crowd: “What is ‘Boyhood,’ but for a girl? What is ‘The 400 Blows,’ but for a girl? What is personhood for young women?” In most films, girls exist to be looked at. […] Gerwig makes Lady Bird the one who looks: at boys but also houses, magazines, books, clothes and at the city […]”

What is personhood for women? What is looking instead of being looked at? These are simple questions containing a world of personal and cultural revolutions.

Still exploring my internal tug of war about Pornhub, I see the madonna/whore paradigm in action. A woman who’s sexuality is aligned with societal norms is a good woman, a good girl, a good wife, a good mother. A woman who’s sexuality colors outside the lines is a bad woman, a slut, a victim, a perpetrator. And there’s only two camps, so you’re either with us, or you’re against us.

No one is actually saying those words out loud to me. And yet they live inside me, imprinted in every cell. I hear them whispered, I hear them shrieked. They make me shy away from wanting what I want, they wake me up in the middle of the night, they make me fear who I am.

It’s impossible to know what everyone’s actual perspective on the subject is. Sometimes it seems we are archaically condemned. Sometimes I stumble into an echo chamber of deliverance. Blurred lines, out of line, fall into line, forgotten lines…

What is sexual freedom? What is sexual empowerment? What does the world look like when we don’t hate ourselves?

Ongoing struggles, never ending conversations. 10,000 years of civilization and who the fuck knows what was before. I may feel like a broken record about this, but I already know, I won’t have enough of a lifetime to ever make enough sense of it.

On post releasing crash

Burning through the chokehold of stifled freedoms. The epigenetic smell of charred flesh, the sound of neck bones. The inheritance of absolutes, deadweight in my gut. Nature recalcitrated, culture asphyxiated. I come in through the cracks, my purpose ciphered, like trying to hold on to the fog. How could there be an answer to the questions that don’t want to be asked? There is the tenderness of bruises inside the flush of my fever. What following the rules is meant to prevent. But there is no such game for me, I do not know how to play. Buried in the sand under the sea, to be resurrected by the waters. The wish of fallen eye lashes. Like the wish of fallen angels. Nothing plain to see, nothing evident to grasp. Liquid eyes and frozen hands. No more form than fervor.

On porn is in the eye of the beholder 

I have decided to accept that I am on Pornhub.

I’ve spent so much time debating and questioning and arguing about my presence on a pornography platform. Searching for an alternative, hoping for an elegant exit. Facing the fact that explicitness has no other place to live on the internet. Feeling slapped in the face when I load one of my videos and see myself next to ‘Try Not To Cum’ games and ‘Milf Who Want To Fuck’ ads. Wondering if I am being reckless. Enjoying getting new subscribers everyday, yet not changing the setting that sends every email announcing that to the Junk folder. Not knowing how to answer the comments I’m getting there, all positive but definitely of a different nature than the ones on Vimeo. Basically, being completely and utterly ambivalent about the whole thing.

But the truth is, this is what’s real right now. The split is what’s real. There’s no other place for me to have this conversation, and trying to build a safer space equivalent would require resources I do not have. So, if I am to move forward, I need to start with where I am. And right now, I am on Pornhub.

To tell the whole story, I have to talk about an essay I encountered this summer that has radically changed my mind on the question of pornography. “Some Harms to Women of Restrictions on Sexually Related Expression”, by Leonore Tiefer, from her book Sex is Not a Natural Act (Westview Press, 2004). Tiefer is a sexuality expert known for speaking against the medicalization of sexual dysfunction. Her book is a collection of essays challenging the consensus reality of sexuality. Essentially, she posits that sex is a potential and a construct, something more human than just a biological drive. She’s not always easy to read but she certainly takes sex positivity to the next level by removing the mandatory aspects from it. In this particular essay, she makes several amazing points, such as the fact that pornography is best understood not through literal interpretation, that the morality of masturbation is a huge subtext behind the argument against porn, and that repressing sexually explicit material actually robs women of the opportunity to make up their own minds about it. Her perspective resonates so much with me, I’m so grateful to have found someone who dares step out of the classical debate about porn. Having highlighted every second sentence, I wish I could post the entire essay here, but I’m a big believer in copyright, so instead I’m going to encourage anyone interested to go find her book. I will permit myself one quote though, as I feel it speaks to me directly: “Shame and ignorance make cowards of us all, but now is no time for cowardice about women’s sexual practices and imaginings. Censorship harms women because women need sexual empowerment, not sexual protection. Antiporn campaigns say that porn gives men power. But in fact, men already have power. Explicit sexual materials and performances can contribute to women’s sexual power. People who do not like certain types of pornography can avoid them. Or better yet, they can create something completely new.” Like music to my heart…

That being said, I’m not sure I’m ready to call what I do porn per say. I still claim the subtle but fundamental distinction between material that aims to depict arousal versus material that aims to create arousal. This to me is the essential difference between my art and porn, the difference between showing you what I see and showing you what you want to see. Well, come to think of it, it’s not like this dichotomy doesn’t exist in every other art and entertainment form.

Also, and this is an important point, I don’t mean to say that it’s all peachy now, that I don’t think the pornography industry has any issues. I’m still very much aware and afraid of its potential for exploitation. But, looking at the news these days, it should be clear to everyone that you don’t need to be in porn to be subjected to predatory behaviors. The power imbalances that enable abuse need to be addressed everywhere.

My art comes from a place within me that is conscious of the shame my sexuality is entangled with and yet still believes in the transformational beauty of sexual expression. I have had to keep myself safe through many dark nights of fear, yet hope rises in the morning light, asking to be embraced. Sunrise Orgasm is from almost exactly a year ago, the last full orgasm video I made before Vimeo closed my account for the second time. I held on to it because I kept hoping I could release it on a different platform, and because I needed time to remember how to be more courageous than ashamed.

Watching it again now brings up an enormity of feelings. Wondering what the hell I was thinking but being proud of myself. All my beauty and all my flaws exposed as one. Moments of grace next to moments I wish I could cut out. Everything I would do differently but how this experience can never be relived. The way this is both boring and mesmerizing, so private and political. How my entire story is written on my body. How pleasure and awkwardness, confusion and surrender rise and fall like waves. The reality of orgasm, the time that it takes. How slow pace leaves so much room for the uncomfortable. The desire to see and feel myself, the struggle to show up, to exist as myself. All laid bare to judge or to celebrate.

I can’t know for sure that I’m doing the right thing in sharing this. I’m still terrified that my work raises so many questions for which I do not have answers. But there is something about this that’s asking not to be denied. If that makes me a pornographer then fine, so be it. Call it porn or call it art, I don’t care anymore, they are your eyes, you decide what you see.

Sunrise Orgasm, on Pornhub