On opening 

My interaction with Resistimpulse made me realize something: not accepting friend requests on Pornhub means I never activated the lines of communication that were open on their own on Vimeo. It’s another symptom of my conflicted use of Pornhub. But this letter is exactly the kind of letter I used to get on Vimeo. It acknowledges the sexuality of my work but speaks of freedom and love. It’s personal and felt and respectful. It’s why I choose to keep my work online, for this kind of reverberation.

The thing is, I’m not using Pornhub to display a fantasy character or a public persona or to make money, I’m trying to use it to be a real person, more real than I would be if I kept my art private. I know how paradoxal this sounds, and I am aware that it might not work, or that it might backfire. And yet I can’t help that this is what I want, what I feel called to do.

So far my Pornhub experience has been mainly positive. I got my most critical comment this weekend (“shut yo hippy ass up you damn well know this aint erotic art”), and despite the shut up, which is most likely an expletive emphasis and not an actual request, it ain’t the worse thing you could say if you disagree with what I do. Of course I‘m concerned about what else might come if I interact more openly but at this point, all the fears are in my head. I don’t actually know that it would happen this way, or only this way. It seems to me that, again, by protecting myself I may not be empowering myself. And I may well be missing out because of it.

There’s only one way to find out. This morning I am accepting all friend requests on Pornhub. I’m opening the lines of communication. I will invest in my profile and see what happens. If I regret it, I can always change my mind. If I have a bad interaction, I need to create better boundaries. If I’m being offered something I don’t want, I will say no. And I will do it my way, following integrity as my north star.

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On interactions: love

This letter was sent to me through the contact form of my website and is reproduced here with the permission of its author.

***

I stumbled onto your work on pornhub and was moved by your project Bloom. 

I sent you a message via friend request but noticed you had zero friends on that platform so I wanted to send you these thanks and love through here as well.

“Bloom was an amazing work. It felt like you were being born from the cultural expectation to be clothed and non-sexual, to be covered, and through blooming you were taking yourself out of cultural expectations and into a world where you choose to be you, naked as the day you were born. It was powerful. I read your introduction on your website. Thank you for spreading love. When I was a young teen being brought up christian the biggest revelation I felt while reading the bible was also the one that made me later question the organized religion I was part of. It was that god is love. It was so simple, and I felt any focus away from that felt like cheating, because love can be such a strong powerful positive force, if we were to concentrate on being better ambassadors and practitioners of love, would we not help heal the world? Thank you Rain Robert. “

grow and love,

simply me
ResistImpulse

***

Thank you so much for sending me your message through this platform! I indeed haven’t been accepting any friend requests on Pornhub, but your words are making me realize that’s a mistake, one I will correct asap.

Bloom is one of my favorite videos, it was a huge turning point in my work. What you saw in it is just perfect, it is indeed about growth, transformation and liberation. I can’t say that I knew that specifically when I made it but my images come from a non verbal place within me, and it’s always fascinating to look at it afterwards and spell out what I expressed.

I totally share your philosophy about love. It’s the most powerful force on earth. The lack of it matches it almost as strongly, but not quite, because even that can be healed if one can find their way back to love. I know that what I do is sort of controversial but getting emails like yours reminds me why I do it. So thank you.

Wishing you all the best,
Rain

On interactions: amazing

This letter was sent to me through the contact form of my website and is reproduced here with the permission of its author.

***

Dear Rain,

I don’t know how to convey this without sounding like a random creep from somewhere across the world. But I’ll just out and say it anyway:

You are amazing. I tend to be incredibly dismissive about Modern/Conceptual art – especially performance art in general. But after discovering your videos, I find you both as a person, and an artist so brilliantly captivating. See I’ve realised after many years of experimentation, that I really do not like porn at all. I find it so tasteless, vulgar and unenjoyable. I find that the people appearing in porn often act out unconvincingly, desecrating their bodies with tattoos, bling and basically ceasing to be human. There is no emotion or humanity at all – it’s scripted, or even worse, it’s so badly improvised it’s almost painful to watch. Most of the time, it’s saturated with too much of everything, too limited and too formulaic at the same time. More than anything though – it’s patently inauthentic. I always feel like I’m watching animals mate on a wildlife documentary. 

But in your videos, I see something different. I bear witness to a candid, vivid catharsis of human emotion. I don’t quite know how to articulate this – but I feel like I’m experiencing the paradox of watching a beautiful young woman exposing her naked body; exhibiting a confessional display of fear and vulnerability on the one hand, while cultivating this personality of shame as a uniform of bravery and power on the other. It is through your display of weakness and fear that you appear strongest.

What strikes me is how bold you are – how unafraid you are to reveal yourself literally and metaphorically. I feel like it’s more than a performance. You have a perfect body, and you play with it skillfully and elegantly, like an instrument. Reading your online journal does pose interesting questions that I have about sexuality – and the woman in popular imagination. I find your word posts to be rather cryptic and esoteric in nature- but I get the sense that you’ve endured some kind of personal trauma and a range of experiences in your life that numbed you to the threat of being exposed and naked to thousands of voyeurs. I feel like I’ll never really understand that. But watching your videos, I guess, makes me feel mildly threatened. In an exciting way. As if, my darkest, voyeuristic fantasies about female vulnerability and sheer indignity are actualised, becoming real, and are being used against me like some kind of weapon. It’s like you’ve discovered a harmful secret to the nature of mankind that nobody really likes to publicly acknowledge.

Rambling aside – there are things I’m interested to know – like do people you know personally (say your family, friends or people on the street) know about this artistic project of yours? If so, what do they think about it? I also noticed you have what looks like a wedding ring on your finger. What does your husband think about it too?

I’ll end by saying that I think you have the body of a goddess, you put it to amazingly good use, and that I, a young man with no taste for Modern art or society in general, can state unironically that I genuinely respect and appreciate your work. And no – I don’t consider you to be a “porn” artist either. If anything, I’d say you’re more of a niche visual artist, or even entertainer. But keep on doing what you’re doing right now. 

Lots of love from the UK,

X

***

Dear X,

I don’t know if I can sufficiently say how thankful I am that you wrote to me. I wish I could have answered earlier and I’m sorry if the delay made you feel like I didn’t appreciate what you said. The truth is quite the opposite. Your letter arrived at a time where a lot of intense things are happening in my life and I didn’t want to rush a generic response to what you’ve so sincerely expressed.

Ironically, I was in a museum when I received your email (I never go to museums so it’s a particularly funny coincidence). I had just spent the afternoon questioning my place in the world and wondering what my art meant. I sat in the lobby to read your words and they brought tears to my eyes, as well as a wave of pride that I am genuinely unashamed to admit. I still don’t totally understand why I do what I do and where the hell it’s supposed to take me, but what you wrote reminds me that it’s most definitely worth it. My project is not “successful” right now in terms of income or recognition, but these things could never mean more to me than the kind of reaction you’re sharing here. That makes me feel truly successful, like truly successful at life.

It’s a tall order to address everything you bring up. Let me start with your direct questions. The people close to me all know about my project. Most of them, like my family, don’t interact with it at all but just accept that it’s a part of my journey, which I am grateful for. As for more extended circles, I have just started the process of “coming out” and bridging all of my worlds. It’s been challenging. I am trying to overcome the feeling that I am imposing myself in a potentially abusive way. At the same time, I am learning to own how differently some people see me now. So far it’s mainly a positive difference. I am lucky to live in a pretty artistic and alternative community. Still, there are questions I still haven’t figured out about how to keep myself safe. So far I’ve managed to keep my location private but if that was to change, then I hope it won’t have negative consequences. What’s interesting though is that the risks I’ve already taken have resulted in so much more confidence and empowerment, that I think I have what it takes to handle it. As for my husband (well observed, yes I am married), he and I both aren’t conventional people and our relationship reflects that. Still, it took him a while to understand where I was coming from but now he’s one of my project’s biggest champions.

I doubt that I could ever fully explain all the reasons that drive my art but you are definitely right that my past has led me to it. I have very different views and expectations of life (if you’re interested and if you haven’t already seen it, I wrote a post about my story: https://rainrobert.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/on-my-story/). The only distinction I would make from your statement is that I am not numb to the threat of exposing myself, I am actually very aware, but I believe that the threat of not revealing my true self is even greater. Granted, revealing as much as I do may seem exaggerated to most people, but it’s just proportional to how much hiding and self denying I’ve done before. I also really mean what I do, and if it gets me into trouble, then it’s the kind of trouble I am willing to face.

You bring up such interesting questions about the nature and interplay of my strength and vulnerability. I have never heard anyone articulate their perspective the way you do here. I’m really in awe of the depth of your honesty. I’m glad you feel like it’s more than a performance. I don’t even consider it to be a performance at all. Before I started sharing them, my videos acted a mirror for me to learn to see myself, but now that they are out there and generate reactions, the whole thing has become something much more complicated and much more interesting. Anything I make now is a dialogue based on how I am being received. What I do comes from the inside out but how the outside reacts influences me inside. It’s fascinating really, and mostly it makes me feel very alive.

I will leave it at that for now. If you’re interested in continuing this conversation, I would be honored to hear more of your thoughts. Also, and this is only if you would consent to it, I would love to post your letter on my blog (anonymously if it’s better for you) and my response to it. I’ve been wanting to write about my interactions for a while now as I believe they are one of the most important components of my project. Your observations are so striking, I really think they are worth sharing. You are of course welcome to say no to this, I would completely respect it.

Again, thank you so so much. I think you are amazing too.

Wishing you the very best,

Rain

On interactions redux

This is something I’ve been writing about since the very beginning. I regret not having pursued it more. It feels like a treasure that shouldn’t go to waste. Every interaction I have with people who find my work means so much to me. They break the silence I try to hide in. They frame my work in ways I could never see on my own. They teach me about myself and the world we all inhabit together.

To be perfectly honest, I think this is the real art of what I do. Sure, my videos are beautiful and they allow me to see myself. And sure, my writing helps me feel heard and like I’m not drowning in my own head. But it’s the back and forth with others, the interplay of perspective from my eyes to theirs, the conversations that get sparked, that is truly remarquable. It’s not just what I do, it’s how people react to what I do, that is interesting.

I realize this might sound like a contradiction of my non pornographic stance. The whole I aim to portray my own arousal, not create it in others. But really it’s not a contradiction. I believe that the reason people are touched by my art (however much of a euphemism that might be) is exactly because I make it for myself and from myself. It’s the authenticity that creates the reciprocity.

On disappearing

All my life, I have disappeared on people. Not doing well, retrieving, not knowing how to come back. Disappearing on myself, not being able to stay present, stay connected. Letting distance take hold, not keeping in touch. Hiding. Ghosting. A profound inability to deal.

I feel terribly guilty for my social shortcomings failings inconsistencies. I can totally live with myself as being bad in math. But this, this goes to a core that feels essential. It makes me feel like I’m not a good human being. So it’s a vicious cycle. Disappear, feel bad, stay hidden, feel worse.

I’m really working on it though. And it is getting better. The more I find my truth, the more I show up. As myself. For myself and for others.

I didn’t think this project was also going to be about this. I guess I didn’t think this project was also going to be about others. But it is, and I’m so grateful.

Thank you to everyone that watches my videos.

Thank you to everyone that reads my words.

Thank you to everyone that interacts, comments and messages.

Thank you to the technologies that allow me to share in such open ways.

Thank you to me for keeping coming back.

On interactions: lips

One of the most amazing thing about sharing my work is getting responses, and getting this mirror effect I’ve written about before. To hear that someone else “got” what I was trying to say, it’s just such an incredible reinforcement.

Here’s what someone wrote about my latest video:

Love your lips!

I watched a video the other day, and I can’t find it now or I’d give you the link, this girl was doing all the cliche lip things, pouting, biting her lower lip, running her finger over her lips, puckering, and I just felt ewww what is she doing? It seemed like she was being directed to do those motions, and thus look sexy (epic fail for me), or she thought that’s what she needed to do to look sexy (again epic fail). And that contrast helped me to realize something about “standard” porn and what you and a few others are doing. You aren’t directed, you’re interacting (with yourself, the camera, doesn’t matter, it’s an exchange). There’s no connection with the directed stuff, even if it’s self directed. No exchange.

And in your video you’re doing essentially the same things, a little pouting, lip biting, etc. however it’s obvious to me you’re exploring your lips, how they feel (assuming that post orgasm sensitivity and connection) and that is SOOOOOO sensual. I want to touch your lips, kiss them just for the feel of it, the sensory and emotional exploration and I want that connection. With that other video I just wanted to say, please stop it’s creeping me out.

Thank you”

I couldn’t make this up. It wouldn’t be as good if I did.

One reaction just appeased a whole layer of my doubts that what I do is shameful, narcissistic, vain, creepy…

And in the act of responding to this response, my thought process gets to clarify itself just a little bit more. Which is yet something else I’m grateful for. Here’s what I wrote back:

“The difference you’re pointing out is exactly what’s driving my work. As a woman, I’ve been asking myself what is sexy, what is hot? What does it mean? What does it look like? Where does it come from? When I look outside myself, I get answers that often feel skewed, to say the least. Looking in for more truthful answers is basically the definition of my work.”

On responding 

I love getting messages and comments. They give me such a delicious rush. But I actually struggle with responding to them. I just woke up in the middle of the night again, wondering why…

I think it’s because responding means accepting the compliment. And that feels scary because it implies that I agree. That’s where the resistance comes from.

I long to be told that what I do is good. I long to be told that what I am is good. I crave every single compliment in the world. To be told that I am beautiful, that I am smart, that I matter, that I make a difference. But as soon as someone offers one to me, I actually stop it from coming in. There’s a psychological mechanism at play that says, you shall not pass.

I guess that’s where the craving comes from. Of course I want more of what I’m not allowing in. It’s like receiving food and not eating it, then wishing for more food cause you’re still so damn hungry.

Someone asked me in a message if I have trouble letting myself be loved. My immediate response was no of course not. But I’ve been thinking about it and the real answer is more like of course yes.

I may wish to perceive myself more positively but to change it feels riskier than to stick to what I’m used to. It’s easier not to challenge the guilt that being good brings up. The fear that I might think of myself as better than others. The even worse fear that others might think that I think of myself as better than them. Remaining insecure about myself saves me from these fears. But remaining insecure also means that I remain hungry.

I have to learn to eat the food. To let the compliment in. To accept a positive conception of myself. To receive gracefully and gratefully. Because my starving doesn’t help anyone. It actually does a disservice to everyone.

We learn from each other how to behave. By keeping myself safe in the comfort zone of not loving myself, I am teaching others to do the same. I am perpetuating the cycle.

I want another cycle. I want to love myself. So that you can love yourself. So that you can love me. So that I can love you.

On interactions: inspired

I am starting a series of posts about my interactions. Some of this stuff is just too good to be true. It’s also become an important part of my journey so I think it deserves to be shared. FYI, I will always ask permission before writing about anyone. 

This is about one of my very first interactions. I got a message with very nice praise on my work, then a few days later a follow-up which said that my Pre Orgasm piece had inspired this person to make a video of their own. I decided to click on the link but I had to turn it off after a few seconds of watching. A man touching his penis. I of course expected to see exactly that, but actually seeing it brought up an immediate wave of shame. This happened right in the middle of my back and forth communication with Vimeo about not following their guidelines, which had me doubting if making explicit videos was even a good idea or not. So this video triggered a new fear that Vimeo would be even more mad at me now for inciting others in my “ways”. 

I remember exactly where I was while this took place. I got up and started walking to process the rush of emotions. As soon as I was moving, a completely different perspective took over. I thought, oh my god, am I seriously considering that it’s ok for me to do this kind of video, but it’s not for others? What kind of double standard would that be!? If this is a healthy expression for me, why couldn’t it be for someone else too?!

The next morning, I woke up angry about the shame that had come up. I felt like it was such a classic example of the conditioning women are plagued with. Thinking that it’s our fault (whatever “it” is), apologizing for everything, feeling like we’re doing something wrong… I didn’t know exactly where my anger was directed towards but at least it was directed outwards. I also felt grateful that this situation created a clear experience of these feelings that I’m usually just nebulously immersed in. It actually reinforced my commitment to my project, which felt great. I remember exactly where I was for that too. On the bus, watching the city go by as my resolve grew. 

It took me a few days to get all my emotions under control to be able to sit down and watch the rest of the video. I still had some doubts about how I felt about it. But I watched it till the end, and something really special happened as I did. First, I have to say that this person really was inspired by my video. It’s not just your random dick selfie. The way this man touched himself, the way he moved the camera, mirrored what I did in my Pre orgasm video. And that’s what got me. I was really really moved by it. 

There’s a practice in the emerging field of PTSD treatment in which therapists do movement or breathing exercises with their patients, mirroring each other, in order to create connection. Because trauma creates disempowerment and disconnection from yourself and others, this mirror process can be tremendously helpful. Also because trauma is something that lives in the body more than in the mind, so using the body to heal it makes sense. Anyway, my point being, watching this video, where someone mirrored my own movements on himself, created this connection effect. I felt it very clearly, like it hooked something back that used to be loose inside me. I realize this might sound a bit crazy, but I’m betting it might make sense to someone who’s experienced the aftermath of trauma. 

I have already thanked this person and also congratulated him on expressing his sexuality but I don’t think I have conveyed to him all that this experience has meant for me yet. I hope that in reading this he will understand better and also feel respected and appreciated. I don’t know for sure what his intentions were in making this video and in sending it to me, but I think it would so closed minded to assume it was only to shock or arouse me. There’s always more layers to things than can be judged at first sight. That’s exactly what I’m trying to convince everyone about my own work. And it absolutely applies to others too. 

I do have to end this post by making clear that, in telling this story, I am not actually asking to receive more videos from people. It’s been offered to me a few times since but I’ve always declined because it’s not something I’m seeking at this point. It is worth noting that so far it’s always been done respectfully. Everyone has asked nicely and responded well to my saying no. Someone wrote back to my refusal by saying they had just wanted to thank me. I wrote back that I appreciated the thought immensely. 

On interactions 

Interacting with comments and messages has become one of my favorite things.

At first I wasn’t sure if that was ok, if I could allow myself to enjoy people responding to me showing myself as sexual.

The feelings that come up are mostly about shame and danger. The shame is bullshit, and I try to work through it as much as I can. The fear of danger I take the time to examine though, because that’s the smart thing to do. I don’t want to get hurt. But so often, underneath the perception of danger, there is also just shame.

Then there’s the question of it being morally questionable. But you know what, I don’t actually care where I stand on the moral scale. My only compass is how I feel. And interacting makes me feel alive.

Everyone’s perspective, everyone’s contribution becomes an opportunity to know what I think better, know what I like better, know what I believe in better, know who I am better.

Know thyself, right? This project has me feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.

On timing

I got this comment on the Spontaneous combustion video: Ahh video stopped right when you were cumming! Lol

Which made me realize maybe I should clarify how that came about. So I responded: Well I got a phone call so it stopped recording and then I had to go back to my day… A few minutes of pleasure is still better than none though!

And that’s the truth.