On that side of me

There is a side of me I do not know how to let out, do not know how to get to exist outside myself. I can feel it in there, present just inaccessible.

Well, actually, that’s not exactly true. It does come out, sometimes, surprise surprise, firecracker fizzing by, as soon gone as it was irrepressible.

I wish I could but I cannot summon it on cue. Definitely cannot fake it into reality. It doesn’t respond to commands. It doesn’t respond to anything. It only ever shows up when it wants, as it wants.

It’s the side of me you don’t want to piss off. The one that gets turned on by heavy metal. The one that loves hard liquor and loud footsteps. The one that can hold a lustful gaze for longer than most. The one that isn’t afraid of being called an intellectual. The one that truly madly deeply doesn’t give a shit what other people think.

I want to call it dark but that’s not quite right. It’s assertion. It’s self possession. It’s raw, unadulterated confidence. Not the kind that’s earned, the kind that’s just evidence.

Almost doesn’t sound like me at all. Except there is no me without it. Still, on those rare occasions it does make an appearance, it’s as pleasing to me as it is shocking to anyone else who thinks they know me.

God I adore this side of me. I would give it an altar if that wouldn’t make it laugh in my face. Irreverent. Radical. Unapologetic.

Yeah…. No, this side does not stay out of sight for no reason. Oh the sneer I feel curling up inside. Our true powerful nature. Ain’t that the first thing that gets beaten, ridiculed, coerced out of us? And yet, it can only be gone for good if we’re dead. To still be alive means we still have it, however deep it has to be buried, however elusive to will it may become.

I am still here. And so that side of me is still here. Well then, let’s keep lighting up as many fuses as can be found, and wait for the fire to get cracking.

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On Magic Carpet

All of me laid bare on the carpet. The beauty. The flaws. The motion. The stillness. The searching. The finding.

I shot this piece last summer. In the dawn after my many months dark night of the soul. Digging deep within, letting something emerge from the silence I surrounded myself with.

Then I couldn’t watch it, couldn’t release it. Leaving it to sleep on a hard drive. I guess the waiting serves an important purpose. Sometimes it needs to marinate. Sometimes I need to let myself become ready.

Last week I finally watched it, in its half hour entirety. I can’t say that I really know what I’m looking at, beyond the first degree of seeing myself masturbating.

Skimming over the images it’s easy for me to be repulsed by it. I have to breathe very deliberately to actually watch it. But when I do, I find myself strangely mesmerized.

I see myself and I hear a plea, a prayer. For independence, for attention, for pleasure, for solidarity, for vindication.

There is so much unknown inside my own body and mind and soul. Unspoken. Uncharted. Unrealized. Part black hole, part virgin sky…

Magic Carpet (explicit sexuality NSFW 18+)

On my work

Speaking of making things happen, today I did my coming out. I am now irrevocably Rain Robert.

Here’s what I wanna say about my work as I’m thinking of it from the perspective of my friends and family:

My work challenges the notion that my sexuality needs to be private and that making it public is shameful or perverse or pornographic.

It questions the assumption that a woman’s arousal is something that must exist for profit, that the expression of her eroticism cannot simply be for her own pleasure and discovery.

It explores freedom of expression and freedom of consumption, freedom to show or to watch, to share or to judge.

My videos can look deceptively simple, there’s no artistry, no storyline, no real editing, no makeup job to hide behind. No specific talent, just real felt explicitness. Emotional, physical, sexual.

What do I see when I look at myself? What do you see when you look at me? When I look at my camera, am I seeing myself or am I looking at you watching me?

What does exposure mean? Where does the power lie? Is it the truth? What is beauty? What isn’t beauty? What is art? What isn’t art?

Is there such a thing as being overexplicit? An overindulgence? An imposition? Am I crossing a line? Why? What does it say about me? What does it say about you? What does it say about us?

May we feel free to ask the questions. May we feel free to not know the answers.

On new old work

Sweeping up my vaults, asking myself: why didn’t I share these videos when I made them, and why am I releasing them now?

Wanting connection is what drives me to participate.
Wanting autonomy is what drives me to withhold.
Connection without autonomy is dependency.
Autonomy without connection is isolation.
Connection and autonomy together is belonging, and that is what I truly seek.

I can tell myself I’m all over the place. Or I can tell myself I am always right on schedule.

Beach Break
Flying Hair
Cafe Shadow
Ferry Face
Crisp Touch
Wool Iron Sun
Train Hand
Snow Berries
Minimalism

On coming out

I want to come out as Rain Robert to my friends and family. The few closest to me know but most of the rest don’t. As good as it was to have my own secret garden for a while, now it feels like a burden. I’m telling myself it’s about getting ahead of the conversation, in case people find out on their own. But really it’s about how I feel right here right now. Split. I so don’t want to feel split. I don’t want to hide. I don’t want to lie. That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to get away from. I’m trying to heal. Wholeness. Realness. Integrity. Showing up as who I am. That’s what my project is supposed to be about.

As I contemplate my options, my inner demons are rearing their ugly heads, roaring in unison. What I do is stupid, dangerous, cheap. Others are doing it better than I ever could. Who do I think I am? Everyone will know how bad I am. I haven’t been consistent enough, productive enough, brave enough, good enough. I really shouldn’t let anyone see what I do. I really shouldn’t have done it in the first place. I really shouldn’t exist at all.

Ouch, and yeah, that’s how quickly I end up all the way there. Going down the path that is a slippery slope. Emotionally dysregulated. I say it out loud because it helps me hear how out of whack it is. I used to keep it to myself. Turns out it’s best exorcised. Making the sounds of the words helps them find their way out of me.

I can be so strong. I can also be so brittle. Crick cracking, shattered pieces on the floor, sharp edges that cut. Fractured, stumbling, grasping. Oh how I wish I could escape those feelings, but oh how inextricable they are.

And yet, I think my strength comes from my fragility. From weathering the storms that push me around. From holding on, fingers to the ledge. It’s not from not going there. It’s from being there, no choice in the matter, but sticking around anyway, even though it hurts, god it hurts, and years and years of hurt are echoing along, amplified by all that’s still left to grieve. After each round I always hope it was the last one, but then in the middle of the night, in the middle of my shift, in the middle of the street, the next wave rises, washing over me. And of course I’ll wish it away but I’ll hold on anyway, so I can be made better for it.

Maybe this is true. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t really care. It helps me make sense of my experience. It reminds me that I don’t go through this process over and over again to remain stuck, to remain limited, to remain concealed. I want to own this. I want to own myself. I want to share this. I want to share myself. What else is life supposed to be about?

On before and after

I’ve been stuck on this post I told myself I needed to write.

I want to tell the story of the before and after my Vimeo removal. I want to play the game of spot the differences. Make sense of what it meant to me then, what it means to me now. Because I’m trying to be on Instagram, because I’m considering coming out about my project, because I haven’t been making new work.

There’s so much tension, I wish I could chop it up with a big kitchen knife.

I have all these notes, half drafted posts, one liners, ideas for series I’m not starting. I have all these videos, photos, clips to edit, images to superimpose, visions to manifest. It’s like having dug myself into a grave of unrealized potential. The longer something stays in the todo pile, the more stuck to it it gets.

I need a turning point. Put to bed what was and wasn’t done. Tuck it in real tight. Or let it kick the sheets around. Whatever the fuck it wants, as long as I’m moving on.

I tried to write about when I first put my work online. It’s a good story. But every line I write, every tense I pick rings fake. Like empty noise, no sound to it. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, maybe I can’t tell this story yet. I’m still trying to justify myself. Still trying to prove to myself that I am relevant, that this is meaningful.

If you throw a ping pong ball at your reflection in the mirror, chances are it’s going to bounce back and hit you in the face.

I started making videos almost three years ago. I started putting them online a year and a half ago. Everything I have done, everything I am now, was completely unimaginable a few minutes, a few days before it happened. I think maybe that’s the real before and after I’m trying to get at. The shift from unintended to attempting, from surprise to expectations.

For the five months my initial stint on Vimeo lasted, I was so darn gratified. Free flowing in a reciprocity of self expression and what can only be self described as success. The numbers mean nothing to anyone else but me, and isn’t it convenient that I don’t remember exactly how many followers, views, comments, messages I actually got, so that their memory can shine brighter than their past reality. What I do remember though is the taste of the dopamine. I miss how high as a kite I was on it. It still trickles in sporadically, but it’s not the same as being plugged into a steady stream.

I wish I could say I don’t need the resonance. But the truth is I thrived on that crack. I did a good job back then convincing myself I wasn’t doing it for those reasons. Yeah right. How easily deceivable we can be to ourselves. Of course the viewership was only meaningful because the work was meaningful too. Empty numbers are senseless, unseen work suffocates, but put the two together and you’ve got synergy. The kind that sizzles.

I know I can never go back. I just wish it could feel that fresh again. That I could be this unencumbered again. It was truly one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. It came with such a sense of aliveness, directness, effortlessness. I guess it was purpose? The feeling of being carried by some inner holy flame. Joan of arc with the voice of God in her ear.

I never thought I’d have an audience unless I built one. Then an audience fell from the sky. Then it went away. Can I really be upset that I lost something I never expected to have? Can I not take it for the gift that it was? Being told of the impact my work had on people shifted my relationship with myself in ways I cannot even start to describe. Here I am now, feeling washed up on the beach because the tide went out. But aren’t I feeling this way simply because I’m exposed and can’t hide in the water anymore? And isn’t that the exact point of what I started in the first place?

On being compromised 

I’ve been obsessing lately about making a false move. I want to bridge all of my worlds and embrace being all that I am but I’m scared of the potential consequences of exposure, especially of getting to a place where someone who would want to know could find my location. Last night I couldn’t sleep, asking over and over again, why am I so terrified of this? Then it hit me. It’s because part of me thinks that if something bad would happen to me, it would be my fault. It would make it my fault because I choose to do what I do and because I didn’t protect myself well enough. Omg. This is a huge aha moment for me. Because really, if someone ever decided to harm me, why would it my fault and not theirs? If someone chooses to harm me, it’s them that is the problem, not me. This might seem so dumbly obvious but I’m serious, somewhere in my mind, I’m really not clear about this. And it’s really pissing me off to realize that.

I mean sure, risk management is a part of life. You take your car on the road, you’d better have insurance, a license, know how to drive, and expect that others may not be thinking along as well as you are. But still, you take your fucking car on the fucking road, you don’t leave it in the fucking garage (ok so I’m a little riled up about this, but I feel pretty entitled to). Ships are safest in the harbor, but that is not what they are built for. So, if I acknowledge that I’m not doing certain things, not fully going for my shots, because I’m afraid it could mean being harmed in a way that would be my fault, well then that’s not risk management, that’s being fucking COMPROMISED.

I actually recognize this, this is victim mentality. The assumption that any harm done to you would result from something you did. This gets perpetrated all the time, in the media, in how we frame the conversation around violence, especially sexual violence. We end up looking to the victim, asking how their behavior attracted or enabled what was done to them. This is how victims so often end up re victimized. This kind of thinking is the default reaction of victims themselves, who of course are the product of their culture.

This is how behavior gets policed, choices get curtailed, freedom gets tarnished in ways we are not even aware of. I’m not really free to engage in what I want to do if I’m constantly afraid my actions could open me up to any sort of assault which would be blamed back on me. Seriously, this has so many consequences. One of the biggest being that I can’t really allow myself to be vulnerable, even though my vulnerability, my softness, my openness are the very sources of my creativity, my power, my agency. Without them, I am a dimmed version of myself.

This is so important because I have all sorts of hopes and dreams for my project (and myself) but I’ve been standing still, petrified of getting into more trouble than I can handle. It also explains why I’ve been spending so much time justifying myself, as an insurance policy. But at some point, you have to stand for something, you have to walk your talk and grow past the conditioning that keeps everything the same. Let me rephrase that. At some point, I have to walk my talk, I have to stand for what I believe in. Awareness is always the first step but the follow up question is, what are you going to do about it?

I want to point out that one of the reasons I had this awakening is because of Natalie Portman’s speech from this year’s Women’s March. Portman spoke extremely powerfully about how her own choices were affected by the world’s reaction to her sexuality. (I highly recommend listening to her if you haven’t already, I relate so much to her story and her conclusion about the need for a revolution of desire gave me goosebumps.) We will never know what kind of Natalie Portman could have been had she grown up in a different, safer world. The same can be said about me. The same can be said about everyone. Those are losses we have to grieve. But past the grief, past the awareness that we are not as free as we think we are, we have an opportunity to create something new and better. I don’t know much about the future but I do know I want to be a part of that.

 

 

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