Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Dirty Show Interview: Prodding Jerry Vile

Whether you like it or not, The Dirty Show® is the event in Detroit art culture (if there is indeed a Detroit art culture…but I digress…). If you still haven’t attended one of the past twelve years of annual Valentine’s Day exhibitions, I thought I’d fill you in on what to expect and went directly to the source by interviewing Detroit art and literary legend, Jerry Vile, director of The Dirty Show® and editor of the much-mourned Orbit magazine.

Jerry Vile is a loveable asshole type. I have heard people say that The Dirty Show® exhibit is a remarkably accurate reflection of his personality. I disagree.

Jane Fader and Jerry Vile at DAMNED, October 2010

Jane Fader: How would you describe The Dirty Show® to a virgin attendee?

Jerry Vile: The Dirty Show® is about artists working with the erotic theme. But some of it isn’t erotic. We cheat. We have put up charcoal figure studies that are not erotic in any way other than nudity. We also hang up what fine art people would call crafts, like this year we’re exhibiting a blowjob rug. We don’t really worry about it. What are they gonna do–throw us in art jail? The first thing you learn in art school is, art is whatever you can get away with. A dead man said that. When he was still alive of course.

JF: But it’s more than just a stoic art exhibit. How would you describe the event’s atmosphere?

JV: It’s as intriguing as digging around in your parents’ room when they are at work. I use that analogy because if you are an erotic artist that is probably whose basement you will be living in.

JF: How is The Dirty Show® different from other erotic art shows?

JV: A lot of erotic art is about being “sexy” or “sensuous.” But erotic art can be really boring. Some of the dullest shows I have ever seen are erotic art shows. A lot of erotic artists have little or no imagination. That’s not what The Dirty Show® is about. I happen to like creepy and fucked up. I really like retarded and stupid. I also like funny. Humor is a huge part of art. I would love to showcase Paul McCarty’s Giant Butt Plug, de la Haba’s Equine Maximus, or any of the dirty stuff Koon’s did. The only thing funnier than the art itself is the fact that people might actually buy it for exorbitant sums. The art world is as phony as wrestling and that is probably what I love the most about it.

JF: The Dirty Show® has been running for twelve years. During this time the show grew to be the largest art exhibit in the metro area, and was even pronounced “a Detroit Valentine’s Day tradition.” One might say that the margins have folded into the center. Is there an alternative to alternative art?

JV: Landscapes?

JF: Earlier we talked about how Detroit is a place to create art, but it isn’t a place to sell it. Would you say that there is a common theme or shared aesthetic in erotic art born from Detroit, or throughout Detroit art in general?

JV: Besides an excess of nudity in rotting ruin settings, not one I can discern. There are people like Kristine Diven–who have been doing it quite a while–and with some kind of meaning. Then there are some who don’t really have anything to say. They shoot, but it doesn’t mean anything. Detroit is really getting an excess of erotic artists–photographers especially, thanks to DVS running the Detroit Erotic Arts Collaborative (DEAC). Detroit has answered this call to eroticism yet. The nearby suburbs have. (There was no way I was going to be lured down that path. Tangents and questions regarding the finality of suburban eroticism should be relieved in the comments section)

JF: This year The Dirty Show® hosted a debut for a new all-female group of erotic artists, The Society for Women in Erotic Art Today (SWEAT). How does The Dirty Show® bode with the feminist art community?

JV: I have no fucking idea.

JF: Why did you invite SWEAT to debut at The Dirty Show®? Has there been an imbalance of male and female authored art in the past?

JV: The founder, Lisolette Gilcrest, approached us. She asked if they could debut. It was a no-brainer.

JF: I have never been able to fully come to terms with the notion that feminist or female-authored work is significantly or inherently different from non-feminist or male-authored work. Especially in the alternative genre.

JV: You got me there. I never thought about this and I don’t ever plan on doing so.

JF: I felt that the SWEAT pieces were indistinguishable from the rest of the exhibit. It was very much in the tradition of The Dirty Show®.

JV: Traditional of the Dirty Show®, but not traditional of erotica. Nor is it traditional of the erotic cliche of airbrushed, silicone-enhanced, Barbie Doll women photographed by bottom-feeding, middle-aged men—which, by the way, makes up the bulk of submissions to the show. I am not saying we don’t have any of that at The Dirty Show®, but we are attracted to art that is a little less pedestrian than what you might find in a men’s magazine.

Any kind of erotica is always going to be dominated by renderings of attractive females because that’s what artists like to paint, shoot and sculpt. Hard dicks are considered obscene, and limp ones are not considered erotic. Women buy pictures of women. Male subjects–even those with big titties–don’t sell a fraction of what female subjects do.

JF: I don’t see evidence that the theme was well explored.

JV: I disagree. I have seen bigger shows with less diversity. It is one of the more well-rounded erotic displays I have seen, and a fantastic debut. Most of the SWEAT artists would have made it past our jury on their own, and a few have been in past shows. The very fact that all these pieces are done by women is now being overlooked. SWEAT, like the Dirty Show®, can only display what is submitted.

JF: When feminist art presents itself to me, I look for something familiar, recontextualized in a way that challenges me or defies social standards or assumed values.

JV: Well, not every piece of erotica does that. And most of the art hanging in the DIA doesn’t do that either, does it? And if all art did do that, I bet we would end up with one boring, ugly show.

For Dirty, most pieces are chosen for technique–the basic elements of light, shadows and composition. We might get a few provocative pieces in every show, but contemporary art has been going on so long it’s no longer contemporary.

Art easily suffers from pretension and audience-conscious over-thinking. I guess the scholar types want to cock block any challenge to their empires. They try to make art about emotion, but it’s usually bullshit emotion–Emotionless people who write bullshit papers for bullshit teachers in bullshit schools. They make it more about seeing how smart they are rather than what the work is actually about.

If there was a corner, he’d totally be trying to put me in it.

JF: So do erotic artists privilege the body at the expense of the mind, or does it force the viewer into some extreme Cartesianism or something? Is it the curators who are void of intellect? Or does the genre “cock block” any stimulation that isn’t directly physical? (after that outburst, I couldn’t not reference a French philosopher)

JV: I’m not saying you can’t have an emotional or intelligent piece. But it’s not easy. Or even necessary. And people can tell when you are faking it.

Talent, however, is impossible to fake.

JF: Last year you took The Dirty Show® on national tour. Do you plan to travel again this year?

JV: I think so. The world is ripe for domination.

Colm McCarthy. Damned III. October 2010.

photos by mark tucker

Gushing: Metro Times Interview with Jane Fader

“Grushing”: Travis Wright interviews Jane Fader, featured in the Metro Times “Lust Issue” (February 2011).

Photo from Jef Borgeau’s The Jane Show

What do you think you know about sex? Better question: What do you think you don’t know about sex? With all that’s out there, facets you can’t even fathom? Do you know about female ejaculation?

Jane Fader didn’t.

The discovery (not firsthand, mind you) of female ejaculation, left the then-philosophy major’s brain as twisted as after-sex bed sheets. She was thusly consumed by the subject.

Amongst other subjects — teledildonics, mismanaged rape kits, local rap — she writes openly about orgasms and female ejaculation, and the distinction between the two at janefader.com. In the past year, blending doctoral studies with dildo reviews in fine blogger fashion Fader’s made a name as a maven of social media, as well as a sexpert of sorts. While her website draws a community of commentators, she’s been a noted local tweeter, and the most-watched video on her YouTube channel tops 170,000 views.

She’s plucked a few notes as an activist but also as an unlikely rap video vixen, a gig that once backfired, she says, when “some 22-year-old art school motherfucker with a bad teenage mustache put my tits on the Internet.”

Fader’s uncannily candid when it comes to talking about sex and lust. She’s bookish and beautiful, and as silly or sultry as she wants to be. Her face makes amazing gestures, speaking with her words. The Jane Show, a recent photo exhibition by Jef Bourgeau at the Detroit Museum of New Art that featured portraits of Fader showed this and more.

We sat with Jane to talk about love, lust, and sex — all related to her studies before leaving a psychology doctoral program at Wayne State University. And, of course, we talked squirting. Here’s the interview:
Metro Times: The micro-funding website Kickstarter has been responsible for helping fund numerous l projects locally and around the country. What would your Kickstarter project be?

Jane Fader: It’d be for funding the female ejaculation documentary! I’ve researched it for so many years; wrote so many papers about it; have just thought a lot about it. Sometimes people get excited — titillated — when I talk about it. Then, half way through the conversation, I realize they have no idea what I’m talking about. At least outside of academia. In school, people do listen, but you have to put it like, “Female ejaculation is when the female prostate is stimulated and glands fill with a fluid that comes out the urethra …” Outside of academia, I can just say, “I’m talking about squirting, dude!”

MT: You’re really enthralled by this.

Fader: I was in the second year of my master’s studies at Wayne State University, I was 22, just about to be 23, and I had never had an orgasm. The weird thing was that I hadn’t ever considered that I hadn’t had one. Sex felt good. Felt fine. But when I was 20, I was in a production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses playing the virgin, Cécile and like the entire cast got pregnant, except for me. And all these girls were saying how they never felt like having sex, and I was like, “I don’t feel like having sex either!” And I was about to be married.

MT: Ok, orgasmless, Dangerous Liaisons, married, not pregnant. I’m with you.

Fader: So someone was like, “Wait, you’ve never had an orgasm?” That question sank in my head for a year. It became more apparent in my life. My friends started to make a big deal of it and it became a constant topic of conversation. “Hmm, Jane’s never had an orgasm.” My best friend just took me out to buy a vibrator. It took a while — but I had an orgasm.

MT: Is that a right of passage of some sort, the going to buy your first vibrator? Like when a young rocker’s first guitar or a budding stoner’s first bong?

Fader: You know what? I guess it is, she just took someone else last week. It totally was for me.

MT: You had a revelation of, literally, orgasmic proportions?

Fader: For sure! I got really into orgasms. I started thinking about where my thoughts on orgasms came from, researching how they’re represented in film, just digging through books. One day I came across an article about female ejaculation, and it came with explicit instructions; pictures and everything. I read it and couldn’t comprehend. I thought I was reading about orgasms. I had never heard of female ejaculation and here was this 20-page history of it, from Aristotle all the way up.

MT: Female ejaculation from Aristotle to where?

Fader: Toronto. I went online right away and looked up the author of the article and found that she was a professor at York University and gave these talks. So I drove up to Toronto and went to one of her workshops and, well, that entire semester it was all I could write about. I went on to write my thesis on it and then continued from there into my doctorate program. It wasn’t that I was fascinated by female ejaculation, it was more about how I was thinking about this new knowledge. Here existed something hadn’t even existed as something I could choose to want to know or not want to know about. You gotta wonder how many things there are that exist but that your mind just cannot fathom. Like walking into a room and seeing your husband fucking someone and you’re just shocked because you could never even want to fathom what that might look like. I’m guessing it’s something like that. It just wasn’t available to me. That’s why I kept returning to it.

MT: With all of this examination and consideration of female ejaculation, what were you trying to get at?

Fader: I don’t know — I still don’t know.

MT: Yet this is obviously your life’s work.

Fader: I think so. I’ve never ejaculated. [Scientifically, she thinks any woman can, she just hasn't so far.] There’s just so many more layers to unwrap yet.

MT: So part of your study is personal. There’s the science that amazes, and the action that evades?

Fader: It’s like, “Whoa, my body has the ability to do something nobody ever told me it could do. And I wanna know what it can do.” Then there’s just the relationship to the knowledge. We know men ejaculate and that there’s evidence of their pleasure that is measurable. Female sexual pleasure has always been held up as some great world mystery, beyond comprehension, and rarely addressed directly, as if it were godlike. It’s unexplainable, no one knows shit about it right? I mean, I was climaxing but I wasn’t orgasming and I didn’t know the difference. There’s such a difference.

MT: So, at one point you were engaged to be married …

Fader: That was before I had an orgasm …

MT: And the two are implicitly related?

Fader: Yeah, probably. My interest in learning about my sexuality changed. When I was engaged, I really didn’t think much about myself. I didn’t think much about him, either, to be honest. I was focused on going to school, taking 19 credits a semester and working 30 hours a week. Especially since I hadn’t really enjoyed it, I wasn’t thinking about what sexuality meant to me. I didn’t really have girlfriends to explain to me all that I was missing. And going to school the way I was just wasn’t good for a relationship.

MT: Let’s talk about porn. People look at porn and believe that what they see on screen is what sex should look like. But that’s not true. Especially in mainstream porn, where people engage in sex in positions that benefit the viewers more so than they do the doers.

Fader: And now a lot of the mass-produced porn just mimics amateur porn. Just take the P.O.V. (point-of-view) shot. I just started writing a blog about this, about the reverse cowgirl position. We don’t have sex, we have porn these days. The idea of the reverse cowgirl position becoming a sexual norm, as normal as missionary even, provides maximum visibility at the expense of comfort, convenience and, for me, pleasure. It’s performative for no one unless you’re having sex for someone, in front of someone. You’re displaying everything for someone who is watching. Sure, it might be in the Kama Sutra, but I just don’t know. And it’s a standard now.

MT: I’m curious to hear what you learned about lust.

Fader: The history of the concept of lust seems to exist in a confusion of whether it’s excessive sexuality or excessive love. Aristotle defined lust as excessive love. But it became a sin to love anything more than you’d love god. Throughout the writings on lust, many write about lack of self-control. One philosopher, Schopenhauer, thought that an ideal person, without lust, is a perfectly and completely productive industrial worker.? But there’s no question that, across the board, lust is thought of as a very strong, powerful, and mysterious emotion.

MT: How do you define lust?

Fader: I like the idea of lust being a strong emotional force that is spurred from physical, sexual arousal. Emotions coming from sex. The Judeo-Christian thing is that first you have emotions, then you have sex. I like the idea that sex breeds the emotion of lust.

MT: How does lust work its way into the female orgasm? I’ve heard that to be achieved, it requires great concentration — something a woman mentally works toward. On the other hand, I’ve heard it described as a great release, a “letting go.” The later seeming more in-tune with lust.

Fader: There definitely are those two schools. There’s the idea that if you’re uptight and can’t surrender, you wont have an orgasm. Then there’s the feminist stance of, well, “taking back the orgasm.” I don’t think those two ideas have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they come to work together. Lust is active. Not, like, push-out female ejaculation active, but that it involves an active concentration to let go. One of the examples I heard recently at a sex and intimacy workshop I liked that best illustrates the idea is this: Can you just relax your anus? Can you really do that, right now? Your butt muscle? That’s a deliberate letting go. That said, no one’s ever given me an orgasm. I’ve never, as they say, surrendered.

MT: You don’t like that using the word surrender at all though, do you?

Fader: No one’s ever made me come. I’d rather just say that. And making someone cum is a nice thing to do for someone. I mean, I don’t call it “surrendering” when a guy’s fucking my mouth. I don’t tell him, “surrender to me.”

MT: Seeing has how your somewhat of a social media pro, I’m curious how you see the cyber sex chat room and instant message phenomenon of the 1990s juxtaposed with today’s Facebook and Twitter platforms.

Fader: Well they sure make obsessing a whole lot easier, don’t they? They make it easier to maybe temporarily fulfill fantasies on a superficial level. Give me a little more info, then a little bit more, where are you now, what photo of you is that, where was it taken? Facebook is lustful in that it’s excessive. In a way I really like, maybe it can expand the possibilities for what can turn you on. There’s sustained eroticism in the constant non-contact. Dirty sexting is the same thing.

MT: Is naughty text messages and Facebook flirting sex or or foreplay?

Fader: Depends on your definition of sex, I suppose. If only penile-vaginal penetration is ex then, well, Clinton’s off the hook! All of these things have to be laid out, but the bigger point is that sex is harder and harder to define. Blowjobs? Are blow jobs sex? Sexting? I don’t know. I guess I’m traditional in that penetration is my definition of what sex is. And then there’s anal?? I mean, if I had anal sex I would consider it losing my virginity but I wouldn’t consider it sex. From my own experience, Facebook’s only been a medium of embarrassment. The issue of relationship status — man, that’s a huge thing. Writing on someone’s wall, it’s apparent only sometimes whether there’s something sexual going on between two people. Liking each other’s comments is cute and a bit much.

MT: What about Twitter, does it lend itself to lusty endeavors?

Fader: It’s all about the seedy underworld of direct messaging, baby. Oh my god. I’ve challenged people to draw pictures of what they believe the underworld of Twitter direct messaging looks like. No one has taken me up on it. What about Skype? I find Skype to be very erotic. I just found a picture of myself taken while I was talking to my boyfriend when I was in Paris. It was a really intense photo screen capture. There’s this look in my eyes. We weren’t doing anything sexual, but the look in the photo tells a different story. Skyping is something I find people do in private. I never had any erotic exchanges on MySpace.

MT: And on the topic of erotic exchanges, let’s talk about Teledildonics.

Fader: Yes, lets! Have you ever read Howard Rheingold’s Teledildonics? It’s a beautiful and short essay from a 1991 issue of Mondo Magazine in which he kind of contextualizes the relationships between sex, technology, contemporary culture and social media. I was assigned to research teledildonics in a class on cyber culture. It was a theory-heavy class and Rheingold is a social theorist who was the first person to use the term teledildonics. He’s just a really brilliant guy who lectures at U.C.-Berkeley. Unlike female ejaculation, sex with robots was not unimaginable or inconceivable me. Discovering that Detroit used to be a leading logging boomtown in the nation was, however, like learning about female ejaculation. Detroit’s logging industry is to female ejaculation what the auto industry is to orgasm.

MT: You’ve been tracking sex and sexuality for a year on your website and have studied various realms of the subject for consecutive years prior. What’ve you learned about yourself?

Fader: That I’m rebellious, and that I like to be rebellious. I go against the grain. Let’s say I like to have sex in the missionary position. Is that because I’m enjoying my own oppression in a position that’s more pleasing for the man, because I want him to be pleased? And if I do enjoy that, should I rebel from that because I’m naturally inclined to do so? And If I know I’m naturally inclined to be rebellious, should I rebel against that? Or should I be bad then, and allow myself to be put in missionary position and get that double pleasure from being bad in the sense that I’m going against myself? It’s this whole post-feminist stuff. Would I be betraying? myself to not get spanked because getting spanked is not feminist? What if I like it?

MT: So there’s an internal battle between submitting to feminism or submitting to lust?

Fader: Yes, politics and pleasure pull at each other but I know that my politics do not align with my pleasure. And why should it, really? Why do I have to politicize my pleasure? If I’m a feminist in the bedroom, does that make me politically active? There’s no place for feminist politics when my mouth is being fucked. I’m not out to fight for wages or battle pro-lifers. If I masturbate and talk about it in stupid YouTube videos, does that make me a feminist? If so, is that something I even want?

Fader’s articles, ideas, projects and sex toy review videos can be found at janefader.com. All photos are from The Jane Show by Jef Bourgeau; detroitmona.com.