The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Consensual acts

How far do we sanction acts between consenting adults and at what point, if any, should legislation kick in to outlaw certain acts? The BDSM community’s general mantra is ‘safe, sane and consensual’, but who decides what’s ‘sane’ or not? If I ask another person to kick and punch me, brand me, put needles through my nipples, cut me until I bleed, those acts may well be considered crazy by others who will accuse me of harbouring self-hatred and unresolved issues. Transsexual people who undergo sex/gender reassignment surgery are still accused by some sectors of society, from Christian fundamentalists to feminists, of being mentally unbalanced by wanting their ‘healthy’ bodies ‘mutilated’. Then there’s amputeeism – the desire by a person to have one or more of their limbs surgically removed.

Let’s go a step further. Consensual euthanasia of a sick and physically suffering person aside, do we have the moral right to kill another person if they ask us to? And do we have the right to eat their dead body afterwards, if they ask us to? These were among the issues that came up when German Arwin Meiwes advertised on a cannibal forum for a willing partner who would agree to be killed, cut up and eaten. He got a reply from a man, Bernd-Jurgen Brandes, who was looking for someone to cut off his dick, eat it, then him.In what is arguably a match made in heaven, they got together, the act was carried out, with both men eating said penis, which was sautéed in salt, pepper and garlic. Meiwes ate the rest of Brandes over a few months, was convicted of manslaughter, then at a retrial with murder, and remains in jail. The story is the basis for the film Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story, which makes its Australian debut during Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival. It is a rather grim story, with the filmmakers attempting to provide an ‘explanation’ of why these two men were drawn to commit what is seen by many people as a heinous act. But, while it’s an intriguing dramatisation of the events, it doesn’t really offer any take on the question I posed at the beginning of this blog.

Ironically, as someone who hasn’t consumed any mammalian flesh for nearly 30 years for ethical reasons, I’m probably less grossed out by this consensual cannibalism than most. Quite frankly I’d prefer to see slaughterhouse workers in jail than Arwin Meiwes. He’s not your average murderer – consent was so important to him that when a previous ‘victim’ apparently ducked out at the last minute, he let him go. The same ‘mentally ill’ arguments that have been thrown at the BDSM community and trans people are being used to portray Meiwes as a murderous monster and Brandes as a victim overwhelmed with self-hatred and unresolved issues. So, in the interests of personal freedom and choice, I’m making a line of ‘Free Armin Meiwes’ T-shirts. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be allowed to sell them at the Mardi Gras Fair Day.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Too sensitive?

There’s no doubt that GLBT people deserve equal rights and the right to expect not to be bashed for who we are, but are we being too sensitive in crying ‘homophobia’ when straight people don’t publicly embrace our lifestyle?

An article on AfterEllen.com cites various TV and film actresses who’ve played lesbian and bisexual characters and their responses to press questions about what it was like to kiss or engage in simulated sex scenes with another woman. Julianne Moore, who kissed Toni Colette’s character in The Hours, told Barbara Walters: “Toni is so pretty, and her skin was so soft, and she smelled so nice. And there wasn’t any issue. It felt very comfortable and non-threatening.” Rock chick Alanis Morissette joined in the accolades for lesbian love when she told TV Guide that her kiss with co-star Roma Maffia on Nip/Tuck was “so natural” and “there was nothing uncomfortable about it”.

It’s a great strategy – the actor is seen as ‘cool’ for being so open-minded and picks up a host of new lesbian fans. But what about anyone who dares to voice a non-positive opinion about same-sex pashing? Jake Gyllenhaal felt the sharp end of openly gay actor Sir Ian McKellen’s tongue when he confessed that Brokeback Mountain was one of the most “terrifying” jobs he’d done because it involved kissing a man. More recently, British lesbian magazine Diva reported that Rebecca Atkinson found her lesbian sex scenes with co-star Lindsey Dawson in the TV series Shameless “disturbing”. Atkinson said: “It was in no sense enjoyable, and Lindsey got very embarrassed doing the scene with me.”

Maybe it is deep-seated internalised homophobia in these people which raises the ire of the GLBT community. Or maybe we’re just overreacting. Gyllenhaal didn’t say he found gays disgusting, or call his co-star a faggot like Isaiah Washington of Grey’s Anatomy did recently, outing T.R. Knight into the bargain; he said he was scared. McKellen said Gyllenhaal’s comments would be like McKellen saying the most appalling thing he’d done in his career was kiss Helen Mirren.

Actors have to do many things that push them outside their comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean they’re obliged to enjoy them. And that includes kissing someone you’re not attracted to. Maybe Atkinson has some unresolved issues around her sexuality. Maybe she’s a ‘prude’, ‘close-minded’ or a homophobic fundamentalist Christian. Or maybe she simply doesn’t like kissing girls and, instead of trotting out the politically correct response of her peers, was just being honest enough to say so. I’d be delighted to kiss Helen Mirren (although preferably not when she’s in character as Queen Elizabeth II) but not everyone would, including that old poof Sir Ian, who isn’t going to convince anyone that a bit of tongue action with the Prime Suspect actress was the most exciting thing he’s ever done. Conversely I’d be terrified at the prospect of pashing Tom Cruise. That doesn’t automatically make me heterophobic. Heck, I’d find it equally disturbing to have to get it on with Renee Zellweger.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Zero tolerance

In many parts of the world, Christians dislike Jews and Muslims. Muslims dislike Jews and Christians. And Jews dislike Christians and Muslims. Such is the level of their hatred for one another in some places that they employ suicide bombers to carry out violent attacks, decimating cities and lives. World leaders have tried for decades to mediate, preach tolerance and avoid bloodshed. Most of their methods have failed miserably, but there’s one thing guaranteed to unite the most fundamentalist members of these religions; one thing to get them to sit down at a table and agree with each other; one thing to bring them out onto the streets protesting and marching together, and that is homosexuality.

It happened in Poland, Russia and Israel last year as local GLBT groups attempted to organise gay pride celebrations, and more recently in the UK when the shocking announcement was made that new legislation would be passed to ensure that people could not be refused services on the grounds of their sexuality. These radical and ‘out there’ laws mean that businesses and organisations will be unable to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality. Jeez, whatever next? Protestors (hardline, fundamentalist Christians, Muslims and Jews) claim the rules will force them to promote gay rights in contradiction to their teachings and could persecute those who ‘disapprove’ of homosexuality on moral grounds.

I can quite understand their outrage and totally see their point, because the same legislation last year gave full legal protection against discrimination to people of faith. This is a real pain in the arse because where does it leave those of us who ‘disapprove’ of organised religion and the acts carried out in its name? Such as the setting-up of fake abortion clinics by Christian extremists who use them to terrorise vulnerable women into keeping an unwanted child. Or the gang rape of a woman, Mukhtar Mai, as ordered by a Muslim tribal council in Pakistan as punishment for an alleged honour crime committed by her 12-year-old brother, who was also beaten and sodomised by the four men (told in her own words in a moving and inspiring new book In the Name of Honour).

No, the kind of legislation that makes it illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexuality, race, gender, disability or religion is not to be encouraged. Because if discrimination is outlawed, it could lead to all sorts of detrimental effects on society. People could become more tolerant and learn to live in harmony. One country would negotiate with another to try to strike an oil deal instead of using war to get it. Shit, fights over oil could even become a thing of the past as world leaders embrace environmentally-friendly fuel! Incidences of rape and sexual violence would plummet, and we’d eventually all start to get along so well together that there would no longer be a need for separate spaces. The gay nightclub would be over. Fuck that. We need more scapegoats to victimise. I nominate the Buddhists and Hare Krishnas – they don’t get nearly enough bad press.