Tag Archives: art

Weaving Sexts: Tapestry Artist Threads an Honest Portrait of Female Sexuality

Since approximately 300 BC, tapestries have been revered for their places on walls around the world, but their ancient history and ability to last for centuries doesn’t intimidate Erin M. Riley. For the past few years, Riley has investigated internet culture through the historic art of weaving. Using her own nude selfies, fan-submitted images, and internet porn, Riley has created a series of tapestries that redefine the artform completely. In a world where Snapchat nudes disappear in seconds, Riley documents vulnerable modern moments with a medium that lasts.

In depicting her own body and sexuality, Riley has learned a lot about feminism, herself, and the internet. Her work is exceptionally honest in its portrayal of female sexuality and the cultural obsession with images of the self. Riley’s new series, 18/bi/f/ma, opened last week at Brilliant Champions Gallery.

The collection, her largest yet—some tapestries are as large as 8′ x 8’—depicts important and traumatic moments from Riley’s personal life and deals with the artist’s battle with trichotillomania, a compulsion for pulling out one’s own hair. The Creators Project talked to Riley about growing up on the internet, weaving fans’ selfies, and how her art helped her learn to embrace her own body.

4am Hookup Prep. 

The Creators Project: You basically grew up on the internet, but you work in a millenniums-old medium. Can you tell me about that tension, and how you found your process while growing up?

Erin M. Riley: I spent a lot of time in chat rooms, socializing, but I was pretty solitary and I was also a maker. I was sewing from around age eight and working with beading and collage. I found weaving in college, so, pretty late.

How did you decide to incorporate the internet in your work?

I started using images of my childhood—35 millimeter photographs, basically. But then I was observing how life unfolded online and I came across this video of this person dying in a car accident. I realized that all these onlookers [were] recording the scene and no one was actually engaging and helping. The screen created this barrier that made people forget that they were human. It started to fascinate me how we feel freer to say things or to show things on the internet that we aren’t as comfortable doing in real life.

Why did you choose tapestry and not, for example, photography?

I found myself obsessing over every image I ever sent and received. They were all very precious to me and I always treasured the power or the significance of being sent an image, either a nude or just a passing memory of someone, especially because I didn’t grow up with iPhones. I grew up [when] you couldn’t send pictures easily, so it was always cool to get a photo. Weaving is really slow, and I wanted to commemorate images that I felt connected to.

Black Toys

When fans send you images online, how do their stories inspire you?

They always have this level of like excitement and empowerment. I try to anonymize the image. I change the background, maybe the hair, to make them more universal. But they’re excited, maybe a little bit turned on or titillated by the idea. Sending an image to me turns it into art rather than sexual harassment. It’s awesome to be sent an image that someone wants to share.

How did your relationship to your work or to your body change when you started weaving your own nudes?

It’s definitely made it easier to look at my body because I’ve spent hundreds of hours weaving [it], my tattoos, and everything. It’s made it easier to accept it and to embrace it.

The Beginning

Can you tell me the story behind the piece 4am Hookup Prep?

I have always been, I don’t know if promiscuous is the right word, but constantly texting multiple people at a time, especially at that time. That particular night, I was texting and getting ready to leave, and had to shave my legs and cut myself really bad. I kind of came out of the frenzy of hormones and excitement and realizeed I’m a person and I have to be careful.

If you could have a dream guest on a discussion panel, who would you choose? Which artists have particularly influenced this show?

There was recently an article with Marilyn Minter and Betty Tompkins talking about working with the body and sex and the art world’s response to it. I think those would be dream people to have around. I’d also like the younger generation, people like Petra Collins. This younger generation is using their bodies so freely. [They] grew up really embracing themselves in a different way than I did. I’m curious if that has to do with the fact that they had the internet from the beginning.

What’s next for you?

Right now i’m working on more self-portraits. I’m trying to be more painterly with my work, like more gestural. Sometimes I use flat planes of color and I want to make it more juicy or messier, which is technically hard. And I’m continuing my porn series that I’ve been doing for a while.

 

By Francesca Caposella

Japanese artist Rokudenashiko on sexuality, obscenity and jail time

Rokudenashiko is a Japanese artist who followed her muse into legal and social strife, all documented in her newly translated graphic novel, What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good For Nothing Artist and Her Pussy.

Yes, Rokudenashiko (real name Megumi Igarashi) makes what can be politely called “vagina art,” while her moniker for it in Japanese (manko art) packs a more titillating punch due to the use of a highly colloquial, somewhat profane word for female genitalia. And then there’s the matter of the art itself, which involves creating moulds of her own vulva to make cutesy phone covers, a chandelier and, most famously, a working kayak. In case it needs saying, the representation and reproduction of her own private parts is a clear transgression in Japanese society of what is socially acceptable.

‘My body is not an obscenity’: Japanese creator of vagina art speaks out (The Globe and Mail)

Turns out it is legally unacceptable, too. In July, 2014, Rokudenashiko’s home was raided by police. She was arrested and jailed a week for violating obscenity laws, which do not clearly define what is considered obscene.

In May, 2016, a Japanese court found her innocent on charges of obscenity but guilty of distributing digital data of indecent material (the result of e-mailing 3-D images of her own vulva). She plans to appeal.

In photos and in person, Rokudenashiko portrays a vivid, cartoonish Japanese schoolgirl image, flashing V signs and always, always a sunny smile. But her chirpy image seems to contrast the deep artistic temerity it takes to challenge a world that places great value in protecting gender behavioural norms. And this juxtaposition challenges our Western assumptions of what a strong artist, and person, looks like.

What Is Obscenity documents a stripped-down self-reflection of thoughts so private that it’s many times more revealing than a straight-up likeness of what’s in our pants. And in telling her tale of creating manko art, and going to jail for it, she charts the social cost of challenging the deep taboo of our own most private places.

Rokudenashiko was in Toronto recently for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. The interview was translated by American writer and editor Anne Ishii, who translated and co-edited the English version of Rokudenashiko’s book.

From what I’ve read, you first approached your manko art with lightness, like it was a joke. After everything you’ve been through, what’s your relationship with your manko art now?

I did actually start this work with a lightness because it was something I thought would be fun. Going with the flow and going with what I felt like doing. The very first iterations of my manko art, I’d show to my close friends and they would be like, “What is this plaster, weird, decoupage stuff?” and I would say, “It’s my pussy.” And everybody was like, “What?” Shocked but also delighted. And my friend who is a writer said I should post it online. That’s how you will get more work as a mangaka [a professional cartoonist]. But soon as I posted it, I just got so much negative feedback. I was bullied by a lot of people.

There was so much bashing and it was precisely because I was being antagonized that I needed to make more art. I thought, this seems ridiculous. Why is the word manko so contentious? Then I was doing more work online and I was just bashed more and it levelled off every time, the seriousness of the antagonism and the seriousness of my work. So it did become serious. And the last stage of this is the police arresting me, of course, which was very serious, but I actually think it couldn’t not become serious because it inspired so much hate and negative reaction, especially from older men. Older men would come to these shows sometimes and expect erotic vagina art, and then be really disappointed, like, “What is this?” It’s this, whatever this is. So yeah, I had no choice but for it to become a serious thing.

Previous to starting on this whole manko odyssey, did you identify as feminist?

No, I didn’t identify as feminist per se. But, starting manko art, I was married at the time and I did notice in the process of getting married and how that changed my relationship to the world as a wife versus as a woman. It became obvious to me that there’s a huge gender discrimination going on. Now if I were drunk in public, my husband would get flak for it, like, “Why is your wife drunk in public?” Whereas if a guy gets really rambunctious, you would just talk to the guy or not at all. That’s just one really clear example where a woman isn’t allowed to be out there and be obnoxious and drunk or whatever but men are allowed to do that and it’s their privilege and for us it’s an onus. So I noticed there was an imbalance of appreciation that women are being objectified by men. It was this lens of marriage that called it to my attention.

Considering all the bullying and bashing, as your comics were unfolding in Japan, how did you feel about doing it all over again in English?

I’m just so used to being bashed at this point.

In the book, you talk about your fury and depression but in any photo I see of you, you look so carefree, lively and happy. Do you ever show your anger in public?

I got pretty nasty when I was in prison. I was not smiling.

I think that the fact that all of this stems from the word “pussy” is completely ridiculous and it makes me laugh every time. And then I get mad but then I remember and I laugh all over again. It’s just so stupid.

I mean, these are policemen and they’re losing their shit over manko. It’s like, are you serious? There are so many other problems going on and this is what you’re losing your head over?

Do you think you and your critics exist in a symbiotic opposition?

Yeah, absolutely. You needed the bashing for the art to get better and the art to make them angry, gives them something to do. But I absolutely agree, the anger is really the seed of a lot of this work.

Where in the world have you been where you felt like the reception to your art was different from the Japanese reception to your art?

Before I was arrested, there was a Dutch TV program that interviewed me and they expressed interest really early on so that was kind of cool, but then again, the show was like, “Check out these weird people from around the world doing weird things,” so the approach was already a little bit funny. But then I did hear a lot of reaction from people in the international community after the arrest. “You’re being arrested for what? For this? That’s what’s causing a scandal?” So that sort of incredulity from the rest of the world has been super-enlightening. I feel like the international community takes my art seriously. They say, “Oh yeah, that’s feminist art.” Like, duh. Whereas in Japan, it’s still considered gross or weird or funny at best. People don’t take it seriously, no matter how hard I try to explain what it is and my mission. They can’t get past, “This is gross.”

By Hannah Sung

Ten Years Later: Moore & Gebbie Exposed the Sexuality of Literary Heroines in Lost Girls

Depending on where in the world you’re sitting as you read this, it may not be legally advisable to purchase Lost Girls, Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s massive erotic upending of the leading ladies from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. First published in its entirety by Top Shelf ten years ago this summer and set in 1913 during the tumultuous days leading up to the first World War (Archduke Franz Ferdinand meets his end while the protagonists fondle one another in the audience of a play), Lost Girls is undeniably pornography: in form, in potential function and in Moore’s own words.

Lost Girls single volume edition cover.jpg

It is very nearly every kind of pornography, too. A handsome man first seduces a young American girl (Dorothy, formerly of Kansas) who indulges his shoe fetish before anally penetrating the older, apparently heteroflexible husband of a repressed Wendy, terribly far from her teenage Neverland. A silver-haired Alice rediscovers Wonderland as she lays a sprightly young maid with the assistance of a porcelain dildo. In one of many asides from the primary plot, a family of four engages in every conceivable combination of incest, son and daughter clearly below the teenage threshold. Most of the book, in fact, challenges obscenity laws and definitions of child pornography. Preteen brothers explore their sexuality, a young street urchin turns tricks to survive and Alice falls prey to the manipulations of a predatory white rabbit. To remove any ambiguity in the minds of those who have yet to read the book, Gebbie draws every adolescent sex act in full detail, often in lush crayon. Lost Girls does not allude and suggest when it comes to its XXX-rated content.

The length of the story—over 300 pages—allows Moore and Gebbie to touch on budding sexuality in nearly every permutation. Alice, whose founding novel was frequently interpreted to represent emerging womanhood long before Moore and Gebbie serialized Lost Girls in the pages of Steve Bissette’s appropriately named Taboo anthology, suffers the most in transition from Lewis Carroll’s frabjous source material. Her awakening is a forced one, coerced into sex with an older man when she is only 14. Her Wonderland, the topsy-turvy, otherworldly dimension that has made untold millions for Disney throughout the decades, is her way of escaping reality during these repeated violations.

LostGirls_1.jpg
Lost Girls Interior Art by Melinda Gebbie

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies Dorothy Gale, corn-fed farmgirl from the Heartland. Dorothy’s first orgasm comes when a tornado ravages her homestead, and her journey through “Oz” is a succession of sexual encounters with willing farmhands. The Wizard’s revelation here is less Emerald City than Flowers in the Attic.

The grown protagonist of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Wendy Darling is stuck somewhere in the middle of these extremes. The green-clad eternal boy of Wendy’s story sneaks into her window one evening and brings her to a life-changing climax while her two preteen brothers watch on, hands moving furiously under their nightgowns. What follows for Wendy is a period of free love quickly crushed by guilt and loss of innocence as a hook-handed man pursues the youths around the Darlings’ upscale home. Rather than cope with her rollercoaster feelings toward sex, Wendy marries an older man for whom she feels no sexual attraction. Their most passionate sex scene in the book takes place entirely without their involvement, as the pair performs mundane tasks that cast fireside shadows posed in carnal positions.

These three women, all of whom titillate each other multiple times throughout the course of the book, find comfort in relaying their tales to one another while sleeping under the same roof in a hotel. It’s not a stretch for readers to connect the dots between erotic encounters and source material, but each story culminates in a splash page that steps out of the tale’s reality to illustrate the allusions of the founding stories. On these pages, Gebbie becomes perhaps the first and only person in the world to draw a great pink vaginal alligator or a clitoral caterpillar awash in opium smoke.

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Lost Girls Interior Art by Melinda Gebbie

Moore, the scribe behind such comic benchmarks Watchmen and V for Vendetta, approaches the story as seriously as any of his now-canonized works. The structure is precise and unyielding, the themes multilayered and interconnected and the three primary protagonists as compelling and complicated as any he’s ever crafted. The complexity of the literary references within—yes, to the famous texts, but also to Victorian pornographers and obscure erotica artists of the era—rival anything in his more action-packed League of Extraordinary Gentleman. The seemingly disparate works are really kissing cousins: imagine League as Spider-Man and Lost Girls as a preteen Peter Parker screwing a giant symbolic spider and you have a good idea of how the books reflect each other.

Still, Lost Girls is Gebbie’s book. No stranger to controversy—her explicit small-press comicFresca Zizis was banned in the United Kingdom during the Thatcher years—Gebbie brings colorful, sweaty, sticky life to Moore’s perversity. Her characters are not the chiseled Grecian gods of typical superhero beat-em-ups, but the soft, hairy, slippery renditions of all-too-real people. It falls on Gebbie’s able shoulders to frankly portray incest, pederasty and metaphorical bestiality in an arousing light. Sex is not incidental to Lost Girls; Lost Girls is sex, and Gebbie renders sex in all of its clunky glory.

It’s also been ten years since a well-meaning Borders employer tried to convince this writer’s father not to buy the slipcased tome for his 16-year-old son. In a starred review for Publishers Weekly, Moore’s literary peer Neil Gaiman that, for all of Moore and Gebbie’s high-faluting ideas about elevating porn, Lost Girls is not a “one-handed read.” To a teenager, that’s a challenge easily met. But in a book so suffuse with sex, it’s easy to get lost in the onslaught of imagery. What you’re left with after the wash of bodies fade is compelling historical-fiction pornography that prompts the reader to question all assumptions about decency and depiction of sexuality.

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Lost Girls Interior Art by Melinda Gebbie

Less clear is the lasting impact of Lost Girls on the wider comic scene. Independent and underground cartoonists like Phoebe Gloeckner explored uncomfortable sexual topics long before Moore and Gebbie portrayed Wendy manually stimulating the Lost Boys. Anime and manga—and the Japanese government—still frequently wrestle with the legality and morality of depicting underage characters in explicitly sexual situations. Moore has come under increased scrutiny for misogyny and sexual violence in his work, as books like Watchmen and The Killing Joke have resurged in popularity, but his place among the all-time greats of the medium has never been in jeopardy.

Tens of thousands of copies later, it’s difficult to draw a direct line from Lost Girls to any work of similar importance and visibility. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga perhaps comes closest, repeatedly confronting the reader with frankly depicted sex scenes and nudity alongside its shocking violence and deeply-affecting personal drama. The book touches on sexual exploitation of minors with the introduction of six-year-old Sophie on the pleasure planet, Sextillion, although there’s no question that she was being abused and her captors meet a swift and brutal end at the hands of bounty hunter, The Will. The war that serves as a backdrop for the series is highly fictional, not historical, but there’s a similar sense of blissful numbness to shock the fifth, tenth, fifteenth time Staples draws a scrotum, even if a few scenes got the book briefly banned from digital distributors.

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Lost Girls Interior Art by Melinda Gebbie

The legacy of pan-queerness advocated by Lost Girls is also murky. There is little hesitation by most characters in the book to move fluidly from opposite-sex to same-sex encounters and back again. Indeed, it is Alice, abused by men at a young age, who sticks most ardently to female partners while nearly everyone else cavorts freely. Books like Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’sThe Wicked + The Divine promote similarly uncomplicated fluidity, and even all-ages smash hitLumberjanes advances a world where neat categories and well-defined labels are largely unnecessary—although heaven help the journalist who draws anything but the faintest connection between Lost Girls and Lumberjanes.

It seems that Lost Girls largely succeeds as and in its intended category: pornography. Like late-night Xtube explorations, it’s not likely to come up in polite conversation even as thousands of eyes peruse and digest its curves and crevices. After a decade in print, Lost Girls is still “barely legal,” and its legacy, not unlike Moore’s work on more publicly lauded comics, remains largely untouched by probing hands.

 

By Steve Foxe

Ballpoint Pen Drawings Explore The ‘Ren & Stimpy’ Side Of Erotica

Allow me to set a scene. You and a very special someone (or two, or three!) are hot for each other. You’re giving off the vibes, feeling the heat, getting all the tingles in all the places. Things get physical and the world fades out of focus. Limbs become entwined, bodies melt into one another. All the sudden, your eyeballs are bulging out of your head, you’ve sprouted a beak and your tongue is the size of a fruit rollup. Did I lose you?

Guadalajara, Mexico-based artist Mario Maple creates detailed ink drawings of erotic rendezvous so hardcore they induce literal metamorphosis. The series is titled “Canícula” — loosely translated to “heatwave” in Spanish, referencing the hottest summer days of the year. “I’m exploring ideas of sexuality, erotism and human behavior,” Maplé explained to The Huffington Post. “How we transform, morph and dissolve into hybrids.”

In Maplé’s sexually heightened states, humans can mutate into something animalistic, cartoonish and grotesque. The images imagine the most bizarre aspects of the intimate practices most often “hidden in the dark of a motel room, a club or our own bedrooms.”

“I started drawing [when] I was a little kid, it’s hard to remember a time of my life without drawing,” Maplé told The Huffington Post. But it wasn’t until high school when he began to develop a style of his own. “I started to draw characters that weren’t people nor monsters but something in between.” He then moved beyond doodling in notebooks to experimenting with posters, stickers and mural painting.

Growing up, Maplé was inspired by cartoon classics like “Looney Tunes,” “The Simpsons,” “Ren & Stimpy” and “Spongebob Squarepants.” Cartoonist John Kricfalusi, he said, is still one of his biggest inspirations today. As a teenager, Maplé also incorporated the imagery of skate culture into his aesthetic, spending hours poring over the Thrasher magazines his dad would bring from Mexico to the U.S.

As Maplé reached adulthood, he found another source of inspiration: porn. Erotica, magazines and movies worked too. “I like a position that seems kind of sculptural, acrobatic or full of tensions,” he said.

To create a piece, Maplé begins with a graphite rough sketch, first carefully composing the relationship between the figures. Then he adds the details inspired by animals, cartoons, monsters and whatever else, turning the figures into category-jamming creatures. He then begins the inking process which, using a ballpoint pen, is an incredibly slow and painstaking process. “Most of the time it looks and feels like you’re not actually drawing, since the tones might not be recognized at first, but layer after layer, shapes and volumes start to take its place.”

The resulting images are both magnetic and off-putting, as intimate and alien as sex itself. “I’m interested in keeping that link with realism and photography, to provoke a feeling of shock in the viewer, a space between beauty and discomfort.”

By Priscilla Frank

Have you explored sexual well-being travel?

Among the various travel trends that are predicted to rule 2016, sexual well-being resorts are in the forefront.

While wellness is something that most people would focus on this year, sexual well-being becomes an increasingly popular part of vacations and spa treatments for most couples around the world. This could be for reasons like — ignite the fire again, address sexual dysfunction or to explore individual sexuality, without inhibitions. Here’s a lowdown on what you could expect at one of these resorts, or the planned retreats that happen at some of the most sensuous and picturesque locations around the world.

Activities at a sexual well-being resort Sex talk

This is for those couples who are shy and do not feel comfortable talking about sex — be it talking about their sensitive parts or some of their most intimate desires. The activities will encourage them to indulge in talking about their likes and dislikes when it comes to lovemaking. Through active sex talk, this activity is aimed at helping them know each other’s body well and deepen their sexual and emotional connections.

Perfecting the art

There are activities that would help you learn the art of starting a kickass lovemaking session. While men would learn how to reciprocate a sexual action and find ways to help the women feel at ease, women are taught to perfect the art of striptease with a burlesque dance instructor. In fact, there are sessions that also indulge couples to feel body positive around each other, and learn to touch each other at pulse points to ignite arousal.

Massage therapies

Couple massages are a must for most couples, when it comes to leisure travel. It is also an important element of sexual wellness — deep penetrating strokes and pleasurable touches relieve stress as well as releases several pleasure hormones. Massages are a great way to heat up foreplay and boost your sex drive. In fact, most of these sessions allow the couple to indulge in self massage, there are instructors who guide them stroke by stroke to learn effective sequences that could help better their experience. Starting with foot and hand massages to relieve stress, and proceeding to a deep back and shoulder massage for ultimate relaxation and finally the secret butt massage for profound pleasure and incredible arousal.

Overcoming issues

These sessions involve talkers and healers who help couples get over their sexuality issues. Similarly, they also have detailed sessions with experts who advice on therapeutic solutions to the several sexual dysfunctions faced by couples. Most of these therapies are Ayurvedic and based on various tantras of Yoga, which help in their healing.

Kundalini Tantra Yoga

One of the most widely practised form of Yoga, Kundalini Tantra Yoga has a detoxifying effect on the body and mind. It involves a unique set of postures and dynamic breathing along with a serpent-like movement of the spine and pelvis. “The movements make the body enter a meditative space where the body and mind easily surrender blockages and tensions. Tantra is the balancing and union of polarities within the mind and body. And, it is this intimacy and union with the self that allows one to be more intimate with others, which is why it is a great way to ignite the fire within,” adds Kushal Chandra, a yoga practitioner.

Types of sex retreats that one could opt for

All these retreats are hosted at some of the most picturesque locales around the world. The ambiance plays a pivotal role here.

For modest couples

This is for those couples who are reserved and do not wish to disclose their sexual inhibitions to others. Every session has four to six couples who face similar sexual issues that they wish to address. There is no nudity or touch involved in this retreat, however there are homework assignments that need to practised in the privacy of their hotel rooms.

For those looking to revive passion

This retreat is usually for those couples who have been together for a while and find the intimacy missing. With the help of sexologists and motivational speakers, these couples try to identify the reasons that have damaged their intimacy. The sessions include activities based on touch, expression and rituals that are designed to arouse intimacy and to achieve a more connected sexual relationship.

 

By  Srishti Ghosh Shinde

This state-of-the-art Japanese condom was named the best at the ‘Oscars for porn’

Earlier this month, The Adult Video Network (AVN) Awards hosted a three-day pornography extravaganza that celebrates the industry’s top talent and coolest innovations. It’s like CES meets the Oscars.

Among the eye-popping awards categories was one for the best condom manufacturer. A 2012 ballot measure in Los Angeles County, California — where a vast majority of US porn is made — requires adult actors to wear condoms on-camera. So, who better to judge?

Japanese company Kimono won, toppling big name brands like Durex and Trojan. Trojan has won the category since the award show started in 2014.

For more than 25 years, Kimono has been producing its “MicroThin” condoms, which the company claims are the thinnest on the market. They’re supposed to slip on and feel invisible without sacrificing strength or reliability, according to the website.

“I don’t know why this condom has not caught on in [the] mainstream market,” one Amazon customer wrote in a review of the award-winning product, “because it should. I’ve used Trojan, Durex, and a bunch of other brands before, but this is the thinnest and feels the best.”

“Not one has broken on me,” another Amazon customer wrote, adding that the brand boosts his sense of safety and securitykimono condom

Kimono condoms are made with an au naturale latex extracted from rubber trees and a “brand-secret chemical compound,” and tested individually for quality before leaving the factory. A machine sends an electric current through the condom to identify weak spots and “microscopic pinholes,” so the unreliable ones get trashed.

Kimono explains additional testing procedures on its website, including a water burst test and a stretch test. Though it’s unclear how many or how often its products are subjected to these assessments, and whether or not tests are ever conducted by a third-party.

The brand came out of Sagami Rubber Industries, Japan’s original and now second largest condom supplier, more than two decades ago.

While Durex and Trojan are more well known manufacturers, their condoms aren’t necessarily better.

Moulds are dipped into latex to make condoms at Malaysia's Karex condom factory in Pontian, 320 km (200 miles) southeast of Kuala Lumpur, November 7, 2012.  REUTERS/Bazuki MuhammadThomson ReutersMolds are dipped into latex to make condoms at Malaysia’s Karex condom factory.

Chrissy Feine, a registered nurse and former director of Semcac Family Planning Clinic, explained in a 2013 video posted to the clinic’s YouTube channel that they stock little-known brands like Kimono because it’s one of the highest consumer-rated brands available.

“The reason why you haven’t heard of a lot of the names [we stock] is because their marketing is more so for public health use and what we do,” says Feine, adding that Trojan and Durex spend their ad dollars on consumer-facing marketing.

For wearers, sensitivity is a deciding factor in choosing a brand. Kimono’s thinness delivers an unrivaled sensation, according to more customer reviews.

“These are the next best thing to feeling naked,” one Amazon customer wrote, adding that Trojan Ultra Thin condoms were “no comparison.”

The Kimono MicroThin Plus Aqua Lube, the company’s thinnest condom, feels “barely there” at just 0.044 millimeters thick. According to the website, Trojan’s Ultra Thin Lubricated and Durex’s Extra Sensitive condoms come in 18% and 23% thicker, respectively, which may contribute to less sensitive experiences.

But not everyone was pleased with Kimono’s sheer design. Many online reviews we spotted claim Kimono condoms run small and may break if you’re blessed in girth. The company’s top sellers stretch between 4.05 and 4.10 inches in circumference, whereas the popular Trojan Bareskin goes up to 4.22 inches.

Still, if thinness is your top criteria, the Kimono might be the rubber for you. It’s at least a porn industry favorite.

 

By Melia Robinson

What It’s Really Like to Be a Burlesque Dancer

There’s more to burlesque than nipple tassels and Dita Von Teese. In this week’s Sex Talk Realness, Cosmopolitan.com speaks to burlesque performers Bunny Buxom,Creatrix Tiara, Lucky Charming and Iris Explosion about performance, body positivity, and what really makes someone sexy.

How old are you?

Bunny: Twenty-four.
Creatrix: Twenty-nine.
Lucky: Twenty-eight.
Iris: Twenty-seven.

How long have you been doing burlesque?


Bunny: Three years.
Tiara: I did it actively for about five years. Now I’ve moved into performance art and the production side of things.
Lucky: Three years.
Iris: Four and a half years.

What made you want to try it?


Bunny: Early in my college years, I started fantasizing about being a strip club stripper, but knew I would never be comfortable with the physical aspect of some clubs or full nudity. Around the same time, I fell in love with pinup culture and photography, which lead me to Dita Von Teese. Once I found out what burlesque was through researching her, I was dying to try it. I just had to wait until I turned 21 first!

Tiara: It was a combination of a few factors: I was cast in The Vagina Monologues as the dominatrix and, not really having any clue what dominatrices do, I thought a burlesque class would help out. I also had been thinking about it for some time and wanted to do something a little bit “naughty.” Little did I know what sort of roller coaster I’d be thrown into!

Lucky: I’ve been an actor for most of my life, and toward the end of college, I realized that more and more of the shows I was doing involved less and less clothing. I’ve always been pretty comfortable with my body, and when I saw that Chris Harder was offering a Boylesque 101 class, I figured I should give it a shot.

Iris: The short story is that I graduated from college with a BFA in theater, discovered how much life as a professional actor sucked, and realized taking off my clothes for fun and profit was a lot more rewarding.

Do you perform professionally or just for fun?

Bunny: Professionally, though it is amazingly fun.

Tiara: Semi-professionally.

Lucky: Definitely professionally, but it’s always fun. Burlesque is not my main source of income by any means, but I still consider it a job.

Iris: Both! If it weren’t fun, it wouldn’t be worth doing, but it’s a business too. If you’re stripping for a room full of cheering people, you absolutely deserve to get paid, no matter your experience or commitment level.

And what do you do for work when you’re not doing burlesque?


Bunny: I work part-time as a barista.

Tiara: Right now, I’m looking for work. I mostly freelance — in writing, digital media, creative production. I’ve also done after-school tutoring and other education-related work.

Lucky: I work in a sex toy shop.

Iris: I’m a sex educator.

How did you feel the first time you tried burlesque?


Bunny: Excited! I went to the New York School of Burlesque to learn the basics, and from there created an act for the student showcase. In class, I was in awe of headmistress Jo Weldon for her magnetism and confidence. I wanted to be like that. I remember noticing that burlesque was much harder than it looked and realizing that there was so much more to it than just taking clothes off. It really is an art.

Tiara: Before: “Hmm, I wonder what this is all about…” During and after: “OMG, THIS IS SO FUN, I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT.” I do remember waking up the next day after my first class and being surprised that it is possible for boobs to be sore.

Lucky: I was in a workshop with a bunch of other guys. I was nervous, but most of all, I think I just felt like a big dork.

Iris: Excited! It was a long-time dream, and I was well prepared after taking classes with the New York School of Burlesque. It was great to finally achieve that goal! A lot of close friends attended my first show, and it was so nice to have them cheering me on and giving me big hugs once the show was over.

What about the first time you performed on stage?

Bunny: I was super nervous before hitting the stage. I wanted to be good, and I was scared to do something I’d never done before, but the nerves were good because it told me how much I already cared about something I was only just starting. Onstage, I felt at home. I was energized and confident. I felt sexy, playful, fierce, and in control. It was just right. That feeling lasted for a couple hours after I left the stage, but then it was replaced by an intense desire to do it again, to make more acts, to do more shows. So that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Lucky: I can’t recall ever being more terrified than I was right before my first strip. But as soon as I got up there and heard the audience cheering, I was instantly high. Afterward, I could barely talk. All I could say was, “…Wow.”

Iris: At that point in time, I was already an experienced stage performer, so I felt pretty comfortable in what I was doing, even if it was in a new skill set. More than anything else, I loved the opportunity to create my own unique piece of theater, with complete creative freedom.

What’s the secret to being a good burlesque dancer?


Bunny: In my opinion, there are a few staples of a good performer, but they’re no secret. Passion, commitment, drive, practice, continuously learning, and confidence.

Tiara: People have different definitions of “good” when it comes to burlesque. Some people are all about movement and body — whether you are really strong with dance, or you look good. Others care about the costuming and the glamour you exude. For me, I’m all about the story and the message. I kind of see burlesque as a live-action music video, in a way, with a huge history of political satire. The pieces that stick with me are the ones that are raw and honest and creative, whether or not there’s any actual dancing: The experience is stunning and memorable, with strong commentary.

Lucky: I think what’s most important is knowing what your face and body can do, and emphasizing that to your audience. Know yourself, love yourself, and show yourself.

Iris: Confidence in yourself. Not just confidence in your body, but in your creative visions and personal sense of style.

How has doing burlesque influenced how you see your body?

Bunny: Doing burlesque has definitely had a positive effect on my body image. I’ve always enjoyed my body, but as a woman, I’ve been bombarded with advertisements and popular media telling me how I “should” look my entire life and have gone through various stages of insecurities. Burlesque has opened my eyes to what people look like when they’re not photoshopped and has helped me to accept and be proud of every bit of me: my freckles, stretch marks, cellulite, etc. Burlesque has also helped me experience what my body can do. I love that I can accentuate different body parts with different costume pieces and how different my body can look from dressed and undressed. Versatility is really fun to experiment with.

Tiara: Burlesque was the start of me really getting in touch with my body and my sexuality in ways that I hadn’t done before. I used to be the type of person who would be happy as a brain in a jar and was very disconnected from my body — mostly because the only physical things that were prized growing up were athleticism or mainstream beauty, and I have neither. I did get a lot of backlash from other performers and trolls in general about how I was too ugly/hairy/knock-kneed/fat/brown/etc. to do burlesque. That just spurred me on to be more radically body-positive, to fight back against notions of there being One Good Burlesque Body, that people have to look a certain way to be qualified to go onstage.

Lucky: While I still struggle with body image, burlesque has definitely helped me embrace what I’ve got. Being a gay man, I still feel a ton of pressure to be ripped and muscled, but through my performances, I’ve learned that there are still a ton of people [who] have the hots for the little guys.

Iris: Let me put it this way: When people will pay for a ticket to see your cellulite, and cheer uproariously for a peek at your stretch marks, you tend to feel a whole lot better about your body as it is.

 

Bunny: My partner is incredibly supportive of me. He listens to my new act ideas and watches my choreography and gives me feedback. He often runs sound when I produce shows and proofreads my copy. He helps me whenever I need it and is my cheerleader when I can’t be. He’s in nightlife showbiz too, so we’ve even collaborated to make duets in each other’s chosen art. My previous partner was with me when I started doing burlesque, but we broke up shortly after my debut. He was excited for me to try something new, and he was proud of me for taking a chance. We remain good friends, and he comes to a lot of my shows.
Tiara: They’ve been cool with it! They’ve come to my shows and I often deploy them as my videographers, haha.
Lucky: I’ve been single for the vast majority of my burlesque career, and didn’t even have to think about that until about a year ago. At this point, it’s a major part of my identity, and if you aren’t super turned on watching me take my clothes off on stage, you definitely shouldn’t be dating me.
Iris: All of them have been very supportive. I think they enjoy that I get to be an audience’s object of desire, but they get to go home with me when the show’s over. They did have to get used to all the glitter they’d inevitably be covered in.

What about your friends and family?

Bunny: My mom is actually my namesake! She was a Playboy Bunny, and when I named myself, it was as an homage to her. Needless to say, she has always been incredibly supportive. She’s helped me sew and make many of my costumes, and she comes to all the shows she can. When my grandma is in town, she comes too! My sisters are supportive and think it’s really cool. We’re a very performance-geared family, so we all seemed to find our own scene. My dad likes the business aspect of it, like the production and self-promotion. I thought he would mind more about the nudity of it, but he doesn’t! They’re all happy that I’m happy and that I’ve found my calling.
Tiara: A lot of my friends are either involved with burlesque or know people who are, so they’ve generally been supportive if not outright fans. If they’re not OK with it, we probably aren’t friends anymore! My family, on the other hand, are hard to crack. They think I’m prostituting or selling my body or something, and have really given me a lot of grief about it. Even people I thought would be more allied have not been supportive. We don’t talk about it — best not to stir up more trouble.
Lucky: My friends have been super encouraging from the get-go. My parents aren’t surprised by much that I do these days.
Iris: None of my friends were particularly surprised that I chose this avenue of expression; I’ve always been a bit of an exhibitionist. My family took a bit of time to come around, but now they’re my biggest fans! My parents and both my grandmas have seen me perform, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by a proud and supportive family.

Who is the typical person who comes to watch your shows?

Bunny: People looking for a good time! I would say equal gender balance, with a large age range, pretty much 21 and up. There are so many fans of burlesque that are regulars at shows, and it’s always a pleasure to see repeat patrons. There’s usually a bachelorette/bachelor/birthday party or two in the house. Sometimes it’s people who had no idea what they were walking into, and it’s always rewarding to watch someone experience burlesque for the first time.
Tiara: The audiences are really diverse, but lately I’ve been focusing my energy on events that are catered toward queer, people of color, and/or feminist audiences and causes.
Lucky: It depends on where I’m performing, but I get all walks of life in my audiences.
Iris: The audiences are usually an even split between men and women in their 20s and 30s. We get a lot of couples on dates, and if it’s a show themed after a movie, TV show, or video game, a lot of enthusiastic fans. Those shows are always my favorites.

What has burlesque taught you about sexiness?

Bunny: It’s relative. You don’t have to be the popular media’s interpretation of conventional sexy to be sexy. Sexy is a mindset. It’s not a look; it’s a feeling and a confidence that can be applied to pretty much any other mood. I love displaying sexy in ways that aren’t expected, in acts that are funny or creepy. Burlesque has taught me to present sexy in different ways and thus change the commonly displayed version of sexy. My sexy is body-positive, so in addition to doing a creepy/funny/sexy act, I’ll shake my breasts, shake my butt, and shake my belly. Breasts are sexy, butts are sexy, bellies are sexy too, all sizes and shapes of them.
Tiara: The best kind of sexiness is the silly, funny, and the not-so-secretly deeply political kind.
Lucky: Everyone’s got it. It may look a little different here or there, but it’s not as hard to come by as most people think.
Iris: Sexiness isn’t something you try and exert on other people. Sexiness is something you cultivate, and when you trust yourself to just be sexy, then people will come to you.

What should people know before they try burlesque?

Bunny: It’s even more fun than it looks. It has the ability to help you get to know yourself in ways you didn’t think, and it can help to heal your relationship with your body if you have a negative self-image. It’s a powerful, empowering, and fun way to express yourself.
Tiara: There’s a lot of burlesque out there — not everyone has to copy Dita von Teese! People tend to downplay the non-“classic” burlesque (even in the industry) and assume that burlesque is just sequins and feathers. And that’s great, but that’s reductive. So if you don’t want to do the pretty dance but want to do something more grotesque, great! If you do want to do pretty dances, go for it! If you want to put on troll horns and gray paint and swing to Parov Stelar’s Catgroove, awesome! The sky’s the limit — don’t let people tell you otherwise. But for the love of god, please watch the cutural appropriation .
Lucky: What their finest features are and how to accentuate them.
Iris: Don’t be afraid to look silly, don’t be afraid to stand out, and know that the glitter will cling to you for the rest of your life.

 

By Rachel Hills