Saturday, December 16, 2006

Debby Doesn't Do It For Free Update

The Debbys performed our HoHoHo Whore Variety Show last Sunday, and I'm at a stage now where I can speak about it with any degree of persective. I'll briefly speak about the show itself, but I'd also like to reflect on some of my choices in relation to performance.

Most of the Debbys are involved with several other whore activist activities - plus sex work on top of all of that, plus our recent loss impacted on all of us, so the decision to do a variety show - involving the fabulously funny and sex positive Sex and Glita from Gurlesque, the very sexy, political and supportive Kitty Minge and out/proud/glam Team Princess - as guest artists was a profoundly good decision.

The night started of with a rousing sex worker Christmas carol, followed by a beautifully silly, tasteless and highly political Steve Irwin inspired piece *crikey!* Much thanks to Kooky Divine for the opportunity to be a bloodsucking sexual health nurse and wear my vinyl nursie uniform, vampire fangs and carry a bottle of Dettol. Kitty Minge followed with much flashing and sex worker relevent stand up. Debby Desiderata did a gorgeous dance piece including (in loving memory of Drag Debby) some fire. Team Princess explored the whore stigma and crucifixion.

After the break, we showed a DVD of Drag Debbys final performance, then Mr Big Pants and Ms Big Wig did another cynical piece about politicians then Ginger Snapps did a fan dance with dollars, Debby Jett performed I Love Hocking My Hole, Sex and Glita did The Telephone Man (Sex looks uncannily like some of my early street work clients for this piece - a bit disturbing, really) and the finally piece, involving Decriminalise Debby, Disorganised Debby and myself was Don't W.H.I.S.P.E.R., SHOUT!

We've previously done Don't W.H.I.S.P.E.R, SHOUT! for Gurlesque and personally, it's a really difficult piece for me to perform. I have many moments during rehersals and the actual performing of asking myself why I get people to do such terrible things to me on stage. How much I'm struggling with it is apparent for some of the audience - I've had two people who identify as subs at different times comment to me after seeing it that I'm definately not a sub.

I guess my approach to performing is a similar one to my general community education approach - get people to make a connection and identify with me in some way, so it's easier for them to 'experience' my experiences, and to see the world through my eyes for a short period of time. Most of my performance ideas are layered with theory, so getting people to make an emotional connection, and/or throwing some sexiness into the mix is a powerful way of encouraging an audience to hang in there for the ride. Embodying the whore (rather than being one of many flesh and blood whores) for people, then acting out experiences of oppression/ disenfranchisment/silencing/stigma/being the archetype for patriarchy/ sex negative feminists to play with when exploring their sexual neurosis - is a major function of my performance work. I hope that by embodying the archetype - by putting a face, brain and opinion to the nameless, faceless other, it allows the audience to explore what we do as a culture with that archetype (and the human beings that embody it). And if I'm obviously experiencing discomfort, I think that fits in perfectly.

Because I'm really wanting to connect emotionally with an audience and to present something with layers of sex radicalism/ critique of patriarchal religion/ queer theory - plus a bit of cultural studies thrown in to the mix, my performative style is often a tricky one. I'll often put my body through an ordeal, flirt with Catholic energy and offer myself as the not-so-virgin sacrifice. The discomfort and confusion that creates for some audience members is important. Confusion is often a powerful place from which growth and learning can come.

Some feedback from some sex worker audience members who know and like me is interesting - it is hard for them to see these things being done to me. I just know I need to do this. I need to comment on a culture that comments on me and my choices. I need to take for myself the right of reply. It is a healthier choice than sitting in my own anger and frustration.

I also love being very, very femme and very, very strong - even when I'm 'subbing' in some way or recieving penetration or sensation play, I like to use my voice, body language and point of view to express agency, autonomy, power. I like to offer alternatives to strict binaries. I love to queer the popular perception of femme. The overwhelming majority of the femmes I know are articulate, powerful and very political people. How the hell the opposite characteristics emerged as the femme stereotype, I'll never know. After all, it takes a powerful, grounded character to navagate life in stillettos.

I wanted to say thank you to the Debbys audience. Gorgeous, intellegent people who are willing to engage with bad karaoke, politics, cunts, drag, and whatever else occurs to us to present you with. In listening to the voices of whores you do more than the politicians, bureaucrats, academic feminists, mainstream media and often AIDS Councils.

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