This Morning Waking. This morning waking, I will wake up, I will wake up, I will wake up, and it will be the clearest morning I have ever woken.
I have been repeating this mantra for 20 years. I have been repeating, and failing, and trying again, and waking up and waking more and waking better. I have been failing to be awake. I have been oppressing and being oppressed and perpetuating my oppression and perpetuating the oppression of others. I have been waking to the oppression and to the perpetuation of oppression and I am still waking and waking and waking again. And the mornings are never entirely clear but perhaps clearer than before, perhaps a series of “minor gestures” (a beautiful term coined by Erin Manning) of waking up.
And yet, though I wake and am waking, I understand that what it means for me to wake up is not what everyone would agree is waking up at all. I may, to others, still be sleeping. And whatever waking I am doing, whether one calls it waking or not, that waking creates wakes—wakes which may, but may not, feel at all good to others.
To this I can only say I am waking in the way that makes sense to me and is done with the intention of gathering knowledges for myself, which I can only hope will help me to begin to be a braver advocate, a better friend, a more compassionate stranger. I can only hope that my own personal changes may be an inspiration or an example, or a calling to others. I can’t tell someone else how to wake up—not tomorrow, anyway. Waking is a lifetime of mornings in which we begin by opening our eyes.
I have returned time and time again to the theme of rape in my work, to the theme of consenting or not consenting to sex, to the theme of how one assesses one’s own choice in the matter of their body and how that choice is adulterated by the paradigm within which one lives, one understands one’s self, the way in which the person is shaped by the pursuit of their own personal achievements of empowerment, their processes of waking.
In “This Morning Waking” I return to texts I wrote as I was first interrogating such issues: the naming and identification of an instance or instances of rape; the naming and identification of instances of non-consensual sexual encounters; the sensations of dis-empowerment; the embodied experiences of violation that I first experienced between ages 17 and 20. I return once again to writings and first “selfies” (though at the time I called them self-portraits) that I initiated as a young woman when I was trying to contextualize and understand what was happening to me as my body was being sexualized by others and by myself.
I return to the person that I was when I was first “coming out” as queer (though I understood it then as bisexual), as polyamorous (although I understood it then as non-monogamous); when I first was coming out as sex positive (which was then far more theoretical than physically manifested) and when I was first showing interest in experimenting with my body in the context of sex work. My desire was to challenge the internal writer writing about sex work and the internal academic theorizing about sex work, hoping to challenge those writers and academics outside myself as well. I knew then that I wanted a physical experience on stage, at work, and in the bedroom that would help me to “wake up”–wake up to understanding my own body through the body, to access knowledges located in the body and to see her/them in the larger context of what it means to be this body in the world—this particular body born with cunt that would grow breasts.
I did not know exactly in what way I wanted to pursue waking up. I felt shy about using words and who would hear me. My writings were personally revolutionary—huge steps of waking up. But returning to them now I wish I could have given myself more strength and courage to speak louder and more often. So I try to do that louder and more clearly, now.
It has been 25 years since my first sexual experiences and even more years of writing, processing and performing about how I feel as a sexual and sexualized body. And I am still waking, still in process, still becoming a sexual body, a sexually powerful body. As body and a/sexuality are intertwined, I might better say: I am still in process of becoming a body. I believe that I have come very far (or rather, if I were to subvert that linear paradigm of progress and improvement, I would say simply that I have journeyed for a very long time). And now I am here, a here which is both similar and different to where I was—to where we were, collectively—before. And perhaps I feel “more clear” than I remember feeling.
I return because part of the clarity, or the process of waking and clarifying, is a revolution, an endless revolving and returning to the first mornings of waking. Those first mornings were spent in confusion, in depression, in anger. What I might call these first mornings always call me back. They remind me of why and how deeply important sex is, and they also newly inform me and teach me that I was not alone at that time nor am I alone now.
They also remind me that I was living (and continue to live)—inside of a culture decorated by the iconography of rape and built by the “actual” perpetrators of rape, some of whom, since #metoo and #timesup, have been named and silenced. These accusations and adjudications have shown us (again, and not for the first time) that “our heroes” were in fact perpetuating “actual” rape during my most formative years (actual is in quotes since I still struggle to form a black and white border between rape and not-rape, between rapists and not-rapists).
I am both surprised and not surprised to find out who those people are, though it certainly has a way of being darkly validating. Funny – somehow – that I could perceive the micro-waves of their misogyny reverberate through the art they were producing, though I couldn’t quite place my finger on why or how or what any one particular person was actually doing. I could then, and can now, only speak of my own body, and perhaps a bit on behalf of those encounters experienced by close friends. But I struggled then, as I struggle now, to make direct links between the culture of rape, the iconography of rape, and how that culture and iconography makes its way into real, felt, physically manifested experiences of rape and misogyny which shape almost every day of all of our lives. And yes I mean ALL of our lives.
#metoo and #timesup has brought some of us to waking up about who and what particular perpetrators were doing. But of course my own #metoo movement started around 2000, when, though I wasn’t able to bring anyone to justice, I was beginning to find means of how I would name, contextualize, theorize and wake up to what I was feeling. And more importantly, how I would overcome those feelings of being silenced, shamed, violated. It may be worth stating, and a topic for much larger discussion, that I don’t believe that “criminal justice” would have been the right solution for most of the perpetrators of gender based violence(s) against me, nor healed me as a result. I would discover personal healing, however, as a writer, as a performer, as a sex worker, as a touch practitioner. This is the work I have been doing my whole career. Not just waking up to any one particular instance of misogyny or rape or perpetuation of violence but to an entire structure that consents to this (myself included) and figuring out how to process and transform this in artwork and workart.
This essay waking 9 September 2019, waking 11 September 2019, waking 11 December 2019. Berlin.