The concept behind the new photography exhibit at ActivistArtistA in Boynton Beach, which opened this past Friday night, hits close to home — hell, it even has journalist in its title. The exhibition is called “Journalist/Voyeur: The Work of Jonathan Dvoretz and Michael Herb,” and it runs through April. (Note: I haven’t checked it out yet, but I plan to. And although the exhibition is likely more PG than my current lifestyle — and what follows in this column — its premise remains relevant.)
The exhibit doesn’t resonate only because of my chosen profession. Yes, journalists are voyeurs. We get to witness firsthand some real strange shit, and we never have to admit that we chose to write about it because we wanted a closer look at something odd or taboo. We’re on the job, we tell ourselves. But it’s not just journalists. We’re all voyeurs. Counter to popular belief, voyeurism isn’t limited to watching a sexual act. If you’ve ever tuned in to and enjoyed CSI, Survivor, Law and Order: SVU, or The Real World, you’ve got some voyeuristic tendencies. Watching the intricacies of a murder case or sex between strangers or drama between roommates gives us a peek into lives not our own. Take Alfred Hitchcock’s opinion on the subject: “I’ll bet you that nine out of 10 people, if they see a woman across the courtyard undressing for bed, or even a man puttering around in his room, will stay and look; no one turns away and says, ‘It’s none of my business.’ They could pull down their blinds, but they never do; they stand there and look out.”
At a recent edition of the indie-rock club Green Room’s Black Friday, the weekly event that transforms the space into a fetish-themed dance party, entertainers Skin Mechanic Suspension put on a show for the BDSM crowd. (That’s Bondage/Discipline/Sadomasochism for all you prudish types.) The night provided a clean break from the usual hipster worship on Thursdays and Saturdays.
I followed my typical Friday routine: grab a drink, scour the crowd for freaky outfits and hot dance partners, dance to Sisters of Mercy (with or without hot partner). But it was the guy hanging above the stage by two hooks who caught my eye. (Not my typical boy toy du jour, mind you.) The hooks pierced the flesh on his upper shoulder blades and stretched the skin into two shark fins.
It was the night before St. Patty’s Day, so it made sense the performer was dressed as a leprechaun. Wearing green shorts and a top hat and sprouting an orange-red beard, he flew through the air suspended by cables, and danced a ballet of Irish stepdance instead of pirouettes, bucking instead of pliés. Two men, unhooked, joined him on stage. Together, they fought and moshed — like drunk Irishmen. They played tug of war. One guy who was unhooked ran off the stage with a pot of gold.
I couldn’t stop staring at this (ostensibly) helpless leprechaun-man being pulled around by his skin. He had no control: destined for wherever his comrade controlling the cables sent him. The skin on his upper back stretched upwards — it looked like beige leather — as he moved all over the stage. His skin never ripped, not even when a burly man hugged him, forming a two-person cannonball in the air. The leprechaun was thin, and his skin could handle double the weight. After the show, while the leprechaun was getting unhooked, one of my dancing partners, vixen Nexy, said: “I don’t think it was a skit.”
The leprechaun had undressed and was now just a regular Black Friday attendee, sitting at the table by the back bar. I asked Casey Baldwin, a member of the industrial EBM band Cyanide Regime, how he felt about the show. He said it was, “very festive in the Irish tradition of suspension.”
Richard Vergez, of moody instrumental duo Mothersky, wasn’t impressed. “It was stupid,” he said. “It reminded me of Broadway, and I hate Broadway.”
I, on the other hand, was completely fascinated — though it should be noted there will be many, many baby steps before I embrace anything close to full suspension.
In fact, I’ve been fascinated with this community for a while now. I checked out my first fetish party last year. The reason I felt comfortable doing so, though, was because I could hide behind the fact that I was on assignment. I was playing journalist, but really I was just a voyeur. I had given the assignment to myself, after all. But no one had to know that.
I met fetishists, one of whom liked getting beaten by a dominatrix until he bled. He invited me to watch a session one night and I agreed. I wanted to watch. I wanted to see how he enjoyed that. What did that say about me? I had no idea.
To be clear, this isn’t a scene from Fight Club, a large group of men in an underground parking lot beating each other. Here, the aggressor is a sexy dom, and you’re in her dungeon. The sub is not fighting back. A trained dom knows exactly where and how to hit her client so there will be no permanent damage.
The planned session fell through, so I don’t know how I would’ve felt watching the pleasure/abuse in person. The most uncomfortable part of my research of people with fetishes came when I watched two female 18-year-olds play with each other while they put on a webcam show one Saturday; not because it was so bizarre, but because it was irredeemably dull and such a cliché. We were in a male stranger’s bedroom. I had met them all for the first time at his apartment an hour or two before. When the dominatrix went to take off her dress, I instinctively turned around to give her privacy. The middle-aged man, who was there as a slave, grabbed my shoulder and turned me back around. “No,” he said. “This is why you’re here. You’re a voyeur.” Reality. Check.
Watching the two young, young adults play with ball gags, dildos, and whips didn’t keep my attention. Aside from the slave, my fellow voyeur, there was nothing odd here, nothing stretching my imagination. At one point the dom handed me her flogger. I obliged; I flogged both girls briefly out of, well, courtesy.
I turned back to the slave to make things interesting and said, “I don’t understand why you’re not watching this from your cage.” Off he went into the small enclosure, a square cage made up of metal bars in his bedroom. He barely squeezed in there. I looked back, and the dom was putting on a strap-on while her pet was tied up on the bed. I became momentarily confused. The dom had told me earlier that she couldn’t have sex with her pet, because said pet had her period.
Instead, she strutted over to the cage and said, “Suck it, bitch,” to the slave and thrusted the strap-on between the bars of the cage and straight into his mouth. Suddenly, I was intrigued; this guy is straight. She banged the side of the cage, and he sucked the fake cock. He deep-throated it like it was his only source of oxygen after a nuclear explosion. Earlier that evening, he had told me that every guy has thought about fellatio, and any guy who denies it is lying. He said it would be unnatural for a guy to have never thought about it. But he was not gay. Moreover, the dom had told me that there is no more powerful feeling in the world than fucking a guy with a strap-on.
The dom tied a leash around the slave’s neck. She did not put a collar on him first. She yanked the leash forward hard, and the dildo was again back in his mouth. “How does that feel?” she asked.
“Yuck,” he said.
“You like it, don’t lie,” she said.
“Goddess, that hurts. There is no collar, so you’re strangling me.”
I felt bad for him when the dom and her pet pulled his shorts down to his knees and laughed hysterically at how small and flaccid his penis was. Their laughing got me to laugh. Since he enjoys humiliation, he supposedly enjoyed it. Whether that makes it okay (to laugh, that is) I’m not sure. But you would have laughed, too. And you would’ve kept watching, journalist or not.
– By Mickie Centrone