Sex not Porn
“Sex is too important to leave in the hands of pornographers”
The Artist in His Own Words
Liberation, Emancipation and My 40 Year Struggle against Sex- Negativity
In 1972 I was a small, skinny little seven-year-old boy in Trinidad. I loved it. I don’t remember having toys, but I do vividly remember playing with insects and lizards and climbing trees to pick fruit and running around naked as much as I could. They had to spank me to get me to wear clothes. They also tried to spank me into getting my hair cut, but I refused and leaving me with long braids. We didn’t have running water, so when it would rain, people of all ages would run into the middle of the street nude and have a free shower. We had to wear uniforms for school, and I seem to recall at least one occasion where I ditched my uniform on the way to school and showed up naked. It was my one and only time receiving the strap; I was still crying as they sent me to find where I had ditched my clothes.
I played doctor in my grandmother’s chicken coop to neighborhood girls. I guess I must have thought I was a gynecologist because I mostly examined their privates. Next door to us lived a Hindu family, and they had a 10-year-old daughter who i used to meet at the chain-link fence that separated us. She used to tell me to stick my little penis through the fence so she could do things to it, and I happily complied. I had no idea I was doing anything wrong until my grandmother caught us. I’ll never forget the horrified, angry look on her face and how bad the punishment was. When my Mom found out I got an even bigger spanking from her. As dazed and very confused as I was, I cannot even imagine what the girl’s family must have done to her, but I certainly never saw her again.
Co-incidentally or not, I was soon on a plane to Canada and quickly learned that the children didn’t run around naked and it wasn’t until five years later that I was able to see genitalia again.
My Mom was a disco queen complete with big afro, halter tops, short shorts and platform shoes. She looked like Donna Summer and could dance way better. My Mom had a copy of the “Joy of Sex” in her bedroom, which I quickly found and devoured. There was no Carnival in Canada and it was definitely a less sexy place than where I had come from- but it was the 70s so it wasn’t so bad- Black beauty and Black power were in vogue. Black women and men were reclaiming their self-esteem and rejecting the European programming that had told us for so long that we were ugly, stupid sluts. It was a good time, but my party didn’t last long.
My mother found Jesus!
It was a disaster for me. No more sexy books, no more disco music, no more parties. They forced us to go to church for six hours every Sunday- and two nights a week as well. We were told were we going to hell for even thinking about sex. They made us feel guilty and ashamed all the time. And oh, the hypocrisy! The same church ladies that were admonishing us about the evils of premarital sex would eventually almost all show up at church mysteriously pregnant- none of them wed. The same choir leader who was held up as a role model for us to follow, molested me and many others. Most kids I knew in various churches were molested at one point or another by a church-going adult.
I finally escaped from church and that sex-negative culture when I was 18 and could flee across country to go to art school where I had thought I had escaped sex-negativity- but if you think most artists are sexually liberated, you’d be dead wrong. Artists are from the same homes and the same culture as everyone else. Most of the people in my school were from conservative upper middle-class families. I got into a 45 minute screaming match with my photography professor in front of my shocked classmates because I shot a nude for an assignment. My Marxist-Leninist professor told me that the only legitimate forms of photography were street photography and landscape photography, and everything else was crap. He also said that whenever a man photographed a woman, it was always exploitative and always wrong. I told him he was an ego-maniac that used our time and money to mold us into his own image. I ended up leaving art school two semesters before finishing my degree- I couldn’t take it anymore. As a parting gesture to my professors I went and did the unthinkable- I became a fashion photographer!
It was 1990. I was in Miami Beach at the beginning of a five year creative tsunami there. I was surrounded by gay culture, sex culture, and lots of vanity. I had never seen so much nudity and so many beautiful bodies. It was a photographic orgy, and I quickly became a very good photographer thanks to all that color and beautiful light. Miami set me free.
When I tired of fashion, I started doing nudes of Black women and Black men. It was never easy, there was always a lot of fear and rejection, but at least there was an opening and I took it. When galleries were afraid to show my work, I organized my own gallery shows, 14 of them. Book publishers were afraid or uninterested in publishing me and it took 11 years, but I finally had my first book published in 2005. All along that road there were constant battles with the sex-negatives- death threats from jealous husbands, people spreading false rumors about my project, my Mom didn’t go to my gallery show in my hometown of Toronto, etc. My first wife divorced me because of my work. But my love of the work itself kept me going and still keeps me going. I also saw Black women in their 50s and 60s come to my shows and cry and say they had never known how beautiful they were until they saw my work. I saw the same women return again and again to my shows, bringing their daughters and granddaughters.
It’s all about love and fear. If you fear sex and nudity more than you love sex and nudity, then that closes you down instead of opening you up. It helps create a culture where we celebrate death and violence and we literally demonize sex and nudity. So my struggle against sex-negativity continues with my current sex projects.
Being sex-negative is just as ignorant as being a racist or homophobic. There can be no true freedom without the freedom of sexual expression. Sex isn’t some dirty, shameful thing to be confined to the shadows, or worse, exploited and grossly misrepresented by the porn industry.
Sex is life, sex is wonderful, sex is terrible, sex is messy, sex is fun, sex is powerful, sex is beautiful.
Sex is too important to leave in the hands of pornographers.
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