Feature: Five Sex-Positive Artists We Love
By Cassandra Litten & Kyle Parker
Our goal with Slaughterhouse has always been simple -- to provide a platform for ourselves, our friends, and our peers to talk openly about what we love and our experiences. And when it comes to a topic like sex/sexuality, and the inescapable taboo, it would be irresponsible of us to stick to our formula of highlighting a single artist. This is something we want to be loud about.
So we reached out to people we follow on Instagram, and wound up with five individuals with varying perspectives to feature in The Spotlight. They are creative, intelligent, inspiring, and often make us reflect on our own perceptions of sex. We like them very much, and we hope you will, too.
After Guelmo Rosa left Brooklyn to return to his birthplace, Puerto Rico, at the age of 14, he began to understand the power of working with one’s hands, and carrying on the tradition of the women he grew up admiring.
Now back in Brooklyn, with a heart steadfastly belonging to Puerto Rico, Guelmo is a mixed media artist, working with wire sculptures, decorative homemade masks, self-portrait photography, makeup, and more. He seems to have his hands in a little bit of everything, and we are certainly not complaining.
Guelmo’s Instagram feed is an erotic treasure trove. It lately features his brass wire sculptures and cutouts, almost all of which are penises or men having sex. Uncut, cut, hard, flaccid, small, and large, there is absolutely no homogenization or discrimination. Guelmo’s dedication to his craft is obvious as you follow his work from his first wire sculpture to his most recent. Every new piece is a little more intricate than the last, and often more creative. Rather than sticking to one particular style, he experiments. Sometimes the pieces are solid brass silhouettes of bodies with the shape of a penis removed, brilliantly utilizing negative space. Most recently, he’s been teasing followers with photos of wearable jewelry (as opposed to his typical wall art creations), like penis-shaped earrings with a dangling piece of moonstone that creates the illusion of a cumshot. Playfully, he captions it with “...cumming real soon.”
Photos courtesy of Guelmo Rosa.
If you’re not already following Zoë Ligon, please pick up your phone and do so right now. Owner of Spectrum Boutique sex shop and self-proclaimed “Duchess Dildo”, Zoë celebrates sexual desire with transparency, posting photos of herself (frequently strategically nude to sneak by Instagram’s strict content policy guidelines) and her toys, creating a feed that is interesting, sexual, educational, and often very fucking funny. But she takes her role as educator seriously and acknowledges that talking about sex can be difficult. In a recent Instagram post promoting her talk with Explore More Summit (“Pleasure is Our Why: Mental Health and Pleasure, Sex Toys For the Win, and Creating Accessible Pleasure Products For Us All”), Zoë wrote, “You can know all the information about sex and even talk about sex for a living, and still have a difficult relationship with pleasure. I certainly do.”
An entrepreneur, an educator, a model, and a journalist, Zoë is also a collage artist. Her Big Cartel site features 66 original collages (some of which have been sold), one print, and Women with the Good Meat Removed, an art book of her work. The collages are almost all sexual in nature, but what’s most visually gripping is the way she cuts out her pieces. The outline of bodies remains, but the inside, the meat, is a patchwork of lines, almost geometric.
It’s Spectrum Boutique, the “sex-positive toy store” that first brought Zoë to our attention. Based out of Slaughterhouse’s hometown of Detroit, Spectrum does not mess around with their business. They are inclusive -- they proudly serve all identities, do not gender their products, and do not sort them into pre-designated categories (ie. “couples only”, “just for women”, etc.). In fact, Spectrum has only five sections on their website: Toys, Health, Gender, Books, and BDSM. Whatever you’re into, or interested in experimenting with, Spectrum probably has it.
Photographed by Elizabeth Renstrom, originally for Salty World.
Ev’Yan Whitney’s homepage is where she first challenges you. Just below the menu bar, is a photo of her lying on a bed, looking directly at the camera. Set over that photo, in white capitalized, italicized font that hovers just above her figure, is an explicit desire: I WANT YOU TO KNOW HOW EROTIC YOU ARE. And she truly means it.
The journey of wanting to help others began with the journey of wanting to help herself. You might imagine that someone who is a renowned sex educator, a Sexuality Doula ™, and creator of enormously popular self-love social media movements like the #SensualSelfieChallenge, has been that way her whole life. But much of Ev’Yan’s life was filled with shame. “My erotic desires felt like giant burdens on my shoulders, and my sexual expression was still very much entwined with oppressive beliefs generated from religion and learned self-censoring,” she says in the profoundly revealing “About” section of her website.
Ev’Yan has put in the work and offers us the fruits of her labor. If you’re looking for some inspiration, insight or valuable knowledge, it’s available in spades through her blog as well as her podcast, The Sexually Liberated Woman. And if you’re looking for a little more, you can hire Ev’Yan to guide you toward a better relationship with yourself, your body, and your desires. She offers a “three-month sexual liberation and healing intensive” that includes weekly one-on-one talks, support between sessions, personalized resources, “fun and playful assignments to get you to practice embodying sexual liberation”, and more. Not only will you be identifying your desires and reclaiming your erotic power, but you will likely also be working to resolve past traumatic experiences and deconstructing sex-negative beliefs that we’ve all grown up with. That kind of work requires a firm commitment and is not for someone looking for a quick solution.
Ev’Yan wants to know how erotic you are. Don’t you?
Photo courtesy of Ev’Yan Whitney.
Alexander Kain didn’t begin experimenting with cross stitch and embroidery until he moved from Milwaukee, his hometown, to Seattle in 2011. Finding himself a stranger in a strange city, he was in need of something to occupy the now-abundant amount of time on his hands. Four years later he was back in Milwaukee and, as so often happens with art, hobbies, and the like, his venture into embroidery led to taking on quilting and furthering his experimentations -- combining quilting, appliqué, and embroidery.
Crafts have always been popular. Look at any film starring Keira Knightley, and you’ll almost definitely find someone embroidering a delicate pattern, sitting rigid and proper on a sofa in the drawing room. And more recently, with embroidery in particular, popularity continues to grow. Embroidery hoops with clever sayings, memes, and pop culture references are being sold and posted on the Internet constantly. But Alexander’s work is a little different. When asked to describe his work, he said that he “[focuses] on small, everyday figures and scenes that showcase the simple beauty of average, mundane instances of self-intimacy.” Alexander’s craftsmanship fixates on the male form, often with highlights of gay eroticism. His style and attention to detail is stunning, and although he uses the same template in different pieces, no two designs are 100% alike.
Photos courtesy of Alexander Kain.
DJ and music producer DORION calls Pigalle, the “legendary sex district of Paris”, his home. A notoriously raunchy neighborhood in Paris, Pigalle has sex shops and theaters lining the streets and has played host to a variety of artists over the century. The Moulin Rouge cabaret and the Grand Guignol theatre are located there; Josephine Baker opened her own cabaret there in 1928, next to the home of French writer and poet, Andre Breton. So, it seems only fitting that Je T’aime Party exists here, too.
DORION had been looking for a new kind of party for a long time. Tired of the cold, unfeeling weekend-only vibes from dispassionate electronic crowds, he searched for something warmer, that celebrated love and togetherness on the dancefloor. Something welcoming to everyone. But he couldn’t find it.
When Sifu, the man in charge of Le Rouge Pigalle, a cabaret that has the look of a decrepit Baroque chapel, asked DORION if he would like to take over DJing on Thursdays, he had revelation: “If you’re unsatisfied with most parties in Paris, make your dream party yourself…”. The answer was a resounding oui.
He called on his friends and fellow performers/voguers (such as dancer Sam Quealy, drag queen Le Filip and analog photographer Madame Ette) to help him in making this dream a reality. And they did.
Each Thursday, Le Rouge Pigalle is host to Je T’aime Party, promoted through specially created, colorful posters by artist Lavinia Jullien. Every poster is different, created to highlight the performers who will be in attendance, all featuring DORION in the center.
Je T’aime Party fervently avoids the “coked out” vibe that so many other parties give off. It strives to be about “pure love [and] happiness on the dancefloor”, an “escape” from the harsh world around us, using a sincere celebration of art, individualism, and sexual freedom. DORION plays disco, “guilty pleasure” 90s dance, and “funk French” music from the early 2000s. It’s a night of people “dancing their asses off, kissing, hugging” and having an unabashedly good time.
DORION closed his email to us with this: “Je T’aime is a party where all love is welcome and accepted. We are here to spread love to all our guests, and guess what… love is sent [right back to] us. Amen.”
Photos courtesy of Nabil Elderkin and Shelby Duncan.