I have had a lot of conversations with people lately about body image and work. My public image and my work is largely based around sex and sexuality. My stand-up comedy has a lot – and I mean A LOT – of jokes about sex. I do burlesque and get naked in front of 100’s of people. I write about sex. The assumption is that I am really comfortable in my body and super confident.
The truth is, I do not love my body. I do not love the way I look. I am uncomfortable being seen as “sexy.” Weird. I know. It doesn’t make sense to people when they see me on stage.
What people relay to me that the see is confidence in my body. What they miss is that I like to diffuse thoughts of me being “sexy” with humor or by assuming the role of “expert.” I don’t do elegant, sexy strip teases. Last month I came out with giant missiles on my tits and danced around to a Weird Al Yankovic song. This month I did Hedwig – partly because I adore the character, partly because she is far from elegant or “sexy.”
In my stand-up, I talk a lot about sex, but it is generally making fun of the absurdities of modern mating. I joke about being sex positive and liking sex, but it is largely self-deprecatory humor. I am comfortable in a corset and heels on stage in part because I know that my size and age eliminates the possibility that most men in the audience see me as a sex object.
Sex and sexuality has a weird power in the United States. I know affecting the whole “Domme” look gives me power in public. When I used to do legislative testimony, I always wore a pencil skirt, high collared silk blouse, jacket and stilettos. I knew walking out to the floor dressed like this snapped the attention to me. It subtly communicated “I am in control. I am the expert.”
Sex can also be threatening. I have always drawn attention in public. By virtue of being six feet tall and having large breasts, I have always drawn more attention that I am comfortable with. Years ago, I learned to block out the looks people give me. I can now navigate through a crowd and completely miss most of the attention I get. I have learned to do this because acknowledging the looks I get becomes overwhelming and sometimes threatening.
I know I still attract attention in public because when I am out with other people they comment on the number of looks that I get. I honestly don’t see them anymore. It makes me feel safer to some extent to think that I can pass somewhere unnoticed. I know intellectually that is probably not true, but not seeing the looks makes me feel safe enough to be in public.
So, why do what I do if I don’t want to be a “sex symbol?”I do it partly because I have something to say about sex and sexuality. I find these things to be core to the human experience and I think much of what is out there is simply wrong and perverse. Second, dick jokes are funny. Actually, dicks are just funny. Finally, it is what I am drawn too. I am comfortable striping on stage because I can’t see the audience with the lights. I also know I am not the pretty girl or the sexy girl in the troupe, so I know those feelings are on other women and not me.
I think it is great that there are women who feel confident and sexy in their bodies and like that attention. I sometimes wish I could be. Then there is that moment when someone I don’t know looks at me and hits on me and it freaks me out.