The model in the tower: image and consent in San Francisco

Exhibitionism.

This word hissed into my life with a chance, and I leapt at it. It represented something I hadn’t realised I’d been craving until I got to explore it. Then, I donned the title of ‘Exhibitionist’ like a scarlet cape, wrapping it around my shoulders, whipping it over my head, flirtatiously smiling as I passed it across my face.

I was good at it, and I was hunted for it. Rue99 was the “mack daddy of fet photography” (as one of his fans dubbed him) and he wanted me to be his muse for the weekend. No matter that I had only had two photo shoots in my life. No matter than I was as fresh as a (mt cook) daisy.

He picked me up from the youth hostel in San Francisco, and whisked me off to his spare condo in a gritty upmarket neighbourhood where I was to stay for the three days we had together. My middle-aged, Asian prince charming, armed with a camera and a nervous smile. He had the worst people skills of anyone I’ve ever met, but the intelligence, bluntness and intensity of a fast friend. We clicked quickly, and my appreciation for him grew after his embarrassed apology for a “very nice” comment when I stripped. He didn’t like to personally appraise his models. He didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable in any way. And, exhibitionist that I was becoming, I didn’t.

I danced naked in his condo, rolled in playful masturbation on his hardwood floors in the sun, snuggled my tummy into his white fur rug, lounged on silk while exploring my g-spot. He clicked away, snapshots. When he went home I ate almonds, played Drake obsessively, read Marquis de Sade (masturbated some more), practiced distracted yoga and preened myself. I was his model in a tower.

We met for a purpose, and on our second night together I was released from the tower. (I don’t entirely know why I’m writing it as if he was holding me captive. He really wasn’t, I could have left anytime I wanted to. In actual fact, I really enjoyed being in one place, having only one very large open plan room to process and live in for a couple of days. At that point I’d been on the road for over a month. My world needed to shrink for a while). We’d agreed that I was going to model for him at Masqerotica, a kinky ‘lifestyle’ expo in San Fran. “Lifestyle” is the key word, and in retrospect, I don’t know why I picked up on this earlier.

Let me back track for a second to how we met. He emailed me, with this:

I’m looking for a model for a photo shoot performance event for Masquerotica which will show the shots on a 20′ screen while posing for/with attendees. Last year’s was a huge amount of fun.

1. Twenty something years old (must be at least 21)

2. Reliable, energetic, fun, and being an exhibitionist doesn’t hurt

3. Nice figure/face

4. Two or three 30 minute modeling sessions from 9 pm to 1 am

5. No experience necessary

He had me at exhibitionist.

I asked him what I would be wearing?

You’ll be mostly naked. I can cut some duct tape for nips. Do you have a skimpy black/flesh thong for the bottom? Also, a sexy top is nice for an option.

Without baulking, I wrote back:

Everything sounds great! I have a light pink thong with a cute black ribbon- it’s basically flesh coloured. I also have a red one which I love! Duct tape is fine, but I’m happy with uncovered nipples, if that’s allowed. I’m comfortable with pretty much anything. I’m happy with touching, nudity, being manipulated into different positions.

It was a done deal.

San Francisco’s Premier Annual Lifestyle event. I stalked in: lacy gstring, silver tape over my nipples, red lipstick, black eyeliner, red fascinator, stilettos and a smile. Excitedly I helped him set up, met his helpers and the other models. As I’m finding more and more often at fetish events, these meetings are full of warmth and good cheer. Kinky people love other kinky people. However, there was a difference between the kinky performers and the “kinky” voyeurs. For the latter we’re talking fluffy handcuffs, 50 Shades of Grey and some light spanks before orgasm.

I’ll be brief, this doesn’t warrant more than one more paragraph.

Masqerotica, San Francisco October 2012. Photo credit: Rue99

Masqerotica, San Francisco October 2012. Photo credit: Rue99

Positives: took hundreds of photos, was seen by thousands of people. Compliments were rained on me. I was the centre of everyone’s attention- each time a photo was taken it was projected onto a huge screen. This attracted a three-person deep crowd just watching the photos happen. I got to try lots of different postures and expressions for modelling. I was the exhibition.

Negatives: I was the exhibition. I no longer had any say, any control over who had my image. Cellphones were on me, taking photos of R taking photos. People I didn’t know had photos of me, posing suggestively with strangers, in a gstring and duct tape pasties. Compliments were rained on me. I felt consumed. I felt powerless. I felt a little bit icky.

By the end of the night I was thankful to return to the tower. The next day, on the way to his studio, I discussed this ick with R. Our discussion boiled down to consent. I am consenting for R to take my image, and I have an element of control about how it is used. However, Mr “Likes it Rough” and his girlfriend at Masqerotica do not ask my consent when they whip out their iphone, they do not ask my consent when they capture me posing for someone else’s photo, and they do not ask my consent before they publish this photo on Facebook. This is troubling for me. We have a good discussion about consent and image theft.

This doesn’t trouble me enough to stop shooting with R. However, I can now draw a line in the sand to where my exhibitionism will take me. I am only an exhibit with consent. If my consent isn’t explicit, then I am simply consumable. This doesn’t do it for me. This doesn’t make it to my fetish list.

Our shoots culminated with rope and challenge: a wrist suspension in his studio, my legs tied to cinder blocks and stretched wide, my entire body weight hanging from my tiny wrists in a taught X. I didn’t just survive this suspension, I modeled it. I looked right at the camera lens with a “come fuck me” expression and R was jumping in delight and ejaculating praise. My wrists hurt for days afterwards, but that was a small price to pay for the rush. This rush is addictive…adrenaline from pain, overcoming physical challenge, pleasing a well-known photographer, making myself proud.

I kicked ass. Turns out, this woman from little old New Zealand is a fetish model, and a trooper at that!

(I love this, and keep it close to my chest, my secret to help me through my computer tapping, flourescent lights glaring, airconditioned office days).

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