Well, it’s the night right before the second edition of An Unholy Harvest begins. I’m sitting bleary-eyed on my brother’s futon, trying madly to finish a work contract, having spent the evening stuffing conference registration bags and writing volunteer thank-you notes with Jacqueline. We’ve been running off our feet, along with several wonderful volunteers, to get things ready for the hordes of women and transfolk who will descend upon us tomorrow night in the nation’s capital, site of much impending dyke debauchery and devilishness. For the curious, this week’s issue of the Capital Xtra featured a story about Harvest with a fun photo of me and the bois; if you’re interested in registering, we still have a few spots, just check out the FAQ section on our website, www.unholyharvest.ca. Tomorrow, the madness begins. Perhaps I’ll get a few hours of sleep between now and then. One can dream!
In any case, I bid you a wonderful weekend, and I give you another re-post from Ye Olde Sexe Geeke. Perhaps my dreams will contain delicious polka-dot stilettos. That would be nice.
*I originally posted this on March 28, 2006. I’m still lusting after polka-dot stilettos, and I still haven’t found the perfect pair. Tips are welcome, preferably for less than $700 (the unfortunately prohibitive price of the ones I saw in the magazine in question).
Yup. Polka-dot stilettos. That’s what I want.
In the new issue of Bust magazine, the cover article is an interview with Gretchen Mol, who plays 50s fetish pinup model Bettie Page in the film “The Notorious Bettie Page,” which is to be released on April 21. (Bet your ass I’ll be there. Mol’s not my style of hottie, but put her in a corset and stick a whip in her hand and you never know.) In the article itself, there’s a great photo of her wearing the most amazingly drool-worthy pair of white stiletto heels with black polka-dots. They’ve got a black T-strap ankle strap, and black piping around the edges. Don’t roll your eyes, folks – for the shoe fetishist, this kind of detail is significant. I think I’ve become a very particular sort of shoe fetishist, with a preference for ankle straps, tone-on-tone colours, retro styling, and very specific shapes. Anyway, I digress.
So I got myself to Google and typed in “polka-dot stilettos.” I thought maybe I’d get a link to the latest Steve Madden collection or something. At the very least I thought maybe I’d be able to track down a similar pair to Gretchen’s. Instead, I discovered that everyone who likes polka-dot stilettos, online at least, is either a suburban shopping-club member or a bone fide pervert.
I’m so not kidding. One of the first sites to pop up was for – get this, folks – crush videos. Ever heard of those? The only reason I wasn’t completely floored (so to speak) is because Patrick Califia mentions them in the essay “Boy-Lovers, Crush Videos and that Heinous First Amendment” in his 2002 book Speaking Sex to Power: The Politics of Queer Sex. Here’s his description:
“So-called ‘crush videos’ usually depict a woman stepping on an insect, snail or worm. Occasionally, baby mice or rats, and (rarely) larger animals, have also been featured. (…) He (JV, a video producer Califia interviewed) estimates that his fetish is shared by perhaps a couple of thousand men in the entire world – very specific masochists and foot fetishists who usually identify with the creature that’s being tortured and killed.” This same video producer says, “My ultimate fantasy is to be one inch tall and trapped inside a really vicious woman’s kitchen.”
So one of the videos on the site featured a mistress wearing a lovely pair of polka-dot stilettos as she squished a snail. Zowie.
Of course the idea is pretty gross, in a lot of ways – particularly for a vegetarian sort like me. But at the same time, Califia goes on to make a couple of excellent points later in the same essay: “Outlawing crush videos will do nothing to eliminate the most common forms of animal maltreatment. If anything, the deaths that are documented in crush videos have more meaning than the millions of gallons of pig, sheep, and cattle blood that daily soils the floors of slaughterhouses nationwide.” He’s referring to a First Amendment case in which a crush video producer was actually prosecuted for his work; he wound up with a year of community service and three felony charges. Awfully stiff penalties for the premature deaths of a few snails.
Touchy stuff. To me, the idea of hurting and killing animals is horrid; I haven’t eaten meat in fifteen years, I buy beauty products that aren’t tested on animals, and I only buy by-product leather when I buy it at all – and even then, only because I learned about the comparatively much larger environmental consequences of PVC production a couple of years after I’d started to develop a PVC-based fetish wardrobe. Hell, I recycle my gum wrappers and use organic biodegradable laundry detergent. The idea of someone wanking to a scene of a mouse being squished to death is more than a little stomach-turning. But… I do poison the little fuckers when they try to invade my apartment. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about that. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so. I can’t see how allowing rodents to infest my home helps prevent animal rights abuses. And the cruelty-free traps and such are hit and miss in their effectiveness. Mice are pests. They must die. Sorry, guys – my politics end where that little practicality starts.
I think the crux of the matter is that people’s gross-outs around crush videos, at least in the ridiculously overblown court cases Califia wrote about, are redolent with sexual repression, not with animal rights concerns – or worse, animal rights are used as a convenient excuse for sexual repression rather than coming from a sincere belief in the cause. What’s the big deal if a woman in polka-dot stilettos steps on a snail? Why should anyone be made a convicted felon for this? People’s righteousness seems to arise tenfold when someone involves sexual pleasure in the equation, and that, I have a big problem with. It blurs the issues and gets people’s priorities all screwed up by tugging on their hearstrings with the sheer “upsettingness” of sex-related images that appeal to a select few. In these legal cases, the tactics used for prosecution haven’t been about seriously considering the issues, but rather about reacting judgmentally to unusual imagery.
Baby seal clubbers are protected under the law. The meat industry is horrific. The SPCA is overflowing with abused and abandoned animals nobody cares about except a few dedicated volunteers. The environmental consequences of an over-consumeristic North American society have brought countless species to extinction, never mind the massive damage we do to wildlife habitats that in turn kill millions of creatures. Our society tolerates bullfights, dogfights, hunting licenses, McDonald’s hamburgers. And let’s not forget that we exploit human beings pretty darn badly too.
Once we have a completely cruelty-free society, then we can talk again about preventing the crush video producers from doing their work. Maybe at that point technological advances will have come up with ways to produce inexpensive snail figurines with green goo inside them, that make a satisfying crack when stepped on. Presto – cruelty-free jack-off material for the seriously twisted.
In the meantime, I’m very suspicious of any kind of rule or ban that’s not directly about protecting actual people from actual harm – or about reforming the massive industries that currently treat animals badly in astronomical numbers.
Crush fetishists can do their gross thing over there. I’ll do my own “gross” things over here, and mine won’t involve snails and rodents, but rather pain-slut bottom girls, butt-plugs, piercing needles and lead-filled punching gloves. I might not want to go to a crush fetishist’s parties, but I don’t want to run them out of town either. I feel strongly that if we engage too far in distancing ourselves from the weirder members of the pervy-sex world, we’re not doing ourselves any favours in the end. Lord knows enough people out there would have no problem putting a bullet through my head for being a queer, or jailing me for being a sadomasochist. These threats are real – if not so much in the happy little bubble of Montreal, Canada, at the very least in many other places in the world, including in the US. So who am I to accuse someone else of having the “wrong” kind of proclivities? Who are any of us to impose that kind of judgment?
Yeah, crush videos are pretty nasty. They don’t do it for me. I wouldn’t buy porn from a crush video dealer, or support the industry (tiny though it may be) in any way. But I can’t find it in myself to get excessively upset about them, either. In the grand scheme of things, so long as nobody’s hurting real people in a non-consensual way or taking excessive health risks, I don’t have much to say about it.
So back to the task at hand. Does anyone know where I can buy a hot pair of black-and-white polka-dot stilettos… preferably with no snail guts on the soles?