The instructor was nude, as were a number of the students.
I wasn’t fazed. I had come a long way since the morning’s session on strap-ons, when I had been surprised to find Nina Hartley teaching in the all together.
Now, after our outdoor ritual bath, followed by skinny-dipping among the crowd in the sun, we were practically nudists ourselves. Wet hair and radiant skin made Viviane and Selina feel all but naked in their loose clothes. Marcus and I went shirtless in our shorts.
Twenty fours hours into Dark Odyssey, we were settling into sex camp. It would take a lot to shock us now.
At the afternoon session, we were ready to learn about objectification. Our guides would be Femcar and her husband, Phantom.
As Tristan had mentioned during orientation, objectification was among the most controversial aspects of camp activities. It’s a form of submission in which one surrenders subjectivity, allowing one’s body to be used purely for the gratification of another—or others, plural.
I had seen Femcar around camp. She had first caught my eye on opening night, at the Cirkus Erotikus, when she lay prostrate on the wooden floor wailing as two men kicked and punched her naked groin.
I talked to her briefly that night, after she had endured a brutal pummeling. She was dazed and flush, pushing her long hair from her face and nodding when I asked to talk to her at some point later, if we could find a quiet moment.
I was very curious to hear what she had to say about objectification.
She was already lecturing when we arrived for the session, held in the open-air pavilion that had housed the previous night’s Cirkus. We weren’t late; the lecture seemed to have developed organically from an ongoing conversation Femcar was having with the early arrivals.
Femcar’s lean, compact body seemed unmarked by the previous evening’s beating.
As Femcar spoke, her husband sat at a table, cutting and taping materials for their demonstration. He was a handsome man, with curly hair and glasses perched on his nose as he worked. He looked like a preoccupied teacher, the sort that inspires crushes in high school.
Billowing behind him, a sheet served as a screen. Vodka, celery and tomato juice sat at a corner of the table. Several people in the front row drank Bloody Marys from red plastic cups.
Viviane, Selina and I took seats near the front of the class. Marcus preferred to lean against a railing to one side, near a square frame built of two-by-fours.
Viviane pulled out a fan to circulate the humid air. Selina retrieved her notebook. I took a sip from my flask.
“This desire to be used, to be used, to be used,” Femcar said, her voice ruminating on a phrase. “It comes from within me, from within my mind, my heart, my cunt.” She spread her legs, opening her smooth vagina.
Viviane instinctively looked away.
“I didn’t know it would lead to this, to being used, when everything started. It was a fluke, a bar bet: I was hoping the Cubs would win, and bet that if they did, I would streak down the street.” The class tittered as Femcar paced, her feet clomping in heavy boots, the only thing she wore. “The Cubs pulled it out, so I had to live up to my end of the bargain. So I ran naked down the street, listening to the men calling after me. I was afraid of being seen, of being followed, of being arrested. But when I sat to rest at a bus stop, the police stopped and thought it was cool. So they wound up staying to protect me. Must’ve been Cubs fans!”
We laughed. Femcar’s anecdotes defused a palpable sense of anxiety among the students. The meandering presentation seemed like a preamble to the main event, like we were waiting on something—but what? Why was she wearing boots fitted with clasps and fasteners? What was her husband up to? And what was with the cocktails?
I heard a loud thud and turned to look over my shoulder. A man was suspended from a tree. A woman was using his torso as a punching bag.
Just beyond, a couple lay fucking in the grass.
Femcar moved onto another story, describing how she pursued one masturbatory fantasy to the next, realizing those that seemed possible and keeping after those that eluded her. These fantasies pushed her to ever greater extremes.
“Here, this one may show what you mean,” Phantom said, typing on the keyboard of a laptop. In a moment, a digital film was projected onto the screen.
“Right, this is a good one,” Femcar nodded.
In the film, two men attached straps to a prone figure immobilized in a tightly wrapped material that resembled duct tape.
Femcar continued to narrate a story, but the film distracted me.
“What is that?” Viviane whispered.
“I don’t get it,” I said, furrowing my brow.
Suddenly, the immobilized figure began to move. Or rather, it remained stationary as the ground beneath it moved.
“Wait, look,” I said, pointing. “Get it? That’s a body. It’s being hauled behind something with a fixed camera.”
Viviane leaned forward. “I don’t get it . . . oh, okay, now I see . . . the camera is on a pick-up truck.”
“Yeah. But how’s the body floating behind it?”
The ground below the figure stopped moving. A muffled howl came from the laptop’s speakers.
Phantom looked up and smiled at Femcar. “That worked.”
“Sure did,” she laughed.
“What was that?” someone asked. I turned to look; it was Nina Hartley—nude, of course.
“Oh, well . . .” Femcar began, and then gestured to her husband. “You explain.”
“All right. Well, we rigged up a single-wheel trailer and hitched it to a truck. She’s mummified and attached on top of that, so that’s Femcar in there.”
“Yeah,” she laughed. “And then . . .”
“Yeah, and then there are sensors from the truck’s electrical system hooked up to her. There are some on her tits that zap when the truck is moving, and some inside her cunt that zap when we hit the brakes.”
“Jesus,” Selina gasped. The class murmured.
“Ouch!” Nina said. “That’s got to hurt.”
“It hurt like hell,” Femcar nodded. We heard the squeal of brakes and another howl. “Yeah,” Femcar said, looking at the screen. “That was a good one.”
I looked over at Marcus. He had lit a cigar and watched the film spellbound.
I turned to check on the human punching bag. The boxer was embracing the dangling torso.
From a distance, it was hard to be sure, but it looked like the couple in the grass was taking turns pissing on one another.
Femcar sat on the table, answering a question about how she and Phantom managed to balance sadism and masochism with their responsibilities as parents. As Femcar spoke, her husband fussed with her right arm.
“We have four kids,” she began. “And the oldest is a teenager now. So we have to be careful about that. I mean, he did tell me he found my website, Three Holes, No Waiting, so I asked, ‘Oh my God, you didn’t look, did you?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Mom, no—I don’t want to know.’ So they are aware to some extent, and we’re honest with them, but obviously, we don’t talk about everything, and we’d rather not show them pictures and shit.”
“Oh my God, really? He found your website?” Nina asked. “What did you do?”
“Well, I moved it. I mean, he knows, but I don’t want him to really look into it, or to share it with his friends.”
“That raises an interesting point,” Marcus said. “A number of us have kids and write sex blogs. I know Jefferson does, right Jefferson? And Selina does. And I’m a sex worker, so obviously, we have to use computers and still keep this from the kids.”
I nodded. Viviane squirmed in her seat as her mind raced through necessary precautions and cautionary tales.
“Can’t you just leave false clues in your blogs?” Nina asked. “Like, say you live in Boston or something?”
“Well, I mean, yes, you could, but that won’t work really . . .” Marcus began.
Listening as the porn star and the whore debated privacy and parenting, I realized that Marcus had just let down his guard: he had announced that he was a sex worker. He had planned to withhold that biographical detail at camp, unsure how it might be received.
The lecture had become a conversation, with Femcar chiming in now and then. She reclined as her husband continued to work on her right arm, just out of view on the other side of her body. I was sitting to one side, with a better vantage than most.
Selina craned her neck. “What is he doing?”
I leaned over to whisper. “He’s drawing blood. See the bag collecting it?”
“He is? Why?”
On the film, Femcar was hauled behind the truck, yowling as it stopped and started. On the table, she talked and squeezed her fist, pumping blood into a bag.
The couple in the grass was fucking again.
As Marcus watched, Carin left her seat to stand next to him. He leaned over to whisper something in her ear.
Carin was at camp to teach a session on swinging. She was a drop-dead beauty—somewhere in her twenties, with a sparkling smile, dark eyes and wavy hair. Her lithe figure was nude but for a silver metal bangle slung low on her hips.
Marcus’s hand toyed with the bangle as he draped an arm around her waist, bringing his lips to her neck.
This was their first meeting.
Carin was apparently intrigued to learn that Marcus is a sex worker. Within moments of ‘fessing up as a hustler, Marcus had found his honesty proving beneficial was she introduced herself.
Carin nuzzled into his arms.
Her boyfriend joined them. He offered Marcus a pretzel.
“Hey, can I get a hand here?” Phantom asked, looking at Marcus. “You too,” he added, nodding at Barry.
Phantom had placed Femcar on the floor and threaded rope though rings on her boots. Marcus and Barry were each instructed to take a boot in hand as Phantom pulled ropes to hoist his wife into the wooden frame.
Femcar steadied herself against the floor with her arms as her husband and his assistants pulled her aloft. Once the ropes were tied and she was secured into place, she released her hold and dangled in midair, her arms and legs splayed.
The lecture had apparently concluded. The demonstration was underway.
On screen, the film had been replaced by another in which Femcar curled on a sidewalk, surrounded by spectators as a man kicked her mercilessly.
Marcus and Barry stepped away from Femcar’s body.
The human punching bag dangled.
The couple in the grass was gone.
Methodically, and with no special concern for showmanship, Phantom retrieved a speculum from the table. Standing behind Femcar, he inserted it into her vagina. He opened the instrument, then taped it into place against her thigh.
Viviane’s fan waved faster.
Selina leaned forward to whisper. Viviane listened, nodding.
Phantom returned to the table and cut a length of celery. He plunged it into his wife's pussy, stirring roughly.
Femcar twisted, screaming.
Phantom poured a jigger of vodka. He sniffed it before pouring it into his wife’s open cunt. He stirred again.
Femcar screamed as the alcohol burned her cervix.
Marcus winced. Selina clenched her pen tightly.
A breeze rustled the trees.
Phantom returned to the table. He lifted the bag, using a knife to cut the cord that had drained the blood from his wife’s arm. He held the cord aloft as he walked back to her side, taking care not to spill the bag’s contents.
He threaded the severed cord into his wife. She writhed as he held the bag over his head. Blood began to flow down the cord and into the body it had only just left.
The blood slowly filled her vagina. It began to overflow her confines, spilling over and streaking around her belly and sides to her breasts and neck. Femcar screamed as the blood trickled into her face and eyes.
It dripped from her forehead onto a drop cloth on the floor.
Viviane closed her fan and placed it in her bag. She picked up her bag, stood, and walked away.
Phantom pulled the cord from his wife’s genitals, allowing blood to drizzle over her torso. Occasionally, he stirred the celery stalk.
Femcar jolted, sending splashes of blood into the air. Marcus took a hit on his forearm. He looked at the splatter in disgust.
Time was moving slowly. Phantom and Femcar were in no rush. This was a scene between dominant and submissive, not simply a show for spectators. We were no longer addressed as a class. We were simply voyeurs.
Selina leaned to me. “I can’t take any more of this. It’s too violent.”
“I was just thinking, though,” I whispered. “It’s gory, but there’s no actual violence. She’s covered in blood, but she’s not bleeding. It's like a horror film—no one is actually hurt.”
“It looks like real violence to me,” Selina said. “Too many associations with violence against women, with war or the Holocaust. It’s what I keep thinking about.”
I nodded and sat back. “I can certainly see that.”
Selina stayed at the edge of her seat, watching.
Pondering Selina’s reaction, I thought that each person watching this unfold might be making very individual associations.
Faced with such a grisly sight, I could understand thinking of war and the Holocaust, of course, but my own mind was wandering to horror films, heavy metal and, more closely, to performance art.
Even as I sat within feet of Femcar as she was abused by her own blood, I felt that what was occurring was not real violence, but rather, the representation of violence. There is a distinction between reality and representation, and in this instance, that difference seemed to do with enacting catharsis in the performer, the viewer, or both.
Femcar was clearly undergoing some physical stress as she was suspended by her ankles, with her genitals distended and her body drenched. That discomfort was only exacerbated by her howls and the display of so much blood. She was clearly conscious of the effect that these sights and sounds would have on us as viewers.
Yet as we sat, watching, we felt no impulse to intercede, as we would in a moment of actual violence. Instead, our minds tried to make sense of what our senses recorded.
In my mind, that meant opening files of images stockpiled by Alfred Hitchcok, George Romero and Roger Corman; Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson; Hermann Nitsch, Carolee Schnemann, Paul McCarthy and Karen Finley.
Femcar had made no mention of film, art or theatre, so performance may or may not have been much in her mind. But in looking at the unfamiliar, one can either look away or try to make sense by making connections to the familiar. Sometimes those associations can be unpleasant, as they were for Selina. Sometimes they may be off base, as they might have been for me. Whatever the case, this was unsettling to our senses, and our minds struggled to keep pace.
In time, Phantom asked Marcus and Barry to help him cut down his wife. Marcus held the ropes, refusing to touch her blood-streaked body.
Phantom guided her to the ground. Femcar lay in pools of her blood, writhing and screeching.
“Okay, show’s over,” I said to Selina. Marcus joined us as we left. We talked, trying to put into words what had transpired.
We met up with Viviane. Later, the four of us sat to dinner with Lolita. We were very animated and eager to compare notes on what we had witnessed.
Lolita listened as I began to describe Femcar’s presentation.
“So she was turned upside down,” I gestured, flipping an imaginary body. “And then, he began to pour blood into her vagina . . .”
“Oh, sure,” Lolita said, opening a napkin in her lap. “That’s a Bloody Mary. Can you pass the pepper?”