On Saturday I had the pleasure to meet the goddess of sexual liberation herself: Annie Sprinkle. Annie was performing her new show LOVE ART LAB in London with her wife Beth Stevens.
Annie has always been fiercely fearless in sharing her most intimate experiences and innermost thought. But this time round her performance was not just about sex but about love and death too. Sex, Love, death – the eternal themes that touch all of our lives – whether we like it or not.
After years as a bi prostitute, porn star, photographer, filmmaker and performer Annie came out as a lesbian. She fell in love with Beth Stevens, an academic and artist. They fell so truly madly deeply that they decided to commit and get married. It was not a popular step to take in the gay scene – many still see it as Annie giving in to conservative family values and betraying alternative life styles. Annie and Beth relived their vows in front of us – they pledged to support each other and give each other all the freedom they might need: a powerful combination of holding on and letting go…Their deep commitment got across as an empowering partnership for both of them enabling them to be even more themselves than they could be on their own. But it has not all been romance and rose for Annie and Beth since they got married 3 years ago.
One particularly touching scene of the show was when Annie received a boob massage from Beth, revelling in the thought how much pleasure her giant real boobs have given thousands of people and of course herself. They re-enacted the moment when Beth found a lump in Annie’s breast. Annie, the goddess of sexual pleasure has cancer.
Being the vibrant, positive and creative person she is, Annie turned her surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy into art performances. She and Beth turned up to the chemotherapy sessions in fancy dress and projected their most flamboyant looks during the show with a live catwalk style commentary. When Annie’s hair fell out they both shaved each others heads. Annie said “This is so un-sexy” and proceeded to take her wig off – her trademark auburn mane gone, replaced with a short crop.
Annie is a unique star in a scene where it is all about looks. She is letting go of all vanity and allows herself to be vulnerable. Within her fearlessness and honesty lies beauty. Feeling it, not faking it – even the pain and the sadness… I felt strangely touched because in the past I also had a lump in my breast and have been through nightmarish thoughts myself. It was not cancer, so I did not have to go through what Annie had to survive. But the fear of cancer is very real for most women. So Annie sharing her fight to survive is an empowering experience for many women. Surviving cancer has made Annie stronger than ever before. Strong and filled with a positive energy that seems to transcend any negativity.
At the end of their show Beth and Annie sang “What the world needs now is love, sweet love…” and we all joined in. It was a magical moment of un-ashamed soppy happiness and testimony to “the power of love”.
Sex is great, love is great too and if you have both rolled into one – it is amazing and can be life changing.
After the show I was able to give Annie and Beth a goodie bag with the “Female Fantasies” DVD (I hope they watch it and like it), Lush soap, champagne truffles and a bottle of bubbly. It was my way to say “Thank You !” to Annie for paving the path for women like me who believe in the freedom of sexual self expression and the power of female sexuality. Annie once said that “The answer to really bad porn is not no porn but to make ally good porn !”. And she is right. I do not understand feminists who say ALL porn is bad porn. What about women who get turned on by sexual images ? Why not give them a choice to watch what they want? It is about variety. It is the spice that keeps sex interesting and exciting. The answer to sexist porn is not no porn but feminist porn.