by David Wraith
When I was in my 20s and weighed 168 pounds, I couldn’t pay someone to take pictures of me naked. Mostly because I was a college student, working in a video store and didn’t have the money. The strange trajectory of my life has brought me to a place where, as I careen toward 40 and top 200 pounds, I have a lot more opportunities to take my clothes off in front of people; for artists, photographers, and for the adoring eyes of the public. In addition to coinciding with a slower metabolism and declining testosterone production, these opportunities are occurring in the digital age. Every pocket has a phone in it, every phone is a camera, and every picture can potentially live forever on the internet.
So I’ve made a decision. I have given up ownership of my body; at least in visual sense. What this means is that if you want me to get naked for your event, unless I have a compelling reason not to (beside vanity), I’ll probably do it. Want to photograph me naked? Yeah, I’ll probably do that too. But, if you post the pictures on my Facebook page or tag me, I’ll still probably take them down. I like my family and they deserve to be protected from some things.
I’ve come to realize that if I’m going to rock out with my cock out at events like the World Naked Bike Ride, then there are going to be naked pictures of me out there that are beyond my control. This is purely a David Wraith decision. I don’t advocate it for anyone else. But, if turning my body (love handles, small dick, ashy elbows and all) into a public commodity helps anyone else get over their body issues, then it’s worth it.
One thing I refuse to do, however, is give up ownership of my body in a physical sense. In other words, look all you want. Take a picture, it will last longer. Just don’t touch. Not without asking. And no, I don’t give a “hot chick discount.” An attractive young woman has no more right to touch me without my consent than a creepy old man.
Yes, it’s sexy and decadent, lying almost naked and covered with chocolates. It’s also a very vulnerable position to be in. Lying on your back, you spend a lot of time looking at the ceiling. You can’t really be aware of your surroundings and you can’t see someone approaching until they’re practically on top of you. You can barely move, let alone sit up, without causing an avalanche of candy. It’s confectionary bondage. So I laid there immobile while people stuffed dollar bills in my jockstrap and plucked candy off of me with their hands and mouths. One woman (pictured above) asked if she could lick her chocolate from my inner thigh and I said yes. See what you can get when you ask for it nicely?
Yes, there’s a certain amount of permission implied in laying on table almost naked, displaying candy for sale. If you have personal space issues, this is probably not the gig for you. But, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Before I even offered myself up as a dessert tray, I had to get from the bathroom, where I changed, to the table. I covered myself with a silk robe so that I could do a big reveal. Before I had a chance, a woman I had flirted with early that night (not knowing what, if anything, I was wearing underneath) reached out and tried to undo my belt. I looked at her like she was crazy and asked her what she thought she was doing. The guy she was with looked at me, a bit taken aback and said, “Well, if you’re going to walk around wearing a robe…”
“Excuse me?” I said, then went on to inform them that clothing does not equal consent and that I expected to see both of them at this year’s SlutWalk. I think they were a little surprised. No one expects to get “schooled” by the naked dessert tray. I sympathize with them. Imagine jerking off to a bondage loop of Bettie Page and all of sudden, she looks into the camera and starts lecturing you on the male gaze.
Just because I was on the verge of objectifying myself, doesn’t mean anyone else has carte blanche to objectify me any way they see fit. Yes, strippers, burlesque performers and naked dessert plates; we are there to entertain and visually stimulate you. But just like waitresses, customer service reps and the folks at the DMV, we’re all real people with thoughts, feelings, opinions and boundaries.
That’s what I love about the environment that SEX+STL is trying to create. Unlike some places in the default world; in our space, being sexy, naked, and even putting yourself on display, doesn’t mean sacrificing your voice. Even a dessert tray gets to say “no.”