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Pure As the Driven Slush (Personal Journal)

January 11th, Two Thousand Three: Enough about you. Let's talk about me.

I've had a huge influx of new readers and viewers lately, mostly due to several recent online gallery shows, some nice mentions (though they called me a hippie), a couple newer sites or links, and perhaps just because the tide shifted my way again . As I was saying in a member chat the other night, it's one thing to see bell-bottoms come back. It's a far stranger thing to see cycles where you yourself come in and out of vogue, but such is life and work in popular media.

So, because based on my email and some general linkage it seems some folks are kind of hazy about who the hell I am, what exactly it is I do, how I do it and how long I've been doing it, and what the deal is here, I figure it's high time we did The History of Heather's Accidental Vocation in a nutshell.

(Plus, I overslept and missed my boxing session this morning, and am thus frustrated and not ready to go substitute with a Kundalini session this half-awake. Writing is easier. First writing, then with the sweating and the chanting.)

The personal stuff y'all get every day, and the bio here should give enough of that to suffice. The work is another matter, and silly girl that I am, I don't think I've ever glossed over it here at the personal site. So. here you go.

Hi! My name is Heather Corinna. I'm 33, I'm a queer bio-girl, I currently live in Minneapolis but am from Chicago, and for the last five years and some, I've worked in smut.

Okay, maybe that's not accurate. I've worked in sex education, activism and information, as well as sexual entertainment and arts, as a writer, artist, photographer, model, editor, consultant and web-publisher. There's no good single word for that. Pity.

So, here's how that happened. In the mid-nineties, in the mornings and evenings when I wasn't teaching a room full of preschoolers and Kindergartners, I was writing literary erotica, something I'd done off and on for years. Thing is, there really wasn't a market for my particular style of it at that point. The rejection letters I'd get back from where I submitted my work would say one of two things: either "great story, get rid of the sex," or "great sex, get rid of the story." Bullocks! I said. What would Henry Miller or Anais Nin say (besides, that is, "Fuck'em all" or "Chacun à son goût," respectively), I asked myself. I poked around a little bit with the fledgling contacts I had online, still new to the online world myself -- it, well, still being new period, and discovered I was not the only artist in this particular predicament. It occurred to me that online might be a good way to go, but -- quelle surprise! -- in 1997 there wasn't a damn thing online when it came to literary erotica, indie sex mags and moreover, sex that had anything to do with women at all. Being a broad who appreciates an opportunity to pioneer and a free range to do it in, Scarlet Letters was born, and debuted in February of 1998, with the help of a couple friends, a few small but good pieces of press, and a helluva lot of coffee.

I didn't intend to start a market. Or a movement. Or find a new vocation. Or learn HTML in that matter, especially having been beaten over the head with DOS by my father in the mid-eighties until I was trembling in a corner screaming "I don't give a rat's arse if I can make the letter A blink or not, dammit!" But I digress.

Scarlet was a bit of a hodgepodge in the first year -- I was mainly just pleased as punch to have an open venue to explore. I'd also recently started fine art nude modeling again, something I hadn't since before college (and then, I was really way too young to be doing some of what I was -- don't bother looking for the Lost Corinna tapes, though. I ate them). I had a venue for some of that work. I had an avenue to publish my fiction in. And then the letters started pouring in and I discovered that an awful lot of folks, primarily women, were in an awfully bad place about sex and wanted a little support and assistance. And I started to get very little sleep. Scarlet is a very good example of what tends to happen with Heather's "little side projects."

So is Scarleteen, which I drummed out at the end of '98, because I didn't feel right having a statement on Scarlet's front page saying those under 18 needed to go poofie without giving them anywhere to go. And discovered there was nowhere to send them, either. As an educator (and a once sexually savvy-- and busy -- teen myself), I knew darned well that teenagers who end up at indie smut sites don't get there by accident. Scarleteen was supposed to be a few pages with some very basic sex information. Thing is, my basics were their advanced materials. And what they needed? More than five pages. Which is perhaps why today, there are hundreds of pages read by five to seven thousand users a day. Little side project, my fanny.

I had to choose between teaching and doing this work in 1999. Potential conflicts of interest aside (I live in the US, mind you, where women who are upfront about sexuality do NOT make suitable early child educators, and in the private sector, that puts a school at risk), there weren't enough hours in the day. Really, it was just a lateral move in my mind from a small live classroom to a very big virtual one. Not an easy choice as I loved teaching the wee ones, but seemingly the right choice.

Between Scarlet Letters, Scarleteen, the Femmerotic portal (which is now webmastered by my good pal Seska, bless'er) and this personal site, my sites now serve millions of users a year. Scarlet Letters still has the highest solid ratio of female readers of any sex site online, our editorial staff is still solely woman-run (and we do not define such by genitalia), I still own it, it's sound and I've never had a dime of VC or a trust fund to run it with. Based on traffic patterns, we'll likely see around four to five million users to all the sites combined in 2003. I try not to think about this too often. It's a bit daunting.

This site debuted in May of 1999 ('bout the time Hanne came into the fray at Scarlet), primarily because I wanted to make sure Scarlet Letters didn't become The Heather Show, and because at the time, SL's ad revenues were rather pathetic and I needed to get paid for my work so I could...well, do it somewhere inside and eat food now and then. I started modeling a little more, with other photographers. I didn't think doing such as a short but average-sized person entering her thirties was that outrageous or revolutionary.

For most of my life, despite being talented with music, the written word and some of the visual arts, I had been a total idiot with a camera. Those photos you see of people with half a head in the frame? That's no accident: it's an artistic style. I perfected it, baby. As Cubism was to Gertrude Stein, so Kodak Decapitation was to me. Damn viewfinders. So, early last year, when I was having a heck of a hard time (especially here in Minneapolis) finding new photographers to work with, I tried my hand at self-portraiture out of sheer desperation for content, really, thinking it'd be a wash, but was worth a shot. And lo, discovered I wasn't the idiot I used to be. The digital medium helped a lot. getting into it and working my rump off at it didn't hurt. Finding that as visual art and erotic modeling for me went, it may well be the perfect medium was a bonus. "Happy accident" is a phrase I find suits me more often than I'd care to admit (and my parents have always been fond of it as well). And that meshes in with all of the writing and the activism and the education and rounds it out quite nicely, if you ask me. I get asked a lot if I'm a narcissist. I don't think so -- it's more a matter of that I am my own materials, and hell, I'm free! Plus, I know me the way a painter knows her brushes or paint formulas. Self-portraiture is probably some of the most candid, intimate work I've ever done and that's because of the nature and limitations of the thing (and now putting others in the self-ports, it gets really interesting and complex) . I also get asked a lot if I'm an exhibitionist -- and I don't know how to answer that one. I don't think so, but I do enjoy what I do, I'm not uncomfortable sharing it, and I was schooled in the idea that art that isn't shared is a sad, sad thing. I don't think because I'm naked a lot -- in photos and in my words -- that need imply exhibiotionism, nor need it be about sex or seduction. If it weren't so bloody cold a lot of the time and if it weren't illegal in most places, I'd likely always be naked. I often am and prefer to be.

So, this is what I do. Despite the adage that sex sells, I'm not rolling in it. Over the last year, I've finally started making a decent living. Not what your average cubicle-contained worker makes, but hey -- I'm a working artist paying the bills with a roof over my head in America! I don't work for the man and I don't have to do any sort of artistic work but the work I want to. I think there may be three more of us. I think we may all need a little more sleep than we're presently getting. What's my background in this? I've done extensive...erm, field research over about two decades. I was a lit and soc major in college with a focus on erotic spirituality and sexual psychology. And I'm an utter sex geek. My bookshelves would make some people faint, and give a librarian an orgasm. I may have been born to this, really, having given birds and bees lectures regularly to my elementary school classmates and having been the first kiss of damn near everyone in the fourth grade. I was certainly born to be in the arts. I was recounting just last night (while on the phone, in the bathtub, another jolly good benefit of working at home) that upon discovering that when I returned home from a hospital stay for my hands as a child that our janitor had thrown out my handmade car. It was crafted from a refridgerator box, toilet paper tubes, paint and an involved mosaic exterior made of magazines and junk mail. I began wailing loudly and rending my hair with my hands. If i'd have read Oedipus by that time, I'd likely have tried to put out my own eyes. My mother suggested I simply make another. At which point I launched into a tirade at higher decibels about her not understanding the creative process and the vain and careless undoing of my life's work. Ah, the artistic temper tantrum temperament.

Why do I work in this genre? I like sex. A lot. I think sex and our sexuality as a whole are healing, empowering, enlightening, nurture global and personal compassion and are a whole lot of good, clean (or filthy) fun. I feel the same way about creativity. I don't think our minds and our bodies are two separate entities, and I find a lot of joy, depth and wonder in both. I like to crash barricades when I can. I don't think we need the gated communities of gender, race, age, economics, marital status, social strata and orientation most of our culture currently creates in terms of sexuality. I've found that those ideas are rare and I don't think they should be. So, this is what I do.

So... hi! Welcome to my planet. Do come again (and again, and...).

January 8th, Two Thousand Three: Last week, Aaron and I went to the Lagoon to see Rabbit-Proof Fence. Amazing film, if you're looking for one, though one of the first scenes was so emotionally intense I got a migraine halfway through the film. When the film was over, I went outside while the boy hit the bathroom, and was greeted immediately by two smiling Mormons.

Given the film, the irony of having people waiting outside to catch the natives and half-castes wasn't lost on me.

They introduced themselves with two ubiquitous names I didn't pay attention to, because they were both wearing printed nametags on their matching ski jackets which appeared to have read "JESUS CHRIST." This seemed a bit blasphemous to me -- and the thought that both their parents named them JC seemed a bit too coincidental -- so on closer inspection I noticed what they actually said was:

THE CHURCH OF
JESUS CHRIST
OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS

Ahem. I found this to be very slippery advertising, myself. In any event, after the introductions, our conversation went some thing like this:

JC#1: So, do you know about Jesus?
Me: Gee, that name sounds familiar. Jesus, Jesus... you know, I do think he has crossed my radar. But I'm more interested in Buddha. I'm a Buddhist.
JC#2: Cool.
JC#1: That is cool. Another guy we work with, he's Buddhist, too.
Me: (eyebrow raise)
JC#1: Well, he was Buddhist.
Me: Obviously he didn't take it very seriously.
JC#1: He said it's pretty much the same thing, like, you believe in God, too.
Me: Obviously he wasn't a Buddhist for very long, either. There is no God in Buddhism.
JC#1: Oh.
JC#2: Huh.
JC#1: But there's like a supreme power, I mean, it's not that different, is it?
Me: None of the world's religions are really all that different when it all comes down to it. Really, the primary difference in that vein between Christianity and Buddhism is that we do not have an anthropomorphized "God." (Nor do we accost people coming out of movies, I mutter under my breath.)
JC#2: Anthro-- what?
JC#1: You lost us there.
Me: Umm hmm. In Buddhism, everything has Buddha-nature. I do, you do if you'd like, the grass does, that stoplight does. The "supreme force" is our compassion, and that we all simply are. "Anthropomorphism" is giving human characteristics to a concept or idea or simply to divinity. Like, say, "God" as a big dude in the sky, or our suffering as some poor bloody man eternally on a cross.
JC#1: Hey, what's that accent?
Me: Years of voice lessons, and living in a handful of different places that aren't Minnesota.
JC#1: You sound like that girl from Austin Powers, what was her name?
JC#2: Liz Hurley. She's a babe.
Me: (Wondering how exactly Austin Powers really fits into being Mormon, how I seem to have landed the Bill and Ted of street evangelism, and how it is I sound like Liz Hurley.)
JC#1: Yeah, her.
Me: All righty, then.
JC#1: You see that movie? That was a great movie. What did you just see in there?
Me: Rabbit-Proof Fence.
JC#1: What was that about?
Me: Umm. Evangelical white people in Australia kidnapping aboriginal children on their own land to convert them into domestic workers and breed them whiter over time. You'd love it.

It's been a week or so since this happened, so I'm undoubtedly forgetting some amusing details, but it was at about this point that Aaron came out of the theater, and the two leapt forward, after a brief tuning of the color reality dials, to introduce themselves to him, and asked if they could walk with us to the bus, to which I responded with a polite but curt, "No, thank you." Mostly because if I had to stand there without laughing loudly for one more minute, my face was going to explode.

Now, I don't mean to offend any Mormons who may read me, because surely I have Mormon readers coming out of my garters. Eeyup. But. I have very strong feelings about proselytizing and that sort of missionary-ninja work. In a word, I don't care for it. At all. Even if I set my politics aside.

Once upon a time, when my fabulous ex-thang Michael and I were together in the early nineties, trading weekend visits an hour across town, I woke up on a Sunday morning to find Jehovah's Witnesses at his table, having tea. Michael is one of the kindest souls in the world, was raised Quaker and would be unlikely to turn anyone away at the door. Me? I didn't want my weekend sexcapades and quality time interrupted in that way, so asked that not happen again while I was there. It did the very next weekend. I stated my objection once more, as well as the warning that if it happened again, I couldn't be held responsible for what I might do.

It happened again. So, I walked out of the bedroom and sat down at the table with all of them and began chatting, too. Stark naked. They didn't stay long, and never came back again. Sometimes, you have to use these sorts of guerrilla tactics.

I didn't really need to with JC#1 and #2, which was good. Nor did we get to the point where I got asked what I do for a living. Mostly, I think they were trying to work with what usually seems to surprise people like this -- that this very sweet-looking woman they've approached opens her mouth and everything changes. I'm some shifty advertising of my own sometimes.

Should you be approached in the same way and it isn't going so well, I offer you a few retorts from my personal arsenal.

• If I sign up , do I get the special garment for free right now, like you get a free calendar from PBS when you subscribe on the phone? And how hard is it to schtup in those things anyways -- I mean, really?

• Hey, you're the guys from that choir, right? I've been wanting to try out for ages, I'm so glad you've finally found me! Just a second, let me warm up. I do a killer version of Lehrer's "Vatican Rag."

• So, queer kinky socialist Buddhist feminist pornographers can be Mormon, too? Rock! Can I bring my Baby Jesus Butt Plug to church?

• Weren't you the same guy selling vacuum cleaners last week? Or was that the other Jesus?

• What if I don't want to go back to Jesus after I die? What if I'd prefer to go to Aruba?

• Standing outside in the winter in Minneapolis doing this has got to make the idea of burning in Hell more appealing rather than less, I'd think.

• If we really are ALL Jesus' children, I think you're going to have to reconsider your stance that polygamy isn't acceptable. One woman can only do so much, boys.

• I think it's really cool that as a man, Jesus can come more than once. Don't you?

 


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