How Conservative Am I Really? Exploring experiences that heighten and empower female sexuality at the Rochester Erotic Arts Festival by Shadi Kafi

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Shadi Being Casted for #ICASTTOEMPOWER July 2014, Houston, TX

My first thoughts entering the Radisson Riverside Hotel Saturday afternoon for the Rochester Erotic Arts Festival were, “What the fuck am I doing here and what kind of people come here?

I was originally attracted to both the word Arts and Erotic in the name of the event. My erotic curiosity recently sparked by a boudoir project, Real Women of Rochester, I did with Natalie Sinisgalli, my friend and amazing #1 photographer in Rochester. (Ladies get your boudoir shoots done with Natalie!)

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Christ Tolbert, Artist: “My works are based strongly on the human body and the observations required to explore the body in its natural state.”

The project furthered a continuing desire to unfold my interests in expressing women’s equality outside mainstream gender roles. And I hoped the festival would have some interesting works of art sharing that perspective: tasteful body art, nudity at the most without any overly eccentric ideas.

Entering the front door, fear paralyzed me for a moment. Arriving at the top of the escalators before the main entrance, my anxiety level increased. A Photo Policy sign was posted in front of a security guard telling photographers your picture was off-limits. Clearly, this wasn’t an event everyone openly described to their Grandma Mary. Immediately I got a case of the mean reds.

My fears subsided soon after when encountering the first piece of art in the show, a bronze sculpture of the upper female torso and breasts. Perhaps my unconscious signaling this was a non-threatening place, my first impression was that the sculpture reminded me of I CAST TO EMPOWER. a project I worked on in my Houston roots, casted and painted/designed by my woman artist friend. (See featured photo). My friend used her talents to celebrate the female form to raise money for breast cancer research, a cause close and dear to my heart.

EMPOWER was the word. Empowering women. My mood shifted from trepidation to excitement.

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Sharon Alagna, artist

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Sharon Alagna, artist

Casually wandering, evocative female existentialist photographs and paintings made me feel amongst peers. The captions under artworks such as from Sharon Alagna had great feminist appeal. Alagna stated:

My self-portrait photographs are about duality, about the arguments we have with ourselves, the desire to be seen while simultaneously wishing to disappear, wanting to be beautiful while fighting the social norms of beauty, hiding both within myself and from myself.

To be sensual, to desire being seen and heard, to be naked as in these pictures, completely transparent inwardly and outwardly, yet not misunderstood, underestimated, diminished in value, underappreciated and exploited.

I could relate to this artist’s voice and the inner/outer struggle completely. There was connection in this room.

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Todd Ryan, artist

The rest of the exhibit was all about options. Options for a woman or a man. Essentially, choosing what you want to do with your anatomy and sexual functions. Defining your sexuality. Choosing to consciously live and ‘play’ within a relationship that makes sense to you. And your partner(s).

I called my journey at the festival “confirming my female sexual preferences and exploring experiences that heighten and empower female sexuality.” The ultimate question became, How Conservative Am I Really?

I have often sensed I am “brainwashed” to reflexively accept the codas of the mainstream female. Does being not conservative mean reversing mainstream sexual gender roles and mainstream ideas of sexual relationships?

Step one was listening live to Playboy Radio’s Holli and Michael LIVE at the festival as Holli and Michael interviewed couples who were committed to open relationships.  An open relationship had no place in the world I was taught to inhabit. Key word: committed. After the first couple interviewed I thought: this shit here is for real; there are people who very openly chose to share their sexual partner and are seriously making it work. How?

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Playboy Radio’s Holli and Michael LIVE March 19, 2016

In the interview Michael addressed what to me seemed the central objection to the open relationship. He stated, “There’s nothing wrong with feeling jealous. It’s normal. It’s what you do with it.” I thought: Hm, well that makes sense.

What if we could learn to have more control over the actions that follow jealous feelings. Maybe that emotional control is feminine sexual freedom. To not give a fuck if your partner decides to have a sexual relationship with someone else.

Michael summed it up when he said in a good relationship your partner is your best friend. Friends do everything together so why wouldn’t you take them to have sex with someone else you are attracted to as well? It’s more fun not to leave the best friend out. Maybe part of the happiness is to know he or she is having pleasure too.

Sounded logical enough at first.  I thought of myself as cool and hip, open to these discussions. “See, you’re not mainstream — that’s too boring,” I convinced myself.

But then I wondered, what kind of solid foundation did you have to not be jealous in the first place? I came back to that word committed – as in couples who are committed to having an open relationship.

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Sharon Alagna, artist

Allowing yourself to be comfortable with a partner fulfilling physical desires with someone else requires a 100% confidence that he or she is still committed to your relationship.

Continuing to listen to Michael live on stage confirmed what I felt. An expectation to be 100% emotionally monogamous in all relationships including open relationships. Now it all made sense.

Female sexual empowerment means not feeling threatened by any loss in any chosen type of relationship, open or monogamous. In an open relationship a woman could feel threatened by losing emotional connection being replaced. Practically speaking, you end up losing time with the person you lose emotionally.

It isn’t safe or secure to allow your partner to fuck around when he or she could then fall in love and leave your ass! Of course!

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print of her painting by Bekky Beukes

An open relationships that goes for years needs  a very deep emotional connection to which the partners keep going back. Fearless and empowered sexuality encompasses a natural human desire for deep emotional connection.

So whether you choose an erotic path of open relationships or a physically monogamous one (which can also be erotic by the way), female liberation is openly expressing your sexual preferences.

If you explore and cultivate a fluid and transforming sexuality, do what feels secure, what is authentic, taking risks and having fun while still having emotional connections.

Whether your sexual identity is to be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, asexual, pansexual, scoliosexual and the myriad of ‘unknown sexuals’ and whether you choose to share your partner or not, identify as a dominatrix, submissive, are into BDSM or other fetishes that keep you feeling alive. With the right amount of love and support, you can openly express your sexuality.  The key is to be authentic and non-judgmental about your sexuality and preferences.

There is no problem finding people who will cultivate you. For anyone wishing to explore anything outside the mainstream, there was plenty of support that day at the festival. For help, you can also check out the Rochester Kink Society

Rochester Kink Society had workshops and classes on sexual identity. As they stated, they are much more about sexual education than perceived by the general public.

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Shadi did take some photos of actual nude naturists. But we are too conservative to publish them.

Or set yourself free as you explore oneness with your natural body with Naturist Rochester (or maybe clothes just make you uncomfortable!)

photo and bodypaint by Bill Milward from Ottawa, the featured artist at the Festival

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It took a lot of prowess to explore the Erotic Arts Festival that day. But by the end, I felt empowered by the freedom to make choices while confirming the importance of emotional monogamy.

Most options there were choices I may never take — steps never to explore — but now I know if I have a need or a want in my sexual life, it can be met. Knowing a supporting path exists was liberating.

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by Peter Meagher of Rochester

The original case of the reds while entering the festival was that of entering  a male dominated sexual world used to exploit women like me. Those feelings all dissipated. My favorite artist at the festival, Bekky Beukes, outwardly expressed my feelings best: educated, empowered and free with regards to sexuality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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