Fruits and fingering, and the female gaze
Like most Filipino families, my parents and I never had “the talk.” There was never any discussion of the birds and the bees or first times or protection––only constant echoes of “don’t do it” and threats disguised as warnings of the family looking down upon pregnancy before marriage.
When I asked my mom where babies came from as a child, I recall her saying a man and a woman would just take off their clothes, lay down and hug. While that’s about as close as a parent can get to describing sex to a kid without getting into the down and dirty of it all, I didn’t exactly get any follow-through. I believed that sex was just sinful naked hugging until I got to fifth grade and opened my science textbook.
‘Ah, so that’s what a penis does.’ It was only then that I learned that there was lot more that went on than just hugging.
I don’t blame my parents for sweeping sex under the rug. It just isn’t common to unpack that kind of topic even as kids enter their teens––especially not in a country still so conservative, so devoutly Catholic. But things could have been different. Maybe they should have been.
Locking sex up in a box felt like it something that wasn’t mine. Losing my virginity would mean I would lose a part of myself. To take off my clothes and get intimate with someone was to cross that line between pure and tainted. Who cares if we were in love? Play with fire and you get burned, right? Thinking about it now makes my guts churn.
|As I got older, it started to sound like something boys were allowed to enjoy and girls were supposed to fear. They can’t get pregnant, so they can fuck who they want––in hindsight, that’s probably what ticked me off the most. Sex was scary. Sex was for boys. Sex was a topic discussed only in hushed tones with friends who were equally as intrigued, whose curiosity had also led them to some porn-filled pocket, who also hoped to God their parents wouldn’t somehow discover their search history.
These days, I don’t really give a damn who sees what I search for anymore (except maybe higher-ups at work… that’d be weird). As someone who doesn’t actively go out to date or hook up, the internet is my best teacher. It’s also the space where I chanced upon Stephanie Sarley‘s Instagram account.
Multimedia artist Stephanie Sarley’s grid is a glimpse at a very healthy diet plan, but more importantly, it’s a rich gallery of stroking and squirting and squelching. Altogether, it’s a much-needed exhale.
It’s difficult to put a finger on why it’s so freeing, really. It’s just fruit. Or is it?
The internet has mixed feelings, to put things lightly. It doesn’t take much scrolling to spot a burst of negativity amidst the tagged usernames and abundance of fire emojis in the comments section of Stephanie’s posts. There are the cringers, there are the critics. On other spaces of the internet, there are also the trolls who make memes out of her index finger stroking citrus and slap their own watermarks over it.
|Despite the murky water, Stephanie stands firm in the belief that her work is art. Indisputably. And as someone who personally stopped, double-tapped and pondered why the heck seeing a fruit being fingered felt like so much more, I agree.
There are many fine lines when it comes to feminism, and Stephanie’s art often begs the question of what feminism actually is. Is a video of “fruit porn” really feminism if men are looking at it and using it as a platform to throw praise at their own genitalia? Is it really feminism if there are females themselves who find it disgusting? Why is it that dick pics and toplessness are considered normal, but when it comes to vaginas and god forbid, female nipples, censorship is the automatic answer? Why is it still so wrong for a woman to be a sexual creature?
Perhaps asking these questions is the whole point.
Art Alexandra Lara