Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bad Girls Aren't What You Think

I was having drinks with a neighbor last night--a neighbor who reads my blog--and she asked me, "Do you think you have to have sex to be a bad girl?"

I had to stop and think. I write a lot about bad girls and sex because it's interesting and, let's face it, titillating. Titty-lating. In my wild woman research, I like my bad girls to be independent, strong-headed, vain, eccentric and promiscuous. I'm drawn to that personality type. Sexy women are fun.

But celibate nuns can be wild bad girls, too. Of course they can, if they've got a rebellious spirit. In fact, all kinds of women these days have a bit of the bad girl in them, and they're not necessarily polyamorous bisexual babes like Pixie.

Under the influence

I'm not even sure anymore if I know what a bad girl is. We're living in an excellent era for women now in our industrialized world, with so many of us free to run around and do crazy things, things that not too long ago would have marked us as unhinged. Also last night, I watched the 1974 John Cassavetes film A Woman Under the Influence and was reminded that back then, women who didn't behave themselves were locked up in nuthouses, shot full of thorazine and given so many electroshock treatments that all the sex, fight and talk was blasted right out of them. And it was their own family and friends who were committing them.

Now, women can do whatever the hell they want. And it's not just about the sex. Me, for example, I'm enjoying a lot of travel without Dave this year. I went to Greece in May with a girlfriend, am going to Las Vegas for a long weekend this month with another bunch of girlfriends, and am planning a solo yoga and surf retreat in Morocco in September. When I tell family and friends about my travels without my man, they're a bit incredulous yet amused. "Where's Dave?"

I know another woman--a kind and decent sixty-something woman who used to work as a dinner lady at her sons' Catholic school--who plans to take up karate lessons this summer: "The lady who runs the karate class said, 'Don't worry, I'll take care of you,' so I said, 'Righty-o, I'll give it a go for a few weeks and see if I think it's fun." I imagine she'll be smashing bricks in half soon.

And another woman I know abandoned her husband and children for six weeks this summer so she could travel alone in Portugal and Spain. (OK, she's a Spanish teacher, and working on improving her language skills but still...six weeks! I'm a bit incredulous yet amused.)

She emailed me her thoughts:
"Being a writer, you might appreciate the number of authors I have met on this trip.

"It started in Lisbon. I was standing in front of a clothing store, looking at the display and a woman approached me. She smelled heavily of tobacco smoke. She asked me, in Portuguese, 'Do you appreciate poetry?' 'Yes,' I replied. She then told me that she was a poet and that she survived by selling her poetry, and asked if she could recite a poem for two Euros. So I said sure, and she recited the poem and then gave me a copy of it, which she signed.

"In Spain, one of my professors has published a number of books, one on brujeria (witchcraft) in Spain and the history of people's memories of it, and how the Inquisition accused certain women of it. He has also published a collection of short stories that he says took him twelve years to write.

"One of my classmates is a man from the Dominican Republic, Jose, now living and teaching in New Jersey. I was talking to him one day, and I told him about my stay in DR and the nuns I work with. We talked a little about Trujillo, the dictator/sex addict/murderer who ruled the Dominican Republic for over 30 years. Several days later, Jose casually mentioned that he was invited to the Dominican Republic for the release of his collected poetry, and that he also has two books coming out in the fall about Trujillo.

"OK, number four: One of my companions here is a Puerto Rican woman named Ada, who lives in Indianapolis. She got divorced about five years ago, and about a year ago, a woman she works with fixed her up with her widowed Mexican father. Herman has also published poetry and participated in poetry slams.

"And, last, but not least, number five: I was in the cafeteria one morning having breakfast. I was joined by a Canadian couple, and the husband told me the story of the book he spent ten years researching, a nonfiction account of the Trekkers, exploited workers in Western Canada during the Great Depression. He has promised to send me a copy of the book when it comes out, and I shall have a nice surprise for my husband."

Although my friend says she feels like her life is out of a Hemingway novel this summer, she also says she misses home. "Even though it's been very rich and rewarding, and I know that my teaching will benefit greatly from what I've learned here, it's been difficult--lonely, I suppose. But I am a freak for the insight I get upon re-entry--and I think this one is going to be a doozy."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Pixie: Skittles' Historical Re-Enacter

“I’ve identified as a bisexual since I was 17, and I’ve been polyamorous since I learned the word, which was about 10 years ago. I believe in abundance, not scarcity. I’m not into the jealousy thing,” says Pixie, who recently found Bad Girl Blog while researching one of my favorite bad girls of history, Catherine Walters, a.k.a. Skittles.

Pixie, from San Francisco, interests me because she’s a real-live Bad Girl--more than I'll ever be. A performer and sexpert with a very complicated life, Pixie has been developing Skittles as a character for the past year. She’s as devoted to the cult of Skittles as I am.
Pixie photo by Kalib DuArte, Corset by Dark Garden

“I worship Skittles,” Pixie tells me in a recent phone interview. “The more I read about her and look into her life, the more I believe I would have been like her in a previous life. High-level courtesans were openly sexual, and they owned their sexuality, and they were independent. Rather than settle down and get married, they were someone on their own.”

Pixie will introduce “an alternate version” of Skittles this year in California at the Steampunk Convention, where an unconventional group of Victorian history re-enactors will convene Oct. 31-Nov. 2 and try to levitate Silicon Valley with a series of midnight parties, dealers’ dens, leather teas and other events teeming with costumed revelers who all wish they were living in an earlier time.

Like Skittles, Pixie is petite and dark-haired, with a joie de vivre personality. Bubbly. Like champagne. And they both love to ride horses. Horses are as good as sex.

“Maybe I was Skittles in a past life!” Pixie muses to me later in an email filled with ellipses... “More likely, I'm nearly her now, with the exception that I don't make my money by selling sexual favors...I give them away. I did work as a professional stripper years ago... and have again recently for a couple of private parties... but that's another story...”

The neat thing is, the more Pixie reads about Skittles, the more she resonates with her, even if they are from completely different backgrounds (mid-19th century England versus 21st-century California).

“They say if someone called Skittles a whore, she embraced it,” Pixie says. “She was sex-positive! And Skittles never had sex with anyone she didn’t want to have sex with. She was very ahead of her time.”

Since she was a kid, Pixie has channeled women from the past by doing historic re-creations. She started out doing Elizabethan courtiers, but as she grew up she moved into the laced-up and corseted kinkiness of Victorian London. Pixie finally discovered Skittles last year, when she was researching a character for the Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco.

“I wanted to do a high-class courtesan character, and someone who knew I love horses and all things equestrian said, ‘What about being a “Pretty Horse-Breaker?”’ I had never heard the term, so I looked it up and was introduced to Catherine Walters.”

Would you describe yourself as a Bad Girl?, I ask Pixie during our phone call.

“Absolutely. It’s so much more interesting than being a good girl. Like a slut or courtesan, a bad girl is someone who is independent and willing to be who she is even if society calls her a bad girl. I’ve worked as a stripper, which is part of the sex industry, so I certainly am willing to be out about who I am. For a woman to take that position, that makes her a bad girl in society’s eyes.”

Pixie tried to be a 'good girl," but after three divorces, she's decided marriage just isn't her thing. She finally freed herself, and now, Pixie is an out, sex-positive “hot bisexual babe,” also known in some sex circles as a unicorn because like the mythical beast, her type is believed to be an ever-elusive ideal.

“I’m totally a unicorn,” Pixie says. “I’ve dated couples before. It can be fun, but I can scare people sometimes.”

And yet, there’s a wholesome totality to Pixie’s existence. She’s the vocalist for Cuir Bleu, a fetish-based electronic rock band that plays at BDSM clubs like the SF Citadel, where people might emerge from the dungeon and start flogging each other on the dance floor. Her day job is serving as an executive assistant for kink.com, which provides links to a series of bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism websites.

“I like to be an educator,” Pixie says. “I’m completely out at this point.”

Things can get complicated sometimes. Pixie has to make careful agreements about safe sex with her primary and secondary boyfriend, and if she has a new man in her life, her dad doesn’t want to know his name unless he’s been dating Pixie at least a year. (Her mom, meanwhile, has always been very "sex positive" and still is.)
But polyamory is not about one-night stands. It’s about communication.

“I don’t cheat,” Pixie says. “I just have more open agreements than other people.”

Okay, back to our Bad Girls interview.

“Do you think there are more Bad Girls today than in earlier centuries?” I ask.

“I think they’re more open about it,” Pixie says. “There have been bad girls in every era. I don’t know that there’s more of them or not. Women are less willing to be in the background now.”

"Our girl Skittles never paid for her sins with a tragic ending, which is one of the reasons why she's one of my favorite bad girls. Your thoughts?”

“In my own life, I’ve had a lot more acceptance than you might think. People have come up to me and thanked me for living my life openly. If someone else can do it, now they feel like they can. I’m reading the book The Ethical Slut now. We’re reclaiming the word ‘slut,’ like the homosexual community took back the word queer. If someone who loves sex is a slut, then I am.”

See Pixie perform now: