November 24, 2008

Sex Veteran Links Appetite for Food to Erotica

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Laughter ensued Friday evening in Goldwin Smith Hall as Sarah Katherine Lewis, a feminist and author of the book Sex and Bacon, gave a personal anecdote about her first job in the sex industry as a lingerie model in the lecture “Sex & Bacon: Why We Love The Things That Are Very ‘Bad’ For Us.”
“I was pretty naïve when I started; I actually thought the job was modeling lingerie,” she said. She was surprised when she discovered her new job required her coyly to entertain customers albeit with no nudity.
Before her debut in the sex industry, Lewis worked various minimum wage jobs. She realized, however, that she could find no time to write, adding, “All I wanted to do was write.”
She read a story to the audience that concerned a customer nicknamed “Baby Ruth man” who was a regular at the triple-X tanning salon she worked at in Seattle, Wash.
“Baby Ruth man” had an inexplicable fetish for watching lingerie models eat the Baby Ruth candy bars he provided.
The act, Lewis observed, was proof that despite many of the perverted aspects of lingerie modeling, she and other lingerie models were always hungry. Models, she said, were always motivated by appetite, even in the midst of their private shows.[img_assist|nid=33847|title=Let’s talk about sex|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Sex and Bacon, her second book, was thus the product of her realizing that there were “various kinds of desire,” and elaborated on the similarities between one’s appetite for food and sex.
“There’s nothing necessarily erotic about the sex industry. It’s just deeply, deeply weird,” she said.
Following the story and a reading from an excerpt of her book, Lewis encouraged the audience to ask her questions. Recognizing some may be too shy to ask in person, Lewis allowed the audience to text her their queries.
One audience member asked Lewis whether she thinks the sex industry objectifies women.
The sex industry objectifies everyone, she responded. It is “deeply problematic,” she said, in that it exploits both men and women and tells lies about female desire.
“One thing I am noticing in the realm of adult entertainment is its extreme kind of influence; it’s not just pornography anymore … People are doing these extreme physical stunts, and it turns into this thing where women are putting themselves at risk,” she said.
Subsequently, a more personal question was asked about what her parents thought of her job.
“My parents weren’t overjoyed,” Lewis remarked.
“What’s more feminist than being able to take care of yourself and pay your rent?” she asked.
Lewis mentioned that two of her biggest inspirations are writers Daphne Gottlieb and Fran Varian. Both writers talk about their bodies and desires in ways that made Lewis think about her own body and desire.
According to Lewis, the body is where our thoughts and feelings live, and it is important to “love yourself, even when you’re a bit embarrassed.” We must realize that it is perfectly fine to have a body and to feel its physical drive, she said.
Lewis also declared that her intended audience is anyone generally interested in desire or motivated by physical appetite.
At the conclusion of the event, Lewis received a wide applause from the audience.
Xi Lian ’10 was impressed by Lewis’ ability to tackle heavy issues with levity.
“She was very effective in trying to convey something that is a little bit more serious, in a humorous and a light-hearted way, like when she talked about AIDS and unprotected sex,” he said.
“I thought she was really down to earth, really entertaining, and really passionate about what she was doing. She went against a lot of stereotypes people may have about the sex industry. So I thought it was a worthwhile event,” said Reeva Makhijani ’10.
The talk was sponsored by the Cornell Women’s Resource Center.