Thursday, November 29, 2007

the ejaculate fairy

The other day I did a presentation for my History of Sexuality class on the female prostate. I began by quoting 17th century Dutch physician Regnier de Graaf. In 1672, he was the first to recognize the prostate as the ejaculatory source in women. He observed: The urethra is lined internally by a thin membrane. In the lower part, near the outlet of the urinary passage, this membrane is pierced by large ducts, or lacunae, through which pituito-serous matter occasionally discharges in considerable quantities. Between this very thin membrane and the fleshy fibres we have just described there is, along the whole duct of the urethra, a whitish, membranous substance about one finger breadth thick which completely surrounds the urethral canal…The substance could be called quite aptly the female prostatae or corpus glandulosum. Here too it should be noted that the discharge from the female prostatae causes just as much pleasure as does that from male prostatae.
I also provided the class with visuals taken from Female Ejaculation and the G-spot by Deborah Sundahl, which was referencing Dr. Milan Zaviacic's The Human Female Prostate: from Vestigial Skene’s Paraurethral Glands and Ducts to a Woman’s Functional Prostate. Dr. Zaviacic studied the female prostate extensively from 1982 - 1999.

These illustrations are courtesy of Dr. J.W. Huffman who created molds of prostates removed during autopsies.

I meditated on why this information has been suppressed/ignored. Sexologists Sevely and Bennet believe the debate began as a semantic confusion. They outline the debate as follows in their 1978 essay "Concerning Female Ejaculation and the Female Prostate" Initially, the generic term semen was used to describe sexual fluids both male and female. "Galen and Hippocrates argued that a fetus is as much like its mother as its father; mothers therefore, as well as father have child producing semen."

Aristotelians differed. They claimed “If ejaculation of semen for generation never takes place unaccompanied by pleasure, it must be true that women do not contribute semen, since they sometimes conceive without experiencing pleasure.” Furthermore: “a female sometimes becomes pregnant without having excreted any of her own fluid, but never without having gone through the monthly cycle; menstrual blood is therefore essential for generation, but not female semen.”

Once the Aristotelians won the argument, the language used describe both sexes was left to the male alone.
With no words left to describe female ejaculate, it disappeared right along with female semen.

I segued into Dr. Zaviacic's research. Zaviacic confirms that the female prostate is a functional genitourinary organ with a specific structure and function.Compared to the male counterpart, the female prostate has a similar structure, expression of prostate markers and enzyme equipment.He identified two functions: exocrine (production of prostatic fluid, ie female ejaculate) and neuroendocrine (production of hormones)As of right now - only the production of serotonin has been established.

Then to illustrate the way science is often used to prove what one already knows seen through the lens of particular ideologies I listed these conflicting quotes concerning female ejaculation:

“…sometimes described as being emitted in a jet which is thrown to a distance.” -Havelock Ellis (1937)
“If there is an opportunity to observe the orgasm of such women, one can see that large quantities of a clear transparent fluid are expelled not from the vulva but out of the urethra in gushes.” -Grafenberg (1950)
“Since the prostate gland and seminal vesicles are only vestigial structures in the female, she does not actually ejaculate.”- Kinsey (1953)
Man does this at the moment of pleasure, so presumably that little passive counterpart of himself which is the woman does the same. We wonder now how this can ever have been believed…”- Wayland Young (1964)

The last one got some rather amused chuckles from other women in my class.
Then I sited tests done by Dr. Zaviacic and one done by Shannon Bell that prove ejaculate is not urine. It has a higher pH, more gravity, less urea, less creatine and a much higher concentration of glucose.
(And on a personal note - which I most certainly did NOT include in my presentation, I can personally attest to the distinct difference between ejaculate and urine.)


I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised that my presentation raised some ire but the whys still upset me. My prof really took issue with the fact that female bodied folks could have a prostate. He could concede that we ejaculate, but only men have a prostate. Since ejaculate has to come from somewhere and using the term prostate has come up against so much resistance - I propose we start telling people that in female-bodied people ejaculate is delivered by a fairy. That's right the ejaculate fairy. And since several parts of the female genitals already have already been named by the men who "discovered" them (Thanks Grafenberg! Thanks Skene! -even though you came up short) we can dedicate the ejaculate fairy not to me but to the lovely sexologist whose name I erased from my memory, who when comparing the vigor of the male orgasm to that of the female said: the woman's orgasm is a flimsy thing, a gossamer nothing. C'mon -everybody knows fairies love gossamer. See it all makes sense.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

in seeming contradiction and in a chase for beauty

I have been in an ongoing dialogue with a mentor of mine concerning the nature of photography and the responsibility of the artist. This is a portion of said dialogue which stemmed out of our reactions to the Richard Prince exhibit at the Guggenheim and Kara Walker's exhibit at the Whitney.

To begin to answer your questions because these are issues to which I have given a great deal of thought and most likely will continue to do throughout my life as they always need re-examining:

1. I begrudge what I see as Prince's white universal given the context of the show - I do not mind that it is distinctly white I mind that it is not consciously white. I don't think work needs to be explicitly political or didactic - I want things to be beautiful as much as I want them to be smart - but the way Prince leaves race hovering almost imperceptibly in the background feels insulting at best.

2. Moreover - have you ever read Langston Hughes' "Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain"? He addresses these issues and I have always found that essay particularly inspiring - not without a hint of irony however given the closeted nature of his male-male sexual relations. In any case, I don't think that black artists have some sort of moral imperative or responsibility to create didactic art or anti-racist propaganda. I would certainly hope that you wouldn't situate me in that camp. I strive to create things of beauty that often elicit exploration of issues considered to be political....let me put this a different way. I think some of the difficulty I have had in trying to explain my work has come from the fact that I have been making a separation between emotion and intellect. This separation is artificial. Take my pictures of Mik for example - I photograph him because I find him remarkable, one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. On an intellectual level - I know the two-sex model to be a construction, but I've seen and known many trannies before and not felt the urge to photograph them. It is my attraction to Mik that inspires my pictures not some desire to educate people on gender fluctuations. A million years from now, I would hope they still stand as strong images, inspired pictures taken by a lover - no matter what the current belief system is. I aspire to be like James Baldwin - the lush beauty of his prose is unparalleled and yet he was sharply political. I don't see any contradiction in that. Furthermore, I think that if you hit people with emotion, well crafted explorations of the complexity of human experience this is what moves people, keeps us connected. I don't want to teach anyone a moral lesson or show them that queers and blacks are people too. I would like people to first enjoy my pictures and then hopefully think about them and whatever my images may or may not mean to them is fine by me. Yes - I often have a point but I just as frequently take a picture because it is pleasurable to me, because I want to see what something looks like photographed.

Also - I think that being a person of color or a queer or working class or whatever will inform a persons work and they shouldn't run from it however it comes out. The best work is honest work I think. Whether it is didactic or not in my world is irrelevant. I just think that denying one's subject position is poison to an artist as it results in work that is sterile and detached. I think in your choice of subjects and the dignity with which you photograph them speaks volumes about you as a person - making a beautiful picture of someone that is not considered beautiful can be a strongly political act but at the end of the day we both want to make images that outlast whatever political relevance they may have, no? I am thinking now of a novel like "The Well of Loneliness" - what an important historical document but what a chore to read - I would never want someone to assess my work in that manner and I don't think you would either. Our thinking may be more in line than you realize...

You are right in your observation that these beliefs exist and they do merit additional exploration for sure. I have experienced it personally during my poetry performances it is often only during my pieces that are explicitly about "the black experience" that I receive hoots and hollers from brown folk and I do find that sad.

I would love to discuss these issues further if you have the time. I have to finish getting ready to leave the house now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Mississippi River, August 2007 Fire Island, June 2007

Swamped with work, no time to finish any new posts so you guys will just have to settle for some photos I took over the summer. At work right now and I can't focus enough to write with constant interruptions so I was re-editing stuff I shot over the summer. I noticed these two that I originally overlooked and I like the way they work together. An art rep came to my class on Monday and we looked at a lot of photographer's books so I have been thinking a lot about pacing lately. I am excited to start work on my book.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Sometimes I take a picture and I don't even know why I do it except that I saw something I wanted to hold forever.