Busting Paradigms (Among Other Things): A Conversation with Ellie Lumpesse - 1 of 3

Frédérik: Some time ago I submitted a story to a notable online erotica magazine and it was accepted. As the story went through the editing/publishing process, I considered how several contributors, past and present, chose to have their stories published under a pseudonym. Ultimately, I decided to use my own name, but I find it interesting when people decide that anonymity is better than being out in the open. Of course, stories in a magazine are relatively uncontroversial today; reading erotica seems to have regained a certain hipness. But you go beyond fiction. From blogging about the sex you’ve had, which includes threesomes and group sex, to bedroom radio, in which you podcast a blend of groovy off-the-beaten-track music and recordings of yourself masturbating or having sex with your boyfriend, you share considerably more of your sexuality than most people. Given general attitudes towards sexual expression, it doesn’t come as a surprise that you neither publish personally identifiable information about yourself nor show your face in pictures. But what does it say about our culture that we require a mask of anonymity for something as fundamental as sex? Do you ever feel restricted by having to remain anonymous to some degree? At what point, if ever, does the personal, meaning the sexual, cross over into something political?

Ellie: I desperately want to show my face and be forthright about who I am (given the confines of safety considerations, of course) but unfortunately, I'm not at a place in my life where I think that is a good decision. Nonetheless, I have grappled with these issues because I am very proud of my writing, podcasting, and sex work - as proud as I am of any of my academic accomplishments. It has been important to me to always express to my audience that shame does not cause me to obscure my identity but rather practical considerations of job security. I hope to one day create the type of career for myself that will allow me to be open with my readers and open with the other people in my life about my online activities. I have broken this boundary on several occasions by meeting people I've met through my blog and telling friends and loved ones about my writing.

As for what this says about our culture, I find it hard to draw a conclusion that broad. Certainly I could echo the pro-sex shrieking that we are still neo-Puritans and we are afraid of sex and especially afraid of women that are open and forthright about sex. However, I think the issue is more complex than that. Personally, I have a career in education and considerations of acceptable conduct for a teacher are important to me. I don't think it needs to be a secret that I have a sex life and I am open about this with my students. In fact, I've taught Melissa Gira's statements about fake women when discussing sex work with my freshman comp students. But, it would make me pretty uncomfortable to teach a classroom full of students that had read my blog or listened to my podcast. While the mask of anonymity is repressive, I don't regard it as forced upon me but rather a personal decision that is correct for me at this time. There are certainly a number of women in adult entertainment and well-known cultural critics and writers that do not keep this mask and do quite well. I guess the long and short of it is that if I ever feel I can be as successful as some of my role modes (Rachel Kramer Bussel, Tristan Taormino, Violet Blue, Melissa Gira) I will be lucky enough to be as open as them as well. The sexual is always already political - it is an expression and a text produced by each of us that can be interpreted and translated as we each see fit. I feel honored to be a small voice contributing to openess with sexuality and changing opinions one at a time. In my work as a phone sex operator especially, I feel that I am performing a political and educational function. That sounds disgustingly preachy but by that I mean that I have encountered so many men that are shocked by me and have to re-evaluate their own ideas about what is sexy and what is intelligent to accommodate me. To put it in the most crass terms, I bust a paradigm while they bust a nut.

(to be continued...)

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