Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: April 2012

I’m taking part in the Edinburgh Festival of the Erotic Arts from June 22nd to 24th 2012, (http://www.erotic-arts.co.uk) and reading some of my unpublished work. There are exhibitions featuring visual, plastic and other arts under virtually every medium available.  And there’s a lot of Burlesque.  Which is interesting.

‘Erotic’ Burlesque flourished in America during the ‘Great Depression’. Think of Josephine Baker – but there were many others. It’s a retro thing. It’s a kind of magic.  The same sort of magic that propels so many unsolicited e-mails, texts and phone calls that fall under the generic parenthesis of ‘scam’.  Whichever of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ are invoked to conjure our response, whether greed or lust, be sure, we are being conned. It probably can’t be entirely blamed on the current economic situation.

Strangely, (or perhaps not so strangely), criminal psychologists (the ones who study the psychology of criminals; not those psychologists who are criminals) tell us confidence tricksters are particularly susceptible to being conned themselves.  It has something to do with belief in credulity.

Maybe it’s why, in my formative years, I quite fancied becoming a Snake Oil Salesman; the opportunities:- the sheer charisma of becoming the Professor, the charlatan, the mountebank (and briefly an actor), that would win me adulation, cash and an ‘access all areas’ pass to sexual freedom. Easy.

If I’d decided to direct theatre (which I might still do) I’d’ve been very likely to cast Burlesque performers to play the Faeries in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.  Their very unreality suits them perfectly for the part. This isn’t to suggest they’re ‘painted harlots’, but merely presenting themselves as clichéd throwbacks to an imagined and irretrievable mode of life.  Peter Pan is no longer played in Pantomime because cynical  children would rather see Tinkerbelle die than counterfeit a belief in Faeries.  And good for them.

Women are about to turn the tables on men.  The paternalistic and Chauvinistic assumptions that have driven much of the World are being invalidated by women taking the substantial ‘power’ in the direction many developed (decadent?) civilisations are going.

Women don’t need to be ‘validated’ by men. Nor do they need to fight not to be ‘objectified’ by the lustful gaze of their worshippers.  But some theorists suggest – including many ‘second wave feminists’ –there are some women who don’t want to take responsibility for being the leaders.  They want to be the objects of uncontrollable male lust; to justify their existence by being desired and therefore fed, clothed (Louboutin included) and housed in the manner to which they’d like to become accustomed by men. That’s reactionary, and a ‘cop-out’. Sex and shopping are getting their notice to quit.

This is the ‘Stalingrad 1942 to Stalingrad 1943’ turn in the battle of the genders. But that means the uncomfortable burden of victory in the ‘sex’ war needs to be borne by women.  Now women will – if they are men’s women (like some men used to be ‘ladies’ men) – need to be able to win the man who stays at home to look after the children (not, thanks to lab-science, temporary tenants of women’s bodies) by appealing to his dumb-blonde inferiority.

But, as the forthcoming book by Hanna Rosin; ‘The End of Men’ is expected to assert, it’s all about to turn tits up.  So is this why a return to the cockteasing power of the Burlesque (originally a satirical attack on what men believed to be seriously worth considering) is becoming  – perhaps intuitively – a fashionable obsession amongst women?

Neo-Burlesque is an ‘in yer face’ confrontation with women expressing themselves as sexual beings without kow-towing to male-defined criteria of what is desirable.  Fat, wobbly and intensely unpretty women are showing they can arouse men indiscriminately by not exposing themselves as the object of penile penetration, but by performing long lost arts of Vaudevillian skills like fire-eating, Fakir tricks, and a whole host of ‘showbizzy’, dancy stuff.

As Shakespeare’s Faery said; “What fools these mortals be!”

The women who choose to perform as Burlesques, despite their very creditable theatre-skills, might just be as foolish as the men they seek to seduce then deny. (Because denial is the greatest frisson of Burlesque.)  It’s unoriginal, retrograde and regressive. They’re falling, perhaps, for the con they think they’re perpetrating.

Possibly the fad for Burlesque will fizzle out.  But I do hope the perennial fascination for erotic art won’t.  As I also hope men won’t be ended totally as Hanna Rosin might suggest.

Speaking for myself, it really doesn’t matter.  I can probably keep getting my rocks off as long as I want to do so.  But I have a sneaking feeling that it will be a pity if the male-female thing disappears altogether. But I’m not in control of human evolution, and I’m not especially proud about what the male ones have done.

The female of the species (according to Kipling) is more deadly than the male.

But the Burlesques with their counterfeit desire do not attract me, and won’t kill me.