By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
On the surface, tomatoes can be torture. Especially when they're being hurled at you while you're tied up in front of an audience, as Femcar was in the first part of this story. One splatters on your forehead and runs down your cheeks and before you can even register what happened, another one hits you right in the eye. But for Femcar, tomatoes can be transcendent.
Tantra practitioners often harness their sexual energy to achieve a greater connection with their partners and the universe or a higher being. Some people who practice BDSM use the pain of flogging, piercing, and other intense physical sensations as a vehicle to greater consciousness. Femcar's process echoes these methods on a different level. "I think our emotional barriers and vulnerabilities are much deeper than our physical barriers," she says. "I am an emotional masochist. I need to go to places that are very difficult, emotionally painful, troubling, and uncomfortable. I need to go lower than what I perceive as possible for most people, the lowest place that exists in humanity. It's all about a spiritual journey for me."
She deliberately embraces states of humiliation, degradation, and objectification not only to feed her masochism, but to reach enlightenment. That may sound convoluted when you last heard about the girl shitting on herself in a kiddie pool, but when she explains it, it all makes sense (at least to me).
"I have to go to the places that I hate," says Femcar. "Sometimes, I can see all the horrors in the universe and I try to take them all on. I am trying to see it, I am trying to sit with it, I am wallowing in it, I am screaming in it. When I open my arms to the worst that we can be, I have this tremendous, horrible experience. Something inside me says, 'Because you are seeing it and you are owning it as you, it's OK.' Every cell in my being sees past the moment and into every other person and every other energy in the universe and it's all absolutely beautiful and peaceful. And it's not because I looked away from the horror. It's because I looked at it."
When she's in this altered state, she says some people think she's orgasming when usually she is "freaking out." I asked her about the first time I saw her, and she says she can't remember what happened exactly. Sometimes she does have an orgasm but it's more likely she was feeling awful about being humiliated. And sometimes the difference between pain and pleasure disappears altogether. "I have never had the depth of orgasm or transcendental joy as I have when I have gone through the places of despair, so I think the despair is very connected to the joy. Horror and ecstasy are the same thing because it's about being fully present in the experience."
Femcar and Phantom originally began teaching classes because when they played in public at parties or events, people would often try to stop their scenes because they looked nonconsensual or unsafe. Their desire to be seen and understood has created a forum for more in-depth discussions among kinky people about why we do what we do. Their classes have resonated with many people in the community, and I often encourage people to hear them speak. Some resist, saying, "I'm not into humiliation," or "I don't think we're ready for them." Others dismiss them completely.
"I think a lot of people hate me because I certainly create a lot of uncomfortable feelings in people," says Femcar. "Listen, I am just holding up a mirror. Whatever you are seeing, whatever you are freaking out about, it isn't about me, it's about you." I tend to agree. Whenever I see any scene that disturbs me, I am usually projecting my own shit onto it. It's tapping into something in me, so I look inward, whereas most people are quick to say, "Those people are fucked up." Phantom and Femcar take huge risks when they play in public as they act out some of the darkest, scariest, ugliest scenarios and fantasiesones that aren't just swimming around in their minds. Their play pushes people's buttons, both positively and negatively, and it blurs the lines between pleasure and pain, comfort and dread, power and submission.
Femcar is not simply aware that her play affects other people; she wants it to. She wants to challenge herself and others to embrace all sides of ourselves, even those we don't want to show the world. "Instead of saying, 'How can you possibly see me as just an object, how dare you?' I say, 'You know what, I want you to.' And not only that, I am going to wallow in it and I am going to grow from it and be better for it. Call me a slut, call me ugly, call me stupid. Sometimes I am all those things, and so are you, and that's OK. I can love myself in the lowest place. We have this illusion that we are always strong, smart, pretty, but every one of us at some point is ugly and disgusting. When you actually open your arms and take it on, it's an amazing place of power. If I never thought I was any of those things I would be lying to myself."
What a lot of people don't realize is that it's not about the humiliation per se. It's not about the tomatoes. I think people get caught up in what's happening on the surface and can't see past it to really listen to what Femcar and Phantom have to say, and to see how it can apply to so many things. It's ironic, but also twistedly fitting, that people get stuck on he-did-what-to-her? and miss the deeper implications of their unique kind of play. "This whole journey is about accepting things that are very difficult to accept," she says. "I want to get to a place of authenticity where I can be as fully me as I possibly can in every moment. I don't want to pretend. I want to be true without the illusions, the niceties, all the things we put around us to hide who we really are."
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