by Chase Joynt
This is an article reprinted from Dance Theatre Journal: Special Edition on Sex and Performance, an academic but user friendly publication by the Laban Centre in London, which Tessa Wills co-edited with Doran George in 2013. We used the festival THIS IS WHAT I WANT as a lens through which to reveal the field of the intersection between radical sexual practice and radical performance practice in the Bay Area, and our work. Read the other articles here.
As an artist, I consistently endeavor to tell stories in new ways. As a trans person, I strive to disrupt and re-articulate popular identity-based life narratives in favor of more nuanced and complicated truths. MAN LIBS is an ongoing performance and literary project that takes it’s form from the North American children’s game MAD LIBS. Before reading, feel free to fill-in-the-blanks with your friends, and/or journey alone to create the story, and watch as it changes.
Good evening everyone, thank you for coming.
When I originally applied to be a part of this show, I summarised my piece by saying: It will be as if a vagina monologue and a TED talk have a transsexual baby. Now, in order to actualise upon this intention I have decided to combine two of my favorite things: awkwardly talking about my feelings in public and the opportunity to do a Mad Libs with a large group of strangers.
For those of you who are not familiar with Mad Libs, it’s actually quite simple. I am going to prompt you to yell out parts of speech that I will then incorporate into a story that we create together. Mad Libs are generally constructed around a number of themes, and tonight… that theme happens to be my sex life.
In the interest of methodological transparency, I should mention that I find the unplanned nature of your contributions to be quite comforting, as I have yet to encounter a first time sexual experience that does not require some awkward, collaborative and unplanned fill in the blanks.
In thinking about my childhood experiences as a Mad Libber, I remember feeling anxious about knowing the specific parts of speech that the book was asking me to provide. So, in honour of this anxiety, I would like to take a moment to go over some general terms for your participatory pleasure. If you didn’t previously know that I am a need predicting, comfort managing top, now you do.
Adverbs are generally words used to modify verbs. Adverbs can typically answer questions like How, When and Where. However to be honest, I usually remember nothing more than the fact that adverbs are words that end in -ly. So… I might ask you for an adverb to describe how this is going so far? And you might answer: Swimmingly.
Adjectives are generally words used to modify nouns. This could refer to the quantity of things, the quality of things or perhaps the size, the shape or the colour. For example I might ask you to provide an adjective to describe the size of my junk… and when you respond excitedly with the word HUGE, I will know that we have never slept together.
I believe that every other fill in the blank opportunity in this game should be self-explanatory, except perhaps for ‘Body Part’, which I bring up here only because when spontaneously asked, I have a really hard time thinking of any part of the body that doesn’t rhyme with Fine China.
The title of our Mad Lib this evening is:
A letter to my future date regarding things that I want.
(Print this out. Play it at work. Use it as a stocking stuffer. Or a first date ice breaker. And if you like it, think about throwing us a few bucks, or ten or twenty, to support the publication of quality content about the intersection of erotics and performance.)
Hey, ___________________________ (name of a person I might date).
I hope this note finds you well; I had an amazing time last night ___________________________ (weird date activity) …and must admit I haven’t stopped thinking about the way you looked in that ____________ (fashion accessory). I’m writing because I’ve been thinking about our conversations of late, and feel like I owe it to you to stay open and transparent about where I ‘m at these days.
I don’t really know where to start other than to say that I seem to have become accustomed to my position as a somewhat stoic top, and as such, I have come to realize that there are approximately ________ (a number between 136-600) issues regarding sex and intimacy that I have yet to attend to. In summary: I’m writing to you today because I need to tell you that beneath my confident __________________ (large athletic animal) of a sexual exterior lives a neglected baby _________________ (small cute animal).
After some thinking, I’ve isolated some things that have contributed to my somewhat fractured sense of sexual self and rather than make you guess over the next 4-6 months of our dating, I thought I’d take a leap and just list them here 1) my decision to stop drinking, 2) sexual violence and 3) transitioning. You should know that since writing that list of three, I have abandoned my computer, made ______________ (favorite food), watched 3 episodes of ________________________ (popular daytime television show) and ____________________ (activity that takes place in a bathroom). My therapist likes to tell me ________________________________________________ ___ (something your therapist tells you repeatedly) however I prefer to see it as strategic avoidance.
So, let’s talk about the list.
Drinking: I have absolutely no regrets about making the decision to stop drinking. I feel smarter, I feel braver and I’m pretty sure consistently smelling like ___________________________ (bad smell you associate with a bar) was not doing anything for my sexual stock value. With that being said, I have also noticed that when the booze left my bedroom, so too did my ability to relax while getting ___________________________ (slang for oral sex)… as well as my desire to take anything up the ass. Once adventurous with a glass of ___________________________ (type of liquor) now bum shy with a bottle ___________________________ (carbonated beverage). The most important thing I’ve learned from drinking is that it provided a way for me to avoid things in my life worthy of attention… In the spirit of addressing said avoidance, and said attention, I should also tell you about my desire to __________________________ _________________________________ (sexual fantasy)… __________ (text emoticon).
I have no good segue for sexual violence.
The thing about sexual violence is that I seem to have developed an ego about my survival. I’m not really interested in processing the specifics of my childhood trauma with you, but it is important to me that you know it is there. It is sort of akin to the fact that I want you to find the scars on my chest attractive, while not being overly interested in talking about my _____________________ (slang for a woman’s chest). Sexual violence is complicatedly gendered for me. It makes me mistrust masculinity and fear femininity in ways that I rarely admit to myself, let alone anyone else. My process of transitioning has only complicated and further informed those feelings. To be honest with you, transitioning has been both the best and the worst thing to happen to my sex life. Knowing that such a conversation is much bigger than any email could possibly hold… I’ll just try to get the ball rolling here…
It is very hard to get someone to treat my ___________________ (slang for vagina) like a ___________________ (slang for penis) when it is in fact a ___________________ (slang for vagina) and confusingly not a ___________________ (slang for penis). This is especially difficult when activities like oral make it feel like a _______________________ (slang for vagina) but other forms of fucking makes it feel like the _______________________ (slang for penis) king of the world. Furthermore, you should know that when I’m really turned on, I actually don’t care if you treat it functionally like a _______________________ (slang for vagina) which I’m sure is confusing for you in light of the fact that the minute I get off, my unit is, has been and always will be a _______________________ (slang for penis).
Since I am on the subject, I also want to acknowledge that I know ______________________ (slang for vagina)’s typically get wet and that ____________________ (slang for penis)’s typically get hard. However, in the case of my ____________________ (slang for vagina) which we are heretofore referring to as a ___________________ (slang for penis), I would actually just like to avoid adjectives all together.
You know, after all that I have just said… I feel like I need to make an amendment. Earlier when I wrote that I didn’t want to talk about the violence in my past, what I meant to say was that I’m actually just not ready to talk about it again… which is a frustrating realization, because I made a decision in late 2005ish to close the negotiations on that chapter of my life indefinitely. Perhaps my view from the top all these years has been a gift, as it’s helped to soften the remembrance of what it was like to be pinned on the bottom so long ago.
The kind of man that I want to be to you in this life is informed by so many versions of men I know and never want to be. As such I tread carefully, forever invested in moving beyond traps, beyond tropes, beyond gender and beyond genitals… toward an understanding of intimacy that puts so much faith in the unknown of the next chapter.
I’m writing tonight because I am invested in the next chapter. And more importantly, I’m writing because when I think about the next chapter, all I can think about is you.
___________________________ (Annoying pet name you’ve overheard someone call a lover)
Republished with permission at http://tessawills.com/man-libs/. Originally published in George, Doran, Hargreaves, Martin, Shaw, Thom and Wills, Tessa eds. Dance Theatre Journal 25.2. London: Laban, 2013. Print.