Victoria Goodwin Baker and Neon Weiss
at Randolph Street Gallery, June 4 and 5
What is sexually forbidden to lesbians? For ages it was lesbianism itself. First society tried to deny its very existence. Then it tried to suppress it. But in the last generation or so, with the advent of feminism and the science of sexuality, lesbianism has found a comfortable enough place in the erotic discourse that it can afford to stretch its boundaries. There are now lesbian feminist constructs for SM, bondage, whipping, role playing, even cock (dildo) sucking. Anything goes.
So what’s forbidden to lesbians? According to Victoria Baker and Neon Weiss, two San Francisco lesbian performers, it’s men. Of course, not straight men. There’s nothing revolutionary about women–regardless of sexual orientation–screwing straight men; in fact, it’s kind of retrograde. But how about gay men?
If the notion of lesbians and gay men having sex with each other strikes you as odd–as perhaps just heterosexuality with a twist, as just bisexuality disguised as radical chic, as just another plot to deny women their unique sexual identity–Baker, for one, has a neat explanation: “It’s like a screen door,” she says. “It lets in a fresh breeze but keeps all the bugs out.”
The bugs, as she tells us in the first part of Go Girls!–a solo piece titled, appropriately enough, “Behind the Screen Door”–are expectations of romance or emotional attachment. No matter what the arrangement with one’s lesbian lover, Baker admits that when she’s with other women a question lurks in the back of her head: “Are you the one?”
“When you’re with a straight man,” she says, “he asks the question, and because I’m a lesbian I feel invaded by it.” But with a gay man, the question just doesn’t exist. “It means something [that we’re together],” she adds. “But it’s different because I don’t want to nest with this person.”
It’s essential to accept this premise in order to get through Go Girls! Everything, especially in Weiss’s piece, “I Only Fuck My Friends,” relies on that. And that’s both the charm and the problem with the show.
I say charm because there’s a delightful appreciation for the absurdity of homosexual men and women engaging in sex with each other and still insisting on their distinctly homosexual identities. Baker in particular makes wonderful use of this inversion of cultural roles to present lesbians as, simultaneously, sexually retrograde and radical. (After all, how many people are out there having queer erotic experiences yet insisting they’re really ultimately heterosexual?)
“No one understands the lesbian cruise,” Baker says, “not even lesbians.” Then she explains how lesbians know they’re interested in each other by constantly catching the other looking away. Yet Baker opens her piece on a leather swing, her feet in restraints, and telling us her lover volunteered her to be fist-fucked by Jason, a gay male friend of theirs. It’s certainly a curious and odd position to be in, even among the most sexually daring.
One of the most confident constructs of Baker’s piece is its assumption that the audience is gay enough, or gay-sensitive enough, to poke fun at the culture and go beyond the easy stereotypes (still, a glossary is provided explaining such elementary terms as fist fucking). Because she casts herself as an insider in this community in conversation with a knowing listenership, Baker’s monologue has a friendly, almost gossipy feel that makes just about everything work.
The same can’t be said for Weiss’s piece. Although Baker does an able job of setting up many of the norms for Weiss, they get scrambled in “I Only Fuck My Friends.” Weiss’s scenarios, though distinctly lesbian and gay male in many ways, eventually fall away into more abstract and paradoxically cliched ideas about sex, particularly group sex. There really doesn’t seem to be much difference between her story and any of the straight/bi jerk-off tales in any issue of Penthouse Forum. Additionally, although Weiss also has a charming presence onstage, her material lacks Baker’s sense of personal investment.
Consider, for example, Weiss’s sudden admission that after experimenting very successfully with vibrators, dildos, and other penile toys she’d lost touch with her cunt. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense when she says it–it’s just that there’s no foreshadowing of this development and, curiously, little humor. Perhaps more curious is the total absence of an explanation of how she figured this out, or what it even means. All we know is that within seconds we’re transported into a major group scene that ends with a woman pulling a little hematite stone from Weiss’s vagina. Huh?
Baker and Weiss are fine enough storytellers, but both also try to introduce movement into the show. Weiss is fairly successful at this with a weird shadow demonstration of fisting; Baker is less so in a corny transition that seems more like amateur martial arts.
There’s no question that their material’s provocative (this, apparently, being the first criterion at this year’s In Through the Out Door series at Randolph Street Gallery, where the shows took place), and that these women have a certain personal appeal. But frankly, beyond its tantalizing qualities and the presentation given it by Baker and Weiss, you wonder if there’s anything more to be said about this business of lesbians and gay men doing it. I mean, OK, but is this it?