Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rabbit White - The Man Project: David Steinberg

Being a "male feminist" has become an oxymoron - in many circles of the various men's movements, feminism is evil, not something a self-respecting male would ever want to be involved with. Yet, sex-positive photographer David Steinberg is a leader among feminist males. Author Rabbit White, for her Man Project series, interviewed Steinberg - posted at Sexis.

WARNING: Some pictures at the original article are NSFW - and they may offend some people (you know who you are - so don't say I didn't warn you).

The Man Project: David Steinberg
© David Steinberg

Prolific writer, photographer and sexual activist David Steinberg was recently named Erotic Photographer of the Year. His photographs of disabled people having sex are getting a lot of press now, but David has a long history of sexually progressive work.

After penning an essay on men and porn in the ’80s, he found himself leading workshops on “Eroticism, Pornography, and Sexual Fantasy.” Being involved in the male-feminist movement, he helped men reconcile their sexual feelings and fantasies with their feminist politics.

Steinberg has also authored several books, and penned a long-running sex column, “Comes Naturally” for the San Francisco Bay Area’s much-missed alternative weekly, Spectator. Being one of the visible and outspoken guys working in the realm of feminism and sex, he’s got a lot to say on the topics of masculinity and sexuality.

What message are you trying to convey with your photos?

I want my photographs to suggest that there are more important, more fulfilling things to be pursued through sex then what we see through advertising or mainstream movies or pornography. Intimacy; the sense of surrender; moving out of conscious control and into other arenas of experience are all possible through sexuality. What I’m trying to photograph is people who are experiencing sex in that way.

Is this a message that’s important to men specifically?

Yes. I’ve been holding men’s groups for years. When we talk about sexual stuff, I ask: What is this all about for you—this thing called sex? What makes for a powerful or rewarding experience? [The answer was usually] being sexual with a beautiful woman—ego gratification. At best in mainstream culture, we are encouraged to think about sex as exciting, fun. Which is great, but we are not encouraged to think about sex as intimacy, about the power of the connection you can make with a partner.

What have you learned by observing people having sex?

It’s a funny thing … after having done a shoot and going over the photos for hours, I feel like I know the couples amazingly well; [maybe] better than they know themselves. I know who is going to split up. I know who is going to stay together. If you look carefully, it’s all there.

How would you define true masculinity?

My father is 90 and supportive of my work, but when I got involved with transsexual people, it proved difficult. He said: “I don’t know what that means! What does that mean to say, ‘I was in a boy’s body but I knew I was a girl?’” [I said], “Well, how do you know that you that you are really a man? Do you see yourself as a man because everybody has always told you that you were a man, because you have a penis, or what?”

When I ask that question of myself I have to say, I don’t know, but I certainly feel that my own life has been enlarged and been made much happier once I learned I could make conscious choices about what aspects of socially defined masculinity I wanted to hold onto, and what I wanted to move away from.

What were some of the choices you made in moving away from traditional masculinity?

I made an early decision in my life to be the primary parent. I decided, I’m not gonna work fulltime, I don’t wanna be the secondary in this thing that is too wonderful. There is so much that men deny themselves.
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