“I will always have a soft spot for the memories I have of stumbling upon the tickling community online.” What has the Internet done for sex? Queer femme desire, teen goth fantasy, neolithic tombs and cyber-erotic blobs all merge in the world of Jennifer Mehigan.

Diamond Thighs/Head Crushers, 2017. Courtesy of the artist

What is sex for you, and what do you find sexy?

The act is always kind of unsatisfying in comparison to the build-up, but maybe I’ve just been having bad sex! I find authenticity and openness really sexy, but at the same time I find performing stereotypes, which are in a way both true and untrue, sexy too. Maybe they can be the same thing. I have been reading about trauma a lot and how that relates to our ways of desiring and stimulating the endogenous opioid system to experience rushes of pleasure, and I think something is sexy when it manages to hurt me on some level and heal me at the same time. It’s kind of grim! But also optimistic.

Woah, I need to look into that! How has your own relationship to your body and sex affected how you look at depictions of sexuality and bodies in our culture?

My body has always been quite sick on some level, so that sickness seeps into everything. Like many others, I think feeling like an outsider—whether it’s in my own body or just a general social sense—is kind of a nice position to be in and I try to take advantage of that in order to make fun of the way types of sexualities are portrayed and sold to us. I also think that growing up on the Internet and experiencing sex mediated through the Internet and chatrooms as a teenager kind of allowed me to engage with fantasies in a more visceral and immediate way. I feel like I learned to have a really great relationship with my own desires, which is the opposite of what certain things like porn can do.

Vanitas 2, 2016

“I tried to become a blob in real life too, but it seems that getting really fat didn’t help me feel better!”

Sexuality, sexual imagery and extreme physical bodies all come into your work, both real and fantastical. You create these incredible hybrids and you referred to them to me before as blobs. What’s the role of bodies in all this for you?

I tried to become a blob in real life too, but it seems that getting really fat didn’t help me feel better! I have obviously been drawn to bodies that take things further than conventional attractiveness on all sides of the spectrum, as a way of both degrading and celebrating them. At the moment I am really interested in creating digital bodies that are also landscapes or climates or ecological systems, and I am also interested in playing with the sensations in the body of the viewer or the listener and worming my way inside them, somehow.

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  • Left: Diabla 999, 2015; Right: Hard Girls 4, 2016

In series like Watch Yourself Rot and Butcher you address BDSM and female domination. Can you tell me more about that work and why you wanted to deal with that subject?

I am really interested in how performances and exchanges of power work, and this idea in BDSM that the submissive kind of holds all the power doesn’t translate into real life, but there is a small feeling of consensual humiliation that is part of the femme experience that I am really interested in. I find that the celebration of female dominance is still kind of a double-edged sword and it’s hard to escape the feeling of just being eaten up by a gaze that you weren’t even performing for in the first place.

You also look at ways we consume bodies, even literally… Can you tell me more about the work you’ve done with Kim K and connecting that to vorarephilia? 

I used to think about the links between vore and the consumption of femininity (with Kim being the ultimate icon) as something that was done to us or inflicted on us, but recently I have been feeling more drawn to the agency of the consumed and the hugeness of desire, the urge to succumb to it all. I am beginning to realize that maybe it’s less gendered than I thought, and more just a desire to give up or to surrender a type of agency or autonomy and all the anxiety that is a part of that.

Ground + Pound 1, 2016

You work a lot with other sexual subcultures and fetish items, clothing and aesthetics…

I fall completely in love with objects and textures that intend to seduce in a very basic, innate way. Shiny, sweaty wetness is my weakness, and I think that lack of subtlety is a necessary part of subcultures and signalling certain types of desires that I can also use in my work. Most of the discoveries I make end up being kind of dark and depressing instead of wonderful, and I think Rule 34 makes everything completely unsurprising now, but I will always have a soft spot for the memories I have of stumbling upon the tickling community online.

“Shiny, sweaty wetness is my weakness, and I think that lack of subtlety is a necessary part of subcultures”

Do you think the virtual space has opened up new possibilities for sex? 

In some ways, absolutely. I have had some really satisfying, completely virtual emotional relationships with people online, and sex can be part of that. But there is also an increasingly large amount of virtual spaces that are just reproducing hetero sex norms and the horror that accompanies that in an even worse way. Thankfully, regardless of what the space is, there will always be communities of queers and weirdos and artists who push back against that, so in a way, even if the virtual experience becomes the most boring thing on earth, there will always be something cute happening secretly, or not so secretly, somewhere.

This article was originally published in issue 34

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