Articles

Ridin’ the Clit Rodeo One Phallucy at a Time

by Alicia Eler on July 19, 2013

Sophia Wallace's CLITERACY hits the streets (image courtesy of Hyperallergic)

Sophia Wallace’s CLITERACY hits the streets (photo by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)

You thought that headline was a joke, right? It might be a phallucy, or a fallacy, or it could be just plain phantasmagoric, or phallocentric, or … it could be why you decided to stop for a minute and read this story.

We live in a culture that rewards the act of jerking off a penis more than learning the intricacies and pleasure-oriented qualities of the clit. The art world, the regular world, the theater world, not even the supposedly art-y spaces of American culture offer anything close to gender equality, and especially not to gender non-conforming folks. It seems like a big duh, but white privilege and male privilege can both be very easily taken for granted, accepted as status quo, and then laughed about later amongst (rude, lame, jerky) friends. It’s harder to look at oneself and start unpacking these privileges, and thus diving into a messier type of culture work. This is the America we live in. Duh.

Rather than take it like a man, NYC-based artist Sophia Wallace takes an army of clits to the streets of New York City, art galleries, and the world of social media. Operating through text-based works that echo propaganda-ish slogans — “Don’t Tread on Me” becomes “Don’t Tread on My Clit,” in one instance — she creates signage in the form of street art and billboards to spread Cliteracy: 100 Natural Laws, which exposes cultural overcurrents of misogyny while also considering the effects of internalizing it, particularly for people who live in female-gendered bodies. One such cliteracy reads: “Penetration with a penis is just one of innumerable ways to have sex,” while another pointedly asks “What’s your relationship with the clit?”

Sophia Wallace, "Cliteracy: 100 Natural Laws" (2013) (image courtesy of the artist)

Sophia Wallace, “Cliteracy: 100 Natural Laws” (2013) (image courtesy of the artist)

In her posters around NYC, Wallace delves further into American masculinity, playing a tongue-in-cheek game with word play around the clit. Here’s one that I thought of after viewing this cliteracy alliteration: What if Clint Eastwood were Clit Eastwood, and Clitibank caused the sub-prime mortgage crisis rather than Citibank? What if clits were treated with the same language as dicks? What if this signage wasn’t delegated to the realm of “feminist art” or “queer art,” but actually populist, positive, affirming, and informative work for social change, and a tool for learning more about the powers of the clit? That’s when feminism would actually be post-feminism — if a utopian world devoid of gender inequality actually did exist.

NUFF about CLITERACY? Neva. Photo for Hyperallergic by Hrag Vartanian

NUFF said about CLITERACY? Neva. (photo by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)

Operating in a similar vein to Jenny Holzer and Glenn Ligon, Wallace’s CLITERACY work only uses text so as to erase the opportunity of any type of gazing at or upon. This is a curious juxtaposition with her photographic work On Beauty, which asked men to pose in feminine gestures in a similar way to Jon Uriarte’s project which suggests further materials toward a theory of the adult-man, and the Berlin LookBook, which celebrates female masculinity and gender non-confirming styles. Wallace’s photography is all about the gaze, and so it’s curious to consider the confrontational nature of the work that viewers on the street encounter with CLITERACY. Someone who encounters her work while walking down the street could be having any one of these experiences: spacing out and thinking about a date the night before, trying to process the rape of a close friend, what their co-worker said to them about their choice of froyo toppings, or what they’d like to have for dinner—and then one of Wallace’s natural laws confronts them, and asks what they know about the clit. If it were just another scribble of a penis and balls, the responses would be a simple ‘haha!’ and keep walking. But when the clit appears, chances are a knee-jerk reaction of ‘WTF and why are we still talking about this today?’ will stop ‘em dead in their tracks.

Poster for the CLIT Rodeo courtesy of Ms. Wal-Lez

Poster for the CLIT Rodeo courtesy of Ms. Wal-Lez

To show the cowboys who’s boss, next up the Clit Bandit and Clit Eastwood will present the Clit Rodeo at the Wassaic Festival, August 2–4. Wallace and her collaborator Kenneth Thomas will build a three-dimensional ride-able clit, and everyone who gets on it will enjoy some sort of stimulation while competing for prizes using only their knowledge of the cliteracy. Ken will play Clit Eastwood, and Sophia says she might be Little Red Riding Hood — but she’s still figuring out what exactly her character is to be. No dickheads allowed unless, of course, they know how to ride the clit till it’s bursting with solid gold glitter.

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  • Chris Topher Chivington

    i don’t have a clit and i’m not sexually aroused by clits either :(

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      You are such a gay man it’s turning me on!! hey girl hey

  • thom thomy

    You told me about this artist but I am not sure what I am supposed to get from it. You have described what I should get from this artwork as I suddenly “gaze” upon it as I walk down the street but I don’t think this is very interesting. I think crappy drawings of penises are quite amusing. I believe I would think a crappy drawing of a “clit” would be amusing too, but really who says “clit” anyways. I am pretty underwhelmed.

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      I mean, it’s different when you see the giant word CLIT on the street rather than the usual COCK, tho they are for sure both four-letter words . . . just like FUCK! :) xo

  • butchfeminist

    Chris, Thom, Shawn, you guys seems like really nice guys. http://vimeo.com/64941331 Sorry to hear someone stole your ice cream.

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      wait where is the ice cream? What about people who like yogurt?

  • Chris Topher Chivington

    i think it’s weird someone says im being an anti-feminist by stating my gayness. i wanted to express my opinion because both the author and the featured artist seem to say (at least to me) that clits are relevant to every person, which isn’t always true. things were feeling a bit too heteronormative!

    “What’s your relationship with the clit?” it seems i got the wrong answer just by being gay! maybe it was too much to expect for you guys to know what it’s like to feel left out and/or misrepresented.

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      Hmmm, are dicks relevant to everyone? Did you not come from your mamma’s vajay jay?? HAHA

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      also, I mean I see where you are coming from. Can you still have a relationship to the clit and be gay? I will say that I’m gay but I still have a relationship to the dick/phallus. I think it is more about the symbolic gesture of these genitals. What do you think?

  • electricshepherd15

    love clits, love’em. love women. 30 yrs of bring women to orgasm with my tongue and I never tire of it.

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      I am not sure if you are male or female, but I like your philosophy electric person!

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      age/sex/location – haha

      • electricshepherd15

        50, M, Denver

        hehe. cheers

        • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

          haha! that’s cool. today someone asked if i was “still in school,” so i suppose that today I am 22. Keep in ridin’ the clit Electric Pussy Man! cheers :)

  • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

    Totally. It was interesting for me to see the use of text deployed as a way to not present the female body, which is of course either sexualized or deemed irrelevant. I wish there was a middle ground for the form that was still sexy. Hmm.

    • http://christopherclary.com/ Christopher Clary

      Hmmm. I want this to be more sexy too. But that might be us. Taken at face value, Wallace’s art feels more weighted in the medium of language than the subject of clits.

      I love her materiality. It’s dear to my heart and art. Go clits and dicks.

  • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

    Would anyone else be interested in riding the clit rodeo? Thus far we’ve experienced bucking broncos, wild bulls, a goat named Pantyhose, butch twins, New York fairies, and a host of other zeitgeist rodeo friends. I am glad you are all attending. The artist is not present at the moment, but I am sure she will arrive soon.

  • Paul Fletcher

    While I think the clit may not get the attention it deserves, the vagina–at least the semi-shaved, full-on, frontal triangle of love–gets widespread recognition. The penis, on the other hand, if not relegated to the scribbles of poster boards and bathroom walls, has all but disappeared from public eye.

    I disagree, in part, with the idea that the world is all about hand jobbing the pork pole and less about waxing the bean. In fact, we live in a world terrified of male nudity but–although in what might be considered extreme pornographic quantities–quite open to the female form and its sexuality. Furthermore, women emphasizing the clitoris would amount to men highlighting their glans penis. Could you imagine a world in which men had the audacity and will to be so biologically specific? Or does this specificity showcase a deeper anxiety among women to draw the biology from the abstract?

    • dirkambient

      As I understand it, the clitoris is of social/political importance (and therefore fodder for art) because it asserts independence and agency for women — as it is not
      directly stimulated through intercourse, it is not subject to a phallocentric
      worldview – its existence and function is not subject to male pleasure.
      The attention given to the vagina in mass media is largely as a site of
      pleasure for straight males (both tactile and ocular; witness the shaving craze-ugh). Attention given to the clitoris is also part of the larger corrective regarding the suppression of female sexuality. And although a gay man would not generally encounter the clit, it might still be symbolically relevant due to its cultural position as an alternative to phallocentric heteronormativity. Maybe that’s a stretch. Sorry
      if all this is elementary but I sense it might add something to the comments
      here.

  • Chris Topher Chivington

    OK i realize i’m a huge twat!!!! i have to admit i have a very low cliteracy level. i thought a “clit” was slang for the entire vagina itself but i just looked it up and i realized the truth :( sorry people!

    ~unlocking the mysteries of the vagina one step at a time~

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      fun! welcome to the party of many genitals.

    • Sophia Wallace

      Welcome to the cliterati. Did you happen upon images of the clitoris in your research? It’s shocking to realize that the anatomy of the clit has only been known for 15 years. http://blog.museumofsex.com/the-internal-clitoris/

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