In early 2016, I worked on an art project with an artist near Findhorn. She seemed intrigued by me and seemed particularly intrigued by my thoughts on male chastity. I was starting to think a bit more seriously about using it as a feature in my photographs and in my writing, and it seemed like this might be something we could work on together.
At some point, she mentioned the possibility of an installation and that concept quickly captured my imagination. At first I wasn’t sure just how much potential it might have, but when I started to think about it, I could really see a lot of possibilities. In fact, the more I mulled it over, the more exciting it got. Once the ideas started flowing, there just didn’t seem any way to slow them down at all.
It started off as a fairly straightforward concept. She saw it as a bit of gallery space with some pictures and bits of writing about the central concept of male chastity. But almost immediately, I could see that it had far more potential than that. In my imagination, the concept worked best if it was a “practical” one... if it was made clear that I was going to be wearing a chastity device for the duration of it.
And I always want to write about everything, so I quickly knew that I’d want to create a journal as I went along. I’m very interested in learning about screen printing, so it wasn’t much of a jump to imagine pages from the journal being screen printed and left lying around in the gallery. Maybe space would be left on every page, so that visitors could add their own notes, or illustrations to them - thus creating an interactive element. And I’d write a new entry every night, so the pages would be refreshed on a daily basis. And perhaps the illustrated pages from the previous day would be hung on the walls.
I also wanted to be present in the gallery, every day. If it was allowed, I’d be completely naked every time I was there. Every time I met and spoke to the visitors. Perhaps someone would be there, ready to film the bits of interaction if the visitors consented. This could create another feature that would change on a daily basis, as the most interesting or entertaining bits of those conversations could be edited into a short film. Every day, a new “chapter” of that film could be made available in the gallery.
At first, I thought that the installation would need to last a month; anything shorter than that would lack commitment to the concept. Because being in chastity for a week would be a minor challenge - but for this to really work, I’d need to create a real and genuine challenge for myself. Later, I realised that even a month wouldn’t really be particularly difficult to achieve. The installation would be coming to a close at just about the time I’d be starting to feel the pressure properly. I started wondering if two - maybe three months - would be the only way to demonstrate proper commitment to it.
I also started to wonder if the concept wouldn’t just be related to male chastity; perhaps it would cover gender roles as well. And it was never going to be about showing a male who was feeling subjugated or dominated; instead, I’d be cheerful, confident and philosophical. Contrary to the popular perception of a man in chastity, I would not be emasculated. My cock might be locked up and everybody who met me might be fully aware of that, but I knew that my gender identity would not be defined by my genitals.
And I might be feeling frustrated in a particular moment, but I would - overall - be comfortable with everything. If I was tense, I’d let it show. If I was uncomfortable, I’d voice that - in my conversations and in my journal entries. If I found myself focusing on the eventual resolution, rather than relaxing into the moment, I’d be just as open about that. I would fully acknowledge my restlessness.
When I went home after the first visit that artist, I was completely buzzing with creativity that needed an outlet. Her talk about a gallery space had only scratched the surface of what would be possible with an installation. I had many more ideas.
I couldn’t wait to visit her again. But while the first visit seemed so exciting and full of potential, the second one held nothing but conflict. And I realised very quickly that it wasn’t going to be possible for us to work together.
She had borrowed a projector from somewhere, and I was very excited by this. I’m fascinated by the different things that can show up and enhance the different features and contours of a person’s body. I had filmed some gently flowing water, so I could project it onto the wall and stand in front of it. I had written a couple of bits and pieces, so I could stand - with my own words projected onto me in neat little lines. I’ve never had an expensive camera, but I’ve often managed to get good works by using a timer app on my iPhone. Once again, I was developing lots of fresh ideas.
Never underestimate the destructive potential of technology, though; it can be great, but sometimes it throws one hell of a problem in your way. And my iPhone picked a bad day to go spectacularly wrong. It needed a full wipe and reboot that morning. By the time I got to the artist’s place, I was still restoring some of the features and didn’t have the timer app back in place.
It should have been easy to fix. All I needed was an internet connection and that was available in the artist’s home; if she was prepared to let me have her internet code. I asked her for it, and she ignored me. I mean that literally. It was a direct request and she ignored it. It was like I hadn’t even spoken. I waited a decent interval and asked again, and was ignored again.
So it became awkward. Without the internet, I couldn’t restore the app. And without the app, I couldn’t take the pictures I wanted. But after making two direct requests, I felt that perhaps it would be obnoxious to keep asking. I resorted to dropping hints; making the occasional reference to the difficulty I was going to have if I couldn’t get the pictures I wanted. She ignored me each time, and I started to feel the frustration rise.
Once the projector was set up, I started to model for her. She took plenty pictures with her own camera and I asked if I could get copies of them. She told me that she wasn’t prepared to share them, because those pictures would be her intellectual property. I had thought that if we were collaborating on a project, and if we credited each other as model, artist, photographer - whichever label was relevant at any given moment for any specific picture - then there would be room for some flexibility, but she was adamant.
So I handed my iPhone to her and asked her to take some pictures for me with it, but she refused again. I had thought that - maybe - if it was my camera, then the definitions of ownership might be flexible. But she disagreed. They would still be her pictures, she said. She started to speak a lot about agency and creativity. And while I agreed with many of her points, I tried to point out that we were supposed to be in a partnership. I reminded her that I had - at her request - already shared all of my pictures from the previous weekend with her. Once again, she focused on something else entirely and seemed not to hear me.
Until that point, I hadn’t been completely clear whether she was genuinely blanking me, or simply distracted. But I finally understood that this was a tactic of hers. If she didn’t want to acknowledge something, she simply ignored it.
I gave up on getting any pictures, but I figured I could still get video. It would be a compromised project, but it was still possible for me to get something out of it. I set up the iPhone on a chair, took some video and checked the framing. It was slightly off, so I moved it, filmed again and checked it again. Still off. There was a very small frame available that I could work within, so I needed to get it absolutely right. And it took me nearly half an hour of frustrating trial and error before I was happy.
So I finally felt able to actually get some footage I would be happy to use. I set the projector going, positioned the iPhone and got ready to start working. And the moment I moved away, she picked up the chair I’d been using as a support and moved it aside, because it was suddenly “in the way”.
I was appalled. And that’s when I became fully aware that she didn’t want to share anything from this project. For reasons of her own, she was definitely sabotaging me; passively at first, then actively. She was going to make sure there was going to be nothing I could take away with me when we were finished.
I felt pretty burned by the whole event, by the time I left. I knew that I couldn’t work with her again. This relationship which had seemed to have so much potential on that first week..? It was over, now.
I never could figure out why she did this. Best guess I could come up with, though..? I think she wanted complete creative control and didn’t like the ideas I was having. But that’s just pure speculation. I haven’t spoken to her since, and have no plans to do so.