Kinktrepreneurship at Queer at Queens.
Queer at Queens: Queer Sex? Now?
It was such a pleasure to speak at this year’s Queer at Queens, which is part of the Outburst Queer Arts Festival in Belfast (http://outburstarts.com/). This event was publicised by Outbust as bringing ‘you two days of world class performances, art and speakers.’ The festival is so important, not just within the context of Northern Ireland but also globally where LGBTQ+ individuals, groups and artists are fighting new (and old!!) battles for rights and visibility. Being recognised and valued for who you are should be something we are all entitled to, but gay, lesbian, trans. and queer individuals are not always afforded these privileges. Likewise, this relates to groups or individuals who identify as kinky or work in alternative forms of employment, where external prejudices may see what they do or practice, as non-normative or insignificant. What was fantastic about Queer at Queens was how inclusive the event was, and the diversity of papers that highlighted the significance of queer lives, queer history and queer futures. Other speakers a Queer at Queens this year included the acclaimed performance artist Holly Hughes, artist Amber Hawk Swanson (The Sex Dolls Project), Glyn Davis (Sex, Backwards), Ed Madden (‘Gents’), and Lazlo Pearlman (What You See is What You Get: Visuality, Erotics and the Disruptive Trans* Body).
My paper explored Kinktrepreneurship and the Professional Dominatrix, with a specific focus on visibility, entrepreneurial pursuits and the importance of self-representation. For the past year, I have been developing and writing an AHRC early career bid and this new intellectual project is called ‘Kinktrepreneurship, Sex Work and Social Media’. Although the bid is on the verge of submission for review; the research idea has already been noticed internationally. In April I delivered a paper on Kinktrepreneurship at the globally renowned AAG annual meeting in Boston, USA (see: http://www.interactivecultures.org/2017/05/kinktrepreneurship-and-social-media-aag-2017-boston-usa/). From this word spread about the bid and I was invited by Dr Trish McTighe (Birmingham University) to speak at Queer at Queens (Queens University, Belfast) about kinktrepreneurship.
In my paper for Queer at Queens, I outlined that the research (if funded) will seek to enable Pro-Domme work to be recognised as entrepreneurial in both academic and non-academic contexts. In popular culture Pro-Domme work is usually defined by perceptions that are not always in line to how Pro-Dommes self-represent. There are many misconceptions which leave the Professional Dominatrix out of important discussions in popular culture around empowerment, self-employment, creative marketing strategies, business success, and entrepreneurial activities. The Professional Dominatrix as an entrepreneur is also currently absent from academic discussions in media studies and entrepreneurship literature. The latter engages with female entrepreneurs through specific entrepreneurial pursuits and enterprising femininities that do not go beyond socially ‘normative’ activities or ‘normative’ creative ventures. There is growing and innovative academic work on women in the creative industries (see the dynamic work of Annette Naudin and Karen Patel here at BCMCR) in the fields of media and cultural studies. Kinktrepreneurship will be doing something differently too by addressing the need for Pro-Dommes and other sex workers / adult performers to be involved in discussions of entrepreneurship and the creative industries. Watch this space!
At the Birmingham School of Media, we do media differently and we are not afraid of embarking on research that is inclusive, impactful and meaningful to the lives of people that are not often thought to be significant; when in fact they are. What is important is the inclusion of other voices and experiences that reveal and illuminate new embodied knowledge. This is particularly important if we are to challenge static subjectivities and discourses that try and uphold cis-normative, heterocentric, whorephobic and anti-kink worldviews.