Emma Alexander: be flayed, learn to be alone

Emma Alexander, previously  known only as ‘E’, has written for The Demented Goddess on BDSM, books and endometriosis. Unwell in London, she shares her recommendations for isolation comforts and spurs.

By the time the UK went into lockdown on the 23rd March, I had already been home with a heady assortment of sicknesses for three and half weeks, hot on the tail of two other long periods of illness since mid-December. There has been a certain bemusement, watching the general population melt down mere days into being semi-confined to their homes.

If being an often-sick person teaches you anything, it is how to be alone. How to stay where you are. Sick bodies are ruthless conditioners in ways that other bodies are not. We were ready for this in ways that you were not. So welcome, briefly, to our world. You will learn your capacity for loss, but also for love.

“If being an often sick person teaches you anything, it’s how to be alone”.

As everyone wrestles with the how/why/WTF of the current pandemic, new and old work by queer writers on the AIDs epidemic has come to the fore. This article by Patrick Strudwick talks to survivors of the AIDs crisis about coping during an epidemic (https://www.buzzfeed.com/patrickstrudwick/we-survived-aids-now-we-are-facing-the-coronavirus). The brilliant ‘How to have Promiscuity in an Epidemic’ by Douglas Crimp (1987) explores the sexual tensions at the time. Within the gay community, the mainstream moved towards a conservative morality, while others pursued their desire to be explicitly and defiantly promiscuous.

Over at Burning House Press, their latest issue – Sex and Death in the Age of Aquarius – is edited by Astro-Witch/Madonna Joan Pope and is full of art, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, including this brilliant and bloody study of the work of Ana Mendieta by Giovanni Pennacchietti (https://burninghousepress.com/2020/03/31/burnt-flowers-fallen-sex-death-and-postmodern-re-sanctification-of-the-feminine-in-ana-mendietas-silueta-series-1973-1980-by-giovanni-pennacchietti/)

If you prefer aural quarantine stimulation, I recommend The Great Women Artists podcast, particularly episodes on the great Unskilled Worker and a moving discussion of the work of Charlotte Salomon by Chantal Joffe. I’m also working my way through old episodes of the Making Gay History podcast.

Finally, new music – listen to Describe by Perfume Genius for when you want to roll around in the dirt, touching your face. Listen to Oh Ruthless Great Divine Dictator by Lingua Ignota for when you need to be flayed. And you will.

Be safe. Be hopeful. Stay home.

Follow Emma Alexander aka ‘E’ on Twitter and Insta, @vexslain

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