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CVLT Nation Interviews L’imparfaite

After writing the piece on the French kink Magazine L’imparfaite, I wanted dig a little deeper into the creators’ inspiration and ethics, so I did this interview with two of its’ staff, Diégo and Myrtille, where we discuss everything from French stereotypes to BDSM’s connection to goth and industrial music. Read on…

What was your inspiration for starting L’imparfaite, and what would you say is your mission statement?

L’imparfaite started in 2009, before we both officially joined the team in 2011. The main inspiration was tackling a sensitive subject along new lines, trying to put forward new voices about every small aspect of what belongs to all of us: SEX. The idea was also that there are many stories behind sex, other than binary constructions such as normality/abnormality, homo/hetero, woman/man, good/bad, kinky/not, SM/vanilla, dom/sub etc. – and on it goes.

Diégo joined the mag because he was hanging around with the editors since 2009. He used to be the guy who helped carry the big 20kg cardboard boxes of L’imparfaite around Paris. His name was inserted into the third issue as a surprise. So he felt compelled to actually write articles for the mag.

Myrtille had written a research essay on the Parisian fetish and SM scene and wanted to join people talking and writing about sex because she was tired of people seeing her as a slut (women talking about sex at early stages are often categorized as such – at least in France, but probably in many others places). During her internship at the Centre for Sex and Culture in San Francisco, she had met with a liberating discourse that had helped her think about sex very differently and wanted to develop this also for other people and women.

The French have always seemed to have a liberating sense of adventure when it comes to sexual exploration, going all the way back to the Marquis De Sade. Why do you think this is?

Diégo: As a European in his late twenties, I would say this is bullshit. Today, a middle-class white gay male from Stuttgart and one from Montpellier are very much alike sexually. I don’t think sexuality is defined by nationality (ethnicity and social class are definitely a factor though). Unfortunately, “les clichés ont la vie dure” (clichés die hard).

Myrtille: Yes, I agree that race, class, but also gender, as well probably as religion or spirituality, and whether individuals live more in the global South or in the global North, probably have more to do with how sex is practiced and experienced than nationality. France has always seemed to be liberated sexually, and has played on this image, but this is not true about everything: the body (especially female, but also male) is still constrained by many social norms in France, largely informed by class structures, probably more than in some other places.

Visually, you approach the subject manner in a very striking way; where do you see the line between artistic eroticism and pornography?

D&M: We keep drawing and re-drawing the line between art and porn. It is a moving line. X-Art and other “mainstream” porn channels are trying to blur lines between the two by shooting more sensual, slower scenes. Perhaps also, the line is more to be looked for in the way things are done, rather than the results in the images: we do this non-profit (at least not strictly economic profit), besides our jobs or activities, and want to forward an esthetic, political, social message.

Pornography also forwards a message, consciously or not. But it is equally an economic endeavor for many people, and there are generally businessmen or women at the end of the line who manage pornography-making as a firm.

Sex is an important component to modern music, whether it be pop or rock; what kind of music might we find playing in the L’imparfaite offices?

D: Back in 2012, Radio Nova invited L’imparfaite for one night of radio live in their studio. We did interviews, short chronicles, we even had a talk show during that night. But I’ll always remember the moment when the speakers began to blast “Sex Beat” by the Gun Club and I realized people where actually listening to our playlist, in their bed, everywhere around France.

M: Maybe we didn’t listen to enough Brigitte Fontaine!

Why do you think the goth/punk/industrial scene seems to be joined at the hip to BDSM culture?

D: I think the indus/experimental music scene wants to experience the limits of music and our perception of it. The punk scene looks at music as a way of transgression and political impact. The goth scene has an aesthetic and draws on materials that are used in BDSM. I see different elements of each of these scenes that are common with the BDSM culture. We must not forget that they grew together and influenced each other a lot.

M: There’s probably this gritty, revolted thing about experiencing limits. But we can’t forget that BDSM was also appropriated more largely by pop culture, Madonna being quite of an obvious example, and then used in many ad campaigns using porno chic imagery. I’m not sure BDSM (or punk/indus/goth etc. for that matter) is unilaterally revolted or politically significant: it depends on who does what. But I think pain and also explicit domination in leisure contexts remain shocking (on the contrary of violent social relations in society…), that’s why these types of music have also drawn on that repertoire a lot.

You are opening a dialogue about sex at your workplace, and while online communities such as Fetlife started with a similar intention, they devolved into a meat market where the collaborative thought defaulted to just trying to get laid. Why do you think people have such a hard time maintaining an intellectual perspective on the subject, and so frequently revert to hormonal teenagers?

M: It’s funny, because people often tell L’imparfaite that we are too intellectual and lacking flesh… Maybe it comes from this idea that the body and the mind are two opposite things (doesn’t something ring Christian about that?), and so that you can have “animal” sex or “fleshless” intellect. Both are kind of dead-ended. So maybe that’s another binary construction we try to fight against?

D: People also have the tendency to pull themselves downward. It takes a lot more energy and a lot more thinking to do something challenging and interesting. And anyway, a challenging thought is only challenging the first time you think about it. I think people would love to have very revolutionary thoughts and experiences brought to them, but they aren’t taught how to build them for themselves. Sexual education today is centered around safety, protection, control – not around creativity, pleasure, novelty, let alone limits, or spiritual experience and the therapeutic elements.

The name of your magazine refers to the subject of sex being something never completely explored – what areas do you feel are the hardest to dig into?

D: On a personal level, the limit is the partner. The connection (or lack thereof) you feel to the person(s) you are doing sex with will define what will be the easiest or hardest things to do. On a more societal level, and considering also who probably constitutes L’imparfaite’s readership, I guess (female) homosexuality and patriarchy are still what we’re struggling with.

M: Yes, it’s hard (especially in the imagery) to get out of the dominant white-male gaze. This means that we have insufficiently explored female sexuality, but it seems to me that we also have quite normative body types in L’imparfaite. We sometimes lack diversity in terms of non-conforming gender identifications, race, weight, age, physical ability etc. And for me this is a limit we have not yet managed to break, for many different reasons.

While Fifty Shades of Gray hit big in the States because it touches on BDSM, it is still pretty vanilla. Do you find similar lines drawn in Europe, where handcuffs and breath plays are ok, but using someone as an ashtray or a pony are taboo and reluctantly approached?

D&M: Lines are drawn everywhere, it’s become a web of interdictions. For example, there is a strange line between piss and shit. There is also a strange line between female and male homo-erotism. There’s this line between showing boobs on TV and showing boobs on the streets. So many lines… in the last issue, there’s this article about the dominatrix Tarna stepping over the shit line, and what’s funny is that it shows that lines differ according to who draws them, and that crossing someone else’s line doesn’t mean you have crossed any of your own.

Since the magazine’s inception five years ago, what would you say are some of the more interesting discoveries you have uncovered in regards to the multi-cultural experience of sexuality being expressed in the world?

M: Maybe we realized that normality is never the same for anyone, and that what some find acceptable or desirable also is partly produced by the context in which we have been educated and the people we have met with. Did we make any discoveries? Maybe at a group level – we were made to see that even within L’imparfaite’s board, sex always covers many strong feelings, emotions, distresses, and that it can’t be waved away as this unimportant thing that we do when the lights are turned off.

At the Fetish panel at FANdom Convention a few years ago, I spoke and tried to stress participants to look at the spiritual and therapeutic elements of the kink experience, and I was shocked to find other professional peers in the field taking an attitude of “who cares as long as you are having fun.” What other layers of the kink experience does your magazine tap into to discuss these deeper topics?

M: Seeing sex as “just having fun” is a little thin. Issues about health (physical, mental) and consent (your own, or others’) are very important, because they help create a safe space for everyone to interact in. Like many other things we do, sex can be an extremely positive or negative experience, depending on the circumstances. I think

L’imparfaite helps us to see that sex is not only “sexual intercourse” – that moment when you touch your own or someone else’s sexualized body parts/gear/whatever. It is also a culture in motion, a social interaction, an emotional one perhaps, a way of performing gender, race, class, and other identities, of including or excluding. Sex has many other functions in many different societies than “just having fun,” although that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel pleasure either!

Written By

Wil spouts his thoughts and theories on metal / goth/ post-punk/ and darker indie rock on blogs like Abysmal Hymns,No Clean Singing, Geekinthings, Treblezine etc... He is very passionate about horror movies, comic books, the occult and Morrissey , though David Bowie will live on in his heart forever

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