Creamy Goodness

When I was 14 my Mum found gay porn under my mattress. I knew she changed my sheets, but I guess I got complacent – my bedroom was the only space I had to be alone, think, jerk off. It was where I came to terms with my desires and myself.

The bedroom is a safe space – or, as close to a safe space as most teenagers are going to get. It’s a place that comes to define who you are. The walls become your canvas: plastered with images of heart-throbs, they become an extension – and reflection – of yourself. The bedroom is a private projection and affirmation of sexuality: it doesn’t extend into the world, but only reflects back on the bedroom’s inhabitant and possessor. The objects you take into your bedroom become the materials with which is it created and defined. Cut-off from their original context, they become pieces of yourself. Heart-throb images marketed to teenage girls become your own property to gaze at, admire, wank over.

In Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, the eponymous protagonist’s bedroom is the stuff of teen dreams – a veritable shrine to those icons of 60s masculinity, James Dean and Marlon Brando. Scorpio smokes his Luckies, strokes his puss, reads his funnies. The joke is that, while neither the protagonist’s actions or bedroom’s adornments are queer in themselves, his sanctum reveals more about him than he would probably like. While the images of leather- clad Brando and Dean are not intentionally homoerotic, a previously-muted fetishistic tendency within them is revealed through Anger’s lens.

Similarly, Stuart Sandford takes seemingly innocuous images of 80s teen heartthrobs (Chad Allen, Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Matthew Broderick are particular favourites) and decontexualises them to reveal a certain homoeroticism that has hitherto gone unnoticed. Indeed, the subjects are posited not as teenagers, but as twinks – a term with unavoidable sexual connotations. The twink is the embodiment of flowering sexuality and untouched male beauty. Like the non-nutritional Twinkie from his name derives, the twink is sweet to the taste and brim-filled with cream. Yet he also has an expiry date – the twink’s status as such is dependant on age, and in years to come, he will exist only in pictures that captured his fleeting youth. In this way the twink is untouchable and ephemeral; the closet we can get to the twink of our fantasies is to kiss his immobile image, cum on his glossy picture.

In Sandford’s work, desire in all its manifest forms is embraced and celebrated. In his bedroom, we are caught in a circle of looks – the looks of the twinks of the images, the imagined looks of the bedroom’s owner, and the looks of our fellow spectators. We are doing nothing if not being voyeuristic, but we are resigned to looking but not touching, our desire never reaching fulfilment.

In Twink, Stuart Sandford takes the bedroom – usually the most private of domains – and opens it up to public scrutiny. The desire which is normally enclosed is unleashed onto the viewer and the wider world. To whom does this bedroom belong? And do we have the right to be here? We eavesdrop on the (imagined) owner’s privacy and desires, and the effect is at once disquieting and exhilarating. Ever heard the old homophobic line ‘I don’t care what they get up to in their own bedroom, but...’? Well, in Twink the private is made public, sexual desire is outwardly projected – and, effectively, we get spunked on.

© 2010 Owen Myers