Anonymous Self Portrait

This photo is of a smeared mirror being held up to my face by a friend. The effect is a kind of ‘anonymous self portrait’, revealing some clue as to who the subject is, but blotting out the face. Were this a tarot card, the central metaphor would be the showing by the other person; a gesture of, “Here is who you are. Look, and see.”

The mirror is cloudy. Maybe the woman is showing him the clouds – or reminding him that his self image is unclear. Maybe she’s encouraging him to look past them. I love the image of a smeared mirror because it represents my struggle to see who I am, my self image distorted or maybe just obscured.

I notice something that I’ve seen over and over but never put a name to. The face in the mirror looks like it’s a cartoon. It’s a visual pun saying that when we see ourselves in reflection, it’s a caricature. Oversimplified.

This picture took some preparation and I dare say, some courage or perhaps a sense of adventure. Without explanation, much is insinuated.

First there is the story of the mirror, how it got to be that way. The mirror is covered with semen from three different masturbation sessions, which could be called erotic rituals. Said another way: I ejaculated on it three times, and that’s the residue of the experiences.

I think that what makes something a ritual is that the consciousness or awareness aspect of the experience is put on the same level as the pleasure aspect. A ritual is a communion with, or reaching from, core Self. It is a space where core self can exist in the world, as itself.

The first session was with a man named Ben Verto, a lawyer for the European Commission. I was living in Brussels at the time, which is the location of the European Commission headquarters, where he worked.

He was in his sixties with white hair, and as we planned, I answered the door naked when he arrived for the first time; he wore his business suit, as he was just returning from work. I was part of his double life: a man who passes as entirely heterosexual with his colleagues and family, but who has experiences with other men more or less frequently. For Ben it was more.

The experience he was about to have was something new; not sex as usual. Rather, he was going to watch someone masturbate, specifically, me, looking into a mirror that was currently sitting on a stool next to me. He said he had never seen anyone do this before – not even his wife.

Then I elaborated; I told him what I was going to do, which was ejaculate onto the mirror. We talked for a little while longer and then it was time to get going with it.

I set the mirror on the floor and spread my legs apart over it.

I lubed a butt plug with olive oil and penetrated myself, looking at my facial expression in the mirror as he sat over me on a couch, quietly presiding.

Then I licked my hand and masturbated using a mix of saliva and olive oil, courting my pleasure. I held my head up so he could see my face or rather where I could show it to him. I worked myself up as slowly as humanly possible. I built my energy slowly. Sometimes I can play with the penetration for a long time, which is like walking on a hot bubble of orgasm but not quite bursting it.

But then I needed to. I acknowledged that.

Orgasm has a way of pushing the truth out of me. Moments before I came, I looked at him, and he became my grandfather: his white hair and formal dress morphing into him, my mother’s father. But he was warmer, friendlier, enjoying my pleasure: there was no guilt in him. He was sober. This was a grandfather who had been considered something of a true letch, and who seemed wrought with guilt down to his last sperm cell. He’s the guy whose sexual legacy I have long wrestled with, and used as a sandstone for growth. I think his guilt pushed me to be free from guilt, or at least to dare to try.

His living effigy was now watching me masturbate, and seeing his face, accepting his approval, I healed my hurting image of him from my unconscious and replaced it with a more gentle version.

I said the words out loud to Ben – that I was seeing or experiencing him as my grandfather, daring to acknowledge him, in that moment, and that depth of honesty began to spin my orgasm out of me.

Knowing I was at the edge, he asked me if he could hold my feet. I said yes and he pressed his thumbs firmly into the palms of my feet as I let it out.

In retrospect, I recognize how healing it would have been for my grandfather himself to be in the position that I was in: to finally be acknowledged for who he was as a sexual being, and seen without judgment.

I ejaculated looking at my cock and moaning into my own face simultaneously as he witnessed. I am surprised I did not black out.

I was aware he could see everything, my facial expression and my cock spurting freely and my whole existence heaving, and yet I was beyond not caring; I could indulge my need. I could not, I don’t think, be so wide open all alone. There was a special sense of nakedness I could attain with his presence.

I looked at him and then I picked up the round mirror and placed it on the stool next to me and, after hesitating just a moment, leaned over and pressed my mouth against its reflection, and licked my semen in broad, generous strokes, licking it into my mouth, trying to keep my eyes open. That is, see my face and glance at the expression in my eyes as I did this.

I did it delicately and letting myself love the feeling sweetly. I surrendered to being seen and known. In particular, by a man. I took my time and relaxed into the experience, almost succeeding, shivering with vulnerability.

Awareness flooding in all around me.

Then I finally looked up into his eyes with my wet face as he gently said goodnight and walked out of my apartment. That wet face, after all of that, the ultimate gesture of submission.

I cannot tell you if I was desperate or the most deeply fulfilled of my worldly life.

That was the first time the mirror was marked.

Then I did something which seemed bold, which was to leave the mirror on that stool in my bedroom, like an altar — and live with it; occasionally even look at it. To have it there was a reminder and occasionally I would catch residual shame about its existence, disbelieving what I had done there.

It was like a psychic dish in which I could watch my feelings reflect, often not paying direct attention to it, but being subtly aware of its presence, often with a candle in a pink saltstone burning on it.

Finally I submitted. The second time I masturbated onto the mirror I was alone, standing up, some days later; it was still on its stool from the previous use. I looked down as I came, and saw it happen and gazed into my face, which is always a little strange til I remember to love. I think I just let it dry there that time. And that, too, lived in the middle of my room.

The third time was more a ritual to the Goddess. My friend Kali was over, visiting from the United States, and we were taking in my room. She asked about the mirror on the stool.

Kali had by that time practiced masturbation-only celibacy for nine years, so the discussion was natural for her. Erotic independence was her religion, you could say. I was talking to someone on the level of a high priestess who had gone places that I had never been; she had tried nearly anything that is possible with masturbation and had a long time to do it.

We were about to use the mirror in a ritual, and part of the ritual was explicit verbal telling.

I told her the stories above in detail, answered some questions and finally with her encouragement came onto the mirror as she held it, ejaculating onto my own semen. The semen of three orgasms now mixing and melting.

Then she held it up so that I could see what I had done.

Then it was time to lick the mixture of myself off. That is what happened, and the photo above was created a few moments later.

We paused for a while, and talked gently about what I’d just done.

Kali then encouraged me to masturbate to orgasm onto the mirror a little while later and lick it off again. It was interesting how she coaxed it out of me, letting me wade through the shame and doubt that I had started to feel. Thanks Kali. You are amazing.

What I love about this photo is that it’s one that stands alone in a whole series: I took about 10 images and in none of them is the light quite like this, anonymous and dark and earthy, like the moment it portrays.