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The Whore Next Door: Public Cervix Announcement - By - February 2, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

The Whore Next Door: Public Cervix Announcement

Biologically, Superman is an alien from the planet Krypton. Raised from infancy as all-American farm boy turned mild-mannered reporter, Clark Kent, he grew up in Smallville with Jonathan and Martha Kent as his parents. (So when he speaks to himself at night, does he call himself Clark, or Kal-El?)

Batman, however is human. He was Bruce Wayne from birth, but that identity disappeared when he decided to become the Dark Knight on a never-ending vigilante quest for revenge — and yet his butler Alfred will forever call him “Master Wayne.”

Like superheroes, sex workers also live with the duality of the alter ego, compartmentalizing their superhuman abilities from their civilian lives.

In 1989, legendary porn performer and performance artist Annie Sprinkle stood onstage at the Harmony Theater in New York City in a flannel nightgown and told her audience, “I was born Ellen Steinberg. But I didn't like being Ellen Steinberg very much, so I simply invented Annie Sprinkle … Ellen was scared of boys and absolutely terrified of sex, but Annie was fearless.”

This month, the artist formerly known as the shy-but-quirky, churchgoing angel Tina Butcher will follow in Sprinkle's footsteps, standing in front of an audience inside a San Francisco dungeon to speak about the discovery and creation of her own superhero identity, Madison Young, in her one-woman show, Reveal All, Fear Nothing.

The piece is a modern adaptation of Sprinkle's wildly successful Post Porn Modernist, which she officially retired in 2004. Now, more than a decade later, Young is reviving it, infusing her own experiences into the story.

I remember learning about “Public Cervix Announcement” — a section in Post Porn Modernist where Annie reclines on a chair and invites the audience to look at her cervix through a speculum — in college, and not being able to shake it from my mind. Harnessed as a tool to de-stigmatize sex work, Sprinkle's wholesome, girl-next-door attitude (paired with a commitment to sex-positivity) has served as a guiding light for the next generation of sex workers who make art — including Young, who entered the porn industry in 2002 in order to fund her feminist art gallery, Femina Potens.

Young shot extensively inside the San Francisco Armory during her career, which is why she chose the iconic Moorish castle as the venue for her premiere, creating a pop-up theater inside what was once the swimming pool. Filled with cement long ago, and now known as the “Roman Bath,” it is one of the Armory's most authentic dungeon-scapes.

“This city, and this building, have played a huge part in my sexual evolution, and it seems only right to premier this really intimate work [here],” says Young, who later regaled me with a tale of one very special shoot from her past on the Roman Baths set that included anal fisting and a soy milk enema — two superhuman spectacles that she will recreate live onstage, Feb. 12-14.

Young also discovered Sprinkle's work in college and was struck by it. Once Femina Potens was up and running, funded by porn money, she started to curate Sprinkle's work. The two artists formed a deep bond.

“We just got closer and closer over the years, until it was very clear that we were family,” Young says. Now, the two women are collaborating to bring new life to Sprinkle's legendary show. “[It] really made room for sex workers to start telling their own stories,” Young says of the piece. “We matter.Our stories matter.Our struggles and our triumphs — they matter… It's a huge honor and responsibility to perform this work.”

In a world with so many hang-ups about sexuality, putting it to use in the name of art is a superpower in and of itself.

Whether we create the super heroes we become or discover that we've been them all along, the journey to finding the balance between the two is nothing short of heroic.

As Sprinkle said in Post Porn Modernist, “After all these years I've come to realize … Ellen Steinberg really must be Annie Sprinkle. And the truth is, Annie Sprinkle is still very much Ellen Steinberg.”