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Ramón Guerra Monday, 14 June 2010 Sexual identity and sexual practice are perhaps oneʼs most potent and powerful tools of self-expression. Sexual identity is a way of exploring our boundaries and pushing what we were taught as children. That mainstream and religious social forces consider heterosexual sex in the missionary position the proper expression of sexuality seriously undermines the potential for self-discovery. Indeed, this sexual practice is just one flavor, and I will call it vanilla. Erika Lopezʼs Flaming Iguanas shows sexuality as akin to Jell-O. Its transparency is inviting. Its not-so-solid, not-so-liquid composition is curious. It jiggles. It comes in a ton of fun and exciting flavors. It can be the complement to other parts of oneʼs life (“dish,” if you will), or (and hereʼs the kicker), oneʼs life can be suspended in it like cherries and pineapple chunks! Sex is not new, nor are many of the more specific and “acquired taste” forms of it. What makes Lopezʼs discussion of sexuality postmodern is her unabashed rejection of the stigmatization of alternative sexual practices. Tomato recalls an experience her friend, Shannon, once had with another woman. They used to be roommates and sheʼd go down on Shannon but she wouldnʼt let Shannon touch her. She got off by making Shannon sit on the edge of the bed and look away while she masturbated looking at colorXerox pictures of guys fucking each other. (39)

What is present is the depiction of a sexual practice that is alternative to what many people would consider mainstream. What is absent, though, is any sort of negative coloring or judgment. Tomato recalls the relayed event as mere fact, as if to say, “Iʼm not into it, but someone it. Neat.” Tomato tells us repeatedly how unwilling she is to embrace the heteronormative ideal of sex. She recalls, quite unfavorably, the “Extremely talkative passengers [of a Greyhound bus] with bad breath who tried to convince [her] to accept Jesus and scream at homosexuals” (94). Similarly, she is quite conscious of how impolite it is to fuck right next to someone who is not invited to the party, which she calls a “carry-over from getting in trouble for chewing gum in class and not having enough for everybody” (135). Itʼs just bad manners. Our tastes for sex are as specific (or in some cases unspecific) as our tastes for Jell-O. Tomatoʼs friend, Fifi, “liked sipping piña coladas, walking in the rain, and stepping on genitals” (128). As off-center as that may seem, there is a serious market there. In the 1997 film, Preaching to the Perverted, Guinevere Turner plays the headmistress of an S & M club in the UK who allows her patrons to explore S & M and bondage. Thus, the film looks at “the wide range of people who like to dress up and go to clubs, and whether or not thatʼs more perverse than regular sex” (Turner, Indie Sex). John Cameron Mitchellʼs sexually explicit 2006 film, Shortbus, explores the ways in which sex is an effective tool for solving problems, forming relationships, and living a fulfilled life. Though Tomato does not regard sex as a buddy-building exercise, she recognizes the legitimacy of it through Shannon, who has a hard time telling the

difference between “ʼfalling in love and wanting to fuck them or just becoming really good friendsʼ” (Lopez 35). Tomato takes the cookie cutter ideal of sex and tosses it out the window. She wonders if maybe she should be a lesbian. Her exposure to lesbianism, through her mother (Jane) and Violet, is positive, though perhaps romanticized, because Tomato sees them work through their problems so successfully. Unfortunately for her, being gay is not as simple as reading the lesbian pamphlets. Aside from a less-than-human legal status, society colors homosexuality in such a way that Violet, a woman-loving woman, denies loving women. Violet and Jane have even learned to hate the word because it sounds harsh, much the same way one learns to hate words like moist and raunchy, because of their socially assigned connotations. Indeed, sexuality has a long history of subjugation in the United States and some efforts are shockingly in line with the antiquated American dream. The 1896 filmstrip, Fatimaʼs Coochie-Coochie Dance, was edited, covering the dancerʼs breasts and gyrating pelvis with a white picket fence, though she was fully clothed (Indie Sex). It doesnʼt get much more American than that.

Works Cited Indie Sex: a Revealing Look at Sex in Cinema. Dirs. Lesli Klainberg and Lisa Ades. IFC, 2007. DVD. Lopez, Erika. Flaming Iguanas: an Illustrated All-Girl Road Novel Thing. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1997. Print.

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