For inspiration, Dominic Myatt goes where many dare not look. His new book (no kissing) is a collection of drawings based on Craigslist classifieds. The reputation of personal ads are at their best silly, at their worst perverted. And just because there exists a stigma around them does not mean that they are not exactly that, silly and perverted. Yet Myatt renders these ads less threatening, at times even kind of innocent. In the end, putting whatever your fetish is out there before you even meet someone – especially if you would only meet them because you know they are into it as well – can be a sign of respect. Taking your own kink seriously can help respecting those of others. At least in the context of queer relationships, where power structures are less set than in straight ones. (The m4w section of Craigslist personals remains completely uninhabitable for most women.) The bodies of Myatt’s drawings are almost goofy, which at times sets a stark contrast to the acts they engage in, which are described explicitly in the original ad. (no kissing) communicates an idea of sexuality that is more playful than threatening, and definitely informed by Myatt’s bar job at a Fitzrovia sex club.
032c: How did your experience there influence your art?
DOMINIC MYATT: Working at a sex club you see bodies having sex all around you, and you learn their back-stories. Some are perhaps married with kids, in a long-term same-sex relationship, paying for sex – or just there for company or out of habit. Being in that environment enables you to see sex a lot more objectively and the role it plays in people’s lives, be it destructive or empowering.
What sparked your interest in these Craigslist personals? Do you ever participate in them?
I initially used Craigslist as a way to make a bit of extra cash whilst I was a student – I used to sell things such as used socks, underwear, and even toe nail clippings. I would always feel too uncomfortable to meet the buyers in person, so would always post the items or, in one case, leave the item in a location and email them an annotated map of its location. There was never any physical human interaction so I could only ever imagine what these people looked like and how they might ‘use’ these objects I had sold to them.
Why did you decide to only include m4m ads in the book?
I didn’t feel right as a man, even as a gay man, to interpret through the male gaze, adverts that were posted by or involved women. I didn’t think there was really anything I could add to that conversation. Whereas queer male bodies are associated with a lot of shame, sexual or otherwise. I think bringing these anonymous ads to life through drawing and using an element of humour breaks down that stigma.
Where does its title (no kissing) come from? How does it relate to the concept and content of the book?
(no kissing) comes from an ad which didn’t make the edit. That ad described in great detail how they would like to be used and played with – but clarified, in subtle but assertive parenthesis, that there would be ‘(no kissing)’ in the scenario. The episode might have happened or it might have remained as a fantasy for them forever, but for me ‘(no kissing)’ sort of embodied the extremely specific and personal fantasies and self-imposed restrictions that I drew on in the book.
What’s the most unusual ad you came across and did you include it in your book?
I think the most unusual ad that I came across was a man looking for a ‘farmer’ or ‘person to own [him]’. They explained that they wanted to be kept as livestock and to be used as a pig would be – even going so far as to say that his ‘meat would be tasty’. I’m happy to say it made it into the book.
(no kissing) is published by MNK Press.