CULTURE & ARTS
06/03/2016 11:22 am ET Updated Jul 14, 2016

Why Porn Is The Perfect Weapon To Fight Hatred, Fear, And Trump

Artist Rebecca Goyette and her alter ego "Ghost Bitch" are taking no prisoners.

Warning: This piece contains NSFW content and may be inappropriate for work environments.

Rebecca Goyette

Rebecca Towne Nurse was one of 20 people executed by the government of Salem, Mass., in 1692. Her crime, allegedly, was the practice of witchcraft. In reality, Nurse was likely targeted by prosecutors because she had inherited land from her family, making her one of the few women landowners of the time. 

Nurse was in her 70s during the time of the trials, and, as a result, was partially deaf. When questioned about her guilt, Nurse couldn't quite make out the questions being asked of her, preventing her from fully professing her innocence. At the time it was believed that witches possessed extra teats all over their bodies, proving ample nipples for all the devilish animal consorts in the vicinity to suck on. Before her death, Nurse was locked in jail while eight pilgrim men checked her body for extra nipples. They didn't find any, but they hanged Nurse nonetheless. 

Rebecca Goyette is a contemporary multimedia artist and Rebecca Nurse's great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddaughter. Goyette, haunted by the horrific tale of her ancestor's death, has long dreamed of making an artwork in her honor. Her summer exhibition at Freight and Volume marks the realization of said dream. Of course, as those familiar with Goyette's radical feminist practice might have anticipated, this will be no orthodox tribute. Rather, to honor her martyred ancestor, Goyette made a pornography. Two, actually. 

The first video is titled "Ghost Bitch: Arise from the Gallows" and stars Goyette as the Ghost Bitch herself. The piece takes place in modern day Salem, where Goyette plays an aerialist historical reenactor by day, a take-no-prisoners dominatrix by night. "Ghost Bitch" weaves elements of Salem's fabled past with its contemporary paradoxical existence, as both tourist destination and supposed hotbed of occult activity. 

The Salem witch trials, Goyette explained in an interview with The Huffington Post, were fueled, above all else, by an erratic hatred and fear of feminine power. A panic had spread amongst the Puritan pilgrims, who became suspicious of sexuality, empowerment, and the other, leading little white men in tall black hats to accuse over 200 individuals of witchcraft, when their only crime, much of the time, was standing out. 

Though the trials officially ended in 1693, the odious assumptions that permitted them still persist today, manifested in various forms of sexism, xenophobia and racism. "Donald Trump is the perfect pilgrim," Goyette said, "he’s spewing all kinds of hate. He has the freedom to do whatever but he imposes arbitrary rules onto everyone else."

Goyette believed the best way to send a big "fuck you" to pilgrims past and present, who go to wildly unconscionable lengths to silence otherness in all its forms, was to make an irreverent, nasty, hilarious, empowering feminist porno. 

This is not the first time Goyette has used an artistic lens to explore and challenge the conventions of pornography, and push the concept of fantasy to its illogical extremes. In her 2013 "Lobstapussy," Goyette plays Lobsta Girl, a horny crustacean who packs her bags (with dicks) and heads to Greece to get dirty with a bunch of lobster men. A bizarro, under the sea orgy ensues, playfully proving that women's desires are way more vulgar, strange and sexy than male-geared porn ever guessed.

Rebecca Goyette

With "Ghost Bitch: Arise from the Gallows," Goyette incorporates darker themes into her work, which somehow only makes the resulting creation more hilarious in its unhinged tenderness. Weaving together Rebecca Nurse's story, Rebecca Goyette's story, and America's story through the trauma that unites them, the artist shows how the bleakest of circumstances can be fought through an assault of playfulness. "Ghost Bitch" tickles viewers despite their repeated admission that they hate being tickled, prompting the kind of uncontrollable laughter one lets out in a moment of sheer pain or discomfort.

In the work, Goyette plays a woman who male Puritans pretend to hang as a witch during a historical reenactment in contemporary Salem. Bros donning Red Sox T-shirts play the tourists lined up to watch the act. After the aerialist is hanged, however, Ghost Bitch ascends from her dead body in a magical rope act, and proceeds to wreak sadomasochistic sexual havoc on the Puritan men and tourists in her midst. 

The piece was inspired, in part, by Goyette's own upbringing in small town New England, where she grew up surrounded by misogyny, alcoholism, and plenty of intolerance. "The piece made me reckon with something within myself," Goyette said, again alluding to the reality that the past is never dead and buried. 

Melding the personal and political, along with the psychosexual, is a daunting and seriously exhausting task, Goyette explained. "Sometimes I feel like I’m some sort of psycho making these things. But then I’ll show someone the piece and they start cracking up, and I know I'm doing something right. I had so much fear going into this and I just put all of that into my character and I think it made everything even freakier. I enacted all of the trauma of America." 

Rebecca Goyette

Most of what goes on in Goyette's actual film is improvised, yet most of the artist's work is done before the camera starts rolling. Making costumes, building sets, finding props -- this is the meat of Goyette's process. She prepares the film's ideas and what the characters are supposed to do, but what they say is often left to chance.

"I set up the structure of the scene," Goyette said. "I’m not interested in acting at all. I don't practice what I'm going to do so there is something real going on between us. The chemistry is always different. [The other actors and I] all have a full on sense of play."

Such a spontaneous process doesn't always run seamlessly, especially when the subject matter is rife with history and pain. In the hanging scene, Goyette was attached to a harness so she didn't actually get hurt. A long rope was tightened around her neck and hanged over a pipe which was kept out of the shot. If the rope slipped off the pole for any reason, however, Goyette would have been in serious danger. 

During the shooting of the hanging scene, the energy in the room got weird, and one of the pilgrims suggested Goyette not wear her harness to make the scene more realistic. "All of the sudden there was this masculine surge of violence and yelling and fighting," Goyette said. "It was female energy that saved the day."

Rebecca Goyette

If “Ghost Bitch: Arise from the Gallows” takes on the toxic masculinity of the Puritan pilgrims of yore, “Ghost Bitch USA” offers a more present-day take, starring none other than Donald Trump, as played by Brian Whitely, the artist who erected a Trump tombstone in Central Park. 

“I wanted to do a complete domination of Trump, where everything he’s said about women I could throw back at him,” Goyette said. She ties him up, squirts breast milk on him, and cuts off his penis with garden shears. She gives herself an abortion and makes Trump lick the baby. A guest ghost hailing from Mexico pays tribute to Trump’s heinous Cinco de Mayo tweet, shoving a taco bowl in his face. 

Goyette views this fantastical revenge sequence as a crusade for free speech, an American right Trump has already threatened throughout the election process. For example, Los Angeles-based artist Illma Gore was attacked after her pastel “Make American Great Again,” featuring a naked and not-too-well-endowed Donald Trump, went viral. A man reportedly screamed “Trump 2016!” before jumping out of his car and punching Gore in the face. 

For Goyette, these infringements on our freedom of expression are truly frightening. “You can’t even say anything bad about Trump and he’s not even the president yet,” she said. “Seeing that woman’s black eye put everything together for me. This is why my whole show is rolling through time, from the beginnings of America to what is happening right now.”

Through “Ghost Bitch: Arise from the Gallows” and “Ghost Bitch USA,” Goyette addresses the seeds of hatred and fear that have prevented America, in her opinion, from becoming truly great. She does so in a feminine language all her own, where trauma and desire are not mutually exclusive, but wound up in the same, messy psychosexual playground. 

Goyette’s solo show at Freight and Volume will feature her two new films along with a series of rather NSFW graphite and gauche drawings inspired by the Salem witch trials. Finally, on July 22, 2016, Goyette will be joined by spiritual adviser and modern-day witch Demetrius Lacroix for an interactive ritual performance titled “Protection Spell for America.” The spell aims, as Goyette put it, to “oppose hate and create a forcefield of positivity and likemindedness that can spin out energy from its center and put it out into America.” 

“Ghost Bitch” will be on view from July 14 until through September 11, 2016 at Freight + Volume in New York. See some of the drawings from “Ghost Bitch” below.

  • "Ghost Bitch: Puritan Porn" Graphite and gouache on paper
  • "Ghost Bitch: Teat Inspection" Graphite and gouache on paper
  • "Ghost Bitch: Bobbitt Tears" Graphite and gouache on paper
  • "Ghost Bitch: Animal Familiars" Graphite and gouache on paper
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