"My sexual semiotics differ from the mainstream. So what? I didn't join the feminist movement to live inside a Hallmark greeting card." --Pat Califa, feminist, author and S/M activist
S & M has long provided grist for the rock & roll mill. Leather and rubber bondage gear, piercing, collars, straps & spikes have today become de rigueur among innumerable bands and fans. B & D imagery dates back to Iggy & the Stooges performing "I Want to Be Your Dog" to raucous audiences in the 60's (followed years later by an awesome, rockin' re-make by Joan Jett) to Chrissie Hyde of the Pretenders singing "Bad Boys Get Spanked" and Madonna "playing with" dynamics of sexual submission/dominance for the largest mass audience exposed to such once outre practices in history! Even down-home midwest boy John Mellencamp alluded to the subject on his early classic "Hurts So Good." Suffice it to say S/M has maintained a presence as a strong sub-current in rock for some time now. By and large, however, rockers have always been quite cautious about tackling the powerful theme of S/M HEAD-ON, preferring instead mostly a lot of coy, toe-dipping around the most superficial aspects of "the scene." Until now...
The Genitorturers are one bitchin' band! The luscious Gen (vocals) leads the group into a veritable AURAL ASSAULT MISSION of intense hard rock with super tight playing. Meanwhile, Gen directs the wild, nasty ("explicit") theatrics on the part of an entourage of submissive men & dominant women, submissive women and dominant men, doing spanking, bondage, piercing and (simulated?) water sports, to name but a few; in short, something for everyone!
Testimonial: A recent Genitorturers show found this seasoned concert-goer dancing nonstop (actually, a kind of combination of headbanging and the classic punk "pogo") and unable to take his eyes from the stage for a SECOND of the 'torturers' hard-rocking "take no prisoners" performance for fear of missing SOMEthing! --to say nothing of getting "wood" for Gen and the antics of her nasty lady co-performers that wouldn't quit the whole set. (A triggered dancing frenzy and a case of the jaded hornies: crucial testimonies to a really GREAT band or what?) Pheromones ran rampant!
Gen deigned to bequeath us an interview before the 'torturers recent set at Flash's in Cleveland wherein we found rock's high mistress to be warm, articulate, down-to-earth, and oh-my-Gawd, I wanted to kiss her feet sexy, as she talked about the band, S/M, piercing and the future of free expression in America.
On the 'torturers' musical influences: Gen says the band is individually diverse, while she herself "grew up listening to early 80's hard-core, really aggressive music with a lot of gutteral vocals which is kind of how mine turned out."
As per misgivings on the part of the larger public re: S/M, Gen says, "S/M as it is properly practiced in our culture involves interaction between consenting adults in which the 'slave' and 'master' relationship is based on trust and love. Something that a lot of people don't understand is that it is in fact the slave that is in control of everything that is 'done' to him. No one is being taken advantage of, no one is being violated. S/M is greatly misunderstood in our society, considered akin to wife beating and things."
On coming from Orlando, Florida, where Gen put the band together in 1986: "Orlando is home to Disney World and the big thing there is catering to tourists. The place is just a bit too clean, just a bit too sterile, just a bit too nice... It made me want the Genitorturers to present reality, harsh reality in the face of all that conformity."
We told Gen that while we thought America's 'social pendulum' was probably poised to swing back toward more socially tolerant attitudes in the near future but that it wouldn't happen without groups like R.O.C. and the Free Expression League or bands like the Genitorturers PUSHING IT. "That's exactly what we do!" Gen told us. "Living in Orlando things are skewed so much toward right wing conservatism and conformity that we're positioned on the opposite end, balancing things out. Living in Orlando has definitely fueled our fire and caused us to continue to push."
Gen tells us that at the top an ORLANDO SENTINEL list of "People to Watch in '93," was the Genitorturers, right next to the Mayor and other high mucky-mucks. "We're really one of the only bands signed to a major label out of Orlando so we can't be ignored and it just flips (the conservatives) out."
On piercing: "The right wing and the fundamentalists have always had a problem with people exerting control over their own bodies. By piercing, one is modifying one's body and making an outward expression of his or her individuality. The Church opposed surgery for this reason. Hell, the Church even opposed FORKS because it was 'unnatural' not to eat with the hands God gave you! So that's a big reason for any taboos against piercing. And this is not even coming into the realm of sexuality. Once they find out that piercing has a SEXUAL function and can in fact augment one's sexuality they're going to REALLY lose their minds over that!"
Gen tells us that historically piercing has been long popular in many cultures from the Middle East to the South Pacific and even within certain pockets of WESTERN culture as well (wherein S/M and fetishes also found expression) such as the European intelligentsia, i.e., from people "who could look beyond what the Church was telling them."
As to the band's long-range outlook, Gen says "We're very good at walking a fine line. We've got our PG shows and then we do our hard-core shows. We go into every performance knowing that certain laws are set up. Our purpose is not to cause a commotion and go to jail. Our purpose is to challenge people to think. And you can't do that from inside a jail cell."