Musings on my voyeurism

The desire of the eyes is natural; to impetus to look is basic, to cast our eyes outwards and caress with a gaze, to fold and enclose images underneath our lids.

The eye is one of the sense organs that the majority of humans depend on heavily; of all the senses, it is one of the most formative, world-building senses we have. It is difficult for those with working eyes to imagine being deprived of it…. It is an organ which is essential for survival, for being, for pleasure.

The urge to look is not inherently perverted. The entire notion of ‘perversion’ with the voyeuristic gaze is something owed to Sigmund Freud, which he described and explained through his psychoanalytic concept of (surprise!) castration anxiety.

I simply cannot be bothered to reiterate the theory of a cocaine addict who also falsified his data. Sure, he had some interesting ideas (see: mourning and melancholia), but I do not think I can be blamed for tuning out whenever I hear the words ‘penis envy’ or ‘castration anxiety’….and I’m sure you’re not here for that either. Nonetheless, his influence on how we come to think about voyeurism (perverted, and thus forbidden; abnormal and aberrant) cannot be understated, and it is also root of dualistic thinking on the subject (active watcher/passive victim).

Voyeurism has been painted in broad strokes as: perverted, subjects of the gaze as victims, and as a male phenomenon. No, the love of the sexual gaze is not only privy to men; women voyeurs exist, and some have done so quite publicly.


American Photographer, Mary Alpern, and her infamous series ‘Dirty Windows’. Whilst at a friend’s apartment she became intrigued with the view from the transverse building, which turned out to be a private lap dance club. She spent hours, days, watching and waiting for people to have sex.

And of course, I am exhibit number one: unrepentant female voyeur. I love to watch myself, and what is being done to me. I will meet your gaze in the mirror as you run your hands across my face, rest your palms on the hollow of the throat, and fuck me from behind. This is absolutely consensual, yet according to some modern commentary and traditional psychoanalytic theory –not only am I in bondage to the male gaze and its voyeuristic fantasy, but I am the unwitting victim of your castration anxiety, and you’re the one solely deriving satisfaction and affirmation. Let’s not deny my agency at every turn; I want this too. I want us to re-think (consensual) voyeurism as an empowering (and even in circumstances –undermining of power) act, which it is certainly for me.

For to see is one of the most intimate ways in which we can grasp the world. And it is a fact that we can never see oneself outside of our selves. We are terribly contained inwards even as our eyes direct outwards, widely. It all returns as a narrow stream. But to gaze at ourselves, with others –or without, is an endeavour to apprehend the self, our existence (and our experience of it).

Even though I can only see myself as a mirage in my partner’s eyes. In my own, I am crisp: all flesh-toned edges; this is me. Looking at oneself plays a central role in identity: it centres on the recognition of the self. To look is identity-forming.

The gaze can therefore be an act of self-creation; of identity formation and identity sedimentation –whether one is the watcher or the accomplice: I know you are watching, and I am showing you exactly what I am.

It is obliteration of the hidden, unrepentant exposure of myself, honesty and frankness of my desires.

x Serena

The power and the glory of…the scent

I used to think perfume was superfluous. A rather expensive and odorous nuisance that I have mostly encountered through its overpowering application. I am definitely not of that opinion now, how I have changed since then.

So why perfume?
A perfume gives intimacy. It offers a relation. It evokes a memory.
It can feel like an embrace. A perfume is deeply personal, if you let it be.

Which is why I now have an interest and love of perfumes. It’s not for the smell per se; but what it brings forth in me: some history, a glimmer of time, a certain person. The feeling of a place. A fantasy, even. That indescribable thing I am searching for…. If a scent is a key that open your minds (the stimulation of the brain by scents, olfactory archives), then are not the possibilities endless as to the limits it can incarnate itself as, the things it can dredge forth from your soul, your mind and memories? Could you perhaps, smell like a Mondrian? Feel yourself standing in Rothko chapel? That Sunday morning with the scent of her skin on the sheets?

I find comfort in that which has been summoned by olfaction, and that is the power and glory of scents for me.

As I have mentioned before, I favour warm and spicy scents. I desire the idea of embers in me: a slow burn releasing heat through my pores. Here is a short, but complete, list of my personal perfumes currently. Continue reading “The power and the glory of…the scent”

I don’t drink alcohol, well –I can be persuaded to happily sip slowly on some rich red or rosé wine, but generally, it’s just not quite me.

So, I am a avid tea drinker! Being ethnically Chinese means tea has been, and continues to be, a large part of my diet and the general ceremony of eating: it accompanies our food, like water. During ‘dim sum’ or ‘yum cha’, the dining of food alongside perpetual refills of the tea pot over hours is de jure. In fact ‘yum cha’ translated from Cantonese literally means ‘drinking tea’.

Tea also has a yin and a yang, a philosophy of food it can be described –though more accurately it is conceived under a concept in Chinese medicine known as ‘meridian theory’ or system. Teas can be either ‘heating’ or ‘cooling’ to the body, and drinking tea can induce either yin (cooling) or yang (heating) in order to be aligned with the body, or to (re)balance the body. For example, chrysanthemum tea is considered cooling; perfect for hot, summer days, and combating fevers.

I’m quite traditional in my choice of teas -no zesty infusions for me. Here’s a list of the Chinese and Japanese teas I always keep in my stock:

  1. Hōjicha
    This is a Japanese tea, that creates a warm, toasty, amber brew. The colour comes from the green tea leaves being roasted first. Due to this process it is lower in caffeine than other green teas, and is a fantastic evening, post-prandial tea. It does taste very different from sencha, your average green tea.
  2. Pu-Er
    Ode to the earth, this is a rich and dark tea of the soil. This is a fermented tea that ripens to reveal deeper and more distinguished flavours as it ages. You can purchase truly vintage stock of this tea. However, I am no such connoisseur; I am happy with an everyday folk’s brew. It is excellent for digestion, a perfect accompaniment during a meal. This is definitely not for everyone; try brewing a lighter, less concentrated tea to taste first.
  3. Jasmine 
    I’ve come to truly appreciate this singular standard of tea. This tea is made by a mix of jasmine flowers and usually a green tea base.  I spurned it for oolong, and now I am back worshipping at its fragrant alter.

x serena