Pussy power and batty riders : performances of material and erotic pleasure at International Dancehall Queen Competitions

Monteiro, Celena (2014) Pussy power and batty riders : performances of material and erotic pleasure at International Dancehall Queen Competitions. In: PoP Moves: Dancing the Politics of Pleasure; 18 Oct 2014, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


This presentation will explore, in the context of the researcher's recent fieldwork at the International Dancehall Queen Competition in Jamaica, the body, and particularly the 'batty', as site of embodied pleasure. It will look at the competition participants' motivations to engage with their bodies and take part in this cultural phenomena by mining the significance of the corporeal and visceral experience of pleasure when investing in the act of dancehall movement. At the competition the all-female competitors celebrate their kinaesthetic sense and revel in corporeal pleasure. They visualise the dynamism of dancehall music as they vibrate, beat, shake and rotate the invaluable expressive tool of their buttocks. They perform for short, intense moments like an electric guitarist's solo, during which they treat themselves to and share with the audience their expertise; allowing artist and audience alike to experience pleasure in artistic form. The Dancehall Queen's art form stimulates an aesthetic appreciation for the materiality of her existence. Further, primarily for the performer, there is also the inner-experience of kinaesthetic pleasure, when she "finds [herself] in a physically amplified state that has a certain pleasurable 'feel' [or]... 'groove'" (Matthias, 2014). Often, when critically analysing erotic performance, interpretations sit on the side of the viewer and in the age of the hyper-pornographic global economy; female erotica is perceived rather reductively as denigrating sexual objectification. She is assumed a mere object to the active patriarchal gaze. Although there is weight to such arguments, to what extent is her own experience of the performative moment valued when we critically engage with such performances? Is the phenomenological experience of her involvement appreciated in her depiction as subject/object?

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