“Why can French guys talk about sex so openly? And why can’t Russian guys do it at all?” — these questions had been bothering Vlad Zorin from the very beginning of his journey to the French capital in September 2020. “Why can’t I either?” — he wondered. Vlad admits: “The starting point for this project was the desire to overcome this mental barrier”.
The Russian context appeared to be an answer: there is an unspoken ban on sex education in Russian schools and universities, mass media stereotypes experiences of sexuality, while sincere conversations are stigmatized. There is no normative, non-abusive language available to talk about sex. All of these factors contribute to the number of HIV infections, as well as lack of understanding of sex ethics and the principle of active consent.
Under such circumstances, an art project that was initially conceived as an emotional statement inevitably turned into a social one. Joyful photographs of young boys laughing and exploring themselves coexist with stories in which abuse is inseparable from first experiences of love. In her introduction to the book, feminist and a sex educator Sasha Kazantseva writes: “It is perhaps the first attempt to collect candid stories of sexual experiences, as told by Russian men.”
Although Sasha finds the abuse discussed in the interviews horrifying, she nevertheless expresses hope that one day women will feel safe around men. An open discussion about the male experience, addressing the problematic aspects of the “male gaze” and possible ways towards a new ethical masculinity, would be a step towards ending cycles of abuse.
Vlad Zorin. 256p